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New member introduction & question about benchtop model.

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  • New member introduction & question about benchtop model.

    Hello folks,

    I became interested in machining back when I was racing go-karts and started taking classes in the Machine Tool Technologoy program at local community college about three years ago. About 5 months ago I got a job as a CNC operator and set-up man at a good machine shop here in town. I turned my back on a 20 year carreer as a P&C insurance agent. I know work about 30% more hours and earn 50% less but don't ever remember enjoying my work more.

    So, anyway, I'm still pretty new at this machining trade but I'm working hard to learn as fast as I can.

    I've thought about all the money I've spent on classes at community college and by comparison, the cost of having my own mill right in the garage seems like a very economical way for me to improve my machining skills and know-how. So, I think I'm going to lay out the cash for my own benchtop mill. I started out planning to go with one of the mini-mills but for a few hundred dollars more a benchtop model seems like alot more machine for the money. Woudn't you agree?

    I'm planning on purchasing this model:

    I only have 110V and the price point is near the top of my tolerance window. Please let me know if you think I would be making a mistake.

    I'm looking forward to getting to know some of you. This looks like a great place to gain machining knowledge.

    More later..

  • #2
    Welllll ..... youre gonna get a rash of naysayers on the famous/infamous 'round column' mill-drill, it doesnt have a very big following....

    But, I for one (and there are a few others) think for the newbie it really aint that bad. Its a hell for stout machine, decent features and probably its best point is (as you discovered!) the cost! You have to at least double that cost to begin to get into anything comparable. (The bench top 'dovetail' mill-drill is fast eclipsing the round column and it starts in the high $teens - and up)

    Youre gonna hear how you lose your setting when you have to move the column up or down, and it doesnt take an einstein to figure that out, but as with anything, you will learn little tricks/workarounds with it and that tool WILL put out some work.

    Heres a prime example --- this site is Mr Ishimuras, a gentleman in Japan whose work is admired by many of us HSM'ers and for the longest he had a lowly mill-drill and a tiny bench top lathe to build his wonderful gadgets --

    If youre not gonna buy right away, keep a watch on ENCO's 'hot deals' monthly sale catalog, they often put their version of that mill on with free shipping -- its the same one.
    If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something........


    • #3
      Yep I have a Zay model gear head mill with a round column and have not had a issue with losing the mark.. it's all in the set up and I also have a rack lock on my column that I can set for high low head position in my tool change. But even before I made it up I had not problem just took a little more attention. So I say get and make some chips.

      And welcome.
      Wow... where did the time go. I could of swore I was only out there for an hour.


      • #4
        I just started this hobby (addiction) as well and just went through all this. I had a budget in mind and thought I was going to get the same model as your looking at. I asked around and got advice from a few that have owned both and thought it through some more and decided to go with the dovetail version of the one your looking at. Couldn't be happier with my choice, makes life easy when you have something easier to work with. I can't say this model wouldn't work, but I can say the one I bought does.

        Bill, Mr Ishimura has switched over the dovetail version as well.



        • #5
          You likely already know this, but count on at least 50% of the mill cost for
          necessaries to make it functional, measuring, cutting and holding tools and
          devices. One unexplained spec on the mill queried about is the clearance
          between table and spindle nose. 12" is marginal, 14-15" usable and 16"+
          handy. Vise will eat up 1-1.5" and drill chuck 2-2.5" of your clearance.
          If you know the work envelope you anticipate and it fits the machine you
          are ok. Largest vise you can comfortably put on a 6" table is 5", 6" will fit
          but a bit overpowering. You prolly have 6" vises at work to compare tho.


          • #6
            Bill, Mr Ishimura has switched over the dovetail version as well.
            Yeah, I had read about his upgrading -- still, most of his gizmos were done on that 'round column" ---wow! And, at some point down the road kart will more than likely wanna up-grade too..

            (By the way Clinton, your showing of the tool holders/boring bar sent me back to Ishimauras site after not visiting for a long time and I ended up finally making a version of his keyway cutting tool)

            No question the dovetail is a better all round bench top tool -- but there IS that rather LARGE cost spread,-- and, I still maintain that for that amount of money the round column is a beefy machine that is very capable of turning out some nice work. I had a little mini-mill for awhile, which isnt far from the cost of the round, and I found it to really be lacking. I still have my ENCO RF31 and use it often.
            If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something........


            • #7
              I went with the dovetail (RF-45 class) and I am quite happy with it. I also keep expecting that Enco will come out with 20% off plus free shipping around the May timeframe again, but I don't work there, so I really don't know.

              I would also recommend checking Craigslist or Craigslisthelper for mills. There have been a rash of round columns lately at good prices. Of course, a round column is more attractive as the price drops.

              Ultimately, a mill in the hand is worth two in the bush. You can either be making chips or searching for something to make chips with. Chips are more fun.

              - T


              • #8
                Hey congrats on the job change! That takes a lot of courage to make a major career change after so many years in an unrelated field.

                I own a round column mill and run bridgeports at work. I regret my round column mill purchase now. You can get spoiled very quickly using larger machines. A round column machine may be very frusterating for you or it may be very educational. There is no doubt about it; a talented individual can do fine work round column and other "less desirable" "import" machines. I think it just takes more patience and skill. Personally, I'd hold out for a larger machine. But you can't wait forever looking for the perfect machine, either.


