Best Milling Machine Reviews and Buying Guide 2017

best milling machine buying guide

Whether you’re working with wood, metal or pretty much any kind of solid object whatsoever, a milling machine is a versatile ally.

When you’re making things, particularly metal parts, there’s nothing to touch a mill for a mixture of speed, raw performance, adaptability and working to tight tolerances.

One of the key problems you might face is being confronted by a welter of bewildering options for milling machines that causes you to give up before you’ve even started. There’s no need for that at all because we’re here today to lead you through the minefield and out the other side with the best milling machine for your needs.

First thing’s first then, what exactly is a milling machine?

What is a Milling Machine?

A mill is an advanced machining tool that helps you with even the most rigorous of applications.

The scope of work you can carry out with a milling machine is vast. At one end of the spectrum, you can rip grooves through steel while at the other extreme, you can create or modify tiny components in a fashion no other tool permits. While the heavier mills capable of real grunt work can weigh several tons, you can also get much smaller milling machines fit for the home hobbyist without a wealth of machining experience to fall back on.

In a nut, milling is a cutting process. It harnesses a milling cutter in order to remove material. This is a rotary cutting tool that commonly has multiple cutting points.  The cutter moves perpendicular to the axis unlike drilling where the tool moves along the rotation axis. When the cutter hits the workpiece, its edges – called teeth or flutes – rapidly cut then exit the material. This shaves off chips with each pass. These chips are called swarf. The number of teeth and the speed of the cuts are tweaked according to the material and application.

The original milling machines evolved into CNC (computer numerical control mills) but these highly advanced machines are not generally used in the home and fall outside the remit of today’s article.

Setting aside the CNC mills, we’ll look now at the main types of mill used in the home workshop before we move on to our milling machine reviews…

We will look at the broad categories of horizontal milling machines and vertical milling machines. This distinction is based on whether the spindle axis runs side to side or up and down. Although tilting and swiveling can permit some degree of cross-functionality, there are some tasks that are much easier on one style of machine.

We’ll give you a little more detail now on the strengths and weaknesses of each type of milling machine…

  • Horizontal Milling Machine 
  • Vertical Milling Machine 

A much more adaptable approach to milling is a vertical milling machine. Although they demand a little more time invested, there’s very little a vertical mill can’t do

The spindle axis on these machines runs vertically. The spindle holds the cutters in place and they rotate along the spindle’s axis. You can perform plunge cuts and perform drilling work by extending the spindle or manipulating the table.

Mill-Drills

The Best Milling Machine Reviews 2017 – Comparison Chart By Mitersawjudge.com

​When it comes to milling machines, the sheer breadth of choice can make choosing the best one for your needs a perplexing task.

Fortunately for you, we’re here to help today!

Before we launch into our milling machine reviews and buying guide, here’s a snapshot of 5 of the best mills money can buy…

Detailed Milling Machine Reviews

1. Genesis GMT15A Multi-Purpose Oscillating Tool

First up in our milling machine reviews is the JET JMD-18 which serves double duty as a mill and drill press. Milling is its core function, though, and the JMD-18 is a fantastic way for anyone without the space or budget for a full-blooded milling machine to get some of the functionality of a mill without the five-figure price tag or monstrous weight.

Although the JET is not cheap, it’s not expensive if you compare it to a heavy milling machine. JET have been in business for more than half a decade and the company has moved from being a hardware generalist to an outfit specializing in all branches of woodworking and metalworking. The JMD-18 is ideal for working with both wood and metal.

We’ll give you a look at the main features of this nifty and hard-hitting drill mill before we break it down further for you…

JET JMD-18 350018 230-Volt 1 Phase Milling/Drilling Machine

This has been a very good mill. We've had this model for approx. 10 years with no problems whatsoever. My only complaint is the lack of a way to gauge the alignment of the head after it raised and lowered.

By Nelson B.

Main Features

  • 2HP single-phase motor 
  • 230 volts only 
  • Mill and drill press 
  • Cast iron column
  • 360 degree head swivel 
  • Work lamp
  • Spindle speeds: 15RPM to 3000RPM 
  • 12 spindle speeds 
  • Drilling capacity: 1 ¼ inches 
  • Face mill capacity: 3 inches 
  • End mill capacity: ¾ inch 
  • Spindle to table distance: 18 inches 
  • Work table maximum weight capacity: 400 pounds 
  • Quill diameter: 3 inches 
  • Drill press size: ½-inch chuck 
  • Drill press type: benchtop 

One of the key advantages of the JET JMD-18 is its extremely user-friendly nature. If you’re intimidated by the complexity of many milling machines, this would make a fantastic starting point on your milling journey.

