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Senior Space Cadet

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One thing that would take my building to the next level is a drill press.
Right now, I see it mostly for boring holes in balsa transitions, so the ejection charge can reach the nose cone.
I could get this 8" for about $86, and it would probably work just fine for that.
But for about $168 I can get a 10" with a geared table height adjustment and, of course, more power.
And for $241, I can get a 12" that has all the bells and whistles.
Any thoughts on this?
What would be the best kind of drill bit for drilling holes through balsa transitions?
I'm thinking I'd need three different sizes, the smallest being 3/4". I'd like to get metric, but not sure where I could find them.
Anyone have a good source for metric drill bits?
 

Kelly

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I'd go for something with table height adjustment, those are handy. Be realistic about your size needs - an 8" press lets you get the center of an 16" board - will you be doing any bigger?
The best bits for boring big holes are Forstner bits - they cut clean, accurate holes without tearout. I wouldn't even think about twist drills, for this size, for wood. Though, I don't have any experience drilling big pieces of balsa. The tough part will be centering.
 

lakeroadster

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A bench top wood lathe will provide much more accurate boring capabilities than a drill press. Plus then you can make your own nose cones, transitions, etc. Keep an eye on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.

Sure, you can use a drill press, it's just not nearly as accurate.

More here: Lathe
 

new2hpr

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I'd go for something with table height adjustment, those are handy. Be realistic about your size needs - an 8" press lets you get the center of an 16" board - will you be doing any bigger?
The best bits for boring big holes are Forstner bits - they cut clean, accurate holes without tearout. I wouldn't even think about twist drills, for this size, for wood. Though, I don't have any experience drilling big pieces of balsa. The tough part will be centering.
In weird woodworker math, unfortunately, an 8" drill press will get to the center of an 8" board (4" throat). Seems weird, but probably a marketing trick to make it sound bigger!
-Ken
 

Funkworks

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The thing about tools is the more you have, the more opportunities you also have. And what I mean is that if you get the bigger one, your priorites will also change, because all of a sudden, you'll be able to do things you weren't able to before.

If you want to stay focused on current goals, only get what you need. If you think you might want to make new goals, get a bigger one.
 

Kelly

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In weird woodworker math, unfortunately, an 8" drill press will get to the center of an 8" board
[Grrr]. Must be NEW marketing math; I thought they used to measure these from center to column - same as on a bandsaw.
Thanks for the correction.
 

Jay Dub 4009

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One thing that would take my building to the next level is a drill press.
Right now, I see it mostly for boring holes in balsa transitions, so the ejection charge can reach the nose cone.
I could get this 8" for about $86, and it would probably work just fine for that.
But for about $168 I can get a 10" with a geared table height adjustment and, of course, more power.
And for $241, I can get a 12" that has all the bells and whistles.
Any thoughts on this?
What would be the best kind of drill bit for drilling holes through balsa transitions?
I'm thinking I'd need three different sizes, the smallest being 3/4". I'd like to get metric, but not sure where I could find them.
Anyone have a good source for metric drill bits?
I recently got the 10” variable speed version with laser sight. I love it. It has made things so much easier. I think the quality is decent and the accuracy is good,have not seen any wandering and runout seems good(haven’t measured it however). I think it was a good investment.
55F6BA8B-A8B2-4074-93BF-6DEFA8D4AA18.jpeg
 

jqavins

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A bench top wood lathe will provide much more accurate boring capabilities than a drill press. Plus then you can make your own nose cones, transitions, etc. Keep an eye on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.

Sure, you can use a drill press, it's just not nearly as accurate.
Sure, but does it matter? How much accuracy does one need to drill out transitions? So the hole is a little off center, or even a little ragged; who cares (for this situation)?

The thing about tools is the more you have, the more opportunities you also have. And what I mean is that if you get the bigger one, your priorites will also change, because all of a sudden, you'll be able to do things you weren't able to before.

If you want to stay focused on current goals, only get what you need. If you think you might want to make new goals, get a bigger one.
Hear hear. And a little more on that subject. First, if you think you're goals will grow, how much do you think they'll really grow? Maybe enough to justify the one step up and not the two steps? Or maybe enough to justify getting the lathe, or the $86 drill press for quick and dirty jobs plus the lathe. Of course no one but you can say.

