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What can be done on milling machine?

Greetings All!

I’m writing this post to ask those of you who have used lathes
and/or milling machines in the production of jewelry what kind of
interesting things you can perform with them.

I just ordered a sherline lathe with milling column and would like
to know what else I can do besides what I’ve thought up in my head.

Also, many of you probably use a foredom #30 handpiece or something
like it that simply has a Jacobs chuck in it. They say you shouldn’t
mill with a Jacobs chuck because of the side load… but what about
very light cuts with very fine bits like you would use in a flex
shaft? Is this a silly idea or has anyone used these small bits in a
milling machine?

Any input would be much appreciated… please wax elequent and
ramble so I can learn something.


i have used Foredom’s allset milling system, rather like a mini
lathe, and their only recommendation is to purchase vanadium steel
bits for use with a #30 or #30H as they will outlast and outperform
most other bits. I love the ability to preform curved channels and
have all stones fit precisely and as level as is humanly possible
without computer assistance when the metal is lightly hammered over
stone! Prongs can be milled evenly and notched far more accurately
than by hand, production work is faster and as precise as is
possible with the allset,- once a piece is set up- given all the
attachments and adapters, and “rigging” the system requires, the rest
of the process is sheer fun and one gets excellent the
end. I am only good at pave work due to the techniques repeated with
the allset that trains ones brain and consequentially the pipeline
between muscle and brainwaves to do the task without the guides and
attachments after using them for a period of time and getting used
to precision- though in no way am I as quick as when using the pave’
attachments that are included with the allset master stones setting

I love the milling attachment for model making in wax, as a bending
brake of sorts too.In fact i could write pages about what the milling
machine is capable of…it is a table saw, drill press, sander,lathe,
miters, and forms boxes,for carving ring bands, or repeatative
patterns in sheet, and as a piercing -with -extraordinary precision
fixture all in one - and that’s the proverbial tip of the iceberg…I
know nothing about the machine you have.

If you don’t get as many responses as you think you should, feel free
to write me off line and i’ll detail some finer points of working
with the system i have/had though itdiffers from what you ordered,
there may be some cross-machinery similarities and capabilities that
I can at lest say yes, mine does that or no it doesn’t or…gee, i had
not even thought of that!!and perhaps would not have in a million
years unless it were pointed out to me.


Hi, Andrew –

This is assuming that your questions are about manual machining. If
you had CNC I doubt you’d be asking the question. First off, while
you don’t have to have a lathe to go with your miller, they do
complement each other. And to get your other question out of the
way, too: A Jacobs chuck is not intended to do milling. For light
milling on a Sherline you’re not going to hurt yourself or anything,
and it should work, but it’s not right. Aside from the axial load
part, it’s also just not really concentric compared to collets or
toolholders. Just get the collets, they don’t cost much. Jacobs
chucks are meant for casual drilling only. What to do? Millers alone
do mostly plain milling, sawing, grooving and slotting - and
precision drilling. Use the marks on your handwheels. Example: to
make a checkerboard, clamp down your stock, and go over the face of
it with a cutter that spans the whole piece (if you have it - just
an example). Put in a small diameter cutter, and put it to a height
that works for you below the surface of the work - like 1mm or
something, and position it precisely at one corner. Turn on the
machine, and turn the “X” handle 5 turns exactly, so it lands on the
same exact number you started with (and learn about controlling
backlash—), and turn “Y” so it mills across the piece. Do that
again and again, 5 turns exactly, and then go back to start and do
the same the other way - turn the “Y” 5 turns, and mill with the “X"
handle - there’s your checkerboard. To drill at each intersection,
do the same with a drill bit in the machine - 5 “X”, 5 “Y”, drill,
repeat. Then put a 45 degree, or a chamfering bit or whatever in and
go around the edge, like a router, or prop it on it’s edge, put a
slitting saw in the arbor, and cut it down square all around. You
can also use the slitting saw to do the grooving part, indexing the
"Z”, but then you’ll have to reposition the work to get squares. You
can do all sorts of stuff related to this - make a pyramid by milling
around a small square in the center, go outwards 5 turns and lower
"Z", mill again, out and down again, etc. With skill you can even do
things like signage and stuff, but it’s hard to control. Now, if you
get a rotary table, or I have a real dividing head, then you double
the capacity of your machine, because you can do indexing - drilling
eternity rings, make gears, groove a band equally around across the
axis, make a circular pendant with holes or stones equally spaced.
Indexing is dividing a circle into a certain number of segments.
Even if you’re not drilling or gear making, I use it at times just
to mark off the spacing of things - just touch it with a center
drill to mark it, and index all around or partly around. To put 5
stones across the top of the finger you need 25 stones to go all
around, for the stone size (say), so you pretend it’s 25 but only
mark 5 of the spots. Stuff like that. I got a call to do a 1 1/4"
cube of solid sterling for a paper weight. That’s a huge job by
hand, but I just put a block in the miller, set the Z, mill, turn
the work, mill, turn the work, and out pops a perfect
cube…Cool! It doesn’t take a genius to understand that a
milling machine is just that. It works on x,y and z, and without
computer control, and sometimes even with it, it’s just not good at
doing flowing curves and complex curves (curves that move in more
than one dimension). It is perfect with squares, rectangles and
circles, though, and if that’s what’s needed, it’s great. I have a
"real" miller of the benchtop variety: R8, 2 hp, geared head,
dovetail mounted head, 10 x 42" table, but you can do the same in
miniature on a mini - your tooling will be limited is all. I just
refaced a bench block with my 3 1/2" indexable, and you won’t be
using that on a Sherline!! I would also say (finances permitting) to
get a lathe. I use my lathe 5x as much as the miller, and often the
miller uses work that comes off the lathe to begin with. Have fun -
and be careful…


