Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Last week, while making some parts for our September issue’s Jigs & Fixtures project, I needed to drill some holes through a stack of plywood. I was using a little benchtop drill press to do the job. While it chomped quietly through those holes, it reminded me of how handy a little benchtop drill press is.

Mine didn’t cost much more than $100—a bargain considering how much we pay for other power tools generally. Heck, I’ve shelled out almost that much for a saw blade before. And yet, despite its small price, I’ve used my benchtop drill press for boring some pretty big Forstner bit holes. It’s stepped up to the plate for mortising and drum sanding too. The machine is powerful enough, obviously versatile and doesn’t take up much space on my bench. All in all, it’s a real tool value in my shop.

Now and then, it’s a good thing for a guy who reviews tools to remember that bigger isn’t always better. In my own defense, I DO think about this issue as a matter of course when I’m asked to gather up tools for review. But confirmation comes when I’m in the shop actually doing projects. In this case, that little drill press was all the machine I needed.

Right next to the drill press is a benchtop spindle sander and a 12″ disc sander. If memory serves (it’s been quite a few years now), I think I spent about $150 for each of those tools too. Both get a lot of use and do their jobs without issues. Never needed to service either of them beyond changing the sandpaper.

I’m really glad to have these three tools around. They can be just as important when duty calls as that table saw, band saw or jointer costing a whole lot more. In fact, they may be some of the best bargains in my shop.

Hope you enjoy your benchtop machines as much as I do mine.

Catch you in the shop,

Chris Marshall, Field Editor

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About Chris Marshall

Chris Marshall has been writing for Woodworker's Journal as a contributing editor and field editor since 2001. Prior to that, he spent five years developing home improvement and woodworking books. He's written five of them and has served as a contributing writer on many more. A wood and tool junkie since childhood, Chris thoroughly enjoys building projects and reviewing woodworking tools for the Journal. When he's not assembling new machinery, sawing parts, taking photos or crunching text for an upcoming story, he enjoys spending time with his family and a houseful of pets at their home in rural Ohio.

2 thoughts on “Bigger Isn’t Always Better

  1. I too use a benchtop drill press – no more room to put a free standing one. It does the job adequately, but occasionally, I would like to have one with bigger capacity. For 99% of my tasks, it is more than sufficient. I also have a benchtop scroll saw, planer, lathe and power miter saw. They all do very well for me. I am probably going to purchase a benchtop jointer as well, because, as mentioned before, I have no room. However, I tried a benchtop bandsaw for a while and that little tool was not even close to being able to do what I wanted it to do. For the most part, it was useless on anything thicker than 1 inch and it didn’t do a great job with that. I won’t say which brand to protect the innocent, but I now have a 14″ band saw and am much happier.

  2. I agree with Mr. Holliday concerning the BT bandsaws. I tried, but they flex the blades too much rounding the small wheels, and that kills the blades quickly. I am happy, however, that a neighbor has one because occasionally I want the abilities of a bandsaw, but the kerf of a jig-saw, so I go bum off of him on occasion. By like token, he enjoys my 14 incher. Primarily serving 3 tools (4 x 36 vertical sander, a home built 5.5″ wide “thicknessing” sander, and my 14″ BSaw) my vacuum system is my real pride and joy. All I do is turn on whichever tool I want, and the vacuum works, drawing only from that tool. A home-made cyclone takes out heavy stuff, and the ultra light dust is drawn through another cyclone that captures the dust and flushes it down the drain. NO fine dust is ‘recycled’ or inhaled.
    Small shop. 100 sq. ft, of which I gave generously given my wife 9 s.f. for HER washing and drier. Ain’t I the sweet one?

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