Dividing Head Vs Rotary Table: What’S The Difference?

Dividing heads and rotary tables are both essential items for many machine shops. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at the differences, benefits and drawbacks, and best practices for deciding between a dividing head vs rotary table. Specifically, we will discuss their respective uses, advantages, and disadvantages. With tis comprehensive guide, the reader should gain a comprehensive understanding of the differences between the two tools, and how to choose the one that best fits their needs. Whether you are a novice in machine shop work, or a seasoned veteran looking to upgrade your existing setup, this article will help ensure you choose the right dividinghead or rotary table every time.

What Is a Dividing Head and a Rotary Table?

A dividing head and a rotary table are two important pieces of machinery used in the manufacturing industry. They are both used to create precision cuts in pieces that may otherwise be too difficult to achieve with traditional cutting tools. Dividing heads are used for mitreing, cutting intricate shapes, and routing, while rotary tables are used for drilling, radial cutting, and precision work. By understanding the purposes and uses of each of these tools, you can decide which one is the best choice for your project.

What Is a Dividing Head?

A dividing head is a tool used in metalworking and woodworking that allows a piece of material to be precisely rotated to a specified angle, making it easier to create precise cuts in the material. It consists of a main body with a spindle, which is attached to a work table and can be securely mounted on a milling table. The spindle can be set to rotate around its axis in order to accurately divide the material into equal parts. The dividing head can also be used to create precise angles or complete circles.

There are numerous types of dividing heads available on the market, from manual models to fully automated CNC models. The manual models are operated by a hand crank and can create precise 5, 9, 12, 15, 18 or 20 divisions for a circumference. Automated models use digital or analog readouts and can divide a circumference into virtually any number of equal parts, depending on the model. It is important to note that accuracy of the finished product depends on the quality and precision of the dividing head.

What Is a Rotary Table?

A rotary table is a device used in machining for precise radial cuts in a workpiece. It is a disc-shaped table that rotates around a spindle, allowing for repetitive machining of the same part of the workpiece at different angles. The rotary table most commonly used in manufacturing is a horizontal rotary table, although other varieties, such as vertical or tilt rotary tables, exist depending on the application. Rotary tables offer precise alignment of the workpiece in relation to the tool, allowing for accurate and repeatable machining operations. They are often used to drill large and deep holes in the material, as well as creating small and intricate shapes and patterns. Precise control over the angle, horizontal and vertical positioning, and speed of the table rotation is maintained, vastly improving the precision over hand operations. Rotary tables are highly versatile and can be used for a variety of machining applications, such as milling, drilling, boring, and reaming.

Uses of a Dividing Head and a Rotary Table

Both a dividing head and a rotary table are valuable tools used in manufacturing and engineering, but what are their uses exactly? A dividing head is used to exactly duplicate patterns and divide a circle into exact divisions, while a rotary table provides the stability to carry out many time consuming machining operations accurately. In this section, we’ll explore the uses of a dividing head and rotary table to help you better understand the functions these tools can provide.

Uses of a Dividing Head

A dividing head is a versatile tool that can be used for a wide range of applications. It is especially useful for creating precision cuts in wood or metal including irregular angles and arcs. Dividing heads can also be used for mitreing, creating intricate shapes, drilling, routing, and more. Here are some of the most common uses for a dividing head:

• Cutting small parts – Dividing heads are often used to make small, precise cuts in wood or metal. They are especially useful for making irregular shapes and creating intricate designs.

• Mitreing – Dividing heads are used for mitreing, which is the process of cutting two pieces of material on an angle to create a joint.

• Making intricate shapes and patterns – A dividing head can be used to create intricate shapes and patterns, including circles, arcs, and curves.

• Routing – A dividing head can be used to create clean, precise slots in a material, such as routing out a groove in a board of wood.

• Drilling – Dividing heads can be used for drilling holes in a material. They are especially useful for drilling holes in a precise location and at a precise angle.

Using a dividing head can improve the accuracy of your projects and allow you to create complex shapes with ease. It is an essential piece of machinery for any workshop, and can help you create beautiful, accurate cuts in wood or metal.

