How to Maintain Your Shop Drill Press from Drive Belt to Tool Lubricant
posted on August 1, 2011 by Sandor Nagyszalanczy
Shop Drill Press Maintenance While it's relatively maintenance-free, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't do regular check-ups and lubrication of your shop's drill press.

A drill press is a pretty simple looking machine: just a chuck at the end of a spindle that holds a drill bit, and allows it to move up and down while it’s spinning. But there are a number of things that can get out of kilter that compromise drilling performance and accuracy. These include issues with the machine’s pulleys and drive belt, spindle and chuck and the table and column. Fortunately, it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to do a few basic maintenance tasks that help keep your drill press running smoothly. Unless otherwise specified, all the procedures described in this article should be performed with the drill press unplugged from electrical power.

We’ll start out by cleaning and lubricating the tool, but as stated, there are many things you can do to improve your drill press’s performance and longevity.

Clean and Slippery

Boeshield T-9 Drill Press Lubricant Put some rust protectant and lubricant (like this Boeshield T-9) on drill chuck to keep the press running uninterrupted.

If the outside of your drill press’s steel and iron parts are rusty or dirty, clean them off using either a rust remover such as Naval Jelly for heavier rust deposits, or a cleaning solvent/degreaser for lighter grime. Use a plastic abrasive pad or steel wool to scrub the surfaces. Wipe all parts dry with a clean rag. To keep the column, table, chuck and other bare metal surfaces from corroding, coat them with a protective spray, such as Bullfrog Rust Blocker. It’s also a great idea to vacuum out any sawdust from the machine’s motor and electrical switch boxes.

To keep the chuck’s jaws operating smoothly — essential to proper bit centering — apply a little drying lubricant, such as Boeshield T-9®, inside of the chuck: First, however, turn the chuck’s shell until the jaws are fully open and blow the inside clean with a burst of compressed air (wear goggles to keep flying dust out of your eyes). Spray or squirt some lubricant up inside and tighten and loosen the jaws a few times while the excess lube drips out. Wipe off any residue with a clean rag.

posted on August 1, 2011 by Sandor Nagyszalanczy
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3 thoughts on “How to Maintain Your Shop Drill Press from Drive Belt to Tool Lubricant”

  • Eric

    My drill press drive pulley keeps coming loose even when I crank down the set screw. Any solutions?

  • Phil

    If the belt is old, worn, cracked, or dry; you should replace it. If it's not in bad shape, you might be able to get away with cleaning & resurfacing it with some solvent & rubber grip restorer (such as Rawn Re-Grip) or some belt dressing (available at most auto parts stores).

    If you clean/resurface/dress the belt, you should remove the belt first, make sure to treat the entire surface of it, and remove any/all product from it before re-installing it.

    It's also a good idea to clean the pulleys while the belt is off, so that the belt has a good surface to grab onto. Again, make sure to remove any product (alcohol, solvent, etc.) from the pulleys, and make sure that the belt & pulleys are completely dry before re-assembling.

    Also, the set screw usually just holds the assembly in place after you manually move it, applying pressure against the belt. Tightening the set screw while there is no tension on the belt is useless (unless your drill press has a screw that actually adjusts the belt tension (in which case, it's actually an adjustment screw -- not a set screw)). There should be just enough tension to make the belt hug the sides of the pulleys, and straighten out between the pulleys. It should NOT be tight enough to stretch the belt.

    Clean out any dust, dirt, shavings, debris, etc. from the housing where the motor & pulleys are; and make sure the mechanism moves freely enough to apply tension on the belt. Use a VERY light coat of oil or dry lube on the metal parts ONLY. Be careful not to get any on the pulleys or belt, and wipe off any/all excess so that it doesn't run or fly off onto the pulleys or belt.

    Short version:
    Step 1. Loosen set screw & remove belt.
    Step 2. Clean & lightly lube metal parts inside the housing, making sure not to lube the pulleys’ grooves.
    Step 3. Clean the pulleys’ grooves, and dry -- or allow to dry -- thoroughly.
    Step 4. Inspect belt for wear and/or damage. Replace if necessary.
    Step 5. If belt is still in decent condition, clean/resurface/dress the belt using products made for that purpose. Make sure to treat the entire belt, and to remove any/all product and allow to dry completely.
    Step 6. Install belt on pulleys, move the mechanism/motor to apply tension to the belt (not too tight: just enough for the belt to grab), and tighten the set screw while the tension is being applied.
    Step 7: Clean up your mess.

  • John White

    If set screws keeps working loose, even after after Sandor's helpful Maintenance tips, I have had to go to blue lock tight for removeable positioning such as belt - pulley adjustment locations. Red is for non removeable such as chuck to spindle location. They are still removeable but normally require heat to break. Refurbishing older equiment can produce longer lasting tools for your shop. I have filled &/or ground flat spot on spindles for pulleys, or drilled second setscrew locations on pulleys & spindles for long lasting positioning. Good luck & remember to always work safely.
    John White

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