Classification of Milling Cutters

Milling cutters are usually made of high-speed steel and are available in a great variety of shapes and sizes for various purposes. You should know the names of the most common classifications of cutters, their uses, and, in a general way, the sizes best suited to the work at hand.

Milling Cutter Nomenclature

Figure 8-3 shows two views of a common milling cutter with its parts and angles identified. These parts and angles in some form are common to all cutter types.

Types of Teeth

The teeth of milling cutters may be made for right-hand or left-hand rotation, and with either right-hand or left-hand helix. Determine the hand of the cutter by looking at the face of the cutter when mounted on the spindle. A right-hand cutter must rotate counterclockwise; a left-hand cutter must rotate clockwise. The right-hand helix is shown by the flutes leading to the right; a left-hand helix is shown by the flutes leading to the left. The direction of the helix does not affect the cutting ability of the cutter, but take care to see that the direction of rotation is correct for the hand of the cutter (Figure 8-4).

Saw Teeth

Saw teeth similar to those shown in Figure 8-3 are either straight or helical in the smaller sizes of plain milling cutters, metal slitting saw milling cutters, and end milling cutters. The cutting edge is usually given about 5 degrees primary clearance. Sometimes the teeth are provided with off-set nicks which break up chips and make coarser feeds possible.

Helical Milling Cutters

The helical milling cutter is similar, to the plain milling cutter, but the teeth have a helix angle of 45° to 60°. The steep helix produces a shearing action that results in smooth, vibration-free cuts. They are available for arbor mounting, or with an integral shank with or without a pilot. This type of helical cutter is particularly useful for milling elongated slots and for light cuts on soft metal. See Figure 8-5.

Metal Slitting Saw Milling Cutter

The metal slitting saw milling cutter is essentially a very thin plain milling cutter. It is ground slightly thinner toward the center to provide side clearance. These cutters are used for cutoff operations and for milling deep, narrow slots, and are made in widths from 1/32 to 3/16 inch.

Side Milling Cutters

Side milling cutters are essentially plain milling cutters with the addition of teeth on one or both sides. A plain side milling cutter has teeth on both sides and on the periphery. When teeth are added to one side only, the cutter is called a half-side milling cutter and is identified as being either a right-hand or left-hand cutter. Side milling cutters are generally used for slotting and straddle milling.

Interlocking tooth side milling cutters and staggered tooth side milling cutters are used for cutting relatively wide slots with accuracy (Figure 8-6). Interlocking tooth side milling cutters can be repeatedly sharpened without changing the width of the slot they will machine.

After sharpening, a washer is placed between the two cutters to compensate for the ground off metal. The staggered tooth cutter is the most washer is placed between the two cutters to compensate for efficient type for milling slots where the depth exceeds the width.

End Milling Cutters

The end milling cutter, also called an end mill, has teeth on the end as well as the periphery. The smaller end milling cutters have shanks for chuck mounting or direct spindle mounting. End milling cutters may have straight or spiral flutes. Spiral flute end milling cutters are classified as left-hand or right-hand cutters depending on the direction of rotation of the flutes. If they are small cutters, they may have either a straight or tapered shank.

The most common end milling cutter is the spiral flute cutter containing four flutes. Two-flute end milling cutters, sometimes referred to as two-lip end mill cutters, are used for milling slots and keyways where no drilled hole is provided for starting the cut. These cutters drill their own starting holes. Straight flute end milling cutters are generally used for milling both soft or tough materials, while spiral flute cutters are used mostly for cutting steel.

Large end milling cutters (normally over 2 inches in diameter) (Figure 8-10) are called shell end mills and are recessed on the face to receive a screw or nut for mounting on a separate shank or mounting on an arbor, like plain milling cutters. The teeth are usually helical and the cutter is used particularly for face milling operations requiring the facing of two surfaces at right angles to each other.

T-Slot Milling Cutter

The T-slot milling cutter is used to machine T-slot grooves in worktables, fixtures, and other holding devices. The cutter has a plain or side milling cutter mounted to the end of a narrow shank. The throat of the T-slot is first milled with a side or end milling cutter and the headspace is then milled with the T-slot milling cutter.

