Milling machine question

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Forum topic by Don W posted 08-30-2013 12:10 PM 4050 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Don W

18717 posts in 2568 days

08-30-2013 12:10 PM

I know there are some metal guys out there. I may have a chance on a used machine. Its an older version (2 hp) of this

Asking price is $850. Thoughts?

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

14 replies so far

View lwllms's profile


555 posts in 3282 days

#1 posted 08-30-2013 01:03 PM

It really depends on the condition of the machine and what accessories are included. At a minimum you’ll also need a good vise, collet set, and end mills. I’d suggest a power feed and mist coolant system as well.

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Don W

18717 posts in 2568 days

#2 posted 08-30-2013 01:25 PM

Thanks. I was looking more for thoughts on the mill, not so much the price, although those opinion are appreciated as well. I’ve never used a milling machine and have heard the round column machines are not as good. I just don’t know what “not as good” means when building small projects like I expect to do.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View JustJoe's profile


1554 posts in 2038 days

#3 posted 08-30-2013 01:35 PM

It’s not a true mill, it’s a mill-drill. I had one before I found my knee-mill. 2hp is more than enough power but these things are not very sturdy and if you are new to metalworking like I am, then they can be frustrating because the wrong speed/feed just makes everything vibrate and the whole machine shakes and the cutting bit just slams around or pulls out. I suppose if you are very experienced and have the patience to take very light cuts then you can make it work for iron/steel but I couldn’t. If you’re only going to do brass or aluminum then the learning curve is not as steep but the tool still has its limitations.
The head sits on a round column and it locks in place with two large bolts but if you try to take too heavy a cut in a hard metal then the slamming/vibration pushes the head to the side out of alignment. But again, if you’ve got the patience to torque it to 2.31bajillion pounds per inch, they’ll hold.
On the plus side, some people have managed to CNC convert these mill-drills – they’re all based off the same Rong Fu designs, or if you buy a power-feed (enco for a couple hundred bucks) for the X-feed then you can easily dial in just the right speed that doesn’t make the mill-drill act like it’s having an epilectic fit.
You said you weren’t concerned about the price but 850 is high end unless it comes with the stand, a set of r8 collets and an r8 chuck and some end-mills.

-- This Ad Space For Sale! Your Ad Here! Reach a targeted audience! Affordable Rates, easy financing! Contact an ad represenative today at JustJoe's Advertising Consortium.

View lwllms's profile


555 posts in 3282 days

#4 posted 08-30-2013 01:45 PM


Round column mill/drills are belt driven and square column units have geared heads. It’s not the column that makes the difference, it’s the drive system. Geared heads are easier and faster to change speeds. Also, if you need power down-feed you need a geared head. For plane making, I don’t think power down-feed is all that necessary.

Make sure the ways of a used machine aren’t worn and have been kept lubricated in use.

Other accessories you’ll need are a parallel set and a dial indicator for tramming in the vise (setting the vise so the fixed jaw is exactly parallel to X axis table travel).

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Mainiac Matt

8047 posts in 2329 days

#5 posted 08-30-2013 02:05 PM

On the round collumn mill/drills, once you lock and tram the head, all of your Z-axis motion comes from the quill.

Two drawbacks with this are…
1.) If the quill travel is not enough to make your cuts, you have to lower the head…. BUT… every time you lower the head, you have to re-tram the mill….. can you say “pain in the butt”

2.) Even if the full range of motion of the quill allows you to make your cuts without moving the head, you may find yourself cutting with the quill at near full extension. This decreases ridgidity and increases vibration.

If I didn’t have a lot of space, or had no way to get a knee mill into my basement, I’d go for a RF-45 class machine with a dovetailed collumn. The G0619 good example. With these mills, the head moves up and down on a pair of dovetail ways and stays aligned through it’s range of motion. So you keep the quill fully retracted and then raise and lower the head to make your cuts.

If I had the space, I’d go for a knee mill, where the head is stationary and the table is raised and lowered on dovetailed ways.

Second hand Bridgeport clones can often be found for ~$1-2K

-- It’s the knowledge in your head, skill in your hands and motivation to create in you heart that makes you a woodworker. - Mainiac Matt

View badcrayon's profile


38 posts in 1821 days

#6 posted 08-30-2013 02:10 PM

The price is too high unless it comes with a lot of tooling. I have owned this mill before it was just OK I would jump on it at 500 but at 850 I would hold out for a different mill. I have seen used Bridgeports for 1100 and up that’s a better choice if you have the room.

-- Bad Crayon Studio

View REO's profile


928 posts in 2074 days

#7 posted 08-30-2013 03:02 PM

provided the machine itself is in good shape that is not a bad price for an entry level machine. Machine tools have gone up in price the last several years and will eventually go down again for sure usually just after you buy the one that is available today. A decent vertical mill at least in my area is in the 2500 dollar range. I have seen a couple BP’s go for just over 1000 but they were sorry excuses for a vertical mill and wouldnt hold the tolerance of your machine on a good day. The screws were so bad that with all the adjustmant taken out of the nuts there was still .100 lash in the middle and you could barely get it to the end of the travel on either end. Whether it has power feed or not doesn’t make a difference on how the machine cuts. There is no tramming the head on these machines the head is either square to the table or you need to get it there. once square the head whether moved up or down the column will stay square. If the head rotates on the column it will change the dimension in the xy axis but it wont change the perpendicularity of the z axis. It depends on what your planned use is. Occasional drilling , boring, milling where there is time to take a few cut instead of hogging it all off at once or production runs. It would be the same comparison of a light duty metal lathe such as an atlas to an industrial machine like a monarch. There are thousands of people that are satisfied with an atlas in the basement or garage, but not so if they have to use one regularly to make a living. It should come with a set of collets and I am sure the one selling it would throw in a couple end mills to get you started.

View Loren's profile


10401 posts in 3648 days

#8 posted 08-30-2013 03:08 PM

I have one of those type things. It is cool, but I would not
pay that kind of money for it.

The reason is the quill does not stay centered when you move
the head on the column.

View darthford's profile


603 posts in 1924 days

#9 posted 08-30-2013 03:33 PM

Do not waste your money on that thing, here’s what you want.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18717 posts in 2568 days

#10 posted 08-30-2013 09:29 PM

Thanks for the responses. I really appreciate the help. I will probably hold out for something a little more suited.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View 69BBNova's profile


341 posts in 2217 days

#11 posted 08-30-2013 10:14 PM

Hey Don,

For more info you can go this site “Practical Machinist”, it has massive amount of information…

Be aware if you were to post don’t mention machines of Asian nature for the most part, they will rip you a new one (not exactly, just dont), unfortunately I think you have to sign up to see the images (cant quite remember)...

I found it when my friend gave me most of a South Bend War Production (WW2) 9B Toolroom lathe.

I seem to remember a lot of people like the Clausing 8520(?) for home use.

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3667 days

#12 posted 08-30-2013 10:56 PM

At this point, looking at what you have made without a mill, you owe it to yourself to buy a quality tool that you can grow INTO.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18717 posts in 2568 days

#13 posted 08-30-2013 10:57 PM

thanks Rhett

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View bluekingfisher's profile


1250 posts in 2980 days

#14 posted 09-02-2013 08:11 AM

It’s only a bargain if you actually NEED it, otherwise it will soon become a “why did I buy that” Could be useful for those hand made plane beds you make.

Good luck on the decision.

-- No one plans to fail, they just, just fail to plan

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