Small shop Mill

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Little Scrapper

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Anyone buy, own or use a small shop Mill for just simple milling jobs? Something like a small a Grizzly, JET or WEN? Or ???

Thinking I’d like one and seeing what others have.
Thanks
Mike
 

Jay Kempf

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Just got one of these. Still collecting computers and parts to get it moving. No impression yet. Lots of good reviews.
Was looking at Little Machine Shop mini mill before this fell in my lap. Price was right at ZERO.
I have a bigger router for doing soft materials. Was looking for a small mill to do metals.

IMG_20200115_135221.jpg
 

TFF

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Most are from the same factory no matter the name. Tooling is one key thing. Nice quality cutters really are necessary. Get a bigger one. The very small ones are a little flexible. Great for model size stuff. Can be a little tough going for 4130 with the small ones. Like all tools, application matters.
 

Marc W

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What Turd said! I have a Rong Fu mill/drill. It is an older Taiwanese machine with a round column. It will do light milling well. Because of the round column, if you have to raise or lower the head, you lose your zero. I can usually avoid raising or lowering the head with careful setup to allow enough room for tool changes. Not always.
 

Little Scrapper

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If I can find a older one that’s not 3 phase I’d buy it. I don’t have the room or desire to have something like a Bridgeport but something quality that’s medium to small would be nice.
 

Aviacs

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Anyone buy, own or use a small shop Mill for just simple milling jobs?
Is the question whether it is possible for anyone to get by with only one?

FWIW, don't get anything that is too small to _reasonably_ put a 6" Angloc style vise on, unless you are mostly a watch/clock/lock maker type.
You will always be struggling with work holding. It will be difficult to support a 10" rotary table, let alone anything bigger. Even a small dividing head will be limited by how far away the tailstock can be placed, for some work. etc.
It might look like the travels are adequate on some of the smaller mill-drills, but the table area will defeat many options for fixturing "typical" size work.

I do have a different take than has been posted re: round column/aka mill-drills.
Accepting that the alignments on most are not all that great as delivered, if you get at least an RF30 size (28" long table, aprox 7-1/2 x 24" y - x travels) it can be a good starter machine at a cheap enough price. Caveat what was said about losing tram when the head is raised/lowered, though.

It looks like you are in a partly rust-belt state. Around here (upstate NY) for the past 20 years or so, manual Bridgeport size machines can be had at auction for not much more than a new large size Chaiwan mill-drill. Some have a vise mounted, maybe even an ancient but working DRO. Specially if it's a belt-change head (as opposed to variable speed). If it is not BP brand, generally it will be even cheaper.

In small mills, R-8 is the cheapest spindle tooling to support and the most ubiquitous. Not the best, but the easiest to start our working with.
If an off brand (non "Bridgeport") full size turret mill like Tree, South Bend, Gorton, etc, turns up for a couple/few hundred$, I would not let an "oddball taper dissuade me though. So long as the machine was otherwise in good condition. Good ways, good spindle bearings, everything in the drive and downfeed operable, etc.

You will spend a few hundred$ on collets, chuck(s) & endmill holders, plus vise, and Tee-nut strap/clamp set just to get started to make the mill useful.

If you need see-n-see, someone else will have to weigh in.

smt
 

Aviacs

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If I can find a older one that’s not 3 phase I’d buy it.
What's wrong with 3PH? Better power delivery (smoother) and instantly reversible with simple switchgear. Cheaper starters. No capacitors.
Just get a surplus 3ph motor, stick it in the corner and pull start it for rotary conversion. No- to very low cost.

I don’t have the room or desire to have something like a Bridgeport
Sorry, was typing a little slower than you were. Did not realize this was a hopeless case.

