Falling somewhere between the hand-held drill of the have-a-go handyman and the floor-mounted drill press of the professional woodworker, a bench-top drill press offers the increased accuracy, power, and versatility that will help you tackle the greater challenges that DIY presents. It will also make smaller jobs a good deal easier and smoother.
Related: Guide for Variable Speed Bench Grinders
Benchtop drill presses offer an efficient means of working with materials beyond just wood, as well as giving you the consistency needed for bigger tasks. The magic component is the depth stop device, which ensures that every hole you drill will be the same depth. Benchtop drill presses also allow you to keep your angles consistent which – as you can probably imagine – can be very important for certain jobs.
Our Top Pick:
For those wishing to take household DIY seriously without breaking the bank, a benchtop is an excellent investment. Read on for our list of the best benchtop drill presses on the market, as well as a detailed guide on what to consider before you buy.
The 5 Best Benchtop Drill Presses:
1. Dewalt DWE1622K | Best All-rounder
This model from Dewalt is a good powerful benchtop magnetic drill press that is admirably wieldy for its power. Coming with a 2-speed setting, you’ll find this model suitable, with the right drill bits, for drilling through even the toughest materials. It comes with a few very handy extra features such as overload protection, which will turn the motor off to prevent damage in the case of overload, a magnetic coolant bottle and a quick change collet (which does, admittedly, move around quite a bit).
For its size, it does drill pretty straight and true, allowing for a good consistency in your holes, and there’s plenty of travel on the powerhead (over 4”), allowing you to drill through materials as thick as you have the cutters for. With devices like benchtop drill presses, several components can get messy, so the well-organized case in which this comes is a welcome addition. Perhaps one major downside is that this drill can be very noisy.
- Quick-release handle
- Drills very straight for size
- Plenty of travel on the powerhead
- Comes with organized case
- Quick-change collet moves around a little
2. WEN 4208 8” 5-Speed | Best for Multiple Speeds
Certainly, a major advantage of this 8” swing model from WEN is the five-speed settings which it comes with. Having such variety in this area allows you to optimize your speed to the material your working with, which in turn allows for greater accuracy and efficiency in drilling. Certain metals lie at the lower end and certain woods at the faster but there’s much in between, so having the choice is a clear advantage.
The speeds in question are 740, 1100, 1530, 2100 and 3140 RPM. Weighing only 31lbs, this model is also pretty light by benchtop standards and is fairly compact as well, meaning you should have no issues with storage. That said, the head part of the machine also has enough weight to hold firm when the press is properly clamped.
The power on this model is not as much as some others but is perfectly suitable provided you keep the bit well sharpened. The press is also very easily assembled and the instructions are perfectly clear. There is a little bit of flex between the post and the and machine head, which can lead to some wobble. More generally speaking, this benchtop drill press isn’t the best for more precision drilling but, within its range, it’s a very efficient and reasonably priced bit of kit.
- Five-speed settings
- Compact and light
- Easily Assembled
- Very reasonably priced
- Bit of flex between post and machine head
- Not ideal for precision drilling
3. SKIL 3320-01 3.2 Amp 10-Inch | Best Laser Model
The big selling point of this model is the laser that it comes equipped with. Such a device can’t fail to suggest precision and, indeed, this 10” model from SKIL will offer precision alignment before you make your first mark on the material. Such precision at this price is pretty remarkable, making this one of the best benchtop drill presses in this area. It also comes with five-speed settings, allowing you to optimize your drilling for whatever material you’re using.
At 50 lbs it’s one of the heavier models within the price range and can be a bit bulky (although this will also give you some stability once it’s set up). With a year’s warranty and a 30-day money-back guarantee, it’s also a model that you can test out before committing to. A major drawback, however, which has to be mentioned, is that the column base collar seems to be made out of cast-aluminum, instead of cast-iron, which strikes one as a pretty lazy cost-cutting move. However, at such a low price, that is perhaps to be expected.
- Comes equipped with laser
- Five speeds
- Warranty and money-back guarantee
- Column base collar made out of cast-aluminum
4. Shop Fox W1668 13” | Best Spindle Sander Model
When working with wood, a spindle sander is a fantastic addition to have on your benchtop drill press, allowing you to achieve a smooth finish to the wood components you’ve created. For all manner of woodwork and carpentry, this puts a professional sheen on your work, complimenting your smooth holes with a smooth finish. Yet this fantastic addition isn’t all this model from Shop Fox has going for it; it has an impressive twelve speeds which, for a benchtop this size, is more than enough for any material you’ll encounter (it might even be a bit overkill!). It also comes with other great features such a 360 degrees table swing and a 45 degree left and right tilt, meaning the dexterity of this press is pretty much unparalleled at this price.
