In “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” I call out the thickness planer and the band saw as the two most useful pieces of machinery in a shop that is focused on furniture.
But as someone who builds lots of workbenches, I would be lost (or at least, quite fatigued) if I didn’t have a beefy, accurate and tuned-up drill press. Because of the way I build benches, the drill press is what makes everything come together quickly and precisely.
1. The mortises are too big for a typical mortiser. So I cut all the mortises with the drill press.
2. If the bench is a knockdown model, all the holes and counterbores have to be accurate to accept the bolts, nuts, washers and crossbolts.
3. Straight holes for 5/8” drawbores ensures there will be a lot fewer exit-wound explosions.
4. Mounting vises (especially those with crossbolts) is easy with a drill press. Holes have to be straight so vises don’t bind. Drill presses also make it easy to install a crochet. Drilling counterbores on a curved surface can be tricky with a brace.
5. Round dog holes are easy with a drill press and a big bit.
6. Holdfast holes are always better with a drill press. The more I use holdfasts, the more I understand this point. If your holdfast hole is even slightly off plumb, then the holdfast is likely to work in only about 180° of the possible orientations of its pad. This is also why a tight hole is better than a loose one. Both of these factors – plumb and tight – make it easy for the holdfast to wedge in the hole.
I don’t have a fancy drill press. Years ago I bought a Grizzly G7944 drill press, a 14” model with 12 speeds. The drill press is powerful enough for building benches (and for furniture, of course), but I long for an old Powermatic or something bigger that has a beefier depth stop (I am always bending my stop, or it loosens too easily).
The only modification I’ve made to my Grizzly is I added a large accessory table and fence, which makes drilling out mortises a snap.
Today I drilled out the first trench for the Benchcrafted Crisscross using some huge sawtooth Forstners in my drill press. Now I have to make the same trench in the leg of the assembled bench, which means I’m going to have to switch to a brace or (if I’m lucky) a corded drill.
— Christopher Schwarz