Thistle17

Recommendations For A Good Milling Machine

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50 minutes ago, TBlack said:

I was going to buy a rotary table and an angle bracket to hold it vertically, but I'm reading that the tilting table is a better idea?

Tom, get the Tilting Table. It can do from 0 degrees to 90 degrees and everything between. The Angle bracket is cheaper, but only does 90 degrees. You can bolt the Rotary Table to the Tilt table.

 

:cheers:  Danny

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Thanks Danny; I'll do it. But one more thought: 2 flutes or 4 flutes on the end mill? I'll be working in brass and hardwood.

Tom

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I have to say that I don't share the negative experiences of Chinese lathes and mills. I have had mine for 5 years and have experienced none of the "cautionary" wear or accuracy issues suggested in previous posts. I regularly work to tolerances of a thousandth of an inch without any problems. I previously owned a Boxford lathe, a well respected UK manufacturer. It was replaced by the Chinese lathe at a 1/6th of the cost and I have to say I found it just as solidly made with the benefit of more features. It is true that the early Chinese machines which started to arrive in the west 20 years ago were of indifferent quality, however in more recent times they have got their act together and now produce good model engineering machines.

 

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I seem to have seen comments on the Internet that many of the machines where not thoroughly cleaned before assembly or burrs not removed carefully. Swarf or grinding dust in bearings and on load-bearing surfaces can cause havoc. Therefore, it seems to be good advice to dissamble any such machine completely, clean and degrease carefully before re-greasing/-oiling, assembly and adjustment. The advice to treat Chinese machinery as being in an 'advanced state of machining', rather than as a ready-to-run product seems to be a wise one. I never bought a complete machine, but only bits and pieces of accessories (e.g. chucks), and this advice seems to have been a good one there too.

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The quality controls of the importer / distributor is of prime importance. Many importers have their own inspect and prepare facilities and do the necessary preparation work to ensure that the machine as delivered is ready to run condition. Additionally some importers have their own staff embedded in the manufacturing facilities to ensure that their equipment achieves their specifications and standards. it is important to choose a distributor who has a good reputation. My experience was that apart from removing protective grease I needed to do nothing other than switch it on.

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The seig X1 mill is a good one for model making.  It is sold under a number of brand names in both the US and Europe.  Good basic machine that will do anything you need to do for model building.  Will require some adjustment to get the best from it.  First pic.

 

Another good one and better than the X1 is the Micro Lux 84656 micro mill.  Micro Mark no longer sells it but it is available from other distributors or direct from China.  A very good mill with ball bearings on the X-Y and Z axis.  Second pic.

 

I have worked with both and both are completely adequate for the type of work you want to do.

 

Just my opinion better to spend half as much on the mill and the rest to by accessories when the lower price tool will do the job needed.

 

 

seig x1.jpg

micro lux micro mill.jpg

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It isn't a big risk. Most distributors live or die by the the recommendations they get from customers. If they constantly shipped out equipment which was inaccurate, packed up after a few months, had dangerous sharp edges and or gearboxes full of swarf they would quickly go out of business. I think that choosing a good distributor is a reasonable way of reducing risk to an acceptable level.

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I have to say the Chinese stuff is much better than it used to be.  When I started my current shop I wanted to buy all american made machinery.  Unfortunately,  nobody makes their equipment here anymore.  Hardinge, Bridgeport all the old standards are either out of business or making their stuff  in the orient.  If you want to get good quality american made full size machinery it's going to be used  equipment.  

 

Sherline is made here as well as Taig which I don't think anyone has mentioned.  The Taig mill looks pretty good, a little more stout and has a faster spindle speed on the standard model.  5000 rpm as compared to Sherlines 2800.  Not as many accessories as the Sherline has.

 

Milling brass and wood  at 2800 rpm is going to take some time and you're going to break a few tools.   5000 is better but still not fast enough. You should be cutting wood at 8-10k on a mill if not faster. Take a look at how fast your router spins.  Absolutely get the high speed pulley system if you go with Sherline and if Taig offers one also get that too if you go with a Taig.    

 

Stay away from the HSS endmills, that's high speed steel for those not in the business.  Buy ONLY solid carbide endmills, 3 flute are the best, trust me on this.  They will last 10 times as long, better finishes and are much harder to break.   The cost is not a lot different either.  HSS drill bits are fine

 

Jim

Model Machines

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I have a Taig CNC mill, the CNC machines have a bigger motor than the manual mill and also can run up to 10000 RPM.  I believe you can have them put the larger motor on the manual machine.  The Taig mills are a little bigger and heavier than the Sherline.  The most common accessories like tilt table and the rotary table can be adapted for use on the Taig.  I have the Sherline rotary CNC table and use it with the Taig.  There are some differences in the manual and CNC versions of the Taig mill so look carefully if you compare the two.  

