Disclaimer: Tools First supports our readers with thousands of hours of research to help you find the right products for your needs and make your life easier. You support us through our carefully chosen links that may earn us a commission.
Benchtop milling machines can be a great investment.
But picking the right one is an important decision when due to the cost of them.
Even though these products are all the right size to be mounted on a workbench, there are so many different ones out there.
Read on to learn more about our top ten picks, all the things you can do with them, and what to look for when you shop.
On this page:
In a Rush?
Here's 3 products we picked out that thought you would be interested in depending on your budget...
The Best Benchtop Milling Machine with Reviews
Here's a list of the best benchtop milling machines on the market today:
1. JET JMD-18 350018 Benchtop Milling Machine
Not so Good
The JET JMD-18 350018 is a beast. The 2 horsepower motor is the most powerful one we reviewed. This is a great tool for professional use because it’s just built to work. It has an extra large work table, heavy-duty tapered roller bearings, and a hinged belt cover for faster speed changes. It’s also really durable in part because the 1-piece cast iron column provides an insane amount of durability and support.
There are a lot of innovative features with this one, too. It includes an integrated work lamp, easy-to-read internal depth gauge, and easy-access controls. There are 12 different speed settings ranging between 150 and 3000 RPM, too, which makes it a pretty versatile tool.
The JET JMD-18 350018 is insanely durable and powerful. It can tackle just about any job you have for it and is loaded with a lot of great extras to make things easier for the user, like an integrated work lamp and easy-access controls. It’s definitely an investment, but it’s worth it because it will last and last.
2. Erie Tools Mini Milling Machine
Not so Good
Erie Tools makes this Mini Milling Machine that’s designed for deep milling and heavy duty jobs. It has a lot of really useful features including variable speed control, a forward and reverse switch, and a safety shut off switch. You can really fine tune positioning, too, thanks to the adjustable depth stop, fine feed hand wheel, crossfeed hand wheel, longitudinal feed hand wheel, and lifting hand wheel. Plus, there are some great extras included. You get a 6-piece shank set with 1/8, 3/16, 1/4, 5/16, 3/8, and 5/32″ sizes, an oil can, hex wrenches, a spanner wrench, and open-end wrenches.
For heavy-duty jobs, the Erie Tools Mini Milling Machine has a long of great features that allow for fine-tuned adjustments. Not only that, it also includes a 6-piece shank set and all the wrenches you need for adjustments and maintenance.
3. SUNWIN Metal Mini Milling Machine
Not so Good
If you’re looking for a benchtop milling machine that won’t hurt your budget, we recommend the SUNWIN Metal Mini Milling Machine. All the main machine parts are made of durable metal, including the spindle, slider, tailstock, and pedestal. One of the best things about this machine is its size. Not only is it lightweight, it’s also very compact and can fit on even a crowded workbench. This is a great tool for hobbyists or students because it’s easy to use and inexpensive while still providing the necessary accuracy and precision.
The SUNWIN Metal Mini Milling Machine is perfect for anyone looking for something that won’t break the bank but still performs with accuracy and precision. It’s small, lightweight, and a great choice for students or beginners.
4. OTMT OT221 Benchtop Milling Machine
Not so Good
Our next selection is the OTMT OT221. This is a nice sized tool that comes loaded with features. For one thing, the head tilts 45 degrees to the left and right so you have better control and can get more accurate results. It also has a variable speed control for more versatility that has 2 ranges: low, which offers 0 to 1100 RPM, and high, which offers 1100 to 2500 RPM. It has a fine feed that’s used for milling with an easy-to-read dial that actually has increments as small as 0.0001 inch so you can get really precise results.
If you need to get really accurate results that depend on being accurate within 0.0001 inch, this is the machine for you. The OTMT OT221 also has 45 degree head tilt for even more control and precision.
