The Clarke Drill Press: 10 To Choose From In The UK

Clarke International (a.k.a. Clarke Power Products UK) is a British company, based in Essex and London in the UK, which supplies a whole range of tools and equipment, from power tools and construction machinery to garden, outdoor leisure and garage equipment. Clarke itself does not sell directly to consumers but markets its products via a number of UK distributors. Clarke was first established in 1969 as an equipment manufacturer but has since moved on to procuring products that are brought under its own brand.  To ensure a high level of quality under the Clarke brand name, products are thoroughly inspected and tested both in-house and by external testing organisations like the British Standards Institution. In addition, after-sales service support from Clarke is very robust with a section of the company dedicated to handling such queries. As a result, Clarke products are generally good quality products at a reasonable price meaning that most consumers buying Clarke products are usually very satisfied with their purchase.

In this Clarke pillar drill review, we first list the range of Clarke pillar drills that are available to the UK consumer, before looking in more detail at the specific characteristics that are incorporated across the Clarke drill press range. At the end of the page, we have gathered together a selection of informative real reviews from consumers who have already purchased a Clarke pillar drill which should aid in your own buying decision making process.

The Clarke Drill Press Range

Clarke Pillar Drill CDP5RB
Clarke Pillar Drill CDP5EB
Clarke Pillar Drill CDP102B
Clarke Pillar Drill CDP152B
Clarke Pillar Drill CDP10B
Clarke Pillar Drill CDP202B
Clarke Pillar Drill CDP302B
Clarke Pillar Drill CDP352F
Clarke Pillar Drill CDP452F
Clarke Pillar Drill CDP502F

Clarke Drill Press 
Speed Range
Drill Bit Sizes
Table Size
620 - 2620
1.5 - 13
160 x 160
620 - 2620
1.5 - 13
160 x 160
620 - 2620
1.5 - 13
163 x 165
300 - 2250
3 - 16
203 x 195
210 - 2580
3 - 16
200 x 200
180 - 2770
3 - 16
248 x 248
180 - 2770
3 - 16
290 (Dia.)
180 - 2770
3 - 16
290 (Dia.)
180 - 2770
3 - 16
288 x 288
150 - 2450
5 - 20
400 x 344
Speed Range
Drill Bit Sizes
Table Size

Benchtop or Floor-standing

Clarke offers two types of drill presses (pillar drills) within their line-up. More compact drill presses that are designed to sit on the workbench (model numbers ending with the letter 'B'), and larger drill presses that are bolted to the floor of the workshop (model numbers ending with the letter 'F'). In general, the larger the drill press, the more versatile it is, being able to accommodate larger workpieces as well as the smaller ones. Unfortunately, a larger, more versatile drill press usually means a more expensive one, and the floor standing pillar drill models are certainly more detrimental to one's budget.

A couple of points to note here: Firstly, the Clarke benchtop pillar drill models CDP5RB and CDP5EB are essentially the same bench drill but in different colours. Secondly, there is occasionally the odd discrepancy between the technical specifications listed on the Clarke website and those found in the operating manual for a particular drill. This is sometimes clearly due to input error, and other times most likely due to a change in suppliers where slight differences in part specifications often make it difficult to keep the manual exactly up-to-date.


The Drive

The drive system refers to the mechanism that connects the drill motor to the spinning chuck, and usually consists of a set of pulleys and drive belts (an example of which is depicted in the picture below, courtesy of Clarke Power Products UK). Clarke uses 3 different drive systems in their current crop of drill presses:

  • 5-speed
  • 12-speed
  • 16-speed
Image from Clarke drill press manual showing drive pulley and belt system

​Getting the drill press drive system to rotate at different speeds is achieved by manually repositioning the drive belts onto different 'wheel'-sizes found on each pulley (see picture). Different combinations of pulley 'wheel' sizes gives rise to a small number of discrete speeds (5, 12, or 16 speeds depending on the drill model) that the drive mechanism can operate at.

So why does one need variable speeds on a drill press?

