What Are the Slots in a Drill Press Base For? a Clear Answer

Have you ever wondered what the slots in the bench or pedestal drill’s base are for while using your drill press?

You’re not alone, after all! Many people are unaware of these drill press slots’ functions! I assure you that they serve a useful role, but what are the slots in a drill press base for?

The slots that you find in the base of a drill press are called t-slots. These drill press slots are for your safety as well as for connecting longer workpieces that won’t fit between the table and the spindle, or to connect a jig or your drill press vise to.

I’ll examine these drill press slots and what are the slots in a drill press base for in more detail in this article.

Once you know why and how to utilize them, you can use your drilling machine in ways you probably never thought were possible.

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Just to clarify what we are talking about

What Is a Drill Press Base?

The base refers to the lower part of a drill press machine that provides stability and support to the entire unit. It is typically a flat, sturdy platform that sits on the floor or a workbench. The base is designed to securely hold the drill press column in an upright position, ensuring accurate and precise drilling operations.

The base is typically constructed of cast iron or steel to ensure durability and stability. It often has pre-drilled holes or slots that allow for easy attachment to a workbench or other surfaces using bolts or clamps. These holes or slots also enable adjustments for different drilling positions or angles.

What Are the Slots in a Drill Press Base For - Drill press base (Picture by Jet)
Drill press base (Picture by Jet)

The size and shape of drill press bases can vary depending on the specific model and manufacturer. Some bases have additional features such as built-in work lights, storage compartments for drill bits or accessories, or adjustable height settings to accommodate different workpieces.

The base is essential in providing secure stability, balance, and support to the drilling machine, thus allowing for effective and precise drilling.

What are T-slots?

What Are the Slots in a Drill Press Base For

Let me explain what it’s about for those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about. You may likely notice two or more slots on the drill press’s base if you stand in front of it and look down to your workstation. There should be a wider hole at the end of each of these slots to accommodate the T-bolts.

These slots can only be found in the base on a drill press, not a hand drill. Go check out my article Drill press vs hand drill (Which one to use when) to see the differences between them and to learn which one is the best option for the work you are doing. Don’t miss that information to get the most out of your tools and make your work easier and achieve better results.

What are T-bolts?

What Are the Slots in a Drill Press Base For - T bolts
T bolts

A T-bolt is a bolt with a T-shaped head, made to fit in a T-shaped slot. Its T-shaped head prevents the bolt from spinning in the slot when tightened. A T-bolt usually also has a thinner head than regular bolts so that it can be easily and quickly installed in slots.

In the case of the drill press, the t-bolts go through the larger holes and slide them under the table or base. By attaching a nut to the screw thread you can secure your workpiece. These bolts can also be used on T-track rails on your workbench, table saw and so much more.

What Are the Slots in a Drill Press Base For

T-slots are actually highly handy in drill presses, but many people have never utilized them. T-bolts fit into the cavity beneath these slots, but if used improperly, they risk cracking. Even though you might not utilize them frequently, being aware of these slots might lead to a wide range of opportunities. So, what are the slots in a drill press base for? You will discover it in detail below.

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Clamping

The use of the drill press slots in the base of a drilling machine is mainly to clamp heavy work or large parts so that you can secure the work in a very efficient way while drilling. If the workpiece is too large to fit between the table and the spindle, you can swing the table away and use the base as a table. However, make sure that the drill point is perfectly centered with the center of the foot.

Personally, I’ve used this several times while working in my workshop, but I’ll be honest, for the type of work I do, however, this is a small percentage of all the drilling jobs I do.

Pro Tip

Do not confuse the distance between the table and the spindle, and the column and the spindle. That’s called the drill press swing. Few people have heard of it, so I wrote my article What is a drill swing (a clear, detailed answer) so that you can learn everything about it.

I myself have a smaller model of a drill press. So the times that I have to swing the table away will be greater than if you have a larger model, where the base is just too far from the drill.

The larger the drilling machine model you have in your workshop, the less likely it will be that you will need the drill press slots in the foot.

The idea is that if you need to drill into the end of a very tall or long object, you can clamp this part to the machined base of the drill thanks to the t-slots, allowing for drilling. The drill press table is pivoted out of the way, providing the maximum possible clearance between the shank and mounting surface.

The best type of clamps to use for this is the MFT style quick release clamp. They fit it these slots (at least for my drill press) and can be used for many clamping tasks in the workshop. Every woodworker should have at least 2 of these, in my opinion!

If you want to discover more clamps that are used in woodworking, I suggest you take a look at my article What Woodworking Clamps Do I Need? 3 Essential Clamps + Helpful Tips.

Holding your drill press vise

To be able to drill large pieces, you can clamp them in the t-slots. But what if the object is shaped in such a way that you cannot clamp it, for example, if you want to drill a hole in the front side of a table leg, what then?

Well, then you can use your drill press vise and fix it in the t-slots. That way you can still clamp the object and because the drill press vise is clamped to the base, the object in which you have to drill cannot move. Handy, isn’t it?

To secure your vise to the base, and proceed in the same manner as if you were clamping the table. Did you know it’s easy to construct your own drill press vise?

