Delta 17-965 16.5" Drill Press Review
by Scott Bonder


I've had my shiny new drill press for about a month now and have used it for sanding, drilling and mortising. In addition to normal usage, I've used it with a circle cutter (not normal for me) and just played with it to see what it can do. So far, I can give this new drill press entry by Delta a thumbs up, with only a few complaints.

First, let me say that it came packaged in a manner evidencing Delta's normal standard of care, which is to say a good quality box, lots of foam and plenty of greasy black stuff that my wife and dogs hate. I didn't buy this through mail order (living only a mile from Highland Hardware makes even a few day wait to get a new toy, uh, I mean tool, very difficult), so I don't know how well the boxes would stand up to shipping, but I suspect they would do well.

As I cleaned the parts I watched closely for rust, chips or other obvious defects and there were none. The machining of the table is fine by my standards and seemed to be the same as the demo model I looked at. When I did my side by side comparison before buying the drill press, I compared it to the Jet 17", both of which were in the running for a spot in my shop. The machining of both tables seems about the same. The base was a bit rougher, but it is the base, so I didn't care.

The DP went together easily enough and the directions were very clear. It isn't exactly a complicated piece of machinery, so simple assembly was no surprise. After getting it together, I gave it the once over and was still pleased with my purchase.

I started using the DP almost immediately to make holes just for the sake of making holes. The 3/4 HP motor gave it plenty of power and the 4 7/8 stroke is great!!! It has 16 speeds, but the highest isn't 3000, it is something like 2800. So, if you need particularly high speeds for projects on a regular basis, this DP may not be for you. Oddly, the chart showing you how to set the belts (I'll get to the belts later) shows optimum speeds of 3000 for some bits. So, one would think that Delta would have configured the DP to reach those speeds.

Changing the belt configuration is pleasantly simple. The motor moves to loosen the tension and the center spindle pivots so that getting the belts on and off is easy. I had heard nightmare stories about changing belts, but this was downright simple and quick.

There is a quill lock so that you can lower it some and then lock it in place. I find this feature very useful for lining things up and for sanding. The depth stop is pretty good and gives a decent measure of accuracy. It is a threaded rod attached to the part of the DP that moves with the quill. The threaded rod travels through a bracket until it hits a nut that acts as the positive stop. Two problems with this set up. First, the "button" that allows free travel without having to twist the nut was jammed so for about a month I didn't even know it was an option. Finally, a fellow ponder filled me in and I went to work with WD40. Finally, I got the mechanism working and it is much easier than my first impression. Second, and this may just be a defect in my DP, on at least two occasions the nut jumped the threads and caused the setting to be lost. In Delta's defense, I haven't called them to get a replacement stop and nut, so it may just be a defect in my DP.

The table is on a rack and pinion system that works, but leaves a bit to be desired. I didn't really notice this issue when I was comparing DPs, but when one moves the table it swings a bit left and right. So, you cannot move the table up or down without losing your set up. It seems like a design flaw that could be easily fixed by recessing the rack so that it is not at all flexible. I know that most drill presses are this way so that the table can swing out of the way, but it seems like a different setup would result in the same flexibility without having to have a rack that flexes so much. This particular design flaw is not unique to Delta, I have just come to expect more from them and thought they could address this issue easily.

One thing I notice that is just outright lacking on this DP is a light. Not a big deal really, a magnetic light is easy to attach. But, by the same logic, it should have been easy and inexpensive to add as a feature.

The DP is very accurate. I don't have a machined dowel, but using a straight router bit (which I've heard are more accurate then drill bits) I did test the run-out. First, I installed the bit and then moved the table up. Once the table was locked I clamped a piece of mdf to the table so that it was just touching the bit. I manually spun the quill and used a feeler gauge to determine run-out. At one inch using the router bit the run out was .001 (and it was hard to get the .001 gauge in there). Certainly not the most scientific test, but it proved the DP to be accurate enough for me.

To sum up, I am very pleased with the accuracy, finish, overall quality and power of the DP. I have an issue with the positive stop and the rack and pinion feature. Also, a light would have been nice. I can tell, despite the few faults I have found, that this DP and I will be long term buddies.


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© 2003 by Ellis Walentine by special arrangement with Wayne Miller of Badger Pond. All rights reserved.
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