It starts with a simple question. What is the best drill press for metal? Perhaps your daily routine requires a drill press for metal. Perhaps you just woke up one day and decided to read this article. Perhaps you run a cult and realize that the easy availability of pitchforks means you’ll need a durably-constructed, ultralight aircraft to beat a hasty exit one day.
For your edification, we tested and compared over 43 drill presses for their ability to drill holes through metal. We then listed the best ones from #1 to #5. This should allow you to quickly get an overview of which models are the best, which to avoid, and which one that will give you the best bang for the buck.
At the end of the article you’ll find our buyer’s guide that will help you determine which drill press will be the right one for your needs.
|Jet 716200 Jdp-15B|
|Jet JDP-17 3/4 hp||198 lbs||4.7/5|
(Best for the Money)
|SHOP FOX W1668||63 lbs||4.3/5|
|Rockwell ShopSeries RK7033||48 lbs||4.0/5|
You might find a reason to dislike the Jet 716200 Jdp-15B. We didn’t. It was solid, held steady during use, accurate and powerful. It drilled cleanly – no need to sand down burrs – and the chuck held bits of all sizes. It was easy to adjust and it delivered power in boring holes through three inches of wood – its large table made it feel designed for woodworking – and half an inch of sheet metal.
Need we go on? Sure. The large table made for held workpieces steady and the clamps held them firmly in place. It was also quiet. It isn’t so quiet that you could chair a symposium about the future of bioethics the next room over, but it won’t cause your eardrums to explode. It was even a great value at the price we paid.
Normally, we like to find just one thing we didn’t like. You, for instance, might have a natural prejudice against bench drill presses, which this is. Here is ours: it didn’t deliver clean, accurate holes while also brewing coffee. You will have to make your own coffee to drink while working. We’ve got some ideas about which coffee maker you should buy.
We tested the JDP-17 3/4 hp on wood and half-inch strips of sheet metal, at different angles and by adjusting the speed. We’d drill one hole, adjust the workpiece and drill again. We’d swap out wood bits of varying size for metal ones to test whether the chuck held up. In the end, we looked to see how much post-drilling cleaning up was necessary.
We came away extremely satisfied, and based on the price tag, ranked it our best floor drill press for metal. You might be able to achieve better results, but you’re also going to pay a lot more for it. Unless you’re a professional who needs holes for aircraft-level precision, this not only delivered everything you’d need but at a price that won’t force you to sell your children for medical research.
Our only reservation was its performance drilling holes in metal dropped off a bit after repeated use. On wood, it was a consistent performer, but after five holes in metal little burrs started up pop up, requiring some extra work smoothing them. But, we’re pretty confident that very few people will set out to just drill holes for the fun of it and will only need to do it infrequently enough that it wasn’t enough to significantly downrank this.
Note: we also have a page dedicated to showing you our top 5 floor drill presses.
We generally like SKIL tools as a great option for the occasional enthusiast. They create sound, functional tools that are affordable on basically anyone’s budget. You can get a SKIL and be content with basic competence for the life of the tool, but if you go more hardcore with your work you’ll want to invest extra to get extra.
That was our experience with the 3320-01. It delivered basic competence at an affordable price. If you need a drill press once in a blue moon to punch a few holes in thin metal and don’t want to pay a lot of money for it, it’s the best value drill press we tested.
You should go into the purchase with no illusions that you’re getting what you pay for, in other words. It can drill holes, just not the kind of holes that’ll get your spaceship out of orbit. It’s also built to price. If you put it to consistent, everyday use, we get the impression that before long you’ll have to purchase a replacement drill.
Our big takeaway from the Shop Fox W1668 was that it’s just not a very good value. It delivers enough power to create a nice clean hole in multiple materials but doesn’t perform appreciably better than models that cost less. Compared to models priced in the same range, it underperforms. It wasn’t a complete piece of junk that fell apart after it drilled a few holes, but it just didn’t deliver based on what we paid.
