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First mill

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Gazz28/12/2019 13:22:06
78 forum posts

I have a mini lathe, and am looking to add a small mill to my shed, not interested in bridgeports or old proffesional type mills, i don't have the height for a start.

I started off looking at the mini mills like the S2 types, but quickly figured out i'd want a larger mill... better to have a big mill to do a small job, than a small mill that can't do a big job?

I called in chester hobby store the other week, and was originally thinking of the Lux mill, but when i saw it i actually first thought it would be too big for me!

So i was thinking more the size of the champion 20... but having thought about it, i'm thinking i would be better going for the larger much heavier mill after all. plus i didn't like the idea of the MT2 spindle, i'd much rather have R8.... i have no milling tooling anyway, so will have to start from scratch,and from what i read R8 is better in a mill than MT2.. leave the morse tapers for drill quills and tailstocks.

Anyway... the thing that put me off the lux mill is it's single direction gear head mill, and i really want to be able to do power tapping.. i know i could buy a tapping head, but having a mill with reverse (and a quill) would sort of do the same job?

It seems that the sieg SX3 mill would be ideal, having the tapping feature built in, but it's over 100kg lighter than the lux mill, thinking of rigidity here... or is the lux mill just so heavy due to the geared head?

Any recomendations for other mills similar to the sieg SX3? and anyone selling one?

Vic28/12/2019 16:55:24
3092 forum posts
16 photos

What’s your budget and do you have easy access to your shed. Also what type of work do you intend to do on it? The SX3 is not the most rigid mill out there but it’s well regarded and it sounds like it has many of the features you require. Another similar machine is the Warco WM18. Does it need to be a bench top machine or would a modest floor standing machine fit your space?

Oldiron28/12/2019 18:20:40
997 forum posts
40 photos

My small mill is a Chester Conquest. I modified it for reversing. I opened the box that the controls are mounted to, found the motor wires, cut them and fitted a 2 pole 2 throw switch with