Milling Machine Guide

What is a Milling Machine?

A milling machine is excellent for forming flat surfaces, cutting dovetails and keyways, forming and fluting milling cutters and reamers, cutting gears, and so forth. Many special operations can be performed with the attachments available for milling machining. The knee is used for raising and lowering. The saddle rests upon the knee and supports the worktable. The saddle moves in and out on a dovetail to control the cross feed. The worktable traverses to the right or left upon the saddle to feed the workpiece through the milling cutter. The table may be manually controlled or power fed. In the following sections, we will take a look at two common milling machine types and give you some safety considerations when using these machines.


Knee-type milling machines are characterized by a vertically adjustable worktable resting on a saddle supported by a knee. The knee is a massive casting that rides vertically on the machine column and can be clamped rigidly to the column in a position where the milling head and spindle are properly adjusted. The plain vertical machines are characterized by a spindle located vertically, parallel to the column face, and mounted in a sliding head that can be fed up and down by hand or power.

Modern vertical milling machines have a head that can swivel to permit working on angular surfaces. The turret and swivel head assembly is designed for making precision cuts and can swing at 360° on its base. Angular cuts to the horizontal plane may be made with precision by setting the head at any required angle within a 180" arc. The plain horizontal milling machine's column contains the drive motor and gearing and a fixed position horizontal milling spindle. An adjustable overhead arm containing one or more arbor supports projects forward from the top of the column. The arm and arbor supports are used to stabilize long arbors. Supports can be moved along the overhead arm to support the arbor at the desired position to the milling cutter.

The primary difference between a universal horizontal milling machine and a regular horizontal machine is the addition of a table swivel case between the table and the saddle of the universal machine. This allows the table to be tilted up to 45 ° in any direction during angular and helical milling. The universal machine can be equipped with various attachments such as indexing chuck, turntable, chiseling and cutting stand attachments, and various special tools.


This type is characterized by a spindle mounted on a movable housing on a column to allow the cutter to be positioned forward or backward in a horizontal plane. Two popular shank milling machines are a universal milling machine and an arm milling machine with a rotating cutting head. The universal ram-type machine is similar to the universal horizontal milling machine, the difference being, as its name implies, the spindle is mounted on a ram or movable housing. The ram design allows for a wider range of movement across the work surface.

Safety Considerations

To remove the tool from the machine, with the electric drawbar attached, move the quill to its highest position and lock it with the quill lock. Hold the collet (or face milling cutter, chuck, etc.) and then press the green button and the red button simultaneously (for 3 seconds) on the housing. This will release the collet and cutter from the spindle. Stick to both when you remove them. If you do not hold the collet and cutter, they will fall out and may be damaged.

To install the collet and cutter, move the blade to its highest position and lock it with the lock. Place the desired cutter (or chuck) in a collet of the correct diameter. Insert the holder into the spindle. Make sure the groove on the holder fits properly with the key in the spindle and is fully seated. Holding the implement with one hand, press and hold the green button and the red "IN" button simultaneously (for 3 seconds) on the drawbar box.

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