Classification of Milling Cutters

Milling cutters are usually made of high-speed steel and are available in a great variety of shapes and sizes for various purposes. You should know the names of the most common classifications of cutters, their uses, and, in a general way, the sizes best suited to the work at hand.

Milling Cutter Nomenclature

Figure 8-3 shows two views of a common milling cutter with its parts and angles identified. These parts and angles in  some form are common to all cutter types.

Figure 8-3. Milling cutter nomenclature.

Types of Teeth

The teeth of milling cutters may be made for right-hand or left-hand rotation, and with either right-hand or left-hand helix. Determine the hand of the cutter by looking at the face of the cutter when mounted on the spindle. A right-hand cutter must rotate counterclockwise; a left-hand cutter must rotate clockwise. The right-hand helix is shown by the flutes leading to the right; a left-hand helix is shown by the flutes leading to the left. The direction of the helix does not affect the cutting ability of the cutter, but take care to see that the direction of rotation is correct for the hand of the cutter (Figure 8-4).

Figure 8-4. Left and right cutters.

Saw Teeth

Saw teeth similar to those shown in Figure 8-3 are either straight or helical in the smaller sizes of plain milling cutters, metal slitting saw milling cutters, and end milling cutters. The cutting edge is usually given about 5 degrees primary clearance. Sometimes the teeth are provided with off-set nicks which break up chips and make coarser feeds possible.

Helical Milling Cutters

The helical milling cutter is similar, to the plain milling cutter, but the teeth have a helix angle of 45° to 60°. The steep helix produces a shearing action that results in smooth, vibration-free cuts. They are available for arbor mounting, or with an integral shank with or without a pilot. This type of helical cutter is particularly useful for milling elongated slots and for light cuts on soft metal. See Figure 8-5.

Figure 8-5. Helical and plain milling cutters.

Metal Slitting Saw Milling Cutter

The metal slitting saw milling cutter is essentially a very thin plain milling cutter. It is ground slightly thinner toward the center to provide side clearance. These cutters are used for cutoff operations and for milling deep, narrow slots, and are made in widths from 1/32 to 3/16 inch.

Side Milling Cutters

Side milling cutters are essentially plain milling cutters with the addition of teeth on one or both sides. A plain side milling cutter has teeth on both sides and on the periphery. When teeth are added to one side only, the cutter is called a half-side milling cutter and is identified as being either a right-hand or left-hand cutter. Side milling cutters are generally used for slotting and straddle milling.

Interlocking tooth side milling cutters and staggered tooth side milling cutters are used for cutting relatively wide slots with accuracy (Figure 8-6). Interlocking tooth side milling cutters can be repeatedly sharpened without changing the width of the slot they will machine.

Figure 8-6. Various milling cutters.

After sharpening, a washer is placed between the two cutters to compensate for the ground off metal. The staggered tooth cutter is the most washer is placed between the two cutters to compensate for efficient type for milling slots where the depth exceeds the width.

End Milling Cutters

The end milling cutter, also called an end mill, has teeth on the end as well as the periphery. The smaller end milling cutters have shanks for chuck mounting or direct spindle mounting. End milling cutters may have straight or spiral flutes. Spiral flute end milling cutters are classified as left-hand or right-hand cutters depending on the direction of rotation of the flutes. If they are small cutters, they may have either a straight or tapered shank.

The most common end milling cutter is the spiral flute cutter containing four flutes. Two-flute end milling cutters, sometimes referred to as two-lip end mill cutters, are used for milling slots and keyways where no drilled hole is provided for starting the cut. These cutters drill their own starting holes. Straight flute end milling cutters are generally used for milling both soft or tough materials, while spiral flute cutters are used mostly for cutting steel.

Large end milling cutters (normally over 2 inches in diameter) are called shell end mills and are recessed on the face to receive a screw or nut for mounting on a separate shank or mounting on an arbor, like plain milling cutters. The teeth are usually helical and the cutter is used particularly for face milling operations requiring the facing of two surfaces at right angles to each other.

T-Slot Milling Cutter

The T-slot milling cutter is used to machine T-slot grooves in worktables, fixtures, and other holding devices. The cutter has a plain or side milling cutter mounted to the end of a narrow shank. The throat of the T-slot is first milled with a side or end milling cutter and the headspace is then milled with the T-slot milling cutter.