 

I agree with Jim on the 3 flute end mill.  My some son has his own custom machining and engineering business and he uses 3 flute end mills most of the time.  With these you can get a smooth cut while being able to clear the chips.  We also only use carbide.

 

Like most have said you can mill something small on a large machine but not the other way around.  That being said I have a Taig mill and lathe, the lathe I have set up for CNC or manual operation and a Unimat 3 that I have most of the accessories.  These are the machines I have set up where I work on model building.  I also have at my disposal my sons equipment which includes 2 VMC machines the large one comes in at about 13000 lbs and the smaller one at about 10000 lbs.  A bit of over kill for modeling to say the least.

 

The point being, I really never use any of the big equipment for modeling purposes I can get more than acceptable results for modeling from these small machines.  The only time I use the larger equipment is for making something for the smaller machines (like a tooling plate).  The important thing is keeping the working parts clean and maintained.  Accuracy is only as good as the setup and aligning of the machine itself. These small machines can be extremely accurate if set up properly.  An example in how accurate some of these small machines can be; I did the final op for 10 custom cam parts for my kids business over the weekend.  We needed to get the total runout and one final dimension tolerance of 0.0005" I was able to do it with my Unimat 3 which is over 30 years old.  I only had to take off 0.005", it took longer to do the setup than turn the parts.  The catch is the entire part was milled in one in the large VMC mills except for one dimension he left 0.005" oversized. He milled 12 parts in a couple of hours (couple of extra if I screwed up and I did scrap one) it took me 4 hours to set and turn off the final 0.005".  But on the small manual lathe I was able to set up multiple test indicators to guarantee that each part was in spec before we shipped.  This is something we DON'T do on a regular bases, but gives an example of accuracy and capability of a good small machine.  If we had to do these parts on my small equipment both my son and I would be able to collect social security before we finished. 

 

The above example is way past what would ever be needed for any ship modeling. So pick a machine that fits your space, budget and needs. Then add in the tooling and accessories which will be as much as the machine.  Sherline, Taig or a good Chinese machine would work for the small work required for modeling also at least 5000 RPM if able.  Doing anything bigger than that, then a machine that is heavier and more ridged is better.  

 

Somewhere on the sight in scratch builds, a guy uses a Taig CNC mill to do some fantastic stuff I can't remember which log though it's worth a look if you can find the log.  

 

Don

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On Friday, 30 June, 2017 at 10:53 PM, Thistle17 said:

I have been considering a vertical mill but I sense I am entering a "dark" area as I have little experience with them. The use would of course be for ship modeling but even a deliberate search yields a bewildering array of machines and pricing. I perceive my needs would be for milling brass, aluminum and of course hard woods. Variable speed of sufficient power, of course an appropriate X/Y table, an array of available accessories are the "must haves". The"nice to haves" list at this moment is small but I sense CNC adaptability might be in on that list. Price ceilings I would be around $1000

Hi Thistle

Looks like we share similar requirements. I've trolled the web looking for something with 3 axis that was reasonably accurate. Had a look at the VandaLay system http://vanda-layindustries.com/ which uses a Dremmel or better for power which you can add to or buy in one hit with an accurate X,Y and Z axis for about US$500 all up. Its well built but a bit small for what I had in mind. I had been admiring the work of Alex Barranoff and the other masters here who use lost wax castings for all their detail and stumbled across a guy that does work for some Jewelers and would do the same for me if I came up with the lost wax masters. This set me off to look for CNC bench top carvers/engravers in my price range which is a bit less than yours and I came across the Snapmaker on Kickstarter https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/snapmaker/snapmaker-the-all-metal-3d-printer which is about US$450 for a 3 axis CNC machine inclusive of two modular heads a Lazer cutter and CNC Mill/Engraver included in that price for October Delivery. A third 3d Printer head module is available at extra cost with heated table. Mate it floats my boat and I'm just waiting the Admirals ok - may do the same for you maybe not? but certainly worth a look. Lots of videos milling Aluminium brass etc as well as the carving side and lazer cutting

Cheers Pete

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While going through the decision process I was offered the loan of an older Sherline Mill to try out. It is of vintage pre 1998 I think as it has the old motor style with internal brushes. When I fired it up I noticed it stuttered at low speeds. My guess is it needs new brushes and a commutator cleaning. Looking on the Sherline web site they give instructions how to do so. For a first time attempt at this, it doesn't come across as straight forward, needing a wheel puller and some minor hole drilling. I understand the newer motors have external brushes. So before I try it out I am going to give it a go.

