Pillar Drill Reviews in the UK

​So you are thinking of getting a pillar drill (a.k.a. bench drill, drill press)? That probably means that you are a relatively active DIY-er or newly-minted professional and you have discovered some of the limitations of the humble hand drill.  So right now you are probably trying to decide whether it is worth the investment ... and the answer to that is almost certainly yes. You might be thinking to yourself that everything you can do with a pillar drill, you can do with the hand drill that you already own. Well, that is probably somewhat true, but DIY life gets a whole lot easier having the pillar drill around. Below are some of the obvious (and not so obvious) reasons for getting one.

Why buy a Pillar Drill?

  • Hole placement accuracy:  The key reason for investing in a pillar drill is accuracy. Pillar drills facilitate the very precise positioning of holes in a workpiece. That is not to say that you can't do the same thing with a hand drill, it's just that you can do it so much easier and reproducibly with a drill that is fixed to your bench top.
  • Perpendicularity of the drilled hole: One aspect that DIY-ers using a hand drill often overlook is how perpendicular the drilled hole is to the plane of the workpiece. Most of the time this is not a big issue, but if perpendicular accuracy is important, say you want to drill through a particularly thick piece of stock, then this can be difficult with a hand drill. When drilling through acrylic (perspex) or other materials that have a tendency to fracture under pressure, it can also be particularly important that the holes are exactly perpendicular especially if you plan on attaching fixings to the surface of the workpiece. This will ensure proper fixings alignment and also prevent unsightly fracturing around the hole.
  • Accurate hole depth: Not all drilling involves going through the workpiece completely. Sometimes, you just want a hole on one side of the workpiece while the opposite side remains pristine. In such a situation, a pillar drill is far superior to a hand drill and relies far less on the skill of the operator. It's easier to do it time and time again too. With a pillar drill you can easily make multiple holes all of the exact same depth - try doing that with a hand drill!
  • Drilling at an angle: With a pillar drill, workpieces can be easily fixed at an obscure angle to the drill bit allowing you to drill holes at precise angles to the plane of the workpiece without the fear of the drill bit slipping off.
  • Easier on yourself: Having the drill fixed to the workbench obviates the need for holding the drill. This might not be an issue for the occasional bit of drilling, but if you are considering purchasing a pillar drill in the first place, then you are probably more the semi-professional type than the odd-job handyman and you use your drill far more than the regular Joe.
  • Greater force: Through the action of leverage, pillar drills allow for more force to be applied to a workpiece allowing you to cut deeper and easier through harder materials. In addition, since you are not holding the drill yourself, pillar drill motors can be made much more powerful (= heavier) since weight is not a critical issue.
  • Variable drill speed: With a pillar drill, the speed of rotation can be precise and is much more consistent compared to varying the pressure on a hand drill trigger. With that comes the ability to adjust drilling speeds to cope with materials of varying hardness, different hole sizes, and increasing the longevity of the drill bit. In general, using too fast a drill speed can heat up and degrade drill bits faster, while using too slow a speed can lead to poorly cut holes (and just takes longer!).
  • Other uses besides drilling: With the right attachments, a bench drill can be used for activities other than just regular drilling including sanding, grinding, mortising, and just about anything where you need a fixed rotating spindle.
Image showing the different parts of a Pillar Drill

What to look for when buying a Pillar Drill?

Number of speeds

Image from Clarke drill press manual showing drive pulley and belt system

​Most modern pillar drills can be set to a number of different speeds. This can be useful when drilling different materials as each material, whether it be wood, metal, plastic, or anything else, has an optimal drill speed at which it can be drilled most efficiently. This is especially important when drilling materials which are prone to overheating, such as metals, where the overheating can interfere with the drilling process (for ideal drilling speeds in different metals check out the Ultimate Handyman’s Guide). Consequently, the more speeds the pillar drill is capable of being set to, the greater its capability. On most pillar drills, changing drill speed involves a rather crude manual process of moving a rubber belt between different sized wheels located in the head of the pillar drill. More expensive machines do this speed change electronically which is a significant improvement upon the tedious manual method.