Woodruff Keyslot Milling Cutters

The Woodruff keyslot milling cutter is made in straight, tapered-shank, and arbor-mounted types. See Figure 8-7. The most common cutters of this type, under 1 1/2 inches in diameter, are provided with a shank. They have teeth on the periphery and slightly concave sides to provide clearance. These cutters are used for milling semicylindrical keyways in shafts.

Figure 8-7. End mill, T-slot, and Woodruff cutters.

Angle Milling Cutters

The angle milling cutter has peripheral teeth which are neither parallel nor perpendicular to the cutter axis. See Figure 8-8. Common operations performed with angle cutters are cutting V-notches and serration’s. Angle cutters may be single-angle milling cutters or double-angle milling cutters. The single-angle cutter contains side-cutting teeth on the flat side of the cutter. The angle of the cutter edge is usually 30°, 45°, or 60°, both right and left. Double-angle cutters have included angles of 45, 60, and 90 degrees.

Figure 8-8. Angle, concave, convex, corner, and gear cutters.

Gear Hob

The gear hob is a formed tooth milling cutter with helical teeth arranged like the thread on a screw. These teeth- are fluted to produce the required cutting edges. Hobs are generally used for such work as finishing spur gears, spiral gears, and worm gears. They may also be used to cut ratchets and spline shafts.

Concave and Convex Milling Cutters

Concave and convex milling cutters are formed tooth cutters shaped to produce concave and convex contours of 1/2 circle or less. The size of the cutter is specified by the diameter of the circular form the cutter produces.

Corner Rounding Milling Cutter

The corner-rounding milling cutter is a formed tooth cutter used for milling rounded corners on workplaces up to and including one-quarter of a circle. The size of the cutter is specified by the radius of the circular form the cutter produces, such as concave and convex cutters generally used for such work as finishing spur gears, spiral gears, and worm wheels. They may also be used to cut ratchets and spline shafts.

Special Shaped-Formed Milling Cutter

Formed milling cutters have the advantage of being adaptable to any specific shape for special operations. The cutter is made specially for each specific job. In the field, a fly cutter is formed by grinding a single point lathe cutter bit for mounting in a bar, holder, or fly cutter arbor. The cutter can be sharpened many times without destroying its shape.

Selection of Milling Cutters

Consider the following when choosing milling cutters:

Size of Milling Cutter

In selecting a milling cutter for a particular job, choose one large enough to span the entire work surface so the job can be done with a single pass. If this cannot be done, remember that a small diameter cutter will pass over a surface in a shorter time than a large diameter cutter which is fed at the same speed. This fact is illustrated in Figure 8-9.

Figure 8-9. Effect of milling cutting diameter on workpiece travel.

Care and Maintenance of Milling Cutters

The life of a milling cutter can be greatly prolonged by intelligent use and proper storage. General rules for the care and maintenance of milling cutters are given below.


Milling machine arbors are made in various lengths and in standard diameters of 7/8,1,1¼, and 1½ inch. The shank is made to fit the taper hole in the spindle while the other end is threaded.


The threaded end may have left or right-handed threads.

The milling machine spindle may be self-holding or self-releasing. The self-holding taper is held in the spindle by the high wedging force. The spindle taper in most milling machines is self-releasing; tooling must be held in place by a draw bolt extending through the center of the spindle.

Arbors are supplied with one of three tapers to fit the milling machine spindle: the Standard Milling Machine taper, the Brown and Sharpe taper, and the Brown and Sharpe taper with tang (Figure 8-10).

Figure 8-10. Tapers used for milling machine arbors.

The Standard Milling Machine Taper is used on most machines of recent manufacture. See Figure 8-11. These tapers are identified by the number 30, 40, 50, or 60. Number 50 is the most commonly used size on all modern machines.

Figure 8-11. Standard milling machine arbor.

The Brown and Sharpe taper is found mostly on older machines. Adapters or collets are used to adapt these tapers to fit machines whose spindles have Standard Milling Machine tapers.

