My first milling machine!

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Dr.K
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My first milling machine!

Post by Dr.K » Thu May 01, 2014 7:26 pm

I've looked, and looked, and looked for a Bridgeport or similar for almost 2 years now. And, I'll continue to look for a bigger machine.

But, I just seriously need to feed my addiction right now! I'm tired of coming up with ideas for stuff, then be like....nope, can't, no milling machine.

So, I chinked out and got a Harbor freight heavy duty mill drill for the time being. My thoughts were that I'll keep my eye open for a bigger better machine, and my buddy has a big Bridgeport that I can use anytime I need to for larger projects.

So, now for my new to owning a mill guy dumb questions.

Having used one a couple of times I have an ok grasp on some basics. Just tell me if I'm off on any of this.

-set of collets (R8)
-parallel bars
-mill vise
-end mills

Any advice on anything else?
Kyle O.

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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by L1A1Rocker » Thu May 01, 2014 7:42 pm


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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by Bendersquint » Thu May 01, 2014 8:24 pm

Pro-tram makes an excellent tramming tool like the starrett above.

I recommend that.

Also pick a Last Word indicator, i use it everyday!

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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by curtistactical » Thu May 01, 2014 9:13 pm

Bendersquint wrote:Pro-tram makes an excellent tramming tool like the starrett above.

I recommend that.

Also pick a Last Word indicator, i use it everyday!
2nd that and I would pick up a cheap set of parallels, a v-block, and edge finder, harbor freight also sells a nice set of 135deg split point cobalt drills that work amazingly well for $100 you can get other stuff as needed that's how I started and now 7 kennedy boxes full of tools later I still run into things I need.
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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by Dr.K » Thu May 01, 2014 11:14 pm

Alright, so I've got some indicators already from my lathe stuffs. A specialty tramming indicator isn't absolutely necessary, is it?

I guess maybe an important question would be. Did you get something when you were new to milling that you wished you wouldn't have?

Like, a cheaper vise that turned out being shitty, and you should've bought a high end to begin with? Then ended up with two. Ha ha.

Or, go all out on the best collet set out there, vs. The knock offs? Or, maybe the knockoffs are fantastic!

I'm in the tooling up stage, so stuff that is super common that will be absolutely necessary is what I'm looking to learn about. Especially about the stuff you bought, and then had to re buy!
Kyle O.

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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by Bendersquint » Thu May 01, 2014 11:25 pm

Dr.K wrote:Alright, so I've got some indicators already from my lathe stuffs. A specialty tramming indicator isn't absolutely necessary, is it?
The tramming indicator isn't completely necessary, you can tram with an indicator, but will get old super fast after the first hour of trying to tram the head and you will kick yourself for not spending the $100 for the specialized tool......takes me less than 5 minutes to tram now.

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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by zevdogs » Thu May 01, 2014 11:32 pm

Oh my gosh you guys are lazy to spend 160.00 on that
It only takes A couple of minutes to tram it with an indacater

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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by Historian » Thu May 01, 2014 11:48 pm

zevdogs wrote:Oh my gosh you guys are lazy to spend 160.00 on that
It only takes A couple of minutes to tram it with an indacater
But, and this is an important 'But', for a tool junkie it is not being lazy rather than
such tools are so irresistibly compelling, shiny, tactile,
sexy, etc. Similar to what Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer once said in, I think "Kiss Me Deadly" (1955) ... " ...
running my hand slowly up her nylon clad thigh ... ". :)

A guy thing.

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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by Historian » Thu May 01, 2014 11:50 pm


A standing "O", Sir!
Beautiful device.
Great taste.

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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by punkinhead » Fri May 02, 2014 5:49 am

Dr.K wrote:Alright, so I've got some indicators already from my lathe stuffs. A specialty tramming indicator isn't absolutely necessary, is it?
No, it's not necessary. It's a tool for turning a 10 minute job into a 5 minute job. Save buying one for after you've got more truly necessary stuff. I tilted the head on my Bridgeport twice last weekend and both times retrammed it with a test indicator in just a few minutes.

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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by L1A1Rocker » Fri May 02, 2014 9:39 am

Dr.K wrote: A specialty tramming indicator isn't absolutely necessary, is it?
No, but it is one of those tools that once you have it, you will say to yourself, "Man, I wish I had bought this thing on day one!" And be kicking yourself that you hadn't.

