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Review: Harbor Freight 13" drill press (floor model)

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Review: Harbor Freight 13" drill press (floor model)

Unread postAuthor: Fnord » Mon Feb 06, 2012 8:55 pm

(Central Machinery brand)
Alright, here's my preliminary review. I might be adding more details later as I discover them.

______________________________

http://www.harborfreight.com/heavy-duty ... 38144.html

Price: $299; may be marked down $50 or more when on sale.
Specs:
5/8” chuck
3 1/8" stroke
16 speed, 220 – 3600 rpm
120volt single-phase 3/4hp motor
Swivel table with 45degree tilt

62” overall height
Roughly 130lbs




This is Harbor Freight's medium-duty drill press, intended for average-joe garage use and light production work.
The first thing I have to say is with regards to buying this or any HF drill press( or similar equipment)...
And that is, inspect it in the parking lot before you load it up. You might save yourself a return trip if you get a lemon.

Mine had very minor damage to the pulley cover but was otherwise ok. If possible, drop the table and head into place right there, tighten them up and check them for squareness against the column. A common defect is a table which is not perfectly level front-to-back. Also check the pulleys to make sure they are not wobbly or seized. If you have an inverter, get the motor running and verify the spindle doesn't wobble.

A second important thing: don't judge by the display items in the store. Most of them have been sitting there forever and get banged around when they move stuff. Mine looked way nicer than the one sitting out on the floor.

Putting it together was pretty straightforward and only requires two allen wrenches. Be sure to grease/oil everything up as you're doing the assembly; mine was pretty dry though no rust was visible. It also won't hurt to grease up the inside of the head while you still have access to it.

Initial problems I've noticed:
-Some of the screws and other fastener may be loose. Check the nuts on top of the pulleys if you have problems where the spindle stalls out but the motor is still spinning. You'll need a 1” socket to tighten them.
-The spindle does not wobble by itself, but with any sideways torque it will deflect a little. I have not found a way to correct this yet.
-The table, while normally square, also deflects downward when significant pressure is applied, even when it is tightened all the way. This is not a major issue unless you really have to force a bit through for some reason.
-I've heard others complain about the quality of the stock belts, but haven't had problems so far.
-Also, the base is cast iron and seems a bit thin compared to everything else. Try to take care of it :)


This press has recommended speeds printed on the inside of the cover, and is apparently rated up to 1/2” holes in mild steel. Of course the first thing I did was ram a 1” bit though steel and aluminum plate. The motor never stalled at 220rpm, in fact it did not even slow down. The only time I have stalled this press is because the belts started slipping. It is very quiet when idling, but gets kinda noisy when you're actually drilling. Most of this is just the pulley cover rattling.

I have done some very limited turning tests on this, and found it can be used as a makeshift lathe, but the accuracy is not that good due to the spindle deflection. When turning some 5/16” stainless rod I noticed quite a lot of noise coming from the pulleys, though adjusting the tool angle reduces this some.

If you plan on using this as a lathe, get a cross-slide vise. I have not tried the harbor freight model, so I can't say. I would not say this is a replacement for a mini lathe; if you want to turn plastic or small metal stuff it'll be just fine, but as I said, the spindle deflection will reduce the tolerances you can achieve.



Summary:

Pros-
-Plenty of power
-Oversized chuck that can still grip very small bits
-Actually decent quality for the money.

Cons-
-Probably not a good choice for turning
-Table is slightly out of square when not tightened.
-The benchtop model is identical, but a little cheaper. Go for it if you don't need the full floor-height capacity. Mine was on sale so it was the same price.
-The bolt for adjusting table tilt is kinda hard to get to. I recommend adjusting it with a heavy block of wood :D

Overall I think I would recommend this press. If want a better one, you're going to have to find a vintage american press or drop an extra $300-500 for an actual trusted name brand. I'm talking Jet, Clausing, ect.
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Attachments
CIMG1192.JPG
CIMG1176.JPG
Also 8" bench grinder, newly acquired :)
CIMG1168.JPG
This motor is actually pretty beefy, though the bracket that holds it on isn't. It does look rather easy to replace or upgrade if the need arises.
CIMG1185.JPG
As you can see, this can be used for small stuff. Try not to force your way through it too fast to prolong the life of your bearings.
CIMG1167.JPG
Oh, and for those of you not aware, here's a little trick for getting your table nice and level.
You'll figure it out.
Last edited by Fnord on Mon Feb 06, 2012 9:21 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Unread postAuthor: Gun Freak » Mon Feb 06, 2012 9:07 pm

