ADvertise hereStainLess Steel MediaTitan ReloadingLee Precision
Inline FabricationGraf & SonsRotoMetals2MidSouth Shooters Supply

Page 2 of 2 FirstFirst 12
Results 21 to 35 of 35

Thread: Best affordable Bench Top Mill?

  1. #21
    Moderator Emeritus

    MaryB's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    SW Minnesota
    Posts
    7,725
    I really want a small mill but for the few times a year I would need it I just abuse my drill press. I mill out a cavity in a 3x3x2" thick brass block to build an amateur radio antenna preamplifier in. I sell 3-4 a year is all so I have a hard time justifying the cost of a mill...

  2. #22
    Boolit Master

    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    East Tn
    Posts
    3,193
    I have both a Bridgeport and the little HF/many other names same machine type bench mill and I agree the bench mill is a great little machine, I still use mine a LOT even with the BP sitting close by. BUT, lets be realistic about those little mills! Lots of good points about them and so far nothing but glowing reviews on them but the truth is they have some serious shortcomings that a potential buyer needs to know about. First they are commonly described as being "limp as a wet noodle" and unfortunately this is all to true! Accuracy (real accuracy) is simply hard to obtain unless modifications are undertaken to stiffen that "flexible" column, fortunately this is easy to do and Googling it will reveal a LOT of discussion about the problem and simple methods of solving it. Almost all of the ads for all of these little mills list the 45 degree head tilt as a "feature" built into it but in reality it is little more than the main cause of the flexing problem and basically useless as a usable feature! For example if you tilt that head even a few degrees not only will you not have any usable table travel left but the darn thing won't have enough spindle travel to reach the work piece! The truth is it is not a feature at all and is actually an excuse to make the frame in two simple flat pieces that bolt together rather than a larger more complex (and thus more expensive to make) one piece frame, interesting to note that the solid one piece frame non-tilting version of this mill costs over $100 more than the one that has the tilt "feature"!

    Another problem is known as head drop and this one can be a real PITA! It results from the normal backlash in the rack&pinion head gear. When down pressure is applied during drilling the backlash will be taken up by the down pressure but when the drill bit breaks through this backlash lets the head drop or be pulled down resulting in snagging the bit, a much bigger problem when drilling than milling but it can cause problems when milling also. Various methods of addressing this problem are used, the older versions had a coil spring preload type that didn't work well at all, various gas cylinder conversions were offered to solve the problem and while they are better than the spring they too are not without problems. An easily done counter weight system using a cable, pulleys and a weight pulling upward on the head does solve the problem nicely but this must be rigged up by the owner, very easy to do however and costs very little (I did mine for less than $20).

    I could add to this many other little annoyances such as the absurdly short rack gear for the head that limits head down travel, a two inches longer rack is available from LMS to solve the problem but why is it two inches too short in the first place?

    Yes they can be a very usable mill and I REALLY like mine but as they come (the newer ones are somewhat better and at least try to fix some of the problems) they need some serious work to be truly accurate and less frustrating to use. Mine was modified with the counter-weighted head, reinforced and stiffened frame (IMHO a real must-do!), a longer head travel rack (I made mine but they are available from LMS, Ebay, etc), a belt drive head conversion and lapped ways to make table travel smooth throughout the range, this is easy to do, costs almost nothing (some lapping compound) and is a HUGE improvement. I just thought these problems should be mentioned so that anyone contemplating buying one would be aware of them before buying rather than after, solutions are available but drive up the cost considerably unless the owner opts to make his own.

    Spend the extra money and buy a solid frame machine or plan on using steel plate/angle iron to stiffen that silly floppy tilting one, counter-weight the head, lap the ways, add a belt drive and a longer head travel rack and they make it a nice machine that is a joy to use. It might take a bit of time and effort but parts for almost all of these mods can be made instead of bought significantly reducing the cost, you can make these now instead of buying them because you now own a mill to make them with!!
    Last edited by oldred; 02-06-2018 at 09:11 AM. Reason: spellin
    Statistics show that criminals commit fewer crimes after they have been shot

  3. #23
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Posts
    354
    GONRA sez cut the BS and get a REAL "Crank Up Bed" vertical mill. It will handle "controlled displacment drlling".

    Glorified Drill Press "Sensitive Drillling" (pulling down Spindle Handle) just doesn't hack it for drilling thru hardened sheet metal (carbide die drills!) or milling!!!
    Try Bench Mills on UZI top plates and yer gonna Learn Real Fast. (Be sure hava spare UZI Top Plate on hand 'cause you're gonna F it up.)

