January 24, 2022

How to Mill without a Milling Machine

It is achievable to mill without a milling machine depending on the task. A drill press is another method to use in place of a milling device. The problem with drills is that they contain a Morse taper and no drawbar to retain it. It is also challenging to mill material such as metal with a drill press. However, it can still do the job. Let’s find out how you can mill wood with a drill press.

You can successfully replace a milling machine with a drill press by addressing the following.

You have to replace the lower spindle with an angular contact row bearing to resolve the side thrust issue in the bearing.

You can go to an ER25 or 30 series collet system with the proper morse taper or use a drawbar and lock pin to retain the taper; this is a solution to the chuck coming off without holding the end mills.

The table on the drill press is mostly not rigid enough for milling, but if the table is rigidly mounted in both ways, it won’t be an issue. However, many press drills mount tables on the column, causing them not to become rigid enough. 

You can solve the problem by cutting down the total height and remounting the head using a gib to become more stringent on the column. You can also gib the spindle to remove the excess slack. Mount the x y table directly to the base.

Another method to locking the spindle is to use the center point set screw on the added gib if there’s enough space.

And this is how you can replace a milling machine with a press drill to do a milling task.

Milling attachment for drilling machine

  • Angle drill attachment
  • Drilling tapping attachment
  • Multi-spindle drilling attachment

Milling wood using a drill press or harbour freight drill press

It’s possible to mill wood with a drill press. Wood isn’t material that is too hard to mill, which is why you can use a drill press. However, it isn’t easy with metal unless it’s aluminum, which is a bit soft. The method below shows how to mill wood using a drill press and end mills. You can use a harbor freight drill press also.

You require a drill press or a harbor freight drill press and a milling vice or table or cross slide. It would help if you also had end mills like drill bits that bore straight in a workpiece. They can plow through the material using the side of the tool. 

There are a variety of end mills, but in this case, you need flat end mills. End mills come with flutes, same as drill bits that carry waste material from the cutting surface. The more flutes, the more waste they carry. You can use Dremel bits for milling on some materials, but they have a smaller diameter that requires a collet system to firmly and securely hold.

Collet systems require a removable chuck, known as MT1, MT2, etc. MT means Morse Taper. Many tabletop drill presses cannot remove the chuck via a taper system, and they are threaded onto the spindle.

Milling machines make use of a taper spindle system which is more accurate than drill chucks, but most tabletop machines hold Dremel bits without any problems.

Next, you require a letter Parallel, Clamp set, and Micro Chuck or collet set. Parallels are helpful when you want to raise your work in the jaws of the vice, maintaining the parallel milling plane during the trimming process. Tramming ensures that your milling table is square over its entire surface relating to the spindle.

A clamp set is necessary when using a milling table for knowing the slot size or what will be required. A collet set will firmly hold small diameter end mills, tiny drill bits, or Dremel bits.

The next step is to secure your vice to the Drill press table. Your table will be serving as an X and Y travel axis; raising and lowering your drill press table will result in a Z-axis. You can make use of mill table clamps, C clamps or nuts, and bolt, anything that works well for you. Make sure your cutter will pass along your workpiece for the milling area.

Choose a cutter slightly more significant than the thickness of the workpiece you are working on. Set up the press to run at high speed, moving the blade slowly over the material to avoid tearing out. It would help if you understood the spindle speed, how quickly to remove material on your own depending on the speed of your machine, the cutter type, and the material you are drawing with each pass. Wood depends on hardness, grain, and kind, for example, plywood, solid, etc.

Milling wood requires end mills with a proper flute. The side of the cutter works as well and can square off the shoulder on the workpiece; this process is ideal when you are milling wood with a drill press or a harbor freight drill press.

Drill press to mill conversion kit

Remove the quill, spindle, and bearings from the drill press. Turn the spindle down and rethread it 1/2-20. Add new bearings and drill chuck.

Generally, the requirements to convert from Drill press to Mill are:

  • A drill press
  • End mills
  • Removable chuck
  • Letter parallels
  • Micro chuck
  • Collet set
  • Table

How to use an end mill in a drill press

Using an endmill in a drill press is entirely possible if you do not own a milling machine. You can, however, mill wood or some other light materials like aluminum. Take your end mill and insert it into the drill press’s chuck tightly to avoid slipping. Set up the material you want to cut, moving it around since neither the table of the head of the drill press will move.

To make straight cuts, use a precision block to guide the workpiece and then set the speed of the spindle. Bring the endmill down and allow slot or edge milling to occur.

Clamp the workpiece down to mill holes or drilling holes using a center-cutting end mill instead of a drill bit. Take your cuts slowly against the grain or climbing milling. Gently lower the endmill into the workpiece, checking the depth after every few passes.

David D. Hughes
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