LED and laser make drilling accurate
Handles large workpieces
Belt-free speed changes
Takes up a lot of workspace
No low RPM settings
No included fence/clamps
WEN is a nearly 70-year-old, Illinois-based company that sells power tools online and through big box home improvement stores. To see if its reputation for being the budget choice of serious hobbyists held up, I tested its 12-Inch Variable Speed Drill Press over several weeks in my home garage workshop in Colorado. We assessed its durability, performance, and special features, such as its built-in laser and light.
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Setup: Simple assembly required
The WEN Drill Press comes in many different pieces that must be assembled before you get down to any drilling, and luckily, no special equipment is required. However, once assembled, the press must be mounted to a table, bench, or stand before use, and there are no mounting bolts included. I purchased a rolling stand and bolted the press to that to make it easier to move the press to where I needed it and to roll it out of the way when I didn’t, rather than take up precious real estate on my workbench.
The assembly of the press isn’t brain surgery, and the included instructions are decent, but you’ll need your brain (and likely some trial and error) at points to get the press built. The process is basically: attach the base and table to the column and then attach the head, which houses the motor and chuck. Having a combination square will help once you have the press built in order to check the alignment of the chuck and if the table is perpendicular to the drill.
Design: Professional grade
Despite being priced to appeal to hobbyists, the WEN looks professional, and its aesthetics are all business. Much of the press is constructed of cast iron, making it both heavy and heavy-duty.
The ⅝-inch chuck holds bigger bits and is more than most hobbyists will need. The 3 ⅛-inch spindle travel means you can drill straight through anything up to a 3 ⅛-inch thickness. That means you’ll come up just short on a 4x4 post, for example, which has actual measurements of 3.5 x 3.5 inches.
Most of the build shows attention to detail, although there are a few minor gripes: The table tilts, allowing you to drill workpieces on an angle (45 degrees left and right). However, the tilt angle is locked out by a hex head bolt underneath the table, which makes it hard to access for tightening and loosening. WEN uses tool-free locking screws with handles in three other places on the press, and I wish they would’ve used another here.
I also wish, since I had the press mounted on a cart, that the power cord was a tad longer. In several instances, I had to run an extension cord to plug it in. If you mount it on a workbench, it will no doubt be plenty of cord for you, but in my situation, even another foot of cord would’ve been nice.
The three handles on the feed (which lowers the drill) were more than I needed, but luckily the manufacturer realized not everyone will like having all three, so you can easily unscrew one or more. I took out two of the three handles and found it much easier to operate this way, and the lone handle never got in the way.
While it’s not to be expected on any drill press, let alone one this competitively priced, I do wish the WEN came with a couple of clamps that mount to the included table. At around $20 each (depending on size), however, you can order a couple online or invest in an aftermarket drill press table.
Performance: Easy, reliable operation
The WEN 12-Inch Variable Speed Drill Press does what it’s built to do. From soft pine to hard cedar to steel, I was able to drill clean holes without stalling or skipping around on the workpiece with the 5-amp, ⅔ horsepower induction motor. Even on somewhat irregular circular iron rods, I was able to drill cleanly by selecting a slower speed and using proper clamping of the workpiece.
While this isn’t WEN’s largest drill press—the company also makes 15- and 17-inch versions—its 12-inch swing means DIYers can drill to the center of boards up to 2 feet wide. “Swing” refers to the distance from the support column to the drill bit and indicates how large a workpiece the drill can accommodate.
Unlike many other drill presses, this one features mechanical speed adjustment that doesn’t require manually moving belts. The simple handle-controlled knob adjusts your speed up and down fairly precisely. That speed is displayed on a digital readout.
While it’s only geared low enough for a minimum speed of 580 revolutions per minute, or RPM, I found the speed range (up to 3,200) covered the full range of projects I was working on. If you’re frequently drilling large, deep holes in steel, you may need to consider a different press with more low-end speed options. (Drilling large holes in metal at higher speeds can burn out your drill bits.)
Still, I was able to drill through ¾-inch steel with a decidedly run-of-the-mill ½-inch titanium bit without it binding (stopping for any reason) or breaking. Wood was a breeze, though I found using brad point bits helped start the hole cleanly, especially on dowels and other rounded workpieces such as table legs.
Unlike many other drill presses, this one features mechanical speed adjustment that doesn’t require manually moving belts.
Features: Laser and lights
Some old-school woodworkers think lasers are gimmicky and no substitute for proper measuring and marking. While they may be right, I found the laser on this press accurate and helpful when lining up pieces for drilling. Some reviewers complained that the laser didn’t line up with the drill’s impact point, but mine was accurate out of the box, and there are adjustments if yours isn’t.
I found the laser on this press accurate and helpful when lining up pieces for drilling.
The switch next to the laser switch operates the LED light, which shines down on the table from the drill. I found this very helpful as well since my garage isn’t particularly well lit in places, and setting up a work light is another step. Having the LED meant that I could roll the drill press anywhere and still have a well-lit work area.
Price: Power and capacity for the price
It’s hard to find a drill press of this power and capacity below $500, and yet the WEN comes in around $260, making it hard to resist for the hobbyist who wants a little more than most budget tabletop presses offer.
WEN 4214 12-Inch Variable Speed Drill Press vs. WEN 4208 8-Inch 5-Speed Drill Press
If you like the design of this model but don’t think you’ll need the capacity, you can save almost $200 by downsizing to the brand's 8-inch version (view on Amazon). You lose half the horsepower, a little capacity for larger workpieces, and the handy but non-essential LED light and laser mark features. However, you get the essential function of drill holes. If you’re a DIY woodworker, this smaller unit may be all you need, but with the lower power, this likely isn’t a good choice if you’re drilling a lot of metal or using larger bits on dense woods.
A great budget option for the hobbyist.
Serious pro-grade drill presses start in the four-digit price range, so it’s great to be able to get the capacity and power of the WEN 12-Inch Drill Press for around $260. Power users will find this unit’s limitations, but for most DIYers like me, this press is plenty.
- Product Name 12 in. Variable Speed Drill Press
- Product Brand WEN
- Price $257.04
- Weight 89 lbs.
- RPM Range 580-3200
- Max Drill Capacity 5/8 in. into 1-in.-thick cast iron
- Materials cast iron, steel plastic
- Warranty 2-year, limited