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View Full Version : Milling machine - advice for a novice, please



Ron Dunn
12-07-2007, 11:42 PM
I'm interested in expanding my woodworking into making small tools and jigs for my own use ... things like dovetail markers, dowelling guides, stuff like that ... mainly in brass with timber fills and accents, but possibly also in materials like perspex.

I'd like to take a lump of metal (ie, brass bar) and make it square in X-Y-Z dimensions, then accurately groove and drill it parallel to the squared faces. I started reading model engineering sites and magazines, and I think I might be looking for a milling machine.

Am I on the right track?

If so, is there such a thing as "good" and "cheap"? I've seen popular mention of brands like Taig and Sherline - are these the type of machines at which I should be looking?

Bruce Page
12-08-2007, 12:56 AM
I'm interested in expanding my woodworking into making small tools and jigs for my own use ... things like dovetail markers, dowelling guides, stuff like that ... mainly in brass with timber fills and accents, but possibly also in materials like perspex.

I'd like to take a lump of metal (ie, brass bar) and make it square in X-Y-Z dimensions, then accurately groove and drill it parallel to the squared faces. I started reading model engineering sites and magazines, and I think I might be looking for a milling machine.

Am I on the right track?

If so, is there such a thing as "good" and "cheap"? I've seen popular mention of brands like Taig and Sherline - are these the type of machines at which I should be looking?
Ron, the Taig and Sherline are decent benchtop tools, as long as your workpiece is small.
Grizzly also makes some small mills.

Mike Marcade
12-08-2007, 1:07 AM
BRIDGEPORT! :D

Just kidding ... It really depends on your budget and how big your work pieces will be.

Ron Dunn
12-08-2007, 1:58 AM
Thanks for the responses, guys!

The first project I've got in mind is a dowelling jig, something between the Dowelmax, Veritas and Ozzie models. I like the alignment setup of the Dowelmax, the sliding bush carrier of the Veritas, and the two-at-once capability of the Ozzie.

The main element of this jig will be a piece of brass bar approximately 8" by 1" by 1". Could be aluminium, I guess, but I like the feel and weight of brass. The largest hole to be bored will be approximately 1/2".

This is probably the largest project I have in mind.

In your experience, would a desktop/benchtop milling machine handle this?

Martin Reynolds
12-08-2007, 2:31 AM
The Harbor Freight micro and mini mills are decent tools for the price $300 - $500. Problem is, you'll spend a couple of hundred dollars more in tools and fixtures. I've milled big holes (1") in aluminum with my micro mill using a cheap rotary table.

I have since put CNC on it.

http://iobium.com/images/CNCmill.JPG

Bernhard Lampert
12-08-2007, 11:20 AM
I'm interested in expanding my woodworking into making small tools and jigs for my own use ... things like dovetail markers, dowelling guides, stuff like that ... mainly in brass with timber fills and accents, but possibly also in materials like perspex.

I'd like to take a lump of metal (ie, brass bar) and make it square in X-Y-Z dimensions, then accurately groove and drill it parallel to the squared faces. I started reading model engineering sites and magazines, and I think I might be looking for a milling machine.

Am I on the right track?

If so, is there such a thing as "good" and "cheap"? I've seen popular mention of brands like Taig and Sherline - are these the type of machines at which I should be looking?

As for equipment, a Bridgeport was mentioned. If you have the space, that what I would get. When I was looking for a small mill (Rong Fu, Wabeco, Deckel, Unimat, Syil, Grizzly, HF, etc, etc) , I came to quickly to the conclusion that a used, large full size knee mill is actually less money. Space was not a problem since I had just build a new shop, so I ended up with a Webb that I got dirt cheap at a local auction. And I never will outgrow that one!
Cheers,
Bernhard

Bruce Page
12-08-2007, 1:31 PM
In your experience, would a desktop/benchtop milling machine handle this?

Don't know, I have a full sized mill that will.;) You should go to their websites and look at the specs for X & Y travel.
I suspect that 8" is pushing it for these machines.

