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Harbor Freight Central Machinery 8″ 5 speed Benchtop Drill Press Review

Harbor Freight Drill Press

Today, we are talking about the Harbor Freight 8″ Central Machinery Benchtop Drill press. This is actually the least expensive of all the drill presses offered by Harbor Freight. You can find this drill press for 50 to 70 bucks, depending on if Harbor Freight has a Coupon  (check out current Harbor Freight Coupons). This drill press is the perfect tool for drilling cabinet door hardware, European hidden hinge cups or pretty much anything where precision is important.

Check this Drill Press out at Harbor Freight

Now a cheap tool is next to useless if it doesn’t perform. Who needs a 40lb paperweight? Certainly not me.  Fortunately, this little drill press does not disappoint in the performance department as well as build quality.  Starting at the bottom, we find a heavy gauge steel/cast iron base which provides stability to the unit.  There’s no wobbling whatsoever when placed on a flat benchtop. The base has holes for bolting the unit down to your benchtop or a dedicated stand. Next we have a heavy gauge/cast iron drill table.  The drill table has 2 adjustments, up/down with about 8″ of travel and  side to side 45 degree adjustment to either side for jobs requiring an angled hole.  The up/down adjustment is accomplished with a locking lever on the back left side of the table.  The side to side angle adjustment is done with a bolt found under the table.

A tour around the main drill assembly, we find a 3 handle lowering mechanism. The handles are metal and the lowering mechanism is nice and smooth on both the down and up stroke. The front of the press has a simple up/down power switch.  My specimen does not have much by way of a safety mechanism on the switch , interestingly I’ve seen others of the same model that do. If this is important to you, the get the model just above this which is like 10 bucks more. That one also has a keyless chuck by the way. Finally, on the left we have the depth stop. This is a simple mechanism consisting of a threaded rod and a pair of nuts. You get a maximum of 2″ worth of travel so 2″ is the max thickness you can drill with this press. Overall, all the adjustments on the drill press work great.

Check this Drill Press out at Harbor Freight

One of the main features of this drill press is the speed adjustment. This one has a 5 speed adjustment.  Now I’m no drill press expert so I’m not sure if this is common or not but the speed adjustment on this model is of the mechanical sort. It consists of 2 sets of pulleys at the top of the drill press, 1 for the drill and the other for the motor. The pulleys are connected by a small belt and the whole thing is covered by a lid that’s easy to open and close.  Speed adjustment is performed by moving the belt up and down the sets of pulleys. There is a knob that enables you to increase/decrease the tension on the belt by loosening the motor. One nice feature is the diagram right on the lid that depicts the belt settings for a given speed. The drill is capable of 620, 1100, 1720, 2340 or 3100 rpms. You also get another diagram that gives you recommended speed settings for given materials.  These diagrams a nice little feature since you don’t have to go back and forth to the manual. Generally speaking, the speed adjustment mechanism is pretty easy and straight forward to use.

Out of the box, there is some assembly required. Luckily, there’s no wiring or anything like that. It’s basically just a matter of attaching the base, table and main drill assembly to the main column. One of the trickiest pieces to install is the chuck because it needs to be pressed onto the drill head. This is done by moving the table all the way up against the chuck and turning the lowering mechanism to press in the chuck. There’s a couple other little knobs to install but the whole thing goes together rather easily in about 20 minutes.

Overall, this is an excellent value. This is a quality little drill press despite the super low price. I would highly recommend it to anyone that’s in the market for a precision drilling instrument.  You may not find this a suitable press if you are a professional woodworker but it’s more than enough for the DIYer or hobbyist and it sure beats paying hundreds of dollars for a floor standing model. If you are getting this drill press, I highly recommend getting the separate table attachment. Especially if you’re getting it to do woodworking. The separate table adds 35 bucks to the cost but is well worth it.


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