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  • I Apologize

    I had all but stopped buying from Midwest Steel and Aluminum. While their pricing for one off parts is "okay" their multiple piece (same size) price starts showing discounts at just two pieces and continues to discount further as your order quantity increases. It seems very decent for a small shop like mine on the face of it. Unfortunately they failed to fulfill orders in even the rather long 14 or so days they claimed. I cancelled several orders after waiting much longer than that. A decent price doesn't help if you can't get stuff close to the estimated time. You can plan for a long fulfillment time, but when its double (or triple) you just can't plan for that. For the most part I had quit buying from them.

    When I received an email on August 5th from Rochel Mengelkoch at Midwest saying, "I wanted to let you know we are now operating 3 full shifts 24 hours a day; the great news is our lead-times are currently 1-3 days to ship depending on the size of the order with most shipping within 2 days!" I was excited and I shared it several places I frequent. I'm pretty sure I shared it here with you guys. I was excited at the prospect of being able to get the specific stuff I needed more quickly than the every other week truck from Coast or at the outrageous price from the local metal yard.

    I placed a small order on September 15th, Its past close of business on September 22nd now and my order has not been shipped. Not counting the intervening weekend or the day I placed the order we are approaching double their new advertised lead time to process an order. If any of you were as excited as I was and placed an order with them I apologize. It was not my intent to provide misinformation or mislead you. I guess I'll be calling Coast in the morning and letting them know to get some metal on their every other week truck for me.

    I have fired off an email to Rochel asking when the new 1-3 day order processing policy will begin. I'll let you guys know what they say, and I'll let you know when my order is processed (or if I cancel it.)
    ‚Äč
    *** I always wanted a welding stinger that looked like the north end of a south bound chicken. Often my welds look like somebody pointed the wrong end of a chicken at the joint and squeezed until something came out. Might as well look the part.

  • #2
    Thanks for the info. I haven't bought from them in a while, at least before covid. Hope they get it together.
    Southwest Utah

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    • #3
      Changing the subject, Bob, but how is your new knee mill panning out?

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      • #4
        I use it a lot for quick and dirty grunt work and small tasks not worth writing a program for.

        Sizing and squaring blanks to go on the CNC machines. Allows me to max the envelope on the CNC machines, and set up both halves of a mold in more setups.

        Making clamps and hold downs is often faster to do manually.

        Modifying vises for the CNC machines is quick and dirty.

        Drilling hinge pins in hinged molds, and drill for handles for same is faster than doing it on "my" CNC molds. Saves a setup, and when doing batches I can clamp and unclamp with out changing tools faster than I can change tools on the CNCs

        Prepping fixture plates can be done while other machines are running jobs.

        During our recent storm season I spent a few days making parts and turning handles with the CNC machines disconnected from the wall. I got some real work done with it.

        Last year and this year I did a couple batch orders where I was prepping mold blanks (9 halves at a time) in a fixture plate on the Tormach, machining all the important features in fixture plates on the 2 Speedmasters (4 halves on each machine), and then finishing hinge pins and handles on the South Bend knee mill. I was running, loading and unloading all of those machines at the same time. I am at the point that unless I hire somebody I will never have every machine in the shop running at the same time again, but druing those projects there were some short times when I had 4 CNC machines running, the manual mill running, and two horizontal saws rough cutting. Ok, may for like ten seconds. LOL. I did have 3 CNC mills and the manual knee mill running at the same a lot during those batch order projects.

        Recently I had jobs running on all the CNCs and I was using the South Bend to rough blanks and even rough my hinged blanks (which are faster to rough on a CNC mill0, so I could just load the next job on the CNCs when they finished the current job.

        Is it worth what I paid for it? No not really, well maybe. Four reasons.
        1. I could have gotten by with a smaller cheaper machine for 99% of what I do with it.
        2. I think its a little over priced for what it is and values itself partially just because of the South Bend Badge on it. I could have bought a new Bridgeport for the same or less depending on options.
        3. Its a decent mill, but its not a high precision machine. I can hit numbers I try but I have to try. I can say the same thing about a Bridgeport though to. You have to stop short, measure/shim/etc, and then finish
        4. Grizzly support is... SILENCE until you have spent a couple days trouble shooting a problem and then they proudly parrot the problem back to you after you tell them, like they magically discovered it. They do send any bad parts quickly once you do all the work with just the owners manual for sole source of information. I had an electrical Gremlin which I was able to just bypass. They sent me new parts, but the boxes are just tossed in the cabinet.