The Brown and Sharpe taper with tang is used on some older machines. The tang engages a slot in the spindle to assist in driving the arbor,

Standard Milling Machine Arbor

The standard milling machine arbor has a tapered, cylindrical shaft with a standard milling taper on the driving end and a threaded portion on the opposite end to receive the arbor nut. One or more milling cutters may be placed on the straight cylindrical portion of the arbor and held in position by sleeves and the arbor nut. The standard milling machine arbor is usually splined and keys are used to lock each cutter to the arbor shaft. These arbors are supplied in three styles, various lengths and, standard diameters.

The most common way to fasten the arbor in the milling machine spindle is to use a draw bar. The bar threads into the taper shank of the arbor to draw the taper into the spindle and hold it in place. Arbors secured in this manner are removed by backing out the draw bar and tapping the end of the bar to loosen the taper.

The end of the arbor opposite the taper is supported by the arbor supports of the milling machine. One or more supports reused depending on the length of the arbor and the degree of rigidity required. The end may be supported by a lathe center bearing against the arbor nut or by a bearing surface 0f the arbor fitting inside a bushing of the arbor support.

The arbor may also be firmly supported as it turns in the arbor support bearing suspended from the over-arm (Figure 8-12).

Figure 8-12. Arbor installation.


Typical milling arbors are illustrated in Figure 8-13. Listed on the next page are several types of Style C arbors.

Figure 8-13. Typical milling arbors.

Style A has a cylindrical pilot on the end that runs in a bronze bearing in the arbor support. This style is mostly used on small milling machines or when maximum arbor support clearance is required.

Style B is characterized by one or more bearing collars that can be positioned to any part of the arbor. This allows the bearing support to be positioned close to the cutter, to-obtain rigid setups in heavy duty milling operations).

Style C arbors are used to mount the smaller size milling cutters, such as end mills that cannot be bolted directly on the spindle nose. Use the shortest arbor possible for the work.

Screw Arbor

Screw arbors are used to hold small cutters that have threaded holes. See Figure 8-14. These arbors have a taper next to the threaded portion to provide alignment and support for tools that require a nut to hold them against a taper surface. A right-hand threaded arbor must be used for right-hand cutters while a left-hand threaded arbor is used to mount left-hand cutters.

The slitting saw milling cutter arbor (Figure 8-14) is a short arbor having two flanges between which the milling cutter is secured by tightening a clamping nut. This arbor is used to hold metal slitting saw milling cutters used for slotting, slitting, and sawing operations.

Figure 8-14. Arbor variations.

The shell end milling cutter arbor has a bore in the end in which shell end milling cutters fit and are locked in place by means of a cap screw.

The fly cutter arbor is used to support a single-edge lathe, shaper, or planer cutter bit for boring and gear cutting operations on the milling machine.



A collet is a form of a sleeve bushing for reducing the size of the hole in the milling machine spindle so that small shank tools can be fitted into large spindle recesses (Figure 8-15). They are made in several forms, similar to drilling machine sockets and sleeves, except that their tapers are not alike.

Figure 8-15.  Solid and spring collets.

Spindle Adapters

A spindle adapter is a form of a collet having a standardized spindle end. They are available in a wide variety of sizes to accept cutters that cannot be mounted on arbors. They are made with either the Morse taper shank or the Brown and Sharpe taper with tang having a standard spindle end (Figure 8-16).

Figure 8-16.  Milling machine adaptors.

Chuck Adapter

A chuck adapter (Figure 8-17) is used to attach chucks to milling machines having a standard spindle end. The collet holder is sometimes referred to as a collet chuck. Various forms of chucks can be fitted to milling machines spindles for holding drills, reamers, and small cutters for special operations.

Figure 8-17 . Chuck adaptor.

Quick-Change Tooling

The quick-change adapter mounted on the spindle nose is used to speed up tool changing. Tool changing with this system allows you to set up a number of milling operations such as drilling, end milling, and boring without changing the setup of the part being machined. The tool holders are mounted and removed from a master holder mounted to the machine spindle by means of a clamping ring (Figure 8-18).

Figure 8-18.  Quick-change adaptor and tool holder.


