I am sure you will get plenty of responses to this frequent question,
and the usual answer is: Buy a lathe first.
A lathe is the more versatile machine.
You can do some milling on a lathe, but a mill makes a very poor lathe.
If you have a specific purpose that absolutely requires a mill, the
priority could change. For example, if your typical project requires
drilling and slotting pieces of 1/4" plate you would want the mill first.
I'm a newbie but I would say the basic question is whether you are
going to be working with cylinderical shapes or rectangular shapes. If
you plan to primarily work with rectangular shapes then you ought to
start with a mill. If cylinderical shapes then you ought to start with
a lathe. Neither a mill nor a lathe can really substitute for the other.
You're missing quite a bit.
Threading is definitely possible on a mill, just not with a single point
tool like on a lathe. Tapping heads for mills are a common item and many
CNC mills support rigid tapping. That takes care of internal threading,
external threading is less common on a mill, but can be done to a
limited extent for smaller parts using a suitable die stock, or on a CNC
mill via thread milling.
Conical parts can be done on a mill with a tilting rotary table although
it's far from an ideal way to do it.
Generally a mill is a more versatile machine than a lathe although it
will not fully replace one. If I had to decide which to buy first I'd go
for the mill and try to add the lathe ASAP.
Well, it doesn't matter whether he buys a mill or a lathe first, he's
still going to end up buying a ton of tooling - it's unavoidable. The
tooling usually costs you more than the base machines.
| > 'lo
| > Xcuze me for the newbie's strange question of the day :
| > Can a lathe be replaced by a milling machine for quite all metalworking?
| > In another terms, a milling machine is more universal than a lathe or
| > (It's for me : buying first lathe or milling machine?)
| You cannot do threading on a mill... Difficult to make conical things
| also... (unless I am missing something)
Certainly can be done. There's tooling to connect the quill to the tap
just for that purpose. You can thread larger pieces of flat stock on a mill
most accurately, but long parts threaded in the end are lathe items for
Or -- threading a shaft between two larger diameter collars, for
There are ways around everything, with fancy enough machines and
lots of imagination (and lots of money spent on special-purpose
But -- I would get a lathe before a mill. (Except that I got
both at the same time many years ago -- the Unimat SL-1000, which was
not very good at either task, but better as a lathe than as a milling
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Ah...yes you can.
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You can get milling attachments for lathes, that let you do small
milling jobs a bit more awkwardly than you could with a dedicated mill.
If you can get turning attachments for milling machines they're not very
The answer depends on what sort of things you plan to build. Most of
the electronics companies I've worked for didn't have or need a lathe.
I've found the lathe most useful for making power transmission
components such as axles, bearings, shaft couplers and adapters, etc.
However these are often easier to buy than to make, unlike structural
A mill can machine framework parts and drill accurate mounting holes,
so if you plan to buy the shafts and bearings the mill is enough.
Segway has a good machine shop with CNC lathe and mill but so far I've
been able to make everything I need here with the drill press, bandsaw
and belt sander -- to 0.1mm accuracy.
Neither machine is a substitute for the other except for very simple
jobs you could do almost as well with hand tools (and practice).
There's a Smithy Granite combo lathe/mill here in the shop that no one
likes. I'm told it is a very awkward milling machine and the plastic
Personally I could live with a mill drill and 3"-6" mini lathe for
occasional light machining. Sherlines are just too small for my home
projects (log splitter, bucket loader, sawmill, etc) but I did use an
old 6" Sears lathe to drill pivot pin grease passages for the hydraulic
bucket loader and probably could have turned and threaded the pressure
relief valve with it.
The primary limitation of using a mill for turning (i.e., lathe work) is the
size of piece you could handle. On a small vertical mill you might be able
to handle a piece about 7" diameter and 12" long. On a small horizontal
mill you might be able to do 20" diameter x 3" long. A typical home shop
lathe (e.g., a 9" South Bend) can handle 9" diameter by 30" long.
Conversely, a similar lathe used in milling could handle about a 6" x 5"
work piece without moving the work between cuts. While turning on a mill
is doable, it is a pain to set-up .. I only do it on those rare occassions
when I have to turn something big diameter and relatively thin.
As for which to get first .. I strongly disagree with the idea of
getting a mill first if you expect to do mostly milling. The lathe is
inherently more versatile. Also, milling attachments and fixtures for
lathes abound. The reverse for mills doesn't hold. Another serious
limitation of using a mill is the difficulty of mounting the work .. indeed,
if a chuck can be mounted on the mill spindle at all. Most likely, you'd
have to machine some adapters for face plates or chucks.. for which you
would need a lathe. I've yet to find chuck commercially available adapters
for small mills -- beyond a wimpy 3 jaw chuck like you'd find on a drill
press. that is, wimpy compared to the typical chuck you find on a lathe.
By the time you've tooled up the adapters you need to mount a chuck, you've
already heavy into lathe work .. tapers, threads, boring, turning, etc.
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I think you're approaching it all wrong.
To do limited lathe type work on a mill, you would not place a lathe
type chuck on the mills spindle to turn the work piece. What you do is
use a rotary table or dividing head to hold and turn the work piece and
use conventional milling cutters to do the work. This is why a lathe
type chuck to go in a mill spindle does not exist and numerous rotary
tables and dividing heads do exist.
Milling on a lathe is at least as awkward as lathing on a mill, and the
mill is still the more versatile machine to have. There are certainly
parts that you can make on a lathe that you can't make on a mill, and
vice versa, however for typical home shop projects the mill will be able
to accomplish more of the tasks.
Much of what you can't do on the mill is shafts and bushings that can be
readily purchased, and in fact with a boring head you can make most of
those bushings on the mill as well.
Either way, a proper shop should have both a mill and a lathe along with
the proper tooling for both, which will cost more than the base
machines. But start with the mill.
Although I have done just that on a cnc mill, with great success, but on
a manual mill you are correct, it is silly
I bought a lathe first, and while your argument is persuasive, I think
that most 'hobbyist' mill operations can be done to some extent with a
angle grinder or a file, the same is not true for turning operations.
The stuff even an amateur needs [boring a bushing] is more easily done
correctly, with less tooling cost, on a lathe.
In the end I say : Neither
Buy one of those old Bridgeport BOSS stepper machines and put a pc
control on it
I've used my Bridgeport and a rotary table to "turn" the outside of a
30" diameter x 1/2" think piece. Also drilled a bolt circle and a few
other features. I rough cut the piece to about 31" dia with a jig saw
Never chucked a shaft in your electric drill and gone at it with a file?
Sucks, but is comparable to milling with a grinder and file.
Boring head and a pair of disposable soft jaws for the milling vice.
close the vice and drill/bore the jaws to fit the bushing OD and then
use the vice to hold the bushing while you bore the ID. Not ideal
certainly, but quick and workable.
If you can find one. I keep hearing how they're everywhere and cheap,
but I haven't seen one cheap. If you know of one let me know since I'd
like to buy one. I have a 1J right now.
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