I have a Sherline lathe, a Harbor Freight Mill Drill, a Jet Knee Mill
and Jet 14 x 40 lathe. The question is what can’t I do with these
machines? I drill out a ring, I can do micro work for fitting, I can
create patterns in the metal. I can stipple, create bumps, ridges and
much more.

I have a Foredom and only recommedn it for grinding type work,
anything else is not good for the machine.



Yes I have used the small bits in a milling machine. They will work
fine, just don’t put as much pressure as you will a regular sized.
Obvious eh?

You will still need to use bur lube or something like it. I use a
spray lube kit from Micromark

this works really well for me on my lathe and milling machine. Don’t
forget to install a plastic shield, you will get stripes across your
shirt if you don’t. I use a water mix coolant, cuts down on smell
mess of oil and it clings as well to the work. The stuff I use is
Lapcraft Tool Cool and another I have just tried is Lube Cool 4800.
Both are effective coolants, and I use them on three things really,
Lathe, Milling machine and rock saw. The Tool Cool, if you do not
clean your machine, it did show rust in a couple of days on my slab
saw. I used a product called PG 2000 for wood working on it and have
had no further problems. As the Tool Cool was the water mix coolant I
tried first, I do not know if the Lube Cool 4800 is prone to the same
issue of light rust. I have been so impressed with the PG 2000 I use
it on all my large tools in the garage to keep them from rusting and
it does not seem to affect my wood working projects either, but I do
wipe off the excess. I also use it on the tools in the shed, which
are large things I do not use to often and it seem for the last 2
years any how to have helped them also.

This may not help with ideas, but it will help your bits last


You can use a flex shaft, but only for light cuts and in soft
materials, and preferably with a collet rather than a jacobs
handpiece. It does have the speeds you want for using tiny cutters
though. Look into the Sherline 10k rpm accessory/conversion they
offer. For milling that will help a lot.

You should probably rig up an indexing attachment/buy a rotary table
for use when milling, it seems like a lot of utility is derived from
having that capacity, especially when making rings.

You can convert the whole thing to CNC pretty easily, and you should
probably look into that after you get comfortable with manual


Since I had a practical example a few minutes ago - sometimes what
you can do on a milling machine is boring, mudane and immensely
useful. There’s an apprentice nearby who had cut a 4" x 6" block of
wax partway across - making a 4 x 6 x 1/2" slice. She came up to use
a hacksaw, because she’d started with a jeweler’s saw. So she got
this slice of wax with a surface that was just a mess - sawmarks,
dips, dings. It would probably have taken her 2-3 hours to clean it
up to make the belt buckle it is to become. I put a vise on the
milling machine with some parallels, put in a 4" indexable (a fly
cutter would work quite nicely, too), took one roughing pass - about
30 seconds, another finishing pass - about 30 seconds, and she had a
1/2’ thick slice of wax just as smooth as glass. Boring, yes. Saving
3 hours of gruntwork- priceless…

I have both, a mill and a lathe. Using a fly cutter cuts down on time
big time. And working with a piece of wax that is the right thickness
and is straight, makes any carving job so much easier.