Old-school woodworkers, machinists or hobbyists may refer to it as a drilling machine. Contemporary users typically call it a drill press. It hasn't changed much over the years, relying on a motor, belt and spindle to drill almost any hole accurately, and with more precision than a hand drill.

Contemporary Machines

Large, free-standing drill presses are sometimes called pedestal drills, or floor drills. A smaller, shorter model may be called a bench, tabletop, or fixed-style drill. But even though they have different names, they all share similar, simple parts that are easy to understand and operate.

Hand-Feed Drill

The hand-feed drill press is the most common drilling machine. It's operated by a lever that allows the operator to apply pressure to the bit as needed, according to thickness or type of material. Thicker or harder materials require slower feed rates than thinner or softer materials, and can be regulated by the operator with one hand.

Bench or Freestanding

The hand-feed drilling machine may be a bench model or a freestanding model, but they both have similar anatomy that includes a head, column and base.

Head Parts

The head of the drilling machine consists of a housing that contains an electric motor, spindle and sleeve. A V-belt connects the electric motor to adjustable pulleys, which rotate the spindle inside the sleeve. The V-belt can be moved up or down on the pulleys to adjust the speed of the spindle.

Feed Lever

The feed lever is the "hands-on" part of the drill press. It's located on the right side of the head, and looks like a wheel with spokes and knobs. The operator grasps one of the round knobs with one hand, and pulls the wheel down to lower the bit into the wood. When the bit is finished drilling, the operator pushes the wheel back up to raise the bit.

Chuck and Sleeve

The drill chuck, the focal point of the machine, secures the cutting device or drill bit, to the end of the spindle protruding from the end of the sleeve.

Column, Table and Base

The column is the long, vertical pipe that supports the head. Below the head, located on the column, an adjustable table supports the work-piece. The table moves vertically up and down the column, and tilts to facilitate angled holes. At the base of the column, a large base supports everything with a stable, vibration-free heaviness.

Smaller, But Not Forgotten

Smaller parts control certain aspects of the drilling machine, and without them, the drilling machine can't operate to it's fullest extent, if at all.

Chuck Key

Although not attached to the machine, the drill chuck is essential to the installation and operation of drill bits. The chuck or drill key is a separate tool -- it looks like a small star with a short handle, that fits into the chuck to loosen and tighten the chuck around the bit.

Depth Gauge

Located on the side of the head, and parallel to the spindle, the depth gauge lock controls the depth of the drilled hole by regulating how far the drill bit penetrates into the wood. It's particularly useful when countersinking to a specific depth.

Locking Levers

The left side of the table has the quill lock, which prevents the quill or spindle from moving vertically when you're using the machine for purposes other than drilling. Most machines have a quill lock, but some don't. A similar lever on the right side, at the back of the table, locks the table in place. All drilling machines have a table lock.

Drilling Machine Functions

The drill press is typically used to drill holes, but not isolated to it. With the right attachment, the drill press can countersink, mortise, sand, route designs, tap threads, ream or bore out existing holes.

Drilling Machine Safety

The drill press is safer than most woodworking equipment, such as a table saw for example, but hazards and precautions of the drill press are important to follow and understand.

  • Unplug a drill press before adjusting or changing bits.
  • Never wear loose clothing or jewelry when operating a drill press
  • Wear protective eye gear, and breathing protection when dust is present
  • Check to ensure that the chuck key has been removed from the drill before turning it on
  • Use clamps to secure small workpieces
  • Check to ensure that all guards are in place, and in working order
  • Locate and familiarize yourself with the emergency shut off button