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Multi-Functional Tools Every Shop Should Have

If there is one thing that all machinists and shop managers can agree on, it’s that time is money. Tool and material costs, employee wages, and keeping the lights on all add up, but most would agree that saving time is one of the best ways to make a shop more efficient.

Tool changes mid-job quickly add up when it comes to cycle times (not to mention tool costs), so using a tool capable of multiple operations whenever possible is an excellent first step. The following multi-functional tools are designed to save time and money at the spindle.

Drill/End Mills

drill mills

One look at Drill/End Mills or “Drill Mills” and it’s obvious that these tools are capable of more than a standard end mill. Two of the intended operations are right in the name (drilling and milling). Besides the obvious, though, drill mills are intended for grooving, spotting, and chamfering, bringing the total to five separate operations.

drill mill operations

Considering the amount of tools normally required to perform all of these common operations, keeping a few drill mills in your tool crib ensures you’re always ready to tackle them, not to mention the potential extra spots in your tool magazine.

Undercutting End Mills

undercutting end mills

Undercutting End Mills, also known as lollipop cutters or spherical ball end mills are surprisingly “well-rounded” tools. Besides milling an undercut feature on a part, which is typically very difficult with a standard end mill, these tools are capable of a few other operations.

undercutting end mill operations

Using an undercutting end mill to deburr in your machine is an excellent way to save time and effort. Some slotting and contouring operations, especially when 5-axis milling, are made far easier with an undercutting end mill, and in some situations, clearance challenges make them necessary.

Double Angle Shank Cutters

double angle shank cutters

Often referred to the “Swiss Army Knife of Machining” due to their versatility, Double Angle Shank Cutters are 6-in1 tools worth keeping on hand in any machine shop. Since these tools cut on all sides of their head, they are useful in a variety of situations.

multi-functional tools

With the ability to thread mill and countersink, Double Angle Shank cutters are perfect for holemaking operations. On top of that, their clearance advantage over standard end mills makes them extremely well suited to a variety of finishing operations in difficult to reach places.

Flat Bottom Tools

flat bottom tools

Flat Bottom Drills and Flat Bottom Counterbores are better suited to holemaking, but they are capable of a large variety of operations. They belong in a category together since their flat bottom geometry is what sets them apart from other tools in the same category. Flat bottom geometry keeps the tool from walking on irregular or angle surfaces and help to correct, straighten, or flatten features created by non-flat bottom tools.

Flat bottom drills are designed for the following operations:

multi-functional tools

While similar in some aspects, flat bottom counterbores are particularly well-suited for these uses:

flat bottom tools

Adjustable Chamfer Cutters

adjustable chamfer cutters

As discussed in a previous post, chamfer mills are capable of more than just chamfering – they are also well-suited for beveling, deburring, spotting, and countersinking. However, these adjustable chamfer cutters aren’t limited to a single angle per side – with a quick adjustment to the carbide insert you can mill any angle from 10° to 80°.

chamfer cutter inserts

When you account for the replaceable insert and the range of angles, this tool has a very high potential for time and tool cost savings.

Tools that are capable of a variety of operations are useful to just about any machine shop. Keeping your tool crib stocked with some or all of these multi-functional tools greatly increases your shop’s flexibility and decreases the chances of being unprepared for a job.

10 Reasons to Use Flat Bottom Tools

Flat bottom tools, or tools with flat bottom geometry, are useful in a variety of a situations and operations that tools with typical cutting geometry are not. The standard characteristics of drills or end mills are useful for their primary functions, but make them unsuitable for certain purposes. When used correctly, the following flat bottom tools can make the difference between botched jobs and perfect parts.

Flat Bottom Drills

Flat Bottom Drill

Flat bottom drills are perfect for tricky drilling situations or for creating flat bottom holes without secondary finishing passes. Consider using these specialized drills for the operations below.

 

Flat Bottom Drill Operations

Thin Plate Drilling

When drilling through holes in thin plates, pointed drills are likely to push some material out the exit hole and create underside burrs. Flat bottom drills are significantly less likely to experience this problem, as their flat bottom geometry generates more even downward forces.

Crosshole Drilling

When drilling a hole that crosses the path of another hole, it is important to avoid creating burrs, since they can be extremely difficult to remove in this kind of cross section. Unlike drills with points, flat bottom drills are designed to not create burrs on the other side of through holes.

Irregular/Rounded Surface Drilling

Flat bottom drills initially engage irregular surfaces with their outer edge. Compared to making first contact with a standard drill point, this makes them less susceptible to deflection or “walking” on inclined surfaces, and more capable of drilling straighter holes.

Angled Drilling

Even if the surface of a part is flat or regular, a pointed drill is susceptible to walking if it engages the part at an angle, known as angled or tilted drilling. For the same reason flat bottom drills are ideal for drilling on irregular surfaces, they are perfect for angled drilling.

Half Hole Drilling

When drilling a half hole on the edge of a part, the lack of material on either side of the drill makes the operation unstable In this situation, a pointed drill is susceptible to walking. A flat bottom drill makes contact with its entire cutting geometry, allowing for more versatility and stability when drilling half holes.

 

Flat Bottom Counterbores

Flat Bottom Counterbore

Flat bottom counterbores are an excellent choice when a flat bottom hole is needed and a tool without flat bottom geometry was used to create it. Keep some of these tools on hand to be prepared for the operations below.

 

Flat Bottom Counterbore Operations

Bore & Finish Drilled Holes

Drill geometry is designed first and foremost for factors like stability, rigidity, and chip evacuation. Some holes will need secondary finishing operations. Flat bottom counterbores are often designed with a slow helix and low rake, which help them avoid part engagement and control finish.

Straighten Misaligned Holes

Even experienced machinists may drill a less-than-perfectly-straight hole or two in new and unfamiliar jobs. Fortunately, flat bottom counterbores are well-suited for straightening misaligned holes.

Spot Face & Counterbore on Irregular Surfaces

The unique geometry of flat bottom counterbores makes them  effective at spotting on irregular surfaces. Standard drills and spot drills are susceptible to walking on these kinds of surfaces, which can potentially ruin an operation.

Remove Drill Points

When a standard drill creates a hole (other than a through hole) it leaves a “drill point” at the bottom due to its pointed geometry. This is fine for some holes, but holes in need of a flat bottom will need a secondary operation from a flat bottom counterbore to remove the drill point.

Remove End Mill Dish

The dish angle present on most standard end mills allows proper end cutting characteristics and reduces full diameter contact. However, these end mills will naturally leave a small dish at the bottom of a hole created by a plunging operation. As with drill points, flat bottom counterbores are perfect to even out the bottom of a hole.