5 Best Benchtop Milling Machines of 2020 – Reviews & Buying Guide
Pssst, you there. We know your secret. We’ve seen you stockpiling food. You’re getting ready for the imminent collapse of civilization. Part of that is assembling not just tools, but tools to make tools. And to repair any one of the many, many guns you have. That’s why you’re reading reviews of benchtop milling machines. In the Kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
Because every minute counts in prepping for disaster, we reviewed some to save you some time. We ranked them from best to worst and settled on one that delivers best for-dollar value. We did wrap it up with some useful buying tips so that you can nurse your paranoia happily and confident you found yourself a deal.
Comparison of our Top Picks of 2020
|Best Overall||SHOP FOX M1110||
|Best Value||OTMT OT2213||
The 5 Best Benchtop Milling Machines
1. SHOP FOX Benchtop Milling Machine – Best Overall
Does it mill? Yep. Does it drill? Yep. Is it built for the job? Yep.
It’s as simple as that in giving the Shop Fox M1110 our Top Pick. It does everything you can reasonably expect from a benchtop milling machine and does it without giving you many reasons to complain. Since milling machines are not tools likely to ever wow you with some new flashy feature, that’s really about as good as it gets.
We made some simple handles for various things around the shop, and the M1110 handled both the milling and drilling with no reason to complain. Everything stayed in place while we worked and for very crude tools the handles fit nice and smug. We liked the precision.
We will say that we had to tinker with it a little right out of the box to get the measurements accurate. That’s better than not being able to get them right, at all, but for what you pay it’d be nice to see it arrive ready to work. And, is it pricey? Yep on that, too.
Neither would make us not rank the M1110 our top pick. Overall we found a lot about it we liked.
2. JET Benchtop Milling Machine
Big is better in the case of the JET 350017/JMD-15. It’s big and heavy, which means it can handle any job appropriate for this size milling machine. There is a nice large table to hold large workpieces, and its weight holds it in place nicely.
It’ll good on aluminum and thin strips of steel, so it’s good for machining simple parts for firearms. The drill works great and everything stays where it should when you’re using it.
You’ll pay for these perks. This was the most expensive milling machine we tested. Not outrageously so, but enough — without an appreciable increase in quality or features — to warrant downranking it to runnerup.
For all this, our runnerup was the JMD-15. It’s big and heavy enough to handle anything expected from a milling machine this size and stays in place once you start working. Everything about it is great, except for the price.
3. OTMT OT2213 Benchtop Milling-Machine – Best Value
Sometimes our choice for best for the money is the straight-up least expensive model. This is not one of those times. Best for the Money for benchtop milling machines means best for-dollar value. There are cheaper models available, but the quality is poor enough to warrant spending a little extra.
We worked up a handle on this, and also the start to a rifle’s lower receiver. It worked great, so it’ll tackle bigger, meaner jobs than less expensive models. And, compared to other, bigger models, it’s more affordable. So, best for the money.
There was some slippage along the X and Y axis, and we worked accounting for that. It would have been nice to concentrate purely on getting the milling right.
But, you do get what you pay for. This is an affordable benchtop mill that can handle stern stuff. Want perfection, be prepared to pay for it.
4. Klutch Benchtop Milling Machines
The word “blah” comes to mind when describing the Klutch 2706S009. Nothing felt tightened and ready for use out of the box. The base felt like it could take a beating, but the rest of it, the parts where you need to do work, just felt like it might shift at inopportune times.
We did wind up liking its compact design. We could get right in on the work without some kind of metal rod getting in the way. If you strictly have small work to do, that might be a real plus.
On the other hand, we needed to retighten the chuck pretty early, and the base plates did move slightly. So, absolute precision is beyond it.
The Klutch is intended for small jobs. It’s got the power for bigger stuff, just not the design to handle it. If you have any work more serious, you’ll want to give it a pass.
5. Proxxon 37110 Bench Mill Machine
If you’re not looking for a full-sized milling machine, the Proxxon 37110 is an option. It’s the lightest model we reviewed at 18 pounds, which makes it the most portable if that matters. It was of course also the cheapest benchtop mill we reviewed.
For small jobs, this is pretty good as an upsized rotary tool. It has good power for small work.
That’s as far as it goes, though. When it gets going there is some shaking, which reduces precision. And, we had a motor die about an hour into our tests. We were already most of the way when it just kind of popped and went silent. Maybe it colored our perception, but it didn’t look like a construction intended to live to a ripe, old age.
That was enough to get our last-place ranking. There is a good deal of potential to this machine if your needs are pretty limited, but the range is far too narrow for us to like it a whole lot.
A benchtop milling machine is a big investment. Like, at least several hundred dollars. So, you don’t want to just take some random Internet reviews you stumble on and invest money based purely on that. You’d like to do some additional research, before deciding that probably the people who wrote those random Internet reviews might know a thing or two about their tools. Totally get it. Here are some handy tips in how to review benchtop milling machines to buy your own.
What kind of work do you have for it?
Basic, basic thing. Pair the tool with the tool user and the tool user’s needs. The Proxxon 37110 is a good example of a milling machine that works really well for pretty small jobs. It’ll wear out being used for anything more substantial. It was also the most affordable tool we reviewed, so you can save yourself a nice little bundle. On the other hand, if you get the wrong size milling machine to save yourself money you also limit yourself to the kind of work you can do.
Range of motion
The operating philosophy for any kind of drilling machine is that there is a specific place you want a hole and that the hole needs to be a specific diameter. That applies here. You want a milling machine that lets you do that. You’ll want room between the table and headstock to accommodate larger pieces. One of the reasons why we ranked Shop Fox’s M1110 at the top is that it does this.
Obviously, you’re going to want to make sure that your model has good, reliable power. An underpowered motor is a motor operating on borrowed time.
Our reviews came down to two basic groups of benchtop milling machines. Large ones designed for maximum load or compact models intended for very small jobs. We liked Shop Fox’s M1110 the best because it was one of those maximum load models, and we liked the JMD-15 for the same reasons but felt that the asking price was a bit on the high side. OTMT’s Variable Speed OT22123 wasn’t the cheapest model, but it was the most affordable model that could handle everything. We were less impressed by the narrow range of the Klutch 2706S009 and the Proxxon 37110. In fact, it was kind of hard to consider those two to rate at benchtop milling machines.
We hope you found value in our reviews. And if you didn’t see the model right for you, that hopefully, you took something of value from our buyers’ guide. We wish you the best fortune and happy bullet making for when you know what happens.
- Comparison of our Top Picks of 2020
- The 5 Best Benchtop Milling Machines
- Buyer’s Guide