How much money are you happy to spend? If you're struggling to get a drill press then probably get the cheapest. If you're rolling in dough and looking for toys to buy than get the best one.

The tough part will be centering.
Clamp a scrap board to the table. Make a hole in the scrap that accepts one shoulder of the transition with a nice fit, then keep everything in place. Change to the smaller bit, insert the transition, and drill a nicely centered hole. Centered to the tolerance one expects out of a machine shop? Or course not. Plenty good enough for a through hole in a balsa transition? Absolutely! I've center drilled a good number of things this way.

As for bits, look at this or this or numerous others.
 

H. Craig Miller

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One consideration that I found important was the size of the chuck opening. To fully utilize my drill press I found that I needed a chuck that would accept a 1/2" shank. Without that, my choice of bit sizes and applications would have been greatly reduced. Ultimately, I purchased a drill press with a 5/8" chuck opening.
 

jqavins

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That, sir, is an excellent point. Mr. Cadet, (may I call you Senior?) are the chuck sizes any different between the three models you're considering?
 

prfesser

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One thing that would take my building to the next level is a drill press.
Right now, I see it mostly for boring holes in balsa transitions, so the ejection charge can reach the nose cone.
I could get this 8" for about $86, and it would probably work just fine for that.
But for about $168 I can get a 10" with a geared table height adjustment and, of course, more power.
And for $241, I can get a 12" that has all the bells and whistles.
Any thoughts on this?
What would be the best kind of drill bit for drilling holes through balsa transitions?
I'm thinking I'd need three different sizes, the smallest being 3/4". I'd like to get metric, but not sure where I could find them.
Anyone have a good source for metric drill bits?
FWIW, get the largest drill press you can afford. If you have the room, a floor model is superior to a bench model in most respects. If you have a choice of chuck sizes, get the largest chuck they offer. A 5/8" capacity chuck probably won't go down to 1/16", but you can buy a separate 0-1/4" chuck for about $10.

The cheap set of 115 bits from Horrible Fright is actually reasonably useful if you're not drilling a bunch of holes with them. It's convenient when you need a #7 bit to drill just one hole for a 1/4" tap. But get a good quality set from 1/16" - 1/2" to do most of your drilling.

Bits over 1/2" usually have 1/2" shanks. Often called Silver & Deming bits. Kitts Industrial Tools has a bunch of inexpensive drill bits, chucks, taps, calipers, etc; they have a 12 piece set of bits 17/32" to 1" for $50. https://www.kittstools.com/

For balsa, the work must be firmly held in a vise; a bit difficult to avoid crushing the work. In wood a brad-point bit will make a cleaner hole than an ordinary bit, usually. Practice drilling balsa scraps.

Best -- Terry
 

caveduck

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Thoughts on drill presses...I have a very old (30+ years) Craftsman benchtop belt-drive unit with a 1/2" chuck. I have done a lot with it, but it has limitations. It is probably a little better than many current generation Chinese imports, but as usual ymmv.
  • Throat size is an occasional limitation. Insufficient Z clearance (chuck nose to table) is a much more severe problem.
  • The belt drive pulleys are a PITA to change speeds, especially with old belts. Variable speed would be a huge improvement but it's not cheap.
  • Won't go fast enough to drill small holes in aluminum with any efficiency. These days I do this really often.
  • (edit - forgot this) The down travel of ~3" is not enough to through-drill some balsa parts in one go.
  • Spindle rigidity/runout is OK but not great
  • The motor has been fantastic
  • Can easily turn balsa parts on it, up to 5-6" long. Spindle runout prevents going bigger.
  • Runs regular twist drills, Forstner, ceramic drills, and hole saws just fine.
  • A hole saw with a masonite backing sheet will let you cut plywood and glass ring blanks in a hurry.
My general advice on power/machine tools is to get the best one you can reasonably afford. I would not buy a drill press based on a single use case; they are so handy that you should definitely think about the wider spectrum of rocketry uses. I second prfesser's recommendation to get a floor model if you possibly can.
 
