In this guide we’ll look at the best pillar drills for the UK market.
I’ve compared power, performance, build quality and cost
to give you my top recommendations.
What is the Best Pillar Drill?
In a rush? Here’s my top choice…
Everything I Recommend
More Detailed Pillar Drills Reviews
Bosch PBD40 710W Bench Drill Review
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 the belts and cams can be to change to get a different speed or torque, so doing away with this is a real gamechanger.
You can select between two main torque settings with a switch, and the drilling speed is 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.
Evolution Power Tools Evomag42 1200W Magnetic Drill Review
Sheffield’s tool masters Evolution Power Tools have made some outstanding innovations in the industrial and DIY worlds, and the EVOMAG42 is easily one of the best magnetic drills you can find right now.
If you’re not familiar with a mag drill, they work in a similar way to a traditional drill press, but with the added feature of an electromagnetic base that can clamp itself to steel plates with the flick of a switch. This opens a whole new world of drilling in place, whether upside down, horizontally, or wherever you need to make a hole.
The EVOMAG42 is a wonderfully compact and powerful machine that’s capable of receiving up to 42 mm cutting heads. Suitable for industrial drilling tasks, it can be used for cutting through a range of materials including thick steel.
What makes this one of the best pillar drills is that Evolution have included two different chucks with the kit- the proprietary one that receives Evolutions’ large steel cutting bits, and a standard keyed chuck for any drill bit up to 13 mm.
What I really love about this drill is that it’s so portable- it weighs 12 kg, but when you’re working on a flat steel surface it slides around easily- you can line it up where you want to drill effortlessly, then turn on the powerful electromagnet and it’s as secure as it can be. And the carry case is excellent as well.
DirtyPro Tools 5 Speed 350W Drilling Bench Press Review
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, and 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.
Clarke CDP5RB 5 Speed 350W Bench Pillar Drill Review
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 that 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 and comes with a useful spring-loaded plastic safety shield. 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.
Silverline 262212 5 Speed 350W Bench Drill Press Review
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 to go with the keyed chuck. Accepting drill bits up to 13 mm, you can adjust the height and tilt of the drill table easily.
The included clear plastic guard is spring loaded for flipping out of the way when you don’t need it, and it does a good job at keeping flying chips to a minimum. This is an honest pillar drill that feels well made- there’s no play in the chuck and if you use the right drill bits, it will perform well.
Katsu 100W Mini Bench Pillar Drill Press Review
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, but the Katsu turns this on its head by making a pillar drill that’s so light and easy to move around.
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 definitely useful for small drilling jobs and feels well made, but don’t expect to be able to drill through 10 mm steel plate with the little motor on this drill.
Everything about this pillar drill is small- the motor size and max. drilling depth are small, but if you need a bench top drill press for little jobs, it drills straight and accurately enough.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pillar Drill FAQs
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.