Milling and Turning – What is the Difference

It is easy to get confused between milling and turning – in fact, many people are uncertain what the actual difference is. The short answer is that in turning the workpiece is going to rotate, whereas, in milling, it is the tool that will rotate.


milling-1359148_960_720Turning uses a single-point cutting tool to do the work. It is situated in parallel to the item that is being cut. Material used in turning can be metal, plastic, or any sort of material that can be turned. The material is rotated, and the cutting tool then moves along 2 axis of motion. The movement of the cutting tool results in cylindrical cuts, with very precise depths and diameters.

Turning can be used either on the outside or the inside of the material. For example, if used on the outside it can create nautical drive shafts, and if used on the inside it can create a tubular cavity.

Turning used to a manual process, but with computer numerical controlled (CNC) machines, it is now an automated process.


Milling is a cutting process that is performed by removing the surface of the material. The material can be wood, plastic, metal, or other solid materials.

A design is created (often CAD-directed), and the machines are positioned either vertically or horizontally to carve out the chosen material.

Manual and traditionally operated milling machines are still used currently, but it is computer numerical controlled (CNC) milling machines that are most popular. These machines can perform a dynamic movement and can create very complex designs.

Types of milling machines

The different types of milling machines are differentiated based on their degree of motion and orientation of the workpiece.

  • Knee-Type
  • Plain Vertical and Horizontal
  • Universal Horizontal Milling Machine
  • Ram-Type and Universal Ram-Type Milling Machines
  • Swivel Cutter Head Ram-Type Milling Machine