Mini mills are a huge investment, bringing industrial-style machining capabilities to the home or shop. Mini mills possess the power to take a piece of raw scrap and quickly turn it into a useable part, something you can’t say about a hammer or a saw.
However, this great power comes with a great price tag. Mini mills can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, meaning that this investment is one that you’ll want to get right.
It’s not always obvious what makes a good mini mill, so if you’re struggling on that front, don’t worry. We’ve assembled reviews of some of the best mini mills of 2019 so that you can make an informed decision. At the end of the day, we want you to feel confident that you’ve chosen a mini mill that perfectly meets your needs.
|JET JMD-18 350018|
|Grizzly G0704||342 lbs||4.6/5|
|Erie Tools ETD-SM-MILL|
(Best for the Money)
|Klutch 2706S009||143 lbs||4.3/5|
|Proxxon 37110||18 lbs||4.0/5|
The JET JMD-18 is our top pick. It excels in nearly everything you could be looking for in a mini mill. It features one of the largest worktables on the market, meaning that you can work with larger pieces than you could on other machines. It’s also the most powerful machine on our list, clocking in at a whopping 2 horsepower, roughly double the next machine.
All that extra power means that you will be able to make much faster cuts with the same bits, which in turn will save you a lot of time in the long run. Or, you could use that extra power to use bigger bits, which may reduce the number of operations you need to perform to finish your project. The speed can be set in 12 increments from 15 to 3,000 RPM, giving you control you won’t find on other machines.
This mini mill also features a great work light. If we had one complaint, it would be that vertical moves sometimes also move in the x and y planes, meaning you’ll occasionally have to rezero before making your next cut.
The Grizzly G0704 is like the JET’s little brother. It’s less powerful at 1 hp, has a slightly smaller table, and has a smaller range of RPM, going from 50-2250. While those are all less than the JET, they’re still well above-average for the models we reviewed. What this means is that the Grizzly is a really good machine you can get at a price far lower than the JET’s.
It also has some features that you won’t find on other models including a safety shut off switch, and a clear guard on the spindle, which reduces the number of dangerous chips that get launched across your shop.
The only downside to this machine is that it is not as proficient at drilling as other machines, due to it having some plastic gears which will strip under the load. While not too expensive to replace, it’s a pain that most people won’t want to deal with.
The Erie Tools ETD-SM-MILL is our pick for the best value. While it doesn’t have as much power as the first two entries on our list, it is significantly cheaper. Boasting RPM of up to 2000, it does have the punch to get the job done, though it will likely take a bit longer.
This machine was also designed with both drilling and milling in mind, which means that you won’t face the same technical problems that other models have. It also includes important safety features like a clear spindle guard and a safety shut off switch. It does have one of the smaller tables on this list, however.
Overall, the Erie Tools mini mill provides great value, giving you the cutting power to get through most projects, but comes at a more reasonable price than more powerful mini mills.
The best thing about the Klutch 2706S009 is that it’s a low-vibration mini mill. This means that you can more readily trust that your alignment is correct when making cuts.
Unfortunately, that’s about all that it has going for it. It’s a pretty-low power unit, meaning that some projects are going to be impossible, and that others are going to take much longer than they would on a better machine. This Klutch mini mill also lacks the low end of RPM, starting at 100, meaning that some kinds of cuts won’t be available to you.
It also has some speed control issues right out of the box, meaning you really have to keep tabs on it while you cut. It also comes with cheap, shoddy chucks, and while many serious machines end up buying their own regardless of which machine they buy, it does make you wonder about the quality of this model.
The Proxxon 37110 bills itself as a “micro mill” and that struck us as pretty accurate. It features the smallest table, and also the smallest range of vertical travel. If you bought this unit, the size of the projects that you could do would be very limited.
The plus side is that it’s the cheapest model on our list, but that comes with some serious problems of its own. Questionable design means that the Proxxon 37110 has vibration issues that don’t always resolve when properly mounted to a table.
There are also problems with precision, as the wheels used to adjust the table have a bit of play in them, meaning that you would have to be very careful when making your cuts. If you factor in the vibration problem, you have a recipe for extremely imprecise cuts, which is not what you’re looking for in your mini mill.
Hopefully, you’ll find the reviews we’ve given you will help you make an informed decision when you purchase a mini mill. Both experts and novices alike can benefit from raw information and outside opinions, especially when making a purchase of this size. We’d now like to give you some general information about choosing mini mills, so that you can see some of the thinking that went into our reviews, but also so that you can make a great choice when you’re finally ready to buy.
In putting together this list of reviews, we considered a number of factors that separated the best mini mills from the rest of the pack. Value, of course, was one of the most important factors, but we also considered the included features, stability, power, and ease of use. While your needs are going to vary based on what projects you plan to do, there are some big picture things to consider that will be relevant to all operations.
A mini mill is a big purchase. Like buying a cheap car, if you go cheap on your mini mill you’re likely to run into a lot of problems down the road. And, there aren’t a ton of mini mill repair shops scattered around the way there are with auto repair shops. If your mill develops a technical flaw or needs repair, then that falls on you.
Which can be a blessing or a curse. If you’re at least a competent machinist, then you shouldn’t worry too much about struggling to repair a mini mill with a purchased or fabricated part you make yourself. However, it might be easier to just not have to deal with the situation altogether. While this isn’t always true, more expensive mini mills tend to be made from higher-quality parts and have better designs which mean that they put less wear on their parts.
Consequently, less repair is required, and you’ll be able to spend more time and money working on your projects. Overall, like with all tools, if you want something that will last for a long time, you’re going to have to spend a little bit more to get it.
