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The old mill/drill vs small knee mill dilemma!

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  • #61
    Originally posted by mattthemuppet View Post
    I have a digital caliper attached to my quill.
    Me too, going on 3 decades! Works so well I've never seen a reason to upgrade. And I've gotten so used to working with my handle dials, I've never been annoyed enough to go all in on a DRO setup.

    This thread has given me a lot of food for thought as I contemplate repairs to my old Jet M-D. I thought the small knee mills were better than a RF dovetail, but so many say not.
    Location: Jersey City NJ USA


    • #62
      Originally posted by mattthemuppet View Post

      but I wants the digital everywhere! I'm a metric man in an imperial world, so a big plus of digital is being able to use mm or inches. I can work in inches, but I think better in mm

      Yes, I'll be making my own riser block. I have a couple of random 6" diameter 4" high "wheels" (look like wheels off a belt sander tbh) with 1/2" thick walls - I'm going to turn one of those into a riser blot and make extended bolts to go through the riser to secure the head to the column. Been thinking about it for ages, but lack of Z hasn't ben quite annoying enough yet to move it to the top of the list. Hoping to get to it this summer.
      That's a fantastic point! Since OP does a lot of bike work, almost everything is metric. Assuming he has metric tools, a DRO would be quite advantageous. I still convert to imperial even with a dro because all my endmills and measuring equipment is imperial, but if that were not the case I would be highly temped by a mill with a DRO vs one without.

      I was doing a little googling before I asked to see if anyone made one. I wonder how much market there would be for those...
      21" Royersford Excelsior CamelBack Drillpress Restoration
      1943 Sidney 16x54 Lathe Restoration


      • #63
        the only demerit to the digital caliper route is that some of the cheaper LR44 ones eat batteries, to the point where I remove the batteries from the ones on my drill press vise when I'm not using them. Calipers that use CR2032 lithium batteries do much better.

        I can use the dials on the table, I'd just rather not. I know math is good for mental well being but working on larger stuff and having to figure out how many 125s go into the distance, then subtract the "whole multiples of 125" from the distance to get the "less than 125" bit, then remember how many turns it is, then read the sharpie marks on the dials if I'm going in the opposite direction to the graduated marks. Makes my head hurt. Slackers paradise I know, but I WANTS THE DIGITALS!


        • #64
          to be honest I typically have the diameters of my imperial end mills written down in metric, or I'll convert into metric using my digital caliper, so it's pretty easy to flip back and forth. If it's mill work I'll work in imperial as I don't have a DRO on it (as you've probably guessed by now), but sometimes I'll still design in metric. Same on the lathe too, I use whichever seems more appropriate, though having a 2 axis "DRO" on the lathe makes that alot easier.


          • #65
            Originally posted by The Metal Butcher View Post

            I've always viewed 3 axis as a bit overkill since the knee has near zero backlash. Better than counting turns I guess, but not worth the money to me. 2 axis and quill is a golden combination.

            I'm curious as to where you're getting the riser block from for your 6x26. Making it yourself?
            Butcher I don't have DRO on Mill yet but will go 3 axis,when $$$ allow to have when Drilling Deep Holes using the Knee with long MT Drills,my quill only has 3-1/8" travel.I have DRO on quill now,really like it.


            • #66
              Late to the party, dunno if i missed the (happy) ending...
              My 3 Baht's worth, knee vs bed mill - knee every time...


              • #67
                Hey, just to those who have looked at the busy bee spec. It’s incorrect and actually has larger xyz travels. I emailed busy bee and they’d made a mistake. I still like the knee, even though the RF45 is probably fine. The knee mill is actually 500$ less than the other. Either machine would be fine I think. Thanks everyone for your input and I’m stoked I joined the forum world! See you all on here again I bet!

                As for DRO, I gotta have it, like another member mentioned, I make mountain bike stuff which is mostly (not all) metric and I’m constantly flicking between the two, which for someone who didn’t learn inches at school is a relatively new challenge. I have started memorizing lots of inch measurements in mm just through repetition now so it’s getting much easier, but the DRO helps me. Plus it’s essential I think for making small production runs quickly.

                Oh, here’s a link to the proper knee mill specs as per KBC...
                Attached Files


                • #68
                  Originally posted by Doozer View Post

                  I made a plate out of 1-1/2" steel....

                  Thanks Doozer. I'll talk to him on this and see if he wants to pursue it. If you find the print on that feel free to pm me. Though it does sound fairly simple to whip up a design.
                  Sitting here now, such a swap is alien to me since neither is sitting in front of me. I'll try to get over there next day or so to at least look at the Clausing side of things.

