Can You Use a Drill Press as a Mortiser?

A mortiser combines the cutting power of a four-sided chisel with the action of a drill bit in the middle. The bit usually clears out most of the material, whereas the chisel ensures straight and clean edges. In addition, the attachment is pretty much similar to a drill press. And most woodworkers still ask, can you use a drill press as a mortiser?

Yes. It is possible to use a drill press as a mortiser. It is often as effective and costs a lot less than a benchtop mortising machine. Also, drill press mortising is much more pleasant, less nerve-cracking, and a lot quieter than using a mortiser. Therefore, benchtop mortising machines are not the only option for cutting square-should mortises.

That said, let us dive into a lengthy discussion about how to maximize mortises and drill presses to complete your wood projects.

How Do You Use a Mortise Bit With a Drill Press?

It would be best to use special bits for mortises. Fortunately, you can buy them in sets or individually, depending on your project needs and preferences. Also, please note that inexpensive bits will not stay sharp for long. But they will cause no harm if you drop them on the concrete floor.

Generally, the auger bit in the attachments chisel protrudes slightly, and during operation, it drills a round hole and four-sided chisel squares on the corners. Then, the square holes create mortises when you cut side by side.

Check out the procedure below for more clarity.

  • Mortising bits and chisels work best at a slow speed: Mostly ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 RPM. However, the speed depends on the wood density and mortise size. But you can utilize trial and error methods to get your most suitable speed.
  • Mount the mortising fence on another base instead of having it directly on the drill press table. Also, clamp the base to the drill press table. This way, the fence is easy to adjust, and you get perfect positioning.
  • Fasten the chisel and bit. The chisel holder clamps the drill press quill and positions the diesel under the chunk. Then, lock the chisel with its collar and slide the bit into the chunk.
  • Position the auger bit about 1/16 inches away from the domed surface of the hollow chisel. Please avoid jamming the two parts together. So, it would be best to leave a reasonable gap.
  • Lubricate the auger bit and ensure that it spins freely in the chisel. Also, check out for bit squeals as they show poor position. Loosen the chisel holder and rotate it lightly if you observe bit squeals.
  • Examine your hold down and ensure that it sits flat on the surface. Grind or file the hold down until it holds firmly against the base. More so, any workpiece movement can bind the bit in the mortise and ultimately wreck the set-up. Even worse, it can damage the bit.
  • Clamp a fence in front of the material. This way, you hold it firmly against the fence assembly, and it captures the workpiece well during the operation. The process also eliminates any unnecessary workpiece movements.
  • Use a brace to stiffen the table. Mortising exerts so much downward pressure that it causes the table to flex. And we know that workpiece movement can compromise the operation. Therefore, install the adjustable brace to secure the work.
  • Square the chisel and ensure that it is perpendicular to the fence. This way, the mortise shoulders are parallel. Also, loosen the chisel and rotate it flush against the square-cut workpiece end, and retighten it.
  • Determine the depth of the cut. Usually, the top of the chisel’s arch shows the bottom of the square mortise. In addition, position the workpiece for mortising by clamping the fence assembly and the base. Thus, the auger bit’s center point is on the middle line of the mortise.
  • Establish the mortise’s ends before clearing out the middle. Also, always use all four chisel sides or two opposite ones. Do not push the project too hard. Instead, apply steady pressure on it and advance the cut slowly.

What Is the Difference Between a Mortiser and a Drill Press?

A mortiser helps you to make mortises, but what you do with it is totally up to you. On the other hand, a drill press specifically helps you to make mortises and drill holes. Also, you need a mortising attachment to make mortises using a drill.

A single machine can solve multiple problems, and a mortiser is one of them. For starters, the machine can breeze through ⅜ inches or 5/16 inches mortises. Also, it is possible to create larger mortises by making multiple passes.

Sadly, a mortiser is not an ideal tool for increasing the sizes of your mortises. You’ll observe that it breaks down or tends to give up, especially if you resort to an inexpensive one. Therefore, the project may end up being incomplete or, worse still, unsuccessful.

