Milling Chuck: How Does it Work? Explained

Milling Chuck: How Does it Work? Explained

Milling Chuck: How Does it Work? Explained

Milling chucks are high-end tool-holding devices employed in low to moderate-speed milling and drilling jobs.

It's similar to the popular collet chucks but has a different working mechanism and is used for holding tools with a larger shank diameter.

This article explains the working of a milling chuck and gives an overview of its features and applications.

Milling chucks work using its unique tightening mechanism. The series of angled needle bearings between the holder and nut allows it to hold tools with great holding power. This makes them a good choice for holding tools with thick shanks used for heavy milling jobs.

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How does a Milling Chuck Work? Explained

A milling chuck is one of the essential parts of a CNC milling machine as well as manual milling machines.

Unlike lathe, milling chucks are used for holding the milling tool during the cutting operation.

You can better understand the working of a milling chuck by looking at each part and its function.

Following are the parts and nomenclature of a standard milling chuck.

Parts of a Milling Chuck and Their Working

Parts of a milling chuck
Parts of a milling chuck

Taper Ground

Taper ground is a cone-shaped feature on a milling chuck. It entirely goes into the spindle bore. You must choose a milling chuck with a tapper that matches your machine.

The taper-ground screws into the drawbar on the spindle.

In morse tapered milling chucks, the torque is transferred through the taper. In others, it happens through notches with the help of dogs on the spindle.

Solid Stop

Solid stops are used in some milling chucks to cut off pushback from the sleeves during heavy milling and drilling operations.

It can be adjusted for different tool lengths, allowing for better repeatability from part to part.


A sleeve, also called a collet, is a part that holds onto the tool. Milling chucks use a straight sleeve that grips throughout the diameter of a cutting tool's shank.

They have a specific range of holding capacity, meaning a single sleeve can hold multiple shank sizes.

Tapered Nut, Holder Body, and Needle Bearings

The tapered nut goes over the tapered holder body. Between them is an angled needle-bearing system.

Turning the nut clockwise over the holder body works similarly to threads on a cap.

The needle bearings slowly climb over the taper on the holder's body, providing a tight grip over the tool.

Only tighten the chuck's holder if it has a tool in it. Otherwise, its gripping force can damage the holder.

Tighten the nut till it touches the holder's body. Overtightening can cause the needle bearings to compress and climb over each other. This can negatively affect the tool's runout.

Coolant Cap and Ring

Coolant cap and ring go over the sleeve face. The coolant ring has holes in them that direct the coolant flow while the coolant cap securely keeps the coolant ring in place.

You can change the coolant ring for different coolant flow settings by loosening up the coolant cap.

Nomenclature of a Milling Chuck

Nomenclature of a milling chuck
Nomenclature of a milling chuck

Nut Diameter (D1)

Nut diameter is the outer diameter of the nut that's tightened over the milling chuck's holder.

Shank/Bore Diameter (D2)

The shank or bore diameter is the internal diameter of the sleeve placed inside the milling chuck. It defines the maximum tool size it can house.

Guage Length (L1)

Guage length is the total length of the milling chuck from its face to where the taper starts.

It also represents the length of the tool holder that projects outside the spindle.

Clamping Length (L2)

Clamping length is the total length of the sleeve that grips toward the cutting tool.

If the tool shank length is much longer, it will expose more of the tool's length. This can jitter and break off the tool during the machining process.

Adjustment Range (AR)

The adjustment range is mainly seen on milling chucks having backup screws. You can utilize this space to house tools having different shank lengths.

It doesn't consider the default clamping length and is a separate indicator.

Different Collet and Nut Systems used in Milling Chucks

KM Collet

KM Collet
KM Collet (Source: Grainger)

KM collets are the standard collet system used for milling chucks. They have a defined clamping range and have split on the front and rear faces.

Because of their split design, they continuously grip the tool shank.

NK Collet

NK Collet
NK Collet (Source: Monotaro)

NK collets, also known as adjustable collets, are equipped with a backup screw. You can move this screw forward or backward to adjust the tool room of the collet.

It helps attain better repeatability when working with different tools.


Coolant-Thru nut and collet for milling chucks
Coolant-Thru nut and collet for milling chucks (Source: Lyndex-Nikken)

Coolant-through systems use special collets and nuts to pass through the cutting fluid.

These collets have internal grooves through which the coolant flows. It forms a tight sealing around the tool, allowing the coolant to flush throughout its surface.

It helps prevent the collet's face from chips/swarf buildup.

Slotted Nut

Slotted Nut
Slotted Nut: fixed angle slotted (left) and adjustable nozzle nut (right) (Source: Lyndex-Nikken)

Slotted nuts are available in fixed-angle and adjustable nozzle configurations.

Fixed-angle nuts channel the coolant flow toward the tool periphery. It's helpful when performing drilling operations.

Adjustable nozzle nuts are much more versatile as they allow you to guide the coolant flow direction based on your job requirement.

Direct Coolant Plug

Direct Coolant Plug
Direct Coolant Plug (Source: Lyndex-Nikken)

Direct coolant plug is a collet and nut system with a backup screw, as in NK collets, passing the coolant through the tool.

It forces the coolant directly to the cutting area, helping it remove live chips. This makes them a good choice for deep drilling jobs.

The O-ring seal on the nut provides better sealing to the coolant allowing up to 1,200 PSI flow.

Applications of Milling Chucks

Milling chucks are primarily employed to hold medium-sized cutting tools with a shank diameter between 1/4" and 2".

The most commonly used milling chucks are of 1" bore diameter, and the common reduction sleeve range among them is 1/4".

Milling chucks can hold these tools with a greater force than the popular ER collets. Also, its twist-lock mechanism allows for faster tool mounting.

You can use milling chucks for all kinds of milling jobs, and its indexable tooling support provides great versatility.

Final Thoughts

Milling chucks are a great device to hold large tools used in heavy milling applications.

The straight sleeves used inside the chuck bore grip the cutting tool all around it, providing a stronger hold.

In addition, the needle-bearing mechanism on milling chucks exerts a great gripping force on the tool shank with low runoff.

Milling chucks are larger and heavier than other tool holders. This helps them in dampening vibrations.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the difference between a chuck and a collet?

The major difference between a chuck and a collet is in their work or tool-holding range. Collets are used to hold workpieces under 2.5" whereas a chuck like a 3-jaw or 4-jaw chuck can hold workpieces of 12" or more, but as the workpiece or tool diameter increases, its gripping force decreases. For precision jobs, collets are the best option.

What are the advantages of a milling chuck over an end mill holder?

The advantages of a milling chuck over an end mill holder are its lower tool runout, reduced vibration, and higher max speed. You can spin a milling chuck up to a maximum speed of 20,000 RPM, while most end mills max out at around 10,000 RPM. Also, the end mill holders only have jet slots for coolant flow, but milling chucks can have a through, jet, or collet slot.

What are the different types of collets?

Some common types of collets are 5C collet, R8 collet, ER collet, TG collet, auto-lock collet, dead length collet, DA collet, AF collet, RDO collet, watchmaker collet, morse tapper collet, step collet, etc.

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Hey I'm John. I write about Manufacturing, Metalworking, CNCs and Lasers at Mellowpine. If you have any questions related to CNCs or Lasers, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at mail@mellowpine.com

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Hey I'm John. I write about Manufacturing, Metalworking, CNCs and Lasers at Mellowpine. If you have any questions related to CNCs or Lasers, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at mail@mellowpine.com

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