                • #9
                  run away!

                  go back to your insurance job before it's to late. this hobby is worse than crack. i started with a beat up south bend 10K lathe and was looking for a small mill. after years of searching for a nice cheap mill drill i came across a 9000 lb 7hp K&T mill with a lot of accessories. so i bought it. then i wanted a bigger lathe. why? i don't know just wanted one that would make bigger cuts. so i got a beat up clausing 15X36 and fixed it up. then i wanted another mill to use primarily as a drill press and vertical mill so i wouldn't have to keep changing the K&T over. so i got a beat up m head and fixed that up. then i wanted a surface grinder after using my uncles a few times. so i got a reed prentice (sp) and have used it once to sharpen my lawn mower blades so far. but they were very sharp and precise. now i am in the process of converting the m head to cnc and decided i would need to replace it so ended up with a sharp j head copy. i also just got a 9" south bend given to me that needs work. and don't get me started about tools and tooling. to stay with this obsession you will need three things.

                  1. space. never enough. you will fill it up.
                  2. financial irresponsibility. you will be broke from know on.
                  3. most important. understanding mate.

                  as far as the mill goes buy as big as you can afford but make sure you can also get some tooling and accessories. i have purchased a lot in bulk deals from e-bay and local garage sales. there is nothing more frustrating than not being able to use a machine because you lack the accessories. if you do get the machine tell us and i will send you a r8 to jacobs adapter that i have laying around i might even have a usable jacobs chuck for it.

                  welcome to the fold. this is the best machining/help site i have found. it will be able to help you in any way you desire.


                  • #10
                    Thanks for the encouragement, folks.

                    Seems like there's no real recommendations for any better mills for the same or less money.

                    There's a Wholesale Tool showroom about a mile from the shop where I work so I can pick the mill up there and no need to pay for shipping.

                    I figure I'll buy some collets, a vise, and some parallels right away. I'll need some end mills, of course. I'll need to buy some stock, also. That should get me started and I can look for deals on other accessories as they present themselves.

                    Some day when we move to a permanent homestead maybe I can look for a good full-size knee mill. Someday...

                    I already have a few projects in mind... T-slot nuts, a surface plate indicator holder thingy. I want to make something for my dad for his birthday - maybe a brass, waterproof match case. Of course, I have no idea why he'd want a waterproof match case. But, I bet he'd like it if I made it.


                    • #11
                      Good call on the R8 spindle taper. The little import mill I originally bought (actually it was a 3-in-1 combo) had a morse taper spindle. I never bought any collets for it and have only used the endmill holder it came with or one I eventually made for it. I never wanted to shell out the cash since I knew I'd be upgrading some day. At least with this mill, if you decide to get a bridgeport style knee mill someday, most of the tooling should be interchangeable!


                      • #12
                        I would agree with others who say that you might consider upgrading at the outset to a dovetail mill. I have the H.F. round column version which currently sells for $899 with R8 capability. I paid $799 in 1996 so they haven't gone up much.

                        The only difference in the H.F. version is that it comes with a larger motor. Mine is 2 hp. and the current run has 1-1/2 hp.

                        I would probably spend a bit more (2X) and try to get one with a dovetail and perhaps a geared head.

                        You might want to compare Grizzly, Enco and Jet for occasional deals, especially on shipping. They have dovetails as well as knee mills at higher prices, of course.

                        I've had mine for a long time now and I'm planning to upgrade soon but the one you mention would be an OK starter machine.


                        • #13
                          Welcome to the gang!

                          I have a similar mill but mine is a geared head and has slower speeds. I thought I'd be doing more steel work then aluminum so I sort of shot myself in the foot, wish I had the one you are looking at. You probably know the belts are quieter but the round column is a bear when you raise and lower the head it looses center. Still, a lot of guys got them and turn out some nice work on them. Many feel you have to look at them as a "kit" and go through them and tweak them out for a nice machine.

                          If you aren't rich, I've had good luck with the cheap endmills that come 10 to a set in both 2 and 4 flute for $49.00. I'm also a rookie but these bits have worked pretty well for me considering they aren't all that pricey.
                          - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
                          Thank you to our families of soldiers, many of whom have given so much more then the rest of us for the Freedom we enjoy.

                          It is true, there is nothing free about freedom, don't be so quick to give it away.


                          • #14
                            Have you made your wishes for a home machine known around the break room table? How about to the owner?

                            I ask because many shops are keyed in to other shops and might know that Joe over at .... has a ..... he wants to get rid of. Also Most shops come with some experienced people who love to teach. I wonder if you could get the use of that old mill over in the corner and some valuable input if you just ask.

                            I know some shops wouldn't lone you a pencil, but at the other extreme, I knew a shop that had a whole section where the employees could bring in a old machine they had bought and restore it using company equipment. They claimed that it made higher skilled, and more loyal employees. I wished I worked there.



                            • #15
                              I recently bought a HF Micro Mill, and it works great for what I need it to do. The only drawback is the 1/2 inch endmill capacity which to me is too small, but I manage. For the price of the model you're looking at, 1/2 diameter end mill capacity is too small, my opinion of course.