Woodruff Keyslot Milling Cutters

The Woodruff keyslot milling cutter is made in straight, tapered-shank, and arbor-mounted types. See Figure 8-7. The most common cutters of this type, under 1 1/2 inches in diameter, are provided with a shank. They have teeth on the periphery and slightly concave sides to provide clearance. These cutters are used for milling semicylindrical keyways in shafts.

Angle Milling Cutters

The angle milling cutter has peripheral teeth which are neither parallel nor perpendicular to the cutter axis. See Figure 8-8. Common operations performed with angle cutters are cutting V-notches and serration's. Angle cutters may be single-angle milling cutters or double-angle milling cutters. The single-angle cutter contains side-cutting teeth on the flat side of the cutter. The angle of the cutter edge is usually 30°, 45°, or 60°, both right and left. Double-angle cutters have included angles of 45, 60, and 90 degrees.

Gear Hob

The gear hob is a formed tooth milling cutter with helical teeth arranged like the thread on a screw. These teeth- are fluted to produce the required cutting edges. Hobs are generally used for such work as finishing spur gears, spiral gears, and worm gears. They may also be used to cut ratchets and spline shafts.

Concave and Convex Milling Cutters

Concave and convex milling cutters are formed tooth cutters shaped to produce concave and convex contours of 1/2 circle or less. The size of the cutter is specified by the diameter of the circular form the cutter produces.

Corner Rounding Milling Cutter

The corner-rounding milling cutter is a formed tooth cutter used for milling rounded corners on workpieces up to and including one-quarter of a circle. The size of the cutter is specified by the radius of the circular form the cutter produces, such as concave and convex cutters generally used for such work as finishing spur gears, spiral gears, and worm wheels. They may also be used to cut ratchets and spline shafts.

Special Shaped-Formed Milling Cutter

Formed milling cutters have the advantage of being adaptable to any specific shape for special operations. The cutter is made specially for each specific job. In the field, a fly cutter is formed by grinding a single point lathe cutter bit for mounting in a bar, holder, or fly cutter arbor. The cutter can be sharpened many times without destroying its shape.

Selection of Milling Cutters

Consider the following when choosing milling cutters:

Size of Milling Cutter

Care and Maintenance of Milling Cutters


Milling machine arbors are made in various lengths and in standard diameters of 7/8,1,1 1/4, and 1 1/2 inch. The shank is made to fit the taper hole in the spindle while the other end is threaded.

NOTE: The threaded end may have left or right-handed threads.

The milling machine spindle may be self-holding or self-releasing. The self-holding taper is held in the spindle by the high wedging force. The spindle taper in most milling machines is self-releasing; tooling must be held in place by a draw bolt extending through the center of the spindle.

Arbors are supplied with one of three tapers to fit the milling machine spindle: the Standard Milling Machine taper, the Brown and Sharpe taper, and the Brown and Sharpe taper with tang (Figure 8-10).

The Standard Milling Machine Taper is used on most machines of recent manufacture. See Figure 8-11. These tapers are identified by the number 30, 40, 50, or 60. Number 50 is the most commonly used size on all modern machines.

The Brown and Sharpe taper is found mostly on older machines. Adapters or collets are used to adapt these tapers to fit machines whose spindles have Standard Milling Machine tapers.

The Brown and Sharpe taper with tang is used on some older machines. The tang engages a slot in the spindle to assist in driving the arbor.

Standard Milling Machine Arbor

The standard milling machine arbor has a tapered, cylindrical shaft with a standard milling taper on the driving end and a threaded portion on the opposite end to receive the arbor nut. One or more milling cutters may be placed on the straight cylindrical portion of the arbor and held in position by sleeves and the arbor nut. The standard milling machine arbor is usually splined and keys are used to lock each cutter to the arbor shaft. These arbors are supplied in three styles, various lengths and, standard diameters.

The most common way to fasten the arbor in the milling machine spindle is to use a draw bar. The bar threads into the taper shank of the arbor to draw the taper into the spindle and hold it in place. Arbors secured in this manner are removed by backing out the draw bar and tapping the end of the bar to loosen the taper.