However, feel free to tackle your project with a mortiser if you want to have multiple mortises regularly. It would also be best to consider a tool with a moveable table for added convenience and flexibility.

On the other hand, you’ll have to be willing to pay the price if you want to have a quantum leap in terms of productivity. The advantage of a good quality tool is that it offers both longevity and sophisticated results. Thus, you’ll eventually get value for your money.

Alternatively, you can consider working solely with a drill press. Moreover, using a drill press to make mortises is not a modern activity. The practice dates back to archaic woodworking strategies and improvisations.

Woodworkers became more comfortable using the tool right after efficient drill bits emerged in the market. In addition, the method and tool to use often depend on the type of wood and product needs. Thus, a drill press is a perfect tool for your work if it meets your specifications.

A drill press comes in handy when you want to reduce the need for chopping. It also delivers top-notch productivity as it helps you to remove more wood. On top of that, you can have a fence and a fastener bit for more results.

Though, your efficiency and the results from the drill press depend on its drilling power. Therefore, it would be best to invest in a superior tool as it guarantees efficiency and reliability.

Can You Put a Router Bit in a Drill Press?

Yes. It is okay to run a router bit in a drill press. However, please remember that drill press machines do not deliver enough speed to operate efficiently, especially for larger cutting bits like raised panel bits.

Drills and routers work by rotating a bit. Usually, you secure this bit in a collet or chunk. But that’s the only similarity they share. Drills create holes and work with downward pressure. Conversely, routers shape edges and cut grooves. They can also handle significant sideways pressure.

These differences make drills unsuitable for use with router bits. But you can still use them for DIY and home projects.

Routers can cut various shapes like complex curves, beveled edges, and round overs, thanks to the available wide assortment of bits. The tools also cut grooves and flush-cutting laminate edges.

Image of a drill press. So, Can You Use a Drill Press as a Mortiser?Additionally, a router has powerful cutting action that makes kickback inevitable. Therefore, you are safer clamping loose boards to a bench or secure the router to a special table. Otherwise, your work will vibrate and cause rough cuts and chattering.

Manufacturers design routers to run at higher speeds. Hence, you can expect the router to spin at about 8,000 to 30,000 RPM. On the other hand, the top speed of a bit is usually about 3,000 revolutions per minute.

This speed difference allows the bit’s blades to dig into the lumber excessively. This scenario jerks the tool and gouges the workpiece. Therefore, you expose yourself to potentially dangerous consequences, let alone a failed product.

Besides, routers have a flat and wide base that rests on the workpiece. This way, you keep the top-heavy tool steady during the operation. Also, it is easier to control the depth of the cut for the router bit.

We have drill stand accessories that enhance depth control to a drill. However, it is not wise to use the drill as a router. Also, drill presses feature a solid base and depth control. Thus, it would be best to set them up with special jigs or vises to do light-duty milling.

Unfortunately, the sideways forces of routing may exceed the reasonable sideways force on the drill press. In addition, a drill chunk may not secure the bit tightly. So, it may slip in a drill press or handheld drill.

Even worse, this improvisation damages the bit by creating multiple groves on the bit’s shaft. Therefore, you cannot use the drill bit in the router again. Otherwise, it will break during the operation and create a potentially dangerous scenario. Imagine a sharpened carbide blade spinning 500 times per second in the air.

What Device Is Used For Sanding on a Drill Press?

You can consider a set of saddening drums or the optional mortising attachment. Also, a spindle sander will come in handy for sanding on a drill press. However, it would be best to pick the option that keeps the drill press in good condition.

A spindle sander has a few benefits over a drill press-mounted drum sander. For instance, the oscillating motion aids the abrasive to wear more uniformly. It also prevents heat build-up.

Besides, a spindle delivers more sanding height and can withstand continued lateral pressure, unlike the sanding drum. Also, it preserves the drill press and keeps it ready for work.

What Is a Quill on a Drill Press?

