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Show Me Your Antique Drill Press

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4 hours ago, Steven NY said:

I am guessing the extra long shaft held a flat belt pulley at one time? 

I never thought about the shaft being longer to have a flat belt pulley on it. I'll have to look for set screw scars on it to see if there's any evidence of that being the case. I was honestly thinking about chopping the shaft but I may leave it as is

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Some of them were engineered for line shaft use; but line shafts were run at much slower speeds than modern electrical motors.

I met a professional knifemaker at the guild show one year who told me he had thought to save money by putting a motor on his hand crank drill press.  While doing a fussy drilling job he reached up to advance the bit and accidentally got his fingers in the gearing.  As he told me---he could have bought the most expensive drill press on the market and still come out thousands ahead in Dr bills much less the lost time for working and the pain!

To speed up my cole drill; I grabbed a friend and had them work the stock holding and the advance while I did the cranking.

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I believe that adding a motor to a post drill is pretty necessary unless you are setting up say a historical small farm or ranch blacksmith shop and not planning on drilling many holes. That is what these many post drills that are usually shown here were designed for, farm and ranch work. I have a lot of respect for cowboys and their seat of their pants common sense. However, as a farrier, I do realize just what "cowboy shoeing" is all about. I don't imagine there is much difference between that and their farm and ranch blacksmith skills. 

Anybody who has ever drilled a hole by hand with one of these must know just how labor intense and time consuming they are to work. The first thing a post drill teaches you is just why blacksmiths punched or slit and drifted holes. Lol, it's far quicker and less labor intense "by hammer in hand".

I can't imagine anyone changing the gearing on any piece of machinery, much less an open geared 100+ year old post drill whilst it's running!

If you are concerned, here's some safety pointers.

Use a foot operated Deadman switch.

Mount your motor on a hinge and let the weight of the motor tension the belt. If the belt slips, you are working too hard and unsafe. Lol, you might get a little pinch, but the belt will slip and not suck you in for really bad damage! If this happens to you more than once, perhaps you are in the wrong hobby.  ;)

Don't use the self feed, use the hand lever. you will have far better control and tool "awareness". It doesn't take long to get really good feeling how your cut is going and to corolate proper down pressure to belt tension. Also you will quickly develop a really good "feel" of your drilling progress. You WILL quickly feel when you are about to cut thru and can back off on the down pressure so the drill bit won't bind. 

Wear a hat especially if you have long hair and tie it back. Keep your hat on and hair secured!

I used a farm size post drill for two or three years, then scored a commercial sized one from an old industrial blacksmith shop from Pueblo, Co. I used this for nearly 20 years until I got my real treasure,,, a camel back drill! There are things I can do with my large post drill that I just can't do with my ole camel, so both will be setup in my new shop.

As to your poor knifemaker, I can't imagine anywhere in a post drill that i would adjust anything whilst it's on. The big gears are inboard of the handle and there are two levers on the self feed. A rachet pawl to engage it and the other is a round  handle at the very top to manually raise and lower the main shaft. You would really have to force the issue to miss the handle and get caught in those gears! I must nominate this dude, no matter his knifemaking skills, for the Darwin Award!

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I can see both sides, but as Thomas said, this guy reached up to advance the drill bit so he must have had the panel flipped back and was using the handle on the spindle to have a "feel" as you mentioned. I can for sure see an accident happening on something like that. I've drilled anywhere from 1/8 inch to 1/2 inch holes holes with this press and don't find it too laborious at all. I am only a hobby guy when it comes to stuff like this though, and if I were to do this stuff as a full time job, I would look into a modern drillpress. I'm a machinist as a day job and mainly run a manual mill. It kinda nice to mess around in the garage after work and go back to something simple like a hand cranked press. 

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I use my champion #98 for countersinking/de-burring holes, it works great for that. I drill my holes with my standard electric drill press, and countersink with my hand crank drill. No swapping drill bits to chamfer a hole or remove a burr. They are set up within one step of each other which makes the operation fast and easy. By using my hand crank to only countersink or de-burr I almost never have to adjust the table height on the drill. 

I love old tools, but like to have a reason for having them in my shop, that is how I justified the antique drill press. With practice I can justify almost anything lol.

Have a good one,

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He wasn't changing gears, he wasn't adjusting thingshe reached up to advance the drill bit---not using the auto advance pawl as it was for a bit of tricky drilling---so his eyes were on the bit. A lot of these drills don't have a lever to use to advance the bit, that wheel on top is it.  I bet he was hunched over trying to finesse a tricky spot of drilling; so when he reached up, he was a bit lower than usual. Different post drills have different gear set ups; some not as user friendly as others.

My point is that "modern" drill presses are inexpensive---especially if you get a nice old one from say the 50's or 60's and not a "cheap" chinese import. (Mine was made in Taiwan and has a 2 hp Baldor motor, came from a machine shop that went bust during an oilfield crash in the early '80's.) 

