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If you want metal parts that adhere to even moderately tight tolerances, a milling machine is your only practical option.

There is, after all, a very good reason that they’re essential to manufacturing. What the heck is 3-phase power, and can you get it? Before we get into the details of what configuration of milling machine you’ll most likely want to buy, let us first point out that we’re only going to be talking about manual milling machines in this guide.

Just be sure to read some reviews from people doing real work with them.

Small desktop milling machines can be tempting, but it’s best to avoid them if you’re planning to mill metal.

A vertical machine will have the table mounted perpendicular to the spindle’s zero-tilt position, while a horizontal machine will have the spindle mounted parallel to the plane of the table.

Poorly made lead screws, imprecise machining, and loose tolerances can all leave you with a mill that is frustrating to use and which can’t hold tolerable precision.

Therefore, it’s a good idea to buy a proven machine. But, some less expensive brands still produce quality machines (often clones of more expensive models).

They may have fewer features, or less robust motors, but could be enough for your needs.

The downside, of course, is that it’s much more cumbersome (and sometimes impossible) to make parts that have cuts in all axes.

This is where a vertical milling machine excels: in versatility.

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