pillar-drill

6 Best Pillar Drills (2021 Review)

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The best pillar drill (aka drill press) should be able to accurately drill multiple perpendicular holes to the same precise depth, so build quality is very important. It needs to come with a heavy base, preferably made from cast iron, in order to keep vibrations down to a minimum. A powerful yet quiet motor of at least 350W is also ideal.

For control and precision look for at least 5 variable speed settings and if you want to drill holes at an angle a tilting table is an essential feature. Top models use electronic speed control so you don’t have to change belts and cams for different speed settings. A plastic safety guard around the drill housing is also a useful feature.

There’s a wide range of pillar drills to suit every budget and task in front of you. I’ve tested out the best ones, so you don’t have to. Here’s what I discovered…

What is the Best Pillar Drill For You?

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Comparing the Best Pillar Drills

Use the dropdown to sort the table by the feature that's most important to you.

  • Best For
  • Power
  • No-Load Speed
  • Belt Drive Speeds
  • Max Cutting Depth
  • Tilting Table
  • Laser Guide
  • Weight
  • Cost
  • Our score
  •  

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In-Depth Reviews of Our Recommended Pillar Drills

Bosch PBD40 710W Bench Drill Bosch PBD40 710W Bench Drill

Best for electronic speed control

Build Quality
Performance
Ease of Use
Value for Money
Overall
4.75
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Bosch PBD40 710W Bench Drill Review

Specifications

  • Power: 710W
  • No-Load Speed: 200-2,500rpm
  • Belt Drive Speeds: 2
  • Max Cutting Depth: 40mm
  • Tilting Table: No
  • Laser Guide: Yes
  • Weight: 11.2kg

The Bosch PBD 40 is probably the best pillar drill because it’s accurate, has an innovative electronic speed controller, and doesn’t take up much room in the workshop. This clever piece of kit comes from Bosch’s “green” line of DIY level tools, but don’t be fooled. This is a rather special drill that wouldn’t look out of place in a professional woodworking shop.

The first thing to say about it is that it’s very compact and portable. At just over 11 kg it’s not heavy so you don’t have to dedicate an entire corner of your workshop to it. You can keep it out of the way until you need it, or even take it with you.

What makes this the best drill press that I’ve had a play around with in recent times is the electronic speed control. Anyone familiar with a traditional pillar drill will know how fiddly they can be. Changing belts and cams to get different speeds or torque is a pain, so doing away with this is a real gamechanger.

You can select between two main torque settings with a switch. The drilling speed is separately controlled with the dial on the front of the drill housing. What makes this drill a joy to work with is the digital display. You can toggle between the live rpm and drilling depth for great accuracy even during operation.

It’s a fantastic addition to any woodworker’s shop and feels like a step up from other pillar drills I’ve used in the past.

Pros

  • The laser guide is incredibly useful. Instead of lowering the drill bit to the workpiece each time, the little red crosshairs do the hard work for you. It saves time and head scratching.
  • There’s a handy LED work light as well. It does a good job at lighting up the workpiece, which will help improve accuracy.
  • Changing drilling speed is the secret to accurate drilling. It’s essential if you want to make accurate holes and even extends the life of your drill bits. Digital speed control is the future.
  • The digital depth gauge is just as useful. Rather than fiddling with a ruler and using bits of tape as a depth stop, you can just glance at the display. I love it!

Cons

  • It’s a shame that you can’t adjust the table angle. If you want to drill holes at an angle, this isn’t the right drill for you.
  • The wheel setup for raising and lowering the drill isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste. I find it easier to use the normal three lever configuration. I get more control with a lever.
  • Some users have complained that the laser crosshairs are off centre. There doesn’t appear to be any way to adjust them either.
  • The drilling stroke length is excellent, but the spindle travel is just 40 mm. Compared to the 55 mm you get with the Zerone drill press, it’s not enough. Thin materials are hard to work with.
BUY HERE →

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Zerone 550W Bench Pillar Drill Press & Steel Vice Zerone 550W Bench Pillar Drill Press & Steel Vice

Best pillar drill with tilting table

Build Quality
Performance
Ease of Use
Value for Money
Overall
4
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Zerone 550W Bench Pillar Drill Press & Steel Vice Review

Specifications

  • Power: 550W
  • No-Load Speed: 480-3,000rpm
  • Belt Drive Speeds: 9
  • Max Cutting Depth: 55mm
  • Tilting Table: Yes
  • Laser Guide: Yes
  • Weight: 23.0kg

This Zerone Pillar Drill is ready for working on a variety of materials. It comes with an added machining vice that makes it one of the best bench drill press accessories available on my list.

