Using a Drill Press as a Mortiser?

Using a Drill Press as a Mortiser?

This woodworker asks whether a drill press is any good as a mortiser or as a spindle sander.

Ian Kirby: Is a donkey any good if you need a racehorse? Cutting a square hole with a hollow chisel is only one feature of a mortise machine. Other vital features include holding the workpiece on a cross-saddle and slide system enabling it to be correctly positioned in the first place. The holding method ensures that the chisel can easily be retracted after each pass. The parts of the machine are designed and engineered so that considerable force can be applied to make the cut. The drill press has none of those features.

There are equally valid reasons why the drill press makes for a second rate spindle sander.

Ellis Walentine: This is another question of relative usefulness. Relative to the tasks you have in mind, these devices might be adequate, but they will never have the capabilities of dedicated machines. Keep in mind that small drill presses are designed for the principal task of driving a drill bit in a straight line downward. When you start subjecting them to excessive downward force, as with a mortising attachment, or to side thrust, as with a sanding drum, you’re pushing the limits of the machine. Depending on how much or how hard you use these attachments you may find that the quill bearings and other parts wear out more quickly. You just have to limit your expectations.

Rick White: Yes, I use my drill press for both operations all the time. The advantage of the drill press with a mortise bit is that you can often cut a mortise in a much thicker board than you would with your average mortise machine. Because I can drop the table on the press, I can get more clearance, and that’s a plus.

As a spindle sander, the drill press will also work. There are a lot of new accessories out there to mimic the action of a spindle sander on your drill press and they work fine. There’s even a new one that will add oscillation to the sanding action. Will it be as good as a dedicated spindle sander? Probably not, but it will work.

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