Accuracy of the rotating spindle

The ideal pillar drill will have a spindle that rotates perfectly around the longitudinal axis of the drill bit and is commonly referred to as ‘the spindle running true’. This allows the drill bit to pass through the material being drilled more easily and does so with more accurate drill holes. Most budget pillar drills have a tiny bit of play in their spindle rotation however for most drilling jobs, this is inconsequential. More expensive machines will tend to have more accuracy on the spindle as they will have likely been manufactured to a higher specification.

Spindle travel or maximum drill depth

Spindle travel refers to the maximum distance that a pillar drill can lower its drill bit to during the drilling process. This provides a good approximation to the maximum depth that a pillar drill can drill to at any one time. In general, one wants as high a spindle travel distance as possible to maximise the overall capability of the pillar drill.

Size of the chuck and locking mechanism

The size of the chuck (i.e. the part of the drill that holds the drill bit) determines the maximum size drill bit shank that the pillar drill can accept. However, this does not mean that the pillar drill is restricted to drilling holes of that maximum size as most larger drill bits come with shank diameters that are smaller than the drill bit size itself specifically so that they can fit into smaller chucks. Chucks can be keyed or keyless, which refers to the mechanism used to secure the drill bit in the drill chuck, with the keyless variety being much more efficient to use. Ideally in your new pillar drill, you want a (keyless, if possible) chuck that can handle as many different-sized drill bit shanks as possible.

Motor power

The power of the pillar drill motor correlates with the overall capability of the drill and the materials it can efficiently drill into. Thicker and harder materials require a more powerful motor to drill through them effectively and without any inadvertent slowing down or stopping of the rotating chuck. Therefore, the greater the motor power of the pillar drill, the more versatile the drill.

Throat depth

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

Another important characteristic to understand when buying a pillar drill is the throat depth of the machine. This refers to the horizontal distance between the centre of the drill chuck (ie. the drilling point) and the nearest wall of the pillar drill column (see picture). The throat depth is an important characteristic to take into account when needing to drill holes at more central locations of workpieces as the throat depth will limit how far in from the edge of a workpiece that the drill bit is capable of reaching. In recognition of this important characteristic of drilling with a bench drill, some pillar drills have been designed with extendable drill heads that can increase the throat depth as required (up to a defined maximum). Ultimately, the higher the throat depth of a bench drill, the more capable the pillar drill.

What are the best Pillar Drills in the UK?

​Buying the best pillar drill / drill press is very much a matter of deciding on the product that meets your needs. There is a range of pillar drills with differing features, and as their capability increases, so does the cost. One thing to note for the most basic type of pillar drill, the 5-speed belt-driven units, is that they are almost identical to each other except for colour and branding. As a result, here we only discuss the preferred versions of this type of drill at the time of writing.

Popular Pillar Drills in the UK

Pillar Drill Drive

Max Chuck
Capacity
Max Drilling
Depth
(travel)
Throat
Depth
(mm)
Motor
Power (W)
Lumberjack DP13-580B
5-speed13mm (keyed)50mm--300W
Silverline 262212
Silverline-2622125-speed13mm (keyed)50mm104mm350W
CLARKE-CDP5RB
CLARKE-CDP5RB5-speed13mm (keyed)50mm104mm350W
Sealey SDM30
5-speed13mm (keyed)50mm104mm350W
Dirty Pro Tools
5-speed13mm (keyed)50mm100mm350W
Guild 350W
5-speed13mm (keyed)50mm104mm350W
Wolf 350W
5-speed13mm (keyed)50mm105mm350W
DART F12-941
Fox F12-94112-speed16mm (keyed)60mm126mm450W
Draper 42638
Draper 4263816-speed16mm (keyed)80mm165mm550W
Titan TTB541DBT
16-speed16mm (keyless)80mm165mm700W
Bosch PBD 40
Bosch PBD 40Electronic13mm (keyless)90mm125mm710W
Drive

Max Chuck
Capacity
Max Drilling
Depth
(travel)
Throat
Depth
(mm)
Motor
Power (W)
-- Information not available

Drill Press Reviews

Silverline 262212 (our favourite) Review

Image of the pillar drill, the Silverline 262212

The Silverline 262212 bench drill is the most basic type of pillar drill available. It belongs to a family of generic pillar drills where retailers have essentially taken the same drill press and added their own branding and colouring to it. So essentially you are getting the same pillar drill that just looks aesthetically different. But there is nothing wrong with that so long as its capabilities match your drilling needs. In fact, if this is the drill for you, then it is rather a good thing that there are so many sellers offering essentially the same exact drill as it provides the opportunity for getting it at a great price. At the time of writing,  the Silverline 262212 is the pillar drill to buy at this level.