It’s a belt driven drill press that puts out nine variable speeds between 480 – 3,000 rpm. Changing the speed and torque settings isn’t too taxing thanks to the large gear wheels in the top case. The base is heavy and made from cast iron, so it should help to keep vibrations down to a minimum.

The table tilts and is held in place using a clever cam locking system. It means you can drill accurately at angles up to 45° from vertical. I like the rack and pinion height adjust and the crank handle used to raise and lower the bed. It’s easy to use and is accurate too.

The integrated work light and accurate laser ensure an extra level of precision that is essential for drilling precise holes.

Pros

  • The maximum drill bit size of 16 mm gives you a little more versatility for heavy duty jobs. Compared with the 13 mm max capacity on the Bosch PBD 40, you can use a wider range of bits.
  • Thanks to the long rack cut into the pillar itself, you get an excellent maximum cutting depth. 55 mm of travel means you can use short drill bits but still reach the workpiece.
  • Compared to the Dirty Pro Tools drill press, this tool provides a wider range of drilling speeds. The minimum speed of 400 rpm is particularly useful for larger drill bits.
  • The 550 Watt motor is hefty and can deal with just about any DIY drilling task. It’s got 200 more Watts to play with compared to the Silverline 262212.

Cons

  • Weighing in at 23 kg, this is not a portable drill press. Even though the extra weight helps to keep things steady, it takes a lot of effort to move it around when you need to.
  • Some users have complained that the table doesn’t have a central hole for drill bit clearance. Even though it’s possible to cut one yourself, it’s a strange thing to leave out.
  • Several users have complained about the lack of decent assembly instructions. There’s not much to go one when assembling the chuck and safety guard for first use.
  • This is a powerful pillar drill, but it’s not built for extreme accuracy. Some users have complained of lateral play in the spindle and some chuck wobble as well.
BUY HERE →

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DirtyPro Tools 5 Speed 350W Drilling Bench Press DirtyPro Tools 5 Speed 350W Drilling Bench Press

Best drill press for quality and value

Build Quality
Performance
Ease of Use
Value for Money
Overall
4
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DirtyPro Tools 5 Speed 350W Drilling Bench Press Review

Specifications

  • Power: 350W
  • No-Load Speed: 600-2,650rpm
  • Belt Drive Speeds: 5
  • Max Cutting Depth: 50mm
  • Tilting Table: Yes
  • Laser Guide: No
  • Weight: 18.0kg

Selling everything from chainsaws to treadmills, Dirty Pro Tools have a knack for producing honest goods from their base in Derby.

Their five speed bench mounted drill press is just about as good as it can get for the price. In fact, there’s not much difference between the Dirty Pro Tools and the Clarke CDP5RB. It has a similar motor and nearly the same stats all round.

The keyed chuck takes drill bits up to 13 mm. The motor does a good job at being quiet at just over 80 dB when in use. Changing speed means opening the motor case and changing round pulleys, but it’s a straightforward operation to complete.

Everything feels solid on this pillar drill. It might not have an enormous industrial grade motor but for DIYers and hobbyists who want to drill straight holes, you can’t go wrong.

Pros

  • For the price, this is a capable and useful drill press. Compared to the Zerone drill, it might not have all the features but it’s a lot less expensive! It’s ideal for beginner DIYers.
  • You get a similar level of features and performance compared with the Clarke CDP5RB, but for less money. If you’re on a tight budget, this is the best pillar drill choice.
  • The drill table is made from sturdy cast iron. It’s an ideal material for this part because it’s solid and heavy. It’ll help to keep vibrations down and keep you drilling straight.

Cons

  • Compared with the brilliant digital motor on the Bosch PBD 40, this drill press is basic. Changing drilling speed means removing the cover and changing round the drive belts.
  • The maximum drill size you can fit in the chuck is 13 mm. Compared to the 16 mm you can get with the Zerone, it’s limited.
  • Some users have complained about the lateral play in the spindle. This doesn’t help accuracy and can make holes wider than the drill bit.
BUY HERE →

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Clarke CDP5RB 5 Speed 350W Bench Pillar Drill Clarke CDP5RB 5 Speed 350W Bench Pillar Drill

Best for DIYers and model makers

Build Quality
Performance
Ease of Use
Value for Money
Overall
3.75
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Clarke CDP5RB 5 Speed 350W Bench Pillar Drill Review

Specifications

  • Power: 350W
  • No-Load Speed: 620-2,620rpm
  • Belt Drive Speeds: 5
  • Max Cutting Depth: 50mm
  • Tilting Table: Yes
  • Laser Guide: No
  • Weight: 14.7kg

In house brand of industrial tool favourites Machine Mart- Clarke have a reputation for making solid equipment and accessories. I took a closer look at the CDP5RB bench mounted pillar drill, and it doesn’t let the brand down.

