Does Anyone Use A Mini-Mill as a Drill Press?

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Forum topic by DavidNJ posted 02-20-2013 04:52 AM 11014 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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389 posts in 2194 days

02-20-2013 04:52 AM

They are available from around $500 (Harbor Freight with 20% off). Don’t fear the HF name, the Sieg X2 is nearly an industry standard also sold by Grizzly. If anything, the HF unit is the better of the two.

They have about the same swing, HP, and shaft speeds. But the mill also has precise adjustment on the bed. Optional turrets for the bed.

There is a whole industry converting them to CNC. You can get kits with the adapters, another with the motors and controllers. Software is inexpensive or shareware. However, the CNC stuff can run more than $100 including a small computer and most don’t leave the handles on the head and the bed.

Is there a reason this wouldn’t work? Are people doing it?

10 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3848 days

#1 posted 02-20-2013 05:33 AM

I have a mill. I don’t use it much. For metalworking,
a mill gets sharp metal shavings all over it and cutting
oil too. This stuff can get on your wood parts which
is not always a good thing.

A mill table doesn’t tilt either and speed adjustments
may be more of a hassle than on a drill press.

On the plus side, a mill can mortise and do other
joinery. If you do metalwork or want to fool around
with making contraptions a mill is a cool thing to have.

View darthford's profile


612 posts in 2125 days

#2 posted 02-20-2013 06:27 AM

I had a CNC converted minimill about $10,000 ago, useless money pit. Painfully slow and the gear drives are very LOUD, that thing was louder than a $90k Haas SS. Servo’s all the higher end parts and it couldn’t maintain Z and it was impossible to dial out the backlash. Scrapped it in disgust.

View DavidNJ's profile


389 posts in 2194 days

#3 posted 02-20-2013 07:40 AM

The oil can be handled by using a removable work table for woodworking. Rockler and other sell them for regular drill presses, but it seems easier to build one.

$10k? The Sieg X2 sold by Grizzly, HF, and others is about $600. The kit to mount the stepper motors is about $600 and includes new ball screws. The Steppers and drivers are around $400. Still need a computer and miscellaneous stuff. Not cheap but not $10k.

Most people seem to add a reinforcement to the column, possibly change the gears, and replace the torsion spring with an air spring on the column.

Even without CNC, it would seem to add a lot of accuracy over a drill press for little added money. Technically, the CNC is similar to a router:

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612 posts in 2125 days

#4 posted 02-20-2013 08:10 AM

Yes $10k mind you this was a gear head milling machine that weighed hundreds of pounds not the lightweight one posted above. Man what a hunk of junk that was in every respect. Computer, coolant system, enclosure, rotary table, quick change collet, counter weight, tooling, and on and on. Top speed 2,000 rpm whoa! Never again!

View JesseTutt's profile


854 posts in 2311 days

#5 posted 02-20-2013 03:46 PM

I have dreamed of a CNC mill for some delicate woodwork. I had access to a metal working one at a past job and they were great for shaping metal and plastic. I was not allowed to try mounting wood in it. I wonder how this type of solution compares to the CNC machines sold specifically for woodworking?

-- Jesse, Saint Louis, Missouri

View PurpLev's profile


8547 posts in 3849 days

#6 posted 02-20-2013 03:54 PM

this can work for certain applications. however a few things to keep in mind:

1. Cost – the minimill + CNC conversion + learning curve + tooling is probably going to push you beyond the $2000 price range. just know this in advance so it won’t be a surprise when you start adding things up.

2. Work envelope – while the Z axis can give you the theoretical ability to drill deeper holes (no quill). the mini mill space between the spindle and table is rather small. add an extra wood/MDF top surface to protect from oils and this is becoming smaller still.

3. even with a CNC control, if you need to drill a large number of holes, this will be painfully slow compared to the fast quick action of a dedicated DP with a pull down quill

to my original point – is you need a CNC for metal parts – this might be a good option and could give you some abilities to (mass) drill/mill smaller wooden parts, or flat narrow (potentially long) parts. on the other hands, if you want a DP for mainly DP purposes – get a DP, it works better for that.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View helluvawreck's profile


32087 posts in 3067 days

#7 posted 02-20-2013 04:04 PM

I had one almost identical to that but a little older. I bought a guys shop on IRS Auctions. His hobby was model railroads. I still have most of the other stuff but unfortunately lost the mill in a fire.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3198 days

#8 posted 02-20-2013 06:04 PM

I have one and I love it for what it is. Bluntly, they suck as a drill press. For a lot less money you can get a real drill press.

The first reason against it as a drill press is mainly the vertical travel. Unless you are using little tiny drill bits, you will run out of room. The second reason is the power. The mini-mill only has a little 350 watt motor.

You can get a big floor model drill press and an x-y table or cross slide vise and still have lots of money jingling around in your pocket.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Tennessee's profile


2893 posts in 2715 days

#9 posted 02-20-2013 06:18 PM

This seems like a solution looking for a problem. I’d rather spend my money on a decent radial drill press. If I did a lot of multiples of items, I’d look into a used CNC for a couple thousand. Country is littered with them. If I did a lot of really fine, thin work, I’d think laser. Nowhere in my woodworking is a vertical milling machine a needed item.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View DavidNJ's profile


389 posts in 2194 days

#10 posted 02-21-2013 01:20 AM

I’ll rack this up to me having a dumb idea…

The CNC router tables don’t look that pricey…I wonder if anyone uses one for jointing or planing large items.

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