How to setup a Micro Drill Press

For a long time I had wanted to get a micro drill press for my Jewelry workshop. I finally took the plunge and put $$ on a machine but before I show you what I got and how to install it I want to start from the beginning i.e. how I actually decided what I was going to get.

Requirements

So like all good projects it all starts with the requirements. In case of a shiny new “toy” for the workshop the “I just NEED one” requirement obviously features rather high on the list. Having said that I did actually go through some analysis of my actual needs before pulling out the cash.

I started out looking at the following criteria which is pretty much the way I approach all new purchases:

  • What will I use it for?
  • What quality do I want?
  • What is my budget?

What will I use it for?

In my wood workshop I have a full size bench drill press and I use that for absolutely everything that need holes drilled in a perfect 90degree angle. I find that with hand drills it’s impossible to control the angle precisely and as soon as you use small drills you have a real risk of breaking the drill. Much the same applies to the handheld flex shaft. Although you have somewhat more control than a hand drill the drills are just that much smaller so the risk factor is the same.

So I wanted to have the same control when drilling material in the jewelry workshop.

I also wanted to experiment with drilling rocks, which require a water tray for cooling and definitely a drill press for control.

Quality

Well that’s a no brainer.. The best of cause.

Budget

Well again easy.. as little as possible.

So that clear in my head I took off on the usual Google surf to see what was available in micro drill presses.

Research

My first “love” totally went to the Cameron 164

Cameron 164

It ticked all my requirements for quality and totally looked the part had the right size and looked to be an overall mouthwatering package… Only one tiny little problem.. The price tag.. Retailing at what you can get a good secondhand car for in Australia I reluctantly moved on.

I went on to meet the MicroLux and the Proxxon which seem to be largely the same sort of machine. Both ticked the quality box and although I still find those Poxxon colors somewhat offensive, I know branding and market recognition, but they are still pretty “ugly”. MicroLux looked to be a great machine but unfortunately both carried a price tag over what I could justify.

Poxxon Drill press Microlux Drll press

I considered the drill press attachment for the Dremmel as well as the drill press attachment for the flex shaft. The Dremmel quickly got ruled out as I had previously bought the old version of the drill press attachment for my wood workshop it lasted maybe a year before the cogs inside broke.

Foredom Drill press

With the Foredom flex shaft drill press I figured it would be a pain in the b… having to install and deinstall the handle in the holder before it could be used. So that got ruled out too.

That unfortunately left me with a bit of a dilemma. Although I at almost any cost try to avoid overseas made tools I was left with only those types of machines in my budget range. Well I deliberated with myself for weeks before I decided to go for one of the “generic” overseas models. I call it generic since the same machine seem to come in a host of different “custom” colors with different named stickers but nevertheless all the same.

I did the research on where I could get the machine at what sort of $$ and surprise surprise it was about twice as expensive in Australia compared to the US. This includes shipping!! I must figure this out and start providing jewelry tools in Australia at prices compatible with the rest of the world.!

Order

So I went and ordered the machine from Otto Frei who seem to have a more sensible approach to shipping cost when compared to Rio Grande.

For my fellow countrymen and European friends I know you will say but.. but.. what about the power? It’s 110V not 230V. Yep totally true but check out my “Power for the Workshop” page where I describe the transformer I have to cater for exactly this problem. It has paid for itself in the form of savings on power tools a couple of times by now.

Receiving the machine

The one thing to contend with when ordering from the US is obviously delivery time, especially if you order something heavy. So I patiently waited several weeks before finally the post man (actually courier) dropped off the parcel. I was excited!

Jewelers Drill press 01

Unpacking

After settling the heart rate and whipping the worst saliva of the top of the box it was time for the unpacking as you can see I snug in a couple of extra bits and pieces like a small vise and a new mini Rawhide hammer.

Jewelers Drill press 02

Inside the big box all is very neatly packed in Styrofoam to make sure nothing gets scratched or dented during shipping. The first layer holds the base.

Jewelers Drill press 03

And the next layer the actual motor house, stand shaft and all the other bits that had to be put together.

Jewelers Drill press 05

I wouldn’t exactly say that the assembly instructions were great but luckily the machine itself is relatively simple and if you have seen a full size drill press you pretty much know what it should look like at the end.

I pulled out all the parts and laid them out on the work bench

Jewelers Drill press 04

Base, some tools and the spare drive belt

Jewelers Drill press 06

The Motor assembly

Cleaning

As you can tell from the photos all cast ion parts were well protected with that yellow brown greasy substance that is always used. It comes off pretty easily with a bit of turpentine on a cloth. Wipe the turpentine off with a dry cloth and put a tiny bit of machine oil, WD30 or silicone oil on the “shiny” parts to protect them.

Assembly

Ready for the assembly. You take the motor assembly an place the stand shaft into the hole in the base and tighten the hex screw with the included key.

Jewelers Drill press 09

Screw the lever arm into the side lever control and press the plastic cap for the stand shaft in place in the top of the shaft.

Jewelers Drill press 08

Before the lever arm is installed

Jewelers Drill press 13

After installing the lever arm.

That is pretty much it for assembly not hard at all.

Test

Before testing the machine it obviously need to be plugged in as you can see on the photo above being a 110V machine it comes with a US power plug. Luckily I have invested in a US Power board that is attached to my bench so that part was easy too.

You need to make sure the drive belt is sitting in the location you want i.e. there is a schema in the instructions outlining what sort of RPM’s (revolutions per minute) each of the settings will achieve. This is in addition to the electronic speed control on the side of the machine.

Jewelers Drill press 12

Lid closed and I was ready to test. This is where I had to realize that you get what you pay for. Although the overall build of the machine is OK (for what it’s worth) the sliding part of the housing was not sliding at all..!! i.e. the clamp on the motor house that sits around the post was too tight.

Being Cast iron I knew from previous disastrous experience that I should NOT try to bend the jaws apart as they would almost certainly break before bending. So I decided that the best approach would be to make the hole in the jaws a bit bigger by filing the inside with an emery stick.

Jewelers Drill press 10

Before filing

Jewelers Drill press 11

After filing. I did the filing in many turns testing fit often. Last thing I wanted to do was take off too much.

It took a bit of time and I guess that is where you can see the difference in a precision engineered and manufactured machine and a cheep imports.

I was ready for testing. I made “Swiss Cheese” out of a flock of different materials testing speed movement etc. and concluded that for the money I was happy with the purchases. I guess over time we will see if it lasts but so far so good.

It now has it’s own spot on the bench always connected and ready for use

So in closing I would not be shy to recommend this little drill press despite it being an import. The quality is OK and the price very good for what you get.

But let me know if you have other experiences or if you happen to be the lucky owner of Cameron 164’s I would love to hear if I should have forked out the rather serious cash of one of those instead.

Take Care

H