The single-phase 2HP motor runs on 230 volts so make sure in advance this is not a problem and meshes with your power supply. The UL-listed motor is not just a capable performer but built to last the distance as well. You’ll be able to work with wood, aluminum or tile without stressing the machine.

You’ll enjoy a range of 12 spindle speeds from 15RPM at the lower end on through to 3000RPM. The hinged belt cover has a quick action latch. When you want to switch speeds, you’ll be able to do so without needing to wait around. This is particularly valuable if you’re working in a shop where downtime is lost money.

The worktable is nice and spacious. Measuring 9 ½ inches by 31 ¾ inches, you’ll be able to handle even larger pieces of material without feeling cramped. There’s a work lamp chucked in so you’ll enjoy a clear line of sight even if your workshop is dim and gloomy.

Build quality is first rate. The column is a single piece of cast iron so it’s incredibly supportive even under heavy load. The roller bearings are rugged and built to last while also supporting the spindle to promote fine tolerance and a highly accurate drilling depth.

A few figures now relating to the all-important capacity…

You’ll get a drilling capacity of 1 ¼ inch with a swing of 15 7/8 inches. The face mill capacity is 3 inches while end mill capacity is ¾ inch. The maximum spindle distance is a full 18 inches.

Getting a milling machine is senseless if you need a PhD to operate it. Nothing could be further from the truth with the JET JMD-18. The sleek looking dials are a breeze to read, crucial if you’re working on intricate cutting projects. The depth gauge is also crisp and clear. This helps ensure you get consistent cutting results every time. The quick stop knob is easy to use and the head swivels through a full  360 degrees meaning you get the ultimate flexibility married with absolute precision.

Although primarily a milling machine, you’ll also be able to use the JET as a drill press. This is a nice touch given the price point.

Just about the only minor niggle with this milling machine is that the stand is not included. This wouldn’t be such an issue if it was not clearly pictured with one so make sure you’re aware of this to avoid a kick in the teeth when you open the package and find the machine void of stand. You will get a carbide face mill and vise thrown in as some compensation.

The only other negative to point out is not a flaw as much as a statement of fact. This milling machine is heavy. Very heavy. While it’s considered lightweight by the standards of multi-ton shop mills, it does tip the scales at over 700 pounds so make sure you factor this in.

Pros

  • You get the advantage of a drill press alongside a milling machine in a relatively lightweight alternative to a full-sized mill
  • 2HP motor kicks out more than adequate power for most applications.
  • Stable and rugged with cast iron column and tapered roller bearings
  • Work to tight tolerances and drill precisely fuss-free
  • Belt cover has a latch so you can quickly tweak the belt and change spindle speeds without breaking your stride
  • Tapered base simplifies cleaning up afterward
  • Locking collet stops the cutting tool from falling from the spindle putting your safety and the quality of your project uppermost
  • Affordable for a milling machine with the added advantage of taking up comparatively little space in the workshop
  • Oversized work table at 9 ½ x 31 ¾ inches lets you work comfortably on more ambitious projects
  • Work lamp included along with internal depth gauge so you can beaver away precisely at all times

Cons

  • Despite being pictured, the stand is not include so you need to make alternative provision for this
  • Limited to running on 230 volts

Conclusion

If you don’t have the shop space or the budget to stretch to a behemoth of a milling machine but you aren’t prepared to compromise performance or precision, the JET JMD-18 is well worth popping on your shortlist. Very few lists of the best milling machine don’t feature this worthy piece of kit.

Although it couldn’t exactly be described as cheap, it’s certainly cheap for a milling machine. Throw in the additional drill press functionality and you’re looking at a unit that represents outstanding overall value for money.

Crowned with JET’s excellent 2-year limited warranty, there’s no reason we can think of for you not to buy this milling machine if you think its user-friendly and feature-rich nature makes the best fit with your cutting needs. Check one out today and we can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

2. SHOP FOX M1004 9-Inch by 49-Inch Vertical Mill with Digital Readout

Next up in our best milling machine reviews is a top-notch vertical mill from Shop Fox.

Make no mistake about it, the M1004 is not cheap but it gives you an enormous amount in return for the eye-popping price tag. This machine is built to make sure you get years and years of usage from it so, if you have ambitious milling needs and you’re not prepared to sacrifice quality or endurance, read on to see how the Shop Fox earns its stripes…

A snapshot first of its main features:

SHOP FOX M1004 9-Inch By 49-Inch Vertical Mill With Digital Readout

I finally set up my new Milling machine at my new home and found that this peace of equipment works great. I have milled off a somewhat flat peace of 1/2 inch steel plate 36A mild steel (12inch x 9 inch) and was able to end up with only 0.001 of an inch in thickness off across the wight and length of the table. Not bad for a clone of a Bridgeport Vertical Milling Machine. Considering that I am a hobbits and have second rate gages and for this Milling machine, ls not bad.

