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  • Benchtop Mill Suggestions

    Hello...

    I subscribed to the Home Shop Machinist and Machinist's Workshop magazines for years and this is my first post to this forum. I've never owned a mill before and I'm now in a position to purchase one. I'm interested in suggestions as to which benchtop mill I should purchase. I'm personally interested in the Precision Matthews PM-25MV with DRO, however, I'm not sure what others may think of this mill. I know that there are issues to consider such as price points, precision, manufacturer, size, etc., but I'm looking for what others may prefer or would choose in a benchtop mill and the reasons why. I'm trying to make an informed decision before spending the money. I look forward to any suggestions. Thank you.

  • #2
    What sort of parts are you planning on making?
    Without this data it will be difficult for anyone make a reasonable suggestion.

    Be more specific. Far more people will have useful insight on particular machines, IF they know what you require.

    Start with axis travel, this determines the limits of the maximum part size you desire in one set up.
    Next is speed, this determines the time that it will take to produce a part.
    Next is repeatability, will it make 2 parts subsequently that meet your requirements?
    Above all mention budget first, no one will recommend a $50000.00 machine if your budget is <$2500.00

    Hobby forums always have the same growing pains, someone posts the question, "How do I do this" without adding the terms, "For as little cost as possible" using a terribly unsuitable low budget machine.

    If I did not understand the general tone of your query I would suggest a Haas Office Mill, this is not what you are looking for I suspect.
    Last edited by Bented; 07-31-2020, 09:29 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      Every time this sort of question comes up, someone ALWAYS asks "what EXACTLY" do you want to make?".

      I mean, what do they WANT, a blueprint of the one maximum part you ever want to make? Frankly, that seems fairly worthless.

      Fact #1: Every possible size of mill you would credibly buy will end up being too small at some point. Get used to that idea, because ot is pretty darn true.

      Fact #2: You don't know what you will want after you get a mill, because you have not got one now, and are not thinking about it that way.

      So what do you do?

      You decide on a budget, and go look at what you can get. Evidently the $1700 is OK with you.

      That one, although I am not very impressed overall with "Precision Matthews" (but since I do not have one and have not worked with one, you can disregard that safely), seems like a good size, and it will not limit you much if at all . Table is good sized, has enough t-slots, it is a dovetail column mill, which is more handy than a round column mill.

      I personally have two smaller "knee mills", and prefer those, but the PM type should serve you well. It has enough room (27 x 7" table, 19" x 7" travel, 13" "daylight") to do quite reasonable things, and 1 HP, with 3/4" shank capacity and R8 collets should be standard enough to cover most needs and not limit too much on tooling.

      It is a pretty standard size, and I'd wager many folks here use a similar size mill to make fairly large models. The tilting head would allow you to even work on small engines, that would allow boring with the mill with the block laid down, for engines up to maybe an old Briggs 6B or 8B at least.

      I'd rather go with a bigger outfit, like Grizzly, just on the idea that they have better support backing up the machines as far as parts and knowledge, but I do not know anything against PM on that basis. Some say their support is good, at least on the phone. No idea what parts etc support is like. No idea how much you might need parts etc, either.

      The one thing is the spindle travel is limited to 2", which is a little short. I'd like to see 3" travel, but then, my main mill is a horizontal knee mill with no quill in the vertical head, and I have certainly got round that limitation.
      Last edited by J Tiers; 07-31-2020, 10:16 PM.
      1601

      Keep eye on ball.
      Hashim Khan

      Comment


      • #4
        First off Welcome to the Madhouse affectionately known as the HSM forums! ! ! ! !

        I'd normally ask what sort of size of things you want to make too. But I'm sort of assuming here that you have already set the stage there by buying a lathe...... So what lathe do you have?

        Or is the plan to realize that you underbought the lathe and this would be the first step up on upsizing your shop's abilities?

        The '25 is a mid size bench top mill with a reasonable size table and distance from table to spindle of 13 inches. As such I'd say that it's not a bad size at all for a 9 or 10 inch lathe. And perhaps a trifle small to pair it up to a 12 inch swing lathe... but not by a whole lot. If I had to buy fresh today to mate up to my 12x36 the /25 would be a match worth considering... but on the smaller side for matching to that size of lathe.

