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End mill recommendations for Aluminum

RP Designs

Apr 9, 2009
California, USA
I guess I should preface this by saying I am a learning hobbyist and not a professional so I am seeking some guidance. I am working on learning CNC machining and am starting to get a handle on some of the simpler things. One thing I seem to be struggling a bit with is end mills. I have been shopping around and trying a variety of end mills just to see what works and what doesn't. I have done the Enco cheap HSS import mills only to find that they break surprisingly easy. I have had better luck with their Putnam end mills which seem to work fairly decent but I am looking for a bit more. For now, I am only working in Aluminum so that is what I am shopping for. I am running a 3HP knee mill based CNC machine set up to run 6K rpm with flood coolant.
First, for the learner, what is a good end mill (what brand) to use that will produce a good surface finish while being fairly forgiving of a newbies ham fisted techniques?
Should I stick with HSS or will I gain much by switching to carbide?
Anyone have any other words of wisdom?


Oct 22, 2008
West Coast, CA
Stick with a quality HSS 2 flute and you'll do fine.

If you want to try carbide, I like SGS Ski-Carb. They produce the best side cut finish I've seen and are durable. The down side is they cost $$.

Browse the MSC Big Book

I typically buy from McMaster-Carr just because it's easier for me at work to do that and they do carry quality cutting tools.




Jan 19, 2005
Look for high helix endmills for aluminum. Even in HSS, these work pretty good, because they are very sharp, have lots of flute space to hold the chips and eject the chips well. You do need to be diligent with coolant application and get the chips out of the cut because they can plug up quickly and break off.
In solid carbide, I really like the YG carbide endmills. They are available in high helix polished flute. The extra stiffness of solid carbide is a plus for more accurate machining.

Maritool also has a high helix endmill for aluminum. Shop and compare pricing.
Jan 15, 2005
The Netherlands
I did have a single flute endmill once
Wierd thing but worked perfect on aluminium


Peter from Holland


Jun 14, 2006
Huntsville Alabama
If your just doing hobby work, I would stick with a 2 or 3 flute QUALITY HSS E.M. Lots of good brands out there.

I'm doin production in a VMC here -I stick with GARR solid carbide endmills.


Mar 4, 2002
Brisbane, CA, USA
Since you can spin to 6000 rpm, I'd say its worth it to go through the learning curve with carbide endmills. You need to climb mill, dwells are a no-no, use at least an air blast to minimize chip re-cutting and don't try to take cuts of less than 0.010" or so, at least on steel.

An advantage of carbide endmills, especially when starting out, is that if you have a bad crash you'll tend to snap the endmill off clean while often an HSS endmill will typically do more damage before your hand finds the big red button.

You can get good deals on carbide endmills from Tool Holders, Collets, Retention Knobs, Cutting Tools, Indexable Tooling and Machine Accessories - MariTool . He has special endmills for both aluminum and steel, and if you are cutting steel definitely get some of the vari-flute endmills, on low HP and not so rigid machines they make machining steel much easier. I also like the vari-flute endmills for aluminum from LakeShore Carbide.com Carbide End Mills-Carbide Thread Mills, but the Maritool endmills have been working well for me on aluminum also and are cheaper. Both these companies offer excellent pre and post sales support, so call them if you have any questions about which endmill would be best for you.

Remember that with carbide you can wear it out faster by cutting too slow than by cutting aggressively.

If you don't have coolant, on steel you will need at least an air blast nozzle, and if you plan to do a lot of aluminum I'd go with Trico Micro-Drop or one of the Acculube systems. These use a combined air blast with "micro-drops" of a special cutting fluid, but they don't make a big coolant mess or a nasty mist and they are a good match your type and size machine. Search on "Trico" and "Acculube" in the CNC forum and you'll hit more discussion on those units.

EDIT - wow, I really don't like the new "feature" in this forum that automatically expands some website names into "slogans" for the website. In the post above I listed www DOT maritool DOT com, but the forum now automatically expands that into a long sloganized link for that website. It looks like you're trying to shill for that company rather than just simply mention them as a source.

Milacron, if that's generating additional revenue for you I guess you have to leave it on, but if its not I'd get rid of it, the concept of doing "automatic editing" on a post someone has written is not such a hot one.

Actually I also think it may be doing more harm than good in terms of generating click throughs for the listed sites. The automatically expanded slogans don't grab your eye that well as being a clickable link, versus the listing of a website name which definitely grabs your eye as a website location.

Good luck-

Paul T.


Jul 23, 2013
I love using YG1 3 flute alu-power. They work great and cost is very low compared to any other carbide. I get mine from Marshall Tool in Seattle. Ask for Brian


Feb 11, 2014
Hmmm.... BSH21Wash... resurrecting a 4 year old thread to tell someone to buy something from someone named Brian in Washington (BshWash?)....

If it looks like a turd, and smells like a turd....

Long Tom

Aug 21, 2011
Fiddlefart, Oregon
My 3HP knee mill does great with the Alu-Power carbide EM's. I don't know their limit, but I just got done doing a bunch of slotting where I'd plunge through the .550" thick part then cut the slot at full DOC. 3000 rpm with an air blast and alternating A9 and WD-40 (just once per slot) to stop chip weld. This on a rotab. Like them a lot.

Edit: I see now it's a zombie thread. D'oh.