Drill Press Safety

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They may seem benign but, like any shop tool, drill presses need to be treated with respect. Used improperly you can “helicopter” your material, burn up drill bits, launch a chuck key, and worse. Most drill press safety is all about common sense, and Tom is passing his common sense safety rules along to you.

Discussion
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12 Responses to “Drill Press Safety”
  1. Brad

    One thing I think you missed. Never wear gloves while using a drill press. Also, if you are, for whatever season, using a strip of sandpaper or emery cloth to clean up something you have chucked in the drill press, do not wrap it around your hand or fingers or even the work piece.

    Reply
  2. James

    I have a few tips I would add, because I witnessed them first-hand in high school shop class, and one was the single worst woodshop accident I have ever seen – and all happened on a drill press – most falsely consider the least dangerous tool in the shop.

    First, do not wear jewelry or rings of any kind around machinery – they can snag easily on rotating tools and with the force of a spinning chuck grabbing a ring or necklace, you will loose. Make it a habit of removing them upon entering the shop to work.

    Second, related to the first, let any machine stop rotating and come to a complete stop before touching it. Another guy, same class of high school idiots, had the habit of letting his hand ride the chuck in a drill press or the spindle in a lathe as it came to a stop – the way a bike mechanic might slow a wheel he just spun. His ring caught the geared edge of a chuck enough to almost pull his finger off – luckily he just suffered a sprained and bruised hand.

    Third, a buddy had chucked up a small bit and was drilling a piece of metal. To see better, he leaned in close and upon doing so his long hair flopped forward and caught in the spinning chuck. In a millisecond, he was scalped of a nice chunk of hair and pulled into the machine receiving 12 stitches across his forehead. Goriest, bloodiest thing I have witnessed in a shop. Long hair was the fashion then, but it doesn’t need to be very long to grab – just depends on how close you get. Wear a backward baseball cap or bind hair back and consider adding a chuck guard to your machine. Or just shave it close and reduce the danger and save on haircuts.

    Lot’s to learn from useful idiots.

    Reply
    • J Dougherty

      One reason that many workers in shops used to wear a small cap is to help control their hair. They also protect your scalp against dings and knocks.

      Reply
  3. Ernest Steward

    The coiled line used here to hold the chuck key can get in the way. What I did is I went to a nearby truck stop and purchased one of those retractable lines that truckers use to secure their wallet. I secured the retraction device to the side of the drill press (left or right depending on your dominate hand) and the other end to the chuck key. Now, whenever I need to use the chuck key, I just pull it down and when I am done, it just coils back up out of the way. Works great!

    Reply
  4. Matthew Stillwell

    When trying to loosen the chuck one day when it was very tight, my hand slipped when the chuck freed up and the side of my thumb got ground through the key teeth. Vary painful and hard to stop that kind of bleeding. So, be careful tightening and loosing bits…

    Reply
  5. Ray

    I was taught by many machinists to always tighten the bit etc. using all 3 holes in the chuck.

    Reply
  6. Dave

    Good reminder and a few new tips too. Thanks to those who’ve shared in the discussion, too. I’m adding these to my instructions for the grandkids.

    Reply
  7. Thom

    I remember our metal shop teacher on the first few days covering shop safety but this was in the late 70’s so he didn’t just talk about he showed demonstrations like a sleeve getting caught in a drill press he intentionally put his sleeve into the drill bit and as the drill bit pulled his sleeve into it he let go till the last second to hit the big red power button and this was the first day of class. It worked nobody ever got a bad injury in his class as for Woodshop uuuhhh not so much

    Reply
  8. NORMAN

    I can add another caution (from personal experience). Using a hole saw as a bit and removing the waste stuck inside the bit after drilling…… Remove the hole saw bit form the press BEFORE prying the round blank out! Did this once without removal – prying out the black using a screw driver as leverage, inserted through the side slots of the bit – hit the start button by accident. Still have not found the screw driver. Grateful it was not embedded in my person!

    Reply
  9. Kevin O'Heany

    Forget any kind of dangling line holding the chuck key. I use a 1/2 inch rare earth magnet (a 1/4 inch would do as well; I just like the 1/2 inch because it’ll grab the key if I’m anywhere close) mounted on the side of the press. The key never moves unless I need it. You just have to remember to put it back after tightening the chuck.

    Reply

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