What is milling?

Routers and gantries are very rare in the toolkit of do-it-yourselfers. Milling is a machining process that is used almost exclusively by professionals or in the industrial sector. What milling is actually, and what areas of application arise for milling, read in our article.

Basic function when milling

During milling, individual chips are removed from a workpiece with a specific cutting edge. The cutting edge is located on a milling tool that rotates around its own axis.

When you drag a drill along the surface of a wooden wedge as it turns, it makes a furrow. This is a very simple (but unfortunately not very effective) way of milling. Large milling machines operate on the same principle, but different milling tools are used with different shapes and cutting.

What can be milled?

Almost all materials are suitable for machining by milling. Milling processes are used

  • Wood
  • Plastics and
  • almost all metals

The advantage of milling is that it allows parts to be produced very precisely and achieves high dimensional accuracy. In addition, the shaping of the workpiece can be done not only in one direction, but a total of up to 5 axes. This makes it possible to produce any shapes.


Depending on the tool and process used, milling can achieve different goals. A small overview of the most important milling methods is given in the following table:

millingto get an exactly level surface (more accurate and faster than grinding)
form millinggive a workpiece a specific shape (edges, protrusions, etc.)
millingto make grooves in a specific depth or width
hobbingfor the production of very exact gears
milling aroundfor producing cylindrical surfaces on a workpiece

Milling steel is often used to cut parts out of certain materials very precisely.

Computer-aided milling

Milling cutters can also be operated fully automatically and computer-aided. On the PC, the exact shape of the workpiece can be programmed, the router then produces this shape completely automatically. In the industrial sector, this has the advantage that it is possible to produce many identical parts very quickly and automatically, which then exactly match in their dimensions.

Tips & Tricks

Distinguishing milling and turning often causes problems for many - but it is quite simple: During milling, the workpiece is stationary and the milling tool moves. When turning it is exactly the opposite, here the workpiece moves around its own axis.