Review – Axminster AWBRD550 Bench Radial Drill – First impressions

On Tuesday I took delivery of my second piece of machinery for the workshop, an Axminster AWBRD550 bench radial drill.

It arrived inside two nested cardboard boxes (one inside the other like Russian dolls), strapped atop a small wooden pallet.

The first layer of the box contained the base and table, plus a few bolts and the handle:

Layer 1 of the AWBRD550 box

The second layer contained the shaft and the head, motor etc. along with the guard:

Layer 2 of the AWBRD550 box

Construction was pretty simple, with surprisingly good instructions (particularly compared to some of the Chinglish manuals I’ve received for their power tools in the past).

The base attaches to the column with 4 bolts:

Base of AWBRD550 drill

The table fits over the column and the loose rack (you need to ensure the worm drive etc are still in the table mount before fitting this) and a collar holds the rack in place on the column:

Table of AWBRD550 drill

Because the rack is free to rotate around the column, the table can be rotated out of the way for larger pieces of wood (for even larger pieces of wood the head can be rotated so it is no longer above the base but instead overhangs the edge of the bench).

The table seems pretty flat and is nicely ground:

Closeup of AWBRD table

The table is lifted and lowered by a rack and pinion mechanism with a crank handle. Whilst this isn’t the smoothest movement I’ve seen, it’s certainly a lot less rough and notchy than the Fox drills I saw in Norfolk.

Lifting the head assembly onto the top of the column at bench height is not easy, but you can either perform the manoeuvre at ground level or get a second pair of hands.

The 16mm keyless chuck looks and feels quite well made and locates on the taper, firmly fixed with a few taps of a hammer (be careful to retract the jaws fully to avoid damaging them).

Chuck of AWBRD550 drill

Closeup of chuck of AWBRD550 drill

View from underneath AWBRD chuck

The handle is bolted on easily, having located a pin on the shaft into it to prevent it spinning:

Head and motor of Axminster AWBRD550

The depth gauge seems to line up at each end of the travel:

Depth gauge of AWBRD drill

Tensioning the belt is easy to do – just slacken off the two wing nuts holding the motor and push or pull it into place, then re-tighten the nuts:

Motor mount and belt tensioning for AWBRD550

The head can be wound forwards and backwards using a knob on the right hand side:

Fore and aft adjustment for head of AWBRD550

This movement is nice and smooth and the head can be locked in place using the smaller handle just behind it.

This adjustment allows the throat to be anything from 220mm to 420mm.

Changing between the 5 speeds is simply a matter of unscrewing a single screw, opening the hinged top and switching the belt to a different pair of pulleys:

Top of AWBRD open and pulleys exposed

Being a radial drill the whole head of the drill can rotate, which can make it easier to see inside the top compartment.

There is a gauge to show approximate rotation and a sprung pin which positively locates into a groove to lock the drill in the vertical position:

Rotation mechanism and gauge for AWBRD550

As there are only 5 speeds there is no centre pulley which can cause noise and the induction motor is nice and quiet.

The on/off switch is pretty much identical to the one on my planer thicknesser:

AWBRD550 on off switch

AWBRD550 stop switch

The guard is in two sections so it can be used singly or extended:

AWBRD550 guard - single

AWBRD550 guard extended

AWBRD550 guard in raised position

Things I like:

  • Extreme flexibility – head can be positioned over table, base of edge of bench, at varying distances from colum and at varying angles
  • Build quality – cast iron base and table, nicely made & smooth chuck and mechanisms
  • Quiet – induction motor and no third pulley to cause noise
  • Price – you get a lot of drill for your £167 (and I ordered when there was a 10% discount deal, so I paid closer to £150!)

Things I don’t like:

  • Size – head to motor distance may limit options when positioning in the workshop (not a surprise and the flexibility gained far outweighs this)
  • Advice plate roughly rivetted to base – a very minor niggle!
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17 Responses to Review – Axminster AWBRD550 Bench Radial Drill – First impressions

  1. Geoff Webb says:

    Hi John
    I am looking at this for my workshop, but was wondering if you had any problems with the lowest speed being 460rpm at any time. Whereas other drills can be half of this speed.
    BTW thanks for your review of the SIP planer, bought one myself and it does the job ok.
    Cheers Geoff

    • John says:

      Hi Geoff,

      I’ve never encountered any isssues, but to date I’ve not drilled any large (>1 inch) holes in hard wood, or many holes in metal.

      If you do a lot of either of those things then this may not be for you.

      For me the throat depth was key so I accepted the other limitations.


  2. Fabre Lambeau says:

    Hi there!
    I have been searching for a good value bench drill, and in looking for reviews, came upon your post. Axminster have changed their models (as they usually do), but there is a clear equivalent to yours (I think) in the AH16RD. I was therefore wondering: 2 years on, are you still happy with yours?

    • John says:

      Hi Fabre,

      Yes, I’m still very happy with the drill.

      The large, adjustable throat is both a blessing and a curse, as you need space both in front and behind, but it’s definitely the right choice for me and my workshop.

      Perhaps if I was doing more metalwork/engineering I’d choose differently (maybe one with fewer moving parts) but for wood I’ve found it more than accurate enough.


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