(all the above said with best intentions and good humor) :)

smt
 

ScaleBirdsScott

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I'm a fan of my Precision Matthews PM-25MV:

https://www.precisionmatthews.com/shop/pm-25mv/


They're pretty affordable, a good community around them, similar to the Grizzly G0704 but with subtle changes people seem to prefer, and I like the color and overall look a lot better than Grizz. The guy who runs it always answered the phone when I was planning to order and has seen nothing but increased success in the years since.

https://www.precisionmatthews.com/product-category/millingmachines/benchmills/


There are a lot more models to choose from now

If I was buying now I'd be looking very much at one of the heavier machines than the PM-25 as the price difference isn't very much, and turns out I have the room. It's always good to be able to handle a bit larger of a vise and take heavier cuts. But at the time the PM-25 was well understood and there were more-or-less solved CNC kits available. And it still has some nice features for its size that you have to spend a lot to get in the heavier units.

I quickly converted mine to CNC but as a manual it still does a trick.

But sounds like these might be the class of mill you're looking for: smaller than a Bridgeport, runs comfortably off the wall outlet, could live on a bench but does come with a stand, and can happily carve some steel and aluminum and so-on within its own capabilities and envelope. I run a GMT 4" vise (https://www.glacern.com/gsv_440) and while there's the occasion I would like to put something bigger in there, generally I have no problems.

My only real issue is that as a manual you're adjusting Z up at the top of the column instead of down low like a knee mill. Also there's no actual spindle brake, though it does spin down rather quickly so I only miss it for tool changes.

I totally get arguments for bigger, bigger, better. They are absolutely valid in most respects. (I'm trying to get a Haas soon, and even those are derided for being toys) but these little bad boys will be great for a home shop that just doesn't have the room/means to run a proper toolroom machine. I don't plan to get rid of mine even when I upgrade to a big machine, just not sure what it'll end up doing.
 
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Armilite

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I have a Grizzley G1007 Large Bench Mill I have had it 20+ years, now discontinued. Very similar to the Newer
Grizzly G0760 - 8" x 29" 2 HP Mill/Drill.
https://www.grizzly.com/products/Grizzly-8-x-29-2-HP-Mill-Drill-with-Stand-and-Powerfeed/G0760


Which I have been very happy with. I also have a Grizzley 12" x 37" Lathe. Bought both at same time.

You have to remember, Table Size Limits what you can Machine. This G0760 is the Heavest and has the Largest Table of their Small Bench Mills with a Table Size: 8-1/4" x 28-3/4". They work on 110v/220v 1 Phase.

As far as converting to CNC, many of these round column Mills have been converted to CNC. Once you mount a Vice on the Table, in 20 years I have very rarely ever Moved the Head, up/down by the Column, the Micro Control on the front handles 95% of your milling needs. Even if you have to move it, with CNC you touch off the part with a probe to set parameters. Is a Square Column Mill consider better to convert to CNC, yes. If you look on eBay there are many CNC kits for both Mills and Lathes.

IF, you have the Room, and Shop around, there are many of these used Industrial CNC Mills, some with Automatic Tool Changers (ATC) which run on 220 3 Phase, but can also be run on 220 1 Phase with a VFD Phase Converter. They run from $1000 to $6000. Many of these Small Mills Cost to CNC is $3000 to $5000. When you think of the Parts you can make with a CNC Mill, like my Mill, you could probably make a Jig Plate too make (2) 582UL Billet Heads at a time or maybe (4) 447UL Billet Heads at a time. A Cast 582UL Head is $820 ea, a 447UL/503UL Cast Head $450ea, a cast 277UL Case $950. Even a Mill $6000/$820 = 7.3 Heads or $6000/$450 = 13.3 447UL/503UL Heads. The average Billet Snowmobile Race head is $400. A Good CNC Router can Mill Aluminum & Wood.CNC MILL - 6..jpg CNC LATHE - 1..jpg CNC MILL - 0..jpg CNC MILL - 4..jpg CNC MILL - 3..jpg CNC MILL - 1..jpg

Universal Retrofit Kit

Ballscrew Installation Benchtop Mill

CNC Express Makes a Motor Mount

 

addicted2climbing

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I was considering a mill from Precision Mathews for small stuff, but lucked into a Tormach PCNC1100 that someone bought but never even used. All the bell and whistles. I pick it up next week and will likely shelve it for a few months until I finish a current work project. However, for the quick fix on parts, it makes sense to have a small desktop mill. For that I have an older G0704. Both use the same tooling so can go back and forth if needed. Also one thing to consider is the power you have available. I could have bought some older small Haas machines, but all were 3 phase and my hangar only has 110 and 220 single phase.
 

