As seen in:
SHOP FOX
9-Inch by 49-Inch Vertical
Grizzly
Mill Drill
JET
230-Volt Machine
Bolton Tools
Combo Lathe Mill Drill
Baileigh
Vertical Mill Drill Machine
Check Price
Check Price
Check Price
Check Price
Check Price
Good

Sturdy metal stand/tool cupboard. All-in-one knee mill. Coolant pump included.

Appealing feature set for a budget machine. Robust and accurate.

Good range of head and table travel. Large table supports 400 pounds. A few valuable extras.

Includes a lathe. Powered table makes repetitive tasks easier.

Impressively large dimensions, including table and spindle-to-table measurements.

Bad

Machine dimensions and capacities are small compared to other products.

Spindle to table and spindle travel could be greater. Noisy gears.

Head rotates 360 degrees but does not tilt. Stand not included.

Stand not included. Head travel, spindle-table distance, and stop switch are not ideal.

Head does not tilt (but it does rotate). Motor drive for table not included.

Bottom Line

A wise investment for professionals and hobbyists alike. The best on the market.

Excellent for those looking to step up to 'proper' milling. Highly rated by owners.

A bench drill design with a surprising capacity. Not the cheapest, but the best value for the money.

A decent, dual-purpose tool with many benefits.

An excellent tool that, unlike the SHOP FOX, does not include drive for the table.

How we decide
BestReviews is committed to providing comprehensive and trusted reviews for products that matter to consumers. We do the research to help you save time and money.
0
Products received from manufacturers
72
Models Considered
44
Hours Spent
2
Experts Interviewed
213
Consumers Consulted

Best Milling Machines

A number of different tools can be called "milling machines," including chainsaw mills, wood mills, light engraving machines, and engineering mills. It's the latter we're reviewing here -- milling machines for engineers. These tools are designed to make or modify a wide variety of components from metal and a number of modern composites.

While large milling machines are perfectly capable of making small parts, you simply don't need that size and power if you're a hobbyist or home engineer. For that reason, we've looked at several different tools, from relatively small drilling/milling machines to tools that would have a place in a professional machine shop.

We haven't included some of the cheaper machines on the market because, in our opinion, you're just buying inaccuracy. We've also excluded some high-end equipment. It's not difficult to spend $30,000 - $40,000 on a milling machine, but you'll seldom see those outside of a full-time engineering shop. Our five finalists may not be cheap, but we've tried to keep them within the reach of keen hobbyists and semi-pros. They are:

Products we Considered

SHOP FOX
9-Inch by 49-Inch Vertical
Grizzly
Mill Drill
JET
230-Volt Machine
Bolton Tools
Combo Lathe Mill Drill
Baileigh
Vertical Mill Drill Machine

Considerations

Power & Construction

Horsepower can certainly give you an idea of a milling machine's capabilities, but power means little without a rigidity platform and a solid table. Columns also play a part, as do heads -- the best of which offer the ability to create compound cutting angles.

Capacities

There are lots of figures to look at when choosing a milling machine: speed range, worktable area, spindle travel, distance to table, and more. You'll need to check each machine in detail to get the full spec list, but we've put together a quick rundown of the major points.

Features

We look at the things each manufacturer adds to make their milling machine stand out from the competition: belt-free speed control, built-in lighting, coolant pumps, powered tables, and more.

Price

If you want a top milling machine that will give you years of accurate production, you're going to have to make a considerable investment. In this part of our ratings, we look at each machine as a complete package so you know exactly what you get for your money.

Considerations

Power & Construction

Grizzly G0704 Mill Drill

There's always a danger that cheap milling machines are little more than upgraded drill presses. That's certainly not the case with the purposeful Grizzly Mill Drill. Power comes from a one-horsepower, single-phase, 110-volt motor rated at 3.2 amps. At over six pounds, it's substantial and sturdy. However, we know of people who have installed them in basement workshops with the help of a hoist. The fact that the Grizzly was specifically created as a mill is underlined by a wide, robust dovetail column that adds rigidity and, therefore, accuracy. The included stand not only saves you from having to look for one elsewhere, but it also offers useful storage.