Uses of a Rotary Table

Rotary tables are powerful tools for machining, with many applications in the manufacturing industry. They are used for drilling, milling, boring, and reaming, allowing for precision work on a variety of materials. Some of their common uses include:

• Drilling holes in accurate locations and patterns with high precision.
• Milling internal and external curved or angled surfaces at the desired radius.
• Carving intricate shapes and patterns on the workpiece.
• Bore reaming and holemaking operations such as creating keyholes and counterbores in workpieces.
• Face milling parts with accurate profiles, square shoulders, and other features.
• Cutting dovetails, splines, and other complicated shapes with a high degree of accuracy.
• Gearing operations, such as producing gear teeths in pieces of varied widths and depths.

Rotary tables can also be used for jig boring and grinding operations. In these applications, its primary benefit is its high degree of accuracy and repeatability, enabling manufacturing processes to be done with a high level of quality and efficiency.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Dividing Head and a Rotary Table

When it comes to machining, the dividing head and rotary table are both invaluable tools to have in your arsenal. Not only do they provide a solution to problems which simply can’t be solved in any other way, but they can both offer significant advantages in certain categories – from technical precision to improved speed and accuracy of operations. In this section, we’ll explore the advantages and disadvantages of both the dividing head and rotary table, as well as how to pick the best one for your needs.

Advantages of a Dividing Head

A dividing head is a precision tool that can be used with a variety of machines such as milling machines, lathes, and drill presses. It is used to create precise cuts in material and to create curved, mitred, and angled cuts. The main advantage of a dividing head is its accuracy and repeatability, which makes it ideal for producing intricate shapes and patterns. The dividing head can be adjusted for different angles and depths and can be used for both large and small pieces. Dividing heads are also relatively easy to use and relatively low cost.

The precision and accuracy of a dividing head also makes it ideal for creating repeating patterns and intricate cuts. This makes it suitable for a wide range of industries, from machining and woodworking to jewelry making. Additionally, the dividing head can be used with a variety of bits and cutters, making it a versatile and useful tool.

Disadvantages of a Dividing Head

One disadvantage of a dividing head is its size. It is a large tool that requires ample space on a tabletop or bench in order to be used properly. This can be problematic for shops with limited space or multiple other tools that need to fit on a workbench.

Another disadvantage of a dividing head is its complexity. It requires a certain level of precision and knowledge to operate the tool properly, which can be a challenge for inexperienced users. Setting the tool up for use and ensuring the cuts are accurate takes time and practice.

Finally, dividing heads are prone to wear and tear. Proper maintenance and lubrication of the tool is vital for it to function properly, and if not maintained, the tool can become damaged and unusable.

To summarize, the disadvantages of a dividing head include:

– It requires ample space on a workbench
– It requires a certain level of knowledge and skill to operate
– It is prone to wear and tear
– It needs regular maintenance and lubrication

Advantages of a Rotary Table

A rotary table is an invaluable machining tool thanks to its high accuracy and repeatability. The spindle rotates the workpiece allowing for complex machining operations such as milling and reaming. Different attachments allow for different operations such as drilling, routing, turning, and more. It is a versatile tool that can be used on a variety of materials such as steel and aluminum.

The main advantage of a rotary table is its precision and accuracy. It enables highly detailed and repeatable operations that other machining tools cannot achieve. It also allows for a wide range of operations including machining of both flat and curved surfaces. Additionally, a rotary table can quickly and easily rotate from one position to another, saving time and effort.

In addition to its accuracy, rotary tables are also known for their durability and long service life. Rotary tables are often constructed from high-quality materials, making them suitable for a variety of tough manufacturing tasks. Much like dividing heads, rotary tables also require adequate space and skill to operate. Therefore, it is important to choose a model that matches the requirements of your specific project.

Disadvantages of a Rotary Table

Rotary tables can be expensive, so it is important to factor in the cost when choosing one. Another disadvantage is that they are difficult to operate and require the user to have experience and skill in operating the tool. Additionally, the heavy weight and large size of a rotary table could make it prohibitive for some DIY applications or for those who work with smaller materials. Lastly, rotary tables are sensitive to dust and require frequent cleaning to maintain accuracy and prevent misalignments.