You may not realize it just from looking at online descriptions, but mini mills can weight hundreds of pounds. So much for being “mini.” The JET model we reviewed, for instance, weighs more than 700 pounds! The Proxxon is at the other end of the spectrum, weighing just over 18 pounds.
There are a couple of things that you need to consider when purchasing one of the heavier models. First, you’re going to need a place to put it. Not all workbenches are designed to have 700-pound machines mounted on them, and you’d run the risk of breaking both your bench and your mini mill if you were to mount it on one of those.
You could also purchase a stand from the company that makes the mini mill, in most instances, though they are rarely included with the purchase of the mini mill. These are designed to support the full weight of the machine, and also sometimes come with cool features, like compartments for tool storage.
Given the weight of these devices, they can be difficult or impossible to move on your own. You may require a hefty shop winch in order to move them around your shop prior to getting them into place. If you don’t own one of those, then you may want to consider a lighter unit.
While you may think that you and a bunch of friends might be able to do what a winch does, that could be a very dangerous idea. People give themselves strain injuries all of the time lifting much heavier objects, and if it were to slip, you’d run the risk of serious injury, not to mention the damage that would be done to the machine itself.
Be smart here. Either get a machine and the equipment to move it or go with a lighter machine.
A benefit of heavier mini mills is that they tend to vibrate less. Vibrations can be a serious detriment when using a mini mill, as they will reduce the precision of the cuts you make. Even small vibrations can create a large problem, especially when you are milling with smaller mill cutters.
Excess vibration can cause the edges of your cuts to become curved in places, or sometimes alter the depth at which you cut, making for ununiform deepness, which can both look bad and alter the function of a piece. Other vibrations can throw off your alignment, lowering your certainty that you’re positioned correctly for a cut. Overall, it just makes milling harder.
That’s why we took the time to point out vibration whenever it was encountered. It’s something that should be taken seriously in a mini mill. Many good mini mills are vibration-free, or nearly so, and those are the ones that are going to provide you some of the best value.
We’ve spent some time talking about the weight of mini mills, now let’s spend some time discussing size. There are three stats that you should pay attention to. The first is height. This doesn’t mean the total height of the machine, but rather, what is commonly referred to as “spindle clearance” or the distance between the table and the spindle. This value is close to the maximum height of the object you’ll be able to machine plus the size of the cutting tool you use. The bigger this number is, the taller the object you’re trying to machine can be.
You should also note the size of the table. Bigger tables can handle bigger objects, of course, but they also allow for more secure clamping of smaller objects by giving you more surface area to work with.
The final size number that you should pay attention to is the distance that the mini mill can move in the “x,” “y,” and “z” planes. The greater the distance it can move in these directions, the bigger the object you can machine in a single session. It also allows for longer single cuts, which can lead to a better-looking final product.
You really can’t go wrong with getting a mini mill with more power. While most models should be able to work with the same kinds of materials, you get savings in three different areas with a higher-power unit: heat, stress, and time.
Heat is important when milling for a number of reasons. The first of these is that many mini mills have built in thermal-emergency stops. If the heat gets too high, it will shut down to avoid damage. If you’re planning on doing a lot of sequential cuts in a row, then you should probably consider getting a unit with more power, because those units will be under less strain and produce less heat, making them unlikely to trigger the cut-off. It can sometimes take more than an hour for mini mills to cool down enough to restart after an emergency cut-off.
Even if you’re not producing enough heat to trigger an emergency stop, heat does degrade components over time. The hotter it is, the faster that process unfolds. If you’re constantly producing a lot of heat, you’re going to shorten the lifespan of your mini mill. However, having a more powerful mill means that less heat is produced doing the same tasks since it is under less stress.
Having more power also saves you time. It means that the mini mill can complete the same tasks faster, saving you seconds or minutes on each project. While that may not seem like a lot, it adds up over the life of the machine. The best mini mills will end up paying for themselves on this factor alone.
When it comes to power, you really need to think about the experience you want to have when using your mini mill. You need to honestly assess the kinds of projects that you want to do and then match those projects to the mini mill that has enough power to get the job done without producing excess heat or taking too much time. To put it another way, you need to use the right tool for the job. You can always do a smaller project on a more powerful machine, but you can’t make a weak machine stronger.
A mini mill is a big purchase. It’s easy to get caught up in the details of each machine. However, it may be better to figure out exactly what you want to do with the machine and then work your way back to the mini mill that will best suit those requirements. If you’re not planning on working with big starting materials or don’t plan on making big cuts, it’s softer to go with something smaller. However, if you’re looking at bigger jobs, frequent use, or just like saving time with overkill, one of the more powerful mini mills will suit you much better. Hopefully, this buyer’s guide will help give you an idea of what your requirements might look like, so that you can make a good choice for you.
The JET JMD-18 350018 was the clear winner in our tests, bringing together the most power and precision with the ability to work with large objects. It’s hard to top that level of quality. Likewise, the Grizzly G0704 is a great choice for machining, though not as great at drilling as other models. The Erie Tools ETD-SM-MILL has the best value, bringing a lot of the features found on more expensive units at a much lower price point. As we said before, the best thing about the Klutch 2706S009 is that it’s a low-vibration mini mill, though there are other areas that you might find lacking. And, the Proxxon 37110 is a pretty disappointing unit, having severe problems with vibration and precision that have the potential to ruin any project you try.
While we just gave you a lot of information in our reviews, we hope that you’ll be able to use it in order to make a great decision. Buying a mini mill is a daunting task, but it is one that can be done with well-informed confidence.