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What mill to buy.....

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  • What mill to buy.....

    Hello, folks. I'm a newbie here, my name is Dave, I am a professional mechanic and a wannabe machinist. I am looking for input on a decent midsized mill. It will not be used in daily production. I need it for machining work on older motorcycle parts. I don't like chinese made tools in general, but for the amount of use versus price I may buy one. So....opinions?? Grizzly has a big line up and 1500 dollars is about my limit but even so, they have a few in this price and lower. Knowing how little I do, what features should I be looking for? Would I be better off to find a used quality unit? (floorspace is at a premium, too) All input appreciated!! Thanks!
    I did a search on the site and found a few different opinions and good info but would like to hear personal experience from some of you who own and use these units.
    Last edited by 66glide; 02-07-2008, 10:08 AM.

  • #2
    for some unexplained reason 95% of the people who respond to this will say buy a Bridgeport. i think they like to see people take it in the keyster like they did. i have known quite a few people who have gotten bridgeports that where suposidly rebuilt or from shops with little use and they have almost always found hidden problems after the fact. for limmited hobby work i see no reason to shy away from the cheaper chinese tools. try to stay with a design that can't be easily knocked out of alignment. if you have the time and experience to work on a tool by all means buy old american iron and tune it up. but don't expect to get to use it right away. but in the end u will have a nice peice you can be proud of. the decision is machine now or machine later. i have never purchased a machine i could use when purchased. but i have a bidgeport m head, kearney trecker 205 s12 horizontal mill with vertical head, slotting head and dividing head with table drive, south bend 10k lathe, clausing 6903 lathe and taft peirce 6x12 surface grinder. all for under $3,000 but i have about 1,000,000 man hours in them. my wife and friends say the only reason i have machines is to fix my machines.
    Last edited by Roy Andrews; 02-07-2008, 01:47 PM.


    • #3
      Originally posted by Roy Andrews
      for some unexplained reason 95% of the people who respond to this will say buy a Bridgeport. i think they like to see people take it in the keyster like they did.

      There is more than one motorcycle guy on this site, maybe they'll comment.

      I would look for a square column mill and some mass. Avoid round columns. There are a lot of mills for sale, but I am not convinced they are all that different. Pick a Sieg at the smaller end and an RF-45 clone at the larger end.

      Be sure to save money for tooling. You will easily spend as much on tooling as your machine if you're tooling up from scratch.

      If you don't have a lathe, I'd seriously consider starting there rather than with a mill. It's easier to learn to use a lathe, cheaper lathes can still do decent work, and you're going to need one anyway.


      Try G-Wizard Machinist's Calculator for free:


      • #4
        Buy this one ....

        a little more than you want to spend but it has a quality stand, and powerfeeds on x and z axis.

        My $0.02, since you asked


        • #5
          6X26 knee mill, Grizzly sells them, Wholesale Tool sells them, HF sells them, stay away from the HF model. Best bang for the buck.
          "four to tow, two to go"


          • #6
            First ask just what are the sizes of the parts that I will be working on. While there is some (OK a lot of) truth in the old adage that big machines can do small work but small machines can't do big work. That is going to determine just what the throat clearance (swing) and table to spindle clearance you need are. And that should let you eliminate what machines you can't use and lead you to those you can.
            Forty plus years and I still have ten toes, ten fingers and both eyes. I must be doing something right.


            • #7
              i would look at the industrial hobbies mills.



              • #8
                Thanks, guys. I decided to roughly double my budget to $3000.00 as I can probably use a bigger machine to machine clutch flywheels (about 13" around) and perhaps auto cylinder heads??? I like the looks of the shopfox machines, but all I know is looks and not what counts. Grab my nose and lead me, Oh, knowledgable ones. Grizzly seem ok too, but all responses and guidance are much appreciated!!


                • #9
                  Well I used to be a mechanic(technician now, a machinist, (a HSM now), and I work on old motorcycles, Norton, Pan Head. The only mill I would consider for your situation would be a full-size Bridgeport clone, like Sharp, Supermax, etc. I have heard Grizzly is putting out some decent product , but I have no first -hand knowledge. I have old American Iron(Tree) that I dearly love, but I would never recommend old used machines to a newbie. I think eventually you will beat yourself in the head for getting anything smaller, if you stay with machinin'.
                  Don't even think about a 3 in 1. Do you have a lathe? It's really more important than a mill in motorcycle work.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by daryl bane
                    The only mill I would consider for your situation would be a full-size Bridgeport clone, like Sharp, Supermax, etc.
                    Do you have a lathe? It's really more important than a mill in motorcycle work.