The quill is the hollow shaft that usually surrounds the spindle in a drill press. Often, the rack cuts into the quill, then the pinion rotates and drills a hole. Also, the spindle is the rotating shaft where you mount the chunk.

The quill does not turn because of the drill press housing. Instead, you lower it with the enclosed spindle. On the other hand, the spindle needs to align and turn with the drill press housing to function well.

How Do You Drill a Hole in a Square?

You can drill a hole in a square by first drilling a normal round hole. Normally, you use a square punch to convert it into a square one. In addition, you are better off using a mortiser to get a professional result.

You can also utilize a simple wooden chisel to drill the holes. More so, it is affordable and quite easy to DIY projects. Therefore, artisans and craftsmen prefer it to all other drilling techniques.

Additionally, every drilling technique differs significantly from others and depends on the project requirements. For example, you can choose to use the square hole punch method when drilling decorative holes of up to 1/2″ depth.

Alternatively, you can get a drill and a saw or a drill and a chisel. Both combinations will deliver significantly large holes. However, a chisel will not work well for thick wood, unlike a saw that is suitable for all projects.

That said, there are a few safety precautions to adhere to as you work. For example, please wear a pair of safety goggles whenever you use power tools. Also, ensure that the workspace is well-ventilated or consider working outdoors.

Follow the safety guidelines gives with the power tool. You can also wear a dust mask, protective gloves, and closed shoes for added protection. In addition, make sure that the cutting tools have sharp blades.

Does a Drill Press Need Special Bits?

Yes. A drill bit requires special bits to work more accurately. More specifically, you need spade bits, self-centering bits, Forstner bits, brad-point bits, and twist bits to deliver the best results. Also, please note that a drill press is a benchtop or stationary power tool that creates precise holes in metal or wood. Therefore, you are better of with a compatible bit.

A drill press is similar to a handheld drill and utilizes various bits to create holes of different diameters. However, it would be best to avoid a drill press for occasional woodworking projects or small home repairs.

Please consider a drill bit if you intend to get serious about woodworking or metalworking. The tool makes it easier to countersink or counterbore holes, bore precise holes, and use sanding attachments.

Check out the recommended bits in detail.

  • Brad-point Bits. These tools work with a center point, and they resist wondering. They give clean cuts across the grain and eliminate tear-out. Therefore, you end up with a hole with clean sidewalls.
  • Forstner Bits. These bits are perfect for overlapping holes to create mortises and flat-bottomed holes drilling. They also have a center spur that guarantees an accurate start. In addition, Forstner bits have sharpened rim edges that will deliver clean and neat edges.
  • Taper and Countersinks. These accessories are perfect for drilling pilot holes for screws. They also create a hole for the screw shank and a recess for the screw head to sit flush with the lumber surface.
  • Self-Centering Bits. These bits have a spring-loaded nose that fits the screw hole on a hinge leaf and retracts during drilling. Hence, they ensure that hinge screws sit fully on the countersink in the leaf.
  • Twist Bits. Wander into any wood store, and you’ll not miss twist drill bits. These tools are among the utility drilling players. They drill into multiple materials such as metal, wood, and plastic. In addition, they begin the cut at the tip’s center and move to the outside edge, wood fibers.
  • Spade Bits. Although these bits are not common in furniture making, they work perfectly for construction-grade wood applications. Spade bits also utilize a center point that guides the bit and outside spurs that minimize tear-out.

Can I Use my Drill as a Router?

It is not advisable to use your drill as a router. Usually, a drill is not suited for the sideways pressure associated with routine operations. Therefore, you may end up damaging its gears or even hurt yourself.

Additionally, the drill press chunks on the tampered posts can become loose due to excessive sideways force. Therefore, whether you have a handheld tool or drill press, it is not a good idea to use it as a router.

Can You Use a Drill Press as a Drum Sander?

Yes. It is possible to turn a drill press into a drum sander by making spindles to hold sandpaper. This improvisation works best for sanding inside concave curves, which is difficult for belt or random orbital sanders.

