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Recommendations for milling machine


Ron Anderson
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Ron & Susan,

 

You didn't really tell us much about your requirements or what you want to make.   There is a wide range of milling machines available new and used.   My own opinion is that a Bridgeport or quality clone is ideal ;)    Purchase cost and moving it is not so nice though :(

 

For much of what I did over 10 years of model making I worked mostly with a "Seig Mini-Mill" which is available in a number of brands including MicroMark, Grizzly, Harbor Freight, etc.   At this point I can't recommend them due to now being even more shoddy than they were 15 years ago.    I just sent a new one back to a vendor due to problems with the spindle and poor service.    If I were considering one now I would spend the extra $ and buy the MicroMark mill if they stock spare parts.

 

I am now in the midst of modifying a Grizzly G0704 (about 2X the size of a mini-mill) which will be for my hobby use from now on.   It is a lot of bang for the buck but has some issues as all of the small mills do.   I am installing digital read outs because the dials are in .002 increments which would drive me nuts.    I am also installing a belt drive kit to replace the gear drive.   I'll end up with a "so so" mill which will do what I want.   I'd like a Bridgeport which could be had cheaper in the long run but don't want to spend the $ to have a rigger move it.

 

Sherline and Taig mills are to my mind too small and don't use standard machinists tooling.    I helped a friend with a Taig a few years ago and it had some issues including some plastic internal parts.   I have looked at a friends Sherline mill and lathe but am not impressed with aluminum components.   I like iron and mass which makes a difference in a mill or lathe.  I want a minimum 1/2" tool shank capacity.

 

R8 collets and tool holders are the nicest way to go since they are available in a number of sizes and are common in the machine tool trade.  Avoid morse taper tooling.

 

OK, what do you make?

 

Jack

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Mostly miniature furniture, frame moldings, metal hardware, gadget canes, barrel knives, etc. Mostly 1\12 scale, but some 1\4, and some much smaller. I appreciate your input. Ron

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For miniatures, I am very happy with my Sherline mill. A little more up front in costs but handles all my miniature needs. Sherline offers a host of attachments.  I also had the Harbor Freight Chinese version of the one sold through Micro-Mark. It had a larger capacity but was hard to keep trammed. It took quite a bit of fiddling t get it vertically accurate.   Also it had plastic gears which could break (and did). I kept a spare set of gears for it and planed to convert it to belt drive but instead sold it. There are belt drive conversions available for these mills through Little machine Shop. The mill might also be available through them too.  Both are table top mills and dpi not take up much space

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Ron,

 

My biggest gripe with the Seig mini-mills is that they are not made  in USA.   Some of the newer mini-mills have a belt drive and the belt conversion is available for the old style.    The conversion gives better spindle speed range.  I never broke gears in my mini-mill or mini-lathe but wanted more speed range and less noise.   Most of the broken gears I have read about were mostly due to operator error.    Tram is an issue with the mini-mill but once you have it set and tightened down it shouldn't be an issue again.   On both the Sherline and Taig mills, flex of the column is a permanent issue due to the light construction.

 

 If you are going to do a lot of woodworking in the mill you need to consider spindle speed which needs to be much faster than is typically available.  For wood milling I use a CNC router or ordinary router table which are better suited to the purpose.   I seldom use a mill for woodworking.  In fact for some operations hand tools may be faster ie. I make 1/2rnd wood molding using a home made miniature molding plane and table saw.

 

If you purchase a mill I strongly suggest you take a basic machining course or study a text book about machining.  Few hobbyists take the time to learn how to operate a mill and it shows.   Pay special attention to learning about machining speeds, chip loading, feeds, cutter geometry, etc.  In my machinist  training the most important things I learned were choice of cutting tool,  how fast the spindle needs to turn it, whether to use conventional or climb milling, and how fast to feed the work into the cutting tool.   Work holding is also very important.

 

In setting up my own shop I learned that I will spend almost as much in tooling as the mill costs!   By the time you buy a vice, collets, end mills, drill-chuck/arbor, saw arbor, slitting saws, clamping kit, etc. it adds up fast!!!

 

Please post some pictures of what you make!

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Ron, as I understand it you are looking for something just for miniatures.  As  miniaturist for many years (since they first came out)  I have found the Sherline very good and dependable. I have run 1/2" shank mills ( and commonly use 3/8" shank mills most of the time) and fly cutters on mine and never had column flex problems.  You just can not take as heavy of cuts as you can on the larger mills.

