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the best laid plans...

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  • the best laid plans...

    a few months ago i started looking for a good used drill press to handle metal, but where i live there just isn't a lot of good used stuff to be had. after looking at new ones, i got turned in the direction of mill drills, which are not that much more money than a simple drill press, but allow so many more possibilities. i kept on the lookout for used knee mills too, but again, these rarely turn up used around here.

    i finally came to the conclusion that i wasn't going to find anything used without traveling several hundred miles, so i decided to bite the bullet and go with a new one. then came the decision of what type to go with:- rf-31, bf-20, or rf-45. there was such a debate of over size, function, and cost. i wasn't making much headway in coming to a decision. yesterday i did my standard search of craigslist and ebay with no luck, then i decided to step back and punch in the next state over on craigslist, and there was a used rf-31 for sale.

    24 hours later, it's sitting in my garage. all along i was worried about buying used because i know nothing of the machines, and this is still the same. at least this was pretty inexpensive compared to anything new, and although it's old and has seen its share of battle scars, i'm sure it will perform to the precision (or lack of) that i need. the machine has fair amount of backlash in the x & y, and somehow the z feed shaft got bent in moving to the consignment shop where i found it. the bend seems to be out toward the hand wheel, and there is no problem with the spindle/quill motion. i believe there's also a key missing that would activate the drill press handle. first order of business is to tear as much apart as i can to clean and inspect.

    the machine is an enco rf-30(?) with a 2hp 115v reversible motor, r8 taper, and the cabinet / stand. it also came with a nearly complete t-slot clamping kit, and a box of tooling. the tooling included a drill chuck and a 3" end mill, along with about 50+ end mills - most seem new, or very close to it. right off, i need to get a vise and a set of collets.

    any suggestions on a very inexpensive vise that is not totally useless? i see a lot on ebay for $100 or so including shipping. i'd like to think i can find something (new or used) remotely solid in this price range (less would be even better). i don't want to invest a ton in this part, as the machine is not necessarily top notch, and i'm nowhere near top notch. every step i make with this is a new learning experience.

  • #2
    One of our advertisers,, has 4", 5", and 6" vices that look pretty decent and which have generated a number of sales here. Have yet to read a complaint, and the prices are very reasonable.

    Conga rats on the Rong Foo. Hopefully the bent parts can be corrected cheaply.


    • #3
      It sounds like the Glacern vise is more money than you think the mill you bought warranted, but you should regard it as a vise that is good enough for the next mill you buy. If you buy a cheap vise, you will find it isn't even good enough for your current mill. A bad vise is just an exercise in frustration.


      • #4
        There may well be a backlash adjustment on the brass nuts the leadscrews go through. look up under the table at the nut on the longitudinal feed,and see if there is a screw head on the brass nut. If so,tighten it a bit and check backlash. You do not want NO backlash,as it will wear out the nut,maybe .010" or .015" is o.k.. Do not overtighten the nuts,because they are usually threaded VERY shallow. You could find the leadscrew jumping threads under a load,like milling.

        I had a mill drill,and accomplished a lot with it.


        • #5
          Agreed on the vise quality. Here's what an RF-30 looks like with a 6" Kurt clone vise on it:

          A bit large, but I have a smaller mill with that same vise though I also have a 4" that is more appropriate.

          Frank Ford has a vise repair project on his site ( It was clearly not a quality vise. I wish Glacern had been around when I bought mine.


          • #6
            Just some cost-cutting observations as I have a mill/drill (RF-31). I didn't buy the swivel base; and to be honest, in years of using it I have never wished I had. I also have a 6" wide jaw, but do not believe a 4" would make much difference to me. When I am working with large pieces, I am more likely to remove the vise and clamp to the table. Most work I put in my vise doesn't take up the full 6" width. If you end up with an extended capacity vise like I did, remember that it has the possibility of obscuring the Y-axis handwheel. This makes it hard to read and work to the graduated marks for that axis.

            Many, many people use the 6" on these machines, such as myself. In reality, the size and proportions really do fit a 4" better. My vise hangs off the rear of the table in order to properly clamp it to the table. This limits my Y-axis travel by about an inch. In general, the import vises you mention will all be the same from any source you buy it from---so shop entirely on price. If precision is a little nagging voice in your head, I recommend a Glacern---or the Grizzly I have listed on eBay: Having said what I have about the import vises, I might recommend While I have no experience with his listed vises, I have had experience with that particular seller. He is a great guy to deal with and is closer to Maine than many suppliers (Boston, MA).

            Hope that gives you some direction
            Last edited by Arthur.Marks; 06-19-2010, 12:32 PM.


            • #7
              I'll add my vote to the others: Invest in a good vise. It's worth it.

              As several others have heard me repeat a few times already, I recently bought a couple of import "Kurt clone" vises. I'd had one already, bought several years previously, and was more than satisfied with the quality.

              But, in the intervening years the "price point" quality had come down- they cost the same, but to keep the cost the same despite rising materials and labor costs, they cut corners. Of the three, two were more or less acceptable with minor cleaning (and in once case, reassembling it properly) but the third was a piece of junk.

