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Recommendations For A Good Milling Machine


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Over the years I have acquired a basic set of model making power tools. From way back when, I acquired a Unimat lathe and recently upgraded my saw and  thickness sander to Byrnes models. Big boy shop tools have helped fill in the gap for other operations.

 

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.

 

In searching this site, and of course the web, I did come across some options but what I am looking for is a consensus or member recommendation of what manufacturer or direction to go. So any of you accomplished millers out there can you help me decide? 

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You and I are in the same boat: owners of a unimat lathe and looking for a suitable mill. I had focused on the weight of the machine. I think the sherline comes in at around 100 lbs. while the German and Chinese machines are considerably heavier than that....more machine than I need? I'll be interested in what others here think.

Tom

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I have the UK equivalent one of these and I find it produces good accurate work. At 275lb it is quite heavy for a small machine but weight is an advantage with milling machines as it usually means improved stiffness and accuracy. It also has a good sized table which is a bonus. It is now 5 years old. I use it a lot and have fond it reliable (probably famous last words).

 

http://www.machinetoolonline.com/files/PM_25MV-BD_9-2016_v4.pdf                  

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In my opinion Sherline is the one to get.  Check their web site www.sherline.com and ad at the back of each issue of the Nautical Research Journal.

I know mine doesn't weigh anywhere near 100 lbs - the web site says shipping weight of under 50 pounds. 

 

Proxxon also makes a good mill.  Check the Proxxon banner ad on the MSW web site.  I have no personal experience with the Proxxon.

 

Kurt

 

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I have the Unimat SL1000 and it sets up as a mill.

I ordered a spare Al bed and intend to cut and

mount it at the rear center of the ways to get full excursion up

and down the ways.  I have not done it yet.

I also got the lathe duplication jig from Penn Valley.

 

My focus has been on lofting and framing so I have not needed either

function for a while.

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I also vote for Sherline. I had one of the little Proxxon mills and almost never used it. For me, it was too small and too limited. Since getting the Sherline mill, I have used it much more than I ever expected to. I would advise getting the DRO option. It's much easier to use than trying to count turns on the handwheels. Definitely get the rotary table (#3700). I used it just a while back to make a ship's wheel. The tilting angle table (#3750) is very useful too. I'd recommend getting one of the mill packages because you'll need all that stuff anyway and it will be cheaper. A 5400 DRO package and the two accessories I mentioned will put you well over your budget however. Adding CNC would be considerably more.

 

I bought my mill (and lathe) through Discount Campus. They have better prices than Sherline Direct. http://www.discountcampus.com/store/sherlineonline.htm

 

Cheers -

John

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I would just add a couple of data points.

 

As Keith mentioned, weight is an asset with a mill. However for me there are also weight limitations since I have to get any tool into my basement workshop. That said, a used Bridgeport would be fantastic but I would never be able to get it into my shop. A micro mill is benchtop mounted but I need the bench space and would not want to lift the mill on and off the bench as I need it.

 

Secondly, larger units can mill smaller pieces, but the opposite is not true. Micro mills will never be able to mill using larger bits. However, micromills such as the Sherline or Proxxon mills are very accurate on small scales, they just don't have the power of scope to mill larger pieces. A long XY table is great providing it has the rigidity to hold longer pieces and you have the space for the table to shift out on either side of the mill.

 

I went with the Grizzly G0759. It can be converted to CNC but doesn't come that way. It was small enough that I could get it into my shop and still weighty enough to mill what I would be building. Before I would look at a CNC conversion, I would recommend a good Digital Read Out (DRO). The DRO will allow you to be very accurate but there is a cool factor to having a CNC mill.

 

Lastly, the cost of accessories can double the cost of your mill. Of course you can buy these as you need them, but most mills will require a substantial outlay in accessory cost before you will be able to use them.

 

 

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Bill, I'm fairly sure the GO759 is yet another version of the machine I have and similar to the one I mentioned above. All made in the same Chinese factory and rebadged by distributors. I agree that this machine is a good compromise between size, power and usable capacity. Mine is badged Warco WM16, but if you look at the design it's virtually identical to the GO795. http://www.warco.co.uk/milling-machines/32-wm-16-variable-speed-milling-machine.html

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To all, and once again, your comments and advice are so useful. It clarifies the "pivot point" for a model miller to be MONEY! The Sherline machine is the overwhelming choice of members for modeling projects. If I have other"marco"  applications maybe a larger bench top machine would be in order. I have never considered using the column to convert my Unimat to a milling device as I always discounted its capability. Given all comments and my needs I guess the wallet will have to open up more.

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I think one has to settle the required parameters first, that is maximum envisaged size of parts (then multiply by 2), moveability, required precision and viewability, etc.