Drilling into different types of material require different drilling speeds for best results, while different sized drill bits can also have a significant bearing on the ideal drilling speed. All Clarke drill press operating manuals contain drill speed guides similar to the one shown in the chart below. In general, harder materials and larger drill bit sizes require slower speeds to achieve optimal results when drilling.  Only some of Clarke's larger more powerful drill presses are capable of operating at very low drill speeds recommended for some materials, however, this does not mean smaller drill presses cannot be used, they just might not perform as well as their bigger brethren. The chart below, taken from a Clarke drill press operating manual, shows the recommended drill speeds for different types of material being drilled as well as for different drill bit (the hole) sizes.

Drilling speed guide for obtaining the best drilling results depending on drill bit size and type of material being drilled

​Chuck Capacity

Image of the spindle taper MT2

​As the name suggests, the chuck capacity on a drill press refers to the maximum size of drill bit that can be accommodated within the chuck. Different Clarke pillar drills possess different chuck capacities, holding drill bits anywhere from as small as 1.5mm in diameter for the smaller drill press models, to a maximum of 20mm for their largest model, the CDP502F.

On Clarke drill presses, the chuck itself is attached to the drive mechanism of the drill press via a spindle and spindle taper. Usually a rubber mallet is used to gently hammer the chuck onto the drill press via the spindle to provide a strong attachment between the chuck and the drill press drive system. Clarke drill press models use 3 different types of spindle taper depending on the model:

  • ​B16
  • ​MT2
  • ​MT4

​Knowing the type of spindle taper that the chuck uses is really only necessary if you are going to be changing the chuck. For the typical DIY-er, this is usually is not necessary.

Blow-up image of the drilling area of a drill press outlining the meaning of the throat depth.

Distance from Chuck to Column (Throat Depth)

The distance from the centre of the chuck to the column or pillar is also known as the throat depth. As any experienced pillar drill user will tell you, throat depth can be a critical parameter to consider when buying a drill press.  The throat depth limits the distance from the side of a workpiece that a hole can be made using the drill press. For example, the Clarke CDP5RB bench drill which has a throat depth of 104mm, cannot make a hole in the centre of a square workpiece that is 21cm x 21cm or larger irrespective of how the workpiece is rotated. Throat depth on Clarke drill press models range from 104mm to 253mm.


Distance from Chuck to Drill Table

Like most drill presses, the distance from the chuck to the drill table on Clarke drill presses is variable as the drill table is free to slide up and down the column of the drill. Clarke drill presses use one of two mechanisms to secure the drill table in place as a stable platform. On smaller Clarke bench drill models, a locking mechanism is used to immobilise the free-sliding drill table, while on larger, more professional models, a rack and pinion system is used to more precisely control drill table height.

The maximum distance the table can move away from the chuck gives some idea of the maximum 'thickness' of workpiece that can be accommodated within the drill area. However, it is important to note that most drill bits, protrude a significant distance from the chuck, even when fully inserted, thereby reducing the maximum thickness of workpiece permitted within a particular drill model. The maximum chuck-to-drill table distances on Clarke models range fro 167mm to 642mm.


Drill Table Size

In general, the bigger the drill table size, the better it is, as a larger drill table surface area can better support larger workpieces. Clarke pillar drill models sport drill tables in a range of shapes including, square, rectangular and circular, and in a range of sizes depending on the model.

Informative Reviews

Clarke CDP5RB Reviews 


I bought this for my home hobby workshop, I mainly make things out of wood. I get a steady supply of pallets and scrap wood and make things like work benches, planters, small tables etc.. I have been after a pillar drill for ages and took the plunge after a lot of reading with this one. The clincher for me was the aluminium pulleys for accuracy and durability. The drill arrives disassembled but is very easy to put together. You start with the base and bolt on the mast. Then add the work plate and the drill unit. You will finally need to attach the handles and mount the chuck by gently lining it up on the spindle then, with a piece of scrap wood underneath, pull the handles to push the chuck on (make sure the jaws are in first).

