View Full Version : Machine accessories - can you afford them?

02-09-2012, 07:17 PM
Just wondering how many of you guys are like me - buy a machine & then can't afford to buy any accessories to make the machine useable?

My example - I bought a large round column mill/drill about three years ago & struggled with only a vise.

I have just bought a chinese clamp kit & boring head. WHAT A DIFFERENCE! I can actually do something now. (I know - I can only afford Chinese)

Now I want a dividing head, a proper stand / cabinet, some dovetail cutters, a facemill, an xyz etc.

Then there is my old lathe..........

02-09-2012, 07:28 PM
No, but who says that has to stop me? :D and there are a few bits that really belong here: http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net/showthread.php?t=52350 and that is not quite 2 years "in"

02-09-2012, 07:46 PM
I all boil`s down to this . You spent $1200.00 for mill its going to cost you $2400.00 to be able to use it. I learned long time ago to double what you spend on a machine to be able to use it. Has a horizontal mill once that needed a arbor that cost $58.00 and was just know way I was ever going to have the money for it so I just did with out . Later sold it and bought a little Rockwell that came with a vise a small angle plate a boring head and collets along with two cowboy boot boxes full to the top with end mill. now I could cut metal. yes I remember when.

02-09-2012, 07:55 PM
We have all been there. In time, you will learn where to poke around and scrounge to find useful tooling. One of the best investments you can make is building your library, suscribe to the magazines and purchase some of the books a Village Press offers. The compendiums of past issues and the Shop Masters series of books have lots of information and articles for making your own tooling and fixtures.

Everything you buy, someone else has made. That is part of what your tools are for.

02-09-2012, 08:00 PM
It just takes time. I don't think very many of us can afford to get a machine and all the tooling required at one time. First the machine then add tooling as you need it or find it, always watching for a good buy. Watch for Estate Sales, Garage Sales and on e-bay.

I have been at it for 40+ years and just got a good deal on used dividing head about a year ago. Before that used a second hand, home made one that used gears for dividing, that came with a used mill I bought over 25 years ago.

Dr Stan
02-09-2012, 08:04 PM
Another tactic is to search for used professional grade tools/tooling rather than giving up and just buying Chinese.

I have purchased used items such as a Criterion boring head, a Phase II (Japanese) rotary table, a Dake arbor press, a Pratt & Whitney 4 jaw chuck, mics, etc at prices equal to or less than new Chinese. This way I have items that will last and not disappoint me. I also bought two essentially new Baldor grinders for pennies on the dollar.

02-09-2012, 08:06 PM
Time will heal your needs. As noted, read all you can to learn of possible alternative ways of machining. eBay and Craiglist are helpful, but usually require a lot of time and luck in scoring some of the items you need. Reading forums such as this one will sometimes tip you off to less costly but like quality alternatives to what you have on your list of needed accessories. Only buying items as each project requires it is a good path to full capability in the long run.

02-09-2012, 08:13 PM
Lane has it correct about the cost of tooling doubling the price of the machine.

It gets to be a money pit, but still an enjoyable one,,, and much better and more practical than Pi##ing the money away on trivial things.

As stated by others above, watch for stuff for sale and like Jim says, buy the literature and discover ways to build your'e own, which is a great satisfaction, more so than just purchasing some items.

I have to suspect that probably 95% of guys here have at one time also had to scratch to find some extra $$ to purchase tooling they needed.

Most of us Have been there.

02-09-2012, 08:21 PM
I have been a subscriber to HSM & Practical Machinist a few years now, there are some great projects, but getting to the point where I have enough gear to make something is tough.
Being in New Zealand has some challenges, but we have an auction site here called Trademe, (like E-Bay) I watch this for used gear, but a number of times I have seen a tool, but don't have the money because I have just bought another old gun :rolleyes:
I collect old British rifles, like the old singel shot sporting rifles, so it can be hard to find a balance.

02-09-2012, 08:30 PM
I have the same two hobbies. If you think it is expensive now wait untill you start combining the two.:D
Currently trying to scratch up the money to try the components to build a
M48 Mauser into a 338 Federal with express sights and walnut or curly maple stock.

02-09-2012, 08:35 PM

My first project now that I have clamps & boring equipment is a....