Sweet. Nice review. I would not turn metal with it though. Could get ugly since this machine isn't made for it. I wouldn't use this for milling either. I bet it will ruin the bearings.
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Unread postAuthor: Fnord » Mon Feb 06, 2012 9:11 pm

I think it could be used for milling soft metals... *gently*.
The deflection would not be so bad for milling bits that are, say, 1/8" in diameter. You'd probably snap or bend the bit before you hurt the bearings.
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Unread postAuthor: Crna Legija » Tue Feb 07, 2012 4:29 am

I have the table top model and yeah i have the same problems but i got my for free as i found it in the street it was a bit rusted but still works.

I have milled the cover for my semi but i used a table saw and chisel to get most of it out then finished it with the drill press. i ground a 25mm spade bit to the shape i need and feed in slowly
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Unread postAuthor: sharpshooter11000 » Tue Feb 07, 2012 6:33 am

Wait, so you found a drill press just sitting on the street!?
Oh and nice review Fnord :wink:
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Unread postAuthor: velocity3x » Tue Feb 07, 2012 11:23 am

I bought this one about 8 years ago. My local HF store had them on sale for $185.00. Before using it, I replaced the chuck with a Jacobs chuck. I have no complaints as it does what it was designed to do......drill.

http://www.harborfreight.com/12-speed-f ... 39955.html
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Unread postAuthor: wyz2285 » Tue Feb 07, 2012 12:45 pm

I bought a table drill press last weekend too :P
Very nice to turn nylons and aluminium, but of course, the accuracy can not be compared to a lathe.
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Unread postAuthor: jsefcik » Tue Feb 07, 2012 5:08 pm

it breaks bring it back, simple as that, i have many things from harbor freight, many my dad gave to me and nothing has broke ever
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Unread postAuthor: Fnord » Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:55 pm

Update 20/ 2 /12


First defect discovered. We'll see what kind of reply I get from the HR guys.

Threaded rod snapped... self explanatory:
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Unread postAuthor: jrrdw » Tue Feb 21, 2012 8:08 am

Pulley or spindle assembly? Can't really tell from the pic.
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Unread postAuthor: Fnord » Tue Feb 21, 2012 6:40 pm

It's the foremost pulley, the one that drives the spindle.
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Unread postAuthor: Gun Freak » Tue Feb 21, 2012 8:55 pm

LOL Harbor Freight FAIL :D
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Unread postAuthor: jrrdw » Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:56 pm

Did you notice any unusual side to side play in the spindle?
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Unread postAuthor: Fnord » Sat Mar 03, 2012 10:09 pm

Update 3/3/12

Replacement part is being shipped for free. HF Customer service has been a little slow in replying but otherwise pleasant to deal with. While I'm fixing the thing I'm going to see if I can modify it to avoid a similar failure in the future. I'm also going to try contacting the R&D department to get this thing re-engineered correctly. This is the only part of the press I've seen that looks way underbuilt, so it has to be a common failure point.

Note that in its current condition the press is still functional. The pulley slips under load, but applying significant belt tension can still allow you to drill mid-range stuff with no problem.
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Unread postAuthor: Fnord » Tue Apr 17, 2012 5:36 pm

17/4/2012

Well guys, I broke another pulley insert a while back. I talked to the HF quality control guy and he said he'd test them out.
In an obviously thorough and comprehensive test, he drilled two 3/4" holes in mild steel and concluding that I could not have broken the insert in this manner.
From this I concluded he's either really, really busy or doesn't care. I'm not going to bother arguing anymore.

If anyone would be interested in machining me a new part from a decent alloy, please leave a reply. This might be tricky though, since I'm not sure how one would do the spindle engagement teeth.

I have parts on back order, but they'll be at least another month for whatever reason.
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