By Brad P.

Main Features

  • 2HP single-phase motor 
  • 110/220 volts prewired to 110 volts 
  • Vertical mill 
  • Head tilt of 45 degrees in each direction 
  • Head swivel through 360 degrees 
  • Chrome-plated quill 
  • Spindle speeds: 78RPM to 2400RPM 
  • 8 spindle speeds 
  • 2 axis digital display 
  • Spindle to table distance: 18 ¾ inches 
  • Spindle travel: 5 inches 
  • Table travel: 12 inches (cross), 27 inches (longitudinal) 
  • Work table 9 x 49 inches

If you start researching the Shop Fox M1004, you’ll probably come across a great deal of conflicting information. Since milling machines are pretty complex beasts, this is perhaps understandable. In this review, we’ll strip away the fat and show you exactly where this powerhouse stands and falls so you can decide if it’s worth the considerable investment.

Fashioned from cast iron and precision-ground steel, the Shop Fox is a hard-hitting milling machine weighing an incredible 2465 pounds. This, coupled with a highly effective 2HP motor, means it’s more than able to deal with pretty much any cutting task you throw its way.

Raw power and strength are important with milling machines but that combination is useless without the key ingredient of precision. You’ll get an X and Y axis readout with machine error compensation so you can work to the tightest of tolerances with absolute confidence. You will need to get used to the relative complexity of this mill but it will be time very well spent and you’ll be rewarded with a machine fit for just about all milling projects.

Since it’s a vertical mill, you’ll get maximum flexibility whatever your cutting requirements.

The head is fixed on a rugged column and it rotates through 90 degrees. Tilting is good up to 45 degrees in either direction. The spindle to table distance is 18 ¾ inches while spindle travel is 5 inches.

Some other notable features include one-shot pump lubrication, auto stop, auto down feed and a longitudinal power feed.

The noteworthy drawbacks are limited to a lack of stand and light. Although these are by no means deal-breakers, it’s frankly underwhelming to spend this much money without those basics being covered.

A glance now at the pros and cons before we round out this milling machine review with our verdict…

Pros

  • Potent 2HP single phase motor runs on both 110 and 220 volts for your convenience
  • 8 variable speeds from 78RPM up to 2400RPM so dial in the speed according to the application for superior results
  • 3-speed quill feed has a micrometer depth stop along with auto-return while the longitudinal power feed gives you the necessary leeway for just about any milling duty
  • Quill is chrome-plated for durability and accuracy
  • Large cast structure comes with industrial-grade fittings and durable bearings so the Shop Fox will stand up to sustained and heavy punishment
  • Head mounted on very stout column allowing for rotational movement of 90 degrees and a tilt of 45 degrees in each direction
  • Solid machine weighing in at almost 2500 pounds so man enough for even the most rigorous milling
  • 9 x 49 inch table means you can work with substantial workpieces without feeling restricted or cramped
  • 2-year limited warranty so buy with total confidence

Cons

  • No light included which is a surprising omission with a milling machine in this price range
  • No stand, a common bugbear with milling machines and an extreme annoyance when they are pictured with stands
  • Certainly not a cheap and cheerful milling machine so make sure your budget will stretch to it before committing yourself

Conclusion

Everyone has a different set of needs when on the trail of the best milling machine. If you have seriously hardcore cutting requirements, a cheap mini mill just won’t cut the ice. Luckily, the Shop Fox will deliver in fine style.

If you have a generous budget and consider a milling machine to be an investment rather than an expense, give some long, hard thought to checking out the M1004. If, on the other hand, you’re a home hobbyist looking for a small and lightweight mill for occasional use, this is clearly not the machine for you.

This is not the kind of machine for a beginner and you’ll need to be well-versed in milling to get the best out of the Shop Fox. It’s certainly not starter equipment so make sure you know this going in. Nothing about this machine would suggest it’s for casual use but it merits pointing out that you’ll need some skills in place to operate it effectively.

It’s almost impossible to award any given milling machine the label of the best milling machine on the market but the M1004 is a strong contender for the most effective option in this kind of price range.

3. Grizzly G0704 Drill Mill with Stand

After a pair of really heavy-duty milling machines, we’ll mix things up with a mill-drill from the highly reputable Grizzly at a much more affordable price point.

The G0704 shares a number of features with much pricier mill-drills so it punches above its weight while offering you exceptional value for money.

We’ll summarize those crucial statistics first of all so you can see at a glance if the Grizzly seems like the right fit for your personal needs…

Grizzly G0704 Drill Mill with Stand

After many years running full sized machines for a living I was reluctant to buy a mini mill for home use. After allot of research I bought this one and am very pleased so far.

By Mark C.

