View Full Version : Milling cutters advice

10-29-2003, 12:07 PM
I now need to buy some milling cutters. I have a KBC catalog in front of me and they have a boxed set of import HSS TiN coated end mills, ten pieces from 1/8 to 3/4, either four flute or two flute for about $50US. This compares to a six piece set of Niagra Cutter end mills for about $100.

I do most of my work in non-ferrous metals, mostly brass and aluminum and occasionally some steel.

What do you think about the imports? Does anyone have experience with the KBC Tool "Quality Import" line of tooling? What is best for aluminum, 2 flute or 4 flute? I don't care about cutting speed at all, this is a hobby. Much more important is finish.

[This message has been edited by Evan (edited 10-29-2003).]

10-29-2003, 12:14 PM

i bought some cheap end mills and they were cheap end mills. i feel kind of like you about this, only less in a hurry.

i cannot tell you what to do but when i buy end mills now i buy the 'better' brands. maybe it is an operator malfunction, but i find that they give better finishes, last longer. stay sharp, etc.

this has been my experience. ymmv.


10-29-2003, 12:20 PM

[This message has been edited by pgmrdan (edited 11-16-2003).]

10-29-2003, 12:23 PM
I'm no authority on the matter myself, but the answer I've usually seen is to use 2 flute endmills for aluminum.
As per imports: I've not gotten much good service from the few I've used. My son-in-law machinist tells me his shop(s) usually buy the "Made in USA" kind. ...ie. not import, but not necessarily top of the line either.
From time to time he's brought me some castoffs, and the great majority of them are 'Garr' brand. Tho used they serve me well.

[This message has been edited by lynnl (edited 10-29-2003).]

10-29-2003, 12:28 PM
You get what you pay for. I use the quality imports now and then, but they don't last as long and they don't do as good a job as the better quality ones.

I wear out the cheap ones and on occasion the cheapees break. My better end mills last longer, can be resharpened easily and the do their work well.

Buy the better ones and then get a copy of "A Handbook on Tool Room Grinding" and keep the better ones sharp. Then they will last a long time. I have been using those diamond sharpening stones from HF for sharpening and they are like $3.00 on sale. Princess Auto may have the same sharpening stones in their inventory, they seem to have everything else. If not there, try Crappy Tires or King Canada.

It's not the cost of machinery or the materials, it's the knowledge to use them properly and to maintain them.


10-29-2003, 12:37 PM
I have had pretty good luck with the cheaper cutters. I use 4 flutes for almost everything, don't worry about it too much yet. I would suggest that you get this set so you will have a variety of sizes on hand. When you have the need for a specific cutter, you can try some Niagaras and draw your own conclusions.

10-29-2003, 12:44 PM

[This message has been edited by pgmrdan (edited 11-16-2003).]

10-29-2003, 12:57 PM
buy the cheap ones for now. Also buy a couple of good quality mills for doing fine or finish work after the bulk of it is done with the cheaper ones. Saves money without sacrificing quality.

Without knowledge we stumble blindly through the universe.

Brian Gale
10-29-2003, 01:03 PM
For most of what you're doing it is my opinion that the cheaper import TiN coated ones will work fine BUT it is also my opinion that a good HSS Niagra is better than any TiN imported end mill like you would find at Enco, J&L, etc.

I probably have that same import set you do and it doesn't take long to wear the coating off the end mills. I like double ended mills as well...when the one side wears flip it around and use the other end. www.mcmaster.com (http://www.mcmaster.com) sells Niagra if you want to compliment your set or replace a trashed end mill.

Just my .02 cents...


10-29-2003, 01:24 PM
I would also suggest that your first set be of the centercutting variety. Some of the sets have different size shanks for almost every cutter, so be sure you have a way of holding each diameter. If you have a full set of collets, obviously you’re covered. Consider getting yourself a 45 deg (on the end) cutter, and a slitting saw. It won't be long until you need them. A couple of ball end mills sure are handy as well. Not that you asked... http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//smile.gif

Edit: Enco currently has a 20 Pc. (2&4 flute) TiN set on sale for $38.95.

