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New Mill - Starter Tooling

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Ron Laden05/10/2018 09:23:21
1936 forum posts
381 photos

I will be buying my first mill in the new year, I,ve pretty much decided on a Sieg SX2 Plus. Obviously a mill is not much use without tooling so I have been thinking of what I will need to get started with the mill.

I thought you guys may help, I wont have an open check book my budget will be limited to start with, and I dont want to waste money on items I will seldom use and would have been better spending the money on other things.

I can add things as I go along so I am looking for the basic essentials to get me started.

There is a range of starter sets available, one I was looking at contains the following: 80mm vice, 24 piece clamping set, collet chuck with 4,6,8,10,12 and 16mm collets, plus 6,10 and 12mm 4 flute end mills. Would this be a good starting point plus is there items I must have to make a start.

Appreciate any advice.


Edited By Ron Laden on 05/10/2018 09:39:59

Edited By Ron Laden on 05/10/2018 09:41:56

Thor05/10/2018 09:39:05
1231 forum posts
37 photos

Hi Ron,

Your starter set sounds reasonable to me. I use slot drills (2 flute mills) a lot so I have a collection of slot drills in addition to the 4-flute end mills. What additional tooling you might want depends on what you want to make, I have a couple of rotary tables, tilting vice, toolmakers vice, end mill holders, finger collets and 13 and 16mm arbors, but these has accumulated over many years. Congratulations with you new milling machine, I still have my old X2.


Edited By Thor on 05/10/2018 09:40:01

John Haine05/10/2018 10:16:20
3101 forum posts
162 photos

It looks like that mill has R8 taper as standard, so I would not bother with a separate collet chuck, it's just a way to consume the daylight between the spindle and the workpiece. Better in my view to buy separate R8 collets, which are relatively cheap, hold cutters very tight (originally used on Bridgeport), and have negligible overhang.

Though I have a machine vice, more often than not I'm clamping work to an angle plate. If you get a swivelling vice, you will quickly find that you need to remove the top from the swivel base to get more headroom, and probably never replace it. So maybe don't bother and just get a better, lower, possibly cheaper non-swivelling type?

Adding to Thor's comments, if you are likely to be slotting and/or machining aluminium, some 2 or 3 flute centre-cutting endmills (a/k/a "slot drills" will be useful.

An edge finder is very useful.

SillyOldDuffer05/10/2018 10:25:47
5791 forum posts
1232 photos

I'll be interested to see if anyone else agrees, but I'd question the value of a clamping set. I have one, it is useful, but I don't use it very much. Instead, most of what I do is held in a vice, or a rotary table, or bolted direct to the table. Home-made T-nuts and studding to fit are used more than the clamping set, which is most used on the rare occasions I bolt something big, heavy &/or oddly shaped to the table.

I'd say an edge finder is essential, with a DTI a close second for tramming and setting the vice accurately. Not all edge finders are equally useful, and a set may be waste of money. My preferred edge finder is Type C on this page.

You probably need some 2-flute as well as 4-flute end-mills and a set of twist drills.

In the 'might be essential depending on what you do' class:

  • A collet set with a wider range (2mm to 22mm) is good because it reduces tool changes, for example it takes most twist drills without having to stop and swap the collet chuck for a drill chuck and back again.
  • Metric twist-drills in 0.1mm steps
  • Boring head and boring bar (for making wide diameter and non-standard holes)
  • Fly-cutter for flattening large areas.
  • Rotary table ( I use mine about 30% of the time.)

Not essential, but highly desirable is a DRO on each scale. I fitted Warco's cheapest and most basic model to mine and it makes using the mill an order of magnitude easier to use than the dials. The problem with mechanical dials is remembering how far you've got, remembering which way you're going, and remembering to allow for backlash. And there are three of them on a mill!

In the 'most likely to be a waste of money' group, a flood cooling system (unless you are going to munch a lot of steel in every session). Also, for general purpose work angle vices not such a good idea because they're bendy and finicky to set up.


Vic05/10/2018 10:33:10
2500 forum posts
14 photos

When I got my first mill there were two things I thought I needed that I didn’t. One was a collet chuck and the other was a clamping kit. I bought a few finger collets to hold the cutters and made my own T nuts. As John says using R8 collets will preserve your Z height. I’ve gradually built up my clamping “kit” as I needed using nuts, bolts and threaded rod etc. I also got a couple of steel straps and step blocks for £1 a piece at one of the shows. Off the shelf T nuts will never fit as well as ones you make yourself and are good learning pieces to make in my opinion. Good luck and enjoy the new mill! smiley

Russell Eberhardt05/10/2018 10:53:25
2577 forum posts
85 photos

As you say your budget is limited, don't go out and buy sets of this and that. All you need to buy are a few milling cutters and the means to hold them. Then get a copy of H.H.'s book "Milling a complete course" which will take you through making various clamps, an angle plate, dividing head etc;, while learning.