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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by CMV » Fri May 02, 2014 6:21 pm

As a novice, I found the Pro-tram style that Bender mentioned much simpler to use. For an experienced machinist who has done it many, many times, it might mean the difference between 5 & 10 minutes. For those less experienced I suspect it saves considerably more time. Just easier to use & I feel more confident that I 'got it right' with the dual indicators. Once you have it set, you don't really need to do it again unless you're changing the head angle or moving the machine. You're welcome to borrow mine to set your machine up - just cover the shipping both ways.

Get a decent milling vise! Spend money there for a good one. Mine came with a cheaper one and it lifts the work as you clamp it. Makes setups take much longer as you're clamping, tapping, & indicating. For some stuff you won't really care - just depends on what you're doing. But there will be times you want to mill perfectly flat & square and a good vise makes that much easier to accomplish. I went with a Kurt D675 & the difference is just amazing. Only problem is that it's just too big for my machine (7x23 table I think) so I can only use it some of the time. I got a grizzly vise for Xmas https://www.grizzly.com/products/Premiu ... e-5-/G7154 & it's OK. Not as nice as a Kurt, but much better than the crappy one I had.

Might have been mentioned - I didn't read all the replies - but get a clamping set too. The Enco or eBay ones are fine. You'll need those for securing fixtures or work directly to the table. Some things you do will be too big for the vise. Buy it for the size T slots on your table.

I use the Enco collet set. No complaints & it's nice having a full set. But many are still new in the plastic wrap. I find that 1/4", 3/8", & 1/2" are the ones I use most. If you want expensive collets, I'd get a 1/4" & 3/8" & then go from there - those are what you'll use most assuming your machine is the size of mine or smaller. 3/8" covers a lot because you can get many sizes larger & smaller with a 3/8" shank. If I could only have one collet, it would be 3/8". If you're worried, get a name brand 1/4", 3/8", & 1/2" and then a cheap full set. You'd have good quality for the ones you use most but the other sizes available if you ever need them. The reality of it is for me if I'm trying to run a 3/4" tool on my 1.5 HP, 900 lbs machine, collet runout is the least of my worries.

Did you get something when you were new to milling that you wished you wouldn't have?

1. The HF endmill set. They're cheap, but just not very good. Got 2 actually & one I had to return because most of them weren't finished - like they skipped an entire grinding operation & just coated & packaged them. It's ok to have a bunch of different sizes & inexpensive, but they dull quickly & cut slow. Any other brand I've tried has been much better.

2. I should have waited before buying carbide end mills. They're really nice, but they cost more and are surprisingly easy to break. For learning, stick with HSS so you're beyond the part of your learning curve where you're real hard on tooling before using expensive stuff. Tear up one from the HF set & you don't really mind. Snap a $40 carbide one & you're angry.

3. eBay rotary table. Mine is the 4" one that's like a 3-jaw chuck mounted to an adjustable angle plate. Frustrating POS. That's something that you need to spend the money on for something decent.

I still haven't gotten a keyless drill chuck for the mill but it's on my list. The regular one is ok, but I change drill bits a lot so that would be nice to have. Mine came with the mill & works so no big deal, but if you have to buy a drill chuck anyway, consider a keyless one.

A 3/8" roughing endmill for aluminum is really nice to have. Makes a really big difference if you're doing a decent amount of material removal.

Dr.K wrote:Alright, so I've got some indicators already from my lathe stuffs. A specialty tramming indicator isn't absolutely necessary, is it?

I guess maybe an important question would be. Did you get something when you were new to milling that you wished you wouldn't have?

Like, a cheaper vise that turned out being shitty, and you should've bought a high end to begin with? Then ended up with two. Ha ha.

Or, go all out on the best collet set out there, vs. The knock offs? Or, maybe the knockoffs are fantastic!

I'm in the tooling up stage, so stuff that is super common that will be absolutely necessary is what I'm looking to learn about. Especially about the stuff you bought, and then had to re buy!
--------------------------------------

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These things make me :(

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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by Dr.K » Fri May 02, 2014 6:59 pm

CMV wrote:As a novice, I found the Pro-tram style that Bender mentioned much simpler to use. For an experienced machinist who has done it many, many times, it might mean the difference between 5 & 10 minutes. For those less experienced I suspect it saves considerably more time. Just easier to use & I feel more confident that I 'got it right' with the dual indicators. Once you have it set, you don't really need to do it again unless you're changing the head angle or moving the machine. You're welcome to borrow mine to set your machine up - just cover the shipping both ways.

