Choosing the best milling machine can be a difficult task, as there are quite a considerable number of things to consider. Much of this is driven by the various types of milling machines that are on offer, as well as the different brands and models. What many amateurs may not realize is that there can be several features to focus on when buying one of the machines. While price will inevitably play a large role in this, there are still a few things that people will need to look at to help make their choice.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few of the milling machines that stand out from the crowd. Depending on which type of machine you’re looking for, there are a few that you should take a look at. Whether you are looking for the best micro milling machine or best vertical milling machine, we’ve looked at a selection of some of the best below.
Best Benchtop, CNC & Micro Milling Machine Reviews
This is a compact milling machine that takes up little space when installed, which can make it the right choice for a home workshop. Despite its size, it packs a considerable amount of power with minimal vibrations.
Alongside this are a gearbox that provides a variable speed and a 45-degree milling head and column tilt. These make it a much more versatile choice than many of its competitors. There are a few drawbacks with this Klutch, however.
The most notable of these is that it may not be as big as you might need. While this shouldn’t be an issue for many people, it could present problems if you’re doing any large-scale work.
- Versatile milling head and column tilt.
- Minimal vibrations.
- Variable speed gearbox.
- May not be as large as you might need.
Many of us will look for precision milling ahead of many other features, which is where this Proxxon mill shines. Despite having a relatively small size compared to many others, there’s also a large amount of power available. This is driven by a variable motor that offers a variety of speed choices.
Being made from cast iron, this is also one of the more durable options to choose from. One large drawback here, however, is that there is a significant amount of vibrations. These could lead to a considerable amount of noise when in use, which is something that many people may want to avoid.
- Variable speed motor.
- Precision milling.
- Large amount of vibrations.
Ease of use is an aspect that many people will look for in a milling machine, with this being one of the core features of this model. Being easy to use doesn’t just extend to when you’re milling, however, as there’s no assembly required with this.
As this is a plug-and-go model, you shouldn’t need to wait around to get started with this. Despite what you may believe about these kinds of models, this offers a much more professional level of milling.
One of the few areas that people might have a problem with is the level of noise that’s generated, which can be offputting.
- Professional-level milling.
- No assembly needed.
- Easy to use.
When it comes to precision milling, few can outdo this Shop Fox model, as it’s precise up to 0.001 inches. Coupled with this are a few features that many people will want to take advantage of, with the majority of these focusing on usability.
These include an adjustable dual speed for different materials, as well as an axis lock that ensures that there are lower vibrations when you’re using it. As such, there should be few difficulties when the milling machine is active.
There is one somewhat large issue in that the motor has a tendency of overheating after prolonged use.
- Much lower vibrations.
- Adjustable speed.
- Precision milling.
- Motor can overheat.
Erie Tools Variable Speed Mini Milling Machine Benchtop Drilling and Machining Gear Driven with Adjustable Depth Stop
Adjustability is critical for quality milling, which this machine has in spades, with this extending to a variety of milling and drilling depths. Alongside this is the fact that there’s a variable speed control, which can be beneficial if you switch between a variety of materials.
As steel is featured heavily in the design of the machine, it’s also much more durable than many competitors and should last a significant amount of time. However, one major problem here is that it can generate a large amount of noise and vibrations when in use, which is something many of us would want to avoid.
- Variable speed control.
- depth stop.
- Vertical Milling Machine Reviews
Best Vertical Milling Machine Reviews
Some of us may want a large milling and drilling depth with our machines without compromising on performance. This is where this Palmgren shines, as it has a much larger depth than many other models.
Alongside this is a significant amount of control, much of which is driven by the variable speed that it offers. This is also one of the more durable and long-lasting models to choose from. However, this could provide a few drawbacks, with the most notable being that there’s more vibration than other machines.
- Larger drilling depth.
- Durable & long-lasting.
- Variable speed.
- Lots of vibration.
Nobody wants to spend too much time cleaning their milling machine once they’re done. While this is unavoidable, it doesn’t mean that the process should be difficult, as this model suggests. Alongside being quick and easy to clean, there are a few other features on offer.
The most notable of these is a control panel that’s centrally located and easy to use, which bypasses much of the time it takes to learn how to use the machine. The milling machine also offers more precise milling than other models.
However, this may not be as long-lasting as many others, so you may end up replacing it much faster than others.
- Easy to use control panel.
- Precise milling.
- Quick and easy to clean.
- Not long-lasting.
