What to Choose
|Brian H||05/05/2019 15:31:58|
1219 forum posts
I've been looking at a milling machine to replace my Graham 25, not that there is much wrong with it but I need to be cutting some spur gears for a new project in the next year or so and the Graham machine would struggle.
So far, I've read up about the Thiel Duplex 158, Deckel FP1, Alexander Master Toolmaker, A&S 1ES and the Centec as well as the Omnimill 00, which is the one I favour because the vertical head can be swung out of the way for horizontal use, whereas the others need to have parts lifted off and other parts lifted on.
Now, it may be that I could install a small hoist to assist with lifting but would welcome the opinions of others using the various machines mentioned.
|2250 forum posts|
I had an Elliott Omnimill 00 and I thought it was a great machine. Good working envelope and the ability to tilt and swing the head was very handy. Horizontal ability was a bonus I never got round to using. I also used an Alexander Master Toolmaker a few times at work, also only in vertical mode. I felt the Alexander was a more nicely finished precision machine than the Elliott. I’m not sure how the working envelopes compare. The table on the Alexander was shorter in length but deeper front to back. I suspect there wasn’t as much daylight under the quill on the Alexander but I never wound the table all the way down to be sure. I often found it a bit odd using the Alexander as the table only moves left and right, the head moving front to back to give you the other axis. Hard to choose between the two really. If you only do small stuff then maybe the Alexander. If you want to mill larger stuff then possibly the Omnimill. I think they had a problem at work sourcing tooling for the vertical head on the Alexander as they never managed to Identify the taper. The Omnimill vertical head was MT3 on my machine.
|2250 forum posts|
I forgot to add. Changing speeds on the Alexander was just a matter of moving gear levers. On my Omnimill I had to lift the head cover and slip the belts. My Omnimill had three motors, one for the vertical head, one for horizontal and another for the table feed. I far as I can remember the Alexander only had one large motor but check if it’s an issue. Both machines were three phase but I ran the vertical head on mine on single phase without a problem. The Omnimill is a taller machine than the Alexander so if height is an issue that may count.
|Paul Kemp||05/05/2019 17:19:42|
|308 forum posts|
I absolutely love mine! I know Nigel McB thinks the vertical head lacks rigidity but I haven't had any issues with mine. I have had it up and running for a year now and have cut all the gears (4DP at one pass) for my 6" traction engine plus done most of the machining ops on the cylinder block (you will have seen pics on TT) and machined up a lot of the other bits too. It's not a pristine example and has some wear in all slides and quite a bit of backlash on the table screw but it's done everything I have needed it too including putting a 3/4" end mill through the brake bracket to form a round ended slot and drilling 1" holes! Mine has 3MT on both spindles which is brilliant as you can use the same tooling 2 ways (I did have to modify the shank of my 2" 4 insert face mill to get it to seat in the horizontal taper though - no big deal!). The ability to swing the vertical head means angled milling / drilling is a doddle. The belt drive is a bit of a faff on the vertical head to change speeds but I have mine on a VFD so for most jobs I can get away with adjusting the speed on the VFD. One weakness I perceive is the lack of fine feed on the quill but it hasn't caused me any issues to date. The only thing I wasn't able to do on it was the crank splines as the crank was too long for the table, could have made an extension plate but there was a long table Bridgeport available so I used that! I don't think there are any modern machines in the hobby market that come close to it.
I haven't used any of the other machines you list so can't comment on those personally but a friend had an Alexander and he says it was a lovely machine but was limited in capacity. He has had 2 00's in the past and has recently bought a third and he intends that will replace his Bridgeport (he loves that too but frustrated with the space it takes up!).
|not done it yet||05/05/2019 18:43:39|
|3344 forum posts|
If an extended riser bock is used with the Centec, there need be no need for heavy lifting to change modes.
Even the 2B models benefit from the extra head/table clearance.
4720 forum posts
I believe that at some point Grizzly in the 'states imported these omnimills from Elliott or perhaps their successors Gate and until a couple of years ago a Chinese copy was advertised by a company in east London. It was a copy including the horizontal capability not the vertical only part like the VMC. It might still be available from Banggood.
|2250 forum posts|
Another mill I’ve briefly used that seemed quite nice was the Tom Senior so that may be an option.
|Brian H||06/05/2019 20:07:55|
1219 forum posts
Many thanks for the replies Vic, Paul & Bazyle, that is all very useful. I like the fact that the vertical parts can be swung out of the way to use horizontal mode, I'm not too keen on lifting heavy attachments.
|Philip D||06/05/2019 20:38:19|
|26 forum posts|
I am also a Omnimill owner. These a pretty robust mills, when sited in place no lifting should be required
If you can take the time to sort out a VFD, you'll hardly have to faff around with the belts. Please check a recent thread on here for guidance and links to sources of manuals / help.
Finding a good one can take a while (they are in all probablity at least 50 yrs old), make sure the horizontal arbour and end casting are with it ..these are now virtually impossible to find. Later models are 30INT on the horizontal and 3MT on vertical. Also late metric models came with a 27MM horizontal abour ..do check what it is size wize, it caught a few out (including me). I ended up getting it ground down to 1"
|Brian H||07/05/2019 06:28:16|
1219 forum posts
Many thanks for that useful information.
