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This is part three of a series where I take a look at the Delta DP 350 drill press. If you missed the first two parts, check out the links at the bottom of the article.

In part II, I left off mentioning that Rockler had just put this drill press on sale and I wondered if Rockler would refund me the difference. It never hurts to ask, so I asked my local store if they’d give me store credit for the difference. Without hesitation, they said sure. They would have refunded the difference to my credit card if I hadn’t had another $50 of stuff to buy anyway. It wasn’t even a problem that my receipt got wet and the bar code was unreadable. And no, they have no idea who I am; I have no doubt they would have done this for any customer. All in all, a stand up corporation.

First Real Test

My first real project with the drill press was boring holes for a pair of dry erase marker holders. I needed a series of 1/2″ diameter holes 1-3/4″ deep in some red oak. To set the depth stop, I drilled the first hole approximately 1-1/2″ deep and then incrementally drilled a bit more and checked the depth with a caliper until the hole was 1-3/4″ deep. Then I set the depth stop from that first hole.

These holes didn’t really challenge the drill press, even though I had to back off drilling a few times each hole to clear the sawdust. That’s probably more from using a small Forstner bit than a failing of the machine. I also ended up burning the wood a little with the first hole, so I just turned the speed down and it was fine. It was nice to be able to do that without stopping to change pulleys.

In the picture you can see I used the light. The manual says to use a 40W bulb or less, but who has a 40W bulb lying around? I ended up using a 60W.

Building A Drill Press Table

Rather than drop another $120 on a drill press table like the one Rockler sells, I figured that it would be a good test of the drill press to build one myself.

I cut and stacked two 18″ x 24″ sheets of 3/4″ MDF to make the table. Using the drill press I drilled 33 pilot holes for 1-1/4″ screws to hold the two halves together. I cut a 3″ square hole in the top piece to accept sacrificial backer for under the quill and a slightly smaller hole in the bottom piece to hold it in place. To finish off the surface, I routed two slots for the fence and two slots for the T-track.

I used some leftover laminated MDF scraps for the fence. I routed a T-slot in the back of each piece to attach the fence to some aluminum angle and a T-slot in the front to hold accessories. To accommodate dust collection, the fence is split and the aluminum angle has a chunk cut out of it. The DP 350 had no problem drilling any of the holes in the aluminum angle or the hole and counter sinks in the T-track.

To mount the auxiliary table to the drill press, I attached cleats to ride along the edge of the drill press table and a keeper across the cleats to wedge against the sloping bottom of the drill press table. To attach the table I just slid it in place and tapped the front with a mallet until it touched the column. To remove it I only have to tap the back of the fence until it comes unwedged.

After using my new table, I really appreciate the offset table crank. Rather than 90° to the table, it’s more like 110°. This keeps my hand from whacking into the new table when I raise or lower it.

Wax On, Wax Off

Noticing the buildup of sawdust on the drill press, I experimented cleaning the exposed metal of the base with mineral spirits and applying a liberal coating of paste wax. It gave the base a nice dull finish that wasn’t sticky. To test it, I dumped some sawdust on the base and it wiped off easily with a brush. I think I’ll try coating the painted portion of the base next. If that works out I’ll take the machine apart and clean and coat the column and table.

Wandering Press

I haven’t experienced any tendency of the drill press to tip over, like they say might happen in the manual, but even though the drill press weighs almost 80 lbs., I found that it tended to slowly wander around my bench. To counter both of these issues, Delta supplies two carriage bolts for securing the drill press to the surface.

To fix the wandering issue, I attached it to my bench top with the supplied bolts. While that stopped the wandering, it seemed to make the whole bench top vibrate a little when the drill press was on, as evidenced by the rattling in my drill index. I might have to look for an anti-vibration pad to fix this.

Depth Stop

I’m confused by the inclusion of a scale on the depth stop. You can’t zero this type of stop, and the fact that part of the threads are flattened to accommodate the scale being painted on makes the rotation of the quick adjust stop catch on the edge of the threads every rotation. They would have been better served to just use a normal screw with no scale.

I’m not knocking the depth stop mechanism — it’s accurate enough if used properly. The best way I found to use it was to mark the bottom of the hole on the outside of the workpiece. Then put the workpiece on the table, pull the quill down until the bit is even with the line on the work piece, and set the quill lock. Finally, push the stop down to where it meets the stop bracket, making sure that the little button pops out all the way. This actually happened while I was photographing this procedure — evidently the stop was between threads and the pressure of the stop bracket against it popped it into the next thread. The result was a hole slightly deeper than I had set.

Incidentally I found an Instructables post where a guy mounted a digital caliper to the stop on his drill press. This would allow you to zero out the stop on the work piece and set it to an exact depth. I’m planning to try this out.

