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  • Lathemaster square column mill

    Would any owners care to make a recommendation? The free shipping and price on Bob's ZAY7045FG is appealing. I have an order open for a G0484 and could save about $350 buying the Lathemaster unit.
    Chris
    Merkel, Tx
    http://raceabilene.com/kelly/hotrod

  • #2
    Bob is great to deal with. There's a guy over on CNCZone that is just finishing up a very nice CNC conversion on a Lathemaster. He really liked it.

    Best,

    BW
    ---------------------------------------------------

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    Try G-Wizard Machinist's Calculator for free:
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    • #3
      I bought a ZAY7045 from Lathemaster about 3 years ago. It's OK I guess. I did have some problems with the electrics (see http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net/showthread.php?t=35090). I've also noticed a few issues with this style of mill in general. They're not exactly show-stoppers, but it just seems to me they could have been designed differently.

      1) When I'm holding an endmill in a collet working on a long workpiece, many times the workpiece will interfere with the quill feed handles for the downfeed so that I can't lower the quill! I usually deal with this by removing a couple of handles from the downfeed. Or, other times I'll just raise the head enough that the handles don't hit the work, but of course that means that the quill needs to be extended further and my setup is not as rigid. I suppose the use of an endmill holder may solve this one--not sure as I don't have any. . . .
      2) The crank to raise the head, and particularly the locks to hold it in place conflict with the wiring that goes from the controls to the motor and also the power cord.
      I've made this problem worse by running the DRO wires on this side as well. This may be a picky, detail-type thing, but it is kind of a pain when you're working with the machine. Having those wires routed somewhere else would make things so much easier.
      3) The cheesy locks on the head and the x-axis have all stripped out and been replaced. The Y-axis locks are holding up fine.
      4) The push-button oilers are a major PITA. I have replaced them with oil cups from McMaster-Carr, and I can't remember for sure, but I think I added a couple that weren't there originally, too.

      Otherwise, I've pretty much gotten the wrinkles worked out. I don't do a lot of work on my mill. I'm a hobbiest only. I have been making brackets and things for my tractors. Most of the stuff doesn't *need* to be super accurate, but it sure is nice to have the DROs!

      Jim

      Comment


      • #4
        Thanks for that info Jim. It certainly helps. I've seen sever people that just leave the quill feed arms off the right side and just use the fine feed handle, then put one or two back on for "drill press mode".

        I figure that a lot of the "small stuff" like way locks, handle fit, screws, some electronics, etc are going to be the same in all of the square column machines. I'd only be more worried about "big stuff" - quill-to-spindle fit and travel precision, head tram consistency on the Z ways, table tracking in relation to the column - things like that. The small stuff can be handled or re-engineered. I don't expect to build space rockets, or bore race engines but would like to be able to hold under .005 on a hole pattern, maybe .001 on real tight operation or bore. And have a nice rigid machine that can eat out some paths in steel and leave a reasonable finish on metal. It's a hobby here too, with one eye on any commercial application that might pay off the credit card.

        Edit - nice pic, thanks for that. It gives good machine size perspective. After moving stuff around I have about the same size parking space.
        Last edited by Falcon67; 08-24-2009, 01:03 PM.
        Chris
        Merkel, Tx
        http://raceabilene.com/kelly/hotrod

        Comment


        • #5
          I'm reasonably happy with mine, but if I had it to do over again might spend $1200 more for a 3 phase Taiwanese Rong Fu 45.

          The plus is that the square column is a big improvement over any round column mill drill. The unit is also rigid enough and powerful enough to satisfy most home shop uses.

          As Jim noted, I've replaced the lever locks with better units. I also added a few clips to route the power cord and am happy with how the DRO cabling turned out. The issue with quill handles hasn't bothered me. I also had to replace the oil sight glass. And the cross feed nut had a way of working loose. To me, none of this was a big deal.

          My bigger complaints. 1) The speed gears don't quite mesh properly at their detents (the Taiwanese Rong Fu might be better) and their life is suspect. Still, I'm OK two years later with light use. 2) The speed range is pretty poor. Not really low enough for even small saws. Not high enough for small end mills. A 3 phase motor and a VFD would be useful for me. 3) The power downfeed option on the Rong Fu 45 (a real downfeed, not the powered head lift option) would be nice.

          Bottom line -- for the price it's a good deal. If you have the space, get a regular mill in good used condition. If you have the money, maybe look into the Rong Fu 45. However, not having actually seen this machine, the Taiwan build vs. China build may not be a huge upgrade.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Falcon67
            I'd only be more worried about "big stuff" - quill-to-spindle fit and travel precision,
            Yeah, this is a little loose. I let the quill lock drag a little, and that keeps things tight anyway. The fine drive is pretty loose. Some folks complain about how difficult it is to tell how far up or down the quill moves. This is a problem with this machine, and I really should have included in my first post. I have pretty much made it a non-issue with the addition of a DRO on the quill. But, the quill still routinely jumps .020" or .025" up or down--which might be a problem if you don't expect that. The DRO lets me know where it is though so no biggy. Here's a picture of the quill DRO.



