Restoring a Homecraft Drill Press




Introduction: Restoring a Homecraft Drill Press

Note; This is my first instructable and my first attempt to rebuild a drill press

I have been itching to set up a shop again after many years without one. One of the first items any good shop needs is a drill press. I am on an extremely limited (near zero) budget, and the cheap presses I have come across do not inspire confidence in their capabilities. Then I came across this instructable:

marshon did a lovely job with his restoration project, and I felt up to a similar challenge especially if it came at a similar price!

I had only been searching for about a month when I came across the press by accident. My girlfriend and I were walking home from the beach when I spotted a gorgeous '60 Chevy, so of course I went over to drool on it. It was parked in front of a garage sale, and I found the press rusting away on the bottom of an old metal cart. For 15 bucks, I now had a drill press, sort of.

It took quite a bit of work, and I got lucky finding a motor, but I now have the drill press restored and operational. See the before and after photos below.

My goals for this project were not to build a "museum quality" artifact of antique equipment, but to have a fully functional piece of workshop kit. I am satisfied that I have accomplished this, and the build quality of the unit appears superior to anything new I could have afforded.

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Step 1: Taking Stock

First Things First

The first thing that needs to be done is find out what exactly I have. I took a quick peruse when I bought it, made sure the spindle turned, the chuck opened and closed, etc.  But now I need to know the details of what is here, what is missing, and what is needed for the restoration.

What Is Here

Starting with the base you can see from the photos that it is unusual. The person I bought it from said that it was meant to be attached to a table saw, and that base bolted to the side of the table, and the belt ran from the saw motor, out to the two pulleys on the back of the drill, and then turned the pulley on the spindle. The base is hinged at the bottom with two bolt holes where it once attached to the saw. I thought I could work with this in some alternate arrangement, and I even entertained the idea of using the hinge to allow the press to "lay down" and act like a lathe. I discarded that plan fairly soon, I may go back and revisit that idea at a later date.

The rest of the press looked fairly straightforward except for the pulleys where the motor normally sits. Everything seemed to function, but everything also was very stiff and a little gritty when turned by hand. What lubricant was left had obviously turned to glue, wherever it was exposed was black and greasy, while what I could see of the inside it was dark brown. Rust was on every part, most of it was patina but some was pretty deep.

What is Missing

The most important thing missing was the manual, and to make matters worse the two spec plates did not have a model number on them, nor did the stampings on the upper casting (once I got enough rust off to read them). A Google search turned up several comments that proved useful such as:

This press is a Delta Homecraft, but Delta put a different model number on for each little change in options, color, etc. The only way to identify it is really to match photos/drawings against what you have.

Once matched against photos, more information can be found along with manuals and part diagrams. Some sites offer reprints for a small fee, sometimes you get luck and find one for free (I got lucky).

This particular model, an 11-120, was quite popular, and some original parts are available.

After getting what I could from the net, I was able to get a parts list. For a start the base is wrong, I had to work with it but eventually it will need a proper benchtop base. The pulley assembly will need to be replaced with a motor, which means a motor mount as well. The chuck key was missing, as was the 4 step pulley and fan belt for the motor (obviously). Everything else appeared to be intact.

What is Needed

A good cleaning and rust removal, which means wire brushes, steel wool, soap, WD-40, and a lot of elbow grease. Of the things on the Missing list, the motor, pulley, belt, and key will need to be located. The motor mount bracket will have to be fabricated. At this point I do not know what condition the bearings are in, or if the spindle or quill are good. The cast parts will need paint, and the rest will need oil.

Step 2: Begone Evil Rust!


In order to keep the parts straight, I separated them into 3 groups: Base and post, Upper Casting, and Pulley Assembly. I disassembled each group in turn and kept the group parts together. This made life a lot easier when I had to put it all back together again later.

Good ole soap and water

Dish soap, hot water, and scrub scrub scrub! I got as much of the old grease and dirt off every part as I could. Then came the wire brush and steel wool and some stuff called Kleen King (really it's Boraxo with a different name). I was able to get most of the rust off with this method, there were some spots that were pitted quite badly. For those I had to file down the raised areas, but beyond that there was not much else that could be done. Some of the stainless parts are also discolored permanently. None of this affected the function, so I got out what I could and left the rest.


After scrubbing I sprayed all the parts with WD-40 and let them sit in the sun for a couple of hours to get really dry. The WD-40 will displace any water left behind from the scrubbing, and will lift a little of the loose rust as well. Once dry, I wiped down all the parts really well and put some oil on all the plain steel parts (post, quill, spindle, etc).