And the downsides? Well, with so much going for it, it’s perhaps no surprise that this drill press is big and heavy. In fact, it’s tempting to even consider it closer in the form of a floor press model. This is obviously far from ideal for those aiming for the efficiency and storability of a benchtop drill press. It’s also pricey, costing considerably more than the other items on our list. However, for that spindle sander and much else besides, this is one to go for if you have the cash and space.
- Integrated spindle sander
- Twelve speeds
- 360-degree table swing
- 45-degree tilt (left and right)
- Considerably bulky
5. General International 12” | Best for Durability and Safety
With its distinct cast iron look, this 12” model from General International has shunned the shiny finish of a great deal of modern benchtop drill presses. The result is a press that gives an impression of heavy-duty, almost industrial durability. And indeed, this is one of the most stable and durable benchtop drill presses that you can still operate and store with relative ease in your home. Tough though it may be, there’s much to recommend this model besides its durability.
The dual depth stop feature, for example, gives you complete control of both downstroke depth and upstroke travel, which seriously increases your dexterity. It also comes with a forced opening line interrupter switch, which is an excellent safety feature, necessitating a machine restart in the case of circuit interruption.
In terms of drawbacks, the 1/3 horsepower of this model isn’t actually sufficient for the heaviest loads and it’s also another model which makes quite a racket when in operation. However, with its high durability and wealth of useful features (including a laser guider), it’s an excellent benchtop for the price.
- Excellent safety features
- Dual depth stop
- Laser equipped
- Horsepower not sufficient for heaviest loads
How to Buy a Benchtop Drill Press
All benchtop drill presses are, by virtue of their size, designed primarily for the type of wood or metalwork which is smaller in scale than that of a professional business (for which you’ll need a floor standing unit), but greater than simple household DIY (for which a handheld drill will usually suffice). With that in mind, it’s important to ensure you actually need one before buying; if all you’re planning to do is fix a rickety door or make a simple shoe rack, go with the handheld.
However, if you are in the business of working with larger workpieces (and in different materials) the extra power and accuracy of a benchtop drill press is for you. It’s important therefore to get one that’s up to the job. To ensure this, there’s a handful of helpful parameters to consider when browsing through the many brands, models and sizes on offer. If you have an even more specific idea of what work you plan to carry out, then you can tailor your drill press selection to the one that’s right for you.
Working primarily with wood? Perhaps a spinning sander is a priority. Boring through larger pieces of tough metal? You’ll want the horsepower to accommodate that. Planning to assemble a piece of furniture with many components requiring precise measurements? You’ll want to prioritize precision. With that in mind then, here are some of the most important parameters and components to consider.
Horsepower reflects, most basically, how powerful your machine is. The normal horsepower range for benchtop drill presses is usually below a single unit, being given instead in fractions of 1 Horsepower or a decimal figure (e.g. 0.5 Horsepower). If you find a model approaching a single unit of horsepower, you’ve got an unusually powerful benchtop on your hands. Naturally, you’ll get no physics prizes for guess that horsepower is directly related to the amperage of your model, with that increase in direct proportion to the HP. Higher HP models are also likely to be noisier, although there are several ways a well-constructed benchtop can limit this.
Generally speaking, the more horsepower you have, the wider and longer the holes you can make will be. For tougher materials such as some metals, you’ll need to switch to a higher horsepower to make clean and consistent holes. If horsepower is insufficient, drill bits can become unduly stressed, meaning they will require sharpening more often and, in certain cases, will make a truly messy job of the hole you intend to create.
It’s obvious why the table component of a benchtop drill press is important – without a secure table, no amount of impressive drill accuracy or versatility will matter a jot. A good drill press table will hold your workpiece in place and adjust its position carefully and accurately in harmony with the alterations you wish to make.
With tables, there are essentially two parameters that matter above all else: stability and versatility. The importance of stability is obvious – if your table wobbles around even a little, this can be considered a serious red flag. A good and stable integrated table will also nearly always be made from cast iron. If you notice it to be made from some lesser material – very often cast aluminum – this is a clear sign that some corners have been cut. When it comes to a table’s versatility, this can encompass all sorts of interesting and useful features that a benchtop drill press table may come with. A table which can move or tilt, for example, is very useful for increasing your dexterity in producing drilling holes at all the different angles and depths which can be useful. Tables also sometimes swivel which, if you find yourself working along with a particularly long piece of material, can be incredibly helpful in maintaining an uninterrupted and precise workflow.