  4. #24
    Boolit Master

    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    East Tn
    Posts
    3,193
    Well a heck of a lot of folks just can't use a full size knee mill because of cost and/or space to park the darn thing! Those little mills are decent machines when used within their limitations and can very well cover almost all of a lot of hobbyists needs. They really DO need the mods I mentioned earlier to reach their full potential but even unmodified they can be extremely useful, those mods can be done using the mill itself to make the parts or the owner can just buy them -or use it as is!

    It's easy to tell folks to just spring for the heavy iron at the start but all too often for various reasons it's either a bench top machine or no mill at all!
    Statistics show that criminals commit fewer crimes after they have been shot

  5. #25
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Posts
    4,440
    Ok, I give up! I'll wait and get a Bridgeport when we move to AZ.. Thanks for the frank and truthful information on the little bench top mills.

  6. #26
    Boolit Master Moleman-'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    SW Michigan next to a winter wheat field
    Posts
    438
    You can do a fair amount with one of the large green drill/mills from HF. You're not going to mistake it for a bridgeport, but for what they are they do a decent job. To mill the flats on this 22" barrel I had to bolt the indexer and tailstock to a piece of 3/4"x4" steel, then bolt the steel to the table because the combination was longer than the table and close to the actual travel of the X axis.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Octagon-2.jpg 
Views:	24 
Size:	40.7 KB 
ID:	213594   Click image for larger version. 

Name:	IMG_0675.jpg 
Views:	23 
Size:	54.7 KB 
ID:	213591   Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Octagon-5.JPG 
Views:	22 
Size:	148.4 KB 
ID:	213593   Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Msite-10.JPG 
Views:	25 
Size:	75.4 KB 
ID:	213595  

  7. #27
    Boolit Master

    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    East Tn
    Posts
    3,193
    Yep, you can do a lot and I do mean a LOT, I sure did with mine! I had planned to sell my little mill when I got the BP but it's just so darn handy I would have missed it too much! No joke those things can be a great addition to a hobby type shop even with a "big" mill to go with it, as I said earlier even with my BP sitting there in the same shop I still go to that little fella a lot and I doubt I will ever part with it. As for those who can't justify the cost of the bigger mills or just don't have room for a full sized machine don't be put off by those who would belittle them and call them junk, they are NOT junk they just have limited capacity and can benefit from fairly easy to do mods that make them even more useful. Most any gun part will easily fall into the capabilities of one of these machines so as long as a person is not expecting it to do anything a full size knee mill will do they are quite likely to happy with it, it darn sure beats no mill at all if a full size machine is just not in someone's future for whatever the reason!
    Statistics show that criminals commit fewer crimes after they have been shot

  8. #28
    Boolit Man
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Location
    Boysee
    Posts
    132
    These get good reviews, R8 spindle, no plastic gears or tilt column:
    https://littlemachineshop.com/produc...ory=1387807683
    With DRO's:
    https://littlemachineshop.com/produc...ory=1387807683
    Reviewed here:
    http://www.mini-lathe.com/mini_mill/.../lms_mm/mm.htm

    I don't own either...yet.
    sorry if these have already been mentioned
    Last edited by Kenstone; 02-09-2018 at 03:52 AM.

  9. #29
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Posts
    4,440
    Quote Originally Posted by Moleman- View Post
    You can do a fair amount with one of the large green drill/mills from HF. You're not going to mistake it for a bridgeport, but for what they are they do a decent job. To mill the flats on this 22" barrel I had to bolt the indexer and tailstock to a piece of 3/4"x4" steel, then bolt the steel to the table because the combination was longer than the table and close to the actual travel of the X axis.

    Nice job on that barrel

  10. #30
    Boolit Master Moleman-'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    SW Michigan next to a winter wheat field
    Posts
    438
    Thanks 6bg6ga it was a fun project. Made the front sight on the same bench mill from some tubing and scrap 1/2" plate. Made the sling swivel base on a 1880's E.E.Garvin mill. I want a Bridgeport and expect at some point I'll end up with one mainly for the bigger table and more rigidity. In the mean while the drill/mill is still turning out parts for me. The only thing I've done to it is add a power feed to the X axis and a caliper to the downfeed Z axis as there is quite a bit of slop in the pinion that can't easily be taken out. With the caliper it's easy to set DOC to within .0005" which is better than any project I'd do requires. When that caliper eventually dies (it's on there as it had a wrench dropped on the display which broke it) I'll get one of the purpose made "dro" type which uses the same electronics as one of the calipers.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Msite-5.JPG 
Views:	2 
Size:	52.9 KB 
ID:	213692  