At this point I discovered that the pulleys on the rear of the press were bad. They do not have bearings, they are just brass sleeves over a stainless threaded rod. It looked like they had been run dry, they did not turn freely, and felt really gritty. I did not think they could be salvaged, and they were not going to be needed because the motor was going to mount in their place.


All the castings got painted with Rustoleum Satin Black. I used poly sponge brushes to help cut down on brush marks. I prefer to use brush over spray because I find it easier to work with, and I have other projects that paint will be used for. This paint is very thick and does tend to run if you are not careful. It takes two coats to get it even, but when done looks quite well.

Step 3: Round and Round

The Upper Bearing

The top bearing is located inside the step pulley that rides on the spindle. There are 3 screws on the underside to be removed, and the plate should come off. This one did not, and worse the shaft did not turn freely. At first I suspected that the plate had corroded to the pulley, I worked on freeing it for several hours with no success. I could see corrosion on the shaft as well. I had given up on it, sprayed it down and left it in the sun to dry. When I picked it up, I turned it over to shake out any excess water, and the plate came out in my hands! So did about 5 pounds of goo. At some point in it's life someone had been trying to lubricate the bearing but had only succeeded in filling the pulley cavity, you can see the marks on the cover where the lubricant had been slung to the outside. This stuff had basically turned to glue, and the combination of sun and WD-40 had loosened it up.

Inside the cover was the upper shaft and the upper bearing. This bearing is a sealed unit, and once I got all the crud off it turned freely.

The Lower Bearing

The lower bearing is located at the bottom of the quill. It is difficult to see in the photo but it is not a sealed unit, just a regular race type bearing, held in place by a "hog washer". I do not have anything that will remove this washer, and I did not want to take a chance on damaging the bearing, so I left it in place. I oiled it, worked it, oiled it some more, and worked it until it turned freely with no gritty feeling.

Step 4: Reassembly - Quill and Spindle

This part is straightforward. The photos show the quill and spindle parts laid out in the order they go back together, then the assembled unit, and finally the unit placed back into the upper casting. These parts, except the casting, should still have some oil on them from the cleaning. If they do not be sure to put a light coat of oil on them before assembling the parts.

Start with the spindle and slide the lower stop ring down to the chuck. Make sure you get the lower stop ring the correct way up. There is a hole for the upper stop guide on one side that has to line up with the matching part on the casting.

Next the quill slides on, witht he bearing towards the chuck. Once the quill is all the way down place the lower stop ring on it, but only tighten it finger tight. It should sit right at the base of the quill.

Next is a brass bushing followed by the retaining ring. Slide them down on top of the quill and lock the retaining ring in place with the allen set screw. Make sure the quill turns freely, back off the retaining ring if needed.

Slide the whole assembly into the upper casting from the bottom until it contacts the lower stop ring. It helps to have the casting sitting on it's back as there is nothing to hold the quill in place yet.

Step 5: Reassembly - Arm and Upper Bearing

The Arm

The arm that runs the quill up and down is a large toothed bar that meshes with the teeth on the quill. I grasped the quill and rotated it so that the teeth are towards the back of the upper casting. Then I slid the arm into it's hole until it hit the quill. I had to rotate the arm while moving the quill up and down to get the teeth to mesh. Once they did the arm slid across and the threaded part emerged from the opposite side of the casting.

Once through, I placed the spring loaded housing onto the threaded side. Note the notch, the inner spring will slide onto this notch, this is what holds tension on the arm. Next come the two retaining nuts. I ran them down only far enough to keep the spring housing on, they do not tighten yet!

The handle slides into the hole in the arm, I inserted and tightened the thumbscrew that holds it in place.

Upper Bearing

I put the sealed bearing back in the step pulley, put the cover on, and replaced the 3 screws. This slides down the spindle from the top. I lined up the hole in the bearing with the hole in the casting then slid it down into the casting. Using a small allen wrench I very gently lined up the holes, then inserted and tightened the retaining bolt.

Check it Works then Tighten the Return Spring

Everything still turns pretty freely, though less so because of the mass of the parts. Nothing feels gritty or dirty, the arm runs the quill up and down just fine.

The return spring housing is notched to match grooves in the upper casting. I simply grabbed it, turned it, then tightened the bolts down to hold the spring in place. I did this repeatedly until the spring had enough tension to return the quill to the top. The dual retaining nuts only get tightened to each other, not tight to the top of the spring housing or the arm will not turn.

