Restoring an Old Drill Press
With permission from Mac and encouragement from a few fellow Woodnetters, I’m going try something a little different here. A number of folks post information, discussion, photos, etc. of machinery restoration projects, typically in “before” and “after” condition, and occasionally with some questions while in process. But we don’t often get to follow along throughout the restoration process, looking over the shoulder so to speak.

I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while, but haven’t come across a good project machine that might be of general interest to the WN crowd, would not be too difficult for folks with varying levels of background and shop infrastructure, and is likely to cover a lot of topics that come up here on occasion. A good, solid drill press that needs work seems to fit the bill pretty well, and I finally snagged one to try.

The purpose of this not to show “how to do it” or even just “how I do it.” Instead, hopefully, it will generate discussion, questions, and encourage others to chime in with input, other suggestions, alternative approaches, etc. The intent really is to show what’s involved, that it can be as much or as little work as you want to make it, you don’t need lots of equipment or knowhow, and is just a process that goes along at whatever pace you wish. I’m not going to rush on this, just take it as usual -- a couple hours at night most nights, a fair bit on weekends, and don’t work when I don’t feel like it. It is just a hobby, after all. The only difference is I’ll document it as I go, rather than waiting until it’s done.

For the record: as usual, I am bound to screw up, may do things nobody else would ever consider reasonable, and will use whatever tools, techniques, ingenuity, and other resources I have available. Throughout, I’ll include the good, the bad, and the ugly… which definitely fits the project machine (to be described in a subsequent post). Cringe if you want, and I invite scrutiny and criticism on any front. Unlike most threads, where we see the project after it’s done, I don’t know how this will turn out. I hope and expect it to be nice a few weeks down the road, but don’t know what’s going to turn up… every project is different. Hopefully, we’ll see a really nice drill press in about a month.

Finally, for now, I’m not sure whether it will be more appropriate to run this as one long thread or to break it into separate subject “chapters.” I know, going in, that the project roughly breaks down into a few key topics:

- Introduction, Acquisition and Disassembly
- Stripping, Cleaning and Painting
- Bearings, Pulleys, Chuck and Mechanical
- Motor and Electrical
- Reassembly, Tuning and Operation

As we go, I’m only going to show what I do, but will give passing mention and links to resources regarding other subjects where appropriate. If you have input, suggestions, see anything you don’t understand, have something going yourself that would contribute to the discussion, please post away. But please keep it clean, orderly, and on topic, so we don’t get poofed somewhere down the road.

Thanks all… hopefully at least a few folks will follow along, and maybe even a few play along with the home version yourselves.

Know, think, choose, do -- Ender's Shadow
So here we go... and FWIW, most of the posts won't be as TLDR as these first couple, but will have captioned photos for the most part.

For starters, I'm not in the market for a drill press. Nor anything else, for that matter. But I usually do a quick look through CL most days after work, maybe a couple times on weekends, just to see if some noteworthy old machine happens to show up at a bottom feeder price. I've settled on what I call my thinking threshold -- three digits. If something is $100 or more, I have to think about whether I have any interest in it. $50-$75 complete machines, of reputable manufacturers, are fairly easy decisions because they often at least have parts worth that, even if there is a catastrophic problem.

In this case, I come across a post more than a day old that says something like "ANTIQUE Walker-Turner Jointer and Drill Press, $200, both work except the moving parts are frozen with rust." One horrible 2" photo of each, dp turned sideways, can't make out much of anything, especially on the jointer. The dp appears to be a 14" DP900, one of the most common old drill presses along with Deltas, and there also appears to be a production table on it. Ohh?? That's pretty unique. Also hints of having a spindle cap, which is often missing. Located in Santa Cruz, about 30 miles away, with a phone number, so worth a phone call to find out more.

Guy wants $100 for each, the jointer is taken, and says no to my usual "How about $75 if I come down right now". Trying to get below my thinking threshold, but no luck. So I ask a couple questions anyways.

"Can you tell me about the motor?" "Looks like Driver something, Plainfield, NJ, 1/3 hp. Runs good." OK, that would be an original WT Driver Line motor, probably 1/2hp but hard to read the tag. Cool item #1.

"Can you tell me about the switch?" "It's kind of a funky setup, you need to see it." "Is it on the left side, about 1" wide, 3-4" tall?" "Yep". OK, that would be an original art deco switch. Cool item #2.

"Do all four arms on the handle have black knobs?" "Yes." Cool item #3.

Combined with the production table, all is well, I tell him I'll pay the $100 and we arrange a time to connect later that night.

Get there, located about three blocks from the Santa Cruz beach, massively rusty due to sitting out in the SC fog and salt air for several years. Ugghh. But, the motor is very nice, the table is good and, bonus points, has a functioning table raising assembly. Cool item #4. We chat for a while, he shows me around his shop -- some nice stuff like a Yost patternmaker's vice, small lathe, very old first-generation Delta scroll saw. The jointer is sitting off to the side waiting to be picked up... too bad, it's a really nice 6" WT on an original art deco cast iron base. Load up the drill press, get home about 10:30, unload into the garage, check out a couple things including the motor in better light, all looks good. Nice find, all things considered.

So here it is, in all its bronze glory.

Note the nice salt-air effect on the pot metal pulleys. Hopefully, they have substance and don't disintegrate when they get removed. If those are shot, this project will come to a screeching halt real fast.

The table raising mechanism.

Tag is in great shape, except for a chip out of the edge. Dang. Depth stop rod and knurled nuts present and accounted for. From the OWWM wiki,, looking up the "serial number" 1-147 on the Walker Turner Magic Decoder Ring (MDR) suggests that the machine was produced in 1947.