[This message has been edited by Joel (edited 10-29-2003).]

10-29-2003, 01:53 PM
Thanks for the advice. I think I will order the import end mills and see how they are. I do have a full set of collets so no problem there. I also have a key slot cutter and a slitting saw. Need some ball end cutters and at least one dovetail cutter. Need to sell some more computers.

Too bad we don't have Enco around here, even if they're cheap, they're cheap.

10-29-2003, 02:03 PM
"Yep, I was told to start out with the cheapies until I learned the limitations of the mill. Abuse the cheapies then you'll know how to treat the better end mills right. At least that was the theory."

I'd 2nd that. I whacked quite a few end mills in the beginning, getting a feel for feeds/speeds. Now I can appreciate good end mills and I can make them last long enough to be worthwhile...at least most of the time. I generally do as lynnl does and get the "Made in USA" offering, or sometimes Niagara. There *is* a difference in quality between cheap and expensive.

Watch out for the TiN end mills though; no matter how much TiN coating you put on a cheap end mill, it's still a cheap end mill. I think that all too often TiN coating is just a gimmick to make a not-very-good product seem better than it is. (Not always, of course; TiN on a good end mill makes it better, but you need a good end mill to start with.)

10-29-2003, 02:12 PM

[This message has been edited by pgmrdan (edited 11-16-2003).]

10-29-2003, 04:10 PM
I wouldn't disagree with most of the opinions expressed. I have purchased mainly the inexpensive, imported end mills (matter of fact I think just about all) and some are better than others. If you look at the Enco Hotdeals monthly catalog (you are using the NC1003 code to get free shipping for orders over $25?) you will notice the M-42 cobalt single end end mills on page 50 such as the 1/2" 2 or 4 flute end mills (B321-0086, 2 flute is $4.99 and the B321-0090, 4 fl is $6.49) are Spanish made, very nice end mills. These are definitely a step up from the $2.49 M2 Chinese variety (and they cost more).

One comment about the sets. You might find that some of the sizes in the set are rarely used. Most of time I can do my machining with a smaller variety of sizes, 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2 being the most commonly used. I also like to have a roughing end mill or two in 1/2 and 5/8 sizes.

I was reading a thread the other day about where you can get end mills sharpened. The prices that were mentioned were in the $5-8 range plus shipping. I guess if I were buying $25+ Weldon brand end mills that would make sense, but I wonder these days how many people get their end mills sharpened unless you own a Quorn grinder and do it themselves.

10-29-2003, 07:47 PM
I ordered the set of ten import cutters, four flute. I'll see how they work.

10-29-2003, 08:27 PM
Man, I hate to say this but here goes. The best end mills US are Putnam or Weldon. They have long lasting edges, good surface finish from the start, and if you have the resources, take less to sharpen (I sharpen end mills like crazy).

The part I hate to say, but have to. I find the CHINA end mills to be great in quality for the over 3/4 size to 1". They are quite durable, and sharpen up just like the Weldons and Putnams. The under 1/4 inch type though from CHINA, a bit more brittle than even the general US brands. 1/4 to 3/4 inch, I try to stay US made, have some quality issues with imports that go kind of unanswered. Kind of a crapshoot of the "lot" of steel I guess.

Just observations from a guy who has to deal with the "lowest bid" too much, and also knows when the lowest bid costs more in the long run (ie, as said, I resharpen end mills quite a bit, and this is where I see the quality more so than the initial cuts at new state).

Paul Alciatore
10-29-2003, 10:41 PM
In using a full sized mill for a few years I have acquired a number of mills at what I feel were reasonable prices. I purchased a medium price, six mill set with the mill - four flute, center cutting, TIN coated, US made. They are all still sharp although some wear can be seen under maginfication.