Step 6: Reassembly - Finish the Upper Casting

Upper Stop Guide

I lowered the quill slightly and held it in place. Next I rotated the lower stop ring until it lined up with the guide slot in the upper casting and tightened it down. I could then release the quill and let it ride all the way up. The upper stop guide slots into the groove in the upper casting and bolts to the lower stop ring. Then I ran down the two guide stops and the washer that goes between them.

Quill Clamp

The quill clamp is simple, it slides in one side and the hex nut fits into a hex slot in the upper casting.

Top Guard

The top belt guard simply fits into a groove at the top of the upper casting, and is held in place by a retaining screw. I only hand tightened the screw as I will have to take this off again later.

Checking everything over, the upper casting should now be finished.

Step 7: The Base and Post

Now comes that funky base. I had a few options for mounting the base, the photo shows the one I settled on for now. Reassembly is simple, a steel rod slides into the holes and is held in place with a set screw. The post goes into it's hole and there are 2 set screws to hold that. Simple.

I bolted the base to the worktop using the holes that used to bolt to the saw. I then adjusted and levelled the post and tightened the set screws. The post has to run that far through the base in order to keep it level. Not the best solution perhaps, but it does work.

The table slides down the post and the clamp handle screws in and tightens. Keep the table high to help hold the upper casting when you put that on.

Step 8: Motor, Bracket, and Catch 22

The Motor

I needed a motor to drive the press, and the manual gave me the specs. Went onto Craigslist and found one with those specs right away, very lucky! I went down, checked it out, and it ran perfectly. Its a Packard, which is an old name, but I have no idea how old the motor itself is. It came with a solid looking bracket and I took it home for 5 bucks. Great deal!

Catch 22

The bracket was not meant for the press, and the press did not have a bracket for a motor. In order to manufacture a bracket I needed the drill press, and in order to have the drill press I needed the bracket. The only thing for it was to make the existing bracket work on the press temporarily until I can come up with something better. I decided to reuse the old pulley mounting plate as a base.

Missing Parts

I needed to get measurements for the bracket, and for that I needed the rest of the parts. I held the bracket and motor in place where I thought it should go and measured the distance from the spindle to the motor shaft. I then measured that distance out across an old 2X2 and put screws in place. That allowed me to take the top pulley off the spindle, place it on the 2X2 along with a replacement 4 step pulley and get an accurate measurement for a fan belt.

It looked a little odd showing up at a parts store with a 2X2, but it worked a charm. They found a pulley, measured out a belt, no problem.

Making a Bracket

With the replacement step pulley mounted on the motor I could measure the distance from the top of the pulley to the top of the existing bracket. I cut a piece of scrap at that measurement, tied it to a yardstick, and that allowed me to figure out how high the bracket needed to be mounted. See the photo, that explains it better. I drilled holes in the existing bracket to match the bolts in the mounting plate.

There is almost no room between the motor casing and the bracket, so I had to shim out the bracket from the mounting plate. The picture shows that the motor is up against the nuts as it is. However it does work, it all fit together. Once gain not perfect but functional.

Step 9: Time to Make Some Holes!

It Works!

I checked everything over once again, put the belt on, and tested it. Works like it should!

Overall I spent:
   $15 for the press
   $5 for the motor
   $15 for the pulley and belt
   $3.50 for the paint

Totaling $38.50 for a fully functional drill press! For a kick I found an ad from 1948 showing the original price for one of these, photo below.

I still have to manufacture a better motor mount and I need a chuck key. Overall I am pretty satisfied with how this all went. It was definitely a learning experience but worthwhile to do.

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    19 Discussions


    4 years ago

    I've got a similar one in my garage and I'm dying to take it apart and restore it. I can't find the correct manual for it anywhere, though (I've checked all the vintage manuals sites). I might have to get the 1974 manual and hope not much actually changed, other than the gear housing and head.

    A chemical rust-stomper is great for projects like this involving iron and steel. Forget Naval Jelly. I never found anything I liked better than Os-Pho.

    Knock off and clean up loose rust. Hit with rust-stomper. Let dry. Paint.