JET JMD-18 350018 230-Volt Milling/Drilling Machine

At first glance, the Jet JMD-18 Milling/Drilling Machine looks like the kind of machine that would get criticized for being little more than a drill press. However, not everyone needs a large, full-time mill; many benefit from a precision drill with milling capabilities. Power comes from a single phase, two- horsepower, 230-volt motor. The column is cast iron and the spindle is encased in heavy-duty tapered roller bearings to maintain precision. While the head will rotate 360 degrees, it doesn't tilt, which some might see as a disadvantage. Additionally, while it's frequently pictured with a Jet stand, the stand is not part of the package. This machine weighs a substantial 660 pounds.

Bolton Tools Combo Lathe Mill Drill

Many home machinists need a lathe in addition to a milling machine; the clever Bolton Tools Combo Lathe Mill Drill features both. Importantly, both lathe and mill run separate motors (3/4 horsepower, single phase, 110 or 230 volts each), so there's no weakening of one function for the sake of the other. Effectively, you're getting a drill/mill that has the same power as the Grizzly (though admittedly not quite the flexibility) and a useful lathe as well. They share the same table; you just remove the lathe tool post when milling. Machine weight is around 300 pounds, and like the Jet JMD-18, the stand is not included in the package.

SHOP FOX M1004 9-Inch by 49-Inch Vertical Mill

The SHOP FOX M1001 Vertical Mill is the first all-in-one, floor-standing tool in our ratings. (This type of tool is often called a knee mill.) Everything about its appearance and construction says that this is a machine built for serious work. The motor is 2 horsepower, single phase, and 110 volts. The head is mounted on a tremendously sturdy column that provides 90 degrees of rotational movement and a tilt of 45 degrees in both directions. It's a big, impressive, cast structure with quality fittings, precision ground cross ways, and heavy-duty bearings throughout. It weighs more than 850 pounds and rests on a sturdy metal stand that also serves as a useful tool cupboard.

Baileigh VMD-30VS Vertical Mill Drill Machine

Baileigh themselves are keen to point out that they understand the shortcomings of many drill/mill combinations. Although the Baileigh VMD-30VS Vertical Mill Drill Machine originated as a high-precision drill press (which then had a milling table added), the manufacturer didn't stop there. Milling can generate immense forces, so extra structural rigidity is required. To achieve this rigidity, the column was shortened and a cast-iron base inserted. With a single phase, two-horsepower, 220-volt motor, the drill was already a high-specification machine. Indeed, few bench drills deliver that kind of output! The Baileigh doesn't have the focused approach of the SHOP FOX, nor does it offer a tilting head (it does rotate). However, it's build quality exceeds that of the majority of combination tools, and it will be the perfect solution for a lot of engineers -- particularly those who don't have space for two dedicated machines. It weighs around 610 pounds and comes with a base that also houses a coolant system.

The SHOP FOX is an impressive cast structure with quality fittings, precision ground cross ways, and heavy-duty bearings throughout.
Considerations

Capacities

Grizzly G0704 Mill Drill

Those who have tried the Grizzly G0704 are impressed with the size of the 7-1/6 x 26-5/8-inch table. As a consequence, longitudinal travel is 18-7/8 inches and cross travel is 6-7/8 inches. Those are good capacities for a budget milling machine. At 13 inches, the spindle-to-table measurement could be better, as could the two inches of spindle travel. But there are15 inches of swing and 11 inches of head travel, and the head will tilt 90 degrees both left and right. T-slots are the preferred 1/2 inch, and the spindle is a standard R-8 taper, so plenty of common tooling will fit. The head is a direct-gear drive, and some say it's a bit noisy. It's functional, but converting to a belt is always an option. The gearbox is a two-speed unit offering 50 to 2,250 RPM.