Motor tag is unbelievably good condition. FYI, the motor alone is darn near worth the cost of the machine. These are top notch, and this one is particularly nice.

Finally, the table. Oh man, is that ever a lot of rust. But close inspection so far shows not a scratch, not a ding, no dimples or holes in sight. Woohoo. Let's just hope that's true once we get down to the metal.

All in all, pretty complete and solid. Three accessories that were not with it are a belt guard, a slow-speed pulley accessory, and a footfeed assembly. Not surprising, because they're not that common. Otherwise, it's pretty much all there.

So that's where I'm at, it's been sitting there a couple days ready to get started.

Bill... off to work on disassembling the rust and everything else.
This should be an excellent thread(s). I have a benchtop version of that drill press with table that defines the "arc of shame". I am contemplating a tear down along with Bill as more of a motivation to get my machine restored.
That could be a very decent DP, my thoughts are that you need to look seriously into electrolysis, it's an easy and efficient way to remove rust without damaging things. You'll need a good battery charger and a 55 gallon drum to cook them in. There's lots of info on OWWM and other places as well as to how to use/do electrolysis.
LarryC said:

There's lots of info on OWWM and other places as well as to how to use/do electrolysis.

Yep, that's for sure. Here are some reading resources for those interested.

This, from the OWWM wiki, should be the starting point:

Here are some sample owwm threads, there are countless more if you do a search.

I don't do it myself, largely due to space (or lack thereof). Plus, half an hour with a cup brush in an angle grinder gets me done on most big parts... nothing else goes nearly as fast. I have a couple friends in the area who do have electrolysis setups ("spooge tanks"), and I may ask to take the table over and let it gurgle while I work on other stuff. The rest, I'm just going to blow out in the front yard. That'll probably be this Saturday.

While I'm talking about space, this is the area where I spend the bulk of my time on dirty, grimy stuff. It's about a 10x10 corner on the northeast corner of the garage, where the rest of the 600 sq. ft. is the woodworking space. In this little corner, there is a 4' square bench w/ access on three sides, three grinders (including four different wire wheels), a metal lathe, a small mill, a metal bandsaw, an anvil, a vise, a buffer, five tool cabinets, a compressor, and storage space for my Parks planer. You don't need anywhere near all that stuff to do basic restorations, but the more you work on these projects, the more you start looking for/picking up "infrastructure support" tools and equipment... i.e., machines to work on machines. Sigh.

Oh yeah, plus the wood storage and clamp racks in back. I've though about moving those many times, but just don't have another place to put them.

After about an hour and a half of work tonight, I got disassembly down to everything except the table and base. Another hour tomorrow and it should be apart... depending on how hard it is to get the column out of the post. That is almost always the single most difficult connection to dislodge.

Nice shop Bill, I won't comment on all the tools though it's tempting. Okay, the vise is nice and I like the lathe too but I won't comment. My suggestion was merely one of time saving and cleanliness, buffing and wire brushes tend to make a mess in a normal wood shop, but clearly you don't have a normal wood shop. Not that there's anything wrong with your shop mind you. To be honest I haven't used electrolysis myself yet but will soon, I have a couple of tools that I don't have the time to buff out manually so it's either that or they'll continue to sit.
Amother alternative is evaporust - little costlier but a lot less messy than 'spooging" in my opinion.

For fun why don't you keep track of how many hours you invest in fixing it up. Be usefull for those deciding the new vs rebuilf debate.
Rick_B said:

Amother alternative is evaporust - little costlier but a lot less messy than 'spooging" in my opinion.

I find evaporust works well too, but I just have a peanut butter jar with a small containers worth in it. It would probably work well for the table, maybe the base, but not so much for the column.

Bill, you have an excellent area for working on machines. I usually just work on a sheet of plywood covering my unisaw. If the weather is nice, I try to do everything outside. It looks like you're just missing a good sized arbor press from your machine tools. I think a Famco 3-1/2 would be a perfect size and I just happen to have one sitting beside me that is sucking up room...
Very cool start on this press. Not all machines are created equal and some have better parts than others. This one is complete with an original motor which doesn't happen all the time since motors were considered an accessory back then. The other thing I look for and Bill pointed out is the very nice conditon of the labels and badges. Many times they are missing or painted over or flat out trashed. They don't add much to the functionality of the machine but they do add a lot to the look and quality of the restoration. Things that I add as very desireable on this press include:

Motor/quill condom at the top
Production table with no arc of shame
Solid quill handle, with all the balls
Original motor with the crinkle finish on the end bells

The other thing about this press that makes it an interesting candidate is the amount of overall surface rust on it. Many folks would be turned off, thinking its a "Rust Bucket". But again, its one of the issues more easily resolved. Electrolysis is a preferred method but it is very slow and for large parts, needs a very large container to hold the part and electrolyte. Think kids swimming pool for some larger parts.

Chemicals are my choice, but I like to use heavy artillery up front. Most marine supply stores sell a boat bottom cleaner called MaryKate on-off which is a combination of oxalic and phosphoric acid. Very strong nasty stuff, but it will work very quickly to remove the surface rust in a matter of minutes. You just have to cover your self appropriately with gloves and face protection as well as long pants and sleeves. Here is a shot of it working on a bandsaw table for a 20" Rockwell:

Total time on the table was about an hour and it got down into that "T-slot" for the miter guage. Mechanical methods such as a razor blade would not get into that tight a spot, though electrolysis would work as well.

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