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RocketScott

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I have a Delta 12" and I can't imagine going any smaller than that. It was the largest bench top they made at the time. For what I do I don't really need anything bigger than that either. 4" centering rings are no problem, It could do 6" but anything that big I'd use a router with a circle jig

A 1/2" chuck should be sufficient for most things. All my bits that are bigger than 1/2" have a 1/2" shank. As was mentioned 5/8" will have a problem with small bits

The few times I've needed to drill something taller than would fit between the bit and the table I spun the head so it hung off the end of my work bench. Not the most accurate but trying to drill something that tall is going to be awkward anyway. Make sure the press is bolted down...

The other thing to compare is stroke length/quill length/spindle travel (seems like different manufacturers call it something different). Generally the bigger the press is the deeper you can drill. It stinks to have to raise the work piece and drill again to get all the way through

I've used it as a lathe a couple times. Made some nice pen sets for Christmas gifts one year. A center support helps tremendously, basically a bearing that sits on the table to hold the bottom stable

As much as I don't like buying anything with a motor from Harbor Fright I've heard of people that had good luck with them after they swapped out the bearings. Wouldn't be my first choice but it is an option

ETA- Almost forgot: Don't let your roommate drill out propellant grains on it. No matter how well you try to contain the dust it will get all over and rust it up...
 

Woody's Workshop

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I've looked at both the WEN drill presses and lathes. I've read quite a few reviews on them. I've also looked at their bench top band saw.
Once you have any machine, you will find more uses for it than you originally thought. Then the one you bought isn't quite big enough to handle other projects, which then makes you regret not putting out a little more money for the better/bigger one.
Only you can decide which will fit your "today's" needs and any "future" needs you will have for the machine.
On a drill press, a keyless chuck is one thing I look for. After tearing meat off 2 knuckles from a slipped chuck key, it's a must have for me. But just because the machine doesn't come with one doesn't mean you can't buy an after market one and put on it.
I would also think a 5/8" chuck is a must have for a drill press, but that also falls into the after market category if it doesn't come with it. But be sure the horse power is there to handle what fits in a 5/8" chuck.
If you are going to be using large foerstner bits, you should look for 1/2 horse power.
I always look at the amps. If it's low amps, it can be taken past it's limit easily and won't last long.
Warranty, and how repairs are taken care of is a biggie.
And the length of the warranty. Less than a year is unacceptable to me.
If you have to pay to ship the machine to and from the repair facility, that can run as much as the cost of the machine itself.
Or is there a repair facility near you where you can drop off/pick up the machine.
Buying a machine is long term investment and should last decades.
So too much plastic is a bad sign.
Digital read outs are nice, but personally I see them as just something more to go wrong. But that's just me.
I hope you make a wise and informed decision and purchase the machine you will be happy and safe with for years to come.
 

Woody's Workshop

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I just checked the WEN sight.
They have a sale on the...
WEN 4212 10-Inch Variable Speed Drill Press
30 reviews

Save 9%
$185.79

$169.99
They also have the band saw on sale.
Free Shipping as well.
Good opportunity.
 

dwightr

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If you have room for it check Craigslist or Ebay for older floor model drill presses.
The WW2 era stuff might be 80 years old now but it's a lot more solid than a brand new Chinese model and sometimes you can find them really cheap.
Only problem is the highest speed is usually too slow for drilling small holes efficiently.
And back then if it said 10" that was 10" throat depth, it would drill to the center of a 20" circle, somewhere later on marketing people got involved and a 10" label was really a 5" throat.
I saw a 66" radial arm drill sell at a local auction last year for $300, I really wanted it but it takes takes up more shop space than a full size car.
 

Jay Dub 4009

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I just checked the WEN sight.
They have a sale on the...
WEN 4212 10-Inch Variable Speed Drill Press
30 reviews

Save 9%
$185.79

$169.99
They also have the band saw on sale.
Free Shipping as well.
Good opportunity.
That’s the one I got pictures above. I think it’s a good value for what you get
 

lakeroadster

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A bench top wood lathe will provide much more accurate boring capabilities than a drill press. Plus then you can make your own nose cones, transitions, etc. Keep an eye on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.

Sure, you can use a drill press, it's just not nearly as accurate.