5. Mophorn Mini Milling Machine
Not so Good
The Mophorn Mini Milling Machine has the best of both worlds. It’s a reasonable size and has a lot of awesome features. The head tilts 45 degrees to the left and right so you have better control and accuracy as you work. There’s also an adjustable depth stop, fine feed head control, and an adjustable dovetail column for even more fine-tuning. Plus, with variable speed control and gear drive, you save time when milling and drilling. Also included is a toolkit that includes a variety of wrenches and 4 T-nuts.
The great thing about the Mophorn Mini Milling Machine is that it’s an ideal size (not too big and not too heavy) but it’s still loaded with a lot of great features. With 45 degree tilt, adjustable depth stop, and more, you get precise results. Plus, the tool-kit includes a variety of useful wrenched and T-nuts.
6. JET 350017 Benchtop Milling Machine
Not so Good
The JET 350017 has a one-piece cast iron column for added support and long-term durability. There are a lot of other great features on this machine, too. Large hand wheel knobs are easy to adjust and the heavy-duty tapered roller bearings give greater tolerance and more accurate drilling depth. The large work table is really easy to use, too. Rather than a 45-degree tilt, this milling machine has a highly versatile 360-degree swivel which makes it one of the most versatile tools out there. And changing spindle speeds is really easy due to the quick slide latch and faster belt adjustment.
For a durable and versatile option, the JET 350017 is great. The thing that stands out the most about this one is the 360-degree swivel which makes for precise and accurate adjustments.
7. Proxxon 34108 Benchtop Milling Machine
Not so Good
For a small, accurate machine, there’s the Proxxon 34108. It’s one of the most lightweight options available at only 41 pounds and has a small footprint and is great for workshops with limited space. Speeds range from 280 to 2500 RPM at 6 different intervals. It’s pretty easy to operate, too. The hand wheel adjusts the height and advances the fine mill feed. Plus, the headstock swivels 360 degrees which means you can get it into just about any position for accurate milling. Both the quill and the headstock lock into position when you’re ready to get to work.
If you’re looking for a small machine that can handle finely detailed work, the Proxxon 34108 is a perfect choice. It weighs less than most of the other machines we reviewed and is great for making models to scale. For extra accuracy, you’ll love the 360-degree headstock rotation.
8. SHOP FOX M1111 Benchtop Milling Machine
Not so Good
Last up is the SHOP FOX M111, a machine that’s built to last through all the tough jobs you can throw at it. This is a heavy-duty machine that’s built to be rugged and precise. The push button speed control and back-lit, digital spindle tachometer are really easy to use and the quick-tilt headstock makes positioning for even horizontal milling really easy. The support base is made from long-lasting ground cast-iron and has 4 leveling feel so you can adjust to have a level work surface even if your workbench itself isn’t perfectly straight. We also really like the front facing emergency stop button, which is easy to access in case you ever need it.
If you’re willing to make an investment, this SHOP FOX M111 benchtop milling machine is built to last. It’s rugged enough to handle just about any job and features like push button speed control and a back-lit digital spindle tachometer are easy to use.
9. SHOP FOX M1036 Benchtop Milling Machine
Not so Good
This is a great machine for milling high precision parts for small, working models. The Shop Fox M1036 has a lot of convenient features like a digital depth readout, variable speed control, and a micro down feed knob for fine adjustments. The compound slide table helps make doing detailed work even easier. One of the best things about this tool is that each axis is independently controlled. Just use the crank handle to position each one then lock it in place to reduce vibration. It’s very precise, too. Graduated dials control movement in increments as tiny as 0.001 inch. Plus, because it has dual speed control, you can use high speeds for softer materials and smaller bits or change to low speed for using large bits on harder materials.
When it comes to detail work, the Shop Fox M1036 is one of the best benchtop milling machines around. With dual speed control and adjustments as small as 0.001 inch, you’ll be able to get precise, accurate results even on the smallest pieces.
