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A full-size turret mill is, of necessity, a heavy, expensive piece of equipment, impractical for most individual owners due to space and/or monetary constraints. For hobby work, however, a so-called “mini mill” can perform very well. The chief limitation of a mini-mill is not so much the quality of the work it can produce, but the size of the work it can handle.

Most mini-mills on the U.S. market today are manufactured by SIEG Industrial Group in Shanghai. Their X2 model is typical, and versions of the tool are sold under various brands in the U.S. including Grizzly, Central Machinery (Harbor Freight), and Microlux (Micro-Mark). This chart from LittleMachineShop.com (who sell their own high-end version of the X2, pictured at the top of this post), compares the features of the various brands, and seems like a pretty good place to start planning a purchase. Frank Hoose’s pages, as usual, are another good source of information.

Sean Michael Ragan

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.


  • http://twitter.com/DocTropikal J Korwek

    Im sure it’s a decent mill, but if you’re going to buy one don’t get it from harbor freight. My father and I tried to get one and every time it was delivered the motor was broken off its mount (no way to fix it either, made from cheap plastic and packed poorly)

    • Ed Plese

      I’m glad I’m not the only one with that problem.  I have three (the original, plus 2 replacements) in my garage that arrived with the motor broken off the same way and they will be returned to Harbor Freight.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Miller/100000208825311 Michael Miller

    They’re grand and has been said many times before, consider a Harbor Freight purchase as a kit you’ve gotta disassemble and go through before use. 

    One of the achilles heels of these mills is the nylon/plastic geartrain. It’s noisy and prone to failure of you screw up a learning experience. My mill got a LOT more useful after retrofitting a belt drive kit like this: 
    http://littlemachineshop.com/products/product_view.php?ProductID=2560

    HF’s tech support, while a little slow, WAS helpful in fixing a band saw I purchased from them. Honestly, it was my mistake (bumped it parking the truck and broke one of the cast iron hinges)…it took three weeks for a slow boat from china, but they replaced it at their cost, even though it was my screw-up. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Frederico-Lopo/1700902285 Frederico Lopo

    MAKE seems to be taunting me this month!
    I’ve been saving up this whole year, with several ups and downs, to get my first lathe and/or mill.
    This month is when I am supposed to be able to do it. I have been anxiously counting the days to the end of the month.

    LittleMachineShop’s version is a Sieg SX2. S stands for ‘silent’ as it has a 500W brushless motor.
    Less noise, almost no maintenance, and since there is no friction, you don’t lose any torque at higher speeds. Also, at lower speeds, it’s a monster.

    I have also obsessively browsed through every european catalogue(I’m from Portugal) So, useful info for europeans: You can find the SX2 at Axminster.co.uk, and the X2 is available through several different sellers, like Machinemart, ChronosTools, and ArcEuroTrade.

    Hope it helps

    • Erik

      The S stands for SUPER not SILENT fyi

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