IanT05/10/2018 11:02:55
1535 forum posts
144 photos

I have two clamping 'sets' and find the stepped blocks (and matching straps) very convenient but prone to move when being tightened. I've never used the assorted threaded rods/coupler nuts etc in the larger kit. However, they do not fit every need and other clamping/holding devices/fixtures will be needed. So a small clamping set will help to get you going but do buy a good vice first.

I use ER collets extensively - not just to hold cutters but to also hold work, both in the lathe and various collet blocks/spin indexers etc. So whilst work holding in a collet doesn't apply to a mill - perhaps thinking more broadly about their use might be useful in deciding which approach to take.

Good luck with your new machine and enjoy using it.



David T05/10/2018 11:27:08
74 forum posts
14 photos

I agree with the comments regarding a clamping kit. I made a handful of clamps as per Harold Hall's instructions, and they cover most of my clamping needs. An angle plate is also very useful here. On odd occasions I do also use a vice; mine is one of the precision toolmaker's types from Arc (usual disclaimer etc etc).

I should also point out that I started out with just a lathe, no mill. My first clamps were made on the lathe, for clamping work down to the cross slide etc. The simple clamps encouraged by HH can be made with nothing more than a drill and a tap. Slots are a luxury!

Andrew Johnston05/10/2018 11:40:48
5510 forum posts
648 photos

I'd advise against sets in general.

I have to be careful here as my mills are large in comparison to the SX2. But I'd definitely go for a suitable machine vice and a set of clamps. I use clamps a lot. I've got 8 sets; two 1/2" sets for use on the lathe faceplates and six 5/8" sets for milling. To fair I do have three mills, and it can be easy to run out of clamps if you have several setups on the go. Clamps are also useful for more general fixtures, like wheel welding:

rear wheel welding.jpg

Although my vertical mill is R8 I have very few R8 collets. For general work I use ER20 collet chucks. I actually use the Tormach TTS system on my manual mill as well as CNC as it is more convenient. You'll also need at least one drill chuck; I do 99% of my drilling on the vertical mill. The pillar drill is used once in a blue moon. I mostly use 6mm and 10mm cutters in sidelock holders and ER collet chucks for other small cutters. For larger cutters I've got a Clarkson lookalike chuck, but they're probably a bit big for the SX2.

Other accessories such as angle plates, box, cubes, boring heads, rotary tables and dividing heads can wait until you really need them.

I wouldn't buy a cutter set. Two rules for cutters:

1. Never buy cheap cutters

2. See rule 1

I'd buy a couple of cutters, say 6mm and possibly 10mm, of decent quality and see how you get on. As standard I use three flute centre cutting endmills. Depending upon where you buy, cutter sets are often poorly ground so that they won't cut properly, or even cut at all.


mechman4805/10/2018 11:50:23
2664 forum posts
410 photos

I started out with a set of tooling similar to yours, which is more than sufficient to set up with. As with many comments you can / will build up a lot of 'add ons & extra ' nice to have' bits 'n pieces. I have made a few clamps for my mill even though I have a larger clamping system I generally just use the milling vice that is fixed on the mill at present. Just use what you have & buy as 'necessary & needed' for the job in hand. You can find an amazing lot of 'odds 'n' sods' at car boot sales. A lot of my stuff has been 'gathered' over the years from one source or other, & I'm still looking.


JasonB05/10/2018 12:12:31
18140 forum posts
1997 photos
1 articles

Although finger collets will give you a bit more head room and that is the only time I may use them they can be a bit of a PITA for smaller work which Ron is likely to be doing with a Mini-lathe and SX2.

This pic is of the next size up SX2.7 from normal operating position, unless you are a 3'6" midget or like to stoop down to work your machines you can't see what you are doing.


As you can now see there is a 3mm FC-3 cutter in there and you can also see that if you want to hold work with clamps the quill stops you getting anywhere near it unless you are working in the middle of a large item.