More here: Lathe
Sure, but does it matter? How much accuracy does one need to drill out transitions? So the hole is a little off center, or even a little ragged; who cares (for this situation)?
Accuracy: It nearly always matters. And even when it doesn't, why do a mediocre job?

I guess to answer your question one would need to know why the transition needs a hole. For something to pass through it? Perhaps for a stuffer tube?
 

Blast it Tom!

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Drilling is boring.

Having said that (hee hee), I have a 12 " Craftsman and can agree with those that say the accuracy is great; the ease of feeding gently and not having to worry about holding the drill perpendicular or whatever. Rockler had a pretty nice X-Y vice on sale once an that completed my setup. But being an engineer, I have never gotten around to taking a little play out of the quill. My steam-fitter son-in-law noticed it immediately; I just thought that's how it is. And that occasionally bites me; it seems worst when I'm using a beam-and-bit style hole cutter. So that's one thing to check. The chuck should have no side-to side play, even slightly, even a clinky sound when you grab it. It's pretty subtle.
 
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jqavins

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Accuracy nearly always matters. Precision also nearly always matters. There is always some tolerance on any measurement or operation. How tight does the tolerance need to be (i.e. how much precision is needed)? Any tool that puts you within tolerance over and over is not a tool that's doing a mediocre job.

Lets say one is using a reducer that needs to have a stuffer tube through it. Drill the hole, butter up the stuffer with some glue that won't grab, and push it in. If the hole is a bit ragged the glue will seal it up. If the tool is a tiny smidgen small, the balsa is sufficiently compressible. Is the joint solid and gas tight? Is is centered as well as it needs to be? Why is that mediocre? If one has to sand some other part that mates to the stuffer because the stuffer is a little off center, and off by enough to make something not fit quite right, then it's not within tolerance, and not acceptable. If that failure is attributable to random factors introduced by the tool (or to which the tool should have been immune) then the tool is inadequate.

Note that I also advised making sure the tool is adequate for future needs, which probably means greater precision than drilling balsa transitions, but that was the use case in the OP.
 

Nathan

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. . . My general advice on power/machine tools is to get the best one you can reasonably afford . . .
+1
I bought my Rikon lathe about 5 years ago and I use it a lot (although not for rocketry). Every time I I have to move the belt to change speeds I kick myself for not getting the one with electronic speed control.
 

lakeroadster

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Accuracy nearly always matters. Precision also nearly always matters. There is always some tolerance on any measurement or operation. How tight does the tolerance need to be (i.e. how much precision is needed)? Any tool that puts you within tolerance over and over is not a tool that's doing a mediocre job.

Lets say one is using a reducer that needs to have a stuffer tube through it. Drill the hole, butter up the stuffer with some glue that won't grab, and push it in. If the hole is a bit ragged the glue will seal it up. If the tool is a tiny smidgen small, the balsa is sufficiently compressible. Is the joint solid and gas tight? Is is centered as well as it needs to be? Why is that mediocre? If one has to sand some other part that mates to the stuffer because the stuffer is a little off center, and off by enough to make something not fit quite right, then it's not within tolerance, and not acceptable. If that failure is attributable to random factors introduced by the tool (or to which the tool should have been immune) then the tool is inadequate.

Note that I also advised making sure the tool is adequate for future needs, which probably means greater precision than drilling balsa transitions, but that was the use case in the OP.
I get your point. It's just that I've actually done what the OP is after, from a rocketry perspective, using a drill press and had less than stellar results. Balsa is tough to bore... it's fragile and likes to split into 2 or more pieces. Perhaps with some fixturing it could be done on a drill press with better results. I've found you spend hours building the fixturing, to bore a 2 minute hole.

A wood lathe, with a chuck that engages either on the o.d. or the bore of the part produces much better results, with no fixturing, or minimal fixturing.

But if there is a will..... there is a way. And I applaude using the tools at hand to "make it work".
 

prfesser

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On a drill press, a keyless chuck is one thing I look for. After tearing meat off 2 knuckles from a slipped chuck key, it's a must have for me. But just because the machine doesn't come with one doesn't mean you can't buy an after market one and put on it.
I would also think a 5/8" chuck is a must have for a drill press, but that also falls into the after market category if it doesn't come with it. But be sure the horse power is there to handle what fits in a 5/8" chuck.
Keyless chucks have their advantages, but a cheap keyless chuck is (usually) an abomination. Tighten as much as you can, but bits still slip. Good ones are Rohm (start a bit above $100) and Albrecht (best, but $200+).

