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using a milling machine like a lathe

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  • using a milling machine like a lathe

    i'm trying to use my milling machine like a lathe. what's the best cutting tool to used? i have been attaching an end mill to the vise to cut but does not cut too well. i attach a small object to a drill chuck and bring the end mill towards it to do the cutting. i'm mainly cutting aluminum and plastic.

    or a better method?


  • #2
    ummm might be time to buy a lathe i think ...

    a lathe can do milling but i never heard of any one trying to use a mill as a lathe just does not seem right to me


    • #3
      A.K.Boomer's mill as a lathe.

      Ask A.K.Boomer - he does exactly that! If I recall correctly he doesn't have a lathe but he does some very good work using his mill as a lathe.

      You might PM Boomer - haven't seen him here lately - I am sure he won't mind helping/advising


      • #4
        In short, yes a mill can be used to do light-duty turning but an endmill is definitely the wrong way to go. If you are using the mill as a lathe, you want a lathe cutting tool, not a milling cutter, to do the cutting.

        You'll need a single point tool of some type with the proper clearance ground into it.

        This came up on a google search, might be of some interest to you if you are not familiar with grinding your own lathe bits.


        • #5
          I've done it a few times. It's just the ticket for truing up shop-made R8 tooling for the mill. Here, I've clamped my regular AXA holder and bit in the mill vise and I'm taking off the last tiny bit of diameter so my little saw arbor will run without wobbling:


          Frank Ford


          • #6
            It works quite well, and the crosslide travel is HUGE....

            But if yer gonna use it as a lathe, use lathe tooling... the tool doesn't know it's clamped to a mill. All it sees is relative motion and angles.

            Keep eye on ball.
            Hashim Khan


            • #7
              If I remember correctly,the HSM magazine, many years ago, had a several part series on using a mill for lathe work. The author of that series was very inventive at making tooling to work on his mill. I dont know how to access that information, but maybe someone here does.Anyway enjoy using your mill for a lathe. JIM


              • #8
                HMC there are some limitations as with anything thats not being used in the way it was designed for but there are actually some nice surprises also, one of them for me was just how ridged the system can be if used "properly"
                Your post brings me way back as the first thing I tried to lathe with was an old endmill, not good results, like everyone else said If your going to try and imitate a lathe you need at least some very basic lathe tooling, I bought a quick change set up for 100 bucks and mounted it on an angle block for stability and to automatically put it into the proper hight range for the mill spindle when the head is laying down, that and the R8 chuck are about my only real main investment and the R8 chuck now mounts on my rotary table also --- I figured if I ever get a small lathe some day its most likely not going to have a quick change so I can just shuffle the stuff over and dont have to re-buy some stuff...

                For the most part I just use it like Frank posted as its become a hassle to flop the head down for every little part, but if I have a bunch of lathe-ing to do i will put the head down 90 degree's and get to use my quick release tool changer,
                small stuff ( much that you can fit into an R8 collet) I can even use the fine feed on the quill but larger stuff I prefer to jam the quill nut all the way up and then firmly lock the quill, then turn and bore diam. with the Y and feed and face with the X.
                I cant thread or anything but just about all my stuff is small hub work, I have had my little 5" chuck maxed out with steel in it and the "big" jaws and not a wimper from the hoe, very stable.


                • #9
                  "and the crosslide travel is HUGE.... "

                  between centres is a bitch though
                  Just got my head together
                  now my body's falling apart


                  • #10
                    SS the only real way of trying to come up with something for that is some kind of massive mill head mount -- in which I would say "just get a lathe"

                    For inspiration on using machine tools in a manner in which they were not designed for just look at what Evan has accomplished with his lathe, in fact he built his mill with it, anytime someone says you need to have everything to do everything I think of one key ingredient that their missing - Determination...


                    • #11
                      Works better if you mount the mill 90 degrees off the vertical onto a horizontal plane, that way you also have a vertical slide for milling.
                      The shortest distance between two points is a circle of infinite diameter.

                      Bluewater Model Engineering Society at

                      Southwestern Ontario. Canada


                      • #12
                        All you need to turn the mill into a proper lathe is a headstock and tailstock. I built both for my mill even though I have a lathe.

                        The headstock on my CNC mill has dual drives. One is stepper powered for indexing and by flipping a lever it is disengaged which allows the high speed servomotor to turn the chuck at lathe speeds. A quick change tool holder mounts on the front of the mill spindle housing. Works great.
                        Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


                        • #13
                          "SS the only real way of trying to come up with something for that is some kind of massive mill head mount -- in which I would say "just get a lathe" "

                          Yup AK, I was offered a 30' bed Cincinnati a coupla years ago, so I could mount my little Jet on the bed.
                          Had to decline, couldn't get it down the driveway
                          Just got my head together
                          now my body's falling apart


                          • #14
                            More and more, the industry is moving away from classic, individual machines such as lathes and mills and moving toward VMC's, which essentially are milling machines with a fourth axis. Add an automatic tool changer and all operations can be accomplished on one set up.
                            Jim H.


                            • #15
                              Agreed Jim, but who's going to program the one-offs and short runs?
                              And the "need it yesterday, I gotta get on the road".?
                              Just got my head together
                              now my body's falling apart