Main Features

  • 1HP single-phase motor 
  • 110 volts, 3.2-amp
  • Mill-drill
  • Head travel: 11 inches
  • Head tilt: 90 degrees
  • 363 pounds
  • Spindle speeds: 50RPM to 2250RPM
  • Dovetail column
  • Spindle to table distance: 13 inches
  • Spindle travel: 2 inches
  • Table travel: 6 7/8 inches (cross), 18 7/8 inches (longitudinal)
  • Work table 7 1/16 x 26 5/8 inches
  • Zero setting dials
  • Stand

While some power tools and machinery can be unearthed at cut-throat prices, mills are slightly different. For any machine worth its salt, you’ll need to dig fairly deep. By the standards of mills, though, the Grizzly represents a veritable bargain.

Although it can’t compete with much larger mills in terms of table capacity, the worktable measures a respectable 7 1/16 x 26 5/8 inches so it’s substantial for this class of mill-drill.

The distance from spindle to table is 13 inches while there’s a swing of 15 inches. The head has 11 inches of travel while tilting 90 degrees to left and right. You’ll get 18 7/8 inches of longitudinal table travel and 6 7/8 inches of cross travel.

The zero setting dials read in inches so you might need to make some mental calculations if you need to work in metric measurements. This is slightly tiresome but not the end of the world.

With any milling machine, safety needs to come uppermost. If things go awry, there’s a neat safety shut-off so you don’t need to go fumbling around to cut the power. The spindle boasts a clear guard and there are also some rubber chip guards so you can focus on your milling without worrying about coming to harm.

The single-phase motor develops 1HP and is more than fit for purpose. You’ll get forward and reverse on the 2-speed gearbox and you can flip between them with a simple but effective switch.

You can fine-tune the spindle speed from as slow as 50RPM right up through to the maximum speed of 2250RPM. This is impressive stuff for a smaller mill-drill.

If you start to become more confident in your milling and want to convert the Grizzly to a CNC machine or make adjustments to the motor, there’s plenty of information available to help you take care of this.

There are a few downsides to the Grizzly worth drawing your attention to…

There’s no vise included but this is nothing to complain too vigorously about. You won’t be treated to one-shot lubrication or positive lubrication points but, again, this is understandable for a budget mill-drill. The quill stop is not adjustable either and there are a fair number of complaints from users about the drill chuck.

A snapshot now of the key advantages and drawbacks of this neat little machine before we round out and move on to the next of our milling machine reviews…

Pros

  • Extremely nice overall fit and finish
  • Comes in at an attractive price for such an effective piece of kit
  • The table is fairly substantial for a machine of this size giving you plenty of freedom to maneuver
  • Quill has positive lock and DRO for your convenience
  • R8 collet is industry standard
  • Safety shut-off means you can cut that power in a flash in the event of any mishap
  • 2-speed gearbox with a forward and reverse switch for a versatile milling experience
  • User-friendly enough for beginners while packing enough functionality to satisfy more experienced craftsmen with small shops
  • Stand included so you have all you need to get going straight out the box

Cons

  • No vise included so make provision for this
  • No one-shot lubrication and no positive lubrication points
  • Quill stop is not adjustable which can feel restrictive
  • Drill chuck provided leaves plenty to be desired

Conclusion

If you want to get started on the milling path without spending a fortune or ending with a machine that confuses you and puts you off, think long and hard about the Grizzly G0704.

Mini mills are not for everyone and this machine is certainly not fit for hardcore use in a large shop. For the home hobbyist, though, it’s just about the perfect introduction offering power, performance and precision without forcing you to take out a home loan to buy it.

With a stand thrown in, you can get up and running as soon as your G0704 is delivered which is a bonus with milling machines. You’ll need to think about tooling anyway so buying something essential like a stand is always something of a sucker punch, a punch you’ll avoid with the G0704.

Whether you have a small shop and a limited budget or you’re a home woodworker and metalworker looking to create small components with precision, the Grizzly G0704 is not perfect but it’s certainly worth considering as an entry point to the world of milling.

Check one out today!

4. Proxxon 37110 Micro Mill MF 70

We’ll step down in size further next with the Proxxon 37110 micro mill. This comes in at a highly affordable price making it the ideal companion for anyone looking to kickstart their milling journey without a price tag that makes you wince.

Whether you want to undertake some model making or you need an accurate mill for the lab or jewelry store, this dinky little unit takes some beating. It’s also great for small-scale electronic work and use in an opticians.

