A couple of years ago I took receipt of a new drill press. At the time I didn’t have a website and posted the details of my purchase on www.woodworkforums.com.au. If you’ve read the post previously, there is nothing new here. Otherwise, read on…
If you’re anything like me, you’ll love to have a look at the photos. Obviously this review is biased — I’ve been looking for an “ultimate” woodworking drill press for a long time, and this press seems to fit the bill for me. Also, there are not a lot of pictures of the newer Parken presses on the internet, so these pictures may be of use to others looking for a high quality, Australian made machine.
The specifications are as follows:
- Weight = 192kg
- Quill Travel = 160mm
- Quill Diameter = 62mm
- Throat Depth (space between column and bit) = 260mm
- Column Diameter = 90mm
- Table = 380mm dia.
- Speeds with VFD = 10 – 8,600RPM
- Maximum distance spindle nose to table = 724mm
- Maximum distance spindle nose to base = 1173
- Spindle is MT3
The machine weighed in at 295kg on the delivery note, which is indicative of how well it was packed for shipping. I’m dirty on myself for not taking decent photos of the crate from a distance. Sorry. The machine arrived in perfect condition:
I absolutely loved visiting the Parken Engineering factory and meeting Michael Haussegger. According to Michael, his father, “Pardy” Haussegger, and his business partner (Ken – sorry I’ve forgotten his surname) started Parken Engineering in 1945. The “Par” comes from his father’s name, and the “Ken” comes from the business partner, to form the brand “Parken”. Parken first made little toy steam engines for 5 quid each. They are now making and selling the very same engines today. I bought one and it is awesome to run!
The brick portion of the factory is original to 1945, while the tin shed in the background is a large expansion that took place around 1972 when Michael and his brother Karl purchased Parken Engineering from their father.
The original brass plate at the Parken factory.
Back to the press itself… The first problem was how to get an extremely heavy (and head heavy) press off the pallet! It took a bit of judicious muscling, my pallet trolley, and some of the crate timber, but finally, the press found the slab:
During my visit, I asked Michael Haussegger where the wing-like swoosh above the name came from. He said his father liked the red from Repco which accounts for the red colour, and the swoosh is meant to be wings joined together to symbolise the partnership between Pardy and Ken. I like knowing its history.
Michael is extremely proud of this machine. I got the impression from him that Parken presses change over time, even from press to press. He says he and his brother are constantly looking for better designs and better ways of making the presses. I asked him about the heavy plastic balls on the handle, and he said they were Bakelite (the real stuff) still made a couple of blocks down the road. That handle pictured is a monster. It fits its hole so well that it does not slide down loosely, and yet can be pushed with a little pressure if it happens to get in the way. I reckon it would absolutely seize up if it became rusty – lucky it is chromed and polished, as is the press column, so rust is less of an issue. I love the heft of it.
The Parken logo on the press.
The Omron VFD has single phase in and outputs three phase for the 1.5kW S1 continuously duty rated motor. It is housed in a custom metal box towards the back of the press.
The custom metal box motor housing towards the back of the press.
The controls for the press are simple, and consist of an emergency stop (top), the forward/backward on/off switch (bottom), and the frequency control knob (middle). I was told that the reversing feature of this press is for tapping threads, a feature which I don’t plan to use any time soon.
This press has an integrated LED adjustable light, which does the job nicely. It is an “always on” light which I thought would be annoying. However, in reality, since I have to turn off the power to the press in order to power down the VFD, I don’t miss a light switch.
The integrated LED adjustable light.
Some of the features of this machine are very exciting. For example, the depth stop setup is amazing. On the right side is the production stop with the usual double nut to ensure consistency. By the way, Parken say the quill travel on this machine is 140mm; I just measured it at 160mm! The threads are nicely made as the nuts move up and down the shaft more quickly than expected.
The depth stop setup with a quill travel of up to 160mm.
On the left side is a heavy duty, machined aluminium measuring system for depth, with an easy zeroing mechanism. You can see the laser engraved numbering on the two halves. All one has to do is line up the “0” marks when the drill bit is resting on the surface of the timber to be drilled. As long as the hole depth is not absolutely critical (which it often is not), I can tell instantly how deep the hole is. For critical hole depths, I simply move the production stop nuts into place on the right. It’s a good system I think. (Sorry I haven’t cleaned it up real well yet so the alu is not as shiny in the picture as it should be.)
The laser engraved numbering on the two halves of the depth measuring system.
The press table is monstrous. It does not tilt, which may bother some. However, I’ve been a woodworker for 25 years and have never had occasion to tilt a press table. It’s a feature I can do without. One of the things I hated most about my previous press was the fact that my table was never reliably square to the quill/bit. If I shimmed it square in one position, as soon as I cranked the table to another level it would be out of square again. I asked Michael how to adjust for square – he said you don’t. I was surprised. But he invited me to look at the size of the machined casting. It’s engineered and built to be square from the beginning, and to remain so. Indeed!
The machined casting, engineered and built to be square.
The table has an indexing pin at the back, which allows for twelve positions. This is a feature I’m not too excited about using, although the pin lock is beautifully made. Can you think of a reason why we would need this feature in woodwork? Maybe for a clock?
The press table has an indexing pin at the back, which allows for twelve positions.
The mechanism for raising and lowering the table rides in a thrust bearing at the bottom. This is just a bit better than my previous press, which just rode in a groove! The action of moving the table from side to side is sweet.
The thrust bearing in the bottom of the raising and lowering mechanism.
The pulleys are beautifully made and must be well balanced considering that the top speed of this press is 8600RPM. There is no perceptible vibration. A single belt serves to connect the motor to the quill as the VFD eliminates the necessity for a centre pulley to achieve the full RPM range. You can see in the pictures that the lowest RPM range has a wider belt for better power transfer. The press shipped with two belts; the narrower one is pictured.
Beautifully made, well-balanced pulleys with a single belt connecting the motor to the quill.
This machine comes with an MT3 quill. I purchased two integrated arbor Albrecht keyless drill chucks for the press. The bigger one (3-16mm) is on back order; the smaller one (1-13mm) is pictured. It is truly a lovely mechanism. I don’t know if the hype about Albrechts is justified, but it certainly nice in use.
The integrated arbor Albrecht keyless drill chuck that I purchased for the press.
Overall, I’m delighted with the press. Its 160mm quill travel is a big step up on my previous press which had 55mm of travel. Also, there is a lot to like about the 260mm of space between column and bit. I can’t wait to read more posts on building a square table and fence to bolt on to this bad boy.
However, before I sign off on this post, and apologies for its length as it is, I should point out a few criticisms of this machine, which may or may not be helpful to other potential buyers:
The VFD gives off an annoying high pitched noise, especially at low frequencies. It is not particularly loud, but for someone who has tinnitus from being careless with hearing protection earlier in life, it means that I have to wear muffs while using the press. Are all VFDs “pitchy”? Are some worse than others?
While the measure system for measuring depth is beautiful, it could be more accurate. By about 60mm, it is out by 0.5mm, and out by 1mm at 100mm of stroke travel. For its intended use, I don’t think this matters too much, but…
The motor is Chinese made. What the!? I would have thought it should be Australian or at least European. I expressed surprise and Michael was not defensive. He said he has been using this brand of motor for some time (brought in by Lafert) and has zero hesitation in using it. He offered to source a Lafert motor (Italian) from his supplier if I wanted. I didn’t want to pay the extra so I went with Michael’s recommendation on the Wonder. It will probably outlast me anyway.
I wish Parken offered a square table option on this machine. This is a small criticism, but a criticism nonetheless.