Drill Press vs. Mill – What Are the Differences?

DIY crafting and home repair tasks are becoming widely popular these days. Primarily due to the rise of many hobbyists and amateur project enthusiasts, people are getting more and more inclined to use various types of power tools.

drill press vs mill

But before jumping into the wildly satisfying hobby of machining, you need to know the difference between seemingly identical tools such as the drill press and milling machine.

In this article, we will cover an in-depth review about drill press vs. mill that will help you in your quest to learn about them. You will also get to know which is better and more suited to your preferences. Without further ado, let’s jump right in!

Drill Press Basics

A drill press contains interchangeable bits that move up and down vertically on the z-axis along with a fixed upright setup. The primary purpose is to drill holes of variable diameters on rigid surfaces depending on the shape of the drill bit.

Now the major mode of operation is manual. So, the operator has control over how shallow or how deep the plunge hole ends up being. You can control the amount of force applied on the surface by hand. Some drill press machines even have options to control rotary speeds.

You simply place your desired material under the head of the drill press between the vise at the tabletop. After that, you crank the handle to move the spinning rotor down and plunge the drill bit into the material. Some models even allow you to adjust the height of the table.


  • Efficient operation.
  • Sturdy construction with ground steel column.
  • Maximum support at head and table.
  • Easy assembly and handling.
  • Beginner-friendly.


  • Difficult to alter positions.
  • Slow operation.

Milling Machine Basics

A milling machine, on the other hand, works on the same principle but can be used with a wide array of tools instead of specific drill bits. The devices are generally designed specifically for cutting, drilling, or facing-off directly on the workpiece.

Also, the mechanism of action is quite similar. But instead of just one axis, milling machines allow movement of the tabletop in all three directions. The head rotates in some models of the machine as well.

You can place the material directly on the tabletop. After you adequately crank three handles for the three axes, the table itself will start moving instead of the machine. This will allow you to set the rotary speed more precisely and then plunge the workpiece directly toward the head.


  • High accuracy of the finished product
  • Multiple-axis movement
  • It can be converted into a drill press
  • Feature-rich and versatile


  • Quite expensive
  • Larger dimensions
  • Complex operation

Key Similarities

The only matchmaking possible between drill press and mill is by the fact that they are both used in woodworking to drill holes and cut grooves. Other than that, there is nothing too significant that can set them in the same category.

Both machines are designed to be used in woodworking shops, either by hand or automatic motion. You’ll usually find both of them in any prominent tool shop.

Key Differences

Although both the drill press and milling machine share a common working principle, the equipment varies wildly depending on some factors. Some of them are relatively minor but still influential.

Axis of Motion

The drill press is more of a steady sort of equipment that has more significant rigidity. It can only move in one axis and move either up or down along a straight line. There is no way to work on multiple surfaces at the same time. The milling machine is much more versatile in terms of motion or axis alignment.

Now the device can be used to create grooves or edges on the face of the material while still laying it flat in a process known as “facing-off.” The multidimensional equipment allows you to move the tabletop along all three axes, allowing speedier operation.


In terms of overall dimensions, drill presses are somewhat smaller in size and proportions. They are usually placed on top of the workbench and operated by hand.

Milling machines are significantly larger and take up much more space, owing to their expandable machinery. Hence, the device cannot be placed on top of workbenches and is instead set up directly on the workspace floor.

Both variants, however, have exceptions. There are industrial drill presses with huge dimensions and miniature mills with smaller sizes too.


The drill press is a kind of rough-cut equipment. You can, in fact, make it work as a piece of precise equipment. But that will take an intense amount of hard work and time from your end. You’ll have to run through numerous cycles and repetitions over the same workpiece in order to get a final finished product.

On the other hand, milling machines win the game when it comes to accuracy. Since the device can already move in all three axes simultaneously, you can rest assured that the finished product will come out much more polished. You can also place the material in multiple orientations and modify the outcomes.


Like we said before, drill presses are much more confined in terms of versatile applications. The motion of the drill bit is only along one axis and usually cannot be altered. Moreover, the only significant usage of this equipment is to drill holes on the workpiece. You have to hold the workpiece by hand and move it back and forth, thus compromising precision and stability.

The milling machine can be used for drilling, cutting, and facing-off. All in all, a mill can work just like a drill press and provide even more facilities. An excellent way to understand this is by its motion axes once again. You can drill and bore the workpiece in any direction while also edging the sides.

Comparing Chart of Drill Press and Mill

 Drill PressMilling Machine
Axes of MotionOne axis – verticalAll three axes
Size & DimensionsUsually smallLarge
WeightUsually lighterHeavy
ApplicationsDrillingDrilling, Cutting, Facing-off

Choosing Between Mill vs Drill Press

Choosing Between Mill vs Drill Press

The choice between drill press and mill solely depends on two factors – usage and budget.

Now the drill press is an inexpensive piece of equipment that is good for low-impact woodworking or DIY projects at best. It’s also less-favored by enthusiasts due to its restricting nature. If you are looking for a cheaper woodworking tool just to drill a hole with slightly less precision, the drill press is the way to go.

Also, if you are willing to invest in woodworking quite seriously and have the necessary budget, a milling machine will be more suitable for you.

Whether it’s a long-term hobby or a professional woodworking shop, a milling press will come into a lot of use. You can use it for everything that you can do with a drill press and much more. Moreover, the additional drill bits and modifications to a mill can help you unleash your creative potential to a far greater extent.

Final Words

In the battle of wits between a drill press and milling machine, the latter one takes the crown owing to a lot of factors. Simply the fact that it is wildly more versatile makes it a lot more appreciated by woodworking enthusiasts. The drill press, although easier to handle, is quite restricting.

All in all, we will suggest you go for the milling machine over drill press if you have the budget and workspace. We hope that you found this in-depth consultation about drill press vs. mill quite helpful. Happy woodworking!

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