In the vertical mill the spindle axis is vertically oriented. Milling cutters are held in the spindle and rotate on its axis. The spindle can generally be extended (or the table can be raised/lowered, giving the same effect), allowing plunge cuts and drilling. There are two subcategories of vertical mills: the bed mill and the turret mill.
A turret mill has a stationary spindle and the table is moved both perpendicular and parallel to the spindle axis to accomplish cutting. The most common example of this type is the Bridgeport, described below. Turret mills often have a quill which allows the milling cutter to be raised and lowered in a manner similar to a drill press. This type of machine provides two methods of cutting in the vertical (Z) direction: by raising or lowering the quill, and by moving the knee.
In the bed mill, however, the table moves only perpendicular to the spindle's axis, while the spindle itself moves parallel to its own axis.
Turret mills are generally considered by some to be more versatile of the two designs. However, turret mills are only practical as long as the machine remains relatively small. As machine size increases, moving the knee up and down requires considerable effort and it also becomes difficult to reach the quill feed handle (if equipped). Therefore, larger milling machines are usually of the bed type.
A third type also exists, a lighter machine, called a mill-drill, which is a close relative of the vertical mill and quite popular with hobbyists. A mill-drill is similar in basic configuration to a small drill press, but equipped with an X-Y table. They also typically use more powerful motors than a comparably sized drill press, with potentiometer-controlled speed and generally have more heavy-duty spindle bearings than a drill press to deal with the lateral loading on the spindle that is created by a milling operation. A mill drill also typically raises and lowers the entire head, including motor, often on a dovetailed vertical, where a drill press motor remains stationary, while the arbor raises and lowers within a driving collar. Other differences that separate a mill-drill from a drill press may be a fine tuning adjustment for the Z-axis, a more precise depth stop, the capability to lock the X, Y or Z axis, and often a system of tilting the head or the entire vertical column and powerhead assembly to allow angled cutting. Aside from size and precision, the principal difference between these hobby-type machines and larger true vertical mills is that the X-Y table is at a fixed elevation; the Z-axis is controlled in basically the same fashion as drill press, where a larger vertical or knee mill has a vertically fixed milling head, and changes the X-Y table elevation. As well, a mill-drill often uses a standard drill press-type Jacob's chuck, rather than an internally tapered arbor that accepts collets. These are frequently of lower quality than other types of machines, but still fill the hobby role well because they tend to be benchtop machines with small footprints and modest price tags.