For what might be seen as a bench-top milling machine, the Jet JMD-18 table, at 9 1/2 x 31 3/4 inches, is quite large and is designed to support a work piece of up to 400 pounds. From spindle to table you have a healthy 18 inches; spindle travel is 5 inches. Being based on a bench drill design, you don't get traditional milling machine collets. However, you do get a 1/2-inch drill chuck with the preferred R-8 taper. As you might expect, this is a belt drive machine, offering a total of 12 speeds, from 150 to 3,000 rpm.

Bolton Tools Combo Lathe Mill Drill

There has to be some compromise with a dual-functioning machine like the Bolton Tools Combo Lathe Mill Drill, but it's not in terms of table size, which is a competitive 5 7/8 x 16 3/4 inches. Where you do lose out (compared to a dedicated mill) is the head travel and the distance from spindle to table. Head travel is 3 1/5 inches, which may or may not cause difficulties. While the spindle-to-table distance has a reasonable maximum of 12 3/5 inches, its minimum might cause some problems, as it can't be lowered any closer than 9 1/2 inches. Most engineers can find ways to work around these figures, but they can be inconvenient. Collet is 1/2-inch with an MT#3 taper. Like the Jet JMD-18, this is a belt drive machine with nine speeds ranging from 400 to 2,500 rpm. Of course, what we haven't mentioned so far is the lathe which, among other things, offers a considerable 29 1/2 inches between centers and vastly increases the kind of work you are able to do with this tool.

SHOP FOX M1004 9-Inch by 49-Inch Vertical Mill

Although you might expect a dedicated machine like the SHOP FOX M1001 Vertical Mill to have excellent capacities, they are by no means the largest in our ratings. The focus here is on quality and precision, not size. Having said that, the SHOP FOX is still competitive. The table is 6 1/8 x 26 inches. Spindle to table distance is 12 1/2 inches, and travel is three inches. With an R-8 taper, this mill can take a variety of tooling (an eight-piece quick-change collet set is available and would be a useful addition), with quoted maximum drilling capacities of one inch in cast iron and 3/4-inch in steel. The belt drive offers nine speeds, from 240 to 2,760 rpm.

Despite being a so-called "combination" machine, the Baileigh VMD-30VS Vertical Mill Drill Machine provides the second largest table among our finalists at 8 1/4 x 28 3/4 inches. Other statistics are equally impressive: spindle-to-table length is 19 3/4 inches and spindle travel is just a tenth short of 6 inches. The transformation from drill to mill is underlined by the fact that it no longer has a chuck, but an R-8 taper designed to take whatever tooling you prefer. Like the Grizzly, this is a gear-driven machine, infinitely variable from 150 to 2,500 rpm.

The JET JMD-18 is designed to support a work piece of up to 400 pounds.
Considerations

Features

Grizzly G0704 Mill Drill

Arguably the first feature you want to see on any of these machines is a big, easy-to-reach stop button. The Grizzly G0704 Milling Machine's stop button is conveniently located to the left of the head, right by the speed control. To the right of that is another useful feature: a control knob that gives you fine feed for depth. The big bonus here — and something often not found on pricier mills — is the digital readout. It's a tremendous help if you're working to fine tolerances. There's also a depth stop and a large, clear guard for the spindle. Another nicety that you don't see very often is Grizzly's use of rubber chip guards to help prevent swarf from getting in the way. Finally, imported machines often have dials that read in millimeters, and many find that inconvenient. The Grizzly's dials read in inches.

JET JMD-18 350018 230-Volt Milling/Drilling Machine

Considering its size and work capacity, it might seem at first that the Jet JMD-18 Milling/Drilling Machine isn't over-burdened with extras. The work light is undoubtedly useful (and something every mill ought to have), and the dials are easy to read and use, but at a glance, there's not much else. The stop button, on the front of the head, is placed well but can't just be "thumped." No spindle shield is included. The manufacturer claims that the hinged cover makes for quicker belt changes, but in real terms, this advantage is negligible. However, what you do get with this purchase an adjustable carbide facemill and an angle vise -- two items that would cost a considerable amount if you were to buy them separately.

