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How to Choose a Drill Press

If you're ready to take your woodworking to the next level, or looking to take the plunge into metalworking, you might be considering investing in a drill press. But with a vast array of options on the market, it can be hard to sift through the mud and find those golden nuggets of truth. Never fear, gentle reader - here you'll find the information you need to make an informed purchase of a machine that will make your work easier for years to come. And no matter what you need, WEN has a drill press for you.


When starting your journey, here are some of the important terms you need to know to compare your options. 


Drill presses are rated by their swing, which is twice the distance between the spindle's centerline and the column. This number is the maximum workpiece diameter for which you can drill a hole in the center. For example, a 10-inch drill press has a swing of 10 inches; you could drill a hole in the center of a workpiece up to 10 inches in diameter, and the distance between the spindle's centerline and the column is 5 inches.

WEN drill press spindle to column distance

Spindle-to-column distance on the WEN 4208T 8-inch 5-speed benchtop drill press is 4 inches.

Spindle travel

The second-most-important specification on a drill press is its spindle travel. All drill presses have an extendable quill and spindle, which travels downward from the head when the handles on the side of the head are rotated. The distance the spindle travels is described by this number, and corresponds to the maximum hole depth that can be drilled. 


Drill presses are usually described as having a fixed number of speeds (e.g. "5-speed"), or being variable-speed. Fixed-speed drill presses have a certain number of speeds at which they can operate, and they cannot operate at any speed between these set speeds. The drive belt between the motor and spindle is mounted on a series of pulleys with various radii; changing the position of the belt changes the spindle's speed. It's a bit like the geartrain on your bike.

The pulleys on the WEN 4211 5-speed cast iron benchtop drill press.

Variable-speed drill presses, on the other hand, use an electronic or mechanical mechanism to vary the spindle's speed to any number within a certain range. WEN variable-speed drill presses use a robust mechanical mechanism to achieve this, which maximizes torque throughout the drill press' speed range.

If you plan to do a lot of heavy drilling (into very hard material, or with large-diameter bits, such as Forstner bits), look for a drill press that can get down into a low speed range. Generally, the lower the speed, the greater the torque.

Motor amperage

Electric motors are rated by the amount of current they can handle, in amperes (amps). Generally, the higher the amperage, the more powerful the motor; for example, a 3-amp motor won't be able to handle drilling into hardwoods with a Forstner bit, or drilling through hardened stainless steel, as well as an 8-amp motor. WEN uses powerful, quiet, low-maintenance induction motors on all our drill presses.

How to choose a drill press


When choosing a drill press, your first consideration should always be space. Do you have the floor space in your workshop for a larger floor-standing model? Or would a smaller, benchtop model suit you better? 

Uses and sizing

How do you plan to use your drill press? Make sure the drill press has the muscle to handle whatever materials you plan to use, as well as the capacity to physically accommodate your workpieces.

Additional features

Do you need a fixed-speed press, or a variable-speed model? Do you need one with an onboard light for better visibility, or laser crosshairs for quick and accurate positioning, or perhaps a depth stop for easy repeatability? All these features make drilling faster and easier.


Certain accessories are musts - after all, it's hard to drill holes without a drill bit. And to maximize safety, always use a clamp or vise to hold your workpiece, rather than your hand. From drill press vises, cross-slide and tilting vises, and drill press clamps; to drill press tables; to drill bits and Forstner bits; and to keyless chucks, WEN has the accessories you need to fully customize your drill press to your needs. 


We hope this has been a helpful starting point in your journey to choosing a drill press. If you have any questions about which WEN drill press is right for you, or need more information, please give us a call at 1-847-429-9263 (M – F, 8 – 5 CST), or drop us a message here to talk to our friendly and knowledgeable technical support team.

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