Barrel vise

02-09-2012, 09:46 PM
Yup you got it right I bought a 3" HBM 17,000# for $2,000.00 $100.00 delivery, first job needed a boring head $2,300.00, can't remember the name but it came with every thing I needed except the shank to mount it with another $250.00, then needed hold downs 3/4" type more money, but the first job paid for the whole thing with some left over. So I got lucky, a pre ww2 HBM that was unbelievably accurate after getting it set up and leveled borrowed a 36" precision square to check the column 35"s travel within .001 both directions, the machine also came with the tail stock and a lot of boring bars, boy are they great for boring bucket holes, excavator arms, sure wish I still had it but no place to put a 17,000# machine.

02-09-2012, 09:49 PM
I can understand that perhaps it's not as easy to find bargains on the machines and/or accessories in AUS and NZ, but I have it easy here.

Ive found incredible bargains on Craigslist and Ebay. That's where the bulk of what I've added to the basic machines has come from. I have everythign from a stainless steel Kennedy roll-around 4-drawer cabinet for $30 to a $40 Phase II radius/angle dresser to stuff like collets and endmills nearly free.

The key is to keep a little "mad money" hidden in the shop at the ready for when such deals present themselves.

02-09-2012, 09:54 PM
It seems to be a lifelong quest.

I started real late in this, but gaining quickly in acquring a nice toy chest.

From what I've seen, it really deosn't matter what tooling or accessories you own, there will always be more. :)

It just never ends.....

Start with the most vital and important 'main stays' of the jobs. The most useful items for the money involved.
Then start accessorizing around the edges, working your way out to the cool, fun, obscure, unique, tools that make peope like me jealous.

02-09-2012, 10:32 PM
Probably most of us know exactly what you mean. Started many years ago with an Atlas 6X18, then a 9X36 South Bend, Atlas shaper, mill-drill, drill press, welding equipment. Had to really scrape to get a few tool bits for the lathe, started watching for flea markets, yard sales, junk yards, etc. Bought a lot of stuff from Enco, Harbor Freight, MSC. These boys are right on the money about making your own stuff, somebody made the first one so you can too. I had to shim the column base on the mill-drill to tram it but now it will get the job done. With these machines I have made indexable face mills, a tool & cutter grinder, gears, tool holders, boring bars, scissor type knurling tool, taper attachment for the South Bend, power feed for the mill table and bunches of other stuff. With careful watching, you can get some really good deals on Ebay, and other machinery dealers. Don't give up.:D

02-09-2012, 10:53 PM
Not sure how things are in your part of the world, but here in midwest USA I can find 200+ auctions on any given Saturday in spring and summer within 200 miles of me, many of which sell machine tools. There is also flea markets, yard sales, and various other local advertising methods. Needless to say, I rarely buy new, even for disposable items like tool bits.

I think the key to being able to afford expensive toys is to buy them when you dont need them and see a deal. Many of the ~100 auctions I attend yearly are shop or plant closings, and there are always smaller lots that nobody sees, wants, or is paying attention to that are pure gold.

As others have said, you also have to know when to buy vs make. In the case of your clamp set, $5 worth of cheap steel not only makes a lot of clamps, it also gives you opportunity to use your machines and acquire skill.

02-09-2012, 10:56 PM
Also, put the word out that you are starting out in machining. You'd be surprised at what is out there. Perhaps the secretary doesn't do machine work, but her dad used to...

Doc Nickel
02-09-2012, 11:06 PM
When I went off into my own business customizing paintball guns, I had a Jet mill-drill, a $30 drill-press vise, an endmill "set" from Smithy, five collets, a drill chuck that wouldn't stay on the R8 arbor (both were cheap imports, tapers didn't match well) maybe a dozen drill bits and a cheap hold-down set.

The Jet worked reasonably well, but even when it was new to me, it produced horrible finishes that took huge amounts of handwork to smooth out. I couldn't afford to buy whatever tool I wanted, so more than a few times I made my own cutter out of a grade-8 bolt or broken drill bit.

Keep your eye on local classifieds and Craigslist, and check places like pawn shops, garage sales and auctions. It'll take a while, but you'll have what you need before too long.


02-09-2012, 11:42 PM
its the old cliche, fast, cheap, high quality; pick two.

Be patient and you'll accumulate the good stuff for not much money

02-10-2012, 01:26 AM
I collect old British rifles, like the old singel shot sporting rifles, so it can be hard to find a balance.

