Sealey PDM155B Pillar Drill / Drill Press Reviewed

Pdm155b.v2

The Sealey PDM155B is a model in their Premier range of tools and the largest bench-top model they offer. It stands 1050 mm tall and has 16 speeds, a 600W induction motor, and a fully adjustable 290 mm square cast table and precise quill assembly for accurate drilling. It also boasts an integral work light of little use to me, and an electrically interlocked chuck guard which thankfully is easily bypassed. A 16-mm keyed chuck, rack and pinion table elevation and 80 mm of quill travel round out its features.

I’ve experienced several pillar drills, some great and some less-so. My school had an ageing yet robust industrial workshop model which would drill through anything like a hot knife through butter. The first I personally owned was a Draper 38259 which was a decent introduction to what a good pillar drill could offer, but it quickly developed excessive play in the quill assembly and the motor rattled like a freight train from new.

Next was my father’s Axminster AC220RD radial drill. A marked improvement on the draper, though it too quickly developed play in the quill and was limited in height. I therefore purchased the sealer, as I was t the time building a turntable which required that I be able to drill highly accurate holes to mount the arm and bearing. I was also going through a phase of building Telecaster guitars with string-through bridges, and there is something pleasing about having the ferrules align perfectly on the rear of the body which only an accurate pillar drill can achieve.

If you find the Sealey looks similar to models from other manufacturers, you’re not wrong. Like a lot of machinery in the semi-professional market these days the PDM155B is built in an unnamed Chinese factory by an OEM (original equipment manufacture) supplier. It is constructed to Sealey’s specification and to their credit it does have a few features to set it apart from the crowd, rather than existing as a carbon copy of everything else. I did initially purchase a Draper model 95314 which is essentially the same drill minus the work light, with a different guard and with the addition of rubber grips on the handles. When it arrived however the table was poorly ground and all of the base casting components were hopelessly bent so it was returned. It just goes to show that even tools originating from the same manufacturer can vary in quality depending on the name they carry and how much a given company divides their sale price between the tool and their profit margin.

That’s not to say the PDM155B was perfect out of the box. The centre of the chuck doesn’t line up perfectly with the centre of the table, the surface of the table isn’t ground perfectly flat and there is more play that I’d like in the chuck itself. I approached Sealey who have been more than helpful and will deliver replacement parts when they become available; the current Covid pandemic and the Brexit farce having caused major delays in supply, production and shipping.

Niggles aside the drill works wonderfully, producing accurate and clean holes in any material. The table is fully adjustable and can be set square or angled in relation to the chuck. There is a printed angle gauge but it is inaccurate, so aligning to a piece of known straight stock set in the chuck is advised. The chuck guard differs from most in that it is a large, flat piece of curved polycarbonate, and is adjustable in height. There is a switch within the guard mount that disables the drill when the Gard is swung out of the way to give access to the chuck.]

It is an interesting design but it needs to be constantly adjusted in relation to the workpiece, the height of the table and the length of the bit. Guards that attach to the collar are less frustrating as they move with the collar, and don’t need to be reconfigured as often. However they afford less protection, so one solution isn’t necessarily better than the other.

Though not strictly advisable, I never use the guard with the pillar drill. Thankfully the guard is easily removed and the mount can be set in the ‘closed’ position, negating the need to electrically bypass the safety cutout switch.

The 600W (370W continuous) indirection motor runs quietly and without any annoying rattle. The top of the drill is held shut with a single Philips screw and there is rubber damping material pre-applied to stop it rattling. Inside are stepped pulleys attached to both the motor and the quill, along with an intermediary pulley mounted to a swinging arm and a pair of belts. The belts can be installed in various combinations to give 16 speeds from 190 to 3000 RPM.

The drill has a maximum 660 mm distance from the spindle to the bass and 475 mm to the table in its lowest position. Neither of these figures include the chuck or bit. The throat depth, the distance from the centre of the chuck to the front face of the 80 mm steel column is 190 mm and the swing is 380 mm. The diameter of the collar is 60 mm, and the PDM155B can support an optional mortising attachment. A keyless chuck is also available as are various clamps and vices. The drill has a standard MT2 spindle taper and will accept any chuck that matches that requirement. It is supplied with the tool to remove the spindle taper if necessary, along with the hex keys required for assembly.

In operation the drill is extremely smooth. The motor hardly stalls when drilling through dense materials with massive forstner bits, and general drilling is hardly felt through the large cast-iron handles. I would have appreciated rubber grips as the handles can become uncomfortably cold to the touch in an unheated workshop in the winter. The PDM155B handles hole saws well too though it is possible to stall the motor with improper drilling technique. There is absolutely no play in the quill after several months of use drilling many different materials including hardwood, softwood, corian, HPL laminates, aluminium, carbon fibre and many others besides with all manner of bits.

The PDm155B has become a centrepieces of the workshop, handling most drilling tasks with ease. The addition of a table and fence, to be detailed in due course increases its versatility ten-fold. It would be nice to see a model with electronically variable speed though only if the quiet-running motor could be retained, and perhaps a table with standard t slots and a keyless chuck provided as standard fitment. Once you have one in your workshop though, it’s hard to imagine how you ever lived without. Providing the quill remains free of play and the machine continues to perform as it has, I see it as a workshop mainstay for years to come.

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