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MIlling machine advice

DPittman

Active Member
#1
Someday (but unfortunately not likely soon) I would like to get a milling machine. I am probably going to buy used so I need to be a bit knowledgeable about my needs before the opportunity to buy pops up unexpectedly. I'm looking for some basic advice from others that have had some experience. I'm not looking for an extensive report from anyone just a few pointers to get me thinking.

I realize that bigger, more rigid, more featured machine is always nice but we all have limits of a space and budgets that usually keep us from getting the best. I want to be able to mill steel but won't likely be doing heavy duty stuff. I've sort of ruled out the smallest bench top milling machines???

What basic equipment must I have to be up and running with a mill? Vice, clamping kit, cutters/holders, what else? Rotary table right off the bat???

I run a 10" asian made lathe that I do light milling on now and have a fairly well equipped home shop otherwise. My skills are very novice and have no real project in mind for a milling machine but just would like to learn some new skills.

Thanks

PS. I'm thinking $3500 is approx limit I want to spend on used. I know I wish I had spent a bit more when I bought my lathe (bigger, more rigid) but I think that would probably be the case no matter what size a person buys. o_O. I just don't want to have to have buyers remorse real soon after.
 
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#2
I really like the Bridgeport style mills,. I bought new and went with the Modern Tool 9X35. I like it. It's small enough for a smaller shop and has all the features of the big ones. You might find a used import (Bridgeport clone) within your budget. Start up tooling. Vise, clamping kit, colletts, end mills, drill chuck, drill bits and some fly cutters will get you going pretty well. Big ticket items like rotary table and dividing head can come later. For end mills, drill bits and fly cutters etc. buy basic kits from Busy Bee when their on sale. Don't rush to buy tooling. I have things I bought and almost never use. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Good luck.
 

PeterT

Ultra Member
Premium Member
#3
Those of you who were at the last meetup at Modern Tool, was that not a dovetail 'RF-45' looking mill that Alex demo'd? (As opposed this round column mill on the website).
http://www.moderntool.com/products/modern-model-md-930-drilling-milling-machine/

I don't see a dovetail on their website. Not sure of price & I think I heard Chinese but through their factory line & QC & CSA electric box etc. Anyways, it was taking a decent cut but what surprised me was the significantly quieter spindle noise compared to my Taiwan RF-45 (1998 vintage). I think John.Conroy might have agreed similar reaction vs his prior Precision Mathews Taiwan RF-45. I don't want to go on a limb & endorse a machine I don't specifically know about, but worth checking out. I got a decent amount of work out of my RF-45 over the years before upgrading to a baby Bridgeport.

The accepted norm in prior years seems to have been Taiwan was a notch above Chinese lookalike. On another forum there is some chatter of recent Taiwan RF-45's having issues (unspecified vendor) so who knows anymore. Maybe Chinese ones are catching up or a nose ahead or that was a Friday machine. That's the perpetual challenge, they all look the same on the web pages but they seem to have varying quality, sometimes within the same name. One month Grizzly has positive feedback, next month they are in the doghouse. Same for PM & others. So personally I think service & parts availability is very important.

Hop over to Stefans YouTube channel, he has a similar Rf-45 style mill under the Optimum label & he does a lot of nice work. Recognize he is always tweaking & upgrading. I've heard that Optimums are scrutinized a bit more through their (European) distributor but relative to what? Some 45's have power down feed, others not. I would for sure budget for a Chinese 3-axis DRO. It will make using the machine so much more functional & enjoyable.

 
#5
How long have you had yours? Still liking it? Any issues?
Oh Gosh. I'm guessing about 10 years. No issues. I use it a lot and I'm still satisfied. The one thing I do find is that it's hard on the back especially when doing setups that require the table to be set low. I plan to make a base to raise mine about 6 to 8 inches. I wish I had done that when I first installed it.
 

Dabbler

Well-Known Member
#6
In the used market, your expectations are reasonable. I sold my 8X32 mill for just over 3K, and I have a contact in BC that had a First 9X49 mill with a cheap DRO on it for 3500$ (sold now) and he had a Taiwanese 10X50 with a good 3 axis DRO (new) for 5400$. - but it is probably gone now.

