How to Use a Drill Press

How to Use a Drill Press

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If you have just gotten a drill press and need to use it for a project or job that you have, then knowing what precautions to take and how to properly use the machine are necessary pieces of information for you.

Though there are several different machine options for you to choose from, most of them have the same type of operation. This means that basic steps on how to use these types of machines will allow you to use whatever model you purchased.

How to Use a Drill Press

Without further ado, let’s jump into a step by step guide detailing how to operate a drill press.

Step 1: Adjust the Speed

First, you will want to adjust the speed to the level you need for your current project. This is usually done by moving the belt that is attached to the pulley from one side to another. If you are drilling metal, then you will want to go at a slower speed, and with wood, you will want faster speed.

Drill Press Speed Adjustment

Step 2: Choose the Bit

You will need to find the drill bit that fits the size hole that you need to drill. Once you have the bit, you will fit it into the chuck of the machine. Then, you will need to tighten the chuck to ensure that the bit is held in place. For more details on the process, read this article.

Step 3: Adjust Your Table

The table of the drill press will often come with a way to adjust the height on one of the sides. It is usually a crank, so just use the crank to raise or lower the table to the height that is most comfortable for the job.

Step 4: Choose the Depth of Hole

When you need to drill a hole of a certain depth, you will want to judge how far you will need to go. Adjusting the depth of the hole will let the drill stop where you want it so it won’t go too deep. This allows you to drill holes that don’t go completely through the material.

Step 5: Secure the Workpiece

Once you have the machine setup, you will want to secure your workpiece so that it won’t move when the drilling starts. There is a clamp attached to the side of the drill press that you can use to hold the material in place.

If you don’t have a clamp on your drill press yet, you should consider getting a drill press vise.

Securing a Workpiece with a Drill Press Vise

Step 6: Start Drilling

Then, you will lower the lever to allow the drill to start making a hole in the material. Once you are done, release the lever so that the drill gets back to its original position.

Drilling Wood vs. Metal: Are There Any Differences?

When you are drilling certain materials, you will want to be more careful. If you have a piece of metal that you need to drill a hole into, then you will need to adjust the machine for it. The speed for this type of material needs to be slower than wood since it could cause the hole to not be as precise. So, adjust the speed to a lower level when you are working with metal.

When you are working with wood, you don’t have as much to worry about since it is a softer material that drills easily. So, when using a piece of wood to drill into, you can speed up the process by increasing the speed of the drill press to get the job done faster.

How to Drill Wood with a Drill Press

The Basics of Drill Press Safety

Using a drill press pretty simple, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t dangerous. If you misuse the machine, you could make the material break or the bit to fly out of the chuck. So, take the proper precautions to keep yourself safe.

You will want to wear steel-toe boots that will keep your feet safe since the drill goes downward, your feet are one of the most likely areas for injury. You also want to check that the chuck and drill bit are in place correctly. If the bit is not as tight as it can be, keep tightening it.

This goes for the clamp holding the material you’re drilling too. You don’t want to need more materials because the hole isn’t done correctly. So, ensure that you check everything before you begin. Also, keep your hands away from the drilling area when the machine is on.

Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks

When you are first using a drill press, the speed and accuracy of the machine might make it exciting to use. This is often where new users tend to speed up the process and push the limits of the drill press. You want to avoid this and keep the speed appropriate for the material you’re working on. Using a higher speed than you need will make it harder to get a clean hole.

You also want to get used to using the machine before using it on a high-priced material. If you mess up and drill incorrectly, then you will have to purchase another piece of that material. So, before you do this, practice on some pieces of unused wood or metal to get used to the machine. This will allow you to know you are doing before you start larger jobs.

Another thing that you should avoid is to use materials that are too thick. If the material can’t fit in the clamp then it is too big for the machine. And, holding the material with your hands is not an option because of the obvious dangers involved. So, don’t try to use it for more than what it is made for.


When using a drill press for the first time, it can be a bit intimidating. However, knowing how to use it will make you feel more confident and ready to get your job done. Just take the necessary precautions and you will be able to use your drill press to get the size hole that you need.

And, if you ever need to refresh your memory about how to do it, like if you haven’t used it in a while then you can take another look at this article. It will help you get back on the saddle with confidence and use your drill press again.