Bolton Tools Combo Lathe Mill Drill

For us, the off switch on the Bolton Tools Combo Lathe Mill Drill is a little fiddly. We can see the value of having forward and reverse options on the same switch, but a separate emergency stop would have been a valuable addition. As previously mentioned, we're not keen on the type of spindle shield offered by the Bolton Combo Lathe Mill, either, but at least it has one! One feature the Bolton Tools Combo provides that scores well over some of the competition is its powered table. Because of this table, repetitive milling tasks are a lot easier with the Bolton combo.

SHOP FOX M1004 9-Inch by 49-Inch Vertical Mill

Like the Jet, the SHOP FOX M1001 Vertical Mill benefits from a work light. It's the first of our finalists to have a coolant pump, which is something that you simply cannot be without when you're cutting materials with large amounts of heat build-up (like steel). The table is fully motorized and offers variable speed and an emergency stop/override system. There's also a labor-saving "one-shot" lubrication system for the whole machine. We were a bit surprised to see such a cheap spindle guard on such a quality tool, but we do like the big fat stop button which, like the lamp, ought to be an industry standard.

Baileigh VMD-30VS Vertical Mill Drill Machine

The Baileigh VMD-30VS Vertical Mill Drill Machine gives us a number of features we like, but omits one we think ought to be included. The good: there's a front-and-center emergency stop button, a coolant system, and the best spindle guard of our final five. There's also a rubber chip guard that is similar to the one found on the Grizzly. The bad: there's no motor drive for the table. We think a machine like this should have one. There are various aftermarket kits you could buy to do the job, but given the price and the type of user this mill is aimed at, we would have expected it to be included.

The JET JMD-18 includes an adjustable carbide facemill and an angle vise -- two items that would cost a considerable amount of money if you were to buy them separately.
Considerations

Price

Grizzly G0704 Mill Drill

Right now, the Grizzly Mill Drill can be purchased for $1225. That's a surprisingly modest investment for a tool of this caliber. As a company, Grizzly has a reputation for quality machinery and top-notch customer support, so it comes as no surprise that this is a popular machine. Yes, it's a Chinese import, but Grizzly has ensured that it meets the expectation of U.S. engineers. Plenty of attention has been paid to the details. It benefits from a little fettling (something most machinists would expect to do anyway), but you'll find virtually no negative comments from users. The majority think it's a great value, easy to use, and well-suited for smaller jobs.

JET JMD-18 350018 230-Volt Milling/Drilling Machine

The JET JMD-18 costs $2199, which is a fair step up from the Grizzly. However, the Jet has a considerably larger capacity: the two-hp motor is the most powerful in our ratings (along with the Baileigh), and the work table is the largest of our final five. The manufacturer has put a lot of effort into making this a very capable and rigid machine. The fact that you get a carbide facemill and vise is a bonus; the fact that the stand must be purchased separately is something of a disappointment. Several owners have used it for woodwork as well as drilling/cutting metal and other materials. One owner has been using his mill for 10 years, which causes us to believe that this is a durable product.

Bolton Tools Combo Lathe Mill Drill

The Bolton Tools Combo Lathe Mill Drill costs $2150. If you're just looking for a milling machine, this wouldn't be your ideal choice. However, many engineers need a lathe as well, which is where this tool (and ones like it) are useful -- especially for people who are short on space. While it doesn't have the greatest of capacities, it's far from under-sized. Thanks to its dedicated motor, it has good power and speed range, and it benefits from a powered table. Bolton Tools has an excellent reputation, and this is a very popular tool -- solid, precise, with a great price.