We’ve tried to include something for everyone in these milling machine reviews as we understand not everyone is on the trail of a super-sized behemoth. Check out the features of the Proxxon before we break down what it can do in more detail…

Proxxon 37110 Micro Mill MF 70

The Proxxon MF-70 combines the utility of a Dremel with the precision of a mill. With it you'll be able to perform many operations that would be difficult or impossible holding the Dremel in your hand. Before I decided on the MF-70, I considered cobbling together a mill from a Dremel 220-01 stand and a HF X-Y vise but the Dremel stand is crap and HF X-Y vises seemed expensive and crude. I also considered getting a Vanda-Lay ACRA rig, but when you add in the cost of the adjustable X and Z axes it approaches the cost of the MF-70, and you have to add your own Dremel. In my case the MF-70 was not the cheapest option but so far it's been fun to have in the shop, and it has a lot of support if you want to go CNC. BTW I recommend picking up the 24260 precision vise, it complements the mill nicely.

By Russ S.

Main Features

  • 1/8 HP motor 
  • 100 watts 
  • Micro-mill 
  • 15.5 pounds 
  • Variable speed from 5,000RPM to 20,000RPM 
  • Aluminum 4-compound table 
  • Table travel: 5 17/64 (cross), 1 13/16 inches (longitudinal) 
  • Work table 7 7/8 x 2 ¾ inches 
  • Adjustable ruler scale 
  • Micromot steel collets 

If you are looking for an extremely proficient milling machine for small, tricky tasks, the Proxxon is a neat fit.

The motor is only 1/8HP but more than powerful enough for the intended purpose. If you’re looking for something with more grunt and the ability to help you work with large pieces of material, this is not the machine for you. If, however, you fancy a deft piece of kit for intricate projects, it’s a superb choice.

The variable speed can be adjusted between 5,000RPM and 20,000RPM so you can switch it up or down according to the demands of each specific project rather than being forced to make do and mend with an inappropriate speed. You’ll also be to use extremely fine cutters.

The base is constructed from cast-iron for maximum stability while the treated aluminum of the table, column and head stock serves up durability without weighing the machine down. It comes in at less than 16 pounds so you’ll be able to simply shift it around if called for.

The table measures up at 7 7/8 by 2 ¾ inches which is generous for a micro-mill and more than adequate for the type of work you’d reasonably carry out on a smaller machine lie the Proxxon. You’ll get 3 slots in the table (15/32 inches, 15/64 inches, 15/64 inches) which are the Micromot standard sizes. The hand wheels are zero adjustable.

You can fine-tune the ruler scale which makes the placement of your workpiece a cinch.

There are 3 cutters clamped into Micromot collets. You’ll get 6 steel collets which are hardened and triple-slit. These come in a variety of cover shank sizes.

Aside from the inability to work with larger pieces, the main reported issue with the Proxxon is vibration. This is more of an issue when you’re dealing with intricate projects calling for complete accuracy. Since this is the core purpose of this micro-mill, this is a problem worth pointing out. As with all user-generated complaints, it’s difficult to know how much stock to place in it but it’s certainly a point worth raising and you can make your own mind up whether or not this is a deal-breaker.

A summary now of the key advantages and drawbacks of the Proxxon before we wrap up our milling machine reviews and move on to the milling buying guide…

Pros

  • Extremely stable cast iron base gives you the perfect foundation to operate from
  • Table and vertical column both made from treated aluminum and built to stay the distance
  • Die-case aluminum head stock accommodates 24 pole, balanced motor ensuring total stability even at high velocity
  • Variable speed between 5,000 and 20,000RPM which is genuinely impressive for such a miniature mill
  • Position your workpiece with ease and precision thanks to the fully adjustable scale
  • 6 hardened steel collets provided in a range of cover shank sizes
  • 3 T-slots in the table and zero adjustable hand wheels a lovely touch
  • Weighs under 16 pounds so a highly portable unit without sacrificing performance or stability
  • 2-year limited warranty has you covered and allows you to buy without a headache

Cons

  • Not suitable for large-scale projects
  • Some issues with play on the hand wheel
  • Tends to vibrate a fair amount which is less than ideal for precision work

Conclusion

The Proxxon micro-mill is a sterling example of a scaled-down milling machine that’s tailor-made for use in an optician’s shop or jewelry store, a lab or your home workshop. If you need to work with small components and you don’t want to spend the earth for the privilege, the 37110 micro-mill might be exactly what you’ve been looking for.

Don’t confuse the small footprint and lightweight nature of the machine with a lack of cutting performance. You’ll get a versatile and hard-working mill that’s more than able to cope with a wide range of applications on a smaller scale. For miniaturists of any stripe, this micro-mill is a flat-out winner.

Road test the Proxxon today and you will find yourself pleasantly surprised. If you thought you needed to spend five figures to enter the world of milling machines, think again and give the 37110 a go!

5. OTMT Variable Speed Mini Milling Machine - Model: OT2213

As we reach the end of our best milling machine reviews, last but by no means least is this mini-milling machine from OTMT.

Although this is a little bulkier and more expensive than the Proxxon, in return for this step up in price you’ll get a heavier duty milling machine with a great selection of features.