10. Klutch Mini Milling Machine
Not so Good
Next up is the Klutch Mini Milling Machine. We think it really gives you a lot of bang for your buck. For one thing, it’s made of cast iron which lasts practically forever so you know this tool will last a long time. The powerful 3.4 HP motor is variable speed and runs practically vibration free.
Another great feature is that the milling head and column tilt 45 degrees to the left and right which gives this machine a little more versatility. It’s also a compact size and reasonable weight which makes it much more convenient if you want to have it in your home workshop.
The Kluth Mini Milling Machine is a great choice for anyone looking to get a reasonably priced machine that’s designed to last a long time. It’s the perfect size and weight for any home workshop or small business.
Information about Milling Machines
The first thing you should ask yourself before investing in any tool is this: do I really need this? In order to really know if you could benefit from a benchtop milling machine, let’s take a closer look at what they do.
What Is a Milling Machine Used for?
At one time, milling machines were used almost exclusively in the commercial and industrial sectors. Think large factories, garages, and fabricators. These milling machines are still in use today. They’re huge, cost tens of thousands of dollars, and weigh several tons. Now, there are smaller, compact options available that you can use for smaller businesses or even in the comfort of your own workshop.
Since we covered benchtop milling machines in these reviews, that’s what we’re going to focus on now. Benchtop milling machines are also caller mini milling machines. Compared to large industrial machines and even smaller free-standing ones, mini millings machines weigh less and are small enough to sit on the top of a workbench or table.
It might seem like a milling machine is a specialized piece of equipment and maybe you’re wondering what you could even do with one. Believe it or not, milling machines are really versatile. You can do a lot of different things with them and, with benchtop machines like these, you can do it in the privacy of your own garage.
So, what can you do with a milling machine? Basically, they shape solid materials and are primarily used with flat or irregular shaped metal, though the can be used with wood, too. They can cut gears, bore holes, and produce slots plus you can use them as you would a drill or router. If you want to be more creative, a milling machine can also be used to make detailed wooden sculptures or even carve engravings into steel or other metal.
There are specific niches that can benefit from a benchtop milling machine, too. They’re a popular tool in for body shops and mechanics and are very useful to craft tools like knide blades or even gun barrels.
This is one of those machines that you might not think you have a use for but when you get it, you’ll wonder what you ever did without it. If you have a home workshop and enjoy working with your hands, you’ll certainly find endless ways to use a benchtop milling machine.
Is a Milling Machine the Same as a Drill Press?
Not exactly. Drill presses are used to drill cylindrical holes in parts or pieces of material. They can be used for countersinking, reaming, and counterboring as well but all of these involve the main drill moving on a vertical axis.
That vertical axis is actually on of the big differences between the two. While a drilling machine has only one axis, a milling machine has at least three and can have as many as five. It has a vertical axis that moves the main shaft up and down. Plus, it also moves horizontally, both forward and backward as well as left and right. Some even have a rotational axis or two.
Another key difference is that a drill press only makes cuts from the tip of the bit. On the other hand, a milling machine cuts from the sides, too, which is why it’s more versatile and precise. If you’re a professional who uses high grade drilling bits, you may want to consider looking at the best drill bit sharpeners as well.
So, while a milling machine might be able to drill holes in the same way a drill press can, a drill press is nowhere near as versatile as a milling machine.
A Word about CNC Milling Machines
“CNC” stands for computer numerical controlled. We’re not going to get too deep into this because we didn’t include any in our reviews but you may come across the term as you do your own research.
You can think about CNC milling as being almost like a 3D printer. They require a computer aided manufacturing or computer aided design program that basically tells the milling machine what to do. CNC milling machines receive this information and then automatically create whatever it is that’s been designed.
CNC milling machine is not likely something you would need for your home workshop or if you work as a sole proprietor. While it works in the same way, it’s a very different machine that’s used in a different way than the manual machines we focused on.