The end of the arbor opposite the taper is supported by the arbor supports of the milling machine. One or more supports reused depending on the length of the arbor and the degree of rigidity required. The end may be supported by a lathe center bearing against the arbor nut or by a bearing surface of the arbor fitting inside a bushing of the arbor support.

The arbor may also be firmly supported as it turns in the arbor support bearing suspended from the over-arm (Figure 8-12).

Typical milling arbors are illustrated in Figure 8-13. Listed below are several types of Style C arbors.

Style A has a cylindrical pilot on the end that runs in a bronze bearing in the arbor support. This style is mostly used on small milling machines or when maximum arbor support clearance is required.

Style B is characterized by one or more bearing collars that can be positioned to any part of the arbor. This allows the bearing support to be positioned close to the cutter, to-obtain rigid setups in heavy duty milling operations).

Style C arbors are used to mount the smaller size milling cutters, such as end mills that cannot be bolted directly on the spindle nose. Use the shortest arbor possible for the work.

Screw Arbor

Screw arbors are used to hold small cutters that have threaded holes. See Figure 8-14. These arbors have a taper next to the threaded portion to provide alignment and support for tools that require a nut to hold them against a taper surface. A right-hand threaded arbor must be used for right-hand cutters while a left-hand threaded arbor is used to mount left-hand cutters.

Screw arbors are used to hold small cutters that have threaded holes. These arbors have a taper next to the that require a nut to hold them against a taper surface. A right-hand threaded arbor must be used for right-hand cutters while a left-hand threaded arbor is used to mount left-hand cutters.

The slitting saw milling cutter arbor (Figure 8-14) is a short arbor having two flanges between which the milling cutter is secured by tightening a clamping nut. This arbor is used to hold metal slitting saw milling cutters used for slotting, slitting, and sawing operations.

The shell end milling cutter arbor has a bore in the end in which shell end milling cutters fit and are locked in place by means of a cap screw.

The fly cutter arbor is used to support a single-edge lathe, shaper, or planer cutter bit for boring and gear cutting operations on the milling machine.



Milling cutters that contain their own straight or tapered threaded portion to provide alignment and support for tools shanks are mounted to the milling machine spindle with collets, spindle adapters, and quick-change tooling which adapts the cutter shank to the spindle.


A collet is a form of a sleeve bushing for reducing the size of the hole in the milling machine spindle so that small shank tools can be fitted into large spindle recesses (Figure 8-15). They are made in several forms, similar to drilling machine sockets and sleeves, except that their tapers are not alike.

Spindle Adapters

A spindle adapter is a form of a collet having a standardized spindle end. They are available in a wide variety of sizes to accept cutters that cannot be mounted on arbors. They are made with either the Morse taper shank or the Brown and Sharpe taper with tang having a standard spindle end (Figure 8-16).

Chuck Adapter

A chuck adapter (Figure 8-17 ) is used to attach chucks to milling machines having a standard spindle end. The collet holder is sometimes referred to as a collet chuck. Various forms of chucks can be fitted to milling machines spindles for holding drills, reamers, and small cutters for special operations.

Quick-Change Tooling

The quick-change adapter mounted on the spindle nose is used to speed up tool changing. Tool changing with this system allows you to set up a number of milling operations such as drilling, end milling, and boring without changing the setup of the part being machined. The tool holders are mounted and removed from a master holder mounted to the machine spindle by means of a clamping ring (Figure 8-18).


Either a plain or swivel-type vise is furnished with each milling machine. The plain vise, similar to the machine table vise, is used for milling straight workpieces and is bolted to the milling machine table either at right angles or parallel to the machine arbor. The swivel vise can be rotated and contains a scale graduated in degrees at its base to facilitate milling workpieces at any angle on a horizontal plane. The universal vise, which may be obtained as extra equipment, is designed so that it can be set at both horizontal and vertical angles. This type of vise may be used for flat and angular milling. The all-steel vise is the strongest setup because the workpiece is clamped closer to the table. The vise can securely fasten castings, forgings, and rough-surfaced workpieces. The jaw can be positioned in any notch on the two bars to accommodate different shapes and sizes. The air or hydraulically operated vise is used more often in production work. This type of vise eliminates tightening by striking the crank with a lead hammer or other soft face hammer. See Figure 4-24 for examples of various vises.