We’ll summarize those right now then dig a little deeper into what makes this superb mini-mill tick…

OTMT Variable Speed Mini Milling Machine - Model: OT2213

Bought this for my son and he loves it. Travers is a very reliable company that stands behind everything that they sell.

By Kate T.

Main Features

  • 1/2HP motor 
  • 110 volt 
  • 2 speed (0-1100RPM and 1100-2500RPM) 
  • Drill chuck 
  • Fine feed for milling, coarse feed for drilling 
  • Head tilts 45 degrees in each direction 
  • Spindle taper: R8 
  • Table travel: 8 2/3 inches (cross), 3 15/16 inches (longitudinal) 
  • Head stock travel: 7 1/16 inches 

Mini-mills are a step up from the miniature micro-mills but fall short of the much more substantial milling machines suitable for prolonged use in a commercial setting. If you have a workshop at home with plenty of space and want a mini-mill that punches above its weight, you should take a closer look at the OTMT.

The 1/2HP motor might seem a little on the small side but it kicks out sufficient power for the order of tasks you’ll be likely to tackle. The mill runs on 110 volts and you get low and high speeds so you can adjust the pace to suit the project. In the lower band, you can move between 0 and 1100RPM. Knock things up a gear and you can choose from speeds between 1100RPM and 2500RPM at the top end.

The OTMT has 2 feeds available. Roll with a coarse feed for all your drilling work or a fine feed for carrying out milling jobs. This is a nice extra in a machine in this price range.

Now for the all-important statistics…

In common with most mills, the head tilts at an angle of 45 degrees to left and right. The taper on the spindle is rated R8. The table travel is 8 2/3 inches crossways and 3 15/16 inches longitudinal. Head stock travel is 7 1/16 inches. The end milling capacity is 0.62 inches while face milling measures up at 1.81 inches. All this adds up to an extremely capable mill at a price you’ll love. You’ll be able to work comfortably with slightly larger projects while also turning your hand to smaller projects demanding precision and fine tolerances.

Aside from some feedback claiming there’s too much slack in both axes, there’s nothing of serious detriment to report with the OTMT mini-mill.

Take a look at the pros and cons before we deliver our verdict and move directly on with our milling machine guide…

Pros

  • An incredibly compact unit so perfect for anyone with limited space in the workshop
  • Hard-working and efficient 1/2HP motor runs on 110 volts and offers more than adequate power for most projects
  • 2 speed bands: low speed runs up to 1100RPM while high speed offers 1100 to 2500RPM
  • Dial is extremely clear and easy to read with small increments for the ultimate in accuracy
  • Attractively priced for a mini-mill offering this level of performance
  • Get control and accuracy while you work with head that swivels 45 degrees in either direction
  • 2 feeds: coarse feed ideal for drilling while fine feed is perfect for milling so get the best of both worlds
  • Although it’s not cut out for serious use in a shop, the features and breadth of scope provided make the OTMT mini-mill a wonderful addition to any home workshop

Cons

  • Too much slack in the X and Y axis which is somewhat of a disappointment
  • As with all mini-mills, you will be limited to small-ish projects

Conclusion

Mini-mills make a wonderful happy medium for anyone who wants a little more reach and versatility than a micro-mill delivers without the expense or substantial footprint of a full-sized milling machine.

While some mills can be a real chore to get to grips with, the clear instructions and user-friendly nature of the OTMT makes it a smart choice even if you still have plenty to learn about milling.

As with all these machines, price is a question of relative degree. There are no worthwhile cheap mills so you need to consider overall value for money. On this count, the OTMT mini-mill will not disappoint.

OK…

Now we’ve wrapped up our milling machine reviews, we’ll give you some guidance on getting the right mill for your needs after an exploration of who needs this kind of machine in the first place…

Who Needs Milling Machines?

If you want to make or modify small parts using a range of materials, the best milling machine is indispensable.

Unlike many power tools and machinery, it’s certainly not something to buy just in case. It’s a specialist machine capable of performing extremely exacting work to a very high standard. For this reason, milling machines are not cheap so it pays to think long and hard before stumbling in.

3D printers are becoming less expensive and more able but, when it comes to creating small components, there’s still nothing to touch a milling machine.

Here are just a few of the jobs you can carry out with the best milling machine:

  • Machine flat surfaces
  • Make irregular surfaces
  • Bore
  • Drill
  • Cut gears
  • Create slots
  • Cut grooves

Whether it’s a manually controlled machine for a home hobbyist or a CNC machine for heavy industrial work, milling machines stand in a class of their own so we’ll move on now to some basics you should take into account if you’re on the lookout for one of these wonderful versatile machines.

Buying Guide

The most important thing straight off the bat is to think very carefully about what you intend to do with your milling machine. This will determine the category of mill you should choose.

