How Was the Drill Press Invented?

Initially invented in Melbourne, Australia in 1889, the today’s drill press was referred as a ‘drilling machine’ in the 19th centuries. Nowadays, no other tool compares to it as far as matters to do with drilling or boring materials go. Evidently, it took ages for woodworkers to know about its advantages. Today, a drill press can be used to make precision holes repeatedly thus making easier work that could have taken people ages to finish. This begs the question, did a solo inventor create drill press or it’s a result of evolution?

Well, the first hand-operated drill press was created using hand-crank drills for small holes. They could also do larger brace-style drills whenever more torque was needed. At first, the drill press used to turn clockwise only from the operators perspective. This is still a common occurrence. After several years, a reverse feature would be added to drill presses, but first.

A Centuries-Long History On How Today’s Drill Press Was Invented

The first drill press appeared in machine and smithy shops more than two centuries ago. They were built of cutting metal and powered by hand crank with its habitual U-shaped design. The stationary drill press was so precise thus being overly advantageous to factory blacksmiths as it enabled them to make repeatable cuts with unrivaled accuracy. Unlike today’s drill press, they never used any electric power but despite all that, they were still faster and accurate than most of the then hand operated electric drills.

Fascinating Facts About The Drill Press

  • They are one of the oldest machine tools.
  • Until early 19th century, the human-powered drill press was the most popular tool available to mechanics and craftsmen due to its versatility.

Who Invented the Drill Press?

Honestly, this point is somehow unclear. However, one thing is vivid, that Australia patented the electric press drill in 1889. In the year 1895, the first portable handheld drill was developed by brothers Carl Fein and Wilhelm. On the other hand, there are believes that invention of the drill press is more of a revolutionary development of the ancient drill-based hand tool since no single person can be credited with its invention. However, thanks to technological advances that entailed invention of electricity, there was a strong impetus to drill press’s development.

  • During the 19th-century, drill presses were mainly powered by pulleys and line-shafts using steam. Towards the 20th century, crude electrical energy replaced the steam energy.
    With the availability of AC power and personal electric motors in the 20th century, the drill press became widely used.
  • In the 1930’s, some companies such as Delta and Sears and Montgomery Ward started providing drill presses for home workshop use.
  • Initially, drill presses were ‘poewered’ by a feed arm which had a wheel attached to it to insert the rotating drill bit into the wood. The wheel would be backed out in order to remove the bit from the wood. Later on, newer models used a lever-operated and dual-feed mechanism that resulted in the faster removal of bits from the wood thus making the entire drill operation much faster.

The Emergency of Electric Motors

These came with features such as larger chuck for securing various bits, an adjustable-height work table and a plunging bit mechanism. They were first built in the 1920’s. This innovation called for drill presses to come with bigger floor standing versions. Some of these models are still used today.

The Drill Press We Know Today

Nowadays, drill presses are available in different sizes and are normally equipped with attachments for sanding, routing, shaping and mortising wood. They also come with variable speed motors. The modern drill press also has T-track miter slots and is incorporated in the table saw. T-track is used for mounting vises and hold-downs and clamping blocks. Some modern drills even have add-ons such as mortising attachments that allows the user to make square holes for mortises. Undoubtedly, the great versatility of today’s drill press is due to its common development lengthy history.

The Bottom Line

From being powered by human effort to water wheels, windmills, and varied belts, drill presses have undeniably come a long way. With the continuous advancement in the technology, there is no doubt that just like many other electric tools, drill presses are just going to get better. Hope we live long enough to see the next phase of this heavenly tool.

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