The 8 Best Milling Machines

Updated May 31, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

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We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. A high-quality milling machine will ensure that any parts you make on your own will work correctly the first time. Find the best option for your next job from our comprehensive selection. We've included mini models better suited for home use through to industrial-grade mills that can produce precise sizes and shapes of any part you like. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best milling machine on Amazon.

8. Proxxon 37110

Despite being far and away one of the smallest on this list, the Proxxon 37110 is no mere toy. The tiny, rapidly turning end is best at cutting fine details into projects of the same scale as this unit itself — that is, quite small.
  • excellent complement to larger model
  • variable speeds from 5000-20000 rpm
  • z axis suffers from heavy backlash
Brand Proxxon
Model 37110
Weight 18.2 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

7. Erie Tools Variable Speed

The Erie Tools Variable Speed is a benchtop unit that weighs just 112 pounds, so theoretically it wouldn't be too difficult to move around a shop or home garage. Its depth stop is adjustable to ensure precision work, and it comes with a six-piece shank set.
  • table travels along three axes
  • built-in safety shutoff
  • see-through spindle guard
Brand Unknown
Model pending
Weight 114 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

6. Shop Fox M1111

The Shop Fox M1111 is an industrial-quality machine that can stand up to the rigors of constant daily use. It has a robust one horsepower, 220-volt motor, and subtly variable speed controls, but its adjusting jib lacks precision.
  • quick-tilt headstock
  • backlit digital tachometer
  • reverses near instantly at top speed
Brand Shop Fox
Model M1111
Weight 470 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

5. Grizzly G4015Z

If you need to maximize shop space and how far your budget can go, the Grizzly G4015Z can help. It is both a milling machine and a lathe in one handy unit that, surprisingly, doesn't cost an arm and a leg. It can be configured for imperial or metric thread pitches.
  • suitable for most types of material
  • long-lasting heavy-duty motor
  • working area is small
Brand Grizzly
Model G4015Z
Weight 475 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

4. Precision Matthews PM-7x27M

The Precision Matthews PM-7x27M features hardened ground steel gears that give it an impressive cutting capability, allowing it to remove a lot of material quickly, yet is built small enough to fit most workshops. Four sturdy bolts securely attach the column to its base.
  • runs on standard 120v power
  • digital readout
  • backed by a three-year warranty
Brand Precision Matthews
Model PM-727Mw/3axES8A
Weight pending
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

3. Grizzly G0704

Despite its compact size, the Grizzly G0704 is an extraordinarily capable machine, especially if you intend to use it primarily for smaller projects in a home shop or garage. It boasts a one-horsepower motor that far outperforms some of the larger units in its class.
  • 13-inch spindle-to-table distance
  • forward and reverse gears
  • includes a stand
Brand Grizzly
Model G0704
Weight 342 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

2. OTMT Mini OT2213

It's not going to tackle the heaviest jobs out there, but the OTMT Mini OT2213 has enough features to make it a smart choice for small to mid-sized shops or for the serious home hobbyist who wants to create his or her own mechanical components.
  • near two-inch face milling capacity
  • minute dial increments for accuracy
  • head tilts up to 45 degrees
Brand Otmt
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. Jet JMD-18 350018 230-Volt

The Jet JMD-18 350018 230-Volt features a hinged belt cover, which makes for much faster speed changes. Its large 9-1/2 by 31-3/4-inch worktable provides plenty of space for a wide variety of jobs, making it an ideal choice for a professional shop.
  • precision depth gauge
  • sturdy cast-iron column
  • capable of three thousand rpm
Brand Jet
Model 350018
Weight 739 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

A Brief History Of Milling Machines

It is believed that milling machines date back to the 1700s, although it is unclear exactly when they were first invented, or by whom. They are very similar to lathes, so the earliest models were most likely just variations on the typical lathe machine. Milling machines became a separate class of tools sometime between 1814 and 1818.

Most historians cite Eli Whitney as the first person to construct a reliable milling machine. His creation served as the prototype on which many later developers based their designs. Whitney's machine was created out of his need to produce guns more quickly. In 1798, he was contracted by the federal government to manufacture a large number of muskets, but at the time, all guns were handcrafted and had no interchangeable parts. To remedy this problem, he created a semi-automated factory that included a milling machine capable of producing muskets.

In 1867, a universal milling machine was displayed at the Paris Exhibition. It was created by Joseph R. Brown, who needed a way to produce spiral flutes for twist drills. His invention proved to be incredibly versatile, and he later added a formed cutter. Since that time, milling machines have been one of the most used industrial machining tools. They are extremely adaptable to a range of jobs, including cutting grooves, shoulders, flat and incline shoulders, as well as slots and dovetails.

In 1954, the milling machine became the first machining tool to be controlled numerically. This is a way to automate machine controls using precisely programmed commands. Before numerical control, all machine tools were operated by hand, which made them less precise.

How Milling Machines Work

Milling machines can be used on wood, metal, and nearly any other solid object to cut a range of shapes and sizes. They are most often automated by computer numeric control to carve out designs created in a computer-aided design program, but manually operated machines are also still common. Milling machines can be used in both horizontal and vertical orientations, and many can perform multi-axis machining. Unlike many other machining tools, milling machines are capable of dynamic movement, which means both the workpiece and the tool can be moved during operation. This is one of the factors that makes them such a versatile tool.

The tool head of a milling machine can be swapped out for a number of different types, depending on what needs to be accomplished. Some common tool heads include ball end mills, rounding mills, fluted mills, and standard cutters. Those that are controlled by CNC are instructed by the computer when it is time to swap out their head for another milling tool, and are capable of doing it autonomously.

In addition to the desired shape of the cut, the correct milling tool is also determined by the material being worked. As wood has different properties than steel or plastic, it requires a different type of milling tool for efficient cutting. If the wrong milling tool is used, it may damage the workpiece, the tool, or even the milling machine itself.

The most basic tool used on a milling machine is a cutter. This is a specially shaped bar with saw teeth carved into it. The cutter head rotates rapidly, allowing it to cut smoothly into the material being worked. The saw teeth of a cutter can be sized, spaced, and oriented in a number of ways to achieve the desired cut. For denser materials, straight teeth are better, while helical teeth work better for softer materials.

Choosing A Horizontal Or Vertical Milling Machine

When choosing a milling machine, there are a few different factors that must be considered. The first step is deciding if you need a vertical or horizontal cutter. Vertical mills are the newer form of milling machines and use a die-sinking method. They cut using vertical planes, and come in three basic sub-categories: bed mills, turret mills, and mill-drills.

Bed mills use a stationary spindle, and have a table that can only move in a perpendicular motion to the spindle. This somewhat limits their design capabilities, but they are generally cheaper, making them a good choice for someone who does not need parallel cutting capabilities.

Turret mills are often considered superior to bed mills as the table can move both perpendicular and parallel to the spindle. They are usually best as smaller machines because the quill used to raise and lower the cutter is often difficult to reach on any size machine, and extremely heavy on larger models.

Mill-drills are the most commonly found milling machines in home and hobby shop use. They are smaller, lighter, and more affordable than other types of milling machines, but aren't suitable for large volume work.

For those with very long projects, horizontal mills are often a better choice. As you might imagine, they use a horizontal tool to cut material. They excel at creating bezels, grooves, and spirals. They are also better for those working on multi-sided pieces. For those that need a truly versatile machine, one that features a rotating head and is capable of both horizontal and vertical cutting is best.

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Last updated on May 31, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.

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