To minimize possible injury with a keyed chuck: fasten a small eyebolt to the head of the drill press (right side if right handed). Run a 2' length of thin Kevlar shock cord (or any other decent string) thru the eyebolt. Tie the chuck key to one end, and a fair-sized weight to the other end. When you're done tightening the chuck, just let go of the key. The weight pulls it up to the eyebolt, where it's easy to grab when you next need it.

Machinist taught me this one: if your keyed chuck tends to slip, tighten the chuck in one of the key holes, then move to the other holes in turn and tighten in each. Apparently tightening just in one location can leave the chuck just loose enough to slip.

Best -- Terry
 

Blast it Tom!

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I get your point. It's just that I've actually done what the OP is after, from a rocketry perspective, using a drill press and had less than stellar results. Balsa is tough to bore... it's fragile and likes to split into 2 or more pieces. Perhaps with some fixturing it could be done on a drill press with better results. I've found you spend hours building the fixturing, to bore a 2 minute hole.

A wood lathe, with a chuck that engages either on the o.d. or the bore of the part produces much better results, with no fixturing, or minimal fixturing.

But if there is a will..... there is a way. And I applaude using the tools at hand to "make it work".
I have never done anything like this but I sure understand the tendenecy to split. If the taper is already on the piece and you want to bore it out, that seems to be a pretty tough job with a drill press, and of course the bigger the bore (my wife says I'm the biggest), the tougher it is. Perhaps some hose clamps could be used to keep it round, but don't tighten too much and go slow? (Of course the poor OP hasn't even bought the press yet!)

And @prfesser that is how I tighten all my bits in my press... go around a couple of times to each hole. Now If I'd just take the time to tighten my quill...
 

lakeroadster

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I have never done anything like this but I sure understand the tendenecy to split. If the taper is already on the piece and you want to bore it out, that seems to be a pretty tough job with a drill press, and of course the bigger the bore (my wife says I'm the biggest), the tougher it is. Perhaps some hose clamps could be used to keep it round, but don't tighten too much and go slow? (Of course the poor OP hasn't even bought the press yet!)

And @prfesser that is how I tighten all my bits in my press... go around a couple of times to each hole. Now If I'd just take the time to tighten my quill...
That's what I meant about a fixture. Take a piece of scrap wood, like a 2x4, and bore a hole so the shoulder of the transition goes into that hole with a very snug fit into that hole. Then drill out the bore using a slow spindle speed and Forstner bit. Take your time... and say Three Hail Mary's for good measure. :headspinning:
 

lakeroadster

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But on a wood lathe you can make the entire transition yourself. Chuck the raw material in the lathe chuck, bore the center hole first and use it for your live center to keep everything concentric, then turn the o.d.

001.JPG
 

beeblebrox

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also harbor freight would be a cheap source for drill press for what you want it for.
I recently got the 10” variable speed version with laser sight. I love it. It has made things so much easier. I think the quality is decent and the accuracy is good,have not seen any wandering and runout seems good(haven’t measured it however). I think it was a good investment. View attachment 438924
The main problem with these type drill presses is that you soon find there is not enough clearance... I bought a 12 speed Harbor Freight one (With the belt pulleys for speed change) It is what it is... BUT since one that wasn't tall enough to put things more than 12" under the drill bit and the taller one (Floor standing) was way more expensive, I spent $80 and had a machinist make an extender for the pole that was 12" tall. It is 3/4" wall steel tube 2 3/8" turned down to 66mm. (You can't find 66mm tubing anywhere in the USA, it is a hair smaller that 2 3/8" which is common for exhaust systems.) The part is real heavy, this is a good thing, more weight on top makes it less likely to move sideways when working a part with a sanding drum. Mass=inertial damping...
Note: the rack is too short now but the spot it is set to right now in the photo works for almost everything I typically need to do. It's easy to adjust it up or down. Also 3d Printed the adapter for the shop vac hose for sucking chips away. SUPER handy.

20201120_113042.jpg
 
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