SHOP FOX M1004 9-Inch by 49-Inch Vertical Mill

If the SHOP FOX M1001 Vertical Mill appeals to you, you'll need to find $7495 to pay for it. What you get for your investment is undoubtedly one of the best machines in this price bracket. There are more powerful milling machines around, but they cost considerably more. Few are better thought out or have more genuinely useful features. Indeed, owners are almost universal in their praise. No, it's not a cheap milling machine, but it does represent a very good value. In fact, both full-time professionals and hobbyists use the SHOP FOX in their workshops.

Baileigh VMD-30VS Vertical Mill Drill Machine

The Baileigh VMD-30VS Vertical Mill Drill Machine costs $3695. It's a highly capable tool that , like the Jet, does much to change the poor view many have of "combination" drilling and milling machines. It comes from a company with as good a reputation as any, and it's as powerful as anything else here. The big disappointment for some owners is the lack of drive for the table. While aftermarket kits are readily available, the similarly specified SHOP FOX manages to include one in the price. For several potential owners, this was a deal-breaker.

Both full-time professionals and hobbyists use the SHOP FOX in their workshops.

Best of the Best

These are all good machines, and each of our five finalists would suit a particular kind of engineer or machinist. However, the very best milling machine on our shortlist is the SHOP FOX M1001 Vertical Mill.

There are limits to all of these tools, but the SHOP FOX is as close as you'll come to the milling machines found in professional machine shops. Indeed, our research shows that some are bought exactly for that purpose.

Its first advantage is that it's not a modified drill, but a knee mill built from the ground up. The SHOP FOX offers the big, heavy castings you need to ensure rigidity and accuracy under the extreme directional loads that milling can create. Precision bearings encase a spindle that features the popular R-8 taper. This tool yields a tremendous amount of angular and rotational movement, a distance to table of over 12 inches, and a spindle travel of three inches. Accuracy is assured by micro-feed. Flexibility comes by way of a powerful 2 hp motor driving nine speeds, from 240 to 2,400 rpm.

Along with structural strength, the SHOP FOX includes all those little touches that you'd hope to find on a top-quality milling machine (but often don't). There's an invaluable work light, an easy-to-use stop button, a single point for lubricating the whole machine, a built-in coolant pump, and a powered table with rapid override.

In a nutshell, if you're looking for a dependable milling machine for hobby and light professional use, the SHOP FOX has everything you need -- and it's backed by one of the best-known names in the business.
Best of the Best
Check Price
The SHOP FOX includes a work light, easy-to-use stop button, built-in coolant pump, powered table with rapid override, and much more.

Best Bang for your Buck

For light work, the Grizzly is a popular milling machine. For some, the Bolton Tools lathe/mill is a cost-effective option. In the end, however, our Best Bang for Your Buck milling machine is the Jet JMD-18.

"Combination" machines are often criticized, and with some justification. However, Jet has taken away virtually all of the negatives by shortening the column (an area of perceived weakness) and creating a new base from cast iron. The result is the rigid structure a good mill needs.

There's plenty of power, too. Of our finalists, only the Baileigh motor delivers the same two-hp output. This drives an R-8 tapered spindle at 12 different speeds, from 150 to 3,000 rpm. It's big on other capacities too. The Jet JMD-18 features the largest table of our finalists, 18 inches from spindle to table, and a five-inch spindle travel. Other nice extras include a work light, an adjustable facemill, and an angle vise.

It would have been nice if the stand was included in the price and if the table had powered feed, but these extras are available for purchase later on. The Jet-JMD-18 doesn't have the massive structural rigidity of the SHOP FOX, but many will find it an ideal -- and more affordable -- solution. Owners put it to an enormous variety of different uses, and almost invariably, they agree with us: this is a great tool for the money.
Best Bang for your Buck
Check Price
The Jet JMD-18 features a five-inch spindle travel, 18 inches from spindle to table, speeds from 150 - 3,000 rpm, and the largest table on our shortlist.
The team that worked on this review
  • Bob
    Bob
    Writer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Editor
  • Jasmin
    Jasmin
    Operations
  • Jimi
    Jimi
    Product Analyst
  • Ben
    Ben
    Operations