 

There is always a "hill climb" before you get to the top!

Joe

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I bought my mill and lathe as used equipment on Craigslist.  I live close enough to the Sherline factory that I've brought the machines to them for inspection and for them to make some adjustments.  They provide great customer service. If you wind up buying a used machine and need some work you're not prepared to do yourself Sherline will always help you if you send the machine to them.

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As to the Sherline motors: I liked them and they had a good price-performance ratio, so that I fitted two to my watchmakers lathe and the other to my historic milling machine. The older one I fitted around the year 2000 to the lathe and it is still running with its first set of carbon brushes, while the newer one developed problems after about 10 years (don't know how many hours it was actually running). Sherline asks around USD50 for a pair of simple pieces of compressed carbon with a sping attached (which would be also beyond the exemption levels for tax-free importation into the EU - I shopped around Europe, but no one seems to stock these spare parts). So I got some of the right size from a far-east source at a fraction of the price. However, the collector was eating the brushes away very fast, so that I had to dismantle the motor (for which I needed to buy an imperial size wrench) and found that the collector had lost several lamellae and the windings were cut - a total write-off. Right from the beginning this motor never seem to have been running as quietly as the other one that I have. I suspect that there was manufacturing problem with the collector as the root cause ...

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Good info from you folk. I did find the brushes on-line for a decent price (under $25 including tax and shipping). I am going to try this route first and if that fails it will be a new motor or (at around $200) or send it back to Sherline. These brushes are rated at about 300 hours of run time. I have to believe that running at the highest speed of 10,000 RPM that might be a stretch claim. Anyone have any feedback on this?

Joe

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I'm new on the forum so I know only a few of you know me...as a self taught machinist using tools for hobby use only, I may be qualified to provide an opinion.  With a long time desire to learn machining to enhance my modeling, in the mid 90's I bought a Chinese Mini Lathe and Mini Mill from one of the "parking lot" sales that were typical at the time.  As I recall I paid less than $300 each for them at the time...China was trying to gain a foothold in the machine tool market in the USA and cast iron tools from China were very cheap.  At the time I knew nothing about machining metal.  Using these Chinese tools were a good cheap first step toward self learning, although I can say for 6 to 9 months my only "hobby" was cleaning up, straightening, and correcting these Chinese tools.  At the end of a couple years of use I had them pretty much corrected to be "really useful tools" and knew what I wanted in the way of machine tools for my long term use.

 

Here's what's currently in my workshop...I have a 9" South Bend lathe and a Benchmaster vertical knee mill.  The lathe was obtained from a hobbiest who purchased it new in the mid 60's and having never been in a production environment the tolerances are very tight.  It is fully tooled (the term used for all the accessories needed to make these things useful).  The Benchmaster Knee mill is a bench mounted unit that has the same basic functions as larger floor mounted units like a Bridgeport or Jim's Hardinge.  As can be seen in the photos, these are in a spare bedroom of our house where my workshop/office is located...I have the most understanding wife in the world....her claim is that if I had an outside space to put these things she'd never see me!....so true. 

 

I'll confirm one point also made by others on this site...when budgeting for metalworking machine tools, allow at least as much for the tooling as the base machine itself.  It is the tooling that is added to the machine that makes it perform particular operations.  In some cases a fairly expensive tool is needed to perform an operation that is rarely used...yet it is done so well with the metalworking machine it is worth having.  

 

These tools I have are large enough to satisfy all my hobby needs...tolerances are tight enough for me to work down to a few "tenths" (.003").  This should be satisfactory for my shipbuilding needs as well, but these machines are also far larger than I'm likely to need for model shipbuilding.  As they say, it's fairly easy to make small parts on a big machine, but impossible to make big parts on too small of a machine.

 

If I were only purchasing machines for model shipbuilding, the Sherline would be an obvious choice for all the reasons cited in this forum thread.  Sherline equipment is every bit as accurate as my larger machines, and will be ready-to-use out of the box.  If your desire is to immediately use the machines rather than spend time fixing/improving, I strongly suggest obtaining Sherline equipment over the Chinese Mini-lathes and Mini-mills.  As for the Taig machines...I've owned one of those over the years...more accurate than the Chinese stuff, but really more geared toward setting up in a production environment to do one operation well and repeatably....not really designed as an all purpose hobby tool.