 

Sherlines, Taig, and some of the smaller Proxxon models as well as the watchmakers lathes converted into a mill are all benchtop machines, they can be moved around easily. Anything above 20 kg probably will have to have a permanent bench-space or even a dedicated stand.

 

Weight is usually the result of increased rigidity by heaving more metal or cast iron/steel instead of aluminium around. This makes for precise quiet running machines - if you are talking about the high end and not the cheap Chinese blobs of cast iron.

 

The spindle speeds of the typical bench-top mills are arranged for metals or plastics, not for wood. Some manufacturers offer conversions for the higher speeds that are neede to mill wood cleanly.

 

Most of the small bench-top machines are made from aluminium. One needs to keep this in mind, if one envisages to work on steel - don't think only of the models ! Once you have a mill, you almost certainly will begin to make your own attachments for the mill and your lathe and ...

 

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I agree with Bill on the size of the mill.  If you have limited space and you don't plan on using the mill for anything else other than small scale modeling go with a Sherline.   They have tons of accessories and can easily be converted to CNC at a later date if you choose.  You will pay as much for a fully tooled Sherline as you will for a good used full size mill.  I went a different route.  About 10 years ago I found a Hardinge TM-UM horizontal tool room mill in great condition at a government auction that had been sitting in a prototype lab for decades gathering dust.  I picked it up for 600 bucks  with some tooling.  I found a Bridgeport high speed M head on ebay for 300 bucks in so so condition, rebuilt the head with new high speed bearings and mounted it on the Hardinge.  Added a 2 speed 1 horse motor and now have spindle speeds ranging from 140 rpm for cutting steel to 12000 rpm for aluminum, brass and any wood.  It takes MT-2 collets which are readily available and range in size from 1/8 to 1/2" with mill collets up to 3/4"  The table has 24" travel in X and 8" in Y and swivels 30 degrees in both directions.   Added a Newall digital readout and a new coat of paint.   It is extremely rigid and accurate.  I can put a .02 endmill in it and cut slots in boxwood all day long with out breaking the tool.  I can also trim a 1/2" of steel off a block with no problem if the need should arise in short time.  Total investment in the mill is 2000.00 + my time and have added a lot of accessories found on ebay and other local auctions at good prices.  Can't beat Hardinge accuracy.

 

Jim

Model Machines    

Hardinge 001.jpg

Hardinge 004.jpg

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Actually, the pictured Proxxon-mill is the only one of those discussed that has a lever-operated runner, like a drill-press. Normally, on a milling machine you have to lift either the table or the head inclusive drive-unit, which makes drill on a milling machine a slow operation.

 

One has to remember that a drill-press is unsuitable for milling operations, except the very lightest ones, because the spindle is not desigened for radial loads, only for axial ones. In addition, drill-chucks are also only designed for axial loads.

 

Lucky those, who have the space for such a Hardinge ...

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I'll be a voice of dissent in  a sense...  I have one from The Little Machine Shop that I"m very happy with.  It's quiet and does the job.   As noted by some others.. plan on spending at least as much for tooling as for the machine.   Some tools can come from the machine manufacturer but do look on places like Micromark, Ebay, etc.  Some serious Googling can often lead to unexpected treasures in tooling for a good price.

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I have the Sherline 8-axis mill and wouldn't buy one again - I'm talking about the "8-axis" part. Since buying the Mill 10 years ago I've never used the extra axes. Save your money and buy the standard Sherline 3-axis one. It'll do anything you will need, and if you REALLY need to go to the 8th Dimension you can buy all the parts needed to convert it at a later date (although it will cost more of course).

 

Otherwise, I love my Sherline :D .

 

:cheers:  Danny

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If these additional axes are 'disturbing' the main x-y-z-axes, such as a column that can be inclined, or a head that can be rotated, you will have a heck of a time getting them aligned again, after you used this feature - and you have to check every time you are using the mill that nothing has moved ... such features are probably ok on Schaublin-quality machines, where there are also positive locks for the main positions, but on these little machines they are more of a nuisance.

 

However, I have seen on the Internet people providing for positive locking using taper pins etc., which allows them to quickly align heads etc.

 

A tilting table and a rotary table that can be mounted horizontally or vertically are more desirable additional axes.

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I agree with you, Thistle, lots of good advice. 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? I'm not sure how I would use that feature, but if Dan thinks it's a good idea, ok. Will that mean that I can build models like Dan does?

Tom

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I agree with all the Sherline remarks, I have the lathe and the mill set up using my lathe motor and would recommend them to anyone. One word of caution on all the Chinese built machines whether lathe or mill is that the bearings wear fast. My lathe went in three years with medium usage on brass and aluminum only. They come with ball bearings from the factory and can be replaced with a taper bearing set from The little Machine Shop. They also do not have the accuracy of the Sherline on small close tolerance work.

Think of the size that you will need to be working on since both have scale limits.

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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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