One point with the packing is - the bottom of the motor fan cover is right against the cardboard. I noticed when I took out the drill unit the motor fan cover (bottom) was dented in. You can unscrew this, which I had to do to hammer out the dents using a piece of scrap wood. This damaged the paint finish so I had to sand and respray it black. Not a major problem but not something you ideally want to do with a brand new item.

When I first tried to start the drill nothing happened so I opened the top to expose the pulleys. There is a safety microswitch under the top which cuts power if you open it. The plastic stop that activates the microswitch was slightly out of line so I just unscrewed it and adjusted it slightly. When I shut the top and tried again it was ok.

I've used it for making a new work bench and it was so much easier having this set up and getting perfectly straight holes done quickly. Make sure you have some kind of clamp for securing your work piece - I used quick release g-clamps onto the plate. I don't think I will bother with a specific bench drill clamp.

Overall I am very pleased with this drill - it's obviously only a hobby tool but good quality and not only works well but looks good too. I would definitely recommend it for the money. - Amazon Review by Netlagged on 1 Jan. 2016.

This is my first pillar drill and I'm delighted with it. It looks great in my workshop and represents very good value for money. It is not an industrial machine but for my hobby / DIY work it is excellent. It came packed in a box and had to be assembled ~ which was easy to do ~ but it is well worth carefully reading the assembly and safety instructions beforehand. It does not feature 'soft start' but this doesn't seem to be a problem for me. Spare parts are readily available should you need them. - Amazon Review by John Hawell on 30 July 2016.

I like this drill and it works well, however, the on/off switch and its guard broke loose after a couple of days use. The guard which holds the rubber switch cover is a very brittle yellow plastic and three of the 'arms' have snapped off. Also, the surround to the on off switch snapped and it pushes into the machine. I will now have to repair it myself as it will be too much hassle to return it from Malta. - Amazon Review by Ian Ellery on 17 Oct. 2016.

Clarke CDP5EB Reviews

Clarke CDP5EB Drill Press


Lacks power that other models have. However great for what i need and little diy projects. - Amazon review by Mr A K H on 30 Mar. 2015

Does what I need, vice needed but can make ur own for ur needs, excellent for workshop, I do rate Clarke very highly on there products. - Amazon review by june wiseman on 30 Mar. 2015



Clarke CDP102B Reviews

Clarke CDP102B Drill Press

product looks very good. i have not assembled it yet will write a review on it later. - Amazon review by Amazon Customer on 20 Nov. 2016

Good quality item, easy to assemble, drills accurate holes with ease. No doubt it will drill anything you through at it. Excellent value for money. - Machine Mart review by Christopher on 20 Oct. 2016

Bought it as I needed a small drill press for metal and wood work in my shed and it met all the criteria. Works as it should and the rotation of the shaft is smooth and drills holes cleanly. However the overall build quality could be better - a number of assembly holes were out of alignment, threads won't turn or won't hold and it makes a lot of noise when operating. Still, it does what I want at a price I wanted to pay. - Machine Mart review by Neil on 17 Aug. 2016

Good value for money. Sturdy. - Machine Mart review by Neil on 17 Aug. 2016


Clarke CDP152B Reviews

Clarke CDP152B Drill Press

Excellent piece of kit. - Amazon review by catherine deville on 6 Sept. 2016


Clarke CDP10B Reviews

Clarke CDP10B Drill Press

A light duty drill, suitable for low tollerance work. My review may be a little critical because of having used workshop drills of very solid construction.
Packaging was damaged and the pulley cover was bent, but I was able to straighten it sufficiently. During first use, runout of the drill suggested that the spindle or chuck were slightly bent. the supplier was quick in sending a replacement chuck, a Morse taper makes these easy to fit and remove. The new chuck reduced the runout a little. However, it appears that some runout is caused by drive system balance, which, combined with lateral play in the spindle bearing causes runout, drilled holes are slightly uneven and larger than the drill bit.
Maximum torque-
When drilling into steel tubing with 22mm hole cutters, I experienced jamming of the drill on breakthrough, the work had to be removed from the vice and centres were disturbed. Drilling into wood was no problem.
Belt slippage-
The belt tensioning is adjusted and locked using a friction system, adjustment is locked by pinch bolts with thumb screws, these don't appear to provide sufficient torque and friction to hold the belt tight enough to stop slippage on some drilling operations.
Choices of compatible vice-
Choosing a suitable drill press vice before receiving the drill was made difficult because there is no information on the centres of the table slots. These have a centre of 112mm
I'm using this for basic fabrication of steel items in a home workshop, tolerances are low, I have adapted to some difficulties in using a budget drill and don't scrap many items. But I'm considering alternatives. - Amazon review by Rob on 7 Nov. 2016

