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Mag Drills for a Fab Shop


Cast Iron
Jul 25, 2013
atlanta, ga
There are “mag-drills” and there are “magnetic drill-presses”. Personally, I think any well-equipped fab shop should have one of each. I have a Hougen HMD904. It’s not painfully heavy, but it maxes out with a 2” annular cutter and is really designed only to make a hole in the material it’s stuck to. I bought the kit when I got mine, it came with five cutters, a Jacob’s chuck and carrying box. Mounting the chuck isn’t easy, you really need stub/screw machine drills and with that machines fixed speed, it really doesn’t turn fast enough. If you need a hole between 9/16”-2” in 1/4” or better plate, the Hougen is the best tool I have. I’ve never attempted to use it for tapping.

Sometimes you need to tap a hole, or need a hole bigger than 2”. That’s when the Milwaukee comes out. It’s BIG! It’s HEAVY! As has been mentioned it’s not AS stiff as it’s weight may suggest, but does the job with sharp tooling… dull drills and taps, not so much. I bought mine used, so I took what was available, but if the motor ever wears out I plan to replace it with the Morse taper version as I have MT2 tooling in assorted flavors. Mine has the swivel-base, having used both swivel and fixed bases, the swivel base is the way to go. Milwaukee also has their line of “Steel Hawg” annular cutters up to 6”. I have a 3/4” Steel Hawg arbor as well as an MT2 one for my drill press. The 3/4” arbor adds A LOT of length to an already less-than-rigid setup.

The other thing the Milwaukee can do that smaller mag-drills cannot is be used as a field drill-press… to an extent. At very least they can drill something above the bottom surface of the magnet… it’s neither ideal nor a true substitute for a drill press, but I have definitely used my Milwaukee to drill holes in material either too thin or non-ferrous stuff in the field. I’ve also sandwiched a sheet of 3/16” aluminum between the drill and heavy plate to drill holes my drill press didn’t have the throat for. My back hurts just thinking about lugging that Milwaukee ANYWHERE, but it will always have a place in my shop.

I just did a quick google search and was surprised to learn that Milwaukee apparently hasn’t gotten the message about gouging their customers under the guise of inflation. They’re still available online for the same $1250-1500 that they’ve cost as long as I’ve known of them. Meanwhile, I think I paid $800 for the Hougen kit, delivered to my front door in 2011… the same drill is now selling for nearly the cost of the Milwaukee.

Both mag-drills and magnetic drill-presses are specialized enough to not have a place in everyone’s shop, but it’s been my experience that if you have need of one style or the other, you’ll eventually have want for both.

Be safe



Hot Rolled
Aug 9, 2011
new plymouth id
Have a Milwaukee compact i think they are called that, i have totally wore out but still use it with a chuck for small stuff but its too slopped out to run an annular anymore i have a cs drill i replaced it with. way more complicated but runs a morse 3, reverse, and has tapping ability, came with all the adaptors to run anullars and tap drivers but very complicated electronics and thick paint it will not turn on. I have a hard time laying out a pattern with annular cutters seems like there is enough flex in the centering pins to mess up measurements so i like to run twist drills when possible. And its a lot heavier
When the cs unit gives up i probably will not get another. To complicated. Milwaukee or hougen
Will be my next one. I never had a drill press until a couple of years ago though, always used the Milwaukee. The cs unit i have MAB 525 Portable Magnetic Drills | CS Unitec

BT Fabrication

Nov 3, 2019
for tapping, id personally get a tap arm. basically a massive arm that will tap anything all the way up to 2", downside is the 1"+ is the hydraulic driven compared to air and starts in the 12-20K range.
FlexArm Tapping Arms | Made in USA | Wapakoneta, OH ive seen them and used them, they are the best when coming to tapping a ton of hole, can even do 90 degrees if needed.


Oct 6, 2019
Thanks for all of the advice! We were hard-pressed on choosing between a couple models but in the end came to a decision. Ultimately, we were back and forth on whether to get one of the Fein or Hougan universal presses that have quick change arbors or a semi-suto drill from the same company. Given that we already have 2 Milwaukee's (a large and a small" we did not see much use in buy a 3rd. One of the biggest driving decisions was the time we could free up the fabricator to move on to laying out the next hole or running a 2nd press with a tap in it if there was a semi-auto press. (Much like using a manual vs auto feed horizontal bandsaw. There is no value add in having a tech making $30 an hour to stand at a machine holding a handle while it cuts or drills for 30 minutes.

In the end, we chose a Fein JCM200 Auto Slugger. Hopefully it serves its purpose until we can buy a large CNC for drilling. (I will be posting a question about options in that world soon! Stay tuned!)

Automatic | FEIN Power Tools, Inc.