Going South

Over the past few months I have been looking at vintage pillar drills (or they could be called drill presses too if you live in the States.) I didn’t know too much about them in the beginning but my knowledge grew as I investigated. The difference between the models is fairly significant as some can self feed with every rotation of the hand wheel or they can be moved downwards by a top wheel manually and then too by gravity. All the ones I’ve bought so far were self-feed models but that does not mean there is something automatic about the outcomes; I found the rate of feed a little less predictable than I wanted between models, then also between say metal and wood and then within the different woods as well. It seems self evident that the user can switch between autofeed to simply turn the horizontal feed wheel manually and this for wood takes out any ambiguity and the feed is very progressive.

My reasoning for manual drive was to do with the work I am doing to develop curriculum and methods of work for autists. Many autists dislike always having to work with machines and of course for some autists that cannot happen. For those who just love working with their hands, this mechanised piece delivers the goods in a totally controllable and very safe way and that is all important. Many autists prefer to use non-machine methods because they offer uncomplicated ways to drill holes with in a non-intimidating way. Human speed is much more important for us all if we did but know it but we have been made to be more industrial beings which is very different to industrious being.

Drills like this mean you are working within and accepting of your human rhythms and not subject to super-fast spin, vibration and such that can be difficult for autists. It’s important to bring everything within our ultimate control and something autists can have complete control of with regards to feed rate, drill speed etc. It’s all too easy to say if that’s all you need why not just use a hand brace, wheel brace or something like that? Well, often it is about having perfectly vertical holes passing through the wood too, and that is where we all might go a little awry.

Also, you can set up for replication of identical pieces too – for building birdhouses and and bee/insect hotels for instance. This piece of equipment means you only have to hold the piece of wood and turn the handle. Totally and beautifully controllable.

A more complex type
The simplest version

Diving south to Southampton down the motorway for an hour and a half I couldn’t help but wonder if this model would be missing an irreplaceable part, as had a couple in the past, or whether it had had some additional element cobbled in to make it look more authentic. I am also a little leery of terms on eBay saying “fully restored” too. A fresh lick of paint, no matter how pretty, can mean something is covered up. I am very distrusting of “See pictures for description as no returns.” That’s a lazy-man way of saying ‘bought as is‘ and ‘no refunds or returns‘. This pillar drill is nice. The seller was straight up and because I changed my time of arrival to earlier and he couldn’t be there he left it on the front porch for me to pick up. I now have four of these, two smaller versions and then one geared, that can double the RPM and then the torque too. Whereas it is nowhere near as fast as a more up-to-date electric version, it’s what I want for testing out and will likely deliver the answer I’m looking for.

Going North

Driving to familiar territory I stopped to hook on my trailer. Northwards is a small town called Market Harborough, an hour and a half away from home but very dependent on traffic. My friend, George, had bought some mixed woods some years back but felt he would not use the wood into the future. The price was right so I went to take the wood off his hands. What we had was elm, beech and sweet chestnut slabbed into various thickness from 1 1/4″ to 4″. It was a heavier load by my trailer pulls well and it was fine towing it back. Loading with two of us was easier than unloading with one and because of the quantity I had to split the load so I will return soon for nine more 14 footers of flamed beech.

I am looking for to seeing exactly what wood I have in stock for building the furniture pieces for the house. I am sure i already have enough for about one third of the what I am planning. I have some very choice boards of mesquite, from the same trees I used when I designed the two White House pieces 10 years ago, so what I build will need to be pretty special. I still have goodly amount of quarter-sawn oak boards which I am thinking of making a matching suite from and then everything from sycamore to big-leaf curly maple, cherry, walnut, ash, chestnut and some vintage mahoganies I have salvaged from old Victorian furniture pieces over the years. Who can know what the future holds.


  1. Mic on 8 November 2019 at 1:05 pm

    They probably just tripled in price on ebay 😉

    • Paul Sellers on 8 November 2019 at 1:31 pm

      I doubt that most people would change their predictable drill presses for a manually operated vintage type without good reason.

      • John2v on 8 November 2019 at 6:27 pm

        Hi Paul. With reference to your “handraulic” drill press……I have been watching STAVROS GAKOS…..from Poland…..on Utube. Using a similar handrill when making really superb planes from beech…….I URGE ANYONE TO WATCH HIM.
        Thanks John

        • Steve on 12 November 2019 at 1:09 am


          • Christophe FRANCOIS on 14 November 2019 at 9:31 am

            yes, fully agree ! his work is really great and very nice to watch !!

  2. Neil Ramshaw on 8 November 2019 at 1:43 pm

    What lovely synchronicity – I got a ‘Mancuna’ one off gumtree about two weeks ago for £40. I will post a picture when I can get my son to show me how. Unrestored but seems in good order. All I intend to do is ensure the baseplate is flat on top.
    Why? Similar reasons to Paul. I want to be as ‘unplugged’ (noise, control and pace) as possible and don’t have the skill to be super perpendicular. I have even tried the bridge city drilling jig with hand drills and have found it doesn’t work well for me. Also it seems a safe way of drilling for children and get precise results. It would be good if somebody could manufacture them but they would be a minority interest and appropriately priced I guess.

  3. Bill Milhoan on 8 November 2019 at 2:53 pm

    Hi Paul, I’d love to see a video done with a manual press. Really like to know if there are specific techniques for using one. BTW, I bought a Millers Falls 210 that I have been negligent in restoring. I bought it because it seemed I might have a better chance at drilling straight with it than a a hand held electric. Not to mention it is just a really cool looking object!

