The PM2800 is a powerful, solid and versatile drill press that gets used frequently in my shop.
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POWERMATIC PM2800 18” Variable Speed Drill Press

Power, versatility and productivity

Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz

Posted - 10-5-2010

A drill press can be a workhorse machine in a metalworking shop whether you are a hobbyist or pro. A drill press with features that allow it to be more versatile is a bonus that makes it an even better value for your tool dollars. The Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press is such a machine.

The Basics

POWERMATIC designed this 18" drill press from scratch to include an array of standard features not found on machines that I am aware of anywhere close to this price range. Everything from dual LED work lights to a dual laser guide system, keyless chuck, on-the-fly variable speed, an expandable worktable and class-leading horsepower make the Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press very capable and user friendly right out of the box.
Powermatic is known for their liberal use of high-quality iron castings and heavy-duty steel components to make their machines conform to their reputation for durability. The Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press has a 3 1/8”-diameter ground steel column, heavy-duty quill and cast iron table system that add up to a level of rigidity that enhances accuracy and repeatability. The Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press also features a 11 7/8” by 19 5/8” cast iron base that adds to its stability and the vibration-dampening 287-pound overall weight. The base has cast-in holes in each corner that allow securing the Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press to a suitable floor. The base also has a pair of slots machined through the upper surface of the base for attaching work holding clamps and shop-made jigs.

Big Shop Capacity and Power

The stout 1HP motor and speed control lever (left, arrow) give this machine lots of power for the big jobs and the control you need for the small work. The keyed ON-Off button and digital rpm display (right) make it easy to keep tabs on what you are doing or to return to a favorite speed for a job. Also, note the hub behind the depth control that accepts the handles for left-handed operators.
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The 68”-tall by 31.5”-deep and 23.5”-wide overall dimensions of the Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press give it a chuck to base clearance of 46” and a maximum chuck to table capacity of 30”! Combine that with an 18”-swing and the range of jobs that can be done on this press is impressive.

The Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press is driven by a heavy-duty 1HP, 1Ph, 115/230V, 15/8-amp, TEFC (totally enclosed fan cooled) motor. The motor comes pre-wired for 115V power but can be converted to use 230V. It is important to note that Powermatic rates its electric motors using a continuous duty cycle rather than the “peak” or “max developed” smoke and mirrors many other manufacturers continue to use. The continuous duty cycle gives you a much better indication of the power available all of the time when in use.

Controlling Speed

Lots of power isn’t much help unless it can be controlled. The Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press uses an exterior, single handle variable speed control that lets you select spindle speeds between 400 and 3000 RPM. This is a Reeves type speed system so you have to make speed changes while the machine is running. Not having to deal with belts makes that very easy and a bunch faster.

Along with the variable speed the Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press features a large LED display on the front of the powerhead where you can see it easily while drilling or changing speeds. The digital readout lets you be exceptionally precise when returning to speeds you find work well for jobs you might repeat often.

Lights & Sights

The LED work lights (left) do a good job of lighting the work area without glaring in the operators eyes. If you like laser alignment systems (right) the PM2800 has a good one. The lights are individually adjustable from outside of the powerhead!
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Below the digital speed readout are two pressure buttons that control the built in LED work lights and a dual laser alignment system. An oversized pull On, push Off switch with a removable safety key completes the front panel.

The LED work lights are bright so you can see layouts easily but they are placed so that they do not glare in the operators eyes. Having two widely separated LEDS also minimizes shadows in the work area that could be dangerous or reduce accuracy. The LED's have their own push-button On/Off switch so you only use them when needed.

The Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press also has a pair of lasers positioned to create an “X” at the drill bit point of entry. The lasers are adjustable by the user with easy access because they are mounted on the sides of the power head, not under it. The instruction manual has full directions for tweaking the laser alignment should you need it.

Chuck and Spindle

The Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press has a surprisingly heavy-duty 2”-diameter quill for maximum stability during the big drilling jobs. The quill (spindle) assembly has a full 4 3/8” of plunge range. The quill has a #2 Morse taper and a slot for the included knockout drift key for removing accessories.

The tough 2"-diameter spindle (left) and included keyless chuck make this machine easy to set up and accurate. The large three-spoke handwheel (right) gives the operator plenty of leverage to handle the tough jobs.
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The Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press comes with a high quality, 5/8” capacity keyless chuck. This chuck eliminates one of the most frustrating things about older drill presses – finding the &%$# chuck key! Along with the speed of being hand-operated the chuck grips bits tightly without slipping.

The Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press also comes with a tool-free precision depth stop located on the left front of the powerhead. This easy to use depth system makes limiting drill depth for repetitive or depth-sensitive jobs quick and easy. You can also use this system to lock the quill at a specific depth for using accessories such as a sanding drum.
Spindle plunge is operated with three spoke hand wheel that gives the operator plenty of leverage for even tough jobs. If you are left-handed, fear not. Powermatic added a second hub for the operating handles on the left side of the powerhead!

Expanding Table

I have never seen a drill press with too big of a table – but the Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press comes close. In the closed configuration the Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press worktable is 20-3/4”-wide and 16”-deep including the side wings. Slide the extensions out and the useable width grows to over 30”! Each table extension wing has a pair of tool-free lever locks to secure them at whatever width is needed.

The Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press table tilts to 90-degrees to the left or right and can be locked at any point. A spring-loaded pull pin lets you index the table at 0, 45 and 90-degrees to the left or right. Naturally the table can swing around the column to clear the chuck to base path for long projects.

The expanding table (left) is huge as compared to anything I ever got with a drill press! The fence system (right is actually quite good for many jobs. the faces are adjustable in and out and the dust collection at the center actually works!
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The table is raised and lowered with a large crank and gear drive at the column. Locking the table at any height or position around the column is done with a tool-free lever at the column. This drive system is smooth, easy to work and has a nice ratio of height change per full crank of the handle.

The Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press table has a plastic snap-in reducer at the center with an inside diameter of 1 ½”. Remove the reducer and there is a full 3 ½”-diameter hole for large bits, sanding drums and similar attachments.

A Real Fence!

The Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press includes a 2 ¾”-tall by 19 ¾”-wide fence. The fence has flat, extruded aluminum faces that can be opened individually or together to create an overall support 30”-wide! At the center is the inlet for the dust collection with a 2”-diameter OD port that angles out from the rear of the fence to keep the hose out of the way.

In the Shop

The Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press is the first full-sized drill press I have owned and after using it for a few years I now realize how dumb it was for me to wait this long to get it. I had myself believing that I could make do with a bench top drill press but I was constantly finding workarounds for the limitations of the smaller machines. It is very clear now that my reasoning back then was flawed in a big way.

The all cast iron base (left) adds stability plus has hole cast-in for bolting this machine to a suitable floor. Note the machined slots for vises and other holding devices for long jobs. The table elevation crank and mount allow moving the table virtually anywhere around the machine along with tilting using preset indexing or the scales provided.
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Certainly the power of the Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press is nice to have but the large capacities really expanded the range and size jobs that I could handle in my shop. In many respects the extra capacity also lets me be safer by providing more room to clamp work pieces while drilling. The expandable worktable makes stabilizing large pieces of material or large objects much easier and that directly increases accuracy and safety.

The work lights are also a very good idea that I use constantly. Being able to see the area around the drill bit or whatever tooling is being used helps accuracy but also safety. With those lights on it is noticeably easier to see things like the little metal shaving “whips” flying around the bit.

I am not a big fan of laser alignment systems but I understand why many people are. I have used the Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press laser system several times and it does work but 50 years of drill press habits being so hard to break I usually double check the setup by touching the bit to the layout mark. That makes my using the laser system kind of a waste of time! But there are lots of folks who love the laser systems and find them super accurate.

The variable speed is one of my favorite features on the Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press. Between adjusting speeds and being able to see the exact rpm on the digital display I find it much easier to get the speed I want. I am also able to recognize that I am using similar speeds for some projects and that makes setting up for them much faster in the future.

Video Tour

The heft and quality manufacturing make the Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press very smooth running which is nice as well. I can complete large jobs without getting as fatigued as I did with the smaller machines that were straining to keep up. My Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press runs as good today as it did the first day when I assembled it about four years ago now.

Conclusions

The Powermatic PM2800 is a first rate drill press with the features, capacities and power to handle virtually everything hobbyist to pro metalworkers (and woodworkers) can throw at it. Small and large jobs are easy on the Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press and the quality of its construction mean that you won’t be replacing it for decades if not longer.

With a street price of around $899.99 (10-3-2010) the Powermatic PM2800 Drill Press is a sizeable but smart investment. Being able to walk up to my drill press without wondering if it is capable of handling the job at hand is very nice. Being able to handle bigger jobs with ease and safety is something that I do not mind paying a little extra for.

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