best pillar drill uk

3 Best Pillar Drills UK (2021 Reviews and Guide)

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Pillar drills are a niche product, but they perform a precise function which no other power tool or handheld instrument could match. 

Essential for adding geometrically perfect holes to wood and metal, these tabletop drills offer an accuracy far beyond handheld alternatives. 

However, pillar drills range significantly in price, power and performance, so understanding how pillar drills work is crucial before investing in one.

In a Hurry? Here’s our Top Pick:

Bosch Bench Drill PBD 40 (710 W, Maximum Drilling Diameter In Steel/Wood: 13 mm/40 mm, Drilling Stroke 90 mm, In Cardboard Box)
310 Reviews
Bosch Bench Drill PBD 40 (710 W, Maximum Drilling Diameter In Steel/Wood: 13 mm/40 mm, Drilling Stroke 90 mm, In Cardboard Box)
  • Bench drill PBD 40 - precise drilling results with a simple operation
  • Easy drilling of borehole series thanks to the digital display which makes viewing the exact drilling depth easy
  • Precise drilling with good workspace illumination thanks to the integrated laser and an LED
  • Exact workpiece positioning thanks to the parallel guide, a large working surface and the quick-release clamps for large workpieces
  • Items included: PBD 40, parallel guide, quick-release clamps, cardboard box

Last update on 2021-01-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Let’s Get Things Straight

A pillar drill is often referred to as a drill press, bench drill or pedestal drill. All four terms describe a motor which is suspended above a cutting table, into which drill bits are inserted. 

Like a conventional handheld power drill, pillar drills can bore holes in materials as diverse as soft timber and sheet metal. However, unlike a power drill, the bits are held fully vertical and almost entirely immobile. Other than being able to rotate, they are unable to shift sideways or adopt an angle.

This precision often requires accurate carpentry and assembly. For example:     

  • Drilling into a narrow block of material at an angle could cause the drill bit to emerge from one side, whereas a pillar drilled hole will remain the same distance from the edges throughout its length.
  • Creating a countersink depression at an angle might mean one edge of the inserted screw or nail stands proud of the surface, whereas a perfect right angle will sit completely flush.
  •  Establishing an accurate pilot hole, so a larger drill bit doesn’t slip, is challenging to accomplish with a small-diameter drill bit. Moreover, any mistake at this stage worsens while drilling the target hole size.
  • Drilling a hole to a precise depth is extremely difficult to judge by hand, whereas pillar drills adjust to drill a hole of an exact depth using a ‘depth stop’.

Pillars of Strength

Pillar drills include several key components:

  1. The centrepiece of any pillar drill is the chuck, into which drill bits of varying lengths and diameters (often referred to as capacity) can be inserted and then tightened into place.
  2. The chuck should be surrounded by a plastic guard to prevent fragments of material from flying towards the user.
  3. Directly beneath the chuck is a table with a small hole in its centre. This table is where the material is positioned and cut. Commonly referred to as the ‘workpiece’, the material stays in place using either a vice or a clamp.
  4. The pillar onto which the motor and chuck mounts is generally height-adjustable, enabling you to maneuver materials of varying thickness on the table.
  5. A locking lever will prevent the drill from descending below a pre-set distance, so it doesn’t plough its way through anything it shouldn’t cut.

This YouTube video provides a beginner’s guide to using a pillar drill.


Flexible Friends

Pillar drills might perform the same job, but they come with varying levels of sophistication. Cheap models will be able to create perpendicular holes in wood and metal, but they lack the lasers and LED lighting found on more advanced drills. 

Ultimately, your choice will be influenced not just by your budget, but by how frequently you plan to use your pillar drill. Occasional users will be OK with a model costing less than £100. In contrast, people who regularly construct furniture might wish to spend three times as much on a model from a premium manufacturer.

Even a relatively expensive pillar drill will be transportable, enabling you to take it on-site for property refurbs and on-location work. Remember though; all pillar drills are mains powered, so you’ll need to find a nearby socket or a long extension cord.