You can see how I built my own vise in the video down below. I can tilt this vise up to 45 degrees, which makes it advantageous for drilling slanted holes.

Safety

T-slots are there to clamp things and drill perfect holes, but they’re more than that. T-slots are also a common safety feature on the base of drill presses.

T-slots are also used on drill presses to securely hold large workpieces that may not fit between the table and shank. This allows you to drill without worrying that your workpiece will accidentally fall or slip and hurt you.

A drilling machine can reach great speeds and is therefore quite a dangerous machine. Proper clamping of workpieces is one of the basic requirements for safe work.

Warning!!!

These slots are only for clamping items to the baseplate. DO NOT use these slots to screw the drill press to the floor or your workbench. Making a connection with a solid surface at this location can cause the base to crack.

Mounting Fixtures and Jigs

In addition to providing stability, the slots found in the base serve as invaluable mounting points for fixtures and jigs, opening up a world of possibilities for your drilling operations. Fixtures, those specialized tools and devices designed to secure, position, or guide workpieces, can be easily attached to the base’s slots.

Likewise, jigs—those custom-made templates used for repetitive drilling tasks—find a secure home on the base as well. By utilizing these mounting points, you unlock the potential for heightened precision, consistency, and repeatability in your projects.

This proves particularly advantageous when working on intricate designs or when strict adherence to specific angles and dimensions is required.

Handling Longer Workpieces

One remarkable advantage of the slots within the drill press base lies in their ability to accommodate longer workpieces. Imagine a situation where the material you’re working with extends beyond the dimensions of the drill press table—fear not, for the slots in the base come to the rescue!

By skillfully employing suitable clamps or fixtures, you can extend the support and stability necessary for longer workpieces.

This ensures proper alignment and security throughout the entire drilling process. Whether you’re dealing with lengthy wooden boards, metal rods, or pipes, the slots in the drill press base prove to be a reliable and adaptable solution.

Tailoring Your Work Setup

The slots in the drill press base offer an exceptional degree of customization and adaptability, empowering you to tailor your work setup to meet the specific requirements of any project. Capitalizing on these slots allows you to attach a wide array of accessories, fixtures, and jigs, transforming your drill press into a versatile tool for various tasks.

This remarkable flexibility bolsters your efficacy and output, allowing you to attain prime results for a wide array of tasks. Whether you find yourself engrossed in woodworking projects, engaging in intricate metal fabrication, or undertaking precise drilling for jewelry making, the slots in the base provide an adaptable platform for customization, making your work a truly personalized experience.

what drill press speed to use

Ok, I just mentioned that a drilling machine can handle high speeds. As you may have seen from the various v-belt pulleys on your drill press, you can use these to make the drill run faster or slower. But what speed should you use? In the beginning, I also had trouble with this and I couldn’t understand what it was about.

Lucky for you, thanks to my article, What Drill Press Speed Should I Use? (+Drill Press Speed Chart), you don’t have to guess which speed to use anymore. There you can see in detail which speed you have to set to make a correct and precise drill hole.

What are the slots in a drill press base for – final toughts

T-slots in the base of your drilling machine are not only there to secure your workpiece or drill press vise when you want to machine larger pieces, it is also an important drill press safety feature. Even though you may use these slots to a lesser extent, understanding their purpose opens up a whole new world of possibilities.

But be careful and use these slots for what they are really intended for. So NEVER use them to fix this power tool to the floor or workbench. The holes in these slots can crack or peel if misused.

Ok, now you know exactly what these slots are for, you can start using your drilling machine correctly. To get even more out of your drill press you have to see my article “5 Drill Press Hacks You Should Know“. Do not miss these tricks as they can level up your skills. To end, here’s a comparison table that summarizes the key points from this article:

FunctionClamping and Securing WorkpiecesMounting Fixtures and JigsSupporting Longer WorkpiecesCustomization and Adaptability
DescriptionUtilize slots in the base for clampingAttach fixtures and jigs for precisionAccommodate longer workpiecesCustomize work setup with accessories
BenefitsSecure heavy or large work efficientlyEnhance precision and consistencyProvide support for longer materialsTailor the drill press to specific needs
Use CasesClamping large parts or swinging the tableAchieving intricate designs and anglesWorking with lengthy boards or metal rodsWoodworking, metal fabrication, etc.
Safety ConsiderationsProper clamping for safe drillingIncreased stability for workpiecesEnsures alignment and securityVersatile platform for customization

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the parts of a drill press?

A drill press consists of essential components: base, column, head, table, spindle, chuck, depth stop, and feed handle.

Is a drill press better than a drill?

A drill press offers precision, stability, and control for consistent drilling. It’s best for larger workpieces. Handheld drills are portable, versatile, and ideal for smaller tasks or tight spaces.

What are the names of the 3 types of drill presses?

The three types of drill presses are benchtop, floor, and magnetic. Benchtop is compact, floor is powerful, and magnetic is for metal surfaces.

Do you need a guard on a drill press?

Using a guard on a drill press is crucial for safety. It protects from contact with the drill bit and prevents debris. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for proper use.

Is it better to drill fast or slow?

The drilling speed depends on the drill bit and material. Slower speed for hard materials, faster for softer ones. Correct speed prevents overheating and damage.

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