More Dumb Questions about Mills (tooling edition)


Well-Known Member
Okay, so I have been convinced that I need a mill. However, the second sentence always starts out with "but also consider tooling, because they don't come with much" ... or less encouraging "Plan on spending as much or more for tooling... " Something like that.

At this point, I have eliminated the tiny/micro/watchmaker or whatever you want to call them sub 100 lb mills. It is likely that I will consider the HF one (even if there is never a coupon sale on them), since it is the cheapest, but most readily available. I am open to other suggestions, but within the same class, I just don't have the space for the bigger knee machines. I considered LMS, unfortunately they keep going in and out of stock on the model I liked. I also looked at ToolLots who seem to have some interesting prices, although I have never heard of them before, Google seems to think they belong in the search results. Anyway, this is immaterial.

The question is:

What tooling do I need as a basic set to get started? Seems everyone has a "hold down" kit available, which seems like something that interacts with the T-slots, and encourages you to drill into your table itself :). I have also seem vises which at least is a tool I understand, but wouldn't know a good one from a bad one. And, rotary tables, which seem amazingly expensive, and also a tool I have not used. I know I will need collets, at least the smaller ones, because the tool itself comes with a chuck that only holds down to 7/64" and the common knowledge around that is 3 jaw chucks are not the best for milling, and one should use a collet or end mill holder. But more so because I am interested in 1/16 and 3/32 holes done more accurately than my drill press :)

Drew Riley

Well-Known Member
If you can, get a mill with an R8 compatible spindle. Along with that, you'll need an R8 collet set. I wouldn't recommend getting the cheapest set you can find, but you don't necessarily need the most expensive either.

Next you'll want a decent Vise. Get an actual milling machine vise. Depending on the size of the mill you end up with, you may not necessarily want a 6 inch vise, as some of them are quite large and heavy. something like a 4 inch vise may do most of what you need for a bench top mill.

With the vise you'll definitely want a parallel set. I like both thin and standard size parallels, though if you can only get one set, just start with the standard.

V-blocks will come in handy if you ever need to hold some round parts accurately.

You'll want some center drills and a decent selection of end mills.

Get some Dial indicators for tramming your spindle, locating parts, and squaring your vise. You'll likely want a DTI style, as well as a plunger style.

Along with that you'll also likely want a spindle clamp and/or an articulating arm for holding and positioning your indicators.

A good set of calipers, and even a 1" micrometer, though if you'lre only going to have one at first, get the calipers

Get a good 6" machinists scale (ruler)

Definitely get at least a couple of pairs of 1-2-3 blocks.

Get a good r8 compatible drill chuck.

Oh, definitely get yourself an edge finder. Don't get the cheapest one.

From there, there's still a thousand other things you could get, but it's probably best to get on an as needed basis.
Things like: specialty mills and cutters, dovetail cutters, fly cutters and/or indexable carbide milling cutters, boring heads, Gauge pins, gauge blocks, angle blocks, sine plate, rotary table, indexer, 5c collet blocks, coax indicators, etc....

Then there's always digital DROs, spindle DROs, other metrology tools, etc... A spindle square is nice, but you can do the same thing with a single dial indicator.

As far as brands go, for homeowners and hobbyists, most the Shars and Grizzly stuff is actually pretty good. A lot of the endmills and other tooling you find on Amazon is pretty decent too. Read the reviews first.

I'm sure I've forgotten a couple of obvious items, but just half of what I've already listed should already equal the price of your milling machine or more, so I'll stop here. :D


Gold Membership
Be cautious about "clamping kits." Most of what you see are so large they are useless for a Mini-mill or smaller. I put an aluminum clamping plate on my micro that uses 8-32 screws. I make my own clamping as needed. The plate is aggravating, as chips collect in the holes and periodically you need to chase a couple holes with a tap. USAKnifemaker sells a 1/4-20 version. Very, very handy at our scale.

A note about vises: a machinist vise will draw the moving jaw down, locking the piece in place. A drill press vise moving jaw will actually shift the piece up a tiny bit when tightened, enough to matter.
I bought another 2" machinist vise from Shars through Amazon recently and it is decent quality.
My Taig is too small for a Kurt vise. A Mini-mill might handle a 3-4" Kurt-style, but that's a big expense to start.

This simple instruction set for the Mini-mill has been so valuable to me I just finished watching it again for the umpteenth time. Something about how the guy teaches basic mill use resonates with me. Perhaps your library could get a copy of the 6 disc set.


Well-Known Member
I don’t have a mill, but I do have a lathe, and I wouldn’t buy anything too nice until you have it figured out. When I got the lathe, I broke every single tool for it in the first afternoon. That’s the way the cookie crumbles I guess

Jesse Latham

Well-Known Member
Drew put up a good list. For me the vice, parallels, hold downs and cheap end mills all from ebay were first were first. I didn't like the thought of r8 collets and drawbar so opted for ER25 collets. The range of grip with them allow me to not need a drill chuck. My 4" rotary table is also from ebay and is big enough for folders.