    • John on 8 November 2019 at 7:32 pm


  4. Simon Wilcox on 8 November 2019 at 3:38 pm

    Hi Paul,
    I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on sourcing quality wood here in the UK.
    It looks as though I shall be lucky enough to be moving to a new house with a decent sized workshop, so I can begin a collection of good wood for my projects.

    • Pip on 11 November 2019 at 4:05 pm

      Have a look at ‘Manor Wood Designs’ on U-Tube. He sources a lot locally to him from farms and the local woodyard/sawmill.

  5. Richard Harnedy on 8 November 2019 at 4:09 pm

    Hi paul

    What is your opinion on vintage mitre saws. I have a stanley 358 and it has really helped with dimensioning wood. I hope you are in good health and keeping well.

  6. nemo on 8 November 2019 at 4:57 pm

    A similar manual drill press like that has been on my list for quite a while, but I haven’t stumbled upon one. Never have seen one at fleamarkets or second-hand stores. Either they weren’t common over here or they end up at scrap-yards instead, I fear.

    Tools like that work at a human pace. I’d use it if I had one. Used the electrical drill press today (the same one that belonged to my father and which I used as a child), pondering my use of that very same drill as a kid.

    Back then, when I was 9-10 and half the height I am now, my father always insisted I wore a woolen hat when drilling, as my head was at equal height of the drill chuck. Hated to wear it as a child. Much later, when studying mech. engineering, we were shown pictures of people who had been scalped by drill presses and whose neckties got caught in the lathe. Not a pretty picture… My father’s insistence on the woolen hat suddenly made a lot more sense to me then.

    Was thinking that you wouldn’t risk being scalped by one of those manual drill presses, but on second thought, those flywheels probably carry quite a bit of energy/momentum as well….

    Didn’t know people with autism disliked power tools. Food for thought, for me. Eery similarity. I suppose autism comes in a varied range of severeness.

  7. Brit on 8 November 2019 at 11:16 pm

    Classic drills like these are a great way to feel the manual control you get when working with your hands. It’s nice to slow down and take time with your work. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Joe on 8 November 2019 at 11:46 pm

    I am ok for now without a drill press.

    A bandsaw and dust collector are what I really want.

    If I could find one that allowed you to sit sort of like on a bicycle to drive the wheels and then I could feed the wood, that would be the best of both worlds.

  9. Samuel on 9 November 2019 at 1:58 pm

    A lotta u haven’t been down south too much,,,

  10. Jerry on 9 November 2019 at 5:20 pm

    The drills are great. Very reliable and very quiet.

    It sounds like you found a great wood cache, too!

    Keep on keeping on!

  11. Michael Geiger on 11 November 2019 at 6:09 am

    Mr Sellers, as a Speech Therapist with a special interest in autism spectrum disorder, and of course a growing passion for handtool woodworking , I find want you are doing with this population fascinating! Thank you for being part of a small group who aim to be inclusive and find ways to meet those with differences halfway.

    • Paul Sellers on 11 November 2019 at 9:12 am

      Thank you Michael. Much work to be done but that was the case when I first advocated woodworkers refind hand tool woodworking 30 years ago. What I am doing currently has been so worth while and autist support workers, teachers and therapists are amazed at the difference we are making in many aspects not the least of which is wellbeing through building self confidence levels.

  12. Richard Lumb on 11 November 2019 at 1:06 pm

    I obtained one of these (Bradson No. 5) some time ago, thrown in with some other tools as a “needs work” project and looking rather sorry for itself. It spent some time languishing under a bench and largely forgotten. That was until I needed to drill some 16mm holes in 13mm steel plate and my normal drill press didn’t have the throat or power to do it. The Bradson could (after a dousing in oil). Took a while stepping up the bit sizes and my shoulder knew it had been used but since then that drill has had permanent bench space and much use. Amazing tools.

  13. William Allen on 11 November 2019 at 5:10 pm

    I watched Stavros Gakos on YouTube use one in March. I looked high and low until I found a bench version rather than a post mounted version. I have not used by electric drill press since. The control and precision with the Pillar Drill is just unmatched. I have replaced every power tool in my shop with hand tools. It feels so good and so fulfilling to be working directly with my hands. Can’t thank you enough for your channel and websites. You were the first YouTube I saw on woodworking by hand and you’ve converted me entire.

  14. Mark on 12 November 2019 at 5:59 am

    I have recently come across a Canedy Single O post drill that I was lucky enough to pick up for $10. Was thrilled and as soon as I found a friend to help me pick it up and load it for the short ride home, I couldn’t have been happier. The information I was able to pull up suggests it was made in the later 1800s before Canedy became Canedy-Otto in he 1890s. It seems that I may have one of their original 1st model presses. In the process of setting it up for use as it’s in better working condition at over 100, then I am at 62. That’s alright as I’m just as stubborn. Have enjoyed watching and learning from your channel and website, Thank you and splendid idea for the autistic woodworkers. I have multiple sclerosis and sometimes the electric machinery can shake me up also.

  15. Christopher J. Thomas on 12 November 2019 at 7:04 pm

    Paul: November 12, 2019
    In 2010 I purchased a 1944 war production Delta drill press (pillar drill) for $400. I replaced the quill bearings and wired up a new switch, filled the
    “Arc of shame” with J.B. Weld epoxy. An explanation here, the arc as it is referred to, is the careless tradesman drilling into the cast iron table.
    It runs on U.S current 120V. A.C.
    The table is massively ribbed piece of the patternmaker’s art, 12 1/2″ x 17″ with a coolant tray all round which I use as a small tool and bit queue.
    It’s precise and smooth, quite handsome in my shop, and always is commented on from visitors. World War II production quality- hopefully some were sent to Britain during Lend Lease era!
    I’ve no regrets having acquired this machine.
    Cheers, Christopher
    P.S. Love to send a photograph…

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