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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.