Axminster AC220RD Bench-Top Radial Pillar Drill Reviewed

Ac220rd

The AC220RD from Axminster Tools is a five-speed radial pillar drill complete with a 16 mm keyless chuck and sturdy cast table assembly. A radial drill has the advantage of increased throat depth over a standard pillar drill; here a massive 420 mm between the centre of the chuck and front face of the column. This versatile machine can tilt both the table and the drill head itself to create angled holes, and has a quiet-running induction motor.

The AC220RD is similar to the Sealey GDM790BR, though the Sealey is more expensive, doesn’t come with a keyless chuck as standard and has a few other minor differences including a larger table. The two no doubt come from the same OEM (original equipment manufacturer) in China, but are no worse off for that. The 550W induction motor is plenty to spin the 16 mm chuck, which as standard is keyless on the Axminster AC220RD. They have a 60 mm column and the collars are 55 mm and 60 mm for the Sealey and Axminster respectively. Both have lockable rack and pinion height and throat adjustment and an electrically interlocked pulley guard.

The rest of this article focuses on the Axminster model exclusively, though most of the details are similar. I thought it may be worth mentioning the Sealey model as the two are essentially the same machine. The final difference I will note however is that the Axminster model cannot support the Axminster mortising attachment, whereas the Sealey does support the Sealey MA10 mortising attachment. I have not tried this myself, though according to the specs you can fit the Sealey MA10 to the Axminster AC220RD.

Beneath the pulley guard a long belt can be configured for a range of five speeds from 500 to 2450RPM. There is a NVR (no-volt release switch) mounted to the front of the drill with a safety cover. The cast-iron table measures 230 mm x 210 mm with a maximum chuck to table distance of 220 mm and a maximum chuck to base of 375 mm. The overall dimensions are 840 mm x 320 mm x 790 mm.

The crowning feature of the AC220RD is the radial head, which glides smoothly on a rack and pinion mechanism controlled by a large side wheel. It can be locked into position, giving a minimum throat depth of 210 mm and a maximum throat depth of 420 mm. This gives the AC220RD massive capacity for drilling wider boards or for using the drill as a rudimentary spindle sander with a sanding attachment. The table is on a dual-pivoting arm and swings forward to match the increased throat depth. In situations where the extra throat depth isn’t required, one half of the table arm can be removed to give you extra distance between the table and chuck.

Any extra depth is welcome was I found the AC220RD to be its biggest limitation. It could do with an extra 100 mm on the column, especially given that you loose extra depth to the keyless chuck than you would a standard chuck.

The keyless chuck is a very welcome inclusion and a very high-quality item; much better than the keyed chuck supplied with my Sealey PDM155B. The spindle has a standard MT2 taper and can fit any standard chuck that meets that spec, though this keyless chuck is so good there is really no need to replace it. Though the specifications state it can accommodate bits between 3 and 16 mm, I found it to be quite capable of tightly clamping a 1 mm bit.

The quill has a maximum travel of 80 mm. When this drill was purchased one of the requirements was to find a drill with no quill play. A couple were tested in the local Axminster store, with 1 floor model found to have a half a millimetre of play and the other having zero play at all. The latter example became homeward bound, though within a few months of relatively light use it developed a small amount of play in the quill. It’s not much, but it is enough that absolute accuracy is difficult to achieve with this drill. It is accurate enough for woodworking in a home workshop, but it is not accurate enough for hobby engineering. There doesn’t appear to be any way to tighten the quill assembly to take up the play, though I suppose if one were to machine the casting a bushing could be made which would make the AC220RD a highly accurate and highly versatile drill that could achieve engineering tolerances.

On the plus side, however, the AC220rD’s versatility also extends to its angling ability. Both the table and the headstock can be angled to 45-degrees in either direction. The headstock has a spring-loaded locking pin at the 90-degree mark, whereas the table relies on its pivotal Allen bolt and a smaller grave screw to keep it in place. A good engineer’s square has the AC220RD drilling clean, straight holes to a millimetre of accuracy in no time.

For crafters, woodworkers and light-duty workshop use the AC220RD is an excellent radial pillar drill. DOn’t be surprised if there is some play in the quill from the outset, or if play develops down the line; that is just a fact of the design, and is a problem that is certainly not limited to the Axminster model. My old Draper drill, which was marketed as “heavy duty” (not that that means anything) suffered the same issue. The AC220RD still manages to be more than accurate enough for its intended use, and its massive capacity makes it highly useful for tasks that even the best pillar drills can’t handle. It’s whisper quiet too, carries a three-year guarantee and for £300 at the time of writing represents a bit of a bargain.

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