Drill Press Vs Milling Machine: Converting Drill into Mill


What is Drill Press?

A drill press is a tool used to make holes in various materials such as metals, wood, composites, and plastics. The drill press carries out its operation through a drill bit secured onto a chuck. The chuck is attached to a spindle which in turn is rotated by means of a motor.

Drill presses are classified according to two categories; the floor type, which is usually larger, and the benchtop models, which are smaller and lighter.

What is a Milling Machine?

A milling machine is an equipment that is used to remove pieces of materials from a workpiece. The milling machine carries out its operation by means of a mill or rotary cutter, which is attached to a spindle. The workpiece is placed on a horizontal table which is moved gradually to allow contact between the cutter and the various parts of the workpiece.

Milling machines are generally designed as either horizontal or vertical milling machines.

Difference Between Drill Press and Milling Machine

There are many differences between drill presses and milling machines; however, the major difference lies in their primary functions. A drill press is used to make holes in materials, whereas a milling machine is used to remove pieces of materials from a workpiece.

Apart from the major difference mentioned above, other differences between the two machines include:

  • Milling machines are used to cut through metals, while a drill press can be used on metals as well as a variety of other materials, including wood, plastics and composites.
  • Milling machines are quite bulky in size, and even the smallest ones cannot be carried about, whereas a compact drill can give you the desired mobility needed for reaching tough areas of work.
  • Drill presses use manual movements to position and switch the workpiece on the worktable. In contrast, milling machines are computer operated in almost every aspect, including moving the table where the material is held.
  • Milling machines make use of a T bar to secure the workpiece in place. On the other hand, Drill machines do not have such accommodation’s and even the ones that come with a vise do not enjoy the same level of support provided by a T bar.
  • Milling machines have higher cutting and feeding speeds than a standard drill press.
  • A milling machine makes use of a cutting tool or miller, which is a multi-edge cutting tool, while a drill press uses a drill bit which is a cylindrical rotary-end cutting tool.
  • The motion of a drill press is limited to an up and down movement along a straight line, while the milling machine allows movement in a 3-dimensional plane.

In as much as the drill press and milling machine have various differences, they also maintain some similarities. Both the milling machine and the drill press have a wide variety of uses and can be used for various operations on metal workpieces.

Converting a Drill Press to a Milling Machine

While it is possible to convert your drill press into a milling machine, you should note that the process involves quite a bit of work. Milling machines run at a much higher speed than obtainable on a drill press, so the resulting milling machine will be much slower at performing simple tasks.

Another key point to note is that converting your drill press into a milling machine is not entirely good for its bearings and will likely cause premature wear of the bearings.

That being said, below are the steps required to convert your drill press into a milling machine.

  • You can modify an already existing drill table into an X Y Z table, or you can purchase a milling table from a nearby store.
  • Remove the quill, spindle and bearings of the drill press.
  • Using a lathe machine, reduce and rethread the spindle to a size appropriate for your intended purpose.
  • Consider replacing the bearings to reduce the runout on the machine while also improving its efficiency against the lateral forces that accompany a milling machine.
  • Make adjustments to the diameter of the quill so that it fits perfectly with the new bearings used to replace the old ones. This adjustment helps to keep runout to a bare minimum.
  • Consider replacing your old drill chuck with a new one if the old one is worn out or badly damaged.
  • Install a worm and worm wheel to the side of the spindle control to enable down motion and slow-motion control of the machine during operation. 

See video description here.

After applying the above steps and adjustments to your drill machine, you can go ahead to carry out a test run of the equipment using the purchased milling table and any metal workpiece of your choice.

Related Post: Best Drill Press for Metal.


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Jason D. Turner

Hi there! My name is Jason, a keen enthusiast in power tools and their mechanisms and the sole mastermind behind the Noisy Tools. Working in a multi-national construction firm in Brooklyn for over a decade, I have developed a fair flair for different construction devices, gadgets, and their diverse operational aspects. By the dint of this platform, I have researched and reviewed various tools with utmost details of even the most trivial matters that will provide valuable insights for any prospective user.

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