Making a Bench Top Drill Press Into a Floor Model Drill Press

When I bought my drill press, a couple years ago, I had three criteria:

  1. I wanted it to be sturdy
  2. I wanted a depth-stop that wouldn’t wander or slip
  3. I wanted it to be cheap

I was not looking to buy the best tool I could afford, simply because I had very basic needs.  I didn’t want lasers, bellows, work lights, digital readouts, mini fridges, or anything else manufacturers find necessary to attach to a drill press.  All I really wanted to do was drill repeatable holes. So I ended up buying a Skil drill press from Lowes for about $90 (it has a laser, but as far as I can tell, the laser was free).

When I was building my dining room table, I designed the top to be held together with doweling, and so I had to drill straight holes into the ends of 4-foot long pieces of wood to receive the dowels.

Since I could not fit a 4-foot piece of wood in my drill press, I loosened the top of my drill press and swung it out over the edge of my workbench so that I had as much clearance as the space between the drill press chuck and the floor.

Today, I was working on re-arranging my shop a little bit, and in the process of moving my drill press, I decided to solve the problem in a more permanent way.

The first thing I did was remove the base of the drill press. I set it on its side to make this easier.

Drill Press - Removing the base

I then started to install the base in the new location, but deliberately installed it backwards to bring the mounting circle closer to the front of the workbench. Since my drill press only had two mounting holes, and would be hanging over the edge of my workbench, I made a small metal plate to span the slots in the base so that I could add additional screws near what was now the back of the base.

Drill Press - Base Partially Installed 2

I then also bolted the base down through the normal mounting holes.

Drill Press - Base fully installed

The last step was to re-attach the press to the base, backwards relative to how it was initially mounted.

Now it looks a little funny, but as you can see, the chuck is hanging over the edge of the bench, and so if I need to work with a piece that is too long for the standard bench-top capacity, I can swing the drill press table out of the way and work with the floor as my lower limit.

Drill Press - Side

Another benefit of this arrangement is that the shavings from my drilling fall onto the floor, instead of onto my workbench.

Drill Press - Front

DIY Moxon Vise

I am now finally following through with my previous plan to build a Moxon vise for my workbench that looks and works like the Benchcrafted vise, but costs about 5% as much.

The key to my design is to base it on a pair of C-Clamps as a cheap source of strong ACME threads. I picked mine up at Harbor Freight for about $7 each.

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The first step was to disassemble the clamps.

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I then cut the frame of the clamp about 1 1/2″ from the internally threaded portion.

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I had a couple hand wheels from my second table saw, that I repurposed as the handles for the vise. I had all the necessary parts ready and started with the build.

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First I drilled holes in the internally threaded segments in order to mount them to the inside of my workbench frame.

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In order to get them to sit flat against the workbench frame, I had to shim up the area with the screw-holes, to keep the screws from pulling this section too close to the frame.

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Next I drilled holes in the workbench frame about 26″ apart where I wanted to install the vice, and then attached the internally threaded C-Clamp portions directly behind these holes so that I could screw the threaded rods into them through the bench frame.

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This gave me plenty of room in between the screws to hold anything I could (practically) want to in the finished vise.

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The hand wheels needed some work before I could use them. They had unwanted (for my purposes) handles sticking out of them, and the center holes were too small to fit the threaded rods.

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I used my shop press, which I bought to replace the bearings in my table saw arbor, to press out the handles.
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I then measured the threaded rod end and found the nearest size drill bit I had.

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…Yes… the nearest size bit I had was a paddle wheel bit…but it worked (the hand wheels are cast aluminum).

Moxon Vise - Drilling out the Handwheel

I then drilled and tapped a hole to insert a set screw to hold the threaded rod in place.

Moxon Vise - Handwheel with Setscrew

I decided to use pieces of white oak that I had leftover from another project as the back and front of the vise. With the wheels attached to the end of the threaded rods, I placed the back piece on the top of the threaded rods and marked the center of each rod on the board.

Moxon Vise - Measuring

Moxon Vise - Marking for Center

Then I extended the marks to the center of the board where I wanted to drill the holes.

Moxon Vise - Marking for Drilling

I clamped the two pieces together (with the measurements on the top piece) and drilled a 5/8″ hole through both boards for each of the threaded rods.

Moxon Vise - Drilling the face and Back

I clamped the board in place during installation. The threaded rods had a nearly perfect fit in the 5/8″ holes, so I had to loosen the screws holding the internally threaded clamp sections on the back of the workbench frame, and then re-tighten the screws after threading in the rods through the attached oak board; otherwise things didn’t quite line up, and the threads would bind.

Moxon Vise - Installing the back

Moxon Vise - Assembled

That’s it! I now have a Moxon vise! Since I already had the wood and the hand wheels, it only cost me $16.

I will probably spend a little more money on a thicker piece of wood for the front piece, just to give it a bit more rigidity, or maybe I’ll just reinforce it with some scrap metal, but it works quite well for now.