Variable Speed

In the previous posts I’ve mentioned that the speed scale was only marked with the minimum and maximum speeds and that was something I thought might be improved, but after using the drill press for a while I think it was actually intentional. Sure, Delta provides you with a speed chart calling out what speed to turn different bits in a variety of materials, but it’s more of a guideline than a hard and fast rule. If you get the speed in the right ballpark, most of the time you’re fine. If you start to have problems with smoke or burning, you can just lower the speed on the fly. Rather than limiting you with RPM readings, the empty dial face allows you to put your own notations.

Performance

The DP 350 easily handled building the marker holders and drill press table, but I wanted to challenge the drill press a little more. First I tried drilling a 3/8″ hole through some 1/8″ welding steel. I didn’t want to get oil all over my MDF table so I pulled it off and clamped the angle iron directly to the table. I offset the table and double clamped the angle iron to insure that I wouldn’t get any vibration or, worse yet, a spinning chunk ‘o death.

Looking up the speed on the DP350′s included chart showed me that I needed to set the dial at 1000RPM. With a little cutting oil (okay, 3-in-1 oil), the drill press chewed its way through the steel with only a little smoke. Not even a challenge — although I did manage to get oil all over the freshly treated base. A quick wipe with a cloth and it looked as good as when I first coated it.

Next I chucked in a 1-1/2″ spade bit and tried some green treated wood. I figured that would at least give the drill press a challenge; I previously burnt out a hand drill with that bit. Setting the drill press to approximately 1500RPM, I pulled the lever and hardly got any resistance as the bit cut a very clean hole.

Maybe a little harder wood like red oak would provide a challenge. With a little more resistance, the 1-1/2″ spade bit spinning around 1000RPM left another clean hole, and an impressed owner.

I chucked a 1″ Forstner bit it into the drill press and set the speed at its lowest setting. I wasn’t really expecting any different results, but I pulled the handles and after hardly offering any resistance, I had a really clean flat-bottomed hole in the piece of red oak.

Running out of ideas, I got out my biggest hole saw, a dull 2-1/2″ Harbor Freight special. At first when the pilot broke through and the teeth of the hole saw met the oak, everything was fine, but as the whole saw sunk deeper, I could hear the drill press change pitch and slow down. As it went even deeper it threatened to stop altogether if I didn’t back off the handle. I think I was just at the point of overloading the motor a few times as I heard a click from the motor and the chuck almost looked like it stopped. At last, the round core was free.

Summary

I know I didn’t use any larger metal bits or drill into stainless steel, but I tried to give you a good idea of what the DP 350 could handle. I’m extremely happy with the drill press, and in the end that’s what really matters.

Part I: Assembly
Part II: Features and Specs
Shopmaster DP350 [Delta]

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16 Responses to Delta DP350 Drill Press: Operation And Impressions

  1. Dave P says:

    BTW, use a dial caliper for your readout. Cheap digis don’t update very fast–it’s hard to creep up on a reading. With the dial ones you’re way less likely to overshoot a position.

  2. MeasureOnceCutTwice says:

    Instead of spending time & money on the anti-vibe pad, see if you can find the root cause of the problem – fix that and you’ll be happier with the machine and maybe it will last longer and perform better.

    Some classic areas are unbalanced/out-of-round/or varying-width pulleys, or low quality belts that have inconsistent cross sections or vary in stiffness.

    I’ve never tried them myself, but many people swear that the replacement belts made up of many links reduce vibration substantially.

  3. MeasureOnceCutTwice says:

    P.S. I thought I remembered something on this site:
    http://toolmonger.com/2009/04/24/fenner-power-twist-v-belts/#more-23448

  4. Scott says:

    I purchased the Delta 300 bench drill press a few years ago. It doesn’t have the variable speed liek the 350, but it does have the light and a drill bit storage tray. It also has a built on laser sight. It’s worked great so far! I’ve used it to build doll beds and bunk beds and various other household projects. I’m pretty impressed with it. I need to build a table for it, though. Thanks for the articles!

  5. Gabe Caraway says:

    Are you still happy with this drill press? I’m in the market for one and liked your write-up, but this machine gets terrible reviews.

    Here’s an example – http://www.amazon.com/DELTA-DP350-Shopmaster-12-Inch-Bench/product-reviews/B00006K00I/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

    Let me know. Thanks.

  6. @Gabe Caraway:

    I went back and double checked the bad reviews (1 and 2 stars especially). A good number of them are several years old and are complaining about an issue with one of the variable pulleys that Delta has fixed. As long as you buy the drill press from someplace that actually turns their inventory over in a reasonable amount of time, this problem shouldn’t bother you.

