What is a Radial Drill Press?


There is more than one type of drill press out there. The different types of presses are best for different things. One option is a radial drill press or a radial drill press arm. This drill press is incredibly versatile because you can move the arm around and reach more spaces and places with it.

In this guide, we will talk about just a radial drill press is and give you more details about how this drill works and just what you can do with it as well.

Radial Drill Press Explained

The radial drill press is much like a regular drill press. The most significant difference is that a radial drill press has a radial arm attachment. These presses still drill, bore, screw, countersink, and more.

The part that really sets a radial drill press apart is that the arm on it is mobile. Rather than your standard arm that you might be able to move up and down, this arm can move all around. This is what really makes a difference in how versatile and effective this type of drill press is.

You can adjust the height, you can move the arm, and you can completely rotate the arm and swing it around on the press.

On top of that radial movement, you still get all of the other benefits of a drill press. In fact, some drill presses even allow you to add radial arms to them as a way to upgrade them but that is not always the case.

When it comes to the drill press, the versatility of the radial arm makes this a top choice in the industry. It is the most versatile drill press type you will find out there because you have a high range of motion.

Most radial drill presses are either on large machines or on benchtop models so you can mount and stabilize your drill press. This just makes it easier to make sure it’s always balanced or mounted down so there are no mishaps.

Of course, that radial arm also gives you some mobility so you can swivel the arm and move in larger or heavier pieces that need worked much easier without the awkward transition and limited space from a stationary arm.

Radial Drill Press Parts

radial drill press parts
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Let’s break it down a little bit further. Radial drill presses are made up of several different parts. Each part has its own detail and its own purpose for the tool.

Here are the main parts of this tool.

  • Base
  • Table
  • Column
  • Arm Raise
  • Arm Clamp
  • Spindle
  • Drill Head
  • Radial Arm

Understanding the parts is a major factor in understanding how this machine works.

If you’re familiar with a standard drill press, most of this will be familiar to you.

The base is obvious. This is the foundational piece of the equipment because it supports the entire machine. This is your stabilization. If you don’t have a good base, you don’t have a good machine.

From the base, you have the column and then the table. The column is the piece that everything else will attach to. It’s almost like a lamppost but a lot sturdier. The column rises up from the base and then comes to the table.

The table is your space to work on. It’s not usually very large so you may want to add a drill press table for more space. You will use the table to work and hold materials or feed them through.

The arm clamp attaches your arm to the column. The radial arm itself is attached by this clamp underneath the head of the drill. It can rotate and move around on this particular type of drill press. The arm raise allows you to raise and lower the arm as needed on the column.

Then you have the head and the spindle. The head holds the spindle, which is the part of the drill that will attach to your bit or your cutting tool and do the work for you.

Uses for a Radial Drill Press

uses for a radial drill press
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The radial drill press is a very useful tool and you can do a lot with it. You will find that there are quite a few options out there to choose from so be sure to try to find the best radial drill press for your needs.

The radial advantage of the drill press lets you move the arm around rather than trying to figure out tilting angles for different tasks.

This is a delightful tool when it comes to drilling at angles. Things like long boards that are hard to get to or something like a chair table leg that needs drilled are simplified so much so that you can work them easier.

The other useful thing about a radial arm is that it extends because of the rotational piece so you can take your arm to the center of a larger piece and have so much more room to work with.

You can rotate the arm and tilt the arm so your mobility has more than doubled in some cases compared to a standard drill press.

On top of these boosts, you can still do all of the same things that you can do on a regular drill press.

Types of Radial Drill Presses

types of radial drill presses

There are two main types of radial drill presses to choose from. They are similar but they work slightly differently when it comes to the arm and how it moves.

  • Variable swing radial drill press
  • Swiveling headstock radial drill press.

Variable Swing Radial Drill Press

The variable swing radial drill press works on a sliding scale. It swings and it extends but the movement happens completely attached to the head and the head actually moves with the radial arm as well.

This type of radial drill press uses that swinging mechanism for the radial mobility you are after. The headstock allows movement and allows tilting as needed.

Swiveling Headstock Radial Drill Press

The swiveling headstock radial drill press attaches the arm and the headstock to the column. This is probably the more popular option. With this design, you can swivel the arm a full 360 degrees and you are not limited to the sliding feature.

Just like with the other, you can tilt the head too, up to 45 degrees. This actually gives you a little bit more versatility because you can swing the headstock around however you need it and move it out of the way to situate certain materials.

Benefits of a Radial Drill Press

benefits of a radial drill press
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There are pros and cons to using a radial drill press, just like any other tool out there.

The largest benefit to a radial drill press is the ability to swing the arm. A traditional drill press will usually allow you to raise and lower but in this case, you can swing it around and move it forwards and backwards. It’s almost unlimited movement.

With a radial drill press, your headstock can tile in both directions rather than in a single direction, which also makes a difference in the work that you can do and how effectively you can do it.

It’s really great for large pieces as cumbersome pieces or odd pieces that can be more challenging to handle.

Downsides of a Radial Drill Press

On the downside, a radial drill press has a lot of moving parts and pieces. These can be overwhelming to come people and there are times that it might affect the accuracy of your project.

You may have to get in the process of squaring up the press and parts with each use since it is mobile and gets moved around often.


A radial drill press is a pretty cool tool because it opens up the doors for just how much you can do with a drill press. While there are downsides, most of those can be mitigated if you just know how to work the tool for the best results.

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