In latter years, pillar drills were used mostly by professionals, and merely coveted by DIY enthusiasts. However, in recent years the influx of newer, cheaper models has meant that everyone can own their own pillar drill.
Pillar drills are perfect for accurate drilling of holes through most materials. The way that the pillar drill is made means that they can be used by almost anyone (once they know how) and will provide a professional, precise finish.
We have collected together all the information that you could want before purchasing your own pillar drill, to ensure that the process is hassle and worry free. This means that you can get to using your new DIY tool sooner rather than later!
Only Got 5 Minutes?
There is a lot to know about the pillar drill, as this heavy-duty device has many components and variants! Read on for all the most important information about pillar drills!
Parts of the Pillar Drill
To understand a pillar drill, and the different aspects to consider when purchasing, it is first important to understand the different components and the parts that they play in ensuring the smooth running of a pillar drill.
- Head – The drill head is home to the spindle and is what controls how this moves.
- Sleeve – Used to connect the smaller spindle to the large head of the device.
- Spindle – This is the “pipe” that holds and rotates the drill bit according to your controls.
- Drill bit – This is the part that can usually be changed depending on what work you are hoping to complete. Changing the speed that the drill bit is rotated will control the size of hole that is created in the piece of material that you are working with.
- Column – This is the vertical pillar that attaches everything else together ensuring true control when drilling.
- Table – This is used to support the material that you are working with. Most models will allow this to be moved up and down on the column to adjust the distance from the spindle and drill bit.
- Base – The base is basically what it says on the tin! Used to secure the column, and everything else from there, so that the rest of the pillar drill can do its job.
Now that you understand the main parts of the pillar drill, you can start to consider not just how they work, but also what features are most important for you when purchasing a pillar drill!
How does a Pillar Drill Work?
Pillar drills are essentially a steel column onto which other components are attached to allow a drill to be moved up and down vertically to ensure steady and accurate drilling. Once the device is switched on, the drill will continue to move, whether in contact with a material or not. It is then as simple as “turning” the operating handles to move the head of the pillar drill down the column.
When this happens, you will be moving the drill bit closer to the material that you are hoping to drill, until it bores a hole into the material to your desired length.
What to Look For When Purchasing a Pillar Drill?
There are some important things to consider when purchasing a pillar drill:
- Budget – prices can range from £70 to £250+
- Size – pillar drills vary greatly in size depending on the work that you are hoping to complete. Too big and you may struggle to house it, too small and it may not be adequate to complete the task.
- Type – stationary, radial, magnetic, drill stand (these will be discussed in more detail below).
- Drilling depth – This usually depends on the length of your drill bit, however can be affected by more factors than this, such as the spindle column.
- Length of column or a moveable tray – This is important as will give you more flexibility in the width of materials that you can drill, with the ability to move the chuck and drill bit further away from the table to leave more space for the material you are working with.
- Power supply – Depending on the type of pillar drill that you are looking for, and the work that you need your pillar drill to complete, will determine the power supply. Most will be able to be used by standard mains electrics, however other more high quality models could require alternative power sources.
- Speed – Variable speeds are important when drilling to ensure a good job is completed. Also consider what you need to do to change the speed – make sure this is a relatively easy process.
- Workability – if you are going to be using your pillar drill frequently then it is especially important that your drill is easy to work with. This includes the type of handles that are included, the time that it takes to change the drill bit, and also the accuracy that each pillar drill can offer when drilling.
As you can see, there is a lot to consider before purchasing a pillar drill! We have tried to give you the bare basics that you could need – however if this has left you with even more questions, keep reading for all the further information that you need!
Types of Pillar Drill
Now that you know the main components of a pillar drill, it is important to know about the different types of pillar drill, as different styles will be suitable for different people and different jobs.
Bench mounted pillar drill
Bench mounted pillar drills are the most common type of pillar drill for DIY enthusiasts. Secured to a workbench, they are big enough to complete the job, but not so large that they are going to take up all of your workspace. Some will not require securing to your workbench, meaning that they can be moved around when necessary, however these models will be less secure (which isn’t ideal when working with a moving drill). Other models will require securing into your workbench surface, which adds to the safety of the device, but can cause problems if you are wanting to use your workbench for other jobs, or have a workbench that you cannot secure into.