Armilite

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I was considering a mill from Precision Mathews for small stuff, but lucked into a Tormach PCNC1100 that someone bought but never even used. All the bell and whistles. I pick it up next week and will likely shelve it for a few months until I finish a current work project. However, for the quick fix on parts, it makes sense to have a small desktop mill. For that I have an older G0704. Both use the same tooling so can go back and forth if needed. Also one thing to consider is the power you have available. I could have bought some older small Haas machines, but all were 3 phase and my hangar only has 110 and 220 single phase.
============================================

Did you get the ATC version Tormach PCNC1100? There nice Machines, but Pricey.

We need (1) Good Rotax 277 Belt Drive and (2) a Billet 277 Free Air Head, and (3) a Billet 277 Free Air Case. :)

You can run a 3 phase 220v Mill/Lathe/Router/etc., on 220v 1 phase using one of them VFD Inverters. For a 5hp 3 phase, you use a 10hp VFD.

VFD..jpg
 

wsimpso1

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Used is the way to go with simple mills and the tooling to go with it. My buddy acquired a Miller, no power feeds, but a full set of collets, and has been adding vises, edge finders, parallels, boring bars, tool holders, boring/facing heads and growing set of cutters ever since. By the time you can do much, you can have more dollars in tooling than in your mill.

I have bored control system parts for bushings and airframe bearings, made flap fittings, built control system components, made mounting plates, machined landing gear leg saddles from massive blocks of 6061-T6 (the most material removal of my parts), drilled 4340 landing gear legs (the bulkiest parts and highest strength material), built my rudder pedal adjustment folding cranks, and fitted pistol barrels on that Miller.

Billski
 

Dana

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I have Jet 15, which is the same thing as a Rong Fu 30, bought used (at the Jewett City flea market, SB Scott!) with a bunch of tooling. Mine is an older one from when they were made in Taiwan, the newer ones are China and quality is reportedly lower. It does everything I've needed it to do, sometimes you just have to go slow. I'd love to have a real Bridgeport but I don't have the room for it.

The round column on mills like mine can be a PITA on occasion, you just have to be aware and plan ahead. OTOH, the round column can sometimes be an advantage, since the table is considerably longer than the X travel, you can swing the head over and cover the whole area. I typically have the vise set up near one end of the table, and by swinging the head I can reach the other where I can do another setup, clamps, rotary table, whatever.

I added DROs to mine and a variable speed DC drive from a treadmill so I don't have to keep moving the belts on the step pulleys.

mill.jpg
 
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Turd Ferguson

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If I can find a older one that’s not 3 phase I’d buy it.
Don't reject a 3 phase machine for that reason alone. Very easy to run on single phase. A good deal on an old machine is not such a good deal if it has a Brown & Shape #9 taper in the spindle. A BP / clone is popular because of commonality and you can always sell it and recoup your $$ when you're done with it.
 

Aviacs

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For perspective regarding round column mill-drills (also see my post #12):

I've always wondered who in Taiwan was familiar with Fehlmann, but the entire family of mill drills out of Taiwan and now China is based on the late 1950's Swiss Fehmann Picomax design. These always cost about twice what a BP cost, and are obviously small; so never got much of a foothold in the US. They were geared toward the high precision Swiss products industries for prototyping watch parts, medical, tooling, and such.

On a picomax, the column key is secured to the column, and the head is gibbed to the key. There is also a sort of automatic clamp. So when the head is raised or lowered, just as it is locked, the keyway is also clamped, and there is no change in the alignment. This sort of arrangement could easily be applied to a Chaiwan mill-drill, but the fact is that being able to swing the head for some ops, or working shaft ends off the back of the table, ends up being a feature, less than a bug.



smt
 
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