                    Well said Daryl! You really want a mill with a knee. With the explosion of CNC, there's a lot of good old iron on Craigslist (even in Austin, land of hippies and chipheads, and the armpit of the machinery world .

                    Bridgeport, Wells Index, Ex-Cell-O, Tree are some good names. But if you're not comfortable with assessing or repairing an old machine tool, there are some good Bridgeport clones for about the same price as a good, used Bridgeport.
                    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."


                    • #11
                      I have a couple reconditioned Bridgeports in stock . A 1 hp step pulley with a 42" resurfaced table, and the knee ways rescraped , and power table feed.
                      A 2 hp vari-speed, all reconditioned in MASS
                      John Fahnestock
                      J&L Scraping Service Inc
                      508 892-4856


                      • #12
                        Don't buy a round column, imo. If you have any basic knowledge in machining/mechanics then start with a nice square column, knee mill. I reckon mill-drills are nice for the newbie who does nothing but small or model work but you quickly outgrow small machines. I speak from expierence

                        I've been using a j-head bridgy ... 6" by 36" ?? I measured it and came up with about 34" of table travel - which sucked because i'm working on a chaotic pendulum that requires 27 holes poked through an 18" long piece and a pocket milled in the center. If i had a full 18" of table travel i could have done it all at once and then done the milling last but instead i will have to mill the pocket and indicate off the pocket to continue drilling holes.

                        Anyway, my point is: the bigger the better (well ok you don't need some huge 15' long lathe or something, but big machines are nice. If i had all the money in the world i'd buy a small lathe and small knee mill to compliment two larger machines so i could do "normal stuff" and the small high precision stuff)
                        p.s. since your new i will add the normal disclaimer - i'm just a student and want-to-be machinist ... i bought a 3-in-1 machine which i dont regret, but i definitely out grew it (i think i got my money's worth out of it though)


                        • #13
                          There is a die maker near my factory, I get on well with the owners and over the years they have done a fair bit of machining for me. A couple of years ago I asked their advice on getting a lathe, hopefully a good CHEAP used one, for my long awaited HSM workshop, and they said don't f**k around, go and buy a new import, biggest one you can afford.

                          I kept their advice in the back of my mind but did waste a lot of time at auctions watching old lathes of unknown quality go for large amounts of money.

                          In the end I did as they originally suggested and bought an import 14 x 40 which works just fine for me.

                          Now I want a mill to go with the lathe. Recently I told the die makers I was looking for a mill and asked if they had an unused mill in the corner. I had heard the stories about manual mills being replaced by CNC mills. No, they wanted all their mills but if you want a mill (CHORUS) don't f**k around, go and buy a new import, biggest one you can afford.

                          So I've done my research, know which mill I want, and now I'm waiting for the March sale.


                          • #14
                            there's imports and then there's imports ..... there's good looking stuff coming out of Taiwan that you'd pay a lot more than for a used North American mill. maybe thats what they mean by don't f*ck around; don't waste all that time and take a chance for 3500 BP, just step up and pay the 7 or 8k or whatever for the new Taiwanese. thats a different scenario than a HF or Grizzly or it matters what exactly they mean by an import


                            • #15
                              That's true. I've been sniffing around for a lathe upgrade for a while now, and a friend of mine produced one that nearly got me back on asian imports, but it was a bit smaller than I wanted at 13x40. Looked almost like the "Heavy Duty 1340" at Enco, but a few small changes. What got me was how fantastically SMOOooootthHH it was. Scraped compound and cross slide, automatic oiling, 4.5" MT3 tailstock (with tooling), 3.75" compound, big wide-n-long cross slide with proper way wipers, full control on the apron, steady/follow, 2/3/4 jaw 8" Bison Chucks, Mimik 4" tracer, tapper attach, hardened ways without a single mark, most of the paint intact, 5C lever systems, 2200 rpm spindle, metric/standard dials, and the list goes on and on. Never seen such a well equiped lathe, running smooth as any Mori, or Monarch, but made in Taiwan... If only it had been a 15x4?, it would have had a 2.25" spindle bore and probably have displaced my Rockwell this weekend... <sigh>
                              Master Floor Sweeper