Now I just need to wait until the right one comes along, I'm not in a hurry, anytime in the next couple of years.
|Nigel McBurney 1||09/05/2019 19:46:05|
591 forum posts
The German mills ,Deckel ,Thiel etc were the ultimte in toolmaking milling machines, extremely accurate but somewhat lacking in capacity for model making,I once worked on a new Deckel fp 3 and it was approaching a good jig borer in accuracy,the Alexander mills were close copies and were needed when German mills were no longer available in ww 2 ,a friend has an A & S 1es which are good second division machines,the vertical head is heavy ,I owned a 2ES until last year good universal mill ,very heavy machine and very heavy vert head),the 00 outperforms most of the smaller mills in capacity which is what most modellers require.I have the slotting attachment and the universal head which bolts to the front face and is driven by the horizontal spindle,both are useful. I agree that acessories are difficult to find ,I wanted a 1 1/4 inch 3 mt horizontal arbour, I had a good supply of colars and a good number of new cutters,I never found one so have made an adaptor bush for the 1 inch arbour, It has always been sound advice to pay a bit more cash to get a well equipped machine as accessories are getting rarer and more expensive.
|414 forum posts|
I had a Thiel Duplex 158 for a number of years. Originally bought it for the dual horizontal and vertical capability without having to change heads.
It was a 1971 machine that came from the Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Company and had all the original attachments. A fantastic machine that I couldn't even begin to test the functionality of with my limited ability. 17" headroom under vertical head. Huge outreach, but only 16" X travel, but that was never a problem.
Built like the proverbial outhouse, but if you get one without the desirable accessories, kitting them out could be expensive.
|Mark Slatter||09/05/2019 21:48:58|
|45 forum posts|
I was wondering if the omnimill owners could recount what sorts of depth of cut are possible with this machine, and probably more importantly is chatter an issue? I imagine the head arrangement is not the most rigid. Another query relates to the lack of a fine feed on the quill, is this a big concern?
I like the looks of this miller, one of the few that has the versatility I'm looking for without taking up the whole workshop!
|Julian Lockyear||30/06/2019 14:30:49|
|3 forum posts|
Hi Mark, I can’t really comment on depth of cut having not really given mine any real challenges cutting steel yet.
As for fine feed, it is a shame it’s lacking. The knee is quite heavy on the handwheel. It would benefit from the
handle type with a dog clutch or even a larger wheel.
I had thought of using a nut under the quill depth stop together with a dial indicator to provide an easy way
to put on a fine cut.
I haven’t had my machine working long but can agree with others it is certainly a very versatile machine.
Edited By Julian Lockyear on 30/06/2019 14:31:46
|Paul Kemp||30/06/2019 15:46:59|
|308 forum posts|
As always the amount you can plough off not only depends on the machine but also the set up / arrangement for work holding. With a lump of steel in the vice I generally take between 0.030" and 0.050" cuts with a 2" 4 insert face mill in the vertical spindle, if not clamped quite so rigidly then less. Earlier this year I had to cut a 3/4" slot through cast iron again about 0.050" bites with a 3/4" end mill, probably would have taken twice that easilly but I wasn't in a rush, it was clamped to a large angle plate and didn't want to risk screwing up the casting to find out. I have also used up to 1" dia drills in the quill. I cut the full set of gears for my half size traction engine (cast iron blanks) 4DP so 0.530" (from memory) tooth depth in one pass, biggest gear was @19" diameter on the horizontal spindle with no particular issues, just a conservative feed rate. I don't think I would take 1/4" cuts with a slab mill, it's an "industrial" machine but a relatively small one!. Others have questioned rigidity of the vertical head and made additional support brackets to tie it to the horizontal over arm but to date I have had no reason to need to do that. Attraction for me is the versatility, you can reposition the vertical spindle to get anywhere over the table and being able to tilt it made drilling the steam ports in the cylinder casting a doddle.
|2250 forum posts|
I’ve mentioned this before but I was taught that quill movement is for drilling, not making a cut. This isn’t to say that you can’t do it but you will compromise rigidity. I have a fine feed on my VMC but the quill stays firmly locked when I’m milling.
|Martin Cargill||30/06/2019 16:08:54|
|107 forum posts|
I don't know if this helps anyone but I have an Elliott U1 universal mill. It has a removable vertical head that would probably put a dent in the NHS budget if I tried to lift it off !!!
To keep all of my internal organs and bits in the right places I built myself a small hand wind crane that clamps onto the overarm dovetails and a stand that holds the vertical attachment standing up when its not on the machine. The head lives on a trolley when its not being used (£10 from Aldi or Lidl). To mount the head I take the table all of the way to the left and then use the crane to lift the head up to the required height. The table is then wound back to the right and the head lowered onto it. The head can then be moved into the exact position using the X,Y and Z axes. Once its dovetails are screwed into place the table can be dropped away and the stand bracket removed. Removal is a simple reversal of the process. Changing the machine from H to V takes around 10 minutes.
I can take some photos of the arrangement if anyone is interested
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