Get a decent milling vise! Spend money there for a good one. Mine came with a cheaper one and it lifts the work as you clamp it. Makes setups take much longer as you're clamping, tapping, & indicating. For some stuff you won't really care - just depends on what you're doing. But there will be times you want to mill perfectly flat & square and a good vise makes that much easier to accomplish. I went with a Kurt D675 & the difference is just amazing. Only problem is that it's just too big for my machine (7x23 table I think) so I can only use it some of the time. I got a grizzly vise for Xmas https://www.grizzly.com/products/Premiu ... e-5-/G7154 & it's OK. Not as nice as a Kurt, but much better than the crappy one I had.

Might have been mentioned - I didn't read all the replies - but get a clamping set too. The Enco or eBay ones are fine. You'll need those for securing fixtures or work directly to the table. Some things you do will be too big for the vise. Buy it for the size T slots on your table.

I use the Enco collet set. No complaints & it's nice having a full set. But many are still new in the plastic wrap. I find that 1/4", 3/8", & 1/2" are the ones I use most. If you want expensive collets, I'd get a 1/4" & 3/8" & then go from there - those are what you'll use most assuming your machine is the size of mine or smaller. 3/8" covers a lot because you can get many sizes larger & smaller with a 3/8" shank. If I could only have one collet, it would be 3/8". If you're worried, get a name brand 1/4", 3/8", & 1/2" and then a cheap full set. You'd have good quality for the ones you use most but the other sizes available if you ever need them. The reality of it is for me if I'm trying to run a 3/4" tool on my 1.5 HP, 900 lbs machine, collet runout is the least of my worries.

Did you get something when you were new to milling that you wished you wouldn't have?

1. The HF endmill set. They're cheap, but just not very good. Got 2 actually & one I had to return because most of them weren't finished - like they skipped an entire grinding operation & just coated & packaged them. It's ok to have a bunch of different sizes & inexpensive, but they dull quickly & cut slow. Any other brand I've tried has been much better.

2. I should have waited before buying carbide end mills. They're really nice, but they cost more and are surprisingly easy to break. For learning, stick with HSS so you're beyond the part of your learning curve where you're real hard on tooling before using expensive stuff. Tear up one from the HF set & you don't really mind. Snap a $40 carbide one & you're angry.

3. eBay rotary table. Mine is the 4" one that's like a 3-jaw chuck mounted to an adjustable angle plate. Frustrating POS. That's something that you need to spend the money on for something decent.

I still haven't gotten a keyless drill chuck for the mill but it's on my list. The regular one is ok, but I change drill bits a lot so that would be nice to have. Mine came with the mill & works so no big deal, but if you have to buy a drill chuck anyway, consider a keyless one.

A 3/8" roughing endmill for aluminum is really nice to have. Makes a really big difference if you're doing a decent amount of material removal.
These are some of the golden nuggets I've been searching for! I thank you kindly good sir! If it proves difficult to do the tramming with what I have on hand, I also thank you for that ace in the hole.

I have an imitation kurt on my ebay watch list, and I'll likely do that. And, thanks again for the detailed response.
Kyle O.

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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by L1A1Rocker » Fri May 02, 2014 7:22 pm

I've watched Kurt vises on Ebay. The smaller ones go for near full new prices. BUT, the big ones (like the ones you'll use on a Bridgeport J head) are surprisingly cheep.

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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by paul463 » Fri May 02, 2014 8:03 pm

L1A1Rocker wrote:I've watched Kurt vises on Ebay. The smaller ones go for near full new prices. BUT, the big ones (like the ones you'll use on a Bridgeport J head) are surprisingly cheep.

The Kurt II PT400 is an awesome little vise for a mill/drill. I have one on my Millrite and love it. Sometimes you get lucky on Ebay and find one reasonable. It's definitely not cheap to buy new.

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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by Stan1 » Sat May 03, 2014 7:43 am

I bought a Jet R8 chuck and collet set that has been nice, but I wasted money on the full set. It must be close to 20 years old and there are collets I still haven't used. That said it is nice being able to change end mill sizes w/o having to mess with the drawbar.
http://www.jettools.com/us/en/p/ccs-1-r ... set/466001

Edit - Wow, I checked the price- $700 list! It was about 1/2 that when I bought it. I guess I'll go out and fondle it some...