Price always plays a part in any buying decision. With milling machines, the discrepancy is vast. You can pay a few hundred dollars or tens of thousands of dollars depending on what kind of functionality you’re looking out for. Clearly, the average home user is not looking for a CNC beast weighing several tons so we’ve limited our reviews to machines more likely to find a home in a small workshop.

Unfortunately, with milling machines there are not a large number of accurate and meaningful reviews. Nevertheless, try to do as much research as you can including a look at the manufacturer’s own website so you can gather as much information as possible.

Visit forums and check out user reviews so you can get some frank feedback from people who have purchased the mill you have in mind. Pay close attention to the disadvantages rather than focusing only on what they do well.

Beyond that, take the time to look through our concise buying guide so you know exactly what to look out for when you’re buying a mill…

What To Consider When Buying a Milling Machine

  • Manufacturer
    It’s always a toss-up when you buy any product at all whether to spend heavily on a reputable brand or try to shave off a few dollars and place your trust in a lesser-known manufacturer.

    In principle, any manufacturer could make a perfectly sound milling machine. These machines have been around for a long time and there’s nothing to stop any brand from turning out a great example.

    In practice, though, most cheap mills will make use of cheaper materials. The motors are likely to be insufficiently powerful. Machining might not be up to scratch leaving you with a mill incapable of delivering the precise tolerances you need.

    Overall, we would strongly recommend rolling with a brand you can trust, one that has some heritage when it comes to making milling machines. If you are going with an unknown quantity, make sure you do your due diligence to avoid ending up with a lemon.
  • Size
    While it might seem like a wise idea to get a tiny desktop mill, if you plan to work with metal this is unlikely to yield the results you are looking for. Working with metal, in particular, demands plenty of force and can be hard going. It’s senseless to make things more difficult by buying a milling machine that’s simply too small for the jobs you have in mind.

    That said, if you plan to work primarily with wood on a smaller scale, it’s equally senseless to lash out on a colossal mill providing needless power and performance.

    Although size matters, with milling machines it’s very much a case of getting equipment aligned with the projects you’ll most frequently undertake.

    A good rule of thumb is to opt for a mill that’s as heavy, large and rigid as you can comfortably accommodate in your workshop that falls within your budget. Flexing of any sort is the enemy of precision when you’re milling so choose something that’s rigid enough for the materials you’ll be using and powerful enough not to become overworked.


  • Capacity 
    Here, the size of the components you’ll be machining should inform your buying decision.
    There are 4 main areas to consider related to capacity:
    Table Size: You won’t be strictly limited to working with material the same size as the table. You can always support pieces that overhang in any direction. The problem, though, is accessing the controls comfortably if you are compromised in this way by material too bulky for the size of the table. Stability can also be adversely affected. Also, since you generally want to affix a vise to the table and clamp your material down, size of the table is a mitigating factor and one you should give due weight when you’re buying a milling machine
    Maximum Distance from Table to Spindle: This is a factor on all milling machines where the table is fixed and the spindle moves up and down. The dimension here concerns the spindle when it’s at its highest point. This measurement corresponds to the highest workpiece you can safely place on your mill. Don’t forget the height of the collet and any tools you’ll be using when you’re mulling over this maximum distance
    Table Travel (Cross and Longitudinal): The table of a milling machine can move backwards and forward (cross) and from side to side (longitudinal). The distances of travel relate to the maximum safe working area you can use without being forced to reposition your work
    Quill Travel: This measurement is for the maximum depth of the holes and slots you’ll be able to cut
  • Materials You Will Work With
  • Think about what materials you plan to machine as this will play an important role in the type of milling machine that makes the best fit.

    Aluminum, Plastic, Brass and Composites: Vertical mills make a great fit for these materials. If you have no intention of machining steel, you could also opt for a mini mill-drill

    Steel: Floor-standing vertical mills are essential if you plan to work with steel. A mill-drill will not be man enough for the job. As well as rigidity and a solid base, you’ll also need a milling machine with enough poke to power the cutters so they’ll cut through steel
  • Speed and Power
    Since milling can call for extreme forces, a powerful motor is a prerequisite.
    Most mini-mills have motors of at least 1HP which is the minimum size you should shoot for. Double this if you are looking at floor-standing mills.
    Micro-mills are a little different. You can drop down to a 1/8HP, 100-watt motor. This will generate more than enough power for a miniaturist tool.
    Since you’ll machine different material at different rates, it’s crucial to choose a mill with variable speed. Most serviceable mills have 8-12 speeds while a few allow you to choose any speed within the minimum and maximum parameters.
  • Feed
    The feed rate is the speed at which the cutter passes through the workpiece. This will influence the finish quality.

    Smaller micro-mills and mill-drills usually have handles so you can manually feed the material.

