wht do I need to know about getting a drill press

so I have finally bit the conceptual bullet

about chambering out the three balsa boards

I have had glued up for the past 2- five years.


looked on craigs list first for  magicly availiable stuff 

and that didn’t work.The only craigs list stuff was off island.

Then I looked at the google results and it gave me a thumbnail view

of drill press nomenclature.I still dont know enough

to make an educated decision…


but it seems the bits that I own that are called hole hogs would work best 

in the control situation of a drill press.

Do I need a powered up monster drill press ?

I don’t feel confident with a light weight tool.

any indicators?to look for amp motor size

like a planer with musscle that doesn’t

bog down under load…



Although I'm a carpenter, I don't use drill presses much these days, because my work is in the field, not in a shop.  But I regularly drill through large timbers using a battery powered 18v portable hand held drill.  In a drill press, I would use forstner bits for the type of drilling that a chambered board would require, and if they're sharp, then the load on the drill would be minimal  I suspect that "hole hog" might be another name for the same.  (When using my portable drill, I still sometimes use a forstner bit, but I start the hole with a spade bit, as the forstner wants to "wander" when starting out with a hand held tool).

Please don't mis-read this - I'm not in any way, shape, or form recommending you do the job with a portable drill, only giving the example to show that a monster drill press is not required, sharp bits are the key when drilling in wood.  Even a small benchtop drill press would do the job.  However, if you foresee a heavy workload involving many more such projects, or maybe drilling holes in stainless steel or cast iron, by all means get the biggest baddest drill press you can afford.

I’ll second the use of Forstner bits. It’s what I use for installing leash plugs. Leaves a clean, smooth cut and clears out the material as you go, pretty much.

If you decide to use a cordless drill instead of buying a drill press, be careful when using larger bits (>1"). The bit will often fetch up and crank the body of the drill suddenly and with force. Bad for the wrists and other body parts that might be in the vicinity.


The tricky part in using a drill press for long lengths of wood is having a work area that will allow support of the material at both ends. So, a press with a decent sized table can facilitate adding extensions. C clamps are your friend for that purpose.

[img_assist|nid=1061813|title=handle|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=334|height=252]Good for making SUP handles. Harbor Freight has ome inexpensive sets of forstner bits. You can also fit a press with a sanding drum for shaping fins.

Senior` brose,


You will want a drill press to accomplish the task.  Beg, Borrow, steal one.

Doing it by hand will have more than one " OH $HIt" moment. You know the time..that time, when you realize all the effort spent and now wasted on a beautiful balsa because you pushed a forsner bit through the deck.

Give yourself a fighting chance with a drill press...or some contraption that works like a drill press.


When looking at drill presses and chambering you need to consider the spindle travel.  How far the bit can travel.  Depending how wide your chambering sections are, might limit which drill presses you can use without having to flip the wood over.  Balsa is soft so I don’t think you will have issue with too little power.  The other must when drilling through is to keep a sacraficial piece of wood under the balsa so you don’t get tear out when exiting through the other side.

The other advantage to the drill press is that you can put a fence at the back and run the wood against that as you chamber up and down the board.  It will give you very consistent spaced holes.


The size of a drill press is determined by twice the  distance from the center of the chuck to the support pole.  So stated, a 15" drill press is 7 1/2" from the chuck to the pole giving you the option to drill to the center of a 15" piece of material.  Get the biggest drill press that you can afford, set up, and store.  Variable speed is also a requirement that should be considered.  The larger the hole the slower the speed that you should be drilling.  With large holes you will want to clamp your work to the table.  Make sure that the table height is adjustable and that the adjustment can be easily done.  My press has a crank to do the lifting and lowering.  A depth stop is also recommended to allow you to drill a consistant distance part way through your material.  As for the size of the motor 1/2 to 3/4 HP will do the trick.  The choice of bench top or free standing is up to you.

As always follow your safety instructions.  Drill slow when it’s called for, clamp your work, remove the chuck key before using,wear safety glasses, and keep your hair away from the moving chuck.  I was a Wood shop teacher for 29 years, and seen bits catch and grab stock that wasn’t clamped.  I even had a student come to me with his hand on his head, and say:

“Mr. D, I think I had an accident” 

“What do you mean Al?  Move your hand.”

When he did a patch of hair the size of a softball was missing.

Moral of the story… Don’t check the depth of the whole while the drill is still in motion.  He was lucky that it didn’t tear his scalp.

