Mill vs Lathe: Know the Difference Between Best Two CNC Machines

Generally, mill and lathe follow the same principle called subtractive machining. We take a workpiece, give it a shape and convert it with our desired specifications. Milling machines and lathes are used for cutting raw material but they differ in functionality and usage. So, it is essential to find out the primary difference between them for you to choose the right one

Our team has an in-depth knowledge base of such machines. We believe that our experiences can help you to understand the difference between a mill and a lathe. It is also one of the most common questions asked in our industry. This article is to understand how they both work individually.

Lathe vs Mill

1. Technique

LatheThe most significant difference between these two machines lies in their technique. A milling machine uses a spinning tool to cut. While a lathe itself spins the material. A milling machine turns the cutting blade, which rotates about its axis. Here, the material does not move. A lathe, on the other hand, allows the workpiece to move, but it does not allow the cutting tool to run. The material spins about its axis.

2. Precision

Lathe involves less precision when compared to mill machines. However, a mill allows the tool to reach various complex parts. Thus, the milling machine involves more precision. A lathe can become your best buddy when you want to create quick, repeatable, and symmetrical cylindrical parts. On the other hand, you must have proper clearance and adequate tools to work with the milling machine.

3. Versatility

MillA milling machine is more versatile when compared to the lathe machine. There are many cutting tools available which can help you get whatever you expect from a workpiece. A mill can also cut more creative shapes. Lathe machines are limited. They do not need multiple setups to create the same part. They can only work for cylindrical parts.

4. Tools

The primary tool used on a lathe is an insert cutter. While the milling machines use end-mills, drills, and face-mills. So, if you require speedy production, specifically for the cylindrical parts, you must choose a lathe over a mill. It is better at holding. But if you need unique designs, try using mill machines.

5. Type of Work

cnc-machining-business-for-saleYou can drill only on the center with a lathe. If you need any off-center hole or if you want to make straight cuts in metal, you should use the milling machine. A mill can cut in various angles.

6. Capabilities

Lathe machines are capable of turning, drilling, cutting, sanding, etc. while milling machines can help you with boring, cutting, shaping, flattening and rounding off edges.

7. Installation/Setup

While setting up the lathe, the chuck jaws should be installed equidistant from the center. It reduces the chances of errors during work. To use a milling machine, you have to make sure that it is straight. For that, you have to take measures before installing it. Installation of milling machines are easy.

8. Mounted Cutters

cnc-lathe-harrison-m500-1-500x500More than one cutters can be mounted simultaneously on the arbor of a milling machine. Lathes are not designed like that! Not only in cutters, but milling machines also allow for more versatility in the choice of materials.

9. Computer Numerical Control (CNC)

One exciting part of mill vs lathe is that both types of machines can be operated manually. Apart from that, you can also control them with a computer. CNC creates a file using CAD/CAM. Mill and lathe are two of the best CNC machines.

Each machine is useful in the workshop for working on different materials. They can work on wood, metals, and plastics! Nowadays, multitasking machines are also available in the market because of developing technologies. Such devices combine milling processes with turning processes.


After considering these points, you will know how to utilize the maximum capabilities of each tool to produce a masterpiece. Understanding the differences in depth will help you put your workpiece into the right machine and get the maximum benefits. How the part is actually shaped is the crucial difference between a mill and a lathe. Otherwise, both are used for cutting raw material.

We hope you are now clear about how mills and lathes are different from each other.

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