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Drill press Vs. Milling machine (not that way)

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by Dellik, Jun 13, 2019.

  1. Dellik


    Jun 13, 2019
    I've been looking for a good drill press, and boy is they expensive, it seems there are the cheap ones like I currently have for $300-500, and then it jumps right up to $2000 and up. I found what seems to be a good deal on a used gear head at $900 and was talking about it with a friend and he said, "why don't you get a milling machine?". I hadn't thought of that before, and, the main reason I hadn't thought about that is that I actually intend to use the drill press as a drill press. I've heard lots of talk about people trying to use a drill press as a mill, and I know exactly why that doesn't work well, but I've been able to find none about using a mill like a drill press. What are the pros and cons?
  2. Busto

    Busto KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jul 26, 2011
    Short answer...Milling machines require special tool holders for end mills extra expense not required for a drill press operations. Stick with your original plan if drilling is your priority.
  3. john april

    john april KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 27, 2006
    the cheaper mini mills are usually over $500, they work fine as a drill press. mine has a chuck instead of collets. you would need a surface to drill on, like a press has a table. a con is that the mini mills do not have much spindle travel, and the table surface does not adjust up and down like on a drill press so that will be a limiting factor. i say go with an inexpensive harbor freight or home depot drill press. i have 3 of them, so far, no complaints.
  4. Nathan the Machinist

    Nathan the Machinist KnifeMaker / Machinist / Evil Genius Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 13, 2007
    Our drill press is just an old milling machine. I honestly can't think of any reason to use a drill press when you could have a mill.

    A mill is generally tighter with less run out.
  5. SVTFreak

    SVTFreak Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 8, 2011
    Busto is right. Mills use collets. You can, however, get chucks that will fit into a collet and then use the mill as a drill. We did it alot way back when I was a gunsmith.
  6. Busto

    Busto KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jul 26, 2011
    In a machine shop operation that is True....however for a garage hobbyist it's over kill and there wouldn't be so many Drill Press models readily available.


    Dec 17, 2005
    I have 3/4hp floor model drill press (5/8" chuck) and a heavy colum mill/drill from Harbor freight. I use the drill press almost every day and the mill about once a month. I like both of them. Even though I have cross vise on the drill press, it is useless as a mill due to lack of ridgidity. The mill is solid as a rock, but slow to setup.
    If you are considering a mill, especially a bench top mill, be sure to check the dimensions and weight. Lifting a piece of machinery that weighs over 500 pounds can be problematic.
    Jim A.
  8. AVigil

    AVigil Adam Vigil knifemaker working the grind Platinum Member

    Feb 17, 2009
    Harbor Freight, Little Machine Shop, Grizzly all sell a Mill/Drill.

    I use it everyday for drilling. I keep a 123 block next to it just for drilling.
    It has variable speed and is far more accurate then a drill press.

    I have been using it to mill and drill for over a decade.
    Coy Ranch likes this.
  9. Coy Ranch

    Coy Ranch

    Aug 23, 2017
    I picked up a Grizzly mini mill at an auction that I use for a drill press more than anything, but I have options for milling as well...
  10. butcher_block


    Dec 6, 2004
    my mini mill has drill more holes then it has milled slots lots of options on drill chucks to use in them. for the home shop once you start looking at prices north of 1K$ most makers swoudl be better served to have a small or used mill and drill the holes with that and then also have dual use tool cause you can still mill with it as you add tooling. the short of it is a a mill can drill but a drill cant safely mill
    Natlek likes this.
  11. Drew Riley

    Drew Riley Riley Knife and Tool Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 17, 2007
    I've got 3 benchtop drill presses, but I'd say 99% of my drilling is done on my knee mill. It's got a full size vise, longer/larger capacity, and with the DRO (or just the dials) I can indicate and position holes EXACTLY where I want them. I use a keyless chuck on an R8 arbor and use a small pneumatic impact to zip it on and off the drawbar, so changing things out as I need it is very fast and simple, and the machine is just gonna be more solid and accurate than any drill press from the big box stores.

    That's not to say there isn't a time and place for dedicated drill press, and there are times I wouldn't mind a decent floor model, but if I could only have one or the other, it'd be a knee mill, no question. Granted, a full sized mill (used) is gonna set you back probably a couple grand more than your largest drill press from Home Depot, but you'll find it about 1000x more useful and well worth the investment.

    If it was between a mini mill and dedicated floor press, I'd take the mini mill too.

    Now, all that said, keep an eye out on your local classifieds for old industrial grade drill presses. A lot of times they just need a little bit of clean up, but even if you have to rebuild the chuck or put on a new motor or bearings, you can potentially get a pretty solid machine for a pretty good price that's gonna blow away anything from the big box stores, and it'll likely still be cheaper than buying a mill with all the attachments. Also, the machining forums will often have dozens of threads on rebuilds for certain models that walk you through changing various parts.
    Kataklysmicblades likes this.

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