  11. #31
    Boolit Master

    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    East Tn
    Posts
    3,193
    Quote Originally Posted by Moleman- View Post
    there is quite a bit of slop in the pinion that can't easily be taken out.
    That was my biggest fault with those mills and one of the biggest complaints overall from all owners I have talked with about them but it's also the easiest to fix. The gas cylinder solution (mentioned in one of the links provided by Kenstone above as an "air spring") is a big improvement but it's fairly expensive and still not a perfect solution as problems still exist especially when drilling. For just a few bucks (I spent less than $20 at Ace Hardware) you can end that problem for good, a piece of 1/8" or so wire cable, a couple of 2" or 3" pulleys, a couple of small "eye" hooks and a few pieces of scrap metal is about all that's needed. Mount the pulleys on top of the column front and back using the scrap metal angle, etc, attach one end of the cable to the head using one of the eye hooks screwed into it and then run the cable across the pulleys allowing a length to hang down behind the mill. Simply add/remove weight until the head functions to suit you and the problem is solved completely! When done neatly this setup will in no way look "cobbled up" if appearance is important to you, as it was to me, and it ends that sloppy head problem forever! The down-pull pressure is even from top to bottom of travel and when drilling the bit snag problem has never happened to me again even when using the largest drills this mill will handle, at least it hasn't happened due to the backlash problem anyway. With this weight system the handle down pressure is actually lighter than it was with that worthless coil spring it had before and since the head is always being pulled solidly against the upper limits of the backlash there is for all practical purpose no backlash there anymore!
    Statistics show that criminals commit fewer crimes after they have been shot

  12. #32
    Boolit Master Moleman-'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    SW Michigan next to a winter wheat field
    Posts
    438
    I did take note of that suggestion oldred, thank you. So far it's been a good machine for me even if it has a few quirks. Keeping everything stock isn't as imported to me as function. The gas spring idea appeals to me. My neighbor runs a auto body repair business and in the past has given me old vehicle hood or hatchback/trunk gas springs to use. The roof on our ducks laying house uses them to make lifting it even when covered in snow easy enough for a kid to do and more importantly not fall back down with enough force to do any damage to little fingers. So if I'm patient likely I could get a common automotive extension type for free.

  13. #33
    Boolit Master

    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    East Tn
    Posts
    3,193
    Those gas springs work better than the coil but they still have problems plus they are a bit more complicated to install. However if you prefer the gas springs and can get them free, as apparently you can, they certainly are a LOT better than that coil if that's what you have now. The trick with the gas springs is getting the head into a "neutral buoyancy" (for lack of a better description) condition plus they also cause a change in required down-pressure over the length of travel giving an artificial "bouncy" feel to the control handle making it a bit difficult to precisely position the tool even when using the fine down-feed wheel. The weight system eliminates all that and provides smooth constant pressure to the feed plus you can easily feel the lightest touch of the tool to work piece, something that's difficult with that gas spring setup.

    If you have that coil spring setup you will be much happier with either method you chose to replace it with as either will make that little Mill much easier to use. The gas spring works OK but basically during use it feels as if the head is pulling against a spring, which of course it is, while with the weight system the head just simply feels like the backlash is gone and only requires a light smooth pressure to move then it stays put precisely where you stop.
    Statistics show that criminals commit fewer crimes after they have been shot

  14. #34
    Boolit Master

    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    East Tn
    Posts
    3,193
    Moleman I just read one of your posts in another thread and I realized you have a bigger mill than the one I was talking about, all those mods I mentioned were for the little Seig type bench-top mills. Not sure if any of it applies to your round column mill since I have never owned one of those, those little Seig type mills are so common I mistakenly assumed that's what you had.
    Statistics show that criminals commit fewer crimes after they have been shot

  15. #35
    Boolit Master Moleman-'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    SW Michigan next to a winter wheat field
    Posts
    438
    It'll still work oldred, might take a decently strong gas spring though. I remember seeing ones 25 years ago or so that pulled and were quite strong. One of those would be the easiest to install. I rarely use the drill feature and don't even have the spokes/handles installed anymore.

Page 2 of 2 FirstFirst 12

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check