How to Choose the Best Dividing Head and Rotary Table for Your Needs

Once you’ve done your research and decided on a dividing head and rotary table for your specific needs, the choice about which type to purchase can be daunting. There are a variety of factors to consider, whether you’re looking for a more affordable option with basic features or a more expensive one with more features. In this section we’ll look at the important factors to consider when selecting the best dividing head and rotary table for your needs.

Factors for Choosing the Best Dividing Head

When choosing the best dividing head for your needs, there are several factors to consider, including accuracy, adjustability, speed, and compatibility with other tools/machines.

Accuracy: Make sure to select a dividing head with high accuracy, as it will be necessary for precision cuts.

Adjustability: Make sure the dividing head has adjustable features, such as adjustable spindle speed and adjustable angle stops, so that you can adjust the tool to suit any routing job.

Speed: The speed of the dividing head should be adjustable, so that you can increase or decrease the speed according to the job; slower speed is typically used for fine or intricate machining or routing.

Compatibility: Select a dividing head compatible with other tools or machines you’re currently using. Some machines may require specific accessories to fit a particular dividing head model.

It can also be beneficial to select a model that is compatible with digital or electronic devices, so that you can easily transfer information from one device to another – such as for creating digital instructions for automated routing.

In addition to these key considerations, you should also pay attention to the length of the tool, the diameter of the workpiece, the material from which it is made, and the quality of construction. By selecting a quality dividing head that meets your needs, you can be confident in its performance and reliability.

Factors for Choosing the Best Rotary Table

When choosing the best rotary table for your needs, the following factors should be taken into consideration:

  • Size – The size of the rotary table should be appropriate for the project it will be used for, featuring adequate surface space and rotated area.
  • Accuracy and repeatability – Ensure the table offers accuracy and repeatability at the speed it is expected to operate.
  • Versatility and compatibility – Choose a model that is compatible with the tools and machines that will be used with it.
  • Durability – Look for a rotary table with a robust construction that can handle the pressures of machining for extended periods of time.
  • Maintenance – Consider the maintenance needs and what type of lubricants are needed to keep the table in good working order.

Once the factors to consider have been evaluated and the ideal rotary table for your needs has been chosen, it is important to ensure it is installed properly and maintained regularly. Proper installation and maintenance are essential for reliable performance and a longer life span.


When should a rotary table be used?

A rotary table should be used when precise, accurate milling and drilling operations are required. It can be used for a variety of operations, such as drilling holes at precise angles, cutting intricate patterns, and milling circles. It is also quite useful for making tapers and angles in components.

Can you cut gears with a rotary table?

Yes, you can cut gears with a rotary table. A rotary table is a precision piece of machining equipment which allows for accurate cutting of a range of materials including metals and plastics. The rotary table can be used for both internal and external gears, as well as for milling dovetails and other complex geometries.

What is the difference between dividing head and indexing head?

A dividing head is a specialized tool that is used for accurately machining circular workpieces. It has a center spindle that is used to divide a workpiece into equal divisions. The divisions are usually formed by means of an index plates and a tailstock which is adjusted by a handwheel. The precision of the divisions that can be achieved largely depends on the accuracy of the dividing head itself.

An indexing head is a tool that is used for positioning the workpiece in specific locations. It is similar to a dividing head but the difference lies in the fact that the indexing head has an index plate with a series of holes arranged in a circle and a center spindle that can move to each of the holes in turn. The index plate is rotated and allows the workpiece to be rotated to any desired angle. This enables intricate machining operations to be performed.

What is the difference between rotary table and index table?

A rotary table is a type of positioning device that is used to manipulate an object. It consists of a circular plate mounted on a base, which is driven by a motor. The plate rotates in a fixed position and is used to accurately position components or workpieces in a workstation.

An index table is a type of device that is similar to a rotary table but uses a different type of drive system. Instead of a motor, the plate is driven by an indexing mechanism. This mechanism uses a series of timing gears to move the plate in predetermined increments. This allows for more precise positioning of components and workpieces.


In conclusion, a dividing head and a rotary table are both valuable tools in any workshop. Both tools offer accuracy, speed, and repeatability, making them essential for precision machining and engineering processes. Each tool brings its own unique advantages and disabling and they both have a wide range of uses. The key to selecting the best tool for your needs is to be mindful of the factors that affect performance and to research the available options. Understanding the differences between a dividing head and a rotary table will ensure you make the best choice for your project.