Err…what do you mean by ‘precision drill press’???
There are two types of things that tend to go by that name: small
drill presses of various sorts, (frequently drill-press attachments
for Foredom/Dremel machines.) and real, serious precision drill
presses. The way you tell them apart is that the bottom end of the
price range for the serious machines is somewhere around $500 USD,
and they go way up from there. (They’re also reasonably large, and
tend to be heavy.)
I’ve used several examples of each type. I’ve got one of the Foredom
DP-95 ‘precision drill press’ attachments for the flex-shaft. I like
it, and I’ve rigged it up for milling wax, which it does brilliantly.
(I liked it enough that I got one for school, and then turned around
and bought one of my own, for me, with my own money.) The hole
accuracy is only as good as the bearings in your #30 handpiece,
however. (If you plan on getting one of these, budget an extra $50
for a dedicated #30 handpiece. It’s much easier to just leave a
handpiece clamped in place, and switch the drive cable from the flex
shaft into the unit when you need it.) For most things that your
average jeweler’s going to need to do, it’ll do fine. (Be sure not to
squish the bearings on your handpiece when you clamp it in place.
Just tight enough to hold it in place is all it needs.) That’s
another reason for just leaving one in place: less chance of
As far as ‘serious’ precision drill presses go, I scrounged up a
Sigourney for school, and it works very well. I have a Hamilton
vari- speed myself, and I like it, with two provisos: (A) it’s a
small tabletop drillpress…that weighs more than 100 pounds… and
(B) it’s just a weeeee bit complex. (which is part of why I kept it:
I picked up both of them at the same auction, and I knew the Hamilton
was not a school machine. Too much to break, or miss-adjust.) On
the other hand, it’ll shoot holes that I’ve never been able to detect
any runout on. At all. Ever. (even through 1/2 inch of stainless.)
If you’ve never used a precision press, be aware that they’re
designed for small bits: generally.125" and smaller, and they spin
very very fast. Think about it: surface speed of the cutter is a
function of diameter. At those teeny diameters, you have to get the
speeds way up there before the bit has any real speed. Of course,
this means you really want to be using sharp bits with lots of
coolant. A dull bit at those speeds can do incredibly ugly things,
I’ve used a couple of others over the years, but those are the two I
know best. The rest tend to be reasonably similar. I’ve also used a
couple of small drill presses like the Proxxon ‘precision drill
press’. Didn’t think much of them. The bearings were very sloppy, as
was the downfeed, and the motor was only one speed. (To be fair, I
haven’t used the Proxxon itself, just a bunch of other machines that
looked very much like it.) Actually, now that I look at the spec’s on
the Proxxon, it uses collets, and has multiple speeds, so it may be a
decent machine. Beware of similar looking machines though. (the two
that I’m thinking of specifically were solid blue, or solid black.
Names have faded away into the mists of time.)
Whoops, I just realized, we have another little press at school that
I’d completely forgotten about. I can’t remember the name, but it’s
sort of half-way in between the DP-95, and the big boys. Runs on a
little sewing machine motor. Small enough that it gets tucked away in
a cabinet. It strikes me as a little wimpy in terms of power, but
seems reasonably accurate. It has a dial-indicator on the downfeed.
(DI’s on the downfeed are a useful thing, especially for wax milling.
That’s one of the things I like most about the DP-95) Looks sort of
like a DP-95 with a real (small) drillpress headstock on the top.
So, if you’re looking for a small drill press, the things to look at
(A) concentricity of the bit, and how it’s grasped. Smaller jacobs
chucks are more accurate than big ones, and it’s critical for small
holes that the drill be held accurately. Collets are the ultimate in
accurate, but a right pain to use. (not to mention expensive and hard
to find in those sizes.)
(B) bearings and bearing supports.
© motor and spindle speeds. You’ll need to be able to change the
speeds easily, and up into speed ranges that will horrify you at
first glance. (the Hamilton starts at 880 RPM, and goes up to 9350.)
(A flex-shaft can make those speeds easily.)
(D) working surface. You should have a surface that’s smooth and easy
to work on. Ideally, it should be clamped at an accurate right angle
to the axis of the drill. (if it tilts, make sure you can lock it
down securely once you’ve found an accurate right-angle to the drill.
) Whatever you do, do not trust the ‘90’ mark stamped on the bed.
Measure it yourself.)
(E) downfeed ‘feel’. The downfeed should be silky smooth. If it feels
gritty or harsh, you’ll have trouble feeling what the drill’s doing,
and are more likely to bust a bit. This is more a matter of
experience than anything else, but it’s something to be aware of. If
the downfeed’s gritty, chances are other things aren’t quite right
The other thing is to figure out what you’re going to be making
holes in, why, and how accurate you need to be. For just drilling
small holes in silver sheet, the DP-95 will be more than you’ll ever
need. For moving parts in stainless barstock, I needed the Hamilton.
Don’t overbuy. (Unless you’re at an auction and nobody else knows
what that funny looking thing is… )(heheheheh…knowledge is
Hope some of this helps.