So does this basic type of pillar drill suit your needs? If you are a DIY-er buying their first pillar drill, then the answer is most probably yes. It provides all the function of a pillar drill but lacks the more advanced features of more professional drills in order to remain reasonably priced for the consumer. The important aspects of drilling, such as whether the spindle runs true (so you can cut precise and straight holes) have been taken into account with the Silverline 262212 while convenience of functions and overall build quality have taken more of a back seat. As a result, the drill is fiddly to change speeds and is noisy at high speeds. But then again, for the price, it is excellent value. The machine itself is approximately 60cm high and has a throat depth of 10.4cm meaning that the furthest away from the edge of a workpiece that a hole can be made is 10.4cm.

One last point to note is that many-an-enthusiastic DIY-er has bought a Silverline drill vice at the same time as purchasing this Silverline drill on the natural assumption that a same-brand accessory would automatically be the best fit for the drill - but buyer beware, this is not the case! The mounting holes on the Silverline drill table are 10.5cm apart (measured from centre to centre) which do not line up to Silverline's drill vice holes, so make sure that you check your choice of drill vice has compatible fixing holes with the drill table you're purchasing.

Clarke CDP5RB Review

Image of the pillar drill, the CLARKE CDP5RB




Sealey SDM30 Review

Sealey SDM30 Pillar Drill

Users of the Sealey SDM30 drill have also raised the issue that there is a small amount of play in the drill shaft assembly of about 1 or 2mm which means that drill hole accuracy can suffer slightly especially if a punch is not used to start a small hole in the workpiece beforehand. However once again this is not unique to the Sealey-branded version of this drill but is present in the competitor equivalents as well. In fact, these generic 5-speed drills appear to have some variability in manufacturing tolerances meaning that there can be some small differences between different units of the same generic drill, and it can sometimes be a bit of a lottery when purchasing one as some units will have more manufacturing discrepancies than others.

Ultimately, it should be remembered that these pillar drills are basic drills designed mostly for the DIY-er and they are still reasonably good tools considering their low price. So once again the strategy here is to go for the best priced one and be prepared to return faulty ones (or repair yourself if it is a simple fault) until you have got a pillar drill that you are happy with.

Wolf 5-speed drill press Review

Wolf 5-speed Pillar Drill

​The Wolf 5-speed pillar drill is another member of the generic type of five-speed bench drill presses that are available from a number of different brands but which use the same or similar components in the make up of the machines. These drills are usually manufactured in the Far East by a generic manufacturing facility before being adorned with the appropriate client company’s branding. Sometimes there are small differences in the components that are used in the assembly but on the whole they can all be considered to be the same drill but with different branding.

As with the other generic five-speed pillar drills, the Wolf-branded version has a 350W motor that can vary the speed of the chuck from 620 - 2620rpm. The chuck is also keyed and can accept drill bit shanks from 1.5mm up to 13mm, while its travel distance is the same 50mm that one sees in the other generic drills. Throat depth on the Wolf pillar drill is 105mm while the drill table dimensions on the machine are 158 x 160mm. The drill table is also able to be tilted to either side up to 45° for angled drilling while the overall weight of the Wolf machine is a reasonable 12kg.

Wolf 5-speed pillar drill vice

​Just like the other generic five-speed pillar drills, the build quality on the Wolf bench drill is not the best but is more than sufficient for most medium precision DIY work. There is usually a little play in the rotation of the chuck which makes very precise drilling difficult (especially for angled drilling), but then if high precision drilling is required, one would need to spend a lot more on a pillar drill. Similar to other members of this generic drill family, other minor negatives with the Wolf drill include a chuck guard that is a bit of a flimsy plastic affair, while the drilling depth stop is a crude design which is sometimes rendered useless by the sticker that displays the depth measurements becoming detached.

