A Hand-Cranked Drill Press

I mentioned earlier that in addition to my collection of hand tools, I have a few machines. Allow me to introduce you to my drill press. Wanting to keep the “unplugged” motif, I decided to build a hand-cranked drill press like the one reportedly depicted in Sievers, Giacomo Ferdinando, Il Pianoforte, Guida Practica Per Costruttori, Accordatori, Dillettanti e Professori Di Pianoforte Con 300 Disegni.” The pianoforte, practical guide for builders, tuners, amateurs and professors of piano with 300 drawings Napoli: Ghio, 1868. Sievers’ drill press is most likely a late 18th- or early 19th-century design, given the fact that steam power was available long before 1868.


Being used in the construction of pianos, Sievers’ drill press had a specific function of boring holes for the string pins; therefore, did not need to have a great deal of vertical adjustment. I wanted my drill press to be able to handle a variety of thicknesses; therefore, I needed to solve the issue of height adjustment. I eventually decided to secure the brace in a movable frame.

Sievers_drill__press 4

To alleviate the possibility of rack within the side members, I decided to build a frame within a frame. This seemed as though it would offer somewhat more stability.

frame in a frame

With the design worked-out, it was time to start cutting lumber. I made the frame holding the brace out of sassafras and white pine. I just love the smell of the sassafras as things heat up!


The table and legs are also out of white pine. I fit the upper frame to the base via mortise and tenon joints, and attached the legs to the table via Roubo’s sliding dovetail joint.


After several hours, my hand-cranked drill press had become reality. It works well with all sorts of drill bits. I keep it greased with a 4:2:1 mixture of turpentine, boiled linseed oil, and beeswax. Having it positioned in the corner as I do, allows me to pass long pieces through the open window… causing my neighbors to wonder, “What is he doing now?”


If you close one eye and squint through the other, you can see that I didn’t veer too far from the original.


Thank you, Giacomo Ferdinando Sievers.

6 thoughts on “A Hand-Cranked Drill Press

  1. Dave Polaschek

    I like your drill press, Ron. Got a post drill of my own yesterday, though. Now I just need to find room for a post!


      1. Dave Polaschek

        A coworker suggested I make a system like the rails that library ladders ride on. Probably won’t do that, but the idea is floating in my brain now, so who knows what’ll end up happening?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ron Aylor Post author

        Neither would I. Just put a post in the middle of the shop and get used to it. I’m sure you will only run into it for a month or so… LOL!


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