                  Originally posted by Ringo View Post

                  these guys specialize in that, they sell complete machines already setup.
                  call them and get more info

                  Appreciate that Ringo. Looks like their mount is for an 8540, not the 8520. But I may contact them and see if they offer anything not showing.

                  Thanks again guys.


                  • #69
                    I think those travels will do you fine. You can modify the mill some to increase them too - I got an extra 1 1/2" X travel by modifying the table end caps and another 1/2" or so on the quill by removing a large bump stop and modifying the travel stop that bolts to the quill inside that slot in the casting. It's a bit less than 4" now, which is pretty useful.

                    To be honest, if you have the money and don't need it for anything important, you'll soon forget what you spent on the mill. Besides, it's sounds like you're making money from your current one so it's really a capital investment, not a hobby decision. A DRO will increase your productivity alot though, especially if you have multiples to make and can make a jig or fixture to hold the parts. They're pretty cheap from China, though if you'll be relying on one for business it would make more sense to spend more and get a name brand DRO from a Canadian distributor. I'd also suggest budgeting a 3ph motor and VFD (keep the old motor as a backup) as variable speed is THE BOMB in my experience.


                    • #70
                      If I were making a lot of mountain bike stuff I'd want metric too. And around here the tools from the sellers all seem to use inch threaded lead screws with a total fruit salad of metric indexes on them which are useless. So DRO is the only way to fly.... er…. ride....

                      So since DRO is a must in your case you will need to factor the cost for it onto your quote from Busy Bee. And they don't have any option that would fit the 603.

                      Good news though. Looked up on and I see a 3 axis DRO package with glass scales for only $350 Cdn. The downside is that it would need to be installed.

                      So back to the Bell machine. Looking closer I see that it's only a 2 axis readout so no vertical scale. That suddenly makes it look less attractive. Looking at the Aricas without DRO I see that it's a 1450lb machine vs the RF45 clone at 770. And it's Taiwanese instead of mainland China so overall quality and accuracy should be a good deal tighter.

                      So if you're going to need to find and install a proper 3 axis DRO anyway I think I'd consider the Aricas vs CX603 as your options with either needing a separate DRO package from some other source. I see that Bell has 3 axis DRO's but at an added cost. Perhaps see if they would put together an Oxford mill for you with the 3 axis vs 2 axis and see how the price works out?

                      One other factor. You're obviously going to be doing a lot of work in aluminium. And that generally calls for higher spindle speeds. I see that the Oxford only goes up to 1970 where the Aricas runs up to 3000RPM. And the Busy Bee knee mill is in the middle at 2520. This will be a factor you need to consider as well. Especially if you want to run with solid carbide end mills where they seem to get their best finish when used at higher speeds.

                      Cost is certainly climbing....

                      Looking at the current listings for used equipment on Craig's List shows only a short version of the Craftex knee mill. The one which does not have a lot of room between spindle and table for tooling setups. But since your facing a potential of up around $8K at this point it may be worth watching for some of the used equipment sources for a moderately used bigger mill?
                      Chilliwack BC, Canada


                      • #71
                        Still jeez almost 6000 dollars. That's like a Deckel FP1 or FP2 in decent shape territory....


                        • #72
                          Having extra Z height can be very useful if using a rotary table or a larger vise. The 3200 rpm is much better when using solid carbide end mills. A three axis DRO and the simpler type on the quill is the single most useful add on for a mill. Four axis DRO's are also available for machines with knee and quill options.


                          • #73
                            Originally posted by DennisCA View Post
                            Still jeez almost 6000 dollars. That's like a Deckel FP1 or FP2 in decent shape territory....
                            I know. But up in our neck of the woods the good stuff only turns up few and far between. Even with some expansion of acceptable shopping and transport range down to the Seattle area it's still a machinery desert up in this corner of the continent. Good stuff does show up but only about once ever couple of months and just in singles or maybe the odd company with a few of something or other. And they want good money for them at the same time.

                            The guy with the shorter version of the old Craftex knee mill currently on CL is asking $3500. That's as much as I paid new for my taller version when I got it on sale. It's no bargain at all. And that's the ONLY mill on CL at the moment for this corner of the continent even including down into NW Washington. Mind you the whole pandemic thing might play a part in that.....
                            Chilliwack BC, Canada


                            • #74
                              BCrider we cant even cross the border, gonna be a while.
                              I never had DRO.. would have been very useful. As far as metric to standard , I do the conversion if needed, I did more inch work.
                              Last edited by 754; 04-25-2020, 08:13 PM.


                              • #75
                                DOH! For a moment there I forgot about the border closures! ! ! !
                                Chilliwack BC, Canada