            There is also a lot of slop in the quill the other way, as it likes to rotate in the head. That spindly rod takes care of torsion problems that would be pretty hard on the scales if it was mounted more rigidly. So again not an issue for what I do.


            Originally posted by Falcon67
            head tram consistency on the Z ways,
            I removed the column and set up the tram the best I could w/ shims ordered from McMaster-Carr. I think I got it pretty good, but it doesn't seem to be 100% perfect. I do some flycutting at times, but most of the time I can get it in one pass. There was a project last winter that needed parallel passes w/ flycutter--that didn't look so good. But, most things are close enough that I don't worry about it. I'm no professional machinist. I don't use a micrometer for instance. I do all my work w/ HF digital caliper 'cause it works for what I need. . . . Hmmm, maybe that sounds bad. I think most of my stuff ends up being within .001"--which is what I'm going for.

            I might think about looking at the column tram again sometime if I was working on something that needed the accuracy--flycutting a large piece, for instance. As it is, I've got too much else going on right now to futz with that again. It is a PITA to mess with.


            Originally posted by Falcon67
            table tracking in relation to the column - things like that. The small stuff can be handled or re-engineered. I don't expect to build space rockets, or bore race engines but would like to be able to hold under .005 on a hole pattern,
            I'm pretty sure I can do that w/ my DROs. But, again how would I actually know?


            Originally posted by Falcon67
            maybe .001 on real tight operation or bore. And have a nice rigid machine that can eat out some paths in steel and leave a reasonable finish on metal.
            This is the only mill I've ever run, so I can't give you any good comparisons. . . . It does what I need it to do, and I'm not always real patient.

            Oh, and these pics are actually quite old. I have since added some lighting that I found on a curb somewhere. The drum switch that I needed after the "smoke" episode that I referenced earlier is not in any of these pictures, but you get the idea. The quill DRO hasn't required any mods whatsoever.

            One other piece of advice, FWIW. I've found that my 1/2" collet is my friend. Standardize on that and you won't need any expensive tool changers or anything. I've got a 14N Jacobs chuck (0-1/2") w/ a 1/2" shank that I use for all my small drills, then I jump up to 1/2" Silver and Deming drills that go right in the collet. If I need to mill I can use my 1/2" rougher for a lot of it. Probably 80% of what I do is in that 1/2" collet. . . . Screw machine drills are great too because I can use them for the sizes between, say, 5/16" and 1/2" and then I don't have to move the head either.

            Jim

            Comment


            • #7
              Good info - thank you all for taking the time to write this up.

              Gear change - I've seen posts about that I think on every SqCo mill brand. My HF micro mill has the same issue going with the two speed shift. Have to move the quill a bit to get full engagement. Without some kind of synchronizer, I'll bet every gear drive unit has a similar issue.

              Speeds - One of the reasons for considering the lower price is the just-about-given upgrade later to a VFD and 3 phase. The advantage of Griz on this item is that the G0519 motor bolts right to the G0484 unit. I thought this one over and figured it'd be a little better to be slow than a little fast. The middle size knee mills (like the G6760, 3616, etc) all start out a little fast on the low end. You spend another $1000 and you still have a candidate for a VFD/3P convert. It's funny - you have to go to up to $4500+ or down to $899 (HF round column) to get a wide speed range. In the middle it's off one way or the other. I also agree on the questionable strength of the gear train, but I have run across others with a similar unit that have had no issues running up in the 2500+ range with a 3 phase. [edit] - all the VFD talk actually points you back to a G0519.

              DRO - the cheaper mill leaves a bit of cash for that. I actually have a 6" digital scale waiting in the drawer for something to do. A Shumatech kit and a couple more eBay scales, then we're in high cotton.

              There is also a lot of slop in the quill the other way, as it likes to rotate in the head. That spindly rod takes care of torsion problems that would be pretty hard on the scales if it was mounted more rigidly. So again not an issue for what I do.
              I've seen lots of scales bolted to the front of the gear head units - First time I've seen the use of a torsion rod required in that position. Verrrry Interesting.

              Power downfeed - I'm ambivalent about that, since only the high buck Rong Fu has a real downfeed and at that price level you're into 3616 knee mill territory. I can handle a crank. I am a lazy critter so a lift button has that appeal. But throwing that lift motor money at a DRO is a better idea by far.

              Tram - I imagine its like the 9x20 I have, you can mess with it to the extent you deem applicable. I got the two chucks on the HF 9x20 down to around .001 TIR on the spindle, so tramming a mill to make a smooth pass up and down a 12" piece of material is likely just a measure of personal patience Like Jim, I would futz with it when I thought it important.