    Take away those reviews and I think the picture looks a little better. Like all products, it’s possible to get lemons and outstanding performers. For example look at my Roomba. The first one I had broke within 30 minutes of using it, but the replacement I received has lasted me over 4 years of almost everyday use and two new batteries.

    Sure I found a few minor problems with the drill press, but over all I am still pretty happy with it. I’m not afraid of changing my opinion, so if I ever do have a major problem, you’ll see another post complaining about it.

  7. Carl Turner says:

    I hope you get notifications about responses. I have a question about assembly.

    Step 8 says to place the drill press head onto the column. No big deal. Use the alan wrench to tighten down the locking screws labeled >OOO< tightens as if it is missing the column.

    Questions, comments or concerns?

    Carl on the Internet.

  8. Carl Turner says:

    That is not what I typed. Correction to paragraph 2 as follows:

    Step 8 says to place the drill press head onto the column. No big deal. Use the alan wrench to tighten down the locking screws labeled O. Above the top O is a hole you can see through and the top O appears to miss the column as if the head doesn’t lower far enough. Did your head lower to the point where you could NOT see through that hole?

    Thanks.

  9. @Carl Turner:

    Measure from the top of the flange on the base to the bottom of the head on the column, it should measure just shy of 22″. I didn’t see anything about seeing through the hole in the instructions, but I can see daylight through that hole.

    You have to screw that top set screw into the head about 1/2″ before it hits the column.

    I mentioned this in the first part:
    http://toolmonger.com/2010/07/28/delta-dp350-drill-press-assembly/

    Hope that helps.

    —-
    Just a note, to everybody. There’s an RSS feed for all the sites comments way at the bottom of the page. Unfortunately you can’t just follow a single post’s comments.

    Every writer at Toolmonger also get email when there’s a comment on his or her posts, so don’t be afraid to ask a question on an old post, we’ll see it.

  10. Keivn K says:

    This is my first Drill Press. I was hesitant to purchase since reading some of the negative comments, but as I read on and realized how old the comments were I felt more sure of my decision (And the posts stating Delta fixed the pully coming off problem).

    This is the first time I’ve had a press where I could (Or should say take the time to) to control the speeds, and there is no gauge to the approximate RPM’s, I was wondering if you found that the ACAD Drawing for the decal you made was a good approximation. I realize if I see smoke I need to slow it down, but I would like a reference point to start from.

    Thanks

    K2

  11. @Kevin K:

    I never took the time to bother printing out that decal. I’m not sure how accurate it is.

    Since I do most of my boring in wood I find that now I hardly ever move the speed from the lowest setting.

    —–

    On a different note I said I’d complain if I had any problems with the drill press. I’ve seen the table flex when drilling deep holes into end grain, which causes the hole to be crooked. I’ve been able to work around it but I’m wondering if it is just a problem with this drill press or it’s an issue with more bench top drill presses. I can’t see how you’d fix the problem without a much beefier column and table.

  12. jeff_williams says:

    Is there any way to brace the table to the column? I imagine it’s the table that’s flexing downward from the quill as you apply pressure.

  13. Keivn K says:

    Kind of a pain, but you can cut a couple of legs from a 2×2 that you can install adjustable feet to. Make a sleeve to accept a 2×2 leg under the Cantilever portion of the work top. That way you can make up a few sizes ahead of time to accomodate various heights. Slip the right size for your project under the work top and fine tune the leveling with the adjustable feet to what you have the Drill press mounted to.

    I was planning to add a Wood Working Friendly top to the drill work top and I was wondering if the weight would cause the cantilever of the table to flex downward. Now I know it may be a factor.

    Thanks for your prompt reply, it was help full.

  14. Steve Veale says:

    Benjamin,
    I purchased this DP350 from a friend. He did not have the key any longer. I have bought several keys at home depot/Lowes (1/2″) and none of them work. The original from Delta is $22 with shipping. That just seems crazy high. The chuck on my press is marked 1/2″ JT33 but I can’t seem to find one similar online. I tried to measure the pilot with a drill bit and it seems to be 1/4″. I was wondering if you have any suggestions for how to get the right key for a decent price?
    -Steve

    • I tried a bunch of different keys I had in my shop, none of them fit either. I’d try removing the chuck from the drill press, bringing it into a hardware store, and seeing if they could match it.

      If you can’t find a match, rather then dropping the dough on a new chuck key, you could probably buy a better chuck (maybe even a keyless) for a little more.

  15. Tom says:

    to mount a table I used cleats similar to you then I bridged the cleats with a steal bar. I tapped the drilled and tapped the bar to accept 1/4″ bolts. the bolts seat to the bottom of the drill press table. Work okay.

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