Floor standing drill
Floor standing drills are simply pillar drills that stand on the floor, rather than on a bench. These are usually considerably larger models, that will take up a lot of space wherever you choose to house it, so unless you are needing a very high-spec, powerful drill then a bench drill is probably better suited to you.
Radial pillar drills
Radial pillar drills have one main difference from standard pillar drills, and this is in the head of the drill. As well as the distance from the material being able to be moved up and down, as with standard pillar drills, radial pillar drills also have a horizontal control adjustment, so that the chuck (and therefore the drill bit) can be moved further away from the column. This design can prove invaluable if working with larger pieces of material that need drilling towards the centre. This is something that cannot be done with a standard pillar drill, as the head will not move further into the piece of material.
A magnetic pillar drill is perfect for anyone wanting to move their drill to different locations, or possibly wanting to pack their drill away when they have finished working with. The magnetic element is linked to the base of the drill, which secures to any flat, metal surface using electromagnets.
As pillar drills can be quite large, it is not always ideal to have them secured to one place all of the time, particularly if you are working out of a garage or workman’s shed where you only have one workbench. With a magnetic pillar drill, you can be safe in the knowledge that your pillar drill is secure, as the magnets are incredibly strong, but then can also remove your drill when you have finished, to make space for completing other jobs.
How to Use a Pillar Drill
Pillar drills are relatively easy tools to use, but read on for a whistlestop tour on working with your pillar drill.
- First, we would always suggest practicing on a couple of pieces of scrap material before actually starting your DIY project.
- Check that the material you are going to use can be drilled using your pillar drill (you will be able to check this information in your manual)
- Use clamps to secure that material that you are going to be drilling and ensure that the point that you are wanting to drill is directly underneath the bit (we would recommend using a pencil/maker to make this point more obvious).
- Select the correct drill bit for the size of hole that you are wanting and secure this into the chuck (make sure that the drill bit is straight, as it can break otherwise!)
- Pull the safety guard down and switch on the machine.
- Slowly pull the lever down so that the drill touches the wood. It is always advisable to go slowly to start with, so that you can ensure you are drilling in the correct place and also to stop the material starting to spin.
- Once you are happy that the job is finished, simply pull the lever back up to remove the drill bit from the material.
TOP TIP: Most pillar drills will allow you to pull the lever down even when the device is off. If you are unsure of whether the drill bit is going to be accurate enough when drilling the hole then pull the lever down with the pillar drill switched off. You will be able to see exactly where the drill bit is going to hit, without it actually causing any damage to the material.
Safety Tips for Using a Pillar Drill
As with any DIY tool, there are safety precautions to consider when working with them. However with a powerful, large device like a pillar drill the risk of accident can be heightened if not used properly! We would strongly recommend considering all of the safety tips below before using your pillar drill.
- First and foremost, always read the instructions that come with your pillar drill – this will have specific information linked to your drill, both about the use of the drill and safety information.
- The material you are working with should be clamped to the bench/table when drilling. If the drill bit sticks into the material it can cause it to rotate, which could be dangerous if you are holding the material by hand.
- Gloves and glasses should be worn at all times, small pieces of debris can fly up when using a pillar drill, so although safety glasses aren’t always the most comfortable to wear, they are vital.
- If your pillar drill comes with a safety guard (many models do) then it is important to use this.
- If you choose a bench drill, then make sure this is secured correctly to the workbench. Failure to do so could not only damage the drill but could cause accidents!
- Make sure to locate your emergency stop button before switching on your pillar drill. This should be as simple as a push button but always check this before trying to drill holes into any materials.
- Consider using a dust mask, especially if you suffer with a bad chest. Drilling of any kind will cause considerable dust, which can aggravate even the healthiest of lungs!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a key chuck and key less model?
This refers specifically to the chuck (the part that holds the drill bit) and the ability to change the drill bit as you require. Key chuck models require you to fit a “key” into the side of the chuck to loosen/tighten the drill bit if you need to change it. This helps to add an extra level of security and safety when working, however in recent years there has been a considerable change to key less, self-tightening chucks which are much easier to use.
Do I need to do anything to maintain my pillar drill?
Yes. Pillar drills are relatively low maintenance but they are definitely not maintenance free! It is important to regularly grease all the moving parts of your pillar drill to ensure that it continues to work smoothly. We would also recommend making sure to move any dust and debris from your pillar drill after each use. As much as we appreciate this can be time consuming, it avoids the device overheating or breaking if parts become clogged with debris.