On the more positive side, the Wolf drill press stands out from the other five-speed generic machines by coming with a useful vice attachment accessory for the pillar drill table. In addition, unlike some products sourced from the Far East, the manual of the Wolf pillar drill is written in good English making it easy to understand for both device assembly and usage. Finally, the company behind Wolf tools is the UK home shopping network which is probably better known for being one of television’s shopping channels. This means that there is quite a large and responsible company behind the Wolf pillar drill and this is evidenced through the decent level of customer service that comes with the purchasing of any of their goods.

DART (formerly Fox) F12-941 Review

Image of the pillar drill, the Fox F12-941



Draper 42638 Review

Image of the pillar drill, the Draper 42638



Titan TTB541DBT Review

Titan TTB541DBT pillar drill

​The Titan TTB541DBT 530mm pillar drill or drill press is a smart choice for those users who need to drill a wide array of materials efficiently. The tool is a big drill standing at almost a meter in height, 290mm wide, and 610mm deep. At 700W and a range of speed from 210 to 3040 rpm, this pillar drill has the power for versatility. It will take a maximum drill bit shank diameter of 16mm and a minimum of 3mm while the drill motor allows for 16 different speed settings. Together, this gives it the capability to drill with many different sizes of bits, into a variety of materials from steel to wood. Metal drilling typically takes a lower speed setting while a softer wood can use a higher one. The travel range of the spindle is 80mm, giving it a solid drilling depth and it also has a good-sized throat depth of 165mm. These specifications will usually be more than enough for most DIY drilling challenges.

The Titan drill press is both user-friendly and ready for a range of projects. The pulley adjustment on the Titan drill, which is used to change the speed, is fairly straightforward and easy to use. As with most pillar drills, there are a couple of guides on the drill press itself that reference how to arrange the belts on the pulleys for different RPMs. Unlike most other consumer-level pillar drills, this Titan drill press comes with a vice included in the package, which is useful for safely holding the target piece steady. For projects that take a lot of time and require continuous drilling, the motor is air-cooled as well. The chuck on the drill press stands out among its competitors, given the fact that it is keyless. This makes changing between bits quick and can be a huge time saver during a project. Another excellent feature of the drill is the laser, which pinpoints the exact place where the bit should touch the working surface. However, as a note, the laser may need some fiddly adjusting when it first arrives as it can be out of alignment. The use of this technology, however, really helps dial in the precision of the tool.

Given the fact the pillar drill has some handy features, it can also just miss the mark on a couple as well. A notable feature that is missing on this pillar drill is overload protection, which comes in handy if the drill bit binds in the material. Without this protection, the drill motor can become damaged. The drill also comes with a work table that is adjustable to 45° on either side of the horizontal. This is a useful feature when the material is an odd shape or when an oblique drilling angle is needed. However, it should be noted that changing the orientation of the table isn’t as user-friendly as it could be, with the adjustment made through the loosening of a difficult-to-access bolt using a standard wrench. This is at odds with most other changes that are made on the drill which are implemented through the use of handles or knobs. A typical example of this is the rack and pinion used to lower or raise the work table, and which makes the changing of the table height a breeze.

Another important point to note when purchasing the Titan drill is an issue buyers have had with its packaging and delivery from Screwfix. The current box and styrofoam packaging the pillar drill is shipped in is surprisingly inadequate, and together with the hefty weight of the tool makes for a higher likelihood that the drill will arrive with some damage. As a consequence several users have reported having to return the drill for an undamaged one. Though this has been an annoyance for some, Screwfix, as always, is incredibly good at accepting returns and getting customers a product that works.

Overall, the Titan TTB541DBT pillar drill is a machine with superior usable power and features. Despite some initial delivery issues with the product and a couple of other minor design flaws, the Titan drill does tend to stand out among its competitor pillar drills. And with a laser, keyless chuck, and attachable table vice as bonuses, this makes the titan drill press appealing to both the DIYer and professional alike.

 

Bosch PBD 40 Review

Image of the pillar drill, the Bosch PBD 40

One point to take note of is that although this machine is brilliant for all levels of woodworking as well as general metal-drilling, it falls short when it comes to professional metal work. Of course it can still drill through metal as well as any other pillar drill but don't let Bosch's advertising that it is equivalent to a precision metal drilling machine delude you - there is just too much lateral play in the spindle for that qualification. Overall, if you have the cash to spend, then you won't be sorry adding the Bosch PBD 40 to your workshop.