What Is Milling In A Machine Shop?

What Is Milling in a Machine Shop?Milling is a machining process in which a rotating cutting tool removes material from a workpiece. The milling process creates flat surfaces, grooves, slots, and complex shapes. In a machine shop, milling is typically performed using various machines, but vertical and horizontal milling machines are the most common.

But what are milling machines, and how do they work? Here’s everything you need to know about milling in a machine shop.

What Is Milling?

Milling is the process of machining flat, angular, or irregular surfaces by feeding the workpiece against a rotating cutter. The cutting tool consists of multiple cutting edges that remove material from the workpiece to create the desired shape. It works by advancing a cutter in varying directions of its axes or applying pressure, or simply changing the cutter head speed.

Since every project is unique, milling machines come in different orientations. The basic configurations are vertical and horizontal. However, you can get other alternative classifications depending on size, purpose, method of control, and power source.

Vertical Milling Machine

A vertical milling machine has a vertically oriented spindle. That means the cutting tool can move up and down as needed. The depth of the cut gets controlled by a micrometer adjustment nut. The quill handle moves the cutter up and down.

Vertical mills come in two subcategories: turret mills and bed mills.

Turret Mills: In a turret mill, the spindle is fixed in place, meaning that the only way to move the cutter is by moving the table perpendicular and parallel. Some turret mills come with a quill that allows the drill or cutter to get raised or lowered. The advantage of this design is that it’s more versatile.

Bed Mills: Bed mills have a similar spindle orientation to turret mills. However, the table can move only in a perpendicular direction to the spindle axis. That means that you can cut only along one axis at a time. But, bed mills are cheaper and take up less space in a shop.

Horizontal Milling Machine

A horizontal milling machine comes with a horizontally oriented spindle. That means that the cutting tool can move from side to side. It may also feature an in-build rotary table allowing you to mill at various angles.

The advantage of horizontal milling lies in the arbor-mounted cutters, also known as side and face mills. It has a cross-section that looks like a circular saw. Because of this cutter, the milling has good support and has a larger cross-section area. It enables it to make heavy cuts and helps with rapid material removal.

What Is Milling Used For?

Milling is a versatile machining process that’s used for a wide variety of applications. Some of the most common uses include:

  • Creating flat surfaces
  • Generating angular features
  • Producing irregular shapes
  • Machining slots and holes
  • Profiling edges
  • Create threaded holes and dovetail joints


Milling is a vital machining process for creating various shapes and surfaces. It’s commonly used in the automotive and aerospace industries but can also be used for multiple other applications. If you want to create complex shapes or surfaces, milling may be the right process.

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