Squarely aimed at DIYers and model makers, this is a handy bench top drill press. It won’t replace an industrial free standing monster, but it’s not designed for that anyway. The overall build quality is good, with a chunky cast base and solid-feeling table that can be tilted as well as raised and lowered.

The keyed chuck accepts bits up to 13 mm and even tapered bits up to B16. It comes with a useful spring-loaded plastic safety shield too. There’s a solid-feeling depth stop for when you need it, and the handy diagram on the front tells you what depth you’re at.

The 350 Watt motor is quiet enough and getting to the belts to change speed only requires one screw to be removed. If you want an honest and reliable drill press, I think this is a solid choice.

Pros

  • The front label clearly displays the speed settings and doubles up as a depth gauge. Even though you need to change speed manually, it’s an easy job.
  • If you want to work with tapered drill bits, the included chuck is very capable.
  • Compared to the Dirty Pro pillar drill, this one is nearly 4 kg lighter. That makes it much more portable without being too light for its job.
  • Press fitting the chuck for first use is easy. There’s not much assembly required and it’s clearly explained in the manual.

Cons

  • The lowest speed you can set the drill to is 620 rpm. That’s rather fast if you need to drill wide holes, and 20 rpm faster compared with the Dirty Pro pillar drill.
  • Due to the shape of the jaws inside the chuck, you can easily install a drill bit at an angle. You need to take particular care when setting a drill to get it perfectly straight.
  • The depth stop is basic. It’s just a pair of nuts that lock together, so it can take a long time to change if your stops are far apart.
  • You can adjust the table for height, but not angle. That means you’re stuck drilling perpendicular holes unless you make a jig yourself.
BUY HERE →

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Silverline 262212 5 Speed 350W Bench Drill Press Silverline 262212 5 Speed 350W Bench Drill Press

Best budget drill press

Build Quality
Performance
Ease of Use
Value for Money
Overall
3.25
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Silverline 262212 5 Speed 350W Bench Drill Press Review

Specifications

  • Power: 350W
  • No-Load Speed: 580-2,650rpm
  • Belt Drive Speeds: 5
  • Max Cutting Depth: 50mm
  • Tilting Table: No
  • Laser Guide: No
  • Weight: 14.5kg

Familiar to almost anyone who swings a hammer in the UK, Silverline make a dizzying array of tools, accessories and fixings that are reliable and don’t break the bank.

Their take on the five speed pillar drill offers a sturdy cast base and 350 Watts of drilling power. It comes with a keyed chuck that accepts drill bits up to 13 mm. You can adjust the height of the drill table easily using a cam lever.

The included clear plastic guard is spring loaded for flipping out of the way when you don’t need it. It does a good job at keeping flying chips to a minimum. This is an honest pillar drill that feels well made. There’s minimal play in the chuck and if you use the right drill bits, it will perform well.

Pros

  • This is a solid and reliable pillar drill that won’t burn a significant hole in your wallet. In comparison with the Bosch PBD 40, it might not have the gadgets but it’s a third of the price.
  • Adjusting the table height is a piece of cake. You use the cam lever to loosen or tighten the bolt and it goes up and down. You can also swing it out of the way for more clearance.
  • The clear plastic safety guard is spring loaded. That means it holds itself in place whether up or down. It’s an extra bit of security when you’re doing a lot of drilling.

Cons

  • The maximum drilling stroke of 50 mm is limiting. Unless you’ve got the same width drill bits in different lengths, you can’t drill any deeper than that. It’s a bit of a shame.
  • The single screw that holds the top cover on is fiddly to undo. I prefer top covers with latches, especially if you’re changing the belts often.
  • It’s a noisy drill when in operation. It’s not as loud as a circular saw but it’s still a good idea to wear ear defenders.
  • The setup guide isn’t very well thought out. If you’re a complete beginner it could be difficult to put this drill together the first time.
BUY HERE →

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Katsu 100W Mini Bench Pillar Drill Press Katsu 100W Mini Bench Pillar Drill Press

Best mini drill press

Build Quality
Performance
Ease of Use
Value for Money
Overall
3.25
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Katsu 100W Mini Bench Pillar Drill Press Review

Specifications

  • Power: 100W
  • No-Load Speed: 0-8,500rpm
  • Belt Drive Speeds: variable
  • Max Cutting Depth: 25mm
  • Tilting Table: No
  • Laser Guide: No
  • Weight: 5.3kg

Innovative tool brand Katsu make some surprisingly good power tools for a brand you’ve probably not heard of before. And they’ve made one of the best small pillar drills that I’ve had a chance to try out.

Weighing in at a mere 5.25 kg, this is the ultimate in portable accuracy when it comes to drilling. Normally, you must take the workpiece to the drill press. The Katsu turns this idea on its head by making a pillar drill that’s so light and easy to move around. You can take the drill to the workpiece.

