Loose and sloppy, but useful nevertheless
Written: Oct 10, 2006 (Updated Oct 10, 2006)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Easy speed adjustment; quiet, powerful motor, great chuck
Cons:Sloppy table mechanism, sloppy quill, sloppy depth stop, irritating table
The Bottom Line: I'd recommend you shop carefully, and try to avoid this machine, though I'd still buy one at a deep discount
I find it interesting that an old review here speaks of getting a loose and sloppy press that the tech from Sears recommended replacing. I suppose I have low expectations of Craftsman tools, and of the competence of people at Sears too (whom I generally find to be imbeciles), so I didn't bother complaining or calling anyone about this machine's problems.
My drill press also has a very sloppy table mechanism, like that other reviewer's. Raising and lowering it is fine, but pivoting the table around the column counterclockwise always causes a bind and a scraping noise. No amount of adjustment has ever managed to address that, and the affected bits of metal are slowly eroding from scraping together. Pivoting it clockwise doesn't cause this problem, curiously enough.
The other issue is with slop in the quill. Moving it up and down without any load, there is no problem, but once the bit contacts a resistant surface, the whole shebang deflects a hair to the left. There are instructions in the manual for adjusting this slop out of the quill, and I was able to improve it considerably from where it was out of the box, but I have never been able to eliminate the problem completely. It feels gritty, and there were metal particles inside one of the bolt holes I fiddled with as part of the adjustment. I think something inside the guts of the thing was made poorly, and is disintegrating slowly.
I can cope with both of these flaws. With the quill problem, particularly, I've just learned to pre-load the quill before turning on the motor when I need the highest possible degree of precision boring a hole in something. Just hooking a pilot point in a dimple from an awl or a center punch is usually sufficient to steer things home with adequate, if not ideal control. The table pivot problem is a nuisance, but doesn't actually impact my use of the machine, and at this rate it will take several more years for the affected parts to wear away to a point where the machine ceases to be functional.
I like the belt tensioning mechansim, and the handy chart inside the lid showing how to put what where to get what speed, and recommending speeds for various bit diameters in a variety of materials. Speed changes are fast, easy, and precise. I like the solid, quiet motor, and the huge 5/8" chuck that can still grip bits down to 1/16". I have only had the chuck come off a couple of times in several years, under extreme duress, trying to do something too aggressive with a fly cutter, probably.
The depth stop mechanism is cheesy. It is difficult to feel when I've hit dead bottom, and if I keep pressing, I can deflect the whole stop block by up to 1/16" or so. I have tightened the living snot out of whatever screw or bolt (I think it's a #3 Phillips head screw, but I'm not entirely certain) holds this mechanism to the side of the drill press head, and this is as tight as it's humanly possible to get it. This isn't tight enough, so I have to control depth by looking at the stop, rather than feeling it.
I'm not especially fond of the table either. It has an X shaped T track, and securing vises and fences to it requires using the two supplied T nuts. In practice, the big plastic heads on the supplied matching bolts are always getting in the way, so I frequently have to substitute ordinary bolts, and tighten them with a wrench. The bottom of the casting has a narrow rim around it, which complicates using clamps to hold work. It is also next to impossible to use my cross-sliding X-Y vise on this table. Finally, probably the most annoying problem of all is that these T tracks are always getting packed with debris, and it's difficult to clean the impacted chips and shavings out when it's time to move one of the T nuts.
On balance, securing any fixtures to the table is enough of a pain in the patoot that I wind up hand holding the work 90% of the time, or using clamps that only have a tenuous grip on the narrow rim, which is dangerous, and inaccurate. This table looked like a better idea in the store than in practice on the shop floor, and I really wish it had a standard table like every other model of drill press I've looked at (either round or square, flat, with through holes.) I really should have fashioned a replacement for it, but I've been too lazy. I want to build projects, not replacement parts for badly designed parts of shop machinery.
All in all, this is a sloppy, awkward, Harbor Freight quality machine, and would not be my first choice for a new drill press. On the other hand, I've used it extensively, and my drill press is my second or third most-used machine in the shop. A full-sized floor model drill press is a wonderful thing to have, and this is an adequate, if not spectacular example of the breed.
Oh, and on the bright side, I received this thing as a gift, so its problems are offset by its low price of $0.00.
When I do wear it out, however, I won't be replacing it with a Craftsman.
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