If you want/need a motorized drillpress get one!

I originally owned a hand crank drill press and cheerfully sold it off when I moved out here.  Now I have another and two larger ones that ran off flat belts and am cheerfully trying to sell them off too.  I'm keeping my cole drill, which doesn't take up much space, and handles the jobs where I need high pressure and very low speeds.  (I've used my cole drill 10' in the air on a ladder to drill 1/2" holes through 1/2" plate when I was fitting the steel trusses to the shop extension with no electricity.)

The NM Artist Blacksmith Association has a hand crank drill press on their large demo trailer set up and had to make a stop for it to keep onlookers from playing with it with all those unguarded gears.

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Thomas, I'm continuing, not to argue, but to give another view point plus safety info and to make sure that new guys can see two sides and make their own choice. My experience is first hand using two post drills as my daily driver for 10 or 12 years.


Well, I suppose what surprised me and is my point is:

On 6/24/2020 at 10:17 AM, ThomasPowers said:

I strongly suggest NOT motorizing these old drill presses--

Then when I read your example of the poor knifemaker, I realized he must not have had much mechanical sense and should not have been using this particular tool. Especially since his wanting "cheap" price is not wise for every reason you gave.

No matter the make, they are mostly layed out the same. Go down wheel on the right, heavy gears inboard of this., And the self feed somewhere around left top.

My main safety factor is


Especially if it has a lot of big ugly finger eating open gears.

Changing the self feed speed is basically a two handed job and should never be done blindly! Note shop rule above.

He was drilling something precise and, if I read correctly, was not using the self feed, correct?

Then there is nothing he should of been reaching for, blindly on an open geared beast, that would control anything or enhance any precision. All downward force comes from the wheel on the right. The self feed is not operating.

If he was using the self feed, then he literally had no real control of his drilling, it was all done by the drill. If he wanted to change this then refer to safety rule above.

Basically I believe these old drills are a real gem and a motor makes them a viable heavy duty literally indestructible shop tool. I think your knife maker and his accident is a good example of blaming a tool instead of accepting responsibility for his actions.

And what the NMABA did is very wise.

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Well worth repeating!  (Some of those powerhammers that have adjustable settings that are done while "live" make me shiver too!)

My post drills, yes multiples, the wheel on the right is the flywheel for the hand crank---doesn't have anything to do with the bit going up or down, just round and round. Up and Down is handled by the wheel on the very top with the pawl notches in it.  What brand were your drills?  They tend to be similar; but different enough to evade patent prosecutions...

And yes; no automatic feed. (IIRC he was trying to drill pin holes on an angled surface propped to be level.)

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Thanks for reaffirming "the rule"! 

To add a bit my opinion of post drills was much like yours when you moved to NM. After, well I can't remember the amount of time, 6 months or so, I knew that even in a fledgling blacksmith shop, a punched or slit and drifted hole was far more efficient. However I got some advice on setting up a motor and hinging the motor for safety reasons. So I tried it and with some use, I began to really appreciate this tool. I believe we both know the gentleman who gave me the advice.

The setup on both that I have used is the up/down lever is on the right. Flip the self feed pawl and the right hand wheel is to manually go up and down. The shaft to the left is for go around power. This hooks up to a power source such as a motor or line shaft. Now this is "my" left when facing the machine. Being a lefty, I believe this is one of those right handed societal norm.

I no longer have my original drill, so I don't know the make. I believe my industrial one is a Canedy Otto. I'll double check and if not I'll post the brand. It is a two speed drill. The gear change happens in the middle of the drive gears and it can't be changed without due harm to the ole fingers.

As for drilling on an angled surface, I've found that a hinges motor(where the motor weight determines belt drive tension) is where a post drill really shines. Please note I'm not condoning not using a vice to secure your work for anyone. However when using a hinged motor and the hand feed and some experience gives plenty of warning on a drill bit binding and either breaking your bit or smacking your hand a few times at 7200 rpm when you lose your grip on your work!

It becomes a great immediate correction when drilling a slightly off center center punch. I can let up on the go down pressure, tilt the railing up, and as I give more downwards pressure, rotate the iron down. The bit slides and cuts and centers nicely. 

I've tried this with my Camelback with only a little luck because I have little control over the downward force and the motor is hard mounted. This is changing as I gain more experience with this drill. When I set her up in it's new location I may play around with a hinged motor.

I think the greatest safety issue with most power equipment(blacksmith wise) is long hair getting caught up in the works,,, shaft or open gears.

I agree too with your power hammer remark. No adjustments whilst running. I have a double on/off switch setup for it. The main on/off is by my forge. This saves time/heat. Turn it on before turning twards the hammer. The second on/off is mounted on the hammer itself. So, if something goes awry whilst at the hammer, I can quickly turn it off.

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Great thread.. I'm always amazed when I miss something. 