              Having already read Frank's writeup of repairing his 4" import vise, I was scared that mine would collapse in a similar manner- turns out Frank's failed with another worker intentionally heavily overtorqued the vise trying to press a part, but on the other hand, looking at the pictures, mine wasn't even built as well as his.

              Since I was unable to return it due to the way I'd purchased it, I decided to try and beef it up, and make it as strong as possible. My writeup can be found here.

              Had I known then what I know now, I would have invested in a proper vise, like a Glacern or maybe a Parlec. Something far better than the cheap imports, but not quite as expensive as a Kurt.

              As I said, it's worth it.

              Doc's Machine. (Probably not what you expect.)


              • #8
                well, i put it all back together, but i haven't got around to cleaning it up any. it's dated 1991, but from the looks of the amount of wear, it has had far more abuse from moving than from use. of course, it's totally non-functional at the moment too. it is missing a small oval shaped key that connects the rapid downfeed handle to the shaft. you can tighten the lock bolt on the rapid feed handle enough to see that everything works, but you can't get enough tension to actually use it without that little key. this, along with the bend in the worm gear shaft for the fine down feed - anyone have a good description of how this comes apart?

                though the machine shows what i would consider to be very little use, there were around 50 end mills included with the package. many are new, and many more seem very close to new. there's a few broken and badly rusted ones too. the bulk of the end mills are trw made. there have also been some european country markings on a few, but as of yet, none seem to be what we now consider "import" tooling. virtually every one i've looked at is hss, so i'm assuming the owner of the tooling worked with mainly aluminum. i assume harder tooling is recommended for working steel?

                for now i'm probably going to be using this as mostly a drill press. i've got to order a vise and some collets - odd that there was only a drill chuck and no collets when i got 50 end mills with the machine. eh, never know what you are getting when you buy from a consignment shop. at least there was a clamping set with it too. sure beats my usual c-clamp to the drill press table method.


                • #9
                  go figure. best i can tell, the only thing keeping it from working is a $1.10 key for the downfeed handle. of course, it's 7mm, and the hardware store with the best selection only has 6 & 8mm, so i ended up ordering it from enco - i needed to finally get some spindle and way oil anyways.

                  it's also missing a spring (or springs and terminals), depending on what schematic you look at. i have an original manual which shows three smaller springs and terminals behind the rapid downfeed handle/spring base. the current schematic calls for a single larger spring. enco and grizzly show the one spring configuration, while harbor freight shows the three spring and terminal setup. i've only contacted enco, and of course they only show the single spring as available, but it's out of stock and would need to be ordered from china. does anyone here have one of these and know whether the three spring and one spring system is interchangeable with the original rapid downfeed handle/spring base? mine has three cutouts where it must have had the three separate springs originally, but i assume the 17mmx27mm spring listed by grizzly would also fit?

                  i've still got to order some collets and a vise. i'm still having trouble with the vise purchase. around $260 shipped for a 4" glacern, or about $100 shipped for a chinese vise. i see tons on ebay, but also a lot listed right on the forum ads here by shars, and they range from abut $80 to almost as much as a glacern. i assume that the lesser priced ones are not worthy of use? i'll probably end up buying the glacern unless something falls into my lap for a lot less. it's just hard to spend 1/2 as much on the vise as i spent on the whole mill and a bunch of tooling.

                  edit: ok, one little rant/question... i can see ebay'ers jacking shipping to try to make a buck, and i generally try to avoid them unless their overall price is just too good, but why does it cost $35 to ship a vise from a business when a flat rate box is $5 to $10? is it a matter of insurance not being available on the flat rate? i'm not that familiar with it.
                  Last edited by lost_cause; 06-21-2010, 08:17 PM.


                  • #10
                    Don't forget that you are buying this vise for the better mill you will be buying to replace this one. If this mill is good enough that you won't need another, you will need a good vise for this one.


                    • #11
                      I just placed an order with Enco for two Kurt D-675's. They're on sale for $409.00 each with free shipping. I received a 20% off coupon that made them $327.00 each with the free shipping. That's not a bad deal. Check out Enco's Hot Deal section on their website. I also have a 20% off coupon if you take their poll. Let me know if you'd like the link.


                      There's only one way to find out, might as well get started now!


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by scmw
                        I just placed an order with Enco for two Kurt D-675's. They're on sale for $409.00 each with free shipping. I received a 20% off coupon that made them $327.00 each with the free shipping. That's not a bad deal. Check out Enco's Hot Deal section on their website. I also have a 20% off coupon if you take their poll. Let me know if you'd like the link.

                        yeah, that seems like a pretty decent price, compared to retail plus shipping. one question though... what makes the d-40 so much more than the d-675? the 675 is really more vise than i want or need.

                        i've been browsing ebay, and though i don't expect to see a steal of a deal, it lets me see some more of what is out there. there's a couple of d-60's (must be an older model?) about to end, but i'm sure they will go for another $100 more in the last few minutes. some of the others seem to look decent, but it's so hard to tell, never having seen one in person. it would be nice to be able to touch a few to see the quality difference before making the decision to spend between $100 & 400.