You don’t need any upper-body strength to operate pillar drills, since the entire system remains fixed in place. And because these are compact machines, people often use them in small sheds or crowded workbenches.


Common Issues

A bad workman blames his tools, and pillar drills tend to get blamed for holes that aren’t perfectly perpendicular. Common causes include; workpieces not being clamped in place tightly enough, drill bits inserted at a slight angle, and even the quality of the drill bit itself. 

We’d always recommend buying more expensive bits to ensure a perfect fit in the chuck and less wobble as they rotate. Also, premium bits tend to last longer.


The Best Pillar Drills UK Shortlist

These are our picks as the best pillar drills currently on sale in the UK. 

1. Bosch PBD 40 Bench Drill

Bosch Bench Drill PBD 40 (710 W, Maximum Drilling Diameter In Steel/Wood: 13 mm/40 mm, Drilling Stroke 90 mm, In Cardboard Box)
310 Reviews
Bosch Bench Drill PBD 40 (710 W, Maximum Drilling Diameter In Steel/Wood: 13 mm/40 mm, Drilling Stroke 90 mm, In Cardboard Box)
  • Bench drill PBD 40 - precise drilling results with a simple operation
  • Easy drilling of borehole series thanks to the digital display which makes viewing the exact drilling depth easy
  • Precise drilling with good workspace illumination thanks to the integrated laser and an LED
  • Exact workpiece positioning thanks to the parallel guide, a large working surface and the quick-release clamps for large workpieces
  • Items included: PBD 40, parallel guide, quick-release clamps, cardboard box

Last update on 2021-01-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Despite being marketed as a bench drill, Bosch’s acclaimed PBD 40 is undoubtedly a pillar drill. 

The PBD 40 is by far the most expensive pillar drill due to its long list of additional features. For example, this is the only drill in our reviews to offer a digital display and an integral LED light.

It’s also the only drill to sport an integrated laser for ensuring marked holes perfectly align with the bit. However, some reviewers have noted the crosshairs can be a millimetre out of alignment.

The PBD 40 oozes quality, from its polished table to the dimpled three-spoke wheel used to adjust the motor’s height. 

The quick-release clamps can support circular workpieces, while the table itself is a substantial size. 

With a powerful 710W motor, this drill can cut through 13mm steel and 40mm wood. There’s also the option to replace the standard 13mm chuck with larger sizes. 

The PBD 40’s main drawback is its cost, which makes it a machine for professionals rather than hobbyists. It’s also a massive machine, weighing more than twice the weight of the KATSU reviewed below.

Pros:  Powerful motor, solid and sophisticated design. Includes a variety of digital features that improve drilling accuracy

Cons: Far more expensive than the other options. Laser crosshairs can be 1mm off-centre. 

2. Clarke CDP5RB

CLARKE CDP5RB 5 SPEED BENCH MOUNTED PILLAR DRILL RED
113 Reviews
CLARKE CDP5RB 5 SPEED BENCH MOUNTED PILLAR DRILL RED
  • Chuck capacity 13mm (Spindle taper B16), 350 Watt, 230v motor
  • electrical cut-out on belt guard, combined NVR/stop start switch & clear perspex chuck guard
  • 5 Speeds from 620 - 2620 RPM to suit wood, metal & plastic.
  • Tilting 160 x 160mm work table and depth gauge. Weight: 14.7kg
  • Dimensions: chuck to column 104mm, chuck to table 167mm - Overall height 586mm.

Last update on 2021-01-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

While the Bosch has a high-end look with its familiar green motor housing and prominent wheel, Clarke’s CDP5RB is a far more industrial-looking machine. In some respects, it’s reassuringly British, with a cast iron motor housing covered in stuck-on reference charts and safety notices.

The finish is inferior to the Bosch, with exposed springs and a basic three-spoke handle for raising and lowering the motor. Yet when you consider that the Clarke costs around one third as much as the Bosch, its aesthetic shortcomings are more forgivable. 