        The '25 would be a nice match with a 4" milling vise and a 6" rotary table that has both horizontal and vertical modes. And with that rotary table a tail stock and division plate set to enhance the vertical abilities.
        Chilliwack BC, Canada

        Comment


        • #5
          Now hang on a minute, he said he would like a Precision Matthews PM-25MV, it's got that word P-R-E-C-I-S-I-O-N in the name, so it has to be the absolute best that money can buy.

          But alas, it's still just another junky chinese bit of fluff and about as good as any of the others, maybe shop around and buy the cheapest and use what you saved for buying tooling.

          Wait, it still has that idiot catching word (P-R-E-C-I-S-I-O-N ) in the name though, so it's gotta be, must be, has to be better than the others, eh.

          Comment


          • #6
            Well, the kind of work you plan on doing really is the first thing to consider when buying any machine, but having been where you are myself, I can understand that you may not have a very exact answer to that question. You mention that Precision Matthews bench top so we must start there.

            The first thing that you need to remember is that the basic mill will be almost useless without some accessories. It has an R8 spindle taper and that is a very popular size for smaller and hobby machines. The collets for it are widely available but one set, by 1/16s is probably all you will ever need. That's what I have and more than half of them have never been used. In the beginning at least, these collets do not need to be very expensive.

            Work holding devices are something that is really necessary. There are two things that are generally used: milling vises and clamping sets. It is almost impossible to get by without a clamping set. First, many larger parts are just too big for any vise that will fit on the table. The PM page shows some 4" vises but perhaps a 5" might fit (no guarantee there). So the parts that can be held in a vise will be around 5" or perhaps 6" so in their largest dimension. After that, clamps are absolutely needed. So I would strongly recommend getting a clamp set first. Besides, they are less expensive than a milling vise.

            Many small parts are not suited for clamping so a vise is also highly desirable. But good milling vises are expensive. I worked with my milling machine for around eight years before finally buying a real milling vise. I used a combination of drill press vises, screwless vise, and an angle vise before that purchase and they worked fine for many small parts. In fact they probably provided a variety of ways to hold parts that the milling vise would not. The big advantage of the milling vise is rigidity. The lesser vises tend to bend and flex when they are tightened and also the movable jaw can rotate. These problems combine to make holding the part square to the table and quill difficult if high precision is needed. Some combination of the hardware in the clamping kits is needed to mount any of these vises on the table.

            One or more drill chucks with an R-8 arbor will be needed. It would be very expensive to have collets for each and every drill bit size that you will routinely need to use.

            And of course, you will need some milling cutters. For starters, there are sets available but you will want some specific ones too.

            Now, that PM mill. The first thing that jumps out at me is the 2" quill travel. My mill is perhaps just a few inches larger than it, but it has a 4 3/4" quill travel. And sometimes I wish I had more. It appears to have a dovetail or square or rectangular column and that is good. I do find it strange that they do not actually say that because there are well known problems with round column mills and if it is not a round column machine I would think they would say so. They do make a big deal about having three bolts holding the column to the base. Mine has FOUR so I am not impressed by that. I am also not impressed by the fact that these three bolts are INSIDE the outline of the column which gives them a much smaller effective clamping area. Again, my mill's four bolts are on flanges on the OUTSIDE of the column for greater strength and rigidity.

            The specs say it has a 1 HP motor and that is about right for that size mill.

            One thing I am curious about is a fine feed for the quill. There appears to be a handwheel in about the correct position for this, but it does not have a crank handle. That is curious. I wonder if it has a scale or if the quill DRO is what you work with. But a crank handle on that wheel would certainly make coarse adjustments a lot faster and easier.

            Another thing is that the table motorized feed is optional. I can tell you that cranking on that X axis handwheel can get very old, very fast. A motor on the head elevation is another very, very desirable feature: theirs is not only optional but by a third party supplier.

