Friday, June 26, 2015

Drill Press Table

I borrowed a drill press from Nadine's dad back when I made my router table. I've had it ever since and have put it to some good use when I built some of my other projects. It's really a versatile tool and I'm probably going to have to get one of my own in the future. In the meantime, however, there's always been a nagging problem with the drill press -- its tiny, barely usable stock table.

The tiny table on the drill press is made out of cast iron, which means it rusts instantaneously in the humidity and salt here in Hawaii. I try to keep it protected, but it's a losing battle. The table is also not even in thickness, so clamping things to the table is very difficult. My clamps always seem to find the ridges on the bottom and never get a good grip on things.

I always had the idea of building a bigger, more serviceable table for the drill press, and I finally had some time this afternoon to get working on it. I didn't draw up a plan for it, and I used basically the same procedure that Steve Ramsey used to make his drill press table. I started by measuring the stock table. With that measurement, I cut a 20"x10" piece of 3/4 plywood from a remnant piece from my wall cabinet. I covered it with a piece of 1/4" masonite as a work surface. I put some cleats on the bottom of the table so I could register it properly on the  stock table. That all went together without a hitch.

The table has replaceable inserts for the middle section that are sacrificial. I had a hell of a time trying to get that all worked out since I'm not really good at bevel cuts and I can't measure that stuff to save my life. I made about 4 inserts that sort of fit okay, but I think that should be good enough for now. It wasn't made any easier based on the fact that the piece of masonite I was using was far from flat, so accurate cuts weren't really a thing.

I used my router table to cut the T-slots for the fence and for any other hold-downs I might use on the table. I'm a little worried I might split the plywood if I crank down the bolts too much, but I'll just be careful about it and not sock them down too hard.

The fence was built from a couple pieces of 3/4 ply and I screwed up when I bought the hardware and got t-bolts that were too short. I decided that I'd cut the fence to accommodate the bolts, but still have decent height so I can use clamps and stop blocks and all that stuff. I used my spindle sander to sweeten up the shape of the fence and then drilled holes for the T-bolts.

I'm probably going to grab some smaller knobs for the fence since the only knobs I have right now are jig knobs from a kit I got from Rockler. They work, but I worry they might interfere with the operation of the press itself. It's a small design flaw, but I could always build a better fence later. I have some good ideas on how to fix it, but I'll work with what I built and see if it becomes a huge problem. Being that I spent a total of $5 getting all the hardware I needed to build this table and it's made from scrap wood and masonite, this project was basically free. I still have enough plywood to make a new, better fence if I feel like it, so there is still room for improvement. I could just make a second fence for other applications too. All it would do is improve the versatility of the table.

I'm calling this a win and I enjoy having the larger work surface for the drill press. 200 square inches is way better than the 40 or so that the stock table has. I actually used the table to help drill the holes on the fence and the extra width made the drilling very good. The sacrificial insert stopped any blowout on the exit side of the hole, so the cuts are much cleaner.

As always, my workbench is a mess and I need to get that organized. I still need to make a chisel/driver holding fixture for my wall cabinet. I have some good ideas on how to do that now that I have some extra poplar to work with. I'm sure those fixtures will work better than the pine I used on the other fixtures I already have in there. Once I clean up my "shop" again, I can get back to work on some better projects.