Milling machines can be some of the most powerful and useful tools in your shop, depending on what you’re making. With such a high-powered and high-tech machine, getting a quality option isn’t just about efficiency and good design, it’s also a matter of safety in your shop.
Choosing the right benchtop milling machine can be a challenge though. It’s important to choose both a machine that’s well designed and safe, as well as a design that’s meant for the materials you’re working with.
We’ve put together a list of some of the best benchtop milling machines currently available. We’ve also included a buying guide at the end of the article to help you choose between different models.
This benchtop milling machine is designed to give you as much flexibility and milling power as possible in a relatively compact space. This machine is designed to work with a wide variety of tools and attachments to give you more versatility. It’s well designed for creating flat surfaces, drilling perfectly square holes, and creating contours and other decorative elements on the surface of the material.
This milling machine is compatible with an up to 2-inch milling face, which is perfect for getting through large amounts of material quickly and precisely.
This design is meant to do the job of a regular router, plane, and other tools all in one. It’s a big upfront investment, but this tool is a faster and more efficient replacement than keeping all the other tools and using them one by one to create the finished product.
This milling machine is also compatible with a wide range of different materials, including metal, hard and soft lumber, and plastics.
This mill also comes with an R8 taper that makes it compatible with a wide range of different chucks and other cutting heads so you can create the exact effect you want on your finished piece. You’ll likely need a collection of hucks, end mills, and collets to be able to create the full range of effects and finishes this milling machine is capable of, but that isn’t a bad thing.
The machine itself weighs in over 300 lbs., which means that you’ll need a stable workstation for the mill to rest on. Not too much of a problem, but it’s important to make sure you’ve got a surface that can handle the weight of the machine as well as the materials you’re going to be using on it, with vibration and other stresses, while maintaining a level surface.
The machine measures 24 by 35. 5 by 33. 5 inches with a 19. 75 by 9.125-inch footprint. Having some additional workspace around the footprint of the machine is important so that you have room to work and prepare materials. It offers effective machining travel up to 19. 75 inches along the X-axis, 6. 5 inches along the Y-axis, and the headstock travels 9. 75 inches along the Z-axis.
That’s plenty of space for your typical workshop milling machine.
Why we like it
This versatile and efficient design offers a lot of powerful milling capacity in a smaller and more compact design. It’s just as powerful on average as an industrial machine, just concentrated into a smaller device with slightly smaller cutting areas. It’s a powerful option for almost any kind of materials you might need to machine, and it’s an awesome tool to be able to make customized finished pieces and tools.
This milling/drilling machine is another good option if you’re looking for a more compact mill option for your home workshop. It’s got a larger than average workstation which gives you a lot more space to work with your milling machine and create larger surfaces, slots, decorations, and angles. It also helps make it easier to line up different areas so that you’ve got an exact match on different areas of your materials.
The 9.5 x 31.75-inch work table gives you a lot of space to work with when you’re preparing materials. It also has several different quality of life features that make it much easier to use. Accurate depth gauges and a cast iron column to help reduce excessive vibration and help the milling machine last longer overall.
This set also comes with a work lamp to make it easier to see what you’re doing that’s designed specifically to make the work surface on this milling machine.
The 230-volt motor gives you impressive power and RPM, in a range of 12 spindle speeds from 15 to 3,000 RPM. The hinged belt system is also designed to help minimize transition time and load time when you’re changing speeds.
The adjustable carbide face mill is also a fantastic option that’s incredibly durable and long-lasting.
You’ll also get several additional attachments in the box, including a drill press angle vise, a 1/2-inch drill chuck, chuck arbor, and drawbar.
Why we like it
This mill comes with a lot of the accessories and things you need to make the most of your mill the same day it arrives. Set up is relatively simple (considering the kind of machine it is), and its minimal vibration makes it even more long-lasting and durable.
This 2-horsepower drill is a fantastic option if you’re looking for a benchtop milling machine that comes with its own stand for additional durability. The cabinet also gives you good onboard storage for your additional parts and accessories. That’s critical since you can often need a lot of different drilling and milling heads to get the most from a new milling machine.
The R-8 spindle on this mill also makes it easier to trade out between different tools and tasks, while also making the milling machine compatible with a wider range of different tools at the same time.
A full 12 different spindle speeds give you the flexibility and power you need to work on a wide variety of different materials and for different kinds of projects. It’s suitable for a wide range of work, from simple flattening to drilling holes and slots in your materials, as well as creating angles and detailed work on the top surface of the machine.
This mill also comes with several good safety features, including an important emergency stop that brings the mill to a complete stop as quickly as physically possible to help prevent additional damage or injury in case of something going wrong.
This mill also comes with an impressive cast iron work table for added durability and strength. It’s one mill where you likely won’t need to replace your work table even after long periods of regular use.
Why we like it
This mill is a good option if you’re looking for a system with a slightly more robust storage system. It’s got good RPM and the 2-horsepower design gives you the strength and torque you need to work with a wide range of different materials. High-quality components also help remove excess vibration, making this mill a lot easier to use and more effective. Reducing vibration also helps reduce user fatigue, letting you work longer, comfortably.