              As for tooling - I've got a bit already. Have a 6" rotab with plates, set of R8 collets, 1/32-5/8 keyless chuck with arbor, vice, parallels, end mills, fly cutter, Machinery Handbook - stuff, man. I also have inspection tools and a small surface plate - once upon a time I was a mechanical inspector.
              Last edited by Falcon67; 08-24-2009, 04:59 PM.
              Chris
              Merkel, Tx
              http://raceabilene.com/kelly/hotrod

              Comment


              • #8
                I must not be thinking right. The LM unit is $1550 + free shipping, the G0519 is $1695 + free shipping with a 3 phase motor on it. I just have to wait. I gotta stop dancing around the collet and just pick one
                Chris
                Merkel, Tx
                http://raceabilene.com/kelly/hotrod

                Comment


                • #9
                  Torsion rod for scale mount!

                  Jim, I am interested in the way you have mounted the Quill Scale.
                  Is the Readout mounted to a steppped block which is fixed to the rod?

                  Would it be possible to post a picture with the Quill in the lowered position?

                  Thanks for all the info you have posted on this machine. I am hoping to purchase the HM-45 clone here soon.

                  Rgds
                  Michael

                  Australia

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Falcon67
                    Would any owners care to make a recommendation? The free shipping and price on Bob's ZAY7045FG is appealing. I have an order open for a G0484 and could save about $350 buying the Lathemaster unit.
                    I had one of the Griz mills like you refer to on order but gave up on the wait & ordered a square colum one from enco w/power feed/stand/hold downs with the 20% off promo and it will be here mid next week for $1850.00.
                    Look at the weight of the 2 machines when you make your choice.
                    Just my 2 cents.
                    Bill in SE Idaho
                    Bill in SE Idaho
                    With enough time & motivation anything can be fixed

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Thanks for that - I made the call today, will wait on the G0519. The 3 phase motor is worth the wait hassle for me. I put too much on the c-card already this month so waiting till November is probably a good thing. She'll smack me when the bill comes in already.
                      Chris
                      Merkel, Tx
                      http://raceabilene.com/kelly/hotrod

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        BTW, a quill DRO like the one pictured is discussed on my web site:



                        http://www.thewarfields.com/cnccookbook/MTMillDRO.htm

                        Trivial to throw together, but I used it like heck. I got a more expensive glass scale DRO that I also mounted to use in calibrating my CNC. It was intended for the big lathe I will (someday) acquire, so it is only 2 axes.

                        Sorry, no pix, but it was dead easy to mount it on the mill. I just fabricated my own brackets.

                        I haven't noticed that much slop in the quill on my IH, though there is some. I do lock it before attempting to cut, however.

                        Cheers,

                        BW
                        ---------------------------------------------------

                        http://www.cnccookbook.com/index.htm
                        Try G-Wizard Machinist's Calculator for free:
                        http://www.cnccookbook.com/CCGWizard.html

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by miker
                          Jim, I am interested in the way you have mounted the Quill Scale.
                          Is the Readout mounted to a steppped block which is fixed to the rod?
                          Yes. It is essentially the same as Bob Warfield's version, though it looks like Bob's has two pieces at the reader end. I also removed the OEM stop rod to fix the lower end to the quill. Bob left his stop rod in place, so I've lost the stop rod functionality.

                          I also just noticed that Bob's Industrial Hobbies version would seem to have a more reliable, drum-type switch from the factory. My controls gave out and I had to have one installed after-market.


                          Originally posted by miker
                          Would it be possible to post a picture with the Quill in the lowered position?

                          Thanks for all the info you have posted on this machine. I am hoping to purchase the HM-45 clone here soon.

                          Rgds
                          Yeah, I can get you a picture. I'll have to take one, though as I don't have one showing that anywhere. . . .

                          Jim

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            go with the industrial hobbies mill instead. same base model, but they offer more features and ground ways and a larger table.

                            their site is http://www.ihcnc.com/

                            no affiliation, but i have one of the original IH mills, which came with milled ways and i'd kill to be able to upgrade to one of the ground ways machines now...
                            -paul

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by psomero
                              go with the industrial hobbies mill instead. same base model, but they offer more features and ground ways and a larger table.

                              their site is http://www.ihcnc.com/

                              no affiliation, but i have one of the original IH mills, which came with milled ways and i'd kill to be able to upgrade to one of the ground ways machines now...
                              And over $1000 more. Just don't have that much money to spend. $2400 + $450 shipping to here - no can do. If I did have that much budget, I would just spend a few more $$ and order a G3617.

                              Been all over your CNC Cookbook site Bob - very nice, thank you for all the time and effort you have put into that site. As a guy with two pretty big sites already, I understand the work involved. I have a 6" scale in a drawer that will fit right on the front of that nice square head. I even have one on the drill press already. Very handy there.
                              Chris
                              Merkel, Tx
                              http://raceabilene.com/kelly/hotrod

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