Faster track on first milling machine purchase?

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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beeser
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Faster track on first milling machine purchase?

Post by beeser » Tue Jul 07, 2015 10:21 am

Having just purchased a milling machine attachment for my small South Bend 9" lathe it was recommended here not to rely on it too much. It's after all not a milling machine most say. So, that notion has motivated me to move the purchase of my first milling machine on a faster track. Everyone that I casually mentioned what I wanted to do pointed me in the direction of a Bridgeport mill. That's fine I suppose but being in a sparsely populated area of Arizona makes it hard to find these machines or any machinist type tools for that matter. Any suggestions on how to proceed? Is a Bridgeport my only real option?

WJH
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Re: Faster track on first milling machine purchase?

Post by WJH » Tue Jul 07, 2015 10:48 am

I started with a Sieg X1 micro mill, then I quickly realized I wanted something bigger, so I bought a Sieg X3.
Listen, the bottom line is that nothing can make up for mass, and rigidity. I now have a Bridgeport mill that I am in the process of cleaning up, and getting ready to use, and will be selling the X3.

The Bridgeport, or Bridgeport style mill is a vertical turret mill. It allows you to adjust and square up the head so the mill is perfectly aligned with the table. On a mill drill like the X3, those are fixed, and if you need to adjust it, you have to take it apart and hand scrape it back into alignment. Do you trust the Chinese to ship those mill's perfectly aligned? This is just one of many considerations. My Bridgeport mill needs a total tear down and clean up, and the ways show wear, and my mill will require a re-scraping down the road, perhaps even a re-grinding. As is however, will be good enough for the work I do on it, just my ego is the one that wants it to be perfect. I've looked at getting it ground, and re-scraped, and its around 3,000$. You can buy a new Grizzly Bridgeport Clone for slightly around 4500$?

If you buy a mill that is too small, you quickly will realize it. With a lathe, does your workpiece fit through the headstock? No? Need a bigger lathe. With a mill, you get vibration, you get damaged cutters, you have to take small cuts. Lathe will just chatter.

I want to work faster, and take bigger cuts. I want a spindle down feed for boring, I want the ability to easily zero in the spindle to the table so flycutters leave a mirror like finish, and above all else, I want mass and rigidity to prolong the life of my cutters, and take bigger more efficient cuts. You need mass for that.
Now a small square column mill/drill will work for you, but the question is, will you be happy with it?
Looking back at everything, I wish I just went with a vertical turret mill from the get go. For some people however, they don't want or need something that big, and they want to be able to move it easily with them, they have all the time in the world, and don't mind taking lighter cuts and working more slowly. They are not trying to make money with it, a mill / drill works just fine.

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SteveHGraham
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Re: Faster track on first milling machine purchase?

Post by SteveHGraham » Tue Jul 07, 2015 10:57 am

The okay machine you have is a lot better than the perfect machine you have to wait for.

I am preaching to myself. I always feel like I have to buy gadgets and improvements, but things go best when I maximize what I already have.

There is a clockmaker named W.R. Smith. He has several fantastic machining videos. He uses a Myford lathe for all sorts of stuff. He mills with it. He uses the headstock as an indexer while he cuts with tools mounted on the cross slide. I've never seen him use a mill. If I could do a tenth of what he does, I'd be pretty pleased with myself. He shows what you can do with the "wrong" tools, if you have the right attitude.

People on forums have a tendency to make new people feel like they're sinning by using sub-optimal tools. They love to recommend expensive stuff. I hesitate to ask questions about hand tools for woodworking, because I know people will automatically tell me to spend $350 each for Lie-Nielsen planes I'll use twice a year! I say use what you have, unless it's awful.

Better tools are better, but you can't use a tool you don't have.

http://www.wrsmithclocks.com/videos.htm
Every hard-fried egg began life sunny-side up.

John Evans
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Re: Faster track on first milling machine purchase?

Post by John Evans » Tue Jul 07, 2015 11:41 am

Define your budget and go from there. BPs have the advantage that parts are readly available,clones BP parts may work or not depends !! Local new/used dealer where I hang out recently sold a vari speed BP for less that 3K, it was in quite decent shape with only a couple of small easily fixed issue. Hard to find a good one in this area for less than $2500 with any tooling at all.
www.chaski.com

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tornitore45
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Re: Faster track on first milling machine purchase?

Post by tornitore45 » Tue Jul 07, 2015 1:21 pm

Think hard about the main line of projects you plan on doing.
I have an X3, it came fairly trammed, but being a little anal I ended up with a couple of aluminum foil "shims" under the base bolts, not the end of the world. For my model engines hobby is just fine. If you want to skim a full size engine head, an X3 does not even begin to be a solution.
Bigger is better, but also more costly, bigger vise, rotary table, moving costs.
The Brits practically invented model engineering and back when cheap imports were not available did outstanding work with just a lathe and possibly a milling attachment.

Steve summed it up pretty well.
The okay machine you have is a lot better than the perfect machine you have to wait for.
Mauro Gaetano
in Austin TX

earlgo
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Re: Faster track on first milling machine purchase?

Post by earlgo » Tue Jul 07, 2015 4:16 pm

Well said, Mr. Graham. Our forefathers made some pretty amazing pieces with hand tools and rudimentary machinery. I direct your attention to nearly any one of the flintlock rifles of the Golden Age.

For the ultimate in pre-industrial age work one can look up the antikythera machine.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antikythera_mechanism
If you do, there is also a youtube video of Mr. Wright's recreation of it. I still don't understand it all.

But I digress. One can do a lot without much more than a couple of standard Swedish mills. :P

--earlgo
Before you do anything, you must do something else first. - Washington's principle.

pete
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Re: Faster track on first milling machine purchase?

