It depends on what you have. The standard benchtop drill presses
from the DIY warehouses are OK, but not spectacular. They’re
optimized for spinning pretty good sized bits (by our standards)
through wood. So the speeds are on the low side for us, generally.
For general metalsmithing type drilling, they’re fine, but if you’re
trying to do layout for micro pave, that’s a whole different thing.
The big issue is the bearings, and chuck. If you’ve got a good set
of bearings, and your chuck tightens concentrically, you’re golden.
But that happens less often than it should with current overseas
The micro drill presses are faster, but generally not as beefy.
They’reintended for spinning small (sub 3mm) drills through metal,
so they’re fast, but leave a lot on the table in terms of strength.
There are things called ‘sensitive’ drill presses that are intended
for production drilling of small holes, but they’re (A) expensive,
and (B) HEAVY.
I have one, a thing called a Hamilton Vari-matic. A drill press
limited to a max of 1/4". It weighs somewhere north of 150 pounds.
(178 sticks in my head for some reason.) It’s just about the same
size as a Bonny Doon press. But heavier. They turn up on ebay pretty
regularly. Search for “sensitive drill press” “Hamilton” “Sigourney”
“Dumore” “Servo” o r"Levin". They’re ballparking around $500 USD at
the moment. (I just looked.) I lucked into mine at an estate sale.
All hail Craigslist! (Remember that I said that concentricity
matters with little drills? The runout on a gauge pin held in the
chuck of the Hamilton is.0002". My big floor model import drill
press? .003".) (A human hair is around.003", and for little drills,
that’s enough to break one. Doesn’t matter at all for a 3/8" bit
chewing through wood.)
If you’re comfortable messing about with old tools, I’d look
strongly at one of the older ‘industrial’ ones. They’re built like
tanks, and much more rigid than the little Proxxon or other current
I’ve had Hamilton and Sigourney units, and both were solid, well
built machines. Some of the Levin and Dumore units can be a little
on the flimsy side, but they’re still stronger than the little
I also have a Foredom flex shaft drill press holder. Works great for
what it is, and is small and light enough to live on the back of my
bench, and get dragged forward when I need it quick. Much cheaper
and easier to deal with. (If you get one, budget another $50 for a
spare #30 handpiece to just leave bolted in place. Much quicker swap
it into action that way, and less chance of crunching the bearings.)