October 7, 2011

Clamps and drill presses

Many thanks to reader Michael Mott who wrote in with concerns about fingers and drill presses. He writes, “The drillpress is the most underestimated power tool in the workshop, even a small drill bit has a lot of strength and torque.” Drill bits can easily catch the metal work and whip it around before you know it. If you do decide to hold your work with your hands, please wear good work gloves.

There are lots of proprietary and fancy drill press clamps out there, and if you’ve got ’em, great. We don’t have any of those, so below are some ideas of how to get the same results using other types of clamps that you may already have around.

The first one is only recommended for drilling small holes. This shows spring clamps holding a flat sheet of tinplate to the table, with a backer board to prevent too much distortion from the bit pushing through the metal.

The next two photos show a setup for a larger drill bit or step bit. There are two one-handed bar clamps holding a sheet of tinplate directly to the table (use a backer if not using a step bit). This setup is exactly the same as you would use with C-clamps. There are blocks of wood inside the clamp jaws on both sides of the table. Drill press tables are all recessed on the underside, so placing small blocks of wood underneath creates a stable surface to clamp to. The second photo shows the blocks of wood on the underside of the table. The blocks of wood on the top are used to avoid marring the surface of your work, especially if using C-clamps.

The last photo here shows a stopper-bar setup. This is used to drill into work that is too small or awkward to clamp. The idea here is to hold your work firmly against the stopper-bar, so if the drill bit were to catch the metal, the work would be stopped from spinning by the stopper. This example is just a strip of wood glued to a flat backer, then clamped down to the table.

If you’ve got more clamping ideas, please leave a comment!

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