    Industrial milling machines often feature powered feed systems. While this is something also available in a few mills suitable for smaller shops, it’s a costly extra so think twice about whether you really need this functionality.
  • Accuracy
    As well as a mill that’s solid and very rigid, the precision of the controls themselves play a part in overall accuracy.

    Look for hand controls that permit coarse or fine movement. Depth stops and gauges are also important. An accurate scale with small increments also helps to achieve a superior finish. The saying that a bad workman always blames his tools is particularly apt with milling machines…

    While these factors are integral to a decent finish, overall results are influenced heavily by your prowess as an operator. Take your time, learn your craft and you’ll be able to significantly affect accuracy through sheer milling skill.
  • Construction of the Mill
    Cast iron mills offer superb rigidity which is central to effective milling. Cast iron also goes some way toward dampening the vibration caused by cutting.

    The best tables are generally made from precision-ground steel. Aluminum is sometimes used instead but it’s not as strong an option if money is no object.

    Above most other power tools, scrutinize the build quality of the mill you have in mind if you want first-class machining and a mill that will last the distance.

Usage and Maintenance Tips

Using a milling machine is a subject so vast it merits a book of its own never mind a small section of an article. Because of the complexity of using these exceptional machines, a short summary will not do it justice.

We’ll focus instead here on safety and maintenance…

Using Your Milling Machine Safely

  • Never make contact with the cutter
  • Don’t tighten the arbor nuts using machine power
  • Install the cutter last when you are setting up your work
  • Move heavy attachments with the buddy system
  • Always turn the mill off to make any adjustments
  • Use splash guards if you’re using cutting oil
  • Install and remove cutters using a cloth or rag to avoid cutting yourself
  • Get rid of chips using a rake and brush

Maintaining Your Milling Machine

  • Never remove the protective paper from cutters until you plan to use them
  • Use the right cutting oil to safeguard against overheating
  • Keep the cutter away from your vise, chuck and nuts
  • Use the correct speed at all times to minimize the likelihood of overheating
  • Clean and oil your cutters before storing them
  • Make sure the cutters remain sharp at all times

If you give due consideration to these simple pointers, your milling machine will perform at its best and last for years without letting you down. Neglect this advice and you could end up injured or experience an unexpected breakdown.

CLOSING WORD

​There’s no doubt about it, buying a milling machine is a time-consuming process if you want to minimize the chance of ending up with a mill entirely unsuited to the tasks you have in mind.

We hope you’ve found a mill perfect for your needs and budget in the course of these 5 milling machine reviews.

Please feel free to drop us a line any time if you have any queries or feedback at all. We are working hard to expand our site with a combination of power tool buying guides and useful information articles to cater for everything the home woodworker and craftsman might want to know.

Before we close for today, here are 10 of the most frequently asked questions related to milling machines…

FAQ:

1) WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MILLING MACHINE AND A DRILL PRESS?

These machines have some characteristics in common. The motor and gear box in each machine drives a spindle that rotates and they each have a supportive table. With bona fide milling machines, though, you can cut on the sides not just at the tip like with a drill press. Milling cutters are able to make holes but they can also trim material and cut slots or grooves.

2) CAN YOU OPERATE THE CUTTER BACKWARDS?

No!  If you do this, the clearance angle means the cutter will rub and create too much friction. In the worst scenario, the cutter might break completely.

3) WHAT IS A KNEE-TYPE MILL?

These mills have tables you can adjust vertically. They sit on a saddle supported by a knee. This knee is a huge casting that rides on the column of the mill.

4) WHAT IS THE PITCH OF A CUTTER?

This is the angular distance between adjacent teeth on the cutter.

5) WHAT IS THE CUTTING EDGE?

This is simply the angle on each tooth performing the actual cutting.

6) WHAT IS A STANDARD MILLING MACHINE ARBOR?

This has a cylindrical shaft which is tapered. The driving end has a standard milling taper while the other end has a threaded part that receives the arbor nut. You can place one or more cutters on the straight part.

7) WHAT IS A COLLET?

A collet is a sleeve bushing to help you reduce the size of the hole in the spindle. This allows you to fit small shank tools into large spindle recesses.

8) WHAT IS A SPINDLE ADAPTER?

This is a type of collet that has a standardized spindle end. You can get these in many sizes in order to take cutters that can’t be mounted on arbors.

9) IS IT POSSIBLE TO SPEED UP THE TOOL CHANGING PROCESS?

Yes, it is. Look for quick-change adapters on the spindle nose of the milling machine. You’ll be able to use this to set up numerous operations such as end milling, drilling and boring without altering the set-up of the part you’re machining.

10) WHAT IS A CHUCK ADAPTER?

Chuck adapters allow you to fix chucks to any milling machines which have standard spindle ends.

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