To say this is a basic pillar drill isn’t an understatement. You can adjust the speed and height, but that’s about it for functionality. It’s useful for small drilling jobs and feels well made, but don’t expect to be able to drill through 10 mm steel plate. The little 100 Watt motor on this drill is more suited to hobby and light duty DIY tasks.

Everything about this pillar drill is small. The motor size and maximum drilling depth are small compared with the rest of the drills on my list. However, f you need a bench top drill press for little jobs, it drills straight and accurately enough.

Pros

  • The size. This is a pillar drill that takes up a minimal amount of bench space. Compared to the large and heavy Zerone, this is a lightweight but practical tool.
  • If you need to drill fine holes in things like circuit boards, this is an ideal tool to use. You can fit extremely narrow drill bits and drill straight holes every time.
  • This drill has a maximum speed of 8,500 rpm. Compare it to the Bosch PBD 40’s 2,500 rpm and this is a lightning fast bit of kit. High speeds are ideal for small diameter drilling.
  • Seeing as the entire drill moves up and down to the workpiece, it’s incredibly rigid. There’s not a lot of lateral play, so it’s ideal for precision work.

Cons

  • With a maximum cutting depth of just 25 mm, this pillar drill is only suitable for the smallest jobs. Compared with the massive 55 mm of spindle travel on the Zerone, it’s tiny.
  • You only get 100 Watts of power to play with. Even though this drill isn’t designed for heavy duty work, it’s still a bit weak. Compared to the 710 Watts put out by the Bosch PBD 40 anyway.
  • Some users have complained that the depth stop is tricky to use. It’s operated with a small hex bolt that doesn’t make it easy to quickly change stop depths.
BUY HERE →

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Things to Know Before Buying a Pillar Drill

A good pillar drill can make accurate holes, repeatedly and reliably in a range of materials. It’s important to think about what you need one for though.

Drilling Speed

Selecting the right drilling speed for the material you’re working on is essential. If you use the wrong speed you can snap drill bits, burn holes in your workpiece or just take far too long to drill a simple hole. You can find pillar drill speed charts that cover a huge range of materials, drill bit types and sizes online easily. They’re worth their weight in gold.

Changing the Speed

Traditional drill presses use pulleys and cams in different configurations to spin the drill at different torques and speeds, a bit like on a bicycle. Although it’s a simple enough operation, a lot of DIYers find a middle speed and use it for everything. Unless you’re going to invest in the brilliant Bosch PBD with digital speed control, get used to swapping round pulleys when you change drill bits.

Drilling Stroke

The depth at which you can drill is an important part of using a pillar drill. Because of their setup, there’s only so much space under the drill bit to fit pieces of wood or metal for drilling. The distance that the drill bit can travel vertically is known as the drilling stroke.

Safety Precautions

When using any tool, you need to wear the proper protective equipment. This always includes safety glasses and hearing protection when operating a drill press.

Never wear loose fitting clothing or ties, or even gloves when using rotational tools. Always follow the safety advice on your tools, it only takes a moment to cause life-changing injuries.

Always clamp your workpiece down to the bench to make sure it doesn’t slip when drilling, and never just hold it by hand.

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Pillar Drill FAQs

Are pillar drills worth the money?

If you want to drill lots of accurate perpendicular holes to a precise depth, then the best tool for the job is a quality pillar drill. You could get away with drilling these holes with a simple hand drill, but unless you’re very experienced, you’re likely to wander or drill at an angle.

How can I stop the drill bit from “skating”?

Drill bits can wobble around on hard materials, so it’s important to get hold of a centre punch- you use this to make a mark for the tip of the drill to start off in, and it won’t skate anymore. For the best results, and to keep your drill bits in good condition, always start with a fine bit and work up to wider ones.

Can I use a pillar drill on steel?

Drilling through steel can be loud, uncomfortable, and hot if you don’t do it right. Always use a centre-punch, make sure you’re using a sharp HSS drill bit, don’t drill too fast, use a firm downward pressure, and use a cutting oil to keep the temperatures down.

Can I use a pillar drill for milling?

Pillar drills are at their best when working in a vertical direction- you shouldn’t try to put any side load on them unless they’re rated for holding milling bits.

How can I drill accurately?

The best pillar drills, like the Bosch PBD 40 have taken a lot of the guesswork out of drilling accurate holes- using a combination of laser technology and an LED work light, you can see instantly where the drill bit is going to touch.

Fortunately, you can still get good results without lasers though. Get into the habit of lightly clamping the workpiece to the drill table, then bringing the drill bit down slowly and carefully to see where it touches. Once you’re happy with it, then tighten up. Never try to adjust when the drill is in motion.

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Sources

“Choosing a Drill Press”. extremehowto.com 

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