D is for Drill press
There's nothing particularly exotic about a drill press; just about any well-equipped workshop will have one. In the pantheon of tools, the drill press is one of the elder gods, one of the essential foundations upon which the world rests. Others in this class are the table saw, band saw and miter saw. Some would argue that the lathe and surface planer deserve equal place, but I'd call them more specialty tools.
But I digress.
When you first start out working with wood, you need to do two things: a) take hunks of wood apart, and b) put hunks of wood together. The degree of precision and artistry with which you do these things is driven by your enthusiasm, your time invested and your tools. Of these, the skill that comes with experience is by far the most important. It's a poor craftsman who blames his tools. A true master can do more with a pointy rock and a pocket knife than a newbie wood butcher could do with all the tools in the world.
For anyone first starting out, it is a mistake to spend a lot of money on fancy, professional-grade tools. Why? For the same reason someone who decides to take up guitar should not go lay down four grand on a slick, sexy Fender. First off, after getting into it, you might not enjoy the hobby that much. It's a stupid shame to have a great instrument collecting dust in a closet after three half-hearted months. Second, since you don't know what you're doing, you might misuse that tool, or break it, or ruin it or otherwise screw it up through sheer ignorance. Third, anybody first starting out doesn't have the skill necessary to use a really good instrument to its fullest extent. All the qualities that make it great might as well not be there.
If the tool is really good, then it knows what it's doing better than you do. Until you become a better craftsman, you'll just be wasting that tool's time. Get it?
When I first started out, I got the same drill any other newbie woodworker did: a cheap Black and Decker from Sears. As my experience and skill level grew, I found that I had reached that sweet spot where I was being limited by my tools. I've long since upgraded my hand-held power tools several times: drill, circular saw, jig saw, etc. When you are limited by those hand-held power tools, though, you start moving into fixed tools.
The drill press pictured above is the first one I bought. I picked it up at a garage sale for $45. Unlike modern drill presses, this one has an exposed belt system in the back. There's no way this would be allowed in a modern tool, but I've arranged the area around it to keep it clear. In a modern drill press, there would be a variable speed control, possibly even with a slick foot-pedal activator. This one has a belt that goes on one of three pulley wheel combinations connecting the drive shaft of the motor to the drill shaft. Drill bit speed is controlled by moving the belt among the different pulley ratios: big to little is "fast"; middle to middle is "medium"; little to big is "slow".
A few years ago, I wired a light underneath to illuminate the work area. I also took some magnets from an old hard drive and glued them to the underside of the work plate. That was to catch metal shavings from when I drill out metal parts. Aside from the different jigs I've built over the years, accessories include drum sander bits, rotary cutter bits, and various slide-locking visegrip stages to hold small pieces that I'm working on.
One feature of this drill press that has saved my fingers a few times is a friction-fit chuck shaft. The chuck (i.e. the locking vise that holds the drill bit) isn't fixed to the drill shaft, but is instead held in place with a finely machined, tapered steel shaft-and-rod assembly. When the bit hits something it can't drill into or if the dumb-ass operator is impatiently trying to get it to drill faster than is safe (as sometimes happens), the drill does not stupidly go on doing the master's bidding. That would result in a shattered bit, with high-velocity shrapnel flung in all directions. Instead, the resistance of the seized bit breaks the friction fit in the chuck shaft. The net effect is that the motor keeps running, the drive shaft keeps spinning, but the drill bit itself stops instantly.
I've considered getting a newer one, but this one suits me. Only rarely has this drill press been unable or unwilling to do what I asked of it. For most of those, I realized on reflection that I'd been asking it to do something dumb.
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