The 7 Best Milling Machines

Updated February 14, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

7 Best Milling Machines
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
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 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 units 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.

7. 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 ideal for small to mid-sized shops or for the serious home hobbyist who wants to create his or her own mechanical components.
  • includes detailed instructions
  • minute dial increments for accuracy
  • only two spindle speed options
Brand Otmt
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

6. Jet 350017/JMD-15

The Jet 350017/JMD-15 has a one-piece, cast-iron column for optimal support and stability, and it features a nifty quick-slide latch that allows for much faster belt adjustments. It also includes a heavy-duty power downfeed.
  • tapered base for easier cleanup
  • convenient 360-degree swivel head
  • minor design flaws get frustrating
Brand Jet
Model 350017
Weight 457 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

5. Proxxon 37110

Despite being far and away 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 of the product itself — that is, quite small.
  • excellent complement to larger mill
  • 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

4. Precision Matthews PM-25MV

The belt-driven, brushless DC motor on the Precision Matthews PM-25MV operates with very little noise, so a hobbyist in his or her garage can work till the cows come home without driving the neighbors too crazy. Four sturdy bolts attach the column to its base.
  • runs on standard 120v power
  • 10-thread-per-inch lead screw
  • expensive for its size
Brand Precision Matthews
Model PM-25MV
Weight pending
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

3. Shop Fox M111

The Shop Fox M111 is an industrial-quality machine that can stand up to the rigors of heavy-duty daily use. It has a robust 1 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

2. 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.
  • easy-to-read depth gauge
  • cast-iron support column
  • two-year warranty
Brand Jet
Model 350018
Weight 739 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

1. Grizzly G0704

Despite its diminutive stature, 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 even boasts a 1 HP motor that far outperforms some of the larger units in its class.
  • 13-inch distance to spindle
  • well-designed for modifications
  • 2-speed gearbox
Brand Grizzly
Model G0704
Weight 342 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 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 February 14, 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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