Table size is perhaps the final thing to consider, with a bigger table being generally more useful and requiring less bothersome movement of the workpiece. Obviously, with the medium-size range of the benchtop drill press, a massive table is unlikely to be practical. Yet this is certainly something to consider.
Very often, the best benchtop drill presses come with a magnetic capability, and this is a definite plus. With an integrated magnet, the swing on your machine can be greatly increased, without sacrificing any accuracy. And a magnet means that you can move your workpiece accurately and without stress. Magnetic machines can regularly bore through thick plates of steel and, indeed, those who work with metal regularly require the extra power, accuracy, and versatility that a magnetic equipped benchtop drill press provides.
Weight alone can be a pretty poor metric by which to rate a benchtop drill press. Weight will naturally increase with other – more important – factors such a horsepower, additional features, table type, etc.
That said, it’s obvious that weight will affect both the stability and portability of your benchtop drill press. When looking at the weight of what you plan to buy, it’s best to have an upper limit in mind in order to ensure that the item is storable and portable enough. Some benchtop presses at the upper end of the weight scale are better avoided if you don’t want them to be a constant visible feature of your household. It goes without saying, however, that a heavier unit will vibrate less when in action, which will improve stability and accuracy. However, as mentioned, so long as you take care not to go too big, the aforementioned other factors are far more important when determining the general quality of your benchtop drill press.
Depth adjustment on a benchtop drill press is the capability of adjusting the depth of your drill holes, within a certain range, that your drill will make. This is in effect the range within which you adjust the depth stop of your drill, to ensure consistency of hole depth when drilling multiple holes.
It’s important to remember, however, that depth adjustment isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to assessing a machine’s capability in consistent and accurate hole drilling. Other factors such as swing, horsepower, type of drill bits and general stability (incorporating weight) are other very important factors. All a depth stop does is adjust the maximum depth a hole will be drilled but it says nothing about the accuracy of that hole or even its ability to reach that depth. It only ensures it will not exceed that depth. Therefore, consider this factor alongside others when choosing the best benchtop drill press for you.
There are two factors to consider when assessing the speed range and adjustment of your benchtop drill press: the total range of speed and the number of increments within that range which your machine can be set at. Speed is always measured in RPM, with a range of something like 500 to 3500 RPM being fairly typical.
As you can no doubt tell, this range is quite large and that’s why a good number of speed settings over a large range is a definite plus for a benchtop drill press. At lower speeds, a drill will bore through though heavier metals (given sufficient horsepower) and at higher, a clean and accurate hole through certain woods can be achieved. But there’s much in between these two extremes and there’s little use in a massive range if there are hardly any speed settings. Some benchtop drill presses only have two, some have five and some can have as much as twelve. When assessing your press by these criteria, always look for a large range and a high number of increments to compliment it.
Serviceability and Warranties
Serviceability – that is to say, the amount of work the company is willing to do on your machine in the event of a breakdown or a desire for modification – is a major consideration with a product of this kind. Benchtop drill presses are complex pieces of kit and there’s much that can be swapped out or replaced to truly optimize the machine to the type of work that you want to do. For example, certain drill bits are necessary for higher horsepower if you wish to avoid their destruction and certain parts will inevitably need to be replaced because of wear. Does the company sell your drill press offer this? A common problem is machines that are made with a lack of suitable parts on the market, or with limited ability for upgrades.
A further aspect of a machine’s serviceability is, of course, the provision for breakdowns given by the company making it. These are specialized pieces of equipment and you may require specific tools and a specific expert in the event of a breakdown. It’s a great idea to see if this is available before you purchase a benchtop drill press. That said, this also throws up a further problem: Is the type of work and experts required to fix your machine too specialized? If this is the case, and if this isn’t provided free or at a discount by the company, you may find yourself forking out a great deal of cash to get your machine up and running again. Check this before you buy it.
And then, of course, there’s the issue of warranties and money-back guarantees. As you can probably tell just from reading this article, there’s a great deal to consider when purchasing a benchtop drill press – and nobody’s perfect. You may wish to have the option to return your product if it really isn’t suitable for the type of work you wish to carry out. A warranty is also a must: Everything might work well at first, but you’ll want a safety net for at least a year to get your machine fixed or receive your money back in the event of a total breakdown. This is certainly something to check.
General Buying Tips
- Durability is paramount. This is a heavy-duty machine for heavy-duty work. Make sure it’s built to last.
- Do not accept substandard or cheap materials. Cast-iron is the way to go.
- Stability is important and relies on many other factors. Check these before you buy them.
- The same goes for accuracy and consistency in drilling.
- There are a lot of additional features available for benchtop drill presses. Go with the ones that suit your work.