Another benefit of a drum sander design is that the sandpaper is interchangeable. You can hold it in place using a removable pin and change the sandpaper grit easily. Are you ready to convert your drill press into a sanding station?

Let’s get to it!Image of a drum sander

  • The first step is to get the necessary supplies. For example, you need hole saws, large washers, scrap plywood, steel rod, 2x nuts matching threaded rod, and a normal threaded rod.
  • Next, clamp the scrap plywood to the drill press. Then, insert the hole saw into the chunk. Also, it would be best to drill out a few discs from the wood. The drum’s height will be the total height of the discs when you stack them on top of each other.
  • Sand the disc edges because hole saws leave ragged edges. You can use 120-grit sandpaper to clean the faces. However, you only need enough to create a smooth surface that will give good bonding. The rough perimeter will clean up later.
  • Glue the discs to keep them aligned. It would be best to use the threaded rod through the center of each disc to secure the bond. Also, install the threaded rod into the power drill and tighten it.
  • Add glue to another disc and install it onto the threaded rod. Ensure that it snugs up against the first disc. Then, repeat the process until all the discs are on the rod and snugly together. And there you have the drum of the sander.
  • Remove the drum glue-up. But start by clamping the glued discs and then switch the power drill in a clockwise motion. Hold the glued discs and pull the trigger. This way, you unthread the entire drum from the threaded rod.
  • The other step is to leave the drum glue to dry to keep the center opening registered. Also, cut the threaded and steel rod to length during this time. The threaded thread will be the shaft the drum rides on once you insert it into the drill press.
  • Next, drill the pin opening. Choose a drill bit that has a slightly larger diameter than the steel pin. This way, you give sufficient room for the sandpaper inside the opening. Also, you’ll be able to insert the pin easily.
  • Saw the sandpaper slot once you set the pin opening. But first, make a line down the drum’s side that connects the two ends of the opening. This slot holds the sandpaper once you wrap it around the drum.
  • Load the drum back on the threaded rod. Then, insert the rod into the chuck of the drill press attachment. In addition, use the drill press to spin the drum to square up the rough edge of the drum. Remember to smooth out the edges with a rasp and sandpaper.
  • Assemble the drum by inserting the threaded rod into the chunk and hand tighten it. Also, press the drill trigger to the thread about halfway up the rod and add another washer. Then, finish by adding a final washer and a nut to complete the drum assembly.
  • Lastly, insert the drum into the drill press and use the chuck key to tighten it onto the drum spindle. Fortunately, you can spin the drum asymmetrically if the spindle is too long. But please take care as it can be dangerous.

You can now begin sanding! Ensure you place a small plywood piece under the wood you are sanding. This way, you raise it off the drill press table. Thus, it is much easier to engage with the sanding drum.

How Do You Turn a Sander Into a Drill?

There are a few strategies to employ when turning a sander into a drill and vice versa. The common one is by attaching a drum sander to the drill press. Drum sanders feature a cylindrical shape that makes them ideal for smoothing inside saws. Therefore, they make a powerful tool if you combine them with the drill presser.

Alternatively, you can consider working with flap sanding wheels. They are sanding attachments around a wheel with a quarter-inch shank. These sanders sand the surface when the wheel rotates and flaps the material.

Flap sanding wheels are perfect for removing small imperfections from complete workpieces. You can also use them for rounding off edges and cleaning up wood pieces after heavy sanding.


Both mortises and drill presses are useful tools in the woodworking field. They aid in making clean holes for screws and other attachments. In addition, they deliver unmatched speed and power. Therefore, you are sure of a clean and perfect project. However, woodworkers would like to know if they can use the tools interchangeably. Thus, the query:

Can You Use a Drill Press as a Mortiser?

The answer is yes! It is possible to use a drill press as a mortiser. The tool delivers a more convenient, quieter, and less-nerve cracking working session. However, it would be best to consider the insights in this article for accurate results.

Image of a woodworker wearing hearing protectors for woodworking

Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

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