So for me the ER-25 holder in the No3 set is a good choice or even an ER20 would do then a finger collet if you wanted to hold larger than 12mm, on my slightly larger X3 I use ER32 for 95% of what I do but could get away with a 25 for the majority of that.

I also use my clamping set quite a bit but that is often determined by what type of things you end up needing to hold, a lot of what I do on the larger engines won't fit a vice so it needs clamping but a small engine may almost all fit in a vice


Edited By JasonB on 05/10/2018 12:25:35

Neil Wyatt05/10/2018 13:35:41
17902 forum posts
706 photos
77 articles

As an X2 user I would say ER25 collet chuck, a decent vice and, personally, I use one of the clamp sets a lot because I find that there are lots of other uses for the bits in it from clamping down your vice to makeshift 'parallels'.

Pair of 10mm carbide cutters, one coated for steel and one coated for aluminium, plus a few small FC3 'throwaway' mills will do most jobs you come across at first.

Buy other stuff as and when needed.


SillyOldDuffer05/10/2018 14:03:03
5791 forum posts
1232 photos
Posted by Andrew Johnston on 05/10/2018 11:40:48:

I'd advise against sets in general.


Once you know what you're doing, that's right. Sets are usually an avoidable expense because they often include a few items you might never need.

I feel the exception to the rule is the beginner.

Sets are a good way of finding out what's needed in the real world. When making a start, I was uncertain about what I might make and what metals l'd use, let alone which tools were essential or unnecessary. When still in a state of innocence there's much to be said for for buying a set and learning by using rather than wasting valuable time swotting up on tooling before their context and purposes are understood.

Much clearer what's really needed after cutting some metal for a project no matter how simple. The important thing is to make a start even if doing so wastes some cash. With a little experience, purchasing decisions become much easier.


Bazyle05/10/2018 14:14:35
5231 forum posts
201 photos

This comes up quite often so look back for other threads. To save having to retype the same advice over and over our club put some ideas on their website.

Vic05/10/2018 14:36:18
2500 forum posts
14 photos

One cheap item you will find useful is a one inch paintbrush, very handy for sweeping swarf away. I use one on the mill and another on the lathe, I’ve painted the handles bright red so I don’t loose track of them!

If you do decide at some point to get a collet chuck then consider a ER32 in preference to a ER25. It’s got a bigger capacity which is handy but there are also other bits of kit that take ER32 collets like a spinindexer and ER32 collet blocks.

Martin Connelly05/10/2018 15:09:02
1369 forum posts
159 photos

If your mill choice does not have a spindle lock then a collet chuck may be a good choice, as long as the collet chuck has flats for a suitable wrench to hold it when tightening or loosening the nut. R8 collets do save headroom but tightening enough for a good grip can be a problem without a spindle lock. They also have to be the correct size for the item they are holding. You can't use a 12mm one for 1/2" or vice versa.

Martin C

Andrew Johnston05/10/2018 15:33:05
5510 forum posts
648 photos
Posted by SillyOldDuffer on 05/10/2018 14:03:03:

I feel the exception to the rule is the beginner.

I'd disagree, you just end up buying tools you'll never use. And I suspect that some sets are not of the best quality, which just makes life even more difficult. There's no need to make a detailed study beforehand; you really don't need many tools to start.

For lathe tools I reckon 75% of my turning is done with three tools - knife tool, boring bar and parting tool. Similarly with vertical and CNC milling, probably 70% with 6mm and 10mm cutters.

The only exception I'd make to sets are for drills up to 10mm or 1/2". One might as well buy the sets and get a "free" box as buy them individually. I've probably used most of my metric drills from 1mm to 10mm at least once, although of course a few common sizes get most use, like tapping sizes for M4 and M6.


Speedy Builder505/10/2018 16:30:41
2009 forum posts
141 photos

The Sieg SX2 Plus is a smaller mill, but do think about coolant, 1) and then purchase some 2).
Think about how you will use it, drip feed or brush.
I don't think you need to go to the expense of a coolant pump etc.

Chris Evans 606/10/2018 09:25:43
1666 forum posts

R8 collets on offer with MSC this month at very cheap prices. Enjoy the new mill.

Edited By Chris Evans 6 on 06/10/2018 09:26:15

John Haine06/10/2018 11:47:27
3101 forum posts
162 photos

I have never had to lock the spindle to tighten an R8 collet, I just grip the bottom of the quill firmly and yank a spanner on the drawbar. My quill (VMB) has a nice smooth bit at the bottom well away from the cutter I can hold.img_0816.jpg

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