We also found that changing speeds was something of a nightmare. This is something that other manufacturers have done a good job correcting the last few years, but Shop Fox apparently missed the memo. We also didn’t like that there was no work light. On older models, that was to be expected. On the other hand, when those older models were built, people still lived in caves and hit each other with tree limbs for entertainment. Come join us in the digital age, Shop Fox.
What we did like about it was the power, and that it drilled nice, deep holes. That is, the W1668 did the basic job we paid for it to do. It did it crudely, as if born of an age when people lived in caves and hit each other with tree limbs for entertainment.
The Rockwell ShopSeries RK7033 is, by itself, a DIY project. It is so top heavy and unstable that we had to spend real time mounting it so that we could start drilling holes. We realize that with some tools, like a vice, this is part of the bargain you pay for. But most of this drill’s competition comes weighted well enough that you can use them right out of the box.
Once we started drilling, it completed the work we bought it for ably based on its price. They weren’t great holes. They were okay holes. Based on the price tag, exactly the kind of holes you’d expect. At least straight on. We had difficulty adjusting the angle of the holes we were drilling. It was more work than frankly we wanted to do to drill a 45-degree hole. It was enough work, in fact, that we’re comfortable in saying that if you need to drill at angles that you ought to look at a different model entirely.
Buying a drill press is a pretty significant investment for anyone’s tool shop. They are specialized pieces of equipment, very few people have day-to-day need for them and they can be pricey. So maybe you don’t just want to be told which one to buy, but instead, you want to know what to look for. We have some tips to help guide you in your decision making
Your decision should always start with you and what you really need or want it for. We tested drill presses for metal, but in reality, you’re buying your one drill press. No home enthusiast has the room or money for one press specifically for metal and one for wood. If you foresee doing a lot of woodwork alongside drilling metal, look for a model with a large table that clamps down workpieces firmly.
Some people need one for semi-regular use based on hobbies or workload around the home, and some people just need something that once a year they can drill some holes to make mounting a metal frame easier. You also ought to be honest about whether you’re going to ever need a more complicated machine. The SKIL 3320-01 is a great starter drill press that someone will use occasionally on light metal. It’s also a great value at its price, so if you are looking at uncomplicated only occasional use it’s one you should give a look at.
Bench drill presses take up less space and tend to be more affordable. But floor drill presses tend to be higher quality builds and function, but they also take up more room and come with higher price tags. If you need something big, versatile and highly stable, maybe the added expense of a floor model is warranted. On the other hand, if your workshop space is limited you will probably want to conserve as much of it as possible buying a drill that goes on your bench.
You’re buying a drill press for a very simple reason, you have holes that need to be cut in a specific place at a specific angle and sometimes to a specific depth. You’re already at a place where the imprecision of a hand tool won’t work. You should keep in mind when buying a drill press that you’re buying for precision. You may be able to compromise on that quality a little bit, but you’re still going to need something that can put holes exactly where you want them and at the angle you want them.
We realize that there are lots of reviews for drill presses for metal out there, but we think ours is pretty solid. Two Jet models topped our rankings for pretty clear reasons: the JDP-15B performed perfectly for us, and the JDP-17 3/4 hp was a perfect bench drill press except that its performance on metal declined a bit after repeated use. SKIL proved once again that it produces good, basic, affordable tools ideal for casual home use with it best-for-dollar 3320-01. The Shop Fox W1668 was a crude, powerful tool for a bygone age that you should avoid unless you drink sarsaparilla and worry about contracting The Consumption, while the Rockwell Shop Series RK7033 got our lowest ranking because it was a chore to set up and then delivered mediocre results.
We hope you find this review helpful. If you want to keep looking at different models of drill presses, we certainly encourage you to do so until you find just the right balance of work quality and bargain. If our five aren’t suitable, we hope you make use of our buyer’s guide to help make your choice the best possible.