While those of us who have been using milling machines for years will be able to get to work quickly with almost every model, this isn’t true for everybody. As a result, many people may need one that’s much easier to use than others, which is where this Dayton shines.
Alongside this is the fact that it’s much more long-lasting than others and offers minimal vibrations when it’s being used. However, there is one notable drawback in that there is a limited number of speed options. While not a large issue, this could cause problems if you’re working with certain materials.
- Easy to use.
- Minimal vibrations.
- Limited speed options.
While the above milling machine can offer a variety of benefits, it may be slightly too large for many people. This is where the more compact version comes in, with it offering many of the same benefits as its larger counterpart.
This includes the durability and longevity that’s on show, alongside the fact that it’s incredibly easy to control and operate. While this does vibrate more than its larger model, this is also kept to a minimum and shouldn’t be much of an issue.
Similar to the above, this does suffer from a shortage of speed options, which could be a factor that some buyers may want to avoid.
- Very few vibrations.
- Easy to control and operate.
- Few speeds.
When it comes to heavy-duty milling machines, there are few that stick out from the others, with this Grizzy being one of the few highlights. On top of being able to work with a variety of materials, there are a few additional benefits that many people may want to take advantage of.
One of the most notable of these is that it can be much easier to tool with than other milling machines. Alongside this is the fact that it’s much more durable than many of its competitors. A drawback does present itself in the shape of the noise that’s generated with this is being used.
- Heavy-duty drilling and milling.
- Easy tooling.
- Noisy when used.
While the majority of milling machines are safe to use when done correctly, many of us would prefer one that has a little bit extra. This is on show with this model, as it has a few additional safety features built-in.
One of the most prominent of these is the electronic spindle brake and safety guard, which avoids any accidents, especially on start-up. The machine has also been designed to offer a smooth movement, which is further helped by a large amount of oil retention, among other design features.
This can be slightly more difficult to control than others, although this shouldn’t be much of an issue for experienced millers.
- Variable speeds.
- Electronic spindle brake and guard.
- Smooth movement.
- Difficult to control.
Best Milling Machine Guide
What Types Of Milling Machine Are There? What Are They Used For?
Many people may be surprised by the variety of milling machines that are on offer. Even more surprising is the fact that there are a few categories that these are split into. Everyone who uses a milling machine should know these types and what they’re used for, especially if they aim to do so professionally. Within the realm of vertical milling machines and micro milling machines, these sub categories can be broken down further into specific types of machine.
These are the most common milling machines available and will be the ones that everybody will be familiar with. It’s also one of the simpler devices, with the cutting device being vertically suspended so that it can cut metals.
Column milling machines are typically used when creating car parts, primarily because it’s a small and handy way to tool smaller pieces.
This is also known as the Bridgeport-type (Bridgeport being an established brand) and offers much more functionality than the Column type. This is primarily because it can be repositioned whenever needed, which makes it much more practical and versatile with its use. Turret mills are
Turret milling machines are also typically used in creating car parts, although these tend to be more complex than many that the Column type will be able to offer.
A C-Frame machine is somewhat similar to a Turret, although it’s geared much more toward an industrial setting. As such, it’s built to be much more durable and offers a significant amount of power, with this being driven by its hydraulic motor. This has made it a mainstay in many factory settings.
A Horizontal milling machine is designed as you’d expect in that the cutting table is placed parallel to the floor. These are typically used for tooling and milling smaller items. As there’s less cutting space when compared to others, these are usually used for smaller items and have traditionally been used for DIY and by hobbyists. Then again, multiple tools can be placed on the arbor to make several cuts at the same time, and there is a reason these are referred to as ‘universal’ milling machines, due to the diversity of tasks they can carry out.
In this category of milling machine, the worktable is placed on the bed itself instead of its usual position on top. Alongside this, the knee part of the equipment is removed, which allows for more longitudinal movement. Typically, these are used for rather large pieces that need to be tooled or milled.
This is almost identical to the bed-type milling machine, although there are a few core differences. The most notable of these is that the Planer-style equipment features different cutters and heads, which offer a greater degree of million actions. This could make it the more versatile of the two.
Tracer controlled milling machines are perhaps the most complex of the equipment, and it’s typically the most common one used in industrial settings. This is especially true when it comes to the automotive industry for several reasons.
A Tracer controlled machine allows for parts to be created based on a master model, which allows for much greater accuracy and precision when they’re being created.