In the time since then, I have keep an eye out for good buys and have bought useful mills when they were offered instead of waiting until I needed them. I did buy a dovetail cutter when needed. I also purchased a group of 14 used cutters on
E-Bay for a very low price. Yes, it was a risk but it provided several large size mills (3/4", 1") that were US made and in perfect condition. Also a 45*, 12 flute bevel cutter that is usable but will provide an exercise in resharpening.

Point is, start with a basic assortment and then look out for good buys.

10-29-2003, 10:41 PM
Okay here goes top three:

For finish and quality-- OSG!Razorblade sharp and they stay that way,just ask Thrud!

Second would be anything from Putnam,Niagra,and Melen

Third but just as good,Polish mills under the name Dolpha,also put out by MSC and Bison,really sharp,high polish almost as good as OSG,but just a little more money than China.

On the aluminum I find that mills made for aluminum work best,higher helix angle really shears it clean.

[This message has been edited by wierdscience (edited 10-29-2003).]

10-30-2003, 09:07 PM
I agree with Wierdscience on this topic .Use a high helix for alumium,also I have used Tap-Magic cutting fluid for aluminum to get a super fine finish.It is avaiable from J&L and MSC.Go with the best e-mills you can afford.They will save money in the long haul.Consider center-cutting on all End mill purchases.Also sale fliers from the above companies often offer carbide tooling at clearence prices.

10-30-2003, 10:15 PM
you beat me to it, I was going to tell Evan also about the proper end mills for aluminum, ie helix.
With the proper endmill you will get away from galling, which you get with using an end mill designed for steel IMHO http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif
Jim http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//smile.gif

10-30-2003, 10:21 PM
Thanks all,

I'm aware that the high helix angle is prefered for Al. But, I can't afford to buy such specialized mills right now and I do need to cut steel at times. I figure that compromising so that I can cut steel is better than compromising so I can't cut it well. Aluminum is much more forgiving and I can work with it. I know aluminum well, we're very good friends. She won't mind, much.

[This message has been edited by Evan (edited 10-30-2003).]

10-30-2003, 11:35 PM
I have not been able to locate Dolfa end mills in the MSC catalog. Are any details available?

C. Tate
10-31-2003, 07:16 AM
There is no comparision in the tools you are talking about. You will be much happier with the niagra. I would buy $50 worth of niagra and get fewer sizes and make more passes with smaller cutters if I only had $50 to spend. Besides you will help keep manufacturing jobs here in the states.

10-31-2003, 10:49 AM

I think you did the right thing.

I machine mostly aluminum and brass, ocasionally steel. Got the same mill set when I bought my Mill/Drill. They are a good buy, but are not nearly as good as USA.

I use the China set for rough cuts and materials that may cause end mill damage. Good to have something that is cheap in case you do something wrong.

I buy HSS Putnam as replacements or specialized sizes I may need. You can really tell the difference when cutting.


10-31-2003, 11:19 AM
C. Tate,

Firstly, I don't have a particular interest in keeping jobs in the states http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//wink.gif

Second, $50 will buy about two or three Niagras vs 10 of the import end mills.

Third, A lot of the KBC "Import Quality" are made in places like England, Sweden and Italy. They are not necessarily cheap Chinese junk.

10-31-2003, 08:58 PM
The Dolpha endmills aren't listed as such in the MSC catalog,they are listed usually as "top quality import"when they show up the tube will read Dolpha-made in Poland but not neccisarily so,some times they sub England,Chez,etc.

If you want them specificaly you could look and see who is a Bison dealer,I got a Bison catalog that lists all they make,KBC carries most they even list them as being Polish.

11-01-2003, 02:04 AM
I received the end mills today. I have spent several hours this evening playing with them and they will do just fine. My mistress, Aluminum, likes them, and seems happy to be caressed by them. The finish is good. I only worry that she will be jealous if I introduce them to the Iron Lady, Steel.