Post by pete » Tue Jul 07, 2015 8:46 pm

I just listed a fairly long point of view about exactly why a lathe milling attachment isn't the very worst thing in the world. However, what most neglect to point out is your NEVER fully or ever really finished buying tooling for a mill, or hell, even probably one of those milling attachment's. I've got that 3/4 sized Taiwan Bridgeport clone that cost me about 5+k. Since buying it I've got well over 2 times that into accessories, DRO, and cutting tools. To be very honest the initial buying cost of any mill is really almost incidental. And yes I do realise we all have a budget. But one way or another, the tooling and accessories are going to cost far more than what the mill ever does.

I bought my 1100 lb 3/4 sized BP clone because of my wooden shop floor that just can't support something like a 2200 lb Bridgeport. But my mill still has a full sized head on it with 3 HP, and the power spindle feeds. But????? Home shop or not there are way better built and much more rigid vertical mills than Bridgeport ever built that usually sell for much less in used and comparable or even better condition if you've got a concrete shop floor. I'd urge you to do some real dedicated searching over on the PM forum.

The other thing is the U.S. style vertical mills are a pretty non rigid design. There so common because they are so versatile, and certainly NOT because there so accurate. Almost anything Swiss, German and possibly Italian and/or Spanish will be a far more rigid design, and maybe for less or the same money for at least used machines if you can even find them with a semi common spindle taper. If I ever win the lotto, I'll have 36" of concrete and multiple Abene, Maho, Deckel, mills, and at least one single but fully rebuilt example of those 5-7 ton vertical/horizontal universal 50 taper Cincinatti mills. And depending on your own projects or maybe future projects trying to find a universal mill isn't a real bad idea.

By the above I mean a actual Bridgeport just may not be the very best and certainly not the cheapest machines that are available. You want to do some research I think. And please don't be in any rush to buy.

Some peoples hobby is actually restoring machine tools back to 100% or better of the original factory accuracy. That isn't at all cheap or fast at all. But you'd know exactly what you have by doing so. High quality and lightly used prices would be very comparable to doing your own rebuild. Doing or having done your own rebuild allows you to know "exactly and 100%" what you have as an end result that a used machine just can't do.

And to edit this,
If you do have the room and can deal with the weight, if you can possibly fit in addition to a vertical mill a 1-2 ton horizontal mill into your shop, it will easily rip 5 times the material out than any vertical mill ever will in the same amount of time.

Pete

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ronm
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Re: Faster track on first milling machine purchase?

Post by ronm » Tue Jul 07, 2015 10:10 pm

I was once where you are...not Arizona, but a more Northerly part of the machine tool wilderness, & in the same dilemma. I looked for mills for at least 10 years, almost bought milling attachments for the lathe, considered mini-mills, mill-drills, you name it. Then one day, an ad for a Bridgeport showed up in the paper...literally the only one in years. I looked, he was a little high on price, so I walked. The ad reappeared for the next couple weeks, & the price kept going down, finally got into a doable range...I called the guy again, & he said you better buy it...so I bought it, long story short, & I have never looked back or regretted it...I've used it on stuff I would never have thought about, stuff that would be impossible for a mini or a lathe attachment, & actually made a little money with it.
So that's my 2c, I don't think you'll be unhappy if you can come up with some sort of full-size machine...it will expand your universe, as far as machining goes.

Harold_V
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Re: Faster track on first milling machine purchase?

Post by Harold_V » Wed Jul 08, 2015 1:30 am

pete wrote:there are way better built and much more rigid vertical mills than Bridgeport ever built
That's something that appears to be lost with the average guy. For what ever reason, BP mills have been placed on a pedestal that they may not deserve (keep in mind, I have owned two of them, both purchased new). If I'd have had the means, I'd have purchased a Gorton over a BP, as they are a far better machine, albeit less capable of some functions (like nodding the head of a Mastermil).

I have used all of the features of my BP, and on many occasions. I have turned the turret, nodded and tilted the head, extended and retracted the ram (as required), which may not have been an option on the mill I'd have preferred, so I have no complaints, but I am also well aware that a BP is far from being a rigid machine. They have become acceptable in industry, although that was not always the case. Where I was trained, they were not allowed in the shop, as they were considered a less than industrially rated machine, incapable of competing with other similar machines.

Harold
Wise people talk because they have something to say. Fools talk because they have to say something.

WJH
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Re: Faster track on first milling machine purchase?

Post by WJH » Wed Jul 08, 2015 11:51 am

It's all a matter of perspective, we are talking about Bridgeports vs a tabletop mill/drill, not a 4000lb cat50 beast. From the perspective of the homeshop guy, the Bridgeport is a few magnitudes better and more rigid.

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ronm
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Re: Faster track on first milling machine purchase?

Post by ronm » Wed Jul 08, 2015 5:29 pm

+1, WJH...amazes me how the pros never miss a chance to tell us how bad a BP is... :wink:

Harold_V
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Re: Faster track on first milling machine purchase?

Post by Harold_V » Thu Jul 09, 2015 3:36 am

ronm wrote:...amazes me how the pros never miss a chance to tell us how bad a BP is... :wink:
Hmmmm. Why should it amaze you? Who better to make a judgment on the capabilities of a machine than a guy who operates one regularly, and is quite familiar with its limitations? That's particularly true if, in the place of a BP, one has operated other more robust and capable machines. I know I have.

If the pro's tend to agree on any given subject, it just could be they know what they're talking about.

To give you something to think about---high quality mills were scraped. BP mills were not.

Yeah, I know---many will argue the point, but check the pattern on unworn surfaces and tell me what you see. Those repeating arcs are from grinding. You will see no scraping on way surfaces. You will see flaking, which should not be confused with scraping. They are not one and the same.

Harold
Wise people talk because they have something to say. Fools talk because they have to say something.

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