If you are patient and watch kijiji like a hawk, or check out BC, you will certainly find what you want for your budget.
 

kevin.decelles

Active Member
Premium Member
#7
I bought a Craftex CX600 mini mill, then followed that up with an 6x26 knee mill (busy bee CT054) about a year later. I'm in the process of hopping up the knee mill w/power feed and DRO. I don't do a lot of milling yet, and haven't encountered the 'not big enough scenario', but I know it's around the corner. I'll have to get a lot more use out of the two mills I have before I go for another. The next one would be a bridgeport/universal style mill.

I found the build quality on the BB mill pretty good overall, more accurate than I had expected. I picked it up for 2K out of Edmonton during the recession.
 

DPittman

Active Member
#8
I bought a Craftex CX600 mini mill, then followed that up with an 6x26 knee mill (busy bee CT054) about a year later. I'm in the process of hopping up the knee mill w/power feed and DRO. I don't do a lot of milling yet, and haven't encountered the 'not big enough scenario', but I know it's around the corner. I'll have to get a lot more use out of the two mills I have before I go for another. The next one would be a bridgeport/universal style mill.

I found the build quality on the BB mill pretty good overall, more accurate than I had expected. I picked it up for 2K out of Edmonton during the recession.
You still run the mini mill even though you have a bigger better knee mill? How come?
 

kevin.decelles

Active Member
Premium Member
#9
Having both machines with the same spindle is nice as I can re-use tooling. I leave the mini mill setup with a smaller end mill and it is the go-to machine for smaller pieces, plastics etc.

To be honest, it is less intimidating, feels like a toy compared to the knee mill (and that will feel like a toy compared to the big-boy mills) and I am pretty comfortable with it. I bought it new before the prices went stupid after I sold a motorcycle, and to get rid of it I know I'd miss it.
 
#10
Having both machines with the same spindle is nice as I can re-use tooling. I leave the mini mill setup with a smaller end mill and it is the go-to machine for smaller pieces, plastics etc.

To be honest, it is less intimidating, feels like a toy compared to the knee mill (and that will feel like a toy compared to the big-boy mills) and I am pretty comfortable with it. I bought it new before the prices went stupid after I sold a motorcycle, and to get rid of it I know I'd miss it.
Ok I think I will use the defense "Well some guys have TWO milling machines" with my wife when I try to suggest that I need to buy one! :p
 

Janger

(John)
Administrator
Premium Member
#11
Kevin - two of everything ... yup. :p

Alex did demo on a dove tail mill/drill at modern. It was pretty nice and a good price - in line with what you wanted to spend Don. I have a busy bee CX600. EDIT CX601 actually - same as Kevin - a smaller mill - but dovetail and variable speed with a dial not swapping belts. It's been really nice. I added cheap iGaging DRO for about $50/axis and it works well.

I would say get a dovetail machine not a round column. Other features that are really nice but can be added later, power feed on the X axis, a good vice $500ish, decent tooling, chucks, drills, mills, face mills, DRO...
 
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#12
Kevin - two of everything ... yup. :p

Alex did demo on a dove tail mill/drill at modern. It was pretty nice and a good price - in line with what you wanted to spend Don. I have a busy bee CX600 - same as Kevin - a smaller mill - but dovetail and variable speed with a dial not swapping belts. It's been really nice. I added cheap iGaging DRO for about $50/axis and it works well.

I would say get a dovetail machine not a round column. Other features that are really nice but can be added later, power feed on the X axis, a good vice $500ish, decent tooling, chucks, drills, mills, face mills, DRO...
That's good to hear about the cx601. That's what I would like to get but am doubtful I would find a decent one used and if I'm not better off buying used other style? I'm being cheap and that seldom helps with making good tool decision making processes.
I'm way "early in the game" as I won't likely make the purchase for a long while but I appreciate the feedback and think it is very helpful. Time is on my side for a change.
 

Tom Kitta

Active Member
#13
As others have pointed $3500 can get you a used small BP style milling machine with small table.

I would go for that.

You can occasionally see some other machines that may do - such as an old horizontals go for less but are still quite capable and can have a head attached for vertical work.

