Drill Press Table

I acquired a free drill press a long time ago. She still works pretty decently. It’s a vintage, standing drill press, in case you couldn’t tell. She’s seen better days. These older drill presses have a stacked set of pulleys that need to be fiddled with when changing the RPMs, unlike the new-fangled drill presses that can be controlled the RPMs by dialing the speed, digitally.

The problem with the drill press was that it had such a tiny work surface to work off of. It’s a small circular surface that doesn’t hold much. So, after looking at existing designs on the internet, I decided to build a decent, but larger table for my drill press! The most important thing I wanted was the ability to have a solid fence that had slots built into it for stop-blocks, for repeatable drilling. I also wanted to still be able to change the height of the pedestal, by extending the handle outwards.

The table top.

I sort of went a wee bit fancy with the look of the table. I glued up 2 sheets of 1/2″ Baltic birch plywood, and glued 1/2″ thick walnut pieces to cover up the plywood edge. I like the dark and light contrast between the Baltic birch and walnut. The surface has 2 dados cut for a couple of blue aluminum t-tracks for the t-bolts to follow on.

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I wanted to make the table top removable, in case I wanted to use the small table top that the drill press came with. So I had 4 holes drilled into the pedestal, where I attached bolts from the table, through the drill press stock table, to some 5-starred knobs. As you can see in the image below, the stock table is TINY!

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The sacrificial boards.

I wanted to make some sacrificial boards that would eliminate tear out on the back of a workpiece, when drilling. I also didn’t want to mar up my nice Baltic birch ply-top. I’ve seen so many different drill press table designs that have the sacrificial MDF cutouts aligned perfectly centered to the drill bit, which always struck me as odd. It’s always a large, square MDF piece that gets chewed up pretty quickly, since you’re making the same holes in the same spot over and over again.

I’m not sure where I stole this idea from, but an off-centered sacrificial piece was a better alternative! And it’s even more brilliant when the sacrificial board is a circle, because if you needed to drill in a fresh section, you could easily just spin the sacrificial board to a clean spot and start drilling! You can see below, how the sacrificial board gets a little more use out of its life…and yes, the sacrificial board has seen better days.

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Making these sacrificial boards are easy as well. Using a circle jig that I attach to my router, I can make a ton of spares with such ease!

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The fence.

I wanted a sturdy fence that would always stay straight and wouldn’t move with the seasons. So MDF and solid wood fences were out. I could’ve done a plywood fence, but I wanted something that was sturdy and could take a beating. So I settled on extruded aluminum. I managed to snag some 80/20 aluminum off eBay for a good price with shipping. I also knew that if I was going to use some 80/20 aluminum, I’ll need some plates and bracket pieces that 80/20 manufactures as well. So, I grabbed 2 L-brackets, some fasteners, and a mating plate, that you see at the end of the fence, below.

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IMG_1042I love 80/20 aluminum. They may be pricey, but they have all sorts of crazy fasteners for any type of ridiculous build you can imagine! No, unfortunately, I’m not sponsored by 80/20, but if they’re reading this…hint, hint!

IMG_1043So as you can see with the left and right pics, I used some aluminum plates and brackets to create the fence. With the aluminum plate, I fashioned the main fence to attach to a small piece of extruded aluminum that is dead flush against the one side of the table. I used a speed square to make sure that the fence was perpendicular to that one edge of the table. Behind the fence, I have a small t-bolt attached through an L-bracket, fastened with a knob. When I use the fence, since I know it is always perpendicular to my sides, I’ll make sure the one side is tight against the table, and then I’ll screw down the knobs.

The t-bolts ride in the blue aluminum track. Instead of screwing the aluminum track directly to the plywood, I used some t-nuts on the underside of the plywood table. This was done because I was concerned about regular screws tearing out of the plywood if I over-tightened the knobs on the L-brackets. On the underside, I recessed the t-nuts a bit, so they wouldn’t protrude. I used some flat-head bolts to fasten the aluminum track to the t-nuts.

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I also made some stop-blocks for the fence as well. They were made out of gluing 2 1/2″ pieces of Baltic birch plywood, and a hole drilled through for a t-bolt to ride the 80/20 extrusion fence. A simple 5-starred knob tightens them in place. They come in handy when you’re mass-drilling multiple parts over and over again.

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 The height adjustment.

And lastly, we have the height adjustment. Nothing too crazy. I had some spare pieces of maple that I used. I managed to find a rod coupler, with one end fastened to the stud of the gear that allows vertical movement on the drill press. The other end was fastened to a thick rod of steel. I sort of finagled the angle and the hole location for the rod to sit in the maple. Nothing too fancy. Once I got the right angle, I fastened it to the underside of the drill press table.

Oh, I found a really sweet water pump handle off eBay and decided to use that as my crank handle. The old handle was flimsy and made out of plastic. This beast is cast-iron, and works like a charm!

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The future.

I think I may revisit this project later in the future. I don’t like how the chuck of the drill press doesn’t clear the fence. I may split the fence in the middle and add a vacuum feature that will still provide clearance for the chuck. The steel rod that extends the height adjustment crank needs to be longer. I screwed up on the measurement and prematurely cut the steel rod a little short and it now interferes with the side of the fence. I think with the next steel rod, I’ll most likely apply some wood wax to the surface to minimize surface rust and to help “lube” up the holes where the rod sits in.