On a related topic, if you got a mill-drill you will find it a pain to hold the spindle to change R8 accessories. Take a look at the very top of the spindle where the drawbar hex head sits. The spindle on the mill-drill I had was a perfect match for a power takeoff size adaptor I found at a farm supply place. I welded a piece of 1/4" x 1" flat stock to the side at ~10* angle to make a spindle wrench. IIRC a 17mm long socket dropped through the top to make changes a snap.
Image

Enjoy. As you are too well aware it's all addictive.
Last edited by Stan1 on Sat May 03, 2014 10:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by Baffled » Sat May 03, 2014 8:22 am

1) A GOOD vise, Kurt-STYLE. A genuine Kurt vise will make you smile every time you use it. If it has the Kurt label. it'll be accurate. If it's a Chinee knock-off, get references first, some of them are out many thousandths, and that literally makes it a boat anchor.

2) Once you've got your Kurt style vise, get (or make) a set of vise keys for it that fit your slots snugly. This makes the vise parallel to your table with each mounting. My keys and vise are so well done that I haven't run an indicator on a vise jaw in 5 years.

Now you can mount work. Once it's in there, got to center it, locate it. Get two Starrett edge finders, one 3/8" shank, one 1/2" shank. You'll understand why after changing collets 100,000 times. Edge finders can easily locate round work dead center with the "Osbourne Maneuver." Don't need a fancy dial center locator unless you want one.

Already mentioned, parallels (Chinee fine) thick AND thin. 1-2-3 blocks. 2 ea. 5C collet blocks, square and hex, unbelievably useful, and 5C collets in 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 5/8, 3/4.

Now it gets pricey. A complete set (or as many as you can afford) GOOD QUALITY Western twist drills in both jobbers and screw length. If only one set, get screw machine length drills. A keyless chuck, the Taiwan Albrecht clone from SPI is awesome, 0.000 runout with a ground steel in the jaws, whereas my German Rohm has more runout.

Chinese twist drills aren't worth the acid to dissolve them in.

Cutters - good quality end mills. Start collecting them. You'll break a few, it's up to you whether you want to start with cheap end mills. I absolutely despise them, they are a false economy, deliver s--t finish, s--t service life. Sossner, OGG, all the good cutter makers are where it's at. But cha-ching! Big bucks. I haven't broken an end mill in years, comes with practice and experience.

At least a couple rougher end mills in 3/8" and 1/2"

If you can afford it, a quality face mill that uses real inserts, not TPG inserts. Fly cutting sucks, will suck forever.

The biggest and best addition to productivity is DRO, but I'd wait on that until you get a knee mill. The day you can leave backlash and dial concerns behind you, you will experience spontaneous orgasms daily for a week.

Good luck, I cannot imagine a shop without a mill in it. It is the perfect partner to a lathe. I move work between them, often still mounted in chucks, all the time.

Haunt eBay. Look for new old stock cutting stuff. Avoid any and all USED end mill sales. They are used and being sold for a reason.

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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by Dr.K » Sat May 03, 2014 11:25 am

I just had a spontaneous orgasm.

Receiving milling tips/tricks from Baffled is like getting basketball tips from Michael Jordan. Thanks!

The one thing I keep finding over and over, here and the world wide interwebs is to get a "GOOD" vise, and if those who know, say to do it, then I will scrape up the $500 or so and get one.

It does feel kinda silly to put a vise on a mill that cost 2/3rds what the mill cost. :lol:

But, I understand it is one of those tools that can be moved to any machine for the rest of my life,....buy once, cry once seems to fit very well in this particular situation.

Again, I offer my humble gratitude for the nuggets of wisdom.

EDIT: Just bought a brand new Kurt D688 2 minutes ago.....ahhhh, that feels better to get that out of the way. :lol:
Kyle O.

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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by Baffled » Sat May 03, 2014 2:07 pm

Dr.K wrote:
EDIT: Just bought a brand new Kurt D688 2 minutes ago.....ahhhh, that feels better to get that out of the way. :lol:
Appreciate the words... you'll appreciate that vise even more. Your back will appreciate it if you take care when lifting it, they are massive! Which is good, soaks up vibration and forces.

IMO, hold off on any swivel base. I have two, used one of them once in 20 years. I don't know why, you'd think they'd almost be a necessity, but angled stuff gets set up in the vise so the angle is vertical, not horizontal, if that makes sense.

I don't know if your Kurt vise comes with keys. If not, making a set is a great first exercise for the mill. One way to do it is to clamp a thick steel on the mill table, ensure it is square to the table itself - can be done with a skim cut, even, then flip the vise on it's back! Clamp that steel in the vise jaws, and then with oversized keys attached to the bottom of the vise, cut them to width, hopefully without marring your new vise.

