Choosing The Best Drill Press for Metal
There are dozens of ways you can put a hole into metal, but a drill press is by far the easiest method. They have some major advantages over handheld models with only a few drawbacks. Needless to say, they are the only way to go for heavy-duty usage.
Finding the best drill press for metal can be a difficult task, especially if you aren’t sure where to begin. We have taken care of the hard part for you by choosing a few models that are currently best in their class. Our experts have also put together a buying guide full of useful tips to guide you on your journey as well.
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Considerations before buying a drills press for metal
Spindle speed and horsepower
Do you only plan to drill metal with your new drill press or is wood an option as well?
That’s the first question you should ask yourself and by far the most important one. That’s because speed is crucial when you drill through metal.
When you drill through thick metal, going slow and easy is the best route. You’ll get plenty of stability from a press, but the speed varies depending on the model. While you don’t need higher speeds to put a hole in a 4” x 4” piece of wood, you will want a drill you can adjust.
You will need to pay attention to the overall speed of the machine along with the spindle. The minimum motor size we recommend is 3/4 HP although there is some wiggle room there depending on what you plan to work with.
Drilling pressure control
By design, drill presses give you total control over things. You can control how far the bit goes into the material, the speed of the drill and several other options. One feature you should pay close attention to however is drilling pressure control.
A drill with this feature is certainly an option for the best drill press for metal. This allows you to set the drilling pressure once it actually passes through the metal. In a nutshell, it’s a finer measure of control that will keep your bit from breaking and ensure a perfect hole.
When it comes to spindle travel, we suggest you look for a drill press that can provide around 5” of travel or more.
If the travel length is too short, you may not be able to get through a 4” x 4” which would be disappointing considering these machines aren’t cheap.
You do not want to have to flip your stock over to complete a hole – that is never a good idea. Instead, choose a drill with the proper length to suit the material you’ll work with. Think ahead, and you will be set up for the long haul.
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The JET JDP-17 is a high-quality machine built to accommodate a wider stock. It has a spacious work area at 14” x 19” which is precision ground. That’s just one perk of this model, and we think you’ll be thrilled with the rest of the features as well.
That table will provide you with plenty of stability, and we like the fact it comes with 4 table slots and twin T-slot groves. It’s larger than other models in this class and extremely easy to use.
One feature that helps in that regard would be the integrated depth stop. This is great when you need to drill one hole after another without altering your settings. The belt tensioning system is top of the line as well. It’s built for “one-handed” use so you can change speeds with ease.
The JET JDP-17 is a sturdy machine that tips the scales at close to 200 pounds. It runs off a regular plug so you won’t need to call an electrician and it sports a built-in LED light to boot. Throw in a 5-year warranty, and you’ve just met your next drill press.
This one hits all the right notes and is versatile with 5” of spindle travel. The only downside would be the price which may rule it out for some. That said, you get what you pay for, and that’s a good thing in this case.
The Powermatic PM2800B is tied with our top option in all the key areas. That means there is no clear winner this time around, although this model has a few bells & whistles that stand out in comparison to JET’s machine.
The first thing we want to point out on the Powermatic PM2800B would be the quill travel. It’s listed at 6-inches, which is well above the average. It’s also capable of covering that ground with one turn of the handle.
While that’s impressive, so is the speed system. Its variable speed, but you don’t have to change belts which is a major perk on any drill press. You’ll also appreciate the digital RPM meter and adjustable stop if you want a machine that’s accurate. The fence on this model is adjustable as well.
Those extras come at a cost and with and add weight to this machine. The Powermatic PM2800B weighs 266 pounds and will leave a fairly large footprint in your shop. While it’s a solid, some of the components do feel a little chintzy compared to the JET.
This drill press is a good option for the shop, but there are comparable models at the same price point that provide more bang for your buck.
Budget Pick: SKIL 3320-01
Rounding out our list of the best drill presses for metal is the SKIL 3320-01. While it isn’t sleek or very tall, it is impressive for its size and an amazing option for light-duty usage.
The SKIL 3320-01 is a benchtop model, so it’s not nearly as powerful as our top two choices. It is more portable, however, and at 52 pounds you can tote it around when it’s not bolted down. The machine has a 5-speed system with a 3.2-amp motor which is capable of drilling through wood and metal.
One of the cooler features of this little unit would be the laser. It has something called an X2 laser which is a 2-beam system that lets you hone in on your mark every time. We also dig the tilting work table which takes you from 0 to 45-degrees in a matter of seconds.
Let’s face it; this machine wasn’t built for industrial use so don’t expect a miracle from that motor. As long as you keep that in mind, we think you will be pleasantly surprised by what the SKIL 3320-01 brings to the table.
On the downside, the table is small and not as stable as we’d like but will certainly get the job done. It also comes with a 3-year limited warranty out of the box.
You don’t have to take out a loan to pick up the best drill press for metal. There are plenty of options to suit everyone’s budgets from high-end machines to affordable options like the SKIL 3320-01.
Remember to keep the drills overall speed in mind in case you need to dial it up when working with other materials. If you are new to this style of tool, you may also want to give our drill press safety guide a read before firing it up for the first time.