Some of the basic parts of a milling machine are the head, motor, spindle, drive system, quill, and worktable.

Milling machines were initially used in the early 1800’s for filing metal components in a consistent manner. Very few modifications and improvements were made to the rudimentary form of the milling machine, but in 1861, the device was revolutionized by Brown & Sharpe to travel in the X, Y and Z axis. In the 1980’s computer technology was integrated into the milling machine and automated its various processes. It also improved operational accuracy and consistency. Over the years, milling machines have become a staple of machine shops and are used for many operations. Checking the machine regularly will let operators determine whether a spindle repair should be made or any other maintenance work is necessary. It is good to have an understanding of the different parts of the milling machine so that its operation, handling and maintenance can be properly made.


The head is the main top component of manual milling machine. The motor and spindle are found in this part. The head is responsible for transforming electrical power to mechanical energy used for the spindle.


The motor generates the electrical power needed for the spindle. It operates through a belt-driven system which rotates the spindle. Depending on the gear being used, the speed of the rotation can vary between the range of 50 and beyond 4000 RPM.


The spindle is involved in the cutting process because the cutting tool is attached to it. The spindle may be modified to move in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction.

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 quill is the component that keeps the spindle in place. Its movement follows an upward and downward direction and may be controlled using the quill feed. The quill may be moved up or down using the hand wheel of the quill feed. The quill also contains a lock where a number of production materials may be cut with the same depth at a time.

Work table

Production pieces are laid on the work table. It has slot components which are used for fastening the work pieces in place. On the work table, the production material may be moved in X, Y or Z direction. The X direction is a horizontal movement that goes from left to right. A front to back movement is the Y direction while the Z direction involves moving the piece up and down. The work table may be modified in several configurations to improve flexibility during the cutting process. The longitudinal traverse hand wheel allows the worktable to be moved horizontally from left to right and vice versa. On the other hand, the traverse hand wheel may be used to move the work table in and out. The worktable may be moved upward and downward together with other milling machine parts such as the saddle and knee using the vertical movement crank.

Because of their technical significance, the different parts of milling machines need to be maintained properly and repairs should be made immediately when needed.