In recent times, it has become quite a fad to take a tool and whack a laser into it as if that will make it a better tool. For some tools, this is just plain silly – a jigsaw with a laser for example makes a mockery of a potentially quality tool. Some tools (like jigsaws, bandsaws etc) track (cut at an angle) – that is their nature, and there are a variety of reasons why that is so. What it means though is they will never follow a laserline, so it is pointless having one.
However, and this is a big HOWEVER!, there are tools that can really benefit from the use of a laser to not so much improve their accuracy (although this can be the case) but to significantly improve their ease of use. The drill press is definitely a tool that falls into this category. Of course, you don’t need a laser to make accurate use of the tool – I’m certainly not claiming that, but I had a job just recently where I wished I had a laser positioner on the drill press. I was using a forstner bit, and I wanted it to be precisely centred on a mark, and in the end I had to guess that I was close enough. I’d rather not have to guess!
Now you don’t have to go out and buy a new drill press (and really, there are not many that come with a built-in laser). Instead, there is a very easy retro-fit that takes a whole 15 minutes to accurately fit and align. The unit comes from Professional Woodworkers Supplies and costs $140. It is powered by a single 9v battery.
Now I know that all sound like a typical sales review, but I do know there is a lot of resistance out there in certain corners to lasers in woodworking, and the inappropriate implementation in some instances has tainted the technology in other areas, so I wanted to justify the viewpoint.
The kit comes with the laser module, a couple of different size hose clamps (for different size drill press posts), a hex key, an alignment bar, and some easy-to-follow instructions.
The hose clamp feeds through a couple of slots in the back of the unit, the V shape of the unit means it centres on the drill press post when the clamp is tightened.
The two lasers are adjustable to ensure they are vertical, and also so they meet at a specific point.
Laser mounted. It is completely out of the way, so will not interfere with drill press operation when the laser is not required, and the retro-fit is completely reversable.
It’s a bit hard to see in the photo (the camera doesn’t see the laser as easily as the eye), but the laser is now centred directly below the centrepoint of the drill chuck. In this photo, you can also see the alignment bar mounted in the chuck. It has a vertical slot cut for the first part of the laser alignment, and then the end point of the bar is used to mark a point that the lasers are aligned so they cross precisely at that point.
Total operation, including laser alignment was only 15 minutes (and that included following the laser alignment instructions and taking the photos!)
It is not something I will use for every hole, but it is going to be indespensible when I do need it and who know, I may find that I start using it every time I use the drill press!