I bought this for my newly built workshop so i wanted something that would last me a good while and was good quality but didnt want to pay industrial prices. It took a while to put together but this way i could see how solidly it was made. Its very quiet in operation and is very accurate and sturdy. Its large chuck capacity also ensures it can tackle large pieces of work. Very pleased with it and would recommend to anyone.  - Machine Mart review by Robert on 16 Feb. 2016


Clarke CDP202B Reviews

Clarke CDP202B Drill Press

Bought today from the friendly staff at Swansea, great drill press, powerful well made and easy to put together. Great value for money.  - Machine Mart review by Mark on 20 Aug. 2016

Very good tool well pleased with it good quality very good value for the money.  - Machine Mart review by Anonymous on 16 June 2016


Clarke CDP302B Reviews

Clarke CDP302B Drill Press

My hubby finally decided his old drill press was in need of replacing. We did a bit of research, and although initially, he was a bit worried we were paying too much for this bench drill press, he was happily proven wrong. As far as he is concerned, it is worth every penny. The extra power, and the swivel table have been invaluable for his new projects, and the drill feels solid, and well made. - Machine Mart review by Maureen on 11 Nov. 2016

Excellent value for money. - Machine Mart review by Simon on 14 Aug. 2016

I have waited a long time for this item as it was in the catalogue about 3 months before it became available. The drill press is very good value and just a pity that it isn't sold with a vice. Would recommend the cross vice for ease of accurate clamping to make it perfect. This is a tall bench machine so make sure you have the right height available! - Machine Mart review by Richard on 15 June 2016

I built this drill up after reading the instructions. Before setting to work I checked that all moving parts free to turn by hand. Checked the Earth on the plug was good. Then gave the unit a 15 min run, checking for any vibration through the speed range. Very pleased with machine with very good torque. (Clamp/secure the item you are about to machine or drill.) This drill press has been a very good buy. Even better with the cross vice fitted giving X, Y, Z, set up. - Machine Mart review by James on 11 June 2016


Clarke CDP352F Reviews

Clarke CDP352F Drill Press

Waited some time for this new model to be released and wasn't dissapointed, assembly and set up very easy. Does come with a very useful work lamp and the variety of speed settings makes this a very flexible tool for all applications. Found it to be a robust piece of equipment for my workshop. - Machine Mart review by Anonymous on 4 July 2016


Clarke CDP452F Reviews 

Clarke CDP452F Drill Press

Good all round machine but if drilling on or near the edge of the table it Swivels if you don't swing on table clamp Otherwise ok. - Machine Mart review by Anonymous on 30 June 2016

Resently purchased this product, had no problem assembling the unit, and very pleased with the quality and value for money for this unit, against similar unit looked at before deciding on this one. G Wells Dyfed. - Machine Mart review by Gary on 27 June 2016

Couldn't be happier! Sturdy construction and easy to assemble. The main bonuses for me are: Adjustable table. Good, built in worklight. Plenty of speed choices. Great value too! I would highly recommend this to regular hobbists and large workshop owners alike. - Machine Mart review by John on 16 June 2016


Clarke CDP502F Reviews

Clarke CDP502F Drill Press

Another excellent product and good service from Machine Mart! - Machine Mart review by Anonymous on 15 Aug. 2016

Excellent product which is definitely man enough for any job. - Machine Mart review by Colin on 1 July 2016

​Clarke Pillar Drill Spare Parts

​For official Clarke drill press spares and parts, see

Table Saw Reviews
Hammer Drill Reviews
Jigsaw Reviews