01 January 2008

13 Types of Milling Cutters Explained

There are various types of milling cutters. The one you need will depend on the material you are cutting and the effect you want to achieve. The 13 different types of milling cutters are: the dovetail cutter, the hollow mill, the woodruff cutter, the fly cutter, the face mill, the hob, the involute gear cutter, the side-and-face cutter, the slab mill, the ball nose cutter, the roughing end mill, the slot drill and the end mill.

Milling cutters are cutting tools designed to cut hardware. Milling cutters are used in machining centers and milling machines to remove chosen material from a block or piece of wood. A part of the material is discarded through the movement inside the machine or from the cutter's shape. But if the parts break, you’ll need to find a professional for repair or spindle rebuild.

Milling cutters have a wide range of shapes, sizes and types. The following are the different types and uses of these tools:

Dovetail cutter

Dovetail cutters are designed especially for shaping a dovetail groove in a given work piece. It is an end mill whose end result is the dovetail slot. A dovetail is described as a tenon in the shape of a fan. When a dovetail is fitted into a mortise that is an exact match, it forms an interlocking joint.

Hollow mill

Hollow mill is the simplest term for hollow milling cutter. Also known as inside-out end mills, the hollow mill comes in the shape of thick-walled pipe. The cutting edge lies within the pipe. The hollow mill and serves as alternatives for a box tool and is commonly applied upon screw machines and turret lathes. They are also used on milling machines or for drilling presses on a turrion and other cylindrical bosses for finishing.

Woodruff cutter

This type of milling cutter is mainly used to cut the keyway for a woodruff key. This is called the woodruff cutter.

Fly cutter

A fly cutter has a body made up of either one or two tool bits inserted into it. Its individual cutters could be replaced whenever it needs to be changed. Fly cutters are easy on the budget and good for its rigidity and cutting capabilities.

Face mill

A face mill’s cutter body is made up of the right machine taper and is specially designed to hold more than one ceramic tips, inserts, or disposable carbides that are usually gold in color. The inserts used in the face mill have different types. Before selecting one you will need to know the tip shape, material being cut and the cutting action required. The tips will get blunt after excessive use and will eventually need to be replaced. Fly cutters are expensive but have a great economical cutting life.


Hobs are used generally for hobbing machines to generate gears. What generates the desired shape on the workpiece is the cross section of the tooth of this cutter. The hob is one of the few milling cutters that is specially designed.

Involute gear cutter

The involute gear cutter has 8 cutters and  doesn’t include the rare half sizes. Its purpose is to cut gears ranging from 12 teeth through to infinite diameter or rack.

Side-and-face cutter

The cutting teeth, or the side-and-face cutter, is located on its circumference. There are varied widths and diameters for this type of milling cutter and each one used for different applications.

Slab mill

Slab mills can be used alone or in a gang milling operation. They are applied on large and broad surfaces so that can be cut quickly.

Ball nose cutter

Ball nose cutter is identical to slot drills but has hemispherical ends. This cutter is also called a ball mill and is ideal to use on 3-dimensional contoured objects such as molds and dies.

Roughing end mill

Roughing end mills are fast in operation and do not produce much chatter or vibration. this mill is ideal for removing large amounts of material and produces a surface with a rough finish.

Slot drill

Slot drills usually consist of two, three, or four fluted cutters that drill straight down into the material.

End mill

End mills have cutting edges on both ends. They are usually used in a vertical mill.

Whatever type of milling cutter you use, always follow safety recommendations. Always remember to select the right cutting tool for your needs.

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