Discussion on all milling machines vertical & horizontal, including but not limited to Bridgeports, Hardinge, South Bend, Clausing, Van Norman, including imports.
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Well my "retired" machine tool dealer friend can't resist a auction ! A few weeks ago he went to a estate auction in the north part of AZ. and just HAD to buy a Atlas lathe,SB shaper and this treasure a Wells-Index 55 ex Navy. He has no place or skills to clean up and fix up machines so they came here, lathe and shaper have already found new homes . So it was the mills turn to get the beauty spa treatment. All machines had a thick coating of oxidized oil and lots of stuck on chips. PO used flood oil coolant and machines were a giant mess, I still used gasoline and GUNK when nothing else will cut the crap! Outside in the driveway between rain showers a cleaning party was had NOT !! Anyway the mill under the crud is much better than I expected .008-.012 backlash in both X & Y . Down side is the #9 B & S spindle ,does have a collet chuck with ZZ collet set. These projects give me something to do and put a few bucks in my pocket. I like to say I put a Walmart makeup job on a Pig !! Pretty familiar with Bridgeport and clones but will say Index marches to a different drummer!
Since I own a #60 horizontal, I can say a few things. We don't see many Index mills here, so there is invitation to say something. The #55 used the same platform, knee, table as the #60 which was fair robust. We can see there is huge knee travel so that engine blocks or heads could be milled. The vertical head doesn't have the "nod" joint so it is quite rigid. You already know this stuff but the quality is really good. I really like the large dials.
Index is still in business and support may still be available. Rugged simple machine. Because of Zerk fittings the X & Y axis are often filled with grease and chips. Most had a fitting on end of draw bar to release the 9 B&S taper(no pounding). B & S taper is less than R-8 thus more holding power. Usually much cheaper than an equivalent Bridgeport.