The adjustable angle plate is a workpiece holding device, similar to the universal vise in operation. Workpieces are mounted to the angle plate with T-bolts and clamps in the same manner used to fasten workpieces to the worktable of the milling machine. The angle plate can be adjusted to any angle so that bevels and tapers can be cut without using a special milling cutter or an adjustable cutter head.


The index fixture (Figure 8-19) consists of an index head, also called a dividing head, and footstock which is similar to the tailstock of a lathe. The index head and footstock attach to the worktable of the milling machine by T-slot bolts. An index plate containing graduations is used to control the rotation of the index head spindle. The plate is fixed to the index head, and an index crank, connected to the index head spindle by a worm gear and shaft. Workpieces are held between centers by the index head spindle and footstock. Workpieces may also be held in a chuck mounted to the index head spindle or may be fitted directly into the taper spindle recess of some indexing fixtures. There are many variations of the indexing fixture. Universal index head is the name applied to an index head designed to permit power drive of the spindle so that helixes may be cut on the milling machine. Gear cutting attachment is another name applied to an indexing fixture; in this case, one that is primarily intended for cutting gears on the milling machine.


The rate of spindle speed of the milling machine may be increased from 1 1/2 to 6 times by using the high-speed milling attachment. This attachment is essential when using cutters and twist drills which must be driven at a high rate of speed in order to obtain an efficient surface speed. The attachment is clamped to the column of the machine and is driven by a set of gears from the milling machine spindle.


This attachment converts the horizontal spindle of a horizontal milling machine to a vertical spindle. It is clamped to the column and driven from the horizontal spindle. It incorporates provisions for setting the head at any angle, from the vertical to the horizontal, in a plane at right angles to the machine spindle. End milling and face milling are more easily accomplished with this attachment, because the cutter and the surface being cut are in plain view.


This device is similar to the vertical spindle attachment but is more versatile. The cutter head can be swiveled to any angle in any plane, whereas the vertical spindle attachment only rotates in one place from horizontal to vertical.


This attachment consists of a circular worktable containing T-slots for mounting workpieces. The circular table revolves on a base attached to the milling machine worktable. The attachment can be either hand or power driven, being connected to the table drive shaft if power driven. It may be used for milling circles, angular indexing, arcs, segments, circular slots, grooves, and radii, as well as for slotting internal and external gears. The table of the attachment is divided in degrees (Figure 8-20).


Boring, an operation that is too often restricted to a lathe, can be done easily on a milling machine. The offset boring head is an attachment that fits to the milling machine spindle and permits most drilled holes to have a better surface finish and greater diameter accuracy.


Figure 8-21 shows an offset boring head. Note that the boring bar can be adjusted at a right angle to the spindle axis. This feature makes it possible to position the boring cutter accurately to bore holes of varying diameters.

This adjustment is more convenient than adjusting the cutter in the boring bar holder or changing the boring bar. Another advantage of the offset boring head is the fact that a graduated micrometer collar allows the tool to be moved accurately a specified amount (usually in increments of 0.001) without the use of a dial indicator or other measuring device.

NOTE: On some boring heads, the reading on the tool slide is a direct reading. On other boring heads, the tool slide advances twice the amount shown on the micrometer dial.


An efficient and positive method of holding workpieces to the milling machine table is important if the machine tool is to be used to its fullest advantage. The most common methods of holding are clamping a workpiece to the table, clamping a workpiece to the angle plate, clamping the workpiece in fixtures, holding a workpiece between centers, holding the workpiece in a chuck, and holding the workpiece in a vise. Figure 4-25 of this manual shows a variety of mounting and holding devices. Regardless of the method used in holding, there are certain factors that should be observed in every case. The workpiece must not be sprung in clamping, it must be secured to prevent it from springing or moving away from the cutter, and it must be so aligned that it may be correctly machined T-slots. Milling machine worktables are provided with several T-slots which are used either for clamping and locating the workpiece itself or for mounting the various holding devices and attachments. These T-slots extend the length of the table and are parallel to its line of travel. Most milling machine attachments, such as vises and index fixtures, have keys or tongues on the underside of their bases so that they may be located correctly in relation to the T-slots.