Daily Dose

Free Upgrade for the Harbor Freight Drill Press

After purchasing the Horror Freight, I mean Harbor Freight, benchtop Drill Press a few months ago for around 50 dollars, I’ve been figuring out how to use it and which jobs it’s best suited for. As it is my first drill press I don’t have much to compare it against, but so far I have been very happy with┬áthe tool. Even if it isn’t the best drill press out there, it is a bargain for the price and a great way to expand the capabilities of a small home workshop. But enough on that, let’s talk about this free upgrade.

One aspect of the drill press that definitely seemed to miss the mark was the built in light. The 15W 120V incandescent bulb was both dim and annoyingly hot. Since my shop isn’t as well lit as it should be (future project I suppose), I’ve come to rely on the built-in lights on several of my tool. The lights are usually well placed and ensure an unobstructed view of the workpiece or part I’m working on. Also, they are almost always LEDs so their bright, cool to the touch and will last the life of the tool.

image_26362So I decided to replace the light that came with the drill press with one of the free, magnetic stick-on lights that Harbor Freight gives away quite frequently. It runs off thee AAA batteries and has plenty of LED for the job. After unscrewing the back cover and then the battery compartment from the front of the case, you find a very simple circuit board.

For this project I decided to unsolder the small, front strip of 3 LEDs since I only want down lighting. I also removed the battery terminals since I’m definitely not going to rely on batteries for my light. The LED board is basically just a bunch of LEDs in parallel with a current limiting resistor, which makes it ideal for my purposes since the modes of failure are few and far between. To power the light I figured a 5V USB charging plug would do the trick, and who doesn’t have a few extra lying around?


After cutting open a spare USB cord and soldering the end to the light, wired in the USB charging plug to the existing wiring in the drill press. It took a little tetris-like prodding to get everything to fit back in place, but once the arm was screwed into the frame, I simply super glued the light to the end of the arm. Once the glue dried I went back with black caulking to fill in around where the light and the arm met to give it a nice, finished look as well as a secondary adhesive if the super glue fails.

As you can see the light works. It is much brighter than the 15W bulb that was used before. It is also completely cool to the touch, so no extra heat in an already hot workshop (Florida summer).

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