Either a plain or swivel-type vise is furnished with each milling machine. The plain vise, similar to the machine table vise, is used for milling straight workplaces and is bolted to the milling machine table either at right angles or parallel to the machine arbor. The swivel vise can be rotated and contains a scale graduated in degrees at its base to facilitate milling workplaces at any angle on a horizontal plane. The universal vise, which may be obtained as extra equipment, is designed so that it can be set at both horizontal and vertical angles. This type of vise maybe used for flat and angular milling. The all-steel vise is the strongest setup because the workpiece is clamped closer to the table. The vise can securely fasten castings, forgings, and rough-surfaced workplaces. The jaw can be positioned in any notch on the two bars to accommodate different shapes and sizes. The air or hydraulically operated vise is used more often in production work. This type of vise eliminates tightening by striking the crank with a lead hammer or other soft face hammer.


The adjustable angle plate is a workpiece holding device, similar to the universal vise in operation. Workpieces are mounted to the angle plate with T-bolts and clamps in the same manner used to fasten workplaces to the worktable of the milling machine. The angle plate can be adjusted to any angle so that bevels and tapers can be cut without using a special milling cutter or an adjustable cutter head.


The index fixture (Figure 8-19) consists of an index head, also called a dividing head, and footstock which is similar to the tailstock of a lathe. The index head and footstock attach to the worktable of the milling machine by T-slot bolts. An index plate containing graduations is used to control the rotation of the index head spindle. The plate is fixed to the index head, and an index crank, connected to the index head spindle by a worm gear and shaft. Workpieces are held between centers by the index head spindle and footstock. Workpieces may also be held in a chuck mounted to the index head spindle or may be fitted directly into the taper spindle recess of some indexing fixtures. There are many variations of the indexing fixture. Universal index head is the name applied to an index head designed to permit power drive of the spindle so that helixes may be cut on the milling machine. Gear cutting attachment is another name applied to an indexing fixture; in this case, one that is primarily intended for cutting gears on the milling machine.

Figure 8-19 . Indexing fixture.


The rate of spindle speed of the milling machine may be increased from 1 1/2 to 6 times by using the high-speed milling attachment. This attachment is essential when using cutters and twist drills which must be driven at a high rate of speed in order to obtain an efficient surface speed. The attachment is clamped to the column of the machine and is driven by a set of gears from the milling machine spindle.


This attachment converts the horizontal spindle of a horizontal milling machine to a vertical spindle. It is clamped to the column and driven from the horizontal spindle. It incorporates provisions for setting the head at any angle, from the vertical to the horizontal, in a plane at right angles to the machine spindle. End milling and face milling are more easily accomplished with this attachment, because the cutter and the surface being cut are in plain view.


This device is similar to the vertical spindle attachment but is more versatile. The butterhead can be swiveled to any angle in any plane, whereas the vertical spindle attachment only rotates in one place from horizontal to vertical.


This attachment consists of a circular worktable containing T-slots for mounting workplaces. The circular table revolves on a base attached to the milling machine worktable. The attachment can be either hand or power driven, being connected to the table drive shaft if power driven. It may be used for milling circles, angular indexing, arcs, segments, circular slots, grooves, and radii, as well as for slotting internal and external gears. The table of the attachment is divided in degrees (Figure 8-20).

Figure 8-20.  Rotary table (circular milling attachment).


Boring, an operation that is too often restricted to a lathe, can be done easily on a milling machine. The offset boring head is an attachment that fits to the milling machine spindle and permits most drilled holes to have a better surface finish and greater diameter accuracy.


Figure 8-21 shows an offset boring head. Note that the boring bar can be adjusted at a right angle to the spindle axis. This feature makes it possible to position the boring cutter accurately to bore holes of varying diameters.

Figure 8-21.  Offset boring head.

This adjustment is more convenient than adjusting the cutter in the boring bar holder or changing the boring bar. Another advantage of the offset boring head is the fact that a graduated micrometer collar allows the tool to be moved accurately a specified amount (usually in increments of 0.001) without the use of a dial indicator or other measuring device.


On some boring heads, the reading on the tool slide is a direct reading. On other boring heads, the tool slide advances twice the amount shown on the micrometer dial.


