Funny how the addition of a piece of machinery or a new hand tool can get you all fired up to build furniture. For years I’ve looked for any kind of radial drill press to add to my woodworking shop. I’ve had a bench top Delta drill press for years that I bought used back in the mid 80’s, but it has limited capability for drilling holes due to the shallow distance of the spindle to the column/post. Recently, I had the opportunity to acquire a used radial drill press and after some extensive degreasing and replacing the start up capacitor, it is now ready for action. It is the Delta 11-090 model which has a bench top design. Admittedly, it took awhile to clean it up. The previous owner had left the original cosmoline on it(a vaseline type preservative used to prevent rust accumulation) because he stored it in an unheated garage. The cosmoline was really caked on the metal parts and it took some elbow grease and kerosene to remove it. To my surprise the paint and exposed steel surfaces looked like new. Once the cosmoline was gone it was also no problem to adjust the depth and angle of the spindle. To make it suitable for chair making I made a new plywood table that is 16 inches wide by 30 inches long and 3/4 inch thick. The whole purpose for this investment was to perform compound angle drilling in Shaker ladder back and Windsor chair construction.
While I am quite capable in drilling holes using sliding T bevels and sight lines based on my Windsor chair training, I believe that this machine will help me to be more productive as a chair maker. I say that because I have limited shop time and I want to develop some greater efficiency in boring seat, leg and stretcher holes. I will also use it to ream the tapered seat holes for joining the Windsor chair legs with locking tenons. It will also help me to drill all the angled holes required with Shaker ladder back chairs that feature many leg and rung joints that have to be precisely drilled. This will not lessen the accuracy and fit of any legs, spindles or stretchers. Another benefit will be that any jigs I make now for Shaker chairs can be simplified because the drill press has capability to drill angled holes.
A couple critiques of the 11-090 that is worth noting is that the design is lacking for making adjustments for drilling various distances away from the vertical post (throat). Newer radial drill presses feature smoother adjustments through gears for the position of the spindle and the angle of drilling. However, this will not be a problem for me as a chair maker because I won’t be changing the distance between the spindle to vertical post very often. What I will be changing frequently is the drilling angle and that is easy to do with this model.
Likewise the height of the table requires manual adjustment, but that also won’t be a problem for me. Newer models usually feature a cranked adjustment for the height of the table.