Meddings or Union Drill Press?

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19 Jan 2019
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Ive wanted to buy an old quality drill press to replace my old Axminster bench drill. I now have a choice between a Meddings Drilltru 240v for £225 which is described as in good working order or a Union 240v for £350 which is described as in perfect working order. However the owner of the Union sent a video of it working and to me it sounds very rattley. The Meddings is a fairly long drive away but the Union is reasonably local.

Any advice would be most appreciated
For me it’s all about condition as they are both good drill, but condition is hard to tell from photos. Although A smile of shame is a dead giveaway for a long hard life!

My main concern with a drill press is runout when drilling, I’ve a Fobco star and I’ve battled this with and after two new chucks decided the spindle must be fractionally out of whack. Most other bits are replaceable but finding a new spindle is likely impossible.

My Fobco rattles due to the belt but it doesn’t effect the performance.

I’d go look at the local one so assess if it is in perfect running order. Take a dial gauge and measure the runout, or drill a small hole and see it the bit vibrates the board. Check for movement in the quill at full extension. Motor bearings and quill bearings should be smooth (take the belt off to assess). Return spring should pull the quill back up, or at least be balanced and adjustable. Pulleys free from corrosion and chipped edges. Pillar should be largely free of corrosion and the table able to move freely. Electrical wires in good condition with no fretting or exposed wires.

If it’s as good as I can be then you’ve a winner else wall away and make the drive to the other one.
Sorry got into a bit of rant mode there!
looking at getting something similar myself so will be watching this thread with interest.
Rattley is generally lack of lubricant on the quill drive..a good thick grease will quieten it down… if it still rattles when under load drilling then thats a different problem
That’s just what mine does, great info, another job on the to-do list.
I'm a bit biased, I like Meddings, but the Union looks as if it would be as good. As Fitzroy says, all about the condition of the machine.

I was very fortunate to find a good Meddings MF4/3. It is a brilliant machine. It has a gearbox and a quick change, 5 pulley belt drive. I can change pulleys in about 30 seconds, just push the release lever back, move the belt and re-tension by pulling the release lever forward.
It is a 3 phase machine, so I fitted a VFD which gives variable speed control. I have limited the VFD to stay close to the motor parameters, so I can get +/- 20% about nominal speed on each pulley. It has 5" travel on the quill. On the low gear and first pulley, if I could stop the chuck, I think the earth would rotate!! :) The machine has a very convenient quill lock right at the front and a sturdy depth stop along side. Everything about the design makes it easy to use.

Main weakness are sacrificial pulleys in the gear box. If the drill has been abused, they can be damaged. They are still available, but quite expensive. My gears are a little bit worn, but the machine still works perfectly. The drill dates from early 50's. I rarely use the low gear, because I can get a range of 247 to 4800 in the high gear with the VFD.
The other hassle with my one is the lack of rack drive on the table, so changing the table, becomes a bit of a weight lifting exercise, but you do then appreciate just how solid these old cast iron machines are.

meddings speed.JPG

If you happened to come across one for sale. I would definitely recommend it, if it's a good model.
I agree it's all about condition. I bought a big old Meddings from a farmer and it needed considerable restoration to bring it back to spec. In addition to the checks above, I recommend removing any chuck and checking the Morse Taper. You can do it with your finger - it should feel smooth and unscored. Also check the back/bottom of the head casting for any hairline cracks near the pillar.

The Drilltru doesn't have a back gear, so you will be changing belt positions frequently when you need slower speeds. On the plus side, it doesn't have a gearbox, so you don't have to worry about stripped fibre gears.

Meddings drills come up quite often. With a bit of patience, you will find one closer to you. I now have a Meddings MB4 in excellent condition, with a back gear and three phase motor running off a VFD, so I rarely have to change the belt position. It will thrash the pants off any modern consumer drill press and is a pleasure to use.

Add Elliott, Startrite, Fobco to your list. Decide how important a back gear is to you, then go for the one in best condition. Make sure the seller can demonstrate it plugged in and working. if the checks mentioned in this thread fail, be prepared to walk away.
Mike, are you predominately into woodwork or metalwork or both ? If it’s mostly for metal then I would hold out for a Meddings MF4 or similar with a gearbox thus giving you much lower speeds and more torque. As has been said condition is important but most mechanical things can be fixed. Mine is a ancient MF4 I replaced the tufnol gear and the quill return spring, parts from Meddings, they don’t have everything but service for me was very good.
As for the two you are looking at I would do the short drive first and take a view, if it’s not to satisfaction bite the bullet and go for the long drive— or keep looking ! BTW there are some MF4’s put up for very high prices but if you watch or make an offer you can fine a competitive one, you will pay more than the prices you quoted but worth it in my opinion
Well I bought it!!
It is excellent, the rattle on the video he sent turned out to be a loose fitting lid. I did all the above recommended checks. and drilled into dry oak and softwood using a brad point bit and also used a large forstner bit and it cut really cleanly with no drill rattling in the hole; there is no drift. I removed the belt and tested for play in the motor bearings and quill and they were solid. It has a Jacobs chuck in very good condition. I think its a PD4 but there's no plate that states the model. It has a 3/4hp motor.

There are several cosmetic issues that I need to sort or ignore:
  • The lid needs re-adjusting so it closes properly. It has a safety microswitch that is getting in the way so needs adjusting.
  • The cable feed to the motor needs a new conduit fitting
  • The few chrome bits need re-chroming
  • The table and base need the surfaces cleaning up
  • The table has the usual drill damage
  • There are bits of paintwork that may steer some to stripping it and re-painting but it's no where near bad enough to convince me.
So, in summary, I'm chuffed to bits and will shortly be putting my Axminster ND12 up for sale.
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Nice. I wouldn't bother with a paint job either - original paint is far more desirable if you ever come to sell it. You can always wax over it to prevent rust. Clean up the grime and it'll look as good as it performs.
Thanks all, one problem came to light this morning when I wanted to change to low speed to use a large hole saw; I loosened the grub screws but the motor refused to budge, I had to manually move the belt from pulley to pulley. I know I will mostly use one speed for most woodworking jobs but it would be good to fix this - any ideas?
The motor on my Fobco is tough to slide. Once both side bolts are loose I have to use hands both sides to get it to move, if it racks at all it locks in place. Keep meaning to take it apart and clean/fix but i only remember every few months when I change speed, so very low down the list.

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