    The rust-stomper chemically reverses the oxidation process and shoves it into reduction. Takes care of invisible rust too. Product is often available at boat yards, if you can't find it elsewhere.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Just FYI itzmark, the small protrusion with a hole in the casting just aft of the quill shaft on the left side of the press "head" below the manufacturer's plate (visible in the first photo here on this page) is the chuck key's normal storage location - the rod that passes through the factory chuck key and acts as a lever to tighten/loosen the chuck slides into this hole for storage so that it's easily available and handy. Mine is stamped with the number "32" which may refer to the size/type of chuck key.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Great instructable! Thank you for taking the time to go into details and post it. Great work!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Nice job! Isn't it satisfying when it cuts it's first hole?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I love old rust and fixing it up and bringing it back to life. I don't worry too much about keeping anything original though. Half the fun for me is customizing! Here is a messed up bench drill press I found in my grandfather's cellar I fixed up:

    To the left is an old messed up grinder I did some work to and a radial arm saw that needed some desperate attention when I got it as well!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I have a Delta in my garage that needs the same treatment. It looks almost identical to this one except it has a regular base and motor. Need to breakdown the motor to see why it has 1/2" of end play in the shaft.


    9 years ago on Step 7

    It's not clear to me in the segments of your post I've read whether you're aware of it, but the unit you made this from is part of a multi-tool that was a table saw, drill press, and jointer combination. The press dangled alongside the table saw when not in use, and was swung up into position atop the table saw where I believe the shaft stand was captured, maybe by a thumbscrew arrangement, I can't clearly recall. The long drive belt looped over the two pulleys which were mounted (where you've placed the new motor, and then down to the pulley on the motor which drove all three tools) I have the same unit which I dismounted and rescued from my Dad's old combination tool (which I believe was a Craftsman). That's the reason for the "funky" base. I haven't mounted a motor on mine yet, you did a good job - where did you find the three-tier drive pulley you mounted on the motor? You probably have a different speed range with that mounted, I believe the drive-side of the original arrangement was a single (two inch?) pulley. I think the part you (and I) bolted to the bench top was originally bolted to the side of the saw table with the bolts in the plane of the top so that the saw top was flat/clear when the press was dropped down when not in use.


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 7

    The man I bought it from did say it was originally attached to a table saw and used the same motor, but I did not see the saw and I have not come across any pictures of the combined unit.

    The replacement pulley for the motor is a 4 step pulley I got at a surplus store in Oxnard (great place). Ace Hardware listed one on their website, but none of the stores had one in stock. The speeds may be slightly different than original, but should not be too far off. If I had tried to use a single 2" pulley I would have had to make a motor bracket that raised up and down to get the belt alignment correct.


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 7

    Sorry I don't have any photos of Dad's assembled Rockwell. You're probably aware the pulley configuration you used is the industry norm for dedicated drill presses, and it likely provides a wider range of speeds than the original setup which required the lengthy (and perhaps hazardous) exposed belt which needed to be threaded through the complex original pulley configuration each time the press was swung up and locked in place to be utilized. I don't remember Dad using it much, but I do remember thinking it worked great when he did. It seems to have a lot of travel (depth capacity) and a good, robust chuck.


    9 years ago on Step 7

    Correction, mine has a Rockwell label on it.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    You did great job bringing back to life an antique drill press, I love restoration of old stuff :-)

    Phil B
    Phil B

    9 years ago on Introduction

    Your motor looks like a washing machine motor. I would guess it to be from the late 1920's or sometime in the 1930's.

    If you want to develop a shop with very little money, take a look at an inexpensive way to get a decent table saw (warning: shameless self-promotion).

    This will also allow you to use a sanding drum to do the work of a joiner for fine woodwork. (more shameless self-promotion)

    Thank you for an interesting Instructable.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I had not thought about the motor being from a washing machine, but it is possible. Before it came to me it had been mounted on a piece of plywood painted red, as evidenced by the remains on the bracket.

    I had already given thought to the table saw idea you mention, that is a future project. I will be working with small pieces (less than 48") for now, so it is not a priority.

    I plan on getting/making sanding drums and shapers for the press though. The manual that I found shows this press being capable of using router bits, and even shows how the setup works. However I have seen quite a lot of comments on this being a bad idea and why, and I agree for the most part. Some shaper bits and burrs are meant to work at lower speeds, those would be better I think.

    Phil B
    Phil B

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    If you were to enlarge the table on your drill press by clamping a piece of 3/4 inch plywood to it with screws from below, preparing edges for gluing would be pretty simple. I have a radial arm saw. It accepts a 1/2 inch drill chuck on the back end of the motor. In theory I can use it to hold router bits. In practice I have found the speed to be too slow at 3,000 rpm. The cuts are not clean and the bits chatter enough that the jaws of the chuck loosen.