Weighing almost 15kg, this is a chunky and robust device powered by a 350-watt motor. It has a 13mm capacity chuck, while the motor offers five speeds for slicing through wood, metal and plastic. 

The worktable is 160mm square, and the chuck can support taper shank drill bits. These bits are ideal for cutting ferrous and non-ferrous metals.

Some reviews describe difficulty in ensuring drill bits are fully vertical, leading to them wobbling during operation. The worktable isn’t the strongest, and several owners have reported chassis screws not coming out or plastic pieces breaking off. 

The Clarke CDP5RB might need delicate hands, but overall, it’s a solid pillar drill at a competitive price.

Pros:  Five-speed motor, affordable price

Cons: Question marks over build quality, lacks sophistication

3. KATSU 100080 Bench Drill Pillar Press Stand 100W

KATSU Mini Bench Drill Pillar Press Stand 100W with Fully Adjustable Speed + 6mm Chuck + Handle Lock + Electronic Variable Speed Switch
192 Reviews
KATSU Mini Bench Drill Pillar Press Stand 100W with Fully Adjustable Speed + 6mm Chuck + Handle Lock + Electronic Variable Speed Switch
  • 【Powerful】 Provides great power (100 W motor), durability, and accurate drilling in wood or metal
  • 【Adjustable Speed】 Adjust speed from 0 to 8500 rpm to meet your requirements
  • 【Ergonomic】 Easy to handle while performing any desired drilling
  • 【Convenient】 Includes a handle lock to hold the drill press in place thus having precise drilling measurements
  • 【Efficient Design】 Has a maximum drill capacity of 6 mm, making drilling more efficient and effective

Last update on 2021-01-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

KATSU is an unfamiliar brand in the UK, but its mini pillar drill represents a very different alternative to the Bosch and Clarke models reviewed above. For one thing, it weighs just 5.28kg – barely a third of the Clarke! 

Where the Bosch’s height is adjustable with a wheel and the Clarke’s with a three-spoke handle, the KATSU uses a simple plastic latch.

Powered by a modest 100-watt motor which runs up to 8,500 rpm, the 100080 won’t win any prizes for raw power but can cut through most timber and metal materials. Its chuck only expands between 0.6mm and 6.5mm, meaning it can’t produce larger-diameter holes unless you use a tapered drill bit. 

It’s also notable in the official product photography how much blue paint has bled onto the worktable. Overall, this machine receives less favourable reviews than its competitors, with people describing the metal casting as flimsy and the case as uneven.

Nonetheless, it’s impossible to ignore KATSU’s rock-bottom price, making this a tool that hobbyists can experiment with before trading-up. The 100080’s portability is also handy for people on the move, and the lack of additional features might be an advantage to users who simply want a dependable pillar drill with no bells or whistles.

Pros:  Highly portable, excellent value

Cons: Poorly finished, lacks power


Final Thoughts

These three models all appeal to markedly different markets, so direct comparisons are difficult to make. 

The Bosch is a heavyweight machine with its 710W motor and array of digital features aimed at the professional market. If money is no object, the Bosch stands head and shoulders above its competitors.

The KATSU is entirely different – inexpensive, portable and lightweight, yet poorly manufactured and limited in its cutting abilities.

The Clarke CDP5RB represents a good compromise. It might be heavy and rather uninspiring to look at, but it does a fine job of delivering accurate cuts through a variety of materials. As such, it might not achieve our highest rating, but it’s an excellent machine for those who want the accuracy of a powerful pillar drill without paying for the professional extras.


Best Pillar Drills UK Comparison Table

ModelPowerLaser/lightMax chuck sizeWeightRating
Bosch PBD 40710WYes/Yes13 mm11.2 kg8
Clarke CDP5RB350WNo/No13 mm14.7 kg7
KATSU 100080100WNo/No6.5 mm5.28 kg5