What does a Mill Machinist do?

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  • Written By: Karyn Maier
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2019
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Mill machinists produce manufacturing parts. More specifically, they work with various metals to produce fitted pieces according to precise specifications. The work is performed using a variety of equipment, such as milling machines, lathes, drill presses and other tools. While some of these tools may require manual handling, a large majority of the equipment is computer numerically controlled (CNC).

There are several levels of skill required to be a mill machinist. For instance, a mill operator must know how to calibrate different pieces of equipment based on specifications provided by a design engineer. Using these “specs” as a blueprint, the mill machinist then configures each piece of equipment used to accurately cut and bore each piece of metal, usually run in a batch load. This step in the machining process also involves programming the correct sequence of operations to be carried out by the machining equipment, as well as calculating the proper speed and cutting depth required to complete the task.


Although the sequence of events is largely automated after configuration, the mill machinist must still monitor the process. For instance, if something goes wrong with the feed at which the raw metal material is passing through the equipment, the entire operation could be jeopardized and the equipment damaged. It’s also necessary to observe any irregularities, such as overheating caused by the expansion of the metal pieces. It’s also possible for the project to be compromised by vibrations caused by dull cutting tools. Since the mill machinist closely attends operations, he or she is sometimes referred to as a production machinist.

Some mill machinists are trained in CNC programming and write their own code. For this reason, the position is also referred to as CNC mill machinist, or simply CNC machinist. Others may be trained in repair and maintenance of machine parts used to manufacture new parts. In addition, some machinists may train to operate advanced milling equipment, such as those powered by water, electricity, or laser.

In terms of working environment, a mill machinist can expect to stand for much of the day and be exposed to a fair level of noise. Because of this, certain safety gear must be worn, such as ear and eye protection. Since the job involves handling and feeding machinery that pulls in raw material, it should be stressed that care should be taken to prevent injury to hands and fingers. In fact, long-sleeve or loose clothing is not recommended, nor is jewelry of any kind.

Generally, the pay scale for a mill machinist is considered good, particularly for those working in the automotive or aerospace industries. There is often regular opportunity for overtime, especially during peak production periods. However, some machine shops also close down at certain times of the year when production is expected to be low, most commonly for a few weeks in December or January.


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