Basically look at auctions and have your eyes open - if you are not in a hurry good mills and lathes come from time to time.

No need for rotary table from the start. In fact if you get one then make sure it can be used as a dividing head or upgraded to one. Just plain rotary table has little uses other than for example making an arched style cut on a manual machine. Bolt patters can be done faster with a DRO - as I found out recently.

Vice is definitely needed - get something nice - don't go for cheap Chinese garbage from KMS or BB.

Clamping kit can be gotten later - its sort of a speciality thing for "large" or "strange shape" items. I clam to the table maybe few times a year.

If you get NMTB taper mill you can actually just start with a single ER-32 collet chuck and a full set of collets in ER-32. I admit I very rarely use an actual drill chuck in my mill - actually don't remember when was the last time I did.

You can occasionally see very cheap mill drill on sale - I should have gotten one for around $500 for my dad. They are not as good as a BP but price is also important factor.
 

PeterT

Ultra Member
Premium Member
#14
If you get NMTB taper mill you can actually just start with a single ER-32 collet chuck and a full set of collets in ER-32. I admit I very rarely use an actual drill chuck in my mill - actually don't remember when was the last time I did.
What does a NMTB taper shank have to do running an ER32?
ER collet chuck systems are available on pretty every common shank standard, no?
 

Dabbler

Well-Known Member
#15
Agreed - you can use ER collets on just about anything. We all do things our own way... my mill is used 75% as a drill press, for instance. I also have an ER40 holder for my mill, but I have yet to chuck up one of my ER40 collets in it - go figure!

We all agree that an old iron BP clone offers best value - keeping in mind the wait and increased risk of getting a dud.
 

Tom Kitta

Active Member
#16
I use ER40 collets when I need to use bigger sizes - but I don't have a full set.

I am also trying out TG100 collets - they should work better when your are pushing things hard with bigger cutter - or so does the internet say.

I guess ER-32 as well as other sizes holders are common in other shanks - I forgot I have MT3-ER32 myself.
 

Tom Kitta

Active Member
#18
Not till I get home and can see the pics (cannot at work) - I got an alert about it this morning but the "drill mill" in the description makes me think it is a clone of the $2000 drill mill that KMS and others sell.

Depending on accessories and condition it can be a good deal. I passed by one on auction for just $500 - should have gotten it - a bit beaten up and no tooling. So $1200 for nice working one with tooling seems reasonable.

https://www.kmstools.com/king-industrial-1-1-4-mill-drill-machine-2661

Looks like price went up to $2200 - they used to go for like 1800 two years ago with a bigger vise.

Note that these are more of a "drill" then a "mill" - it is a very sturdy drill that is adapted to milling work. Note the round column. On the other hand for a bit less precise work they are great - would rather have one of these in good condition with some tooling then spend same $ on a mini mill. Yep, 1000x more would like to have this used with tooling then brand new mini mill.
 
#19
We'll not exactly what my dreams are made of but it's in my price range! Any comments regarding this...


Milling Machine 8-1/4x28-1/2 Table,
https://www.kijiji.ca/v-power-tool/...ampaign=socialbuttons&utm_content=app_android

Price: $ 1,200
The exact machine I have (bought at the same place for $1200 new in 1998) . Prob. 5 or $600 dollars worth of "extras" with it at todays prices. Tom's description of the limitations of a "round column " milling machine is, for the most part accurate . They are heads above the mini-mills (I've owned on of those too), mini mills arnt even in the same ball park as the one your looking at ....all in all I think its an excellent deal if your Milling machine deficient at the time.
 

Tom Kitta

Active Member
#20
Well here is Austrian made EMCO https://www.kijiji.ca/v-view-detail...n=Kijiji_Alert_LISTACTIVEADS&utm_medium=email

For the price without accessories it seems very, very high. EMCO machines have very good reputation.

I cannot see pictures @ work so I don't know whatever it comes with a truck load of accessories - but for the price it better is.

Its a more accurate mini-mill with much larger work envelope - a bit smaller then the mill drill.

For roughly the same price a mill lathe combo (similar mill head) from EMCO sold on government auction few weeks ago -> for just bare mill its too much.