climb vs conventional milling

Climb Milling vs. Conventional Milling

There are two distinct ways to cut materials when milling: Conventional Milling (Up) and Climb Milling (Down). The difference between these two techniques is the relationship of the rotation of the cutter to the direction of feed. In Conventional Milling, the cutter rotates against the direction of the feed. During Climb Milling, the cutter rotates with the feed.

Conventional Milling is the traditional approach when cutting because the backlash, or the play between the lead screw and the nut in the machine table, is eliminated (Figure 1). Recently, however, Climb Milling has been recognized as the preferred way to approach a workpiece since most machines today compensate for backlash or have a backlash eliminator.


Key Conventional and Climb Milling Properties:

Conventional Milling (Figure 2)

  • Chip width starts from zero and increases which causes more heat to diffuse into the workpiece and produces work hardening
  • Tool rubs more at the beginning of the cut causing faster tool wear and decreases tool life
  • Chips are carried upward by the tooth and fall in front of cutter creating a marred finish and re-cutting of chips
  • Upwards forces created in horizontal milling* tend to lift the workpiece, more intricate and expansive work holdings are needed to lessen the lift created*

climb milling


Climb Milling (Figure 3)

  • Chip width starts from maximum and decreases so heat generated will more likely transfer to the chip
  • Creates cleaner shear plane which causes the tool to rub less and increases tool life
  • Chips are removed behind the cutter which reduces the chance of recutting
  • Downwards forces in horizontal milling is created that helps hold the workpiece down, less complex work holdings are need when coupled with these forces
  • Horizontal milling is when the center line of the tool is parallel to the work piece

climb milling

When to Choose Conventional or Climb Milling

Climb Milling is generally the best way to machine parts today since it reduces the load from the cutting edge, leaves a better surface finish, and improves tool life. During Conventional Milling, the cutter tends to dig into the workpiece and may cause the part to be cut out of tolerance.

However, though Climb Milling is the preferred way to machine parts, there are times when Conventional Milling is the necessary milling style. One such example is if your machine does not counteract backlash. In this case, Conventional Milling should be implemented. In addition, this style should also be utilized on casting, forgings or when the part is case hardened (since the cut begins under the surface of the material).


7 replies

    This is one of those left hand cutters! How about turning the tool, and cutter the correct direction. G41 climb cutting on the right side. G42 or conventional cutting on the left. Sorry I couldn’t help myself.

  2. Rich
    Rich says:

    Great article. I’ve had to use conventional milling when for example, I’d have my thin unsupported part sticking out of work holding with the tool path contouring around the part (think milling end while cutting a part in a lathe) with the material flexing would cause snapping while climbing because it wants to take a large bite as opposed to ramping the cut in. But yeah, 95% or more is climbing.

  3. Dustin Maki
    Dustin Maki says:

    “Conventional Milling should be… utilized on casting, forgings”
    In my head, I logically organize castings as least processed, forgings as most processed, and everything else (hot rolled, cold rolled, extruded) somewhere in between. So to me, that part seems to say ‘use conventional milling for everything’, which is obviously not right. Could you show me where I went wrong,? More specific examples, like case hardening, why a particular direction of cut is preferred for a chunk of metal with unknown provenance.

    • Guy Petrillo
      Guy Petrillo says:

      Thank you for the question Dustin! We would suggest conventional milling when your material has a rough surface, such as cast iron, or is anodized because when conventional milling your cut is scooping underneath the surface to remove your material making it easier on your tool. Also, you want to conventional mill when using a dovetail cutter that has a weak neck diameter because this will help relieve the pressure on the neck of your tool.


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