All very good advice. Minimum motor size is 1/2 hp. As stated variable speed a MUST. Adjustable work table preferably rack and pinion for up and down and still able to swing out of the way for oddball or large objects. Mine has a light on it and is quite helpful. Forstners are the way to go. If able, get carbide bits, well worth the extra cost. Also you can add to the work table and customize it for the task, ie: fence, replaceable deck (after drill throughs) and one that can be set for angled drilling. What Surfifty says pretty much nails it. Growing up a kid in the neighborhood pulled a chunk of his (long) hair out just that way. Pulled skin with it and has a bald spot forever because of it. The drill chuck grabbed his hair and pulled it in and ground away at his scalp until it pulled loose.



ps. Drill presses are pretty hard to abuse so older models last and are easier (cheaper) to buy. Got an old National made in Buena Park, Ca. in the early fifties for $80 from and iron shop. Real workhorse. Good Luck.

I've done all sorts of woodworking, from fine art to cabinets to houses to surfboards.

 You can get by without a press but you end wasting tons of time dickin' around with jigs to get yourself lined up straight and plumb.

 I see besides surfboards you are a handy guy with many projects and the best press for a person with a lot of different type projects is one that is very versatile like this old Rockwell/Delta Radial Press. This is actually a tabletop model on a stand.

Tilt and swivel on the head for easy set ups and and multiple speeds so wood, metal and plastic can all be safely drilled.


They made this model for many years and there are lots of them out there on the market.  

 I picked this one up for $100 several years ago and I see them often. Mine has the original 1/2 HP motor and that is more then enough power for a press like this.

 Similar presses have been made by Craftsman and other firms over the years but the old American iron is better.

 Keep checking CL and the want ads and find yourself a good one.

Also, here's a very good reference for tool enthusiasts



Great link Uncle G. Thanks for posting. Also nice drill press, VERY handy! Grizzly tools makes a drill press that is also a spindle stroke sander. A nice option.


... Grizzly tools makes a drill press that is also a spindle stroke sander. A nice option.



I avoid that particular brand like the plague and find it worthwhile to search out much better made old stuff.

 Also FWIW, using a drill press as a sander put's undue pressure on the bearings, creating run-out.

I prefer stand alone tools and have a Rigid oscillating sander in my shop.   

thank you all for the input.

the oral tradition is alive and well

at the blue campfire.

my mind is being warmed

to the level of confidence

necessary to take on this 

chambering job.


Uncle G, Agreed on using a drill press as a sander is a bad idea. No argument. Drill presses made to use as stroke sanders are designed to do so with beefed up bearings and races. Also true, a dedicated stroke sander is WAAAY better but in a pinch....? I don't own any Grizzly power tools but have used plenty in the past and have never encountered a problem with them. Although not top of the line tools I have found they will suffice for a home shop. Have you had trouble with them?  I don't and won't use the drill press to sand. I made a 12" circular sander out of a reclaimed craftsman motor with a table that will adjust for variable angles. The motor cost me $15 and the rest was scrap in the shop to fabricate. Habitat fo Humanity has a retail store named "RE-Store" and they have old elec motors from various tools/appliances for as low as $5.


I don't own any Grizzly power tools but have used plenty in the past and have never encountered a problem with them. Although not top of the line tools I have found they will suffice for a home shop. Have you had trouble with them?


 I don't have any in my own shop but I have had to use them many times in the past and found them to generally be P'sOS. 

 I won't buy 'em for the same reason I wouldn't buy a costco surfboard.

As I said, much better to find a quality used tool. Easy in todays' market.


“The pain of poor quality lasts long after the joy of a cheap price”

If you know Jim Phillips, ask him for some advice. He's got the drill press/chambering operation down to where he can probably do it in his sleep.

Okay thanks for the answer Uncle G. They don't hold up for commercial use. Agreed on older tools also. My jointer, cabinet saw, drill press, and bandsaw are either pre or early 50's era. But that doesnt mean there aren't a lot of good new tools as well.

Ambrose, I don’t have a lot of space for tools, and I don’t use a drill press often, so I bought a portable press that holds my 3/8" hand drill. I think it was off of Craigslist or Ebay and very inexpensive. It does everything I need, and I only set it up when I need to.  These are examples from eBay.





      Howzit Ambrose,Talk to Mez about them he knows a lot about which one to get and he may even have an extra one to sell. Aloha,Kokua


I gotta talk to him about my balsa milling anyway.

be well .


I have an ancient Craftsman all cast iron drill press at the shop, had to pry Channin’s hands off it several times as he wanted me to chuck it in the dumpster. Rusty, looks like hell, but motor, bearing and all works excellent. This is my go to tool for chambering the rail sections, I set up the vertical stop at about 1-1/2" from the base plate, set up a section of 4 x 6" aluminum angle about 5/8" behind a spiral upcut router bit  and plunge cut along the lines I’ve pre drawn. It takes a while to do that many plungers, but you have to do what ever it takes, after I’ve done both rails, I run the chambers back and forth and let the bit clean the faces up from the plunges.

This is the only way I’ve stumbled upon that even comes close to how I’ve wanted to be able to chamber the rail portions, the distance always stays the same, with a fence, the vertical route follows the shape of the rail. When I’m through with the drill press / router bit, it is a scorp to dress it up