An efficient and positive method of holding workplaces to the milling machine table is important if the machine tool is to be used to its fullest advantage. The most common methods of holding are clamping a workpiece to the table, clamping a workpiece to the angle plate, clamping the workpiece in fixtures, holding a workpiece between centers, holding the workpiece in a chuck, and holding the workpiece in a vise. Regardless of the method used in holding, there are certain factors that should be observed in every case. The workpiece must not be sprung in clamping, it must be secured to prevent it from springing or moving away from the cutter, and it must be so aligned that it may be correctly machined T-slots, Milling machine worktables are provided with several T-slots which are used either for clamping and locating the workpiece itself or for mounting the various holding devices and attachments. These T-slots extend the length of the table and are parallel to its line of travel. Most milling machine attachments, such as vises and index fixtures, have keys or tongues on the underside of their bases so that they may be located correctly in relation to the T-slots.


Clamping Workpieces to the Table

When clamping a workpiece to the worktable of the milling machine, the table and the workpiece should be free from dirt and burrs. Workpieces having smooth machined surfaces may be camped directly to the table, provided the cutter does not come in contact with the table surface during milling. When clamping workplaces with unfinished surfaces in this way, the table face should be protected from damage by using a shim under the workpiece. Paper, plywood, and sheet metal are shim materials. Clamps should be located on both sides of the workpiece if possible to give a full bearing surface. These clamps are held by T-slot bolts inserted in the T-slots of the table. Clamp supports must be the same height as the workpiece. Never use clamp supports that are lower than the workpiece. Adjustable step blocks are extremely useful to raise the clamps, as the height of the clamp bar may be adjusted to ensure maximum clamping pressure. Clamping bolts should be placed as near to the workpiece as possible so that the full advantage of the fulcrum principle may be obtained. When it is necessary to place a clamp on an overhanging part, a support should be provided between the overhang and the table to prevent springing or possible breakage. A stop should be placed at the end of the workpiece where it will receive the thrust of the cutter when heavy cuts are being taken.

Clamping a Workpiece to the Angle Plate

Workpieces clamped to the angle plate may be machined with surfaces parallel, perpendicular, or at an angle to a given surface. When using this method of holding a workpiece, precautions should be taken similar to those mentioned for clamping work directly to the table. Angle plates are either adjustable or nonadjustable and are generally held in alignment by keys or tongues that fit into the table T-slots.

Clamping Workpieces in Fixtures

Fixtures are generally used in production work where a number of identical pieces are to be machined. The design of the fixture depends upon the shape of the piece and the operations to be performed. Fixtures are always constructed

to secure maximum clamping surfaces and are built to use a minimum number of clamps or bolts in order to reduce the setup time required. Fixtures should always be provided with keys to assure positive alignment with the table T-slots.

Holding Workpieces Between Centers

The indexing fixture is used to support workplaces which are centered on both ends. When the piece has been previously reamed or bored, it may be pressed upon a mandrel and then mounted between the centers.

Two types of mandrels may be used for mounting workplaces between centers. The solid mandrel is satisfactory for many operations, while one having a shank tapered to fit into the index head spindle is preferred in certain cases.

A jackscrew is used to prevent springing of long slender workplaces held between centers or workplaces that extend some distance from the chuck.

Workpieces mounted between centers are fixed to the index head spindle by means of a lathe dog. The bent tail of the dog should be fastened between the setscrews provided in the driving center clamp in such a manner as to avoid backlash and prevent springing the mandrel. When milling certain types of workpieces, a milling machine dog is held in a flexible ball joint which eliminates shake or spring of the dog or the workpiece. The flexible ball joint allows the tail of the dog to move in a radius along the axis of the workpiece, making it particularly useful in the rapid milling of tapers.

Holdin g Workpieces in a Chuck

Before screwing the chuck to the index head spindle, it should be cleaned and any burrs on the spindle or chuck removed. Burrs may be removed with a smooth-cut, three cornered file or scraper, while cleaning should be accomplished with a piece of spring steel wire bent and formed to fit the angle of the threads. The chuck should not be tightened on the spindle so tightly that a wrench or bar is required to remove it. Cylindrical workplaces held in the universal chuck may be checked for trueness by using a test indicator mounted upon a base resting upon the milling machine table. The indicator point should contact the circumference of small diameter workpieces, or the circum­ference and exposed face of large diameter pieces. While checking, the workpiece should be revolved by rotating the index head spindle.

