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Keeping the Mill-drill Lined Up

By by Gerry Betteridge

This tip came about after I purchased a mill-drill machine awhile back. It came to me, as it may have come to you, that the location of your workpiece was lost whenever you attempted to alter the height of the head. Having a round column, there was no way I could lower or raise the unit and keep accurate alignment.

That was until small laser units became available. During a Sunday morning trip to our local market, I came across a laser unit that was intended to help with lining up various positions during building construction, etc. The asking price was all of $2.50 AU and it was sealed in a bubble pack. Anyway, I spent my money, came home and started to play with the new toy after fitting batteries.

Then it came to me that this was what was needed on my miller, as it had a magnetic base, on/off switch, and projected a cross pattern. Because you only need the unit when adjusting the height of the milling head, it could be attached anywhere on the head by its magnetic base to align the reference to a suitable mark on the wall (or whatever), unlock the head, and adjust to your heart’s content. As long as you do not move the laser unit during adjustment you are okay. By the way, the unit also has a 1/4-20 camera/tripod thread in the base so you can attach it more securely.


It is most important the vertical aiming mark, or whatever you intend to use for reference, is in perfect alignment with the pillar of your mill. In other words, if your pillar leans over at some small angle, then the aiming line must also go the same way. This can be the most difficult part of setting up.

One possible way to do it is to get behind the pillar and project a light beam so the top and lower parts of the pillar can cast a shadow where you wish to place your aiming mark. If you are lucky enough to have your mill pillar vertical, then you only have to aim the laser at any true vertical line. The further this distance, the more accurate, but you must be able to see the laser spot.

I realize that the laser unit I obtained from my local market will not necessarily be available where you live, but other units of the like are surely available.

Remember, you only need this unit when you intend to alter the height of your mill head during a setup, so there is no need to have it permanently mounted.

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