What is Drill Press Swing?

If you are striving to be a professional woodworker, you need to drill holes regularly, and you have only been using a handheld drill, you could benefit from knowing about a drill press and its swing.

a drill press

A drill press is a tool designed to bore holes in workpieces of various diameters using different drill bits. The workpiece may be a piece of wood, plastic, metal, resin, or other material. The drill press performs the same function as a handheld drill, but it is larger and stationary, which makes it easier to make precise holes with a consistent depth. It is ideal for professional woodworking.

In General, drill press sizes are based on: swing and spindle travel. The drill press swing determines the width of the workpiece that a drill press can house. The swing length of a drill press decides the widest workpiece that can fit on it and which you can drill a center hole in based on available space. It is twice the distance between the central column of the drill press and its spindle.

This article will focus on explaining what a drill press and its swing are, what it is used for, and the different types and sizes of drill press available.

Drill Press Form Factors

The form factor of a drill press is of two kinds:

  • Benchtop drill presses are designed to sit on top of a bench, table, or other supporting structure. They are smaller than self-standing drill presses.
  • Self-standing (also called stationary or floor-mounted) drill presses can stand freely without the need to place them on top of something. They are larger than benchtop drill presses.

Mini drill presses are also available. They are essentially smaller-sized benchtop drill presses, suitable for working on small pieces of wood, less than around 6”.

Parts of a Drill Press

A drill press has the following main parts:

  • Central Column – Where the piece of material (your workpiece) is placed for drilling into
  • Spindle – The bit that is drilled into the material
  • Swing – Double the space between the central column and the spindle’s center

parts of a drill press and the swing length

Uses of Drill Presses

A drill press is normally used for boring wood or metal, cutting tapered plugs, using a wire wheel to clean metal parts, and making rails. It enables precise drilling holes. It is also useful for crafting toys, making wooden art, and making holes for pegs. (1)

The Size of a Drill Press

The sizes of drill presses vary widely. When buying one, you will need to know what size you need, how its size is measured, or how to determine which sized drill press will suit your need.

Drill press sizes are stated based on two main features: swing, and spindle travel, the part that holds the chuck. The drill press swing determines the width of the workpiece that a drill press can accommodate, and spindle travel determines the maximum depth of drilling possible.

The Swing of a Drill Press

The swing length of a drill press determines the widest workpiece that can fit on it and which you can drill a center hole in according to the space available. It is twice the distance between the central column of the drill press and its spindle or the center of its drill chuck.

swing length = 2 x distance between central column and spindle

Self-standing drill presses generally offer greater and wider swing than benchtop drill presses. The larger swings possible on them can accommodate larger workpieces.

The range of the swing on drill presses is typically between 8” and 20” (approximately 20.3cm to 50.8cm). Benchtop drill press swings are usually between 8” and 12”, and self-standing models reach the higher end of the range, up to 20”.

For example, a 14” drill press swing has 7” of space between the support column and the center of the chuck. This means the swing is adequate for a piece of wood 14” wide and can drill a center hole 7” inside.

Spindle Travel

The factor of spindle travel determines how deep you can bore. It depends on how much downward travel the drill bit allows when turning the drill press handle. Spindle travel is usually shorter in benchtop models, around 2” to 3”, whereas self-standing models can travel up to around 6”.

Other Factors

Besides drill press swing and spindle travel, there are other things to consider when deciding which drill press to buy or use. These are:

  • The drill chuck size determines the maximum shank size the drill press can accommodate, i.e., the portion of the drill bit gripped by the drill press. Chuck sizes usually range between ½” and ¾.” A drill bit sleeve has to be used in case the drill chuck size is out of range.
  • The motor size of a drill press determines the maximum power it provides. Power is measured in watts or horsepower. If you need to drill into tough materials, you need to look for a drill press with a strong motor. A typical self-standing model has a power rating up to around 1kW.
  • The rotation speed can usually be varied according to the material you need to drill into. Generally, tougher materials require slower speeds. Whereas benchtop models have up to around six different speeds, self-standing ones may have up to 16 different speed settings.
  • Floor space is another important consideration because you might find that a powerful self-standing drill press model fulfills your needs but requires more floor space than you have available. (2)

Choosing which Drill Press to Buy or Use

You should consider a self-standing drill press model with an adequately tall column if you need to drill into a workpiece larger than 14” or drill a hole deeper than 3” in a narrow workpiece. A small benchtop drill press is sufficient for drilling a shallow hole in a narrow workpiece.

Here’s a general guide to help you choose which type of drill press to buy or use:

ConsiderationDrill Press
Workpiece sizeLess than 12-14.”More than 12-14” with a sufficiently tall column
Swing lengthShorterLarger
Hole in a narrow material
(spindle travel)
3” or shallowerDeeper than 3”
Toughness of materialNot so toughTough as steel
Motor sizeAdequate motorPowerful motor
Rotation speed variationsFew (up to ~6)Many (up to ~16)
Floor spaceLimitedSufficient

Take a look at some of our related articles below.

(1) wooden art – https://mymodernmet.com/carved-wood-art/
(2) Floor space – https://homeguides.sfgate.com/calculate-floor-space-index-particular-property-39892.html

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About Sam Orlovsky

b1d87d2ee85af3e51479df87928bdc88?s=90&d=mm&r=gCertifications: B.E.E.
Education: University Of Denver - Electric Engineering
Lives In: Denver Colorado

Electrical engineering is my passion, and I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years. This gives me a unique ability to give you expert home improvement and DIY recommendations. I’m not only an electrician, but I also like machinery and anything to do with carpentry. One of my career paths started as a general handyman, so I also have a lot of experience with home improvement I love to share.

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