Or, do it the regular way, careful measurement. You don't want them too tight in the table slots, because that makes mounting difficult. The idea is to set the vise (with keys in slot) on the table, very lightly tighten the hold-down nuts, then pop the vise from the front with a rubber mallet. This jams the keys against the back edge of the table slot.

One other "must have" for your vise - a speed handle. You MUST get one of these. You'll go nuts using the stock handle.

Image

The cheap imports work fine.

I've always found it interesting that Kurt vises come in different sizes, yet the smaller vises cost MORE than the 6". Kurt makes a 4" and a 5" version, very nice for smaller mills. I actually have a genuine 3" Kurt vise that is like a spotted owl... not many out there, and not made any more. Got it on eBay for $50!

You're going to have a blast. Keep in mind for tooling - if it cuts metal, it generally pays to get the good stuff. If it SUPPORTS work, like parallels, blocks, etc, Chinese works fine. Asian collets are hit or miss, I'd splurge on Lyndex myself.

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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by mysticofjesus » Sat May 03, 2014 5:18 pm

I've actually never used vise keys, you can get pretty quick at tramming vises with an indicator. I've never used a swivel base either, and I hate speed handles. Don't know why really, they just annoy me, seems like they're always in the way.

I'll second the recommendation for getting good quality end mills. On that machine there's no reason to get carbide end mills, they're just more expensive and more fragile. Go HSS (regular or cobalt), but get good ones. I like OSG, and Niagara is usually pretty good. I almost always use carbide (bigger machine, faster spindle) so don't take my word about which HSS end mills to get.

I see Baffled recommended thinking about a facemill. Once you get a bigger mill I would agree (especially about avoiding TPG inserts: they suck and break), but on the little mini mill I think you'd be ahead with a big fly cutter and an indexable lathe tool that fits in it. There's not much difference between that and a facemill with just one insert. You can push that setup pretty hard. I doubt your mill has the power and rigidity to benefit much from more inserts, and you'll get better finishes with just one.

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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by Archilochus » Mon May 05, 2014 10:28 am

Dr.K wrote:Like, a cheaper vise that turned out being shitty, and you should've bought a high end to begin with? Then ended up with two. Ha ha.
Spend the extra $$ on a good vise. A crappy vise will make working miserable.
And you''ll want a good one for your future Bridgeport.

I put a Kurt D675 on my RF45 'mill-drill'. It will move to a Bridgeport if I can ever find one near to me.

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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by Baffled » Mon May 05, 2014 10:54 am

Tentatively agree with Mystic on the face mill thing, but if the $$ is there, and you have the sort of work that needs a large, flat surface, they are sooo useful, and a joy to use. Speaking of joy, back when eBay was new and there were still bargains to be had, the Lovejoy corporation (mostly into motion control) decided to sell some surplus stuff on eBay. I had used a 3-insert TPG-32X face mill for a few years, and it worked but left a poor surface finish with weird swirlies all over. Decided to splurge on a Lovejoy R8 face mill that uses some cosmic little square inserts with rake built in.

Oh, wow, what a difference. What it does to metal should be illegal. Looks ground. Amazing longevity on those inserts too, I'm still on my original ten pack. Here's what it does to the crappiest grade of aluminum extrusion:

Image

And other metals. When you want a flat surface, it's the way to go, rather than cutting 20 corn rows with a 1/2" end mill.

Image

Image

But yes it's probably something best left for a future knee mill, which I will almost guarantee you will end up with. The biggest drawback to any smaller mill is lack of Z. Bench mills choke on the smallest setups, and while there are usually work-arounds, it can be very frustrating.

Here's a simple setup. You have a rectangle of aluminum, 5" long. You want to drill a 1/2" hole in the end. Start measuring...

Table to vise work space - ~ 3"
Work itself - 5"
1/2" jobber drill - 5"
Drill chuck - 4"

About 17" needed from table to spindle just to drill a hole. I've got an 8" x 36" baby Bport clone, and it too often chokes on the Z. When this sort of thing happens, out comes a big 90 degree angle iron, clamped to the table, with the work clamped to that. Also, another helpful thing is to mount the cutter directly into an R8 collet.

Speaking of angle irons, 3 of them from 4", 6", 8" or larger are extremely handy. Also a small insert vise for the Kurt.

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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by Dr.K » Mon May 05, 2014 8:34 pm

Ok, update......I've now spent as much on mill tooling/holding as I have on the machine itself. :lol:

And, I don't have any of it yet. :lol:

I'm going to Texarkana Wed to the steel yard, and getting some heavy 2" square tube and am going to do an all welded adjustable steel machine table, so I'll be able to level it up properly.......s--t, I just realized I need to get a machinist level which I know are not cheap.