I used a buffalo model for years which was only hand operated.   I worked amazingly well and drilled very accurate holes..   And auto feed with consistent pressure will always drill the best hole. 

the new Drill press is one I have wanted since day 1..   They make a model 17 which has a cast iron mount with a 16 mounted to it.. 

This is a Canedy Otto New model 16 with factory gear drive.  Crazy to see in action.  I will set it up in the new shop and love, them..   this needs some new babbett bearings but the old 110V AC motor still keeps it running though it's a little lacking in power.   The drive gear on the motor is leather. I thought it was wood, but leather is even better. 

I have never seen these in a gear drive and was browsing somewhere and found the advertisment.  Lucky in both regards.  I was shocked to see that it did not have a flywheel on the main shaft.. Not sure why it does not.  The flywheel helps with the mid stroke of the handle. I will make a handle drive for it which I can remove when used by  hand. 

I don't want to have a handle going round and round to get smacked in the head. 







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I'd love to find a vintage one like in the photo.. :) 

I don't like how the new ones are so flimsy. 

It is funny to me how many stories of people being hurt by machines only to blame it on machine was user carelessness. 

I have an old foot powered grinding wheel and while truing it up with the end of a file held against the wooden body my finger found its way between the wheel and wood..  Not a small enough gap to pinch it, but small enough that it removed part of the finger nail and bed. 

Was my own fault..  LOL..   When I was really young I used to use the electric bench grinder a lot.. My grinding skills were better than my forging skills on shuriken and such.. So I can't count how many times my thumb and finger got sucked into the machine between the guard and the wheel..  So many times (very slow learner) it would happen once or 2x a week.  That really sucked.. It raised my pain thresh hold pretty quickly over the course of 2 or 3 years. 

Was no ones fault but my own.  Eventually I pulled the guard off so my digits would not get pinched any longer..  Worked perfectly..   

Just checking to see who is paying attention..  :)     

   I did do this but put it back on when I needed to sharpen a drill bit or something.   Yup the danger of no guard and just left it on. 

Every situation I have ever been in..  Has been of my own making.. The equation always starts with "I"..  I used the grinder, I use the milling machine, I used the sand blaster.. Every injury could have been prevented if "I" was more diligent about safety.   

I does not mean not to use the product, but if I use it foolishly  or wrong and something happens no one is to blame but me.. 

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Jennifer, are you referring to the tool rest on the grinder or the actual guard. Too much gap on a tool rest is dangerous, and removing it can be much safer if it is not needed. The guard well that’s another story. (not trying to comment on your actions, but meant for the general reader, and I agree about personal responsibility completely.)

On the bench grinder note, I managed to take a large portion of flesh of my finger Sunday. It was a momentary lapse of attention. Got distracted and reached to the switch to turn off the grinder while not looking and fed my finger straight into the stone. Completely my fault...

Always know where you hands are around any type of powered equipment! I got lucky, could have been worse.


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Goods.. both the tool rest and the guard that goes around the wheel..   Safety police and all..  I'm still waiting for the time when all these belt grinders are required to have a belt guard.. LOL.. 

Or they design a knife that the cutting edge is shielded except while in use..  

When I was 8 I was cutting a piece of plastic off a round piece off a small storage container with a rather dull knife.. My Mom came in and said.. " You should always cut away from yourself"..  next thing there was part of thumb on the floor. 

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I think a lot of commercial shops here in the USA ditched their powerhammers rather than try to make them OSHA compliant back decades ago.  I remember a flood of them hitting the hobbyist market back then.

(I also remember the gag with a cubical wooden box with a handle on one side captioned "OSHA Compliant Chainsaw".)

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Lol, I saw that! Great memory.

I remember a tool glut from " back about the same day" as your memory above. A bit different. Seems the Navy was decommissioning WW2 ships. Many had Chambersburg hammers in their shops. So a glut of grey painted Chambersburgs hit the blacksmith market.

I walk into shops of smithing friends today and they are still running strong.

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A lot of the "Old School" tools were made to be worked on and repaired pretty much ad infinitum. Nowadays depreciation in the US tax structure can make it a money losing proposition even to keep paid off machinery working perfectly and scrapping it and paying huge amounts of money to rebuy it new is a profit increaser!   (I had the econ class where they went into detail on proving to us how that works; but I still feel that is WRONG!)

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Thomas the tax code for corporations is crazy good for the Corps.    End of year show excess money in till, buy a piece of equipement that costs 5X more than in till, show a loss but yet the corp is worth more..  

End of year have new tooling in stock dump it all in dumpster and right it off as loss.  then rebuy..    Years ago at corps there would be people dumpster diving to get the new tools still in the box.. 

Eventually the Gov caught onto this and made the dumped tools and such have to go into a locked or supervised container so no one can get it.  At least that is what happened at Pratt and Whitney, Wyman/Gordans, and some other shops. 

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