Buying a Benchtop Milling Machine
Here are the main things to look for to make sure you’re choosing a benchtop milling machine:
Power & Speed
If you plan to mill steel, you need a pretty hefty machine like the one in our top slot. Steel is not easy to mill so make sure you get a machine that can handle it if that’s the material you plan to work with. Look for a machine with high horsepower and adjustable speed. More on that later.
For aluminum, brass, composites, and some wood, most of these machines will be more than sufficient. The more power they have, the harder they will be able to work, obviously. If you’re looking for something to use for model making, you don’t really need to worry too much about power since you’ll be working with smaller materials.
Now, back to horsepower. For a benchtop milling machine that’s going to be used primarily for miniature work or malleable materials, anything around 1/8 horsepower is enough. Stick to around 1 HP for more intense jobs and 2 HP if you want something that will seriously perform.
Speed is important, too, because different materials require different rates. Each milling machine has a minimum and maximum RPM. Standard machines allow you to dial into several pre-sets in that range. Good machines will give you around eight different speed settings to choose from. Some offer variable speed, which means you choose whatever speed you want from the minimum and maximum range. If you have enough pre-sets, you don’t necessarily need variable speed because, ideally, the machine will have the right pre-sets for the materials you use. Variable speed is always nice to have, though, because you can fine tune the speed to whatever works best for the material you’re using.
Accuracy & Vibration
The thing that affects accuracy more than anything is stability and what affects stability more than anything? The tool’s foundation. It has to be built on something solid that can tolerate vibrations and movement without moving around. The best material for the base is cast iron. It’s sturdy and can handle the force of the milling and actually absorbs some of the vibrations. Plus, cast iron practically lasts forever. It’s a great choice for a solid machine.
Another important thing when it comes to accuracy is the table. It’s made of metal, usually steel or aluminum depending on the quality of the table. Milling machine tables also have T-slots so you can attach clamps to hold down your material while you work.
Capacity & Size
There are a few different things to consider when it comes to size. The first is the easiest, the physical size of the tool. While these can all be mounted to a workbench, some of them are pretty big and weigh a lot. So, it’s important to make sure that whatever you’re mounting it to can handle the weight and has enough surface area to still leave you some workspace.
Spindle distance is important, too. The spindle goes up and down with the distance measured at the highest point. This figure gives you a good idea about the maximum height of the material that you can use with the mill.
The worktable is important, too. The first thing to consider is the travel distance. They move side to side and front to back and the distance they travel tells you the total working area. This matters because the further the table moves, the less you’ll have to reposition your work as you go.
Keep the size of the actual worktable in mind, too. While a table can support a piece that extends off the edges a little bit, too much overhang will make it too difficult to use the machine safely.
Accuracy & Control
If you need to make complex angles, look for a milling machine with a head section that tilts and rotates. Some simply tilt up to 45 degrees left to right while others move a full 360 degrees.
In addition to the stability of the base, there are other parts of a milling machine that contribute to accuracy. The controls are also really important. The easier they are to manipulate, the more precise they are. Levers are typically used for large, coarse movement while gauges, stops, and scales are used for fine tuning. Some of these machines have scales that go down to increments as small as 0.0001 inch.
Safety & Other Things to Keep in Mind
- One of the best things you can do to add stability to a benchtop milling machine is to bolt it down. We actually wouldn’t recommend using one without bolting it down because there’s a good possibility that the machine will move slightly and really effect the accuracy of what you’re trying to do.
- Pay attention to the maximum load rating. What you’ll be working with is probably nowhere near the limit but the more weight a machine can handle, the better it’s probably built.
- Always wear goggles and a face mask when using a milling machine as particles of metal flying through the air can cause you a lot of problems if they get in your eyes or are inhaled.
Wrapping it Up
We often encourage you to really think about whether or not you need a tool like this before you buy it but, honestly, milling machines are a little different. If you like to work with your hands and enjoy making things in your shop, there’s a really good chance that you’ll find dozens of ways to use one of these.