Moxon Vise - Complete

I tested it with a 24″ wide piece of plywood:

Moxon Vise - Test

I took some time to summarize the project in a video for those of you (us) who are reading-averse, but I’ve buried it at the bottom of the article to make you read the whole story before you realize you could have just watched the video:

Ending Hacksaw Frustration

Historically, my hacksaw has served three purposes:

  1. Cutting soft pipes (ABS/PVC/Copper)
  2. Making rough cuts on small piece of wood
  3. Driving me to tears when I try to cut metal

Whether it was a bolt, a piece of rebar, sheet metal, or thin angle iron, I had constant frustration.

The blade would curve in a bolt, burn out in rebar, catch on the sheet metal, and take several minutes to cut the angle iron.

Why should this be the case? I thought this was what a hacksaw was meant for! I only own a hacksaw for metal cutting, why should this also be the task at which it failed so dramatically?

My first attempt to solve this was to buy a high-tension hacksaw.

This helped to keep the blade straight, but I still had every other issue.

Then, one Christmas I received a package of Bacho Sandflex hacksaw blades. My father-in-law bought them for me because they were on sale, and he was curious to see if I could figure out why they would be normally sold at Rockler for comically expensive $13 a pair.

I took them home, strapped one onto my high-tension frame and cut a piece of angle iron.

Then the roof was lifted off my garage, the heavens opened wide, angels sang, and God Himself spoke unto me “My child, you have discovered my blessed hacksaw blades, share this knowledge with all you meet.   …Oh, and by the way, I lost a cup down there a while ago, let me know if you see it.”

I awoke moments later and saw a clean, straight cut that had happened faster than I had ever seen a hacksaw move. It easily rivaled the speed with which I had previously made the same cut using my angle grinder and a cut-off disc.

The secret to these blades is a progressive tooth spacing (28-18 TPI), with finer teeth at the start of the blade, and larger teeth at the end.

This allows the blade to start on the fine teeth without catching, and to remove large amounts of material with the larger teeth once momentum is gained near the end of the stroke.

The blade can be used on thin metal, thick metal, plastic, and wood, and I love it. Also, because the blades are versatile by design, it is difficult to misuse them, and so they last a long time.  I purchased another set when I saw them on sale, but I am only on my second blade and haven’t had to open the second package.

There are very few upgrades I have made in my tool collection that have made this much of a difference in results.

So I am sharing this life-changing story, according to my divine directive, in hopes that you too will see the light, and get the most out of your hacksaw.

DIY Moxon Vise Concept

I use StumbleUpon.com to explore the internet for woodworking sites and other things that interest me (technology, conspiracy theories, extreme sports, alien technology, etc…).

A few days ago I stumbled across this:

First I thought: “COOL!”

Then I tought: “Holy Crap that’s expensive!”

And then I inevitably thought: “I can make that.”

After a bit more research I found I was not the only one with this idea; there were several instances of people buying ACME threaded rods and nuts, and making hand wheels and essentially replicating the vise for about $50.

But I thought better of that. I thought, I know of something cheap, with ACME threads and nuts incorporated that I can modify to suit my needs:

TaDa! C-Clamp!

But you may be wondering, “what is the purpose of a Moxon vise that is not served by a regular vise?” Supposed you have a 4-foot long board, and you want to sand, cut, plane, or otherwise modify one end of the board. With a regular vise, you would have to put the board horizontally into the vise, and work sideways on the end grain. Because a Moxon vise is open in the middle, the board can be placed vertically in the vice, with the majority of the board below the vise, and the end you want to work on kept securely at a comfortable working height. That’s why you would want a Moxon vise.

I haven’t gotten around to making the vise yet (I just thought of it yesterday), but rather than make you wait to see what I intend to do, I made my Moxon vise in Sketchup.

Step 1: Purchase two (2) 8″ industrial C-Clamps:

Step 2: Cut the majority of the “C” off to make it look like this:

Step 3: Cut slots and drill holes in a 2×4 to hold the “nut” portion of the modified clamp:

Step 4: Drill holes and place washers on a piece of wood to make the face piece (I suspect something stronger than a 2×4 would be good here):

Step 5: Drill corresponding holes in the front of your workbench (which happens to have a 2×4 frame), attach the base piece and thread the clamps into their corresponding  “nuts”:

One key difference between my design and Moxon’s, is that my threaded rods are movable, and are threaded into the base to tighten the vise, rather than having them statically mounted into the base and tightening the vise by screwing a threaded hand wheel onto it.

I suspect this allows the tradition Moxon vise to be mounted to the face of a solid wood workbench because the threaded rods do not need to extend beyond the back of the vise. But since by workbench is not solid wood, but rather plywood on  a lumber frame, I can extend the threads beyond the vise.

The advantage of my design is that it will not have long threaded rods extending out from my workbench when the vise is closed.

I’m not sure when I’ll get the chance to actually build this vice, but I will build it, and I will write about it when I do.