Drill Press Piece Fastening 101

An unfastened piece of pipe in a drill press, rotating away

What are the options you have for securing your workpiece to the drill press table? [Rex Krueger] shows us that there’s plenty, and you ought to know about them. He goes through the disadvantages of the usual C-clamps, and shows options like the regular drill press vice and a heavy-duty version that even provides a workpiece tilting mechanism, and points out small niceties like the V-grooves on the clamps helping work with round stock. For larger pieces, he recommends an underappreciated option — woodworkers’ wooden handscrew clamps, which pair surprisingly well with a drill press. Then, he talks about the hold-down drill press clamps, a favourite of his, especially when it comes to flat sheets of stock like sheet metal or plastic.

As a bonus for those of us dealing with round stock, he shows a V-block he’s made for drilling into its side, and round stock clamp, made by carefully drilling a pair of wooden hand screw clamps, for when you need to drill into a dowel from its top. The ten-minute video is a must watch for anyone not up to speed on their drill press piece fastening knowledge, and helps you improve your drilling game without having skin in it.

We’ve covered a few ingenious and unconventional drill piece fastening options before, from this wise held down by repurposed bicycle quick-release parts, to an electromagnetic wise that left our readers with mixed opinions.

14 thoughts on “Drill Press Piece Fastening 101

  1. The main image (before you play the video) give a lot away.

    I drill press vice somehow seems to a better tool that the alternatives he has described.

    But ultimately safety is an endless journey as there are always a way to improve safety.

    But back to the image and some issues.

    1) The “G” clamps are NOT constraining workpiece, they’re just increasing the friction between the work piece and the platform in the hope that it’s enough friction to prevent rotation – hope you didn’t spill any drilling lubricant or oil there.

    2) Step drills are intended for thin materials and you should never drill a material thicker than the distance between steps with some clearance added.

    3) The step drill (bit) here is for thin sheet materials only. It has no way of expelling offcut they’re just expected to fall. as the cutting edge is perpendicular. Step drills made for thicket material at higher speeds have and inclined cutting edge to expel the swarf or chips (depending on the material and speed).

    However he does make a lot of good points and that’s promising.

    One of the most important point of safety is never mentioned. An that is cognitive load. Unfortunately for humans when cognitive load meets our full cognitive capacity we don’t fail gracefully.

    If your using a back end loader and have to be spacially aware of something behind then you’re much more likely to have a serious accident. If it’s easy to move then get it away from the operational area.

    Similarly so if you are tired and drive a car etc.

    If you are or have recently been stressed then there is a much higher risk, stress is an indicator of increased cognitive load.

    The rest is … well … in a lot of cases referred to as “stupidity” and that most often translates to things like – taking shortcuts, perhaps close to knockoff, failing to consider the consequences.

    The other extremely common one is what I call in “insurance” model of risk assessment. In insurance the loss of life has a very low value because dead people don’t sue. In reality average people have a much higher regard for life.

    So if there is a 1 in 100 chance of chopping off a tow compared to a one in a million chance of loosing a life or several then the second is by far the greater risk.

    1. Don’t underestimate ‘just’ increasing friction. Clamping forces can be incredible with very little effort (why bolted joints work), and with both a reasonable camping force and sufficient clamped area the force preventing motion can be truly immense. Non-serrated vices work, after all.

  2. I will say that my drill press vise is my most frequently used vise, despite (really, due to) never being used with my drill press: it’s small enough to have nearby and move quickly.

  3. I have a trick for center drilling short lengths of dowel or rod. Put the drill bit in the chuck backwards, lower it down, clamp the shank in the drill press vise, tighten the vise, bolt down the vise, and release the chuck. That gives you a drill bit directly centered under the centerline of the drill chuck. Then chuck your dowel and drive it down on the bit. it should drill it straight down the centerline, within the runout of your chuck.

  4. I have an X/Y adjustable vise from [wince] Harbor Freight bolted to the table on my drill press. It’s pretty handy for drilling small things. The 2 bolts that hold it to the work table have butterfly nuts on them so I can remove it easily for larger workpieces.

    1. Be aware that most drill presses are not designed for the side loads imposed by milling operations. Other than very light cuts it will probably very prematurely wear the bearings.

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