Wes Bischel
12-08-2007, 1:35 PM
Ron,
As Bernhard and others have mentioned - if you have the space, go with a Bridgeport or compatible. It is doubtful you'll ever outgrow it. If space (and budget) are an issue, look into the mini mills and mill/drill units. I have a little mini mill that has worked well for making parts for WW equipment. There is a site that covers the units - warts and all pretty well. www.mini-lathe.com/Mini_mill/Main/mini-mill.htm If the link isn't permissible, search mini mill - it will come up as part of the mini lathe sight. (they have a good links page too.) I haven't really searched for anything on the mill/drill units, but I'm sure there is info out there!

Good luck, once you have one, you'll wonder how you survived without it!:D

Wes

Mike Galusha
12-08-2007, 9:06 PM
Ron,

I agree with the other folks, a full size Bridgeport is a very versatile machine and will last basically forever - assuming space, budget and power. If you do consider a smaller machine have a look at Industrial Hobbies (industrialhobbies.com). They offer one of the better "benchtop" mills out there including a full CNC setup for it. I have the Lathe Master version of this mill, it's not quite as nice but so far it's done everything I've asked it to. I keep it well covered to keep the saw dust off it it. :)

Regards,

Mike G.

Ron Dunn
12-09-2007, 8:29 AM
I just had to edit my profile ... I didn't realise that I was hiding my location.

I'm in Australia, and heavy machinery like Bridgeport isn't easily available. Further, I've got a SMALL workshop, and a large milling machine would leave me no room for anything else :)

The more I research, the more I come down to a choice between Sherline and Taig as a match for my skill level (none), and project intentions. There seems to be a strong second-hand market for these tools, so even if I make the wrong decision I won't be too much in the red if I sell it in a couple of years time.

I'll probably make the decision based on the presence of a supplier close to my home.

Kenneth Hertzog
12-10-2007, 12:19 PM
Ron
the bay has a small mill that is in your neighborhood.
listing is under sherline.
ken

Ron Dunn
12-11-2007, 8:16 PM
Thank you, everybody, for the helpful advice.

Whilst I'd like a large mill, the combination of space and occupational mobility means that I'll go with a desktop machine. It was the same sort of decision that made me choose a BT3100 over a traditional table saw.

Based on all the reading I've done, I've decided to buy a Sherline mill. It turns out that Ron Sher, the original designer, is still the Australian agent for these tools, so I can be assured of good quality local support and representation.

As suggested earlier in the thread, I got a shock when I found out the difference between buying a milling machine, and having a usable setup ... the additional cost of tooling and fixtures is much greater than you'd expect when buying a woodworking machine. As a rule of thumb, it looks like a workable budget is around double the price of the basic machine.

Let's hope my wife overspends at Christmas, so I can hide the extra ;)

Ron.

Bruce Page
12-11-2007, 8:32 PM
As suggested earlier in the thread, I got a shock when I found out the difference between buying a milling machine, and having a usable setup ... the additional cost of tooling and fixtures is much greater than you'd expect when buying a woodworking machine. As a rule of thumb, it looks like a workable budget is around double the price of the basic machine.

Ron.
And people wonder why machine shop work is so expensive. :eek:

Mike Kelly
01-27-2008, 12:01 PM
Ron, I realize this is an old post, but will add my 2 cents worth anyway. I have used a small Sherline CNC for 2 years and it is very capable of doing what you need. Plan on spending at least twice what the machine costs for accessories to make the job at hand possible.

It is a hobby machine at best and can't be pushed too hard.

The alternatives are mostly Asian when you start up in size and price. Most of what you get is a lot of headaches in fit, finish, and machining. I mistakenly bought a small Grizzly lathe and have been sorry ever since. Should have bought a used Southbend for the same price and had something to be proud of. The stand for it has razor sharp edges all over it.

Look for a used European/USA built machine with a good reputation from the 40's and 50's. You won't spend most of your time making up for the deficiencies of what you bought.