Holding Workpieces in the Vise

As previously mentioned, five types of vises are manufactured in various sizes for holding milling machine workplaces. These vises have locating keys or tongues on the underside of their bases so they may be located correctly in relation to the T-slots on the milling machine table (Figure 8-22).

Figure 8-22.  Locating key on a vise.

The plain vise similar to the machine table vise is fastened to the milling machine table. Alignment with the milling machine table is provided by two slots at right angles to each other on the underside of the vise. These slots are fitted with removable keys that align the vise with the table T-slots either parallel to the machine arbor or perpendicular to the arbor.

The swivel vise can be rotated and contains a scale graduated in degrees at its base which is fastened to the milling machine table and located by means of keys placed in the T-slots. By loosening the bolts which clamp the vise to its graduated base, the vise may be moved to hold the workpiece at any angle in a horizontal plane. To set a swivel vise accurately with the machine spindle, a test indicator should be clamped to the machine arbor and a check made to determine the setting by moving either the transverse or the longitudinal feeds, depending upon the position of the vise jaws. Any deviation as shown by the test indicator should be corrected by swiveling the vise on its base.

The universal vise is used for work involving compound angles, either horizontally or vertically. The base of the vise contains a scale graduated in degrees and can rotate 360° in the horizontal plane and 90° in the vertical plane. Due to the flexibility of this vise, it is not adaptable for heavy milling.

The all-steel vise is the strongest setup where the workpiece is clamped close to the table. This vise can securely fasten castings, forgings, and rough-surface workplaces. The jaws can be positioned in any notch on the two bars to accommodate different shapes and sizes.

The air or hydraulically operated vise is used more often in production work. This type of vise eliminates the tightening by striking the crank with a lead hammer or other soft face hammer.

When rough or unfinished workplaces are to be vise mounted, a piece of protecting material should be placed between the vise and the workpiece to eliminate marring by the vise jaws.

When it is necessary to position a workpiece above the vise jaws, parallels of the same size and of the proper height should be used. These parallels should only be high enough to allow the required cut, as excessive raising reduces the holding ability of the jaws. When holding a workpiece on parallels, a soft hammer should be used to tap the top surface of the piece after the vise jaws have been tightened. This tapping should be continued until the parallels cannot be moved by hand. After the workpiece is set, additional tightening of the vise should not be attempted, as such tightening has a tendency to raise the work off the parallels. Correct selection of parallels is illustrated in Figure 8-23.

Figure 8-23. Mounting workpiece in the vise.

Whenever possible, the workpiece should be clamped in the center of the vise jaws. However, when necessary to mill a short workpiece which must be held at the end of the vise, a spacing block of the same thickness as the piece should be placed at the opposite end of the jaws. This will avoid strain on the movable jaw and prevent the piece from slipping. If the workpiece is so thin that it is impossible to let it extend over the top of the vise, hold down straps are generally used. See Figure 8-24. These straps are hardened pieces of steel, having one vertical side tapered to form an angle of about 92° with the bottom side and the other vertical side tapered to a narrow edge. By means of these tapered surfaces, the workpiece is forced downward into the parallels, holding them firmly and leaving the top of the workpiece fully exposed to the milling cutter.

Figure 8-24.  Application of hold-down straps.


Indexing is the process of evenly dividing the circumference of a circular workpiece into equally spaced divisions, such as in cutting gear teeth, cutting splines, milling grooves in reamers and taps, and spacing holes on a circle. The index head of the indexing fixture is used for this purpose.

Index Head

The index head of the indexing fixture (Figure 8-19) contains an indexing mechanism which is used to control the rotation of the index head spindle to space or divide a workpiece accurately. A simple indexing mechanism consists of a 40-tooth worm wheel fastened to the index head spindle, a single-cut worm, a crank for turning the worm shaft, and an index plate and sector. Since there are 40 teeth in the worm wheel, one turn of the index crank causes the worm, and consequently, the index head spindle to make 1/40 of a turn;

Index Plate

The indexing plate (Figure 8-25) is a round plate with a series of six or more circles of equally spaced holes; the index pin on the crank can be inserted in any hole in any circle. With the interchangeable plates regularly furnished with most index heads, the spacing necessary for most gears, boltheads, milling cutters, splines, and so forth can be obtained. The following sets of plates are standard equipment.