You may see other terminology used to describe some of the above mills, and there are many variants to some of the above too. For example you may see machines described as knee mills or ram mills. A knee mill is basically any machine that operates its x axis and y axis table on a height (z-axis) adjustable knee. Whereas a ram type mill can be any milling machine that has any cutting head, such as an end mill, mounted on a sliding ram.
There are other designs available, such as lathe – mill hybrids. You can also get mill-drill press hybrids too but the above designs stand as the true stand alone, quality milling machine categories. While hybrids can allow for a greater diversity of jobs to be carried out, they tend to lose a bit to precision tooling (with exception to mill-drill press hybrids). So if accuracy is a priority – which is should be for high precision tooling – then you will want to avoid hybrids.
CNC Vs Manual – When To Use Each
Many people looking to get into the niche may have been made aware of CNC machine milling and manual milling. The difference between them basically boils down to the technology used in each. Manual milling requires more labor. It requires a machinist to adjust the gripping vises, and the x-axis, y-axis and z-axis accordingly to cut, drill or bore to the desired specification. CNC milling on the other hand will carry out a ‘script’ or ‘rout’ which is effectively a programme of commands, to cut a predetermined route automatically.
While the machine will move the axis automatically to spec, a user is still required to write the ‘programme’ of commands to carry out the job. So the right skillset and software/hardware is required to carry that out. So CNC milling machines are often more expensive for this very reason. There are a variety of benefits to using this type, such as being much quicker than many other types, as well as requiring much less labor. The equipment needed for this tends to be quite expensive.
In contrast to this, manual machine milling is a more labor-intensive approach to the are and is typically only used when creating a small number of custom-made parts. While the majority of companies that focus on the area will have one of these devices, they tend to be seen as a back up to CNC equipment.
In short, CNC milling machines should be used if you’re creating a large volume of products and parts that need to be identically tooled quickly. Manual equipment, however, should be used if you’re a hobbyist or if your company only creates small lines of parts or custom jobs.
Tool Types And Maintenance
Machine tooling really refers to any machine driven ‘tooling’ activity. This encompasses tasks such as turning on mini metal lathes (or even a wood cutting one for that matter), drilling and milling. It encompasses cutting, boring, tapering, threading and any other metalworking tasks that you may carry out using ‘machine tools’. To this end, there are many different types of tool. For drilling machines, the drill bit, which everyone should be familiar with, or the hole saw. For lathe turning, the most common types of tool are ‘roughing tools’ knurling tools and ‘finishing tools’, of which there are a large variety of shapes and sizes.
For milling, the most common tool heads are called end mills. These will be held in a toolholder or boring head depending on requirement. Again, this is just very top level stuff to give an overview of the relevant types of tooling. There are variants and sub categories to all of these tool types and holders.
End mills are generally made of high tension/ high speed steel and can come with a variety of end mill ‘tip’ materials. The tip is commonly cobalt but there are variations suitable to different jobs. The price can vary widely depending on the quality of the tool bits.
Good workshops, be they a professional machine shop or in your garage, should have grinding wheels for maintaining tools. This is particularly true for lathe tool bits and it’s a real benefit for you to learn how to use grinders. It is much cheaper to sharpen and maintain your own cutting tool bits than it is to replace or to pay for a maintenance service. Although it’s not difficult, you do need to know what you are doing to keep you safe. So learn, don’t just assume it’s easy because if it goes wrong on grinders, it can go very, very wrong.
Best Practice For Use & Safety
When it comes to using a milling machine, there are a variety of best practices that you should adhere to. For example, you should ensure that you start and stop use slowly, as failing to do so could result in damage to being done to the parts that you’re tooling.
Damage shouldn’t be limited to your parts, however, as the machine itself may suffer a greater degree of wear and tear because of using it this way. While you might assume that the extra speed will increase your productivity output, this mightn’t be the case, as you’ll need to give the machine time to cool down much faster than you typically would have.
You should always ensure that you put a significant amount of time into maintaining your machines, and your machine tools. There can be a variety of areas that you should look at and inspect before using the device, especially the cutting areas and any other moving part.
While you shouldn’t develop many issues when you first buy a milling machine, the key to preventing them is regular cleaning and maintenance, as well as adequate use of coolant fluid when in use. Doing so will ensure that you get longevity in the machine, minimizing wear and tear and preventing problems developing, many of which may prove to be costly. You should look at this maintenance as a way to save a significant amount of time and money in the future.
Choosing the right milling machine doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might think. Once you know what your needs are, then you’ll be able to tailor your approach to finding something that meets these preferences. Putting in the time and effort upfront is the first step to ensuring that you make the best decision possible for your needs.