 

Best Regards,

Cliff  

 

Lathe in shop.jpg

DSC03904.jpg

center drilling flywheel fixture.jpg

Drilling spoke holes in Flywheel.jpg

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Cliff many thanks for your response. Unless something dramatic happens in the near future to sway me I have pretty much settled on the Sherline 5400 DRO machine. I will be purchasing one for the fall if all goes as planned. I ran across 2 sites that seem to offer free shipping and some dollars off on these machines. They are Blue Ridge Machines and Campus Discounts (I think). And yes I will have to go further with hold downs, vice, collets etc.

 

I was so impressed by the kids pictures! All too many of are young do not seem to have the interest in and willingness to learn these lifetime skills.

 

And again welcome to the forum!

 

Joe

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You'll be happy with the Sherline mill Joe...and the DRO option is a nice one.  This is exactly the mill I'd be purchasing if I was in the market today. 

 

BTW, I've always found a rotary table to be a valuable accessory on a mill...in the photo of my son Cooper he is milling holes spaced around the perimeter of a flywheel for a "thumb engine" he started a dozen years or so ago...I think he was about 10 in that photo.  The Thumb Engine never got finished, but that wasn't really the point at the time...he was interested in working in my shop, and I wasn't about to miss that "teachable moment".  He's 19 now and studying Mechanical Engineering in college, so I suppose at some level the exercise all those years ago provided some push toward his career decision...

 

And I've always liked the photo of him at the lathe...someday his future kids will be able to laugh at those red clogs he's wearing on his feet!

 

All the best,

Cliff

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I am wondering if any of the Micro Lux or Proxon accessories are compatible with the Sherline Mills. Its seems that some items like the hold downs and vise should fasten correctly but does anyone have experience with inter-changeability with some of the more sophisticated  accessories? My question is driven by cost alerts that others have offered in terms of accessories/attachments. Thanks.

Joe

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Hi Joe:

 

Anything that bolts to the table should be fine.  Accessories that attach elsewhere on the machine and rely on that alignment to function properly are likely to be best served with a Sherline made item...Think things like steady rest, taper attachment, etc.

 

Likewise tooling that attaches to the spindle can also be universal.

 

I'm not specifically knowledgeable about Micro Lux and Proxon accessories and their attachment to Sherline equipment, so Ill step aside and let those with that equipment answer your question more fully.

 

Best Regards,

Cliff

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Joe,

You'll have to compare specs on a part by part basis.  I had a Micorlux (the mini) mill and went with a LittleMachinShop brand.  All the tools seem to be compatible including the collet set.  But your milage may vary.  Note that there probably are some things not compatible and also that some(!) of the MicroMark stuff isn't always the highest quality but seems I lucked out on the milling machine tools and lathe as far as quality.  

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I think Sherline sort of developed their proprietary standards for a lot of things, such as T-slot sizes and spindle cones. However, they make variants of their accessories according to other standards, such as chucks with a 12x1 thread for the Unimat and 14x1 for other small machines. They also make spindle tooling with the cone for the WW watchmakers lathes. The key point too watch out for are the distances between holes/slots for fasteners that need to match the distance between T-slots of tables.

 

Interestingly, while their lathes and mills are not bad at all, I found Proxxon rather poor in what they offer in terms of accessories, such as rotary tables for instance, and spindle tooling. I think they also have a proprietary spindle cone. At least the spindle does not take ES type collets, but something slightly different.

 

While Sherline and Proxxon parts have a good finish in general, most things that come more or less directly from Chinese sources seem to need some finishing and adjusting treatment. If you don't mind to do this (like me) and have the necessary, you can a good starting point for a quality tool at a price for which you might not even get the materials in some countries, if you were to make it from scratch.

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Thank you all for the input to my last query. You all have been so helpful. I really appreciate all the advice!

Joe

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Joe,

I've been tagging along on your coattails with the same question about the appropriate mill. As a result of your inquiries, I've just ordered a Sherline with a rotary table and tilt table (thanks Danny). And if you have been following KeithAug's Altair build, you've seen his unique way of using a slitting saw in the mill. So I thought I'd should get a slitting saw set-up as well.

Tom

 

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Tom thanks for the heads up as I have not seen Keith's build. I will surely have a look see. I will be interested to hear your comments on the rig as ordered when it arrives.

Joe

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Joe,

Take a look at Keith's log (Altair); his entry #9 on the first page shows how he gets accurate cuts with the mill in producing bulkheads for his model. I need to try that, and while I have zero experience with a mill, I think I can do what Keith does. I did get the mill equipped with the 10,000 RPM pulley set, as several folks here thought it might make smoother cuts in wood. I also got the accessory set which includes end mills (I think 2 flute). I suspect I'm going to have to augment them with 3 or 4 flute end mills. I'll let you know if I think all this is worth it. 

Tom

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