Figure 8-25. Index plate and sector.

Brown and Sharpe type consists of 3 plates of 6 circles each drilled as follows:

Cincinnati type consists of one plate drilled on both sides with circles divided as follows:


The sector (Figure 8-25) indicates the next hole in which the pin is to be inserted and makes it unnecessary to count holes when moving the index crank after each cut. It consists of two radial, beveled arms which can be set at any angle to each other and then moved together around the center of the index plate. Suppose that, as shown in Figure 8-25, it is desired to make a series of cuts, moving the index crank 1 1/4 turns after each cut. Since the circle illustrated has 20 holes, turn the crank one full turn plus five spaces after each cut, Set the sector arms to include the desired fractional part of a turn or five spaces between the beveled edges of its arms, as shown. If the first cut is taken with the index pin against the left-hand arm, to take the next cut, move the pin once against the right-hand arm of the sector. Before taking the second cut, move the arms so that the left-hand arm is again against the pin; this moves the right-hand arm another five spaces ahead of the pin. Then take the second cut, and repeat the operation until all the cuts have been completed.


It is good practice always to index clockwise on the plate to eliminate backlash.

Plain Indexing

The following principles apply to basic indexing of workpieces:

Suppose it is desired to mill a project with eight equally spaced teeth. Since 40 turns of the index crank will turn the spindle one full turn, l/8th of 40 or 5 turns of the crank after each cut will space the gear for 8 teeth, If it is desired to space equally for 10 teeth, 1/10 of 40 or 4 turns would produce the correct spacing.

The same principle applies whether or not the divisions required divide equally into 40, For example, if it is desired to index for 6 divisions, 6 divided into 40 equals 6 2/3 turns; similarly, to index for 14 spaces, 14 divided into 40 equals 2 6/7 turns. These examples may be multiplied indefinitely and from them the following rule is derived: to determine the number of turns of the index crank needed to obtain one division of any number of equal divisions on the workpiece, divide 40 by the number of equal divisions desired (provided the worm wheel has 40 teeth, which is standard practice).

Direct Indexing

The construction of some index heads permits the worm to be disengaged from the worm wheel, making possible a quicker method of indexing called direct indexing. The index head is provided with a knob which, when turned through part of a revolution, operates an eccentric and disengages the worm.

Direct indexing is accomplished by an additional index plate fastened to the index head spindle. A stationary plunger in the index head fits the holes in this index plate. By moving this plate by hand to index directly, the spindle and the workpiece rotate an equal distance. Direct index plates usually have 24 holes and offer a quick means of milling squares, hexagons, taps, and so forth. Any number of divisions which is a factor of 24 can be indexed quickly and conveniently by the direct indexing method.

Differential Indexing

Sometimes, a number of divisions is required which cannot be obtained by simple indexing with the index plates regularly supplied. To obtain these divisions, a differential index head is used. The index crank is connected to the wormshaft by a train of gears instead of a direct coupling as with simple indexing. The selection of these gears involves calculations similar to those used in calculating change gear ratio for lathe thread cutting.

Indexing in Degrees

Workpieces can be indexed in degrees as well as fractions of a turn with the usual index head. There are 360 degrees in a complete circle and one turn of the index crank revolves the spindle 1/40 or 9 degrees. Therefore, 1/9 turn of the crank rotates the spindle 1 degree. Workpieces can therefore be indexed in degrees by using a circle of holes divisible by 9. For example, moving the crank 2 spaces on an 18-hole circle, 3 spaces on a 27-hole circle, or 4 spaces on a 36-hole circle will rotate the spindle 1 degree, Smaller crank movements further subdivide the circle: moving 1 space on an 18-hole circle turns the spindle 1/2 degree (30 minutes), 1 space on a 27-hole circle turns the spindle 1/3 degree (20 minutes), and so forth.

Indexing Operations

The following examples show how the index plate is used to obtain any desired part of a whole spindle turn by plain indexing,

Therefore, 6 full turns of the crank plus 12 spaces on an 18- hole circle is the correct indexing for 6 divisions.

Therefore, 30 holes on a 39-hole circle is the correct indexing for 52 divisions. When counting holes, start with the first hole ahead of the index pin.