I got some 3" adjustable machine pads from enco, same ones CMV recommended for my lathe, and they worked out good for that.

I keep finding how much of a crapper it is to adjust the head height on the mil/drill. I KNOW the machine is not ideal, but I had to get something.

Wouldn't a good test bar and magnetic base indicator stuck to the table allow me to reindicate it after raising the head up? Or, would the thing need to be re-trammed each time?
Kyle O.

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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by Historian » Tue May 06, 2014 7:58 am

Dr.K wrote:Ok, update......I've now spent as much on mill tooling/holding as I have on the machine itself. :lol:

And, I don't have any of it yet. :lol:

I'm going to Texarkana Wed to the steel yard, and getting some heavy 2" square tube and am going to do an all welded adjustable steel machine table, so I'll be able to level it up properly.......s--t, I just realized I need to get a machinist level which I know are not cheap.

I got some 3" adjustable machine pads from enco, same ones CMV recommended for my lathe, and they worked out good for that.

I keep finding how much of a crapper it is to adjust the head height on the mil/drill. I KNOW the machine is not ideal, but I had to get something.

Wouldn't a good test bar and magnetic base indicator stuck to the table allow me to reindicate it after raising the head up? Or, would the thing need to be re-trammed each time?
Welcome to the Club of Testosterone Infused Metal Maniacs. :)
So much fun. So many new shinny metal measuring tools, holders, etc.
Unlimited tutorials on YouTube by generous and talented machinists.

Especially those master machinists with a charming "Downtown Abbey" British accents that sometimes
require subtitles in English.

And, when you finally turn out art, or should I say a part, the joy will be ineffable.

Best!

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Baffled
Silent But Deadly
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Re: My first milling machine!

Post by Baffled » Tue May 06, 2014 9:45 am

Dr.K wrote:Ok, update......I've now spent as much on mill tooling/holding as I have on the machine itself. :lol:

And, I don't have any of it yet. :lol:

I'm going to Texarkana Wed to the steel yard, and getting some heavy 2" square tube and am going to do an all welded adjustable steel machine table, so I'll be able to level it up properly.......s--t, I just realized I need to get a machinist level which I know are not cheap.

I got some 3" adjustable machine pads from enco, same ones CMV recommended for my lathe, and they worked out good for that.

I keep finding how much of a crapper it is to adjust the head height on the mil/drill. I KNOW the machine is not ideal, but I had to get something.

Wouldn't a good test bar and magnetic base indicator stuck to the table allow me to reindicate it after raising the head up? Or, would the thing need to be re-trammed each time?
You've been bit... bad! :D Seen it so many times. I'm an airline pilot. About 15 years ago, I flew a month with a captain who loved all things mechanical. He was big into RC airplanes, and did beautiful work by hand. He was fascinated with what I described, came to visit, and he got bit too.

I sold him my old Smithy with the mill head removed. I had taken the head off and was using it as a 2nd op lathe. Within 4 months, my friend had a complete mini machine shop with a 12" Clausing lathe and a full-sized BP clone. He's been making chips since. The Smithy still sits in a corner. It worked fine in that it bit two people like a damned malaria mosquito. :mrgreen:

I'm going to confess... I never leveled my mill. It was a bit short for me (I'm 6' 3") so I stacked heavy particle board 6" tall, topped that with sheet steel, and jacked the mill up on it. I understand leveling is important, but oddly enough, work still comes out square and plumb, so long as the head is trammed. Recommend borrowing a level, or simply using a good carpenter level.

Some parting thoughts before you get further along in this disease... Buy for the future. Your HF mill will get you started, but you'll outgrow it. So buy tooling that will see you into your knee mill. 20 years ago when I got started, Asian BP clones were highly suspect, with some very bad issues in almost all of them. They have grown up and now make a really nice product for the price. If I had to choose between a brand-new Asian BP for $4,500 vs a used BP with holes drilled in the table, I'd take Chinese, thank you. And get one with a DRO. Don't forget what happens after you use one! :lol:

And haunt eBay for stuff like this; collet fixtures, dividing heads, etc, with a spindle nose to match your lathe so you can use chucks. You don't use them often, but when you do, VERY nice. Be patient, you can bag a $500 tool for $200 or less. Mine has lovely color case hardening on much of the steel.

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