Milling Machine Basics: 6 Parts You Should Understand

By Danica Reynes

A milling machine contains a worktable, head, quill, motor, drive system, and spindle.

In the early 1800’s, milling machines were used for filing down metal components consistently. Very few modifications and improvements were made to the rudimentary form of the milling machine, however in 1861, the device was revolutionized by Brown & Sharpe to travel in the X, Y and Z axis. In the 1980’s, various processes of the milling machine was automated by integration of computer technology with the machine. In addition, it helped achieve more accurate and consistent operation. Throughout the years milling machines have come to be a staple in machine shops, where they are used in many operations. Spindle repair and other maintenance of the machine will be decided on only after inspecting it regularly by the operators. It is beneficial to know something about the various parts of a milling machine so that it can be properly handled and maintained.


In manual mills, the primary and topmost part is called the head. In this part, the motor and spindle are found. The head has the job of transforming electrical power to mechanical energy which is used for the spindle.



The motor generates the electrical power needed for the spindle. The spindle is rotated by the belt-driven system when it operates. Between the range of 50 and beyond 4000 RPM, depending on the gear used, the speed of the rotation can vary.


The spindle is involved in the cutting process because the cutting tool is attached to it. Spindles can be adjusted to move in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise fashion.

Drive system

The drive system is where the head is located. It also lets the milling machine operator modify the rotational speed of the spindle and, consequently, the cutting mechanism.


The feather is the element to remain the spindle in position. Its movement follows an upward and downward direction and may be controlled using the quill feed. Using the quill feed’s hand wheel, the quill can be repositioned vertically. The quill also has a lock in which a number of materials may be cut with the same depth at a time.

Work table

Put the production pieces on the work surface. It has slot components which are used for fastening the work pieces in place. The X, Y or Z direction is used to move the production, on the work table. Direction X moves horizontally from left to right. The Z direction moves the piece north to south, while a front to back movement is the Y direction. During the cutting process, the work table has several configurations in which it can be modified to improve flexibility. The equipment can be moved horizontally from left to right and vice versa by using the longitudinal traverse hand wheel. To move the work table in and out, the traverse hand wheel may be used. The workable may be moved upward and downward together with other milling machine parts namely the saddle and the knee utilizing the vertical movement crank.

Due to their technical significance, the various parts of milling machines have to be maintained properly and repairs should be made immediately when needed.

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