Make your hole workstation less boring
There’s no getting around the importance of holes in woodworking, and the drill press is the go-to machine for boring them. Properly tuned, a drill press will put holes of the right size in the right place at a right—or just about any other—angle. But if it’s to deserve its place on the shop floor or bench, it must do more than just make holes. With the right accoutrements, you can turn your drill press into a multipurpose machine capable of supplementing or even supplanting a few other tools in your shop. I’ve put together a stable of accessories sure to take any drill press from a one-trick pony to a workshop workhorse capable of sanding, shaping, scouring, and more. And check the Buyers Guide (p. 62) for a quick list of these products, including sources, product numbers, and prices.
Drum up support
Chucking a sanding drum in the drill press is a time-honored trick, but it’s not always a good one. Drill presses aren’t designed to handle lateral pressure, so side-loading risks sloping the edges of your workpiece or even damaging your machine’s bearings. This clever support from Veritas acts as a live center on your drill press table, to add support and help prevent sanding drums from deflecting. While Veritas also makes shafts with a dimple in their ends to engage with the support system, I found that the support works well with a solid rubber drum by mating the point with the center of the drum bottom. Place the support under your drum and raise the table until the support mates firmly with the drum’s underside. Keep your drill press speed at about 1700 RPM. You’ll also need an auxiliary table at least 3/4" thick to raise the workpiece above the support as shown on the left.
With a sanding mop, you can easily smooth complex curves like moldings, coves, or carvings. Stack the pre-sliced sheets on either the short or the long mandrel, depending on your sanding needs, and fan them out to create a wheel. For lighter sanding, insert the included washers between every 3-5 sheets to create more “fluff” in your mop. Need to remove more material? The included nylon stabilizer discs cover all but the tips of the “flutter sheets,” making the mop stiffer for more aggressive sanding or shaping.
Run your new sanding mop against some scrap wood first to break in the paper’s edges and separate the sheets to avoid gouging your workpiece. The manufacturer advises that you keep your drill press speed below 2300 RPM. Starter kits including mandrels and abrasives are available in grits from 80 to 320. I reach for the 120 grit mop most often. Replacement abrasives are also available (see Buyers Guide, p. 62).
The chip and ramekin wells of party trays like the one shown here are too small to smooth with a random orbit sander but too large to reasonably hand-sand. A rotary sanding pad reaches small hollows for efficient sanding, and its foam backer allows it to sand the bottom flat without gouging the sides.
Pick up precut 2"- diameter discs in grits from 60-240, or cut your own from sanding discs. The standard hook-and-loop connection makes for quick swaps, allowing you to run the gamut of grits efficiently. I found that excessive pressure might cause lower grit discs to lose their hook-and-loop grip, so use a light touch and keep the workpiece moving. Run your drill press at a max of 1750 RPM, according to the manufacturer.
These inflatable sanding bulbs combine elements of sanding drums and mop sanders. Straight sides let you work flat areas as you would with a drum, while the air-filled rubber conforms to shapely profiles. The round one is ideal for concave curves such as the bowl of a spoon while the drum works well for complex curves such as those on a guitar neck—where a spindle sander may risk imparting a divot. Inject a shot of air through the valved stem with the included pump to inflate the rubber bulb and hold the sanding pad in place.
The set includes the hand pump, the inflatable dome and drums sanders, and sleeves for each sander in four grits: 60, 120, 220, and 320. For best results, don’t apply unnecessary pressure to the bulb—let the sandpaper do the work. Pushing too hard against the bulb can cause the seal to break, releasing the trapped air. The manufacturer suggests 3400 RPM for optimum performance.
Ideal for shaping small carvings, spoon backs, and knife handles, a rotary rasp removes large amounts of material quickly. The tooth configuration leaves a smooth surface requiring finish sanding only. And when the blades wear out, replacements are available for both the 1"- and 2"- diameter cutters. All this from a company known for their cheese graters.
Use light pressure to avoid the cutter gouging or grabbing the workpiece. I found the faster you run the spindle, the smoother the cut and more control you have over the shaping. But don’t exceed 2500 RPM. Even at that speed, the tooth pattern and venting design ensure the blade stays cool. Beyond shaping wood, this rasp also easily shapes sheetrock, plastic, rubber, and other non-metallics. Just be sure to keep your fingers clear.
Brush it off
Pick up a wire brush or two to make quick work of removing rust, paint, and burrs from tools and other metal implements. They also excel at taking finish off reclaimed lumber and quickly adding a distressed look to new stock. Available at most hardware stores, you can find these brushes in a variety of diameters with bristles of steel, stainless steel, brass, and nylon. Steel bristles are the most aggressive and are good for reclaiming old tools such as the plane body shown to the left. Use stainless brushes to clean up other stainless items so as not to contaminate the surface with metal that can rust. Brass and abrasive-coated nylon brushes are a little gentler and are a better choice for removing paint from wood without gouging it severely. When shopping, be sure to pick brushes with an integral shank. Those with a hole at the center are designed for use with a bench grinder.
It’s hip to be square
There’s no avoiding it: your drill press is made to make holes. That doesn’t mean they must be round. A mortising attachment wraps a drill bit with a four-sided chisel, letting you drive both into your workpiece together to make a square hole. Move your workpiece down the fence and repeat to extend that hole into a mortise. The drill press version uses the same 1/4", 5/16", 1/2", and 5/8" hollow chisel sets common to benchtop mortisers but is less expensive and space-hogging. The model shown on the right includes a fence and three hold-downs to secure your workpiece.
Because of the length it adds to the quill, the mortiser attachment fits best on a floor-standing drill press. If your table deflects downward when driving the chisel into your work, wedge a 2×4 support leg between it and the floor for additional support. I found that speeds between 900 and 1200 RPM leave the cleanest cuts.
Whether you’re hiding a miscut hole or simply concealing a screw, making your own plugs is the best way to match the wood and the counterbore. These cutters create perfectly-sized and shaped plugs that you pluck from scrap work material and tap into place. Align the grain to camouflage the plug, or emphasize the holes by cutting them from a contrasting species. After gluing the plug into its hole, trim it with a flush-cut saw or chisel.
This three-piece set creates 1/4", 3/8", and 1/2" plugs. The manufacturer suggests running your drill press at 500 RPM and driving the plug cutter into the scrap until the bit bottoms out. The cutter’s shape creates a slightly tapered plug with chamfered upper corners for easy insertion. Use a small flat-head screwdriver to free them from your scrap.