Small Milling Machines

A Haas VF-2 milling setup I ran in university.

   When I finally get a garage again I am going to buy a small milling machine. It has been on my wishlist for a long time. But, before I purchase anything, I should figure out what my options are first. This is a list of various milling machines that interest me. My criteria are fairly basic. It must be rigid and robust. It will hopefully have a large cutting volume and as much horsepower as possible while running on 110V AC. I would like it to be CNC but digital readouts and X-axis power feed are more realistic. There will not be any toy CNC milling machines on this list. Must be able to rip through aluminum easily and cut steel even if only on a limited basis.


The minimill is probably the best purchase for hobbyists just looking to cut an occasional slot or small aluminum bracket on the weekend. The smallest machine on this list but only costs $754USD including freight from Grizzly. (Link) There are many people who own this mill and produce kits or tutorials on how to upgrade it. It is also sold by various companies and can come stock with a wide range of add ons. There are even upgraded models that have a more powerful motor and an R8 Spindle. (Link) Check out to find out more.

One of my favorite video series on YouTube, Pithy Bikes, documenting a steel bike frame and fixture build uses this machine extensively. So even though its small it can accomplish a lot.

Power: 120 4.5Amp Single Phase 3/4 HP Motor
Spindle: MT#3
X: 7-5/16" (185mm)
Y: 4" (101mm)
Z Knee: 0" (0mm) (No Knee, the head moves up and down.)
Z Quill:  7.5" (190mm)
Weight: 149lb (68kg)

Grizzly G0704 Mill/Drill

A widely popular machine for hobbyists. A very basic and small machine but there are many aftermarket upgrades and tutorials for increasing accuracy, converting to digital readout and even CNC. It costs $1250 + $105 domestic shipping quoted from the Grizzly catalog. (Link) At $1355, just under double to cost of a minimill, I think this would be the best value for the money. Considering its popularity and the amount of upgrades available I will probably look to buy one used and then rework it.

Power: 110 12Amp Single Phase 1HP Motor
Spindle: R8
X: 18-7/8" (479mm)
Y: 6-7/8" (174mm)
Z Knee: 11" (279mm) (No Knee, the head moves up and down.)
Z Quill:  2" (50mm)
Weight: 363lb (165kg)

Jet JMD-18

The Jet JMD-18 seems to be a bigger and more powerful G0704. It comes prewired for 115V but can run on 230V single phase. It also has a fairly large working volume for larger projects and for accommodating rotary tables/complex setups. You do however pay for the extra size and power. It sells on for $2,299 plus shipping without the stand. It seems like a good machine but for the price I think I would rather save up a bit more and buy a used Bridgeport or small CNC. Though if I see a good sale or a used one I would consider it over the G0704.

Power: 115/230V ?Amp Single Phase 2 HP Motor
Spindle: R8
X: 20.5" (520mm)
Y: 7" (177mm)
Z Knee: ?" (?mm) (No Knee, the head moves up and down unknown distance. Max clearance 17.5")
Z Quill:  5" (127mm)
Weight: 660lb (300kg)

Used Bridgeport

The Bridgeport mill is the standard all other manual mills are compared to. They can be found for $2500-$7000 on Craigslist in Southern California. (Link for Craigslist search.) Lower priced machines are typically base models with a lot of of runtime. Higher priced machines usually include tooling, power feed, digital readouts, variable drive spindles and are potentially in better condition. Overall cost, power requirements and size do not make Bridgeports ideal for small garages where they will get limited use. The projects I have in mind for the next few years are generally small and don't need to be very precise so I probably wouldn't buy a Bridgeport for this reason. Though a part of me still wants one.

Power: 208/230/460 3Phase 2-3HP Motor
Spindle: R8
X: 30-31" (762-787mm)
Y: 12" (305mm)
Z Knee: 16" (406mm)
Z Quill:  5" (127mm)
Weight: 1930lb (875kg)

Specifications were pulled from a a brochure for a newer machine produced by Hardinge. (Link) Bridgeport mills had many different models with various add ons and are typically modified by the people who owned them through the years. Be sure to clearly inspect any used machine and do not assume it has any features.

Tormach Basic PCNC 440

Tormach makes a wide assortment of budget CNC milling machines with loads of upgrade for an additional price. Their smallest base machine of the PCNC 440 seems to be a good choice. (Link) At a price of $4950 plus shipping its a very tempting machine. Though in order to get it working you need to invest another $715 for their controller. (Link) (Mach 3 on a standard desktop may work with this machine. If so, that could save some costs.) Buying the controller brings the price up to $5665 plus shipping. To simplify this headache, Tormach does sell a kit including the controller, a chip pan and some tooling for $6995 plus shipping that should be a simple plug and play setup. (Link) The only problem is the working volume. Its just a few inches bigger than a minimill and is drastically smaller than the G0704. This makes it only usable for smaller projects.

Power: 115V AC 15Amp (Recommended Dedicated breaker) Single Phase 3/4 HP Motor
Spindle: R8
X: 10" (254mm)
Y: 6.25" (158mm)
Z Knee: 0" (0mm) (No Knee, the head moves up and down.)
Z Quill:  10" (254mm)
Weight: 460lb (209kg)

Tormach Basic PCNC 770

The Tormach PCNC 770 is the bigger brother of the 440. It has similar capability and pricing structure. Base machine starts around $6850 plus shipping and goes up from there. The starter kit shown above comes in around $11,800 plus shipping. (Link) Its working volume is about the same size as the G0704 which is good. Paying close to $12k for a turn key machine is a bit much but if the base machine can be made usable with and old computer, Mach 3 and a DIY stand/enclosure then I would probably go the DIY route. 

Power: 115V AC 20Amp (Recommended Dedicated breaker) Single Phase 1 HP Motor
Spindle: R8
X: 14" (355mm)
Y: 7.5" (190mm)
Z Knee: 0" (0mm) (No Knee, the head moves up and down.)
Z Quill:  13.25" (336mm)
Weight: 950lb (431kg)


My pick at this point would be a G0704. Its affordable price and small size make it perfect for building small projects and prototypes in my garage. I would love to get a Tormach PCNC 770 but that can wait until I have actual need for a CNC. (Doing production runs or 3D milling.) Until then, I can make due with a manual machine. 

As stated above, I would aim to buy a used G0704 for a lower price and then invest the difference in upgrades such as better bearings, lead screws, backlash nuts, tooling and digital readouts. At the time of writing this I see on craigslist a $500 package deal for a G0758 and a 50 Ton Press in So Cal. So, I think there is a good chance of getting a used machine if I look hard enough.


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