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Harbor Freight 16 Speed Floor Drill Press - Model 43389 (similar model 35585)
A floor drill press takes up some floor space but the extra spindle to table/base distance is quite useful even if you find yourself working with smaller pieces much of the time. It takes just that one time when you find yourself with a short Z-axis travel on your bench mounted drill press or mini-mill that having a floor model will pay for itself.
In our search of a fairly rugged and inexpensive drill press, we first sought out Harbor Freight. Even Enco, Home Depot/Lowes and other discount tool retailers couldn't come close.
At $289.99, it's not a steal but certainly a good bang for the buck machine. It comes with a 1HP motor and a 192 lb. weight - as compared with the 43378 which has a 3/4 HP motor and 118 lbs - the extra $100 was a worthwhile premium (weight is good!). Model 35585 is the one that's in the local store. The main difference besides the $10 price is that the handles are three-spoke metal instead of the plastic "starfish" design. The yellow color accented pieces are the same. We had a recent 15% flyer coupon discount which was applied to bring the in-store price of $299.99 down a bit.
It also comes with a plastic oiler and flex nozzle to constantly oil the workpiece and the table is not like the usual one - it is solid and has 4 t-slots that work with 1/2" set block clamping sets and has a hole that the collector bottle screws onto to collect the coolant/fluid.
It's heavy and requires two people to manage it comfortably into your car or pickup. Once the box is open, it takes minutes to assemble the few pieces.
To save money at Harbor Freight, pay close attention to their sales cycles. Firstly, subscribe to their mailing list for flyers and catalogs. The flyers often have the $5, 5%, 10%, 15%, and the often-sought 20% coupon for in-store purchases. They also email the coupons along with other sale items.
We bought this one using a 15% coupon that was sent via the flyer which brought the in-store price from $299.99 down a bit. Unfortunately, the week before, the other flyer had this item on sale for $199.99! Much better than using a 15% coupon at its regular price. Just a little example of their timing..
This drill press has some nice features not found in benchtop or lower end drill presses. But before we discuss that, we wanted to point out that we wanted to point out how to tighten the belts. There's a little lever on the right side of the head. Push it to create the right belt tension and the tighten the bolts on the bottom of the head.
Now on to the features. One of the better things it has going for it is the lighting. Simply screw in a standard light bulb under the head casting:
We use a daylight spectrum 60w bulb in here.
On the left hand side of the head casting, is where the very cheaply made plastic oiler bottle is held by some steel band clamps:
It has a flex tube and nozzle that can be pointed to the workpiece that you're drilling. It also has a stopper (not shown) to control ON/OFF and flow.
This model drill press has a rotary table with 4 t-slots in it for 1/2" sizes. Since we already have a 1/2" step block clamp set, it was easy to use them here:
Notice the little hole at the end of the bottom right slot (near the outer edge of the table). This is the hole where the receiving bottle screws in and collets the fluid. It would be nice to modify this so that the bottles have an easy interchange connectors so that the collector bottle can simply be swapped with the upper discharge bottle to avoid having to constantly refill one with the other.
Finally, there are often times questions about removing drill chucks from arbors. "How do I remove the drill chuck from the quill?" Well, it's actually two-stepped.
Firstly, pull down on the handle to extend the quill and you'll see this:
You stick the provided "drift" which is nothing more than a piece of stamped steel that has a wedge profile of a certain angle into the hole you see in the quill and tap on it. The drill chuck and arbor will drop (so place a towel underneath).
To remove the drill chuck itself from the arbor can be done in a few ways. Sometimes there's actually a hole through the chuck itself. Open the chuck jaws using the key. If you see a hole in there, just stick a piece of rod in and tap away. The arbor should release. Sometimes a simple tap of the chuck with a rubber mallet (don't whack it with all your might!) will release it. If so, chances are your chuck was a bit loose to begin with.
In summary, this is a great mid-level floor drill press. Sure, it uses cheap parts and the castings are fairly crude, but for $200 (on sale) or even around $250 (with a coupon assuming no sales tax), it's about the most affordable one you'll be able to purchase. Even ENCO doesn't have a comparably priced floor model drill press with this capacity.
Having said that, the top of the Harbor Freight line of drill presses is model 39955 (online SKU, different in-store) which features a 1.5 HP motor and a tilting square table with t-slots. Again, it uses the cheap fluid coolant "system", but also has a speed range of 150-4,200 RPM! They call it a "production" drill press. We'll have a review on this shortly. The online regular price is $499.99 and regularly is on sale for $479.99, but if you check the flyers, sometimes they'll sell for $359.99! (a $120 savings!). If you happen to time it right (by dumb luck) and have a 20% coupon, you can get one for just $287.99. Wow!