 

But I don't think that is what you really need unless you plan on some fairly heavy metal machining.  I think for most work ,you described as wanting to do, You will find the Micro-Mark drill presses combined with the X-Y table fits you needs as a starting place. (pocket book wise too). For the $65 difference I would go for the Jeweler's quality drill press. These have been used at the Guild School for many years for some very fine wood working and milling. They can  be set up as a pin router too. You can (in a pinch) use them for very light metal milling but flex is a real problem and also holding mill in a chuck is also not the best idea. I believe Barbara (miniredleader here) used them and for sure Carol Hardy. It would be nice if  those, here on this forum, that have used them could tell more about setting them up.

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Well, to answer Bill's request in the above post, I use the Proxxon drill press all the time with an X-Y table for woodworking, I believe it is basically the same as the Micro-Mark drill press. The biggest issue for me was reworking the lever to be able to fix it for a certain height, in really hard woods you sometimes have to take your cuts down bit by bit and accuracy is a problem then.

Right now I have the small Proxxon mill on permanent loan and so far find it a nice machine to work on, but you still have to careful of not over taxing your motor, I know one guy that burnt his out more than once. Once again I think the Proxxon mill is basically the same as the Micro-Mark mill. We also these mills regurlarly at our monthly club meeting.

For the volumes I make I find using the drill press convenient for certain techniques like pin routing and mold making. The mill is perfect for mortises etc, especially when you need to control the depth of your cut very accurately, and use both machines almost every day.

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>"For the $65 difference, I would go with the jeweler's quality drill press."

 

Are we referring to the Proxxon / Micro Mark Drill press or the Cameron drill press?  I thought they used Cameron Drill press at Guild School.

 

 

Tamra

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I'm referring to Micro-Marks two different drill presses. the higher quality "jeweler's quality is only $65 motor than the lesser one.

 

Yes Tamra, Camerons were (are?) also used, depending on the instructor.  I have used both in my classes but used mostly for drilling metals. It has been over ten year since I was at castine (doesn't seem that long ago) so I have no idea she is being used now days. I have a Cameron in my studio but rarely use it as I find the sensitive drill attachment for my Sherline mill more effective for drilling with very fine drill bits.

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Good Morning Forum... it is a beautiful Spring day here in the Midwest... full of promise.

 

I know that Tom Walden uses Cameron(s) in his pin router workshops at various shows. So what is the difference between using a Cameron for metals and a Sherline Mill for dilling metals, and I am assuming we are discussing the use of bits in the range of size 61 to size 80 drill bits.  I haven't been able to figure out why I need a mill, easy to know that I want one, but is there a need for a casual miniaturist? 

 

JackofallTrades, what should I look for in a basic machining course?  We do have technical schools here... or is there a book that you would recommend?

 

Tamra

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Tamra,

 

I use my Cameron for regular every day drilling, I can not count on it for precision drilling.  I bought it at Castine from the guy who manufactured Prec. With in six months the spindle and quill froze up, completely, and burned the belt. I ended up taking it apart and cleaning up the spindle. I was very surprised at the machining quality, something that I would have expected from China, had me wondering if my drill press was a clone. After cleaning and polishing the spindle parts it has been running fine but I can not use .020 or smaller drill bits in it with out snapping them; also the table is not true to the spindle. Mine might have been fluke as I have not heard of any one else having this problem.  

 

The sensitive drill attachment (shown below) fits in and on the spindle of the Sherline mill. The little red wheel is where you hold it and work it up and down.  A very sensitive touch is possible.

 

Using a drill press for a mill, especially for metal  isn't the best use of the drill press. It is not designed for that type of work The drill press columns are not ridged enough In most cases and the Jacob type chucks are not best for holding mill cutter as they too are not designed for side pressure needed in milling.  