This slimmer design is a good option for workshops that need a milling machine but that also need to save space on the tool and don’t have a lot of extra area to dedicate to the machine. It’s designed to give you the power and precision you need without taking up a lot of space.
This milling machine is also designed for a lightweight profile that doesn’t need as much table reinforcement and support to operate safely. That means that this is also a good option for people who don’t have the option of building a special table or workstation for their milling machine.
This lighter and smaller design is also a good option if you ever need a portable milling machine. It’s also a good option if you’re looking for a mill that you can buy now, but know that you’ll need to move your workshop and equipment at some point.
This mill’s smaller design works best for smaller projects, like electronic work, jewelry, and even shaping optician’s glass. This design is just a little less durable than the other alternatives we’ve talked about because it uses die-cast aluminum instead of a cast iron headstock. That means that the headstock isn’t as heavy, but it also means that you lose the strength and some of the vibration absorption that makes cast iron such a good base material for milling machines.
However, while the headstock is aluminum, this milling machine still features a cast iron base that does a lot of the work of handling vibration and keeping this machine steady while you’re working.
Still, if you’re looking for a smaller design for smaller projects and more detailed work, this mill is a great performer. It’s also a good complement to the other mills on this list if you need something that can handle large and small work. Having a smaller mill to handle the most detailed parts of your project, or to give you a wider range of working specialties makes your whole workshop more effective and efficient.
Why we like it
While this milling machine might not be quite as powerful or effective as some of the alternatives on this list when it comes to large scale work, it’s more effective for the smaller more detailed jobs that can be critical for your project. It’s lighter weight and smaller profile also make this milling machine a good option for workshops that don’t have the space for a bigger, more versatile model.
Benchtop Milling Machine Buyer’s Guide
Milling machines can be fairly similar on the surface, but it’s important to make sure you’re looking at the internal components to get a good sense of the power and ability of the machine, as well as getting a machine that will be able to handle the work you need.
Motor power determines the RPM and torque behind your machine, making it one of the most important features of a good milling machine in terms of performance and working speed, and efficiency.
Big projects and anything working with metal needs a motor with a higher horsepower on average. Where you might be able to get away with .5-1 horsepower on a smaller benchtop model, mills for metal and other hardened materials usually need to be around 2-3 horsepower to be effective and durable in the long run.
Range of Motion
Range of motion or travel determines how flexible your milling machine is and how large an area you can cover before resetting the milling machine and moving your materials to work with it.
Almost all the time a larger range of motion is important. The more space you have to work in, the more kinds of projects you can complete and the less time it will take.
Large range of motion also helps if you’re trying to create seamless milling since it helps eliminate the small shifts and shrinking or growth of materials that can occur when you’re resetting the machine.
Precision and Accuracy
Precision is another key consideration for your milling machine. Not every situation calls for extreme precision, but it’s incredibly hard to achieve a very consistent and precise finish if your milling machine isn’t designed to allow it. No amount of skill can make up for component variability and vibration.
Usually, your milling machine should be capable of precision to measurement with less than 1mm of variance. The smaller the number is, especially under .5 mm variance, the better and more consistently your milling machine will perform.
Precision and accuracy are actually two different measures, with accuracy being the measure of how close to the given measurement each setting actually performs. A milling machine can be incredibly precise, but if the setting and measurement markings are inaccurate, you’ll still suffer from decreased performance.
Look for machines that give you a lot of tools, like a depth gauge, light, and other measurement systems that let you double and triple check your work before permanently altering your materials.
Safety features are also incredibly important when it comes to working with a benchtop mill. The power of these machines means that things can quickly go wrong, and having some basic safety mechanisms in place is critical to help prevent the worst accidents and problems with the machine.
The most basic safety features are also generally the most important. Before working with your milling machine make sure the on-off switch/button is within easy reach of the mill operator. It’s also critical to make sure your milling machine has an emergency off button that will bring the machine to a stop faster than the traditional off button.
The emergency off button should also be within easy reach of the operator, clearly labeled, and accessible for others to press in case the operator is unable to reach it.
Your benchtop milling machine should also have easy points to lock your material in place, either with built-in clamps, or where the materials can be easily attached with a vise.
Protective features around internal components can also be critical for the continued function of your mill, so make sure the mill is designed to handle the occasional piece of flying debris as well as vibration from the action of the mill.
These are both safety features because a mill that fails to work properly can often malfunction in a way that’s dangerous to the user.
Your mill should also come with a user’s manual that clearly details safe use of your mill, safety features and how to use them, and when your mill needs maintenance and upkeep.
Benchtop milling machines are a powerful addition to your workshop and can be some of the most useful and versatile tools you own. They also need care and attention, so it’s important to make sure you’re keeping up with regular maintenance and checking for any obvious signs of damage between uses.
Of all of these mills though, we’d have to recommend the WEN 33075 11-Amp Variable Speed 16-Inch Benchtop Milling Machine with Digital Readout and Extra-Large Mill Table as the most versatile mill thanks to its advanced construction, a large worktable, and flexible travel design. This mill will really help take your work to the next level and make it easier to finish a detailed project quickly and with precision.
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