Pillar Drill Table

Up until the sharp drop in temperatures around here recently, I was discreetly working away on a new table for my Axminster ED16B pillar drill. It’s surprising how long it had taken to get to the stage you can see in the first photo, below… Working only two-days each week due to work and other commitments, I reckon it took the best part of three-weeks to get this far – and, I’ve still got some work to do on the fence!

Step inside and I’ll show you some of the main features of this design so far, while also explaining my reasoning behind them.

To start off with, I was looking for an overall thickness of about 1in. In order to achieve this, I decided I would laminate three layers of 9mm MDF. With a little forward-thinking and some cunning methodology, I was Β able to create my own ‘T-track‘ – this tip has been covered by Steve Maskery in the past throughout several UK magazines. More recently, British Woodworking and, formerly, Good Woodworking magazine.

I start by laminating two layers only and then, once the glue is dry, I clean up all-four edges and cut a pair of wide, shallow grooves in to one face. Then, after laminating over this groove with the final sheet of MDF (and then, covering both faces with Formica or plastic-laminate – as I have done – if you prefer), you can create the long, thin ‘neck’ of the ‘T’ with a narrow straight cutter.

Make your own T-track!

[If you’d like to know how I laminated these three-layers of MDF, look out for my next blog post! ;-)]

Perhaps the first thing you noticed in the photo at the top of this page was the ‘diamond‘-pattern insert, which is designed to be both disposable and easy to replace, once that time comes:

On my previous table for my former Clarke pillar drill, this consisted of simply a 50mm square, centred in line with the centre of the chuck or drill bit. Due to its size, it didn’t take long for me to get through half-a-dozen of them and, in the end, I found I just wasn’t using the feature enough and would instead opt to use a scrap of 18mm, sat on top. With this diamond arrangement, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to use each of the four corners on one blank before having to cut another. It looks large but, the idea is that I can use a 50mm forstner bit without having to find or cut another piece of scrap… Truth is though, I rarely drill holes any larger than 20mm in diameter and so, I’m wondering whether I should’ve just designed this with that in mind; keeping another scrap of MDF spare for the larger drill bits… πŸ™„

From the minute I first bought this pillar drill table, I feared that fitting such a table like this wasn’t going to be easy. Where most ‘woodworking’ pillar drills have a pair of slots and one central hole in the cast iron table, this machine, having been designed and built with engineers and metalworkers in mind, doesn’t have either of those. Instead, there’s a ‘trough’ or channel around the perimeter; designed to withhold coolant when drilling hard steel and metals.

But, with a little help from The Wood Haven, I came up with this arrangement:

With all these pine scraps fitted tightly in position, I first screwed a sheet of 18mm MDF on top, with plenty of overhang at the ends (or sides):

This generous overhang allowing me to drive a pair of screws through at each side, directly in to the underside of the top. With all this extra work, I’m very pleased to say that there is no movement between the new MDF table or the original lump of cast iron. Much to my surprise and delight, in equal measure; the table doesn’t tip to one side, either. I’m very pleased with this solution! 😎

Another reason for that block of 18mm MDF was to raise the main table just enough so that I can gain some clearance for my hand when operating the rise and fall handle. Another option would’ve been to ‘modify‘ and shorten the handle itself… However, I got the idea for this fix from a video at Stu’s Shed.

Alright, so, there isn’t an awful lot of room – but, there is just enough! Though, I still think that one extra layer of 18mm thickness could have made things even more comfortable… πŸ˜‰

That is all have to share on this matter, right now. As I mentioned briefly at the beginning; there is still some work to be done on the fence, which I’ll hopefully be able to share with you soon… Although, with the Β Cold Snap set to return for the rest of this week, I fear it may not be until the New Year, what with how we’re expected to work through Christmas on a basic rate of Β£6.50 an hour and all…. 😦

Thanks for reading.

9 thoughts on “Pillar Drill Table

  1. Thanks for sharing but one confusion. i have table top Pillar Drill can i convert it and use it as a Milling Machine if so how thanks for any advice..

    1. Hi and thanks for reading my blog.

      I’m afraid I don’t have a definite answer for you. Although, I’d be sceptical on the idea… There may be a lot of variables, such as the need for the correct type of chuck. If you want to add a sliding table/vice arrangement then, with the extra costs involved, I imagine it may well work out cheaper to just buy a separate milling machine, if you have the space.

      Sorry I cannot be of more help,


  2. Hi,

    I like your table – mines just about ready for a refit, so just quick question, where do you get your plastic laminate from?

    I have looked all over the place – and can’t find anyone who will sell me small amounts. Strange really, Formica used to be easy to get – years ago.

    Any help would be much appreciated,



    1. Hi Tim,

      I originally bought this 10x4ft sheet just over two-years ago from a company called BDS (Bristol Decorative Surfaces). It was about Β£30 back then, from the Formica ‘Fundamentals’ range and it would roll up to fit across the back seats of my car. I’ve heard that can also order it through one of the builder’s merchants – I think it’s Jewson but, it could be Travis Perkins… Price was about the same.

      Another approach (particularly if you’re only after a very small quantity) would be to approach your local kitchen fitters and shopfitters for their offcuts. πŸ˜‰ Or, they may be able to put you in touch with a local supplier open to both Trade and Retail/Public.

      Hope this helps. Thanks for your comment,


  3. Hi Olly –

    I’m just starting to get into woodworking and am thinking of getting a pillar drill. After a year or so of using yours, would you recommend the Axminster ED16B2? It’s on “special” at the moment so I’m sorely tempted πŸ™‚ And you’ve done all the hard work in designing a table for me πŸ˜‰


    1. Hi Brendan,

      Yes, I do recommend the Axminster pillar drill. I would advise that you make your own sub-table (few pillar drills have ones specifically suited to woodworkers…) and, if possible, you might want to look at doing something with the depth stop system. Maybe you’ll get on better with it than I did but, I always found it too awkward and, unless you were prepared to use a spanner to tighten the nuts, they could vibrate loose and you’d lose your setting.

      Those are the only negatives I have, one year on. It has many features that you may not find on a cheaper model and it’s more than capable of drilling holes in wood. πŸ˜‰

      Hope this helps and thanks for your message.


  4. Thanks for the recommendation – I’ve done the dirty deed and spent my spending money and ordered one!

    I’ll report back on how it turns out.

    Excellent blog BTW, I’m still reading avidly through it.


    1. Well, finally got chance to try out the ED16B2. The finish is a bit rough but it seems to drill squarely enough. Unfortunately the supplied chuck keeps dropping off the supplied (2MT) arbour. Did you encounter this problem? The bore and taper both seem clean enough …

      Got to make myself a table now – I’m just propping things up on whatever comes to hand πŸ˜‰


      1. Hi Brendan,

        Pleased to hear that you are reasonably pleased with the drill. Mine was purchased second-hand from a guy who regularly services all manner of woodworking machinery so, I didn’t really have any ‘technical’ problems like that.

        I assume you’ve tried following the instructions in the manual for fitting the chuck? If you don’t have one, there’s a ‘Download’ section on Axminster’s site where you should be able to find one for the ED16B model at least. Generally though, most will give the same kind of advice for fitting a chuck on to a taper like this – fit the chuck by hand and then, with a block of scrap wood directly beneath and on the table, lower the chuck (using the handle) to push it all the way home. If you’re still suffering though, Axminster are usually more than happy to help, regardless of whether you bought the machine new or second hand.

        Hope you get it sorted soon,


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