        Here is the one thing though that made it kinda worth it. I just hooked it up and ran it. No assembly. No fixing it. Just run it. I spent longer installing the outlet to power it than I did setting it up. Main oiler was full. Squirt some oil in the spindle and go.

        Am I still glad I bought it. Abso-freaking-lutely. I have several reasons for that too.
        1. For its size (3600lbs) its a BEAST!. It will make cuts my Hurco KMB1 (4000lbs+) can't make.
        2. The 7.5HP VFD pushes that 5HP spindle very well at a wide range of speed. I do use back gear for stuff under 400-ish (big drill in steel etc) RPM, but I never seemed to lack for torque at lower speeds in high gear either. There is no variable pulley in the head. Its all VFD and motor that does the job. Whoever configured that did a very good job.

        Aside: A couple days ago I was making some clamps out of some scraps of 4140HT and when I plugged in the numbers I realized I could cut it faster than the power feed would go. I turned off the power feed and turned the handle by hand almost as fast as I could turn it.

        3. The purpose built air impact draw bar works great... as long as I remember to lock the quill in the up position first.
        4. The DRO is very good, but I do have a peeve with it. The have the Y axis configured backwards of the way I am used to on the CNC machines. One day I am going to slice or drill a vise jaw instead of the part because of that. Well, unless I get off my tucas and change that. Actually I pretty much quit looking at the sign and it really doesn't matter.

        There is a little bar on the side of the head that for the life of my I can't figure out what it iss for. It just slides up and down by hand when you loosen a thumb screw. I guess maybe it could be for using tools with a stop bar like a speed multiplier, coaxial indicator or tapping head, but in the down position it doesn't seem to hang down far enough. I could always yank it out and put in a longer bar for those things.

        I watched an "every feature on your knee mill" video a while back and saw a feature I don't think this has. It does have a nice spindle brake that also stops (turns off) the spindle motor control, but as near as I can tell there is no way to lock the brake. Not often, but once in a while it would be nice to be able to hold the spindle in place without putting it in back gear. I guess some knee mills have a feature where you can push back the spindle brake lever, and then pry it away from the head to lock it in place. I wouldn't know. My only other extended experience with a knee mill is the Hurco which was manufactured as a CNC mill and never had a lot of things oyu find on your regular old shop mill.

        I'm not crazy about all the spring loaded self disengaging handles. They Y is not powered so that handle does its job, but both X handles drive me nuts and the quill lock handle doesn't have as much travel as I would like without having to monkey with it. I may make a simple vise handle style screw to replace it at some point. I did remove the spring from the knee handle already. (power knee) It has a secondary feature though, that if the handle is left engage the knee motor will not run. I thought my machine was broken once or twice after I pulled that spring off.

        Honestly Grizzly almost managed to piss me off enough to go buy a Bridgeport or a Vectrax from MSC, but I picked the South Bend because it had everything I wanted already installed. I could basically hook up the air and plug it in. I would have had to install almost everything on the Bridgeport, and I would have had to spend hours or maybe days telling MSC to add this and add that if I picked the Vectrax.

        I am working on a video project to use a POS (not point of sale) Mini Mill like an X2 class of machine for a series of projects some folks think can only be done on a CNC machine. The will be much simpler versions of the project. During part of that I will probably shows some things like practical cutting comparisons between the South Bend and the POS. I think I might even make a mold with one half done on the South Bend and one half done on the POS, and see if they mate up well enough to produce a useable casting or injection. That's pretty far down on my list though. I'm starting to get a backlog of paid work again. I bought he POS mill several months ago, but I haven't even opened the crate yet. Anyway, I may make some short "glory shots" clips for that project for you guys with it throwing chips a solid stream of chips.

        Impossible wish item: I kinda wish the DRO could be set to display the current feed rate. I'm so used to seeing the numbers on the CNCs that I miss it with the manual mill. My first mill was a CNC mill after all.
        *** I always wanted a welding stinger that looked like the north end of a south bound chicken. Often my welds look like somebody pointed the wrong end of a chicken at the joint and squeezed until something came out. Might as well look the part.

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