            Before buying this PM mill I would suggest that you look at the Grizzly G0759:

            https://www.grizzly.com/products/Gri...-and-DRO/G0759

            and the Grizzly G0761:

            https://www.grizzly.com/products/Gri...-Tapping/G0761

            or the Grizzly G0836:

            https://www.grizzly.com/products/Gri...with-DRO/G0836

            I suspect one or more of these may give you more included features for a lower price.

            Paul A.
            SE Texas

            Make it fit.
            You can't win and there IS a penalty for trying!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by J Tiers View Post
              Every time this sort of question comes up, someone ALWAYS asks "what EXACTLY" do you want to make?".
              Aside from cost this is the only relevant question, is the general outline of a work envelope to much to describe when posing such a question?

              This is a 60" X axis travel mill, still not long enough (-:



              Comment


              • #8
                Now hang on a minute, he said he would like a Precision Matthews PM-25MV, it's got that word P-R-E-C-I-S-I-O-N in the name, so it has to be the absolute best that money can buy.

                But alas, it's still just another junky chinese bit of fluff and about as good as any of the others, maybe shop around and buy the cheapest and use what you saved for buying tooling.

                Wait, it still has that idiot catching word (P-R-E-C-I-S-I-O-N ) in the name though, so it's gotta be, must be, has to be better than the others, eh.
                good thing we dusted off and put out the friendly green welcome for you

                welcome to forum, ignore the grumps

                You asked why people chose what they do. I go for quality, and if I can't afford it new which is almost always (there are quality new bench top mills, but they 10-50 thousand), I buy used and recondition as required. Many purchase the low cost Chinese machines and make wonderful things with them but its not for me. What's quality in a machine tool? Design, construction, materials, fit of the bearing surfaces, runout and spindle quality, rigidity, power and so on. imo the shortcuts taken to create the incredibly low prices points compromise these key aspects. The nicer the machine and better condition its in, the more enjoyable it is use is I guess my motivator for how I come at it.

                I you can't fit a bport clone in the garage/basement, probably a small bench top mill is a good way to get started without spending like what a car costs. However there is alternative view to the new offshore path. As general advice, buy as large and as powerful a machine as you can - it takes a fair bit of force to cut metal. that'll probably be the biggest eye opener.... it doesn't take much to tax a 2500lb mill so benchtop stuff ether means a lot of patience and small light projects

                Aside from cost this is the only relevant question,
                Probably a guy who is a beginner probably doesn't know that even if he thinks he does. When I started almost 30 years ago I hadn't a clue of the stuff I'd end up making, but fortunately four years of high school machine did give me a clear idea of capabilities so sought industrial machines (albeit at the lighter end of the spectrum) The good news is what he buys this round doesn't have to be his last mill



                Last edited by Mcgyver; 08-01-2020, 07:14 AM.
                in Toronto Ontario - where are you?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Welcome. This thread will probably be a wild ride, benchtop mill threads always are.

                  I'm not going to help anything by asking but, do you already have a lathe? Almost every assembly has round parts, and there is just no substitute for a lathe. It is always what I recommend first to beginners.
                  21" Royersford Excelsior CamelBack Drillpress Restoration
                  1943 Sidney 16x54 Lathe Restoration

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thank you for all the replies thus far. I do appreciate the input. I really didn't intend to ruffle anyone's feathers by any means and didn't expect my post would be a wild ride. For just a little background, I used to write CNC G code many moons ago now and operated a printed circuit board CNC mill. It was a lot of fun as a kid. I learned quite a bit during that time. My passion is working with metal though and that's why I had subscribed to the magazines for years reading what everyone was making and all of the possibilities. My great Uncle was a machinist and I remember he used to build steam engines and the like. He inspired me in my youth.

                    As far as my original post, I was asking what people thought of the Precision Matthews that I was looking at and also what others were using and why. I'm trying to make an informed decision so I will enjoy my purchase and not regret it immediately once it arrives at my door. Yes, I would like to stay away from inferior equipment that will not produce a quality part so cheap equipment usually means less quality parts. I remember my father telling me growing up, "You get what you pay for. Quality is not cheap." Thank you for the Grizzly recommendations but I wasn't sure how good that equipment is. I had seen some posts and YouTube videos discussing the runout and it wasn't what I thought was quality. Just my thoughts which doesn't count for anything at the moment.

                    So for my purchase, I'm not going into business by any stretch of the imagination. I'm just making parts and projects for myself and I do like getting as close to precision as I can. I do like being self reliant and a lathe will be my purchase after the mill. The mill will be in my garage, a small space, and it will have to be mobile enough that I can move it around so I will be building the stand myself using parts from 80/20 and the stand will have collapsible wheels. I've built several things from 80/20 and they all work very well. By the way, this is not a plug for 80/20, just stating what I was using to make my benches. I have standard electricity for the US, 120 Volts out of the wall. Virginia is hot and humid in the summer and cold in the winter so after using it in the garage, I would likely push it into my home so it won't rust sitting in my garage year round. I take care of my equipment seeing it's a large investment. Past all of that, I'm just looking for suggestions of brands, models and why without breaking the bank; $5000 would be the max I would initially like to spend but I'm flexible.

                    By the way, I'm looking for a small, height adjustable and collapsible gantry as well, something I can move around. I'm going to have to pick this thing up and put it on the stand somehow and I would rather not purchase an engine lift to do it. The neighbors are quite nosy so I'll be doing the work with the garage door down.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Bented View Post

                      Aside from cost this is the only relevant question, is the general outline of a work envelope to much to describe when posing such a question?

                      This is a 60" X axis travel mill, still not long enough (-:

                      As many others have said, he cannot know what he needs "exactly" anymore than your employer did when they bought that "too small" mill. Of course it is an important question, but nobody can answer it before they have a mill and start to see it's limits. So as a question, you cannot expect a useful answer.

                      Originally posted by J Tiers View Post
                      .............

                      Fact #1: Every possible size of mill you would credibly buy will end up being too small at some point. Get used to that idea, because ot is pretty darn true.

                      Fact #2: You don't know what you will want after you get a mill, because you have not got one now, and are not thinking about it that way.


                      So what do you do?

                      You decide on a budget, and go look at what you can get. Evidently the $1700 is OK with you.

                      T........
                      1601

                      Keep eye on ball.
                      Hashim Khan

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Some recommended reading:

                        Re: Grizzlys

                        Re: Larger bench/ small pedestal machines

                        Save lots of your $5k budget for tooling. That's typically where the wallet pain comes in.
                        21" Royersford Excelsior CamelBack Drillpress Restoration
                        1943 Sidney 16x54 Lathe Restoration

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          With no more information on what you will be doing with it I would say look for a "square column" model, and low speeds. I think low speeds for large dia. and fly cutters are more useful than high speeds. And the largest size you can find/afford.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            So you're just starting out it seems. That's fine.

                            For the size of mill you're considering the 80/20 option would work. But at the same time be sure to box it in to increase the rigidity of the bench. I'd also suggest that in a small shop you need to start out right and arrange to use the volume you have to store tools and materials as densely as you can. And for me that means any machine stands you make should have drawers in them to store the tooling used on that machine.

                            The size of mill you're considering and a 9 or 10 inch swing lathe to match up to it are a nice size for a home shop where you'll be making model engines with up to a 1.5'ish bore and stroke. or smaller model steam rail projects that are on the minimal "ride on" size. Along with that a bevy of things that are "hand holdable" when assembled. That's sort of your scope for sizes. If that sounds about right then you're on the right track. I know that sounds rather vague but it confirms that you won't be mounting motorcycle cases on the mill for any work or at best it would be lucky if you do find that they happen to fit. But certainly that sort of work is not really in the picture.

                            What these sizes will also do for you is to give you a size scope of work that will allow you to make up your own tooling for your own use.
                            Chilliwack BC, Canada

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                            • #15
                              Where you location,?
                              I have a 6x26 taiwan knee mill that is being replaced with a 8x36 Millrite.

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