 

I'm not Jack but many years ago (still available) Joe Martin of Sherline published Table Top Machining.  Although aimed at Sherline products it covers a wide range of machining, lathe and milling machine, use and set ups. I think is is a very good starting place for a miniature machinist.  South Bend Lathe, Inc. put out a booklet of How To Run A Lathe. The first edition was in 1914.  I have two, one from 1940 and one from 1958. I'm sure there are still more available out there (check E-Bay or Amazon. It tells you almost everything you need to run a standard metal lathe including grinding the lathe tools. I also still have my text books on machining from when I was studying machining at the Industrial collage. Jack probably is more knowledgable on which machining books are available. Check the internet, you might be surprised what you  will find there. 

post-35-0-82057200-1432907287_thumb.jpg

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you all for your input. I appreciate your sharing your expertise and experience . I am going to sign up for machining class at local comm. college. Thanks again. Off to Castine! Ron

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Tamra,

 

I use my Cameron for regular every day drilling, I can not count on it for precision drilling.  I bought it at Castine from the guy who manufactured Prec. With in six months the spindle and quill froze up, completely, and burned the belt. I ended up taking it apart and cleaning up the spindle. I was very surprised at the machining quality, something that I would have expected from China, had me wondering if my drill press was a clone. After cleaning and polishing the spindle parts it has been running fine but I can not use .020 or smaller drill bits in it with out snapping them; also the table is not true to the spindle. Mine might have been fluke as I have not heard of any one else having this problem.  

 

The sensitive drill attachment (shown below) fits in and on the spindle of the Sherline mill. The little red wheel is where you hold it and work it up and down.  A very sensitive touch is possible.

 

Using a drill press for a mill, especially for metal  isn't the best use of the drill press. It is not designed for that type of work The drill press columns are not ridged enough In most cases and the Jacob type chucks are not best for holding mill cutter as they too are not designed for side pressure needed in milling.  

 

I'm not Jack but many years ago (still available) Joe Martin of Sherline published Table Top Machining.  Although aimed at Sherline products it covers a wide range of machining, lathe and milling machine, use and set ups. I think is is a very good starting place for a miniature machinist.  South Bend Lathe, Inc. put out a booklet of How To Run A Lathe. The first edition was in 1914.  I have two, one from 1940 and one from 1958. I'm sure there are still more available out there (check E-Bay or Amazon. It tells you almost everything you need to run a standard metal lathe including grinding the lathe tools. I also still have my text books on machining from when I was studying machining at the Industrial collage. Jack probably is more knowledgable on which machining books are available. Check the internet, you might be surprised what you  will find there. 

Bill it sounds like you need a new spindle. Talk to Tom Waldron about this, he had to send his Camerons in for a replacement. He was using it as a milling machine all the time which will indeed eventually cause enough wear they are not longer stable because of the constant side loading. If I remember correctly they installed a heavier duty spindle that could take that kind of stress.

 

Learning to use metal working mills and lathes. Go to smartflix.com and look under metal working. They rent videos on the subject including basic Sherline operation techniques. I found them to be a valuable resource for how to films for model making techniques. They also have films covering clock making which teaches more of the advanced lathe and milling techniques for making small sizes pieces.

 

I can't comment on the standard Cameron drill press as I have a MD-70, the one with the large flat base. I was fortunate to find one at a second hand tool store. I do a little bit of milling of soft materials with it now and again. It has plenty of room for small X-Y table on it. But I have regular milling machines so I don't put it under the stress of milling on metal. Occasional use as an overarm router but it is not the optimal speed for routing. I will most likely use the Sherline mill and lathe with me in my mobile workshop as they are lighter in weight and smaller in size than my Taigs and more versatile than the Cameron.

 

Seattle has a lot of engineer and robotic students and professionals with basement prototype workshops so there is a pretty good chance of finding a second hand Cameron, Sherline, Taig or a Bonnie Klein lathe and that is how I got many of my machines. There is a compete Sherline setup on craigslist right now in Ferndale WA which is a town about an hour north of Seatte and about an hour south of British Columbia, Canada  http://bellingham.craigslist.org/tls/5033125615.html

 

There are also Taig and Sherline forums on yahoo. They are fairly active forums with advice as well as buyers and sellers.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm in the process of looking at the local community trades program for manual machining...  I've got two community college choices so will be making phone calls to see class availability and evening options.  I think, for me, there is a value and easier transfer of technique by going to class, then coming home to apply the knowledge.

 

I will also investigate the online options, and books... I am most fond of the book option. 

 

Karin, thank you for the info on the online options, while not part of this thread on milling machines, I am a huge fan of Bonnie Klein's turning... that is one book that I haven't acquired yet for my reference library.

 

Tamra

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