Buy a pair of pantyhose, find a trustworthy driver and pick a bank!!! That should provide the money you need :D

Here in Australia, we have the same problem as you in what is available and what we are charged for it. Chinese HSS end mills are about the same price as US made solid carbide ones. I picked up a QCTP for my 18x60 for $300 plus postage. Same size tool post here is $1375 or $1650, depending upon the style.

Wherever possible, I buy off of eBay or out of the US. I am fortunate that business takes me there about once a year and I try to tool up whilst I am out there. You need to watch the US eBay site and check that the seller is willing to ship via USPS. Flat rate boxes are the way to go if what you want will fit.

02-10-2012, 02:07 AM
Wanting it is not always the same as needing it.

02-10-2012, 04:15 AM
Wanting it is not always the same as needing it.

Make do with the basics and as you can afford it or chance to find some bargains , build up what you really do need to get the work done .


02-10-2012, 06:10 PM
I've made a point of having informal lists scattered around with items worth having and specs for machines I own or want to. Priority counts but if something is cheap and on "THE LIST" I jump.

Paid $30 for a K&T low lead attachment three years ago-needed a Cincinatti, but no luck trading attachments, so last month I traded mills. Now I've got the equipment if not the brains for helical milling.

Building a little network of like minded buddies is helpful. If one guy is at an auction and ends up with 37 of one size of drill bit he can divvy up with the other guys, and pretty soon everybody ends up closer to well equipped.

02-10-2012, 07:16 PM
I am of the opinion to buy the best machine that you can afford that will do what you want and a bit more if possible the accessories, buy as you need them. My old man bought the ML7 (Myford) with all the accessories some thirty odd years ago and some to this day some have never been used = waste. the reason being they were to small for a job that I had to do so bought the RF30 Drill mill which has served me well for the jobs I do.my first tee nuts were just square nuts that fitted and threaded up rod to suit the job at the time yes it adds time to the job which can be a problem occasionally but as your experience grows so does your work shop so What I'm saying is just get what you need for the job at hand unless you see something that you think you can use at really good price and the shekels are in your pocket

John Stevenson
02-10-2012, 07:21 PM
When I first started up with machine tools as a way of doing bits on my racing bikes not only did have have little money, young and with a new family but a lot of what I wanted wasn't available in my price bracket.

Lathes were Ok, you could always find some clunker to get started on but pre-imports milling machines were like hens teeth. About the only machine over here small enough for the average shed, remember we don't have the North 40 to play in :rolleyes: was the Tom Senior but as these were not made in tens of thousands they were rare and costly.

About this time Prof Chaddock teamed up with Ivan Law of gaers and gear cutting fame and started a company called Model Engineering Services which sold the Dore Westbury miller as a kit of parts to be bought as you could afford them.


I bought one of these and built the machine up and it did sterling service, in fact it's still in use today doing racing bike bit with a new owner.

I then went on the make the vise for it, good design with low profile and it opened out to 5" with a supported moving jaw to stop it lifting up.

They also did rotary table kits, boring and facing head kits and even a swing grinder. All the kits were made to be finished on a Myford sized lathe and drilling machine, anything bigger than that was done for you.

I certainly learn a lot in making these parts.

In some ways the cheap imports have helped many to get started but the problem now is they expect to be able to buy everything.

Nothing wrong with home made, in many case you can improve on accepted methods and get better goods and more skills to boot.

02-10-2012, 07:24 PM
There comes a time when the "job" is available commercially or on the web and buying a machine or tool/s to make it on a "one off" basis and to have the "one off" tool languish afterwards may not be a good use of resources/money - or money or space - or logic.

I've done that often enough (too often??) and now I look for a "work-around" which in retrospect I should have done earlier.

If a work-around is feasible it may be that in reality the work-aroundable job was only a means of or for getting the tool anyway.

02-10-2012, 07:34 PM
I've read and re-read John's last post several times. It not only makes sense but rings quite a few bells from the past.

The title of the thread by the OP is: "Machine accessories - can you afford them?"

That pre-supposes that you need them - but do you?

And that in turn pre-supposes that the machine that the accessory is for is necesary for the job - but is it?

And that in turn pre-supposes that the job is both necessary in its present format with no viable alternatives - but is it?

02-10-2012, 07:46 PM
It took me about ten years of acquiring assorted stuff before I could start a project with some assurance that I might possibly have everything I needed to do the job in a reasonably sane way without having to buy something. After 20 years I got so I could look through a tool catalog and not buy anything....at least not every time.

So...have patience. I've found this hobby demands a lot of it.

02-10-2012, 08:41 PM
I am a 3rd generation toolmaker. I used to work in my Dad's shop starting at 8. Well playing and learning, not really working. At one point he had 40 employees. I knew early on I wanted my own shop. He passed away when I was 12 so I didn't get that shop. My Mom kept it going for a while, but with 3 little ones it was too much to do it all, so she sold out at auction.
I worked for other shops for 30 or so years, all the while using every spare dime to buy tools. I had a pretty good collection of drills, reamers, taps, endmills, etc. long before I had any machine to use them on. Eventually I ran across a guy who was selling out his home shop and was able to buy a Sebastian lathe and Hedwick mill pretty well tooled, bandsaw, air compressor and a Dumore toolpost grinder all for about $5000. I had to take out a loan, but it was worth it. The machines were good quality and in good shape. I made a lot of projects on them for a lot of years.
Over time, by working full time at a regular job and part to full time at home, I was able to gradually upgrade and add on here and there. Now I have been working full time at home for about 4 years with a nice shop.
Even with all the stuff I have, I still have to make do and get by fairly often. That's just the way it is. You will never have every possible tool to fit every possible situation that may arise. I get great satisfaction out of doing a good job with what's on hand.
Get what you can, use what you have, and savor the journey.

02-10-2012, 09:25 PM
When you are just starting out with a mill, there are really only a few pieces of tooling that you absolutely must have. Yes, it's nice to have some of everything but you can really get by with a few endmills and end mill holders or collets along with improvised hold down blocks/clamps. Throw in a 20 vise and you can 'make things'.

From there you can make a better vise, or make decent hold-down sets. The list goes on. A flycutter is dead simple to make, for instance.

With the purchase of one dovetail cutter, a tap and a few drill bits you have what you need to make a serviceable boring head.

Using smaller endmills means you will make more passes, which means it will take longer and wear out the endmills faster. But you can do a lot with a single 3/8 inch end mill and a collet.

Of course, I can say that since I've got just about 2 of everything now. :) Some bits are still unused.


02-10-2012, 09:45 PM
Hit the farm sales, flea markets, and antique shows. buy "stuff" cheap... identify it, clean it up, use it or sell it. There are still many out there that like to barter and trade. Clean Your machines up and do a decent paint job... Never know when someone wants it more than You do. Keep upgrading through sweat equity. The object is to keep improving Your machines and through attrition You'll pick up additional tooling, cutters, etc. Another good resource is to suck up to the local scrap man. Drink a beer with them, peruse their pile(s). Study took catalogs and forum pics so you'll be able to identify parts and pieces. Another valuable place is lost freight auctions. When boxes blow out in sorting facilities, everything is swept up and sold at auction. By knowing brands, that sealed box at the lost freight auction may have Kenmental, Iscar, etc... if You know the brands You'll know what boxes to nest on. Be Patient and Have fun.

02-11-2012, 05:21 PM
I managed to pull (a back muscle and) the complete head from a little Chinese variable-speed milling machine out of a skip on an industrial estate - the casting's cracked, looks like it fell over, but in a non-critical area that I can run a bit of nickel rod over with the trusty arc welder! Otherwise, it's all in working order, bearings feel good, inside the MT2 taper shows under a thou" runout - noisy as hell with the straight-cut gear drive though :eek:

Skips have provided all sorts, from a bunch of mains power sockets (next to an office being refurbished) to a working Metabo cordless drill complete with charger and spare batteries... One even turned up a boxful of HSS toolbits, an MT3 drill chuck and odd scraps of gauge plate - plus what appear to be four blunted 4-foot guillotine blades (that may enjoy a new life as straightedges, maybe even a bevelled one for scraping dovetails) :)

Office and commercial developments often refurbish between tenants, and it isn't worthwhile to reuse/reclaim the old electricals etc., so there will often be lots of Useful Materials :)

Pikey, me - I just can't pass a skip by without looking!

Dave H. (the other one)

02-11-2012, 06:29 PM
For the lathe I just buy hss blanks and grind them on a bench grinder, they cut nicely...After seeing how much indexable tooling costs, I know that saves some money..

On my mill drill (which has turned into a money pit, the lathe never did) I have been using a flycutter its just a chunk of steel machined and a sharpened hss lathe tool...I prefer to use it whenever I can, sure its saving on endmill wear..You definately need some endmills though, I suggest looking on ebay when you do..

A good source of cheap or free scrap metal helps too,metal is expensive