View Full Version : Milling machine consideration questions.

05-02-2003, 12:57 AM
Short and sweet I want a shaper or a milling machine. I'm learning the terminology about horizontal mill, knee mill, shaper and yet I don't know why the knee mill is called a knee mill or what the advantages of one or the other is. I know that the shipping kills most of the deals that I might find, but I want to concider any machine in my area that I can afford. I'd love to get a bridgeport II with CNC for around a grand. I think that deal is out there somewhere. What features are the most desirable? I know that I want the vise but what else should I look for?
Machining on a budget,

05-02-2003, 03:21 AM
I don't think you'll find that deal at a dealer or on ebay...I think that your only chance (especially for the Bridgeport name) would be a primary auction where people are there to re-sell the items and make a profit or a private party sale. You'll have to be prepared to move the item. When I picked up my mill (Tree 2UVR $1200) there was a fellow bidder who got a large Fadal? CNC machine for only $1400...but this was a big machine that I would estimate at least in the 5-7 thousand pound area. If you can move that much machine or find somebody to move it for you, you may luck into something. Maybe a roll back wrecker with a steel bed could handle it and save you bucks over a machine movers truck/forklift combo? To get the deal you're talking about you will have to look or be in places that other HSM's and small business buyers aren't or be able to move something they can't or live with a lack of convenience that they won't.

I don't know what other constructive advice I can give you.

From my limited experience the differences in the machines mentioned is versatility. I find the Vertical mill the most intuitively versatile. By that I mean that the axes operate the way I think...and that eases set up and getting those first projects out.

With ingenuity a horizontal mill can become versatile especially with a large expensive angle plate and a tool holder mounted where the overarm would go. But I've really only read about horizontal mills and seen a few. I don't have any shaper experience, but it seems the least versatile of the machines mentioned in that there's no rotary tool motion.

05-02-2003, 08:27 AM
As posted above you want a knee mill. the hobbist can't take full advantage of a horizontal machine although they are a nice machine to have they are much more limited then the vertical knee mill on top of that tooling(shell mills and sloting cutters) is not cheep where as end mills are very common and inexpensive. and with the right set ups a knee mill will do everything a horizontal can just not as heavy duty.
But for about $400 to $800 you can get a 90* head arbor and dove tail adapter to convert your knee mill to a horizontal in those times that you may need one.
as for picking up a cnc for a grand good luck
I've never seen them that cheep unless there was something wrong with them like the drive were burnt or something.
expect to pay at least a few grand and expect the machine to be old very old for cnc.

Ragarsed Raglan
05-02-2003, 09:45 AM

Hang in there lad, this is what you really want! Forget those Tommy Tonka mill/drills and Wibble Wobble BP's, Get a true universal:-


or if that is too large, try this:-


You will note the tables on these machines are carried on sub tables, which are mounted off the front of the column. This means that cutter positioning is perfomed by the moveable head; this gives greater rigidity to the table. Both these machines are true Vertical and Horizontal capable without compromising the design.


05-02-2003, 11:11 AM

I think you may benefit from doing a little more homework on what you want. If you don't have a library nearby to help you with some terms, maybe you could try using Google and search rec.crafts.metalworking newsgroup. You can search for terms like "knee mill" and "shaper". You will get lots of hits. Read them and you might then be better able to define the features you need or want.

What are you going to do with your shaper or milling machine? Fix your lawn tractor or do a little tool and die work for your local aerospace plant? That might help in your search for the perfect machine for you.

"I'd love to get a bridgeport II with CNC for around a grand"

Have you considered a mill/drill?

05-02-2003, 12:56 PM
A shaper ain't a mill, and might cost you more than one.
But they are nice.

Me, no mill just a shaper. Does most of what I want, flat surfaces, gears, keyways, etc.

It WILL do round surfaces, if the work turns. I saw a setup for doing some complex torpedo part that was semi conical and round. No idea why the shaper was the tool of choice, but it made the part.

05-02-2003, 01:11 PM
Shapers use home sharpened tooling. A big plus when you are learning. I had several lathes and mills before the bridgeport. I actually paid less for the bridgeport and leblond than the last mill and lathe. NOW of course the advantage is I have a place to put a 6,000 pound mill and a 1200 pound lathe. A big plus.
CNC's may not work so well with a home-brew 3 phase generator, something to think about also. I had to do a lot of changes on mine.

Personally, I am hunting a shaper too. Resplining axles is one thing I want it for.
Everyone here will tell you a shaper will not do anything a mill can not, except inside splines, but it does it with cheap tooling. I have as much in tooling for the mill as I have in the cnc mill.

05-02-2003, 01:48 PM
Thanks for the input everyone.

RR Man that looks ideal! I'd better start selling some of my old stuff, and make some room for one of those!

I think that if I know what I want, and I keep my eyes open in my metropolitan area eventually I'll own a machine of one type or another.

I've been inventing things on paper for years and now that I have turning, casting and drilling capability I'm missing the surfacing capability. I've been planning to build an engine of my own design since 1986.

Here are two examples of what I've been looking at. One was in my area.




[This message has been edited by SJorgensen (edited 05-02-2003).]

05-02-2003, 01:49 PM
You may want to consider a Van Norman mill if one comes up.

Much more rigid than a bridgeport and just as versatile. True vertical and horizontal modes.
A friend of mine has one.
One bad thing about them is the unique taper in the spindle. It's difficult to find collets.

As for cheap tooling like for a shaper, you can always use flycutters on a vertical or horizontal mill to avoid buying expensive cutters. Just at the expense of speed of cutting (one point versus many).

05-02-2003, 10:44 PM
I tried to talk Alistair into a beauty he sent me a picture of (also an F3) - but he was asking if he could move it himself up to the shop - Gad! (He will be happy with the smaller German mill and S & B lathe though...)

I know I would take the F3 over a stinking BP any day! http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif

05-03-2003, 06:44 AM
Thrud, I moved my milling machine myself, but I ain't normal so they tell me. I drilled several holes in the concrete floor, dropped a hardened bolt and winched it into place.
Now the 10,000+ pound free lathe it was a disaster, I had to call in favors (help)
Stinking bridgeport comment, I like mine. Something about having a antique I can actually get parts for.. ha ha..
Are you doing OK? Eat more salsa.

Alistair Hosie
05-03-2003, 07:37 AM
Ibewgypsie that's a good idea on the relatively flat surface I have some concrete steps to overcome which I cannot see how you could winch it up steps without it toppling over so I may have to put my new things under the carport and make a small engineering shop there as a seperate venture, I will see. I would prefer to keep it all together with my other stuff on the one level although seperated in a different room,but can't see how regards. Alistair

05-04-2003, 12:40 AM
Alastair...you're a woodworking type, right?

Put together a stout "skid" that is as wide as the steps can hold, and as long as possible, with runners to span the steps. "hardpoints" to bolt to are needed too.

Bolt down the unit to the skid, and use bracing straps.

Then lay boards on the stairs for the runners to go on and winch the skid up with the unit on it..Starting up might need a gradual slope, to keep from stressing the skid too much. Pile up blocking for that part.

If you have to turn corners, you need to get riggers in. it'd be cheaper in the long run. But maybe such folks are not exactly available up there, it tends to be a city thing.
You must have some sort of "straight shot" up that hill where you could winch up the skid.

If you have a good view out your door, post us a pic or two. I only saw shop pics and a couple outside shots of the hill.

Alistair Hosie
05-04-2003, 08:21 AM
Oso if you email me personally I will send you a few pic's so that you can see the problem as I don't want to keep pesterring Albert with photo's regards Alistair

05-04-2003, 08:27 AM
Alstair, send me a plane ticket.

Actually people lift heavier things all the time with just 3 poles in a tripod. This is people who are not educated and not trained. Farmers. I saw about a hundred trucks in Indianna and Illinois with Gin poles on the back, kinda like a home made wrecker. Yeah I know they won't get though the door either.
two cherry pickers? can you subtract the weight by removing parts? Can you hire locals who rig and move equipment normally? Sometimes it is easier to use someone elses head who has done something a thousand times. My neighbor unloaded the rental truck I had my mill in. He used a wrecker with a extending boom to lift it and sat it right in the door.
If all else fails.. sit it in the yard on bricks and pour concrete around it, then build a shed.. ha ha.. yeah. (I did that to a boiler once). that is what I would do if nothing else.
Knowing the purist you are by looking at pictures of your shop I know this is not going to happen.
I was soo dissapointed with the lil bitty mills I had before, but you have to consider all things in a purchase, including where it is going. I have the joystick hooked to my 2 hp mill now and it is the largest dremel tool I have ever seen.. like playing space invaders and dodging chips.
I wish I was closer, there kinda is a lil water in the way. And that cute scottish busty lady next door too.. Whoo hoo.. Gaelic? I seen a show once where you scottish guys were throwing some large rocks.. perhaps you can find them guys.. just don't have them throw your machine too far.
( I hope you don't come and whip my butt..)
personally I would inspect the floor, see if it is okay, then purchase and dissassemble it till I can slide it up into the reinforced stairs. I would find out the real weight on the machine too. My machine was just supposed to weigh about 1800.. it was 6,000

05-04-2003, 08:05 PM
Is a CNC milling machine, like I posted earlier, more likely to have seen heavy use and abuse? I was wondering if people program their cuts to take the maximum material per pass that the machine is capable of, or if the programmed cutting produces relatively uniform forces on the tool. If I were looking at a tool that is "used up" where would the wear and tear be most apparent? Would it be in the servos, the bearings, or the ways? How robust are the machines when used with the CNC capacity in a production shop.

05-04-2003, 09:06 PM
SJ.. My machine came from a plastic mold and die shop. It was made in 1976. checking with indicators The worst axis was the Z (up dn) and it was .0003.. I kinda blame that on a loose gilmer belt now thou. Repeatability is what I was checking for. No clue tho how to check them other than dial indicators., check the table it gives a good indication how the machine was used or abused.. ANy marks on the table tells a tale.
I love the ball screws.

05-04-2003, 09:33 PM
I think I could live with that (.0003) I am afraid of getting a machine that was in continuous use by unskilled labor. I don't think any machine can put up with that for very long.

05-04-2003, 11:30 PM
I think you put your fingers on what is required to get the mill you want... The big problems are shipping, and putting it where you want it on a budget...

If you have an idea of what you really want, then its OK to spend some money. Getting something less than you want or not what you want is not saving any money.

First, is there a metal working club or group in your area? if there is, talk to the members. People looney (Yes.. looney) enough to stick big Bridgeports, lathes, CNC turning centers, ingjection molders, welders and such in the garage/workshop are definiely not in the majority out there...

Bikers have been puttting up with this kind of crap from the general public for years now.. So you can look at them and see how they have to network and "stick together".

That is the second group to get in contact with. Custom bike makers.. Anyone who knows how to make a georgeous gas tank with an English Wheel will know ALL KINDS OF THINGS... Network..!!!! Bike makers have to network to get things done, too. Bike makers turning AL billets likely have a BP in the garage already... so what did they do to get it there?

Third group to check out are riggers and those who support aircraft repair.. Likely they have to network, too. Sometimes they are sources of who has "2 CNC mills for $500, with rotary tables" in perfect shape. Does happen. Happened in Phoenix last week... You have to ask around, network with the local metal guys... Riggers can tell you who might be good choices to work with for transport and shipping. You might find the perfect mill in Wisconsin - a CNC Series II with True Trace attachement - perfect condition... but if you can't transport the unit, you are busted.

So there is a budget for rigging (on and off the truck) and shipping - to where you are..

To watch out for... Home Owners associations.. Some of them will try to evict you if you park your car on the grass or pick your nose in public. Fertile recruiting ground for neo-nazis, that is for sure. Check the local regs out before buying a machine.

I just went through a lot of this, so suggestions are based on my very limited (some excellent - some not) experience. The most important thing is to network. It is also the only way to keep sane AFTER you get *the big mill* and you have to keep it running.

The Egyptians moved big blocks up big inclines a long time ago. A block and tackle or the right pry bars will get it where you want it. It is all a trade off of time and resources.


05-05-2003, 08:05 AM
(okay enough ribbing ,poke poke.. ha ha)

I'd definitely talk to people,. Yes there are series two machines out there, but what do they weigh? It takes a semi to move one. I looked at one in Chicago that was less than a grand, but the 5 ton rental truck was too small. I calculated it over 8,000 pounds.
Tooling is a big consideration too. What do they have with the machine, what does new tooling cost. I bought a cnc machine with kwik switch spindle. Purchasing end mill holders and mills has cost as much as the machine.

I think marks on a table of any kind show unskilled labor at work. Does that make the machine junk? well it made me look at it harder.

I wanted a bridgeport so bad, I sold my harley to get one, I didn't buy the first one I saw. It takes some sacrifice to get what you want in this world. When I got it home, I gutted it like a fish. My girlfriend came in and saw the stuff I had pulled out of my new aqquisition and nearly fainted. She asked why I didn't just buy one already converted. I told her they cost ten times more and I could not afford one.

Anyways guys, go for what you want. A small machine does small work. Casting dies is what I wanted one for. Casting outfit is just about done. Now I got a new learning curve on the dies, but I got the machine to do it. Hopefully someone here has some experience for me to pick thier head.

what I am trying to say is.. if you got room and can afford it, get what works for you. each tool is designed and sized for a type job. I started with a Unimat, found out it was only good for real small things. It would not turn a 3/4 bar into a axle in my lifetime.
My next toy was a mill-drill-lathe and another heartbreak. I personally don't have the paitience to work with one of them. When a chuck stops dead in it's tracks with a 1/8" drill it is too weak. It was from HF. I am unsure about the other makes, but I would have to try one out now before I bought.
It is bad enough learning on your own, but is it the machine or me?

I have saw bargains on ebay, but, coon dogs and land are only worth what someone will pay.
A real good thing to do is watch the auctions purchased by a (0) feedback and write the seller. Usually they don't pay up on big ticket items. I keep seeing the same shaper on ebay.. over and over..

Dvideo, I got a english wheel, mine converts into all kinds of toys, it ate up space before that and was nearly useless in a small shop.

05-05-2003, 10:51 AM

I guess you fit the requirements of someone to ask, then.... One of the real big problems is that someone new to machining, unless they are in the business, will get the feeling that they are pretty alone. And it's true.... May be not in Chattanooga, it has a rich history, but go to Denver, Dallas, or Spokane. IF you are in those places, you have to get up and go actively looking for people to network with and that know what they are doing.

I did not really intend to paint your picture, but but guess I did. I was thinking like I always do in computer design... "What about the person in Alice Springs? Or Hobart? Glasgow? London? or Sacremento?" What is the best thing for them to come up to speed with? - chances are talking with an Aircraft Mechanic, Rigger, Bike Builder, and the like is a good start... People don't think to ask sometimes.

As far as bilding pyramids... Well after casting, have you considered stone work?

I am unaware of anyone else in my home town with a garage shop having big mills, lathes, and the like... they are probably there, but I don't know of them yet. I have to camp out on the Web and look at profiles.


05-05-2003, 07:15 PM
pyramids they say were built long before the egyptians came into power. (newest talk)

Stone work, I suck at it. I can't get the mud right, a simple thing for other people.

I was tickled to find this site with people like Thrud, SJ, Wierd, Ga. and others to pick thier brains.

I just hope I can give a little back.

05-05-2003, 11:41 PM
Tattoo'd Gorilla

Ya sold the Harley? Man, you REALLY wanted that mill - bet it leaks less, eh! http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif

I was going to ask you if you tried carbide endmills with the D-2. If you have not, do so. It should cut well with the carbide and .oo3-.oo6" fpt. And don't bother trying to anneal it yourself - it is just tough to begin with. I would either keep it for cutting tools (broaches), construction of precison instruments, mandrels (cold working), etc.

The best stuff for the HOT Light metal injection dies is H11 or H13. H11 can be used up to 1000* an H13 to 1300* - Ideal for Aluminum. Be warned it is very tough to cut as well - carbide is best for these. The H & D series should be considered "air hardening" and best done in a controlled HT oven.