The Versatile Drill Press

A do-everything (almost) tool for sportsmen.

Field & Stream Online Editors

Everybody has a little voice in his head: you know, the one that says do this or don't do that. My own little voice is fairly benign, usually telling me just when it's time to buy a particular tool. So when it told me to buy a floor-standing, full-size drill press, I listened.

This type of drill press isn't cheap; the general starting point on price is $300, and some models will cost many times that. But even a low-end version is easier to use than a less expensive bench-top model, and you'll find a floor model far easier to use than struggling with the assorted jury-rigged clamps designed to hold a portable drill. As things turned out, the drill press opened a whole new world of versatility for outdoor-related projects large and small. Here are some examples to give you an idea of what's possible.

First, I made a bunch of fishing-lure racks by drilling closely spaced holes along several lengths of 1-inch-wide aluminum angle. A fence clamped to the drill-press table made it easy to keep the holes in a straight line and also prevented the metal from spinning out of control as I drilled; a countersink bit removed sharp burrs. I mounted several racks in a tackle storage area. Later I added others to the gunnels of several boats.

Rod racks were next, for which I set the table at a slight angle to create angled holes in several strips of pine. Inserting 6-inch lengths of hardwood dowel into the holes then gave me simple pairs of racks that I could hang almost anywhere. A rifle rack for deer camp can be made in similar fashion (use larger-diameter dowels and heavier backing boards).

While hanging some rod racks in the barn, I noticed how rusty the trailer hitch on the back of our Jeep had become. So I took the ball support down to the cellar, where I cleaned it up with a round wire brush chucked in the drill press. And doing that gave me another idea for some old trolling spoons I'd just put in the new lure racks.

I found a small, fabric buffing wheel at the local hardware store, wiped it with polishing compound, and chucked it in the drill press. I was able to quickly polish my collection of trolling spoons and leave them cleaner and brighter than new.

Then I decided to make a mounting bracket that would enable me to rig a portable transducer for the fishfinder on my canoe. I scrounged a piece of aluminum-plate scrap from a local machine shop and borrowed a half-inch metal-cutting end mill as well. Drilling and tapping threaded holes in the clamp was easy. Because it's difficult to cut straight threads in a hole with a handheld tap, I chucked the tap in the drill press, unplugged the machine, and ran the tap squarely into each hole by turning the drill-press spindle slowly with a wrench. Perfect threads every time.

Finally, I needed to cut a small slot in the piece as well. So I mounted the end mill in the chuck and-using a threaded cross-slide vise mounted on the drill-press table-was able to satisfactorily do some rough milling of the soft metal. (Be aware that drill-press bearings are designed for vertical-not sideways-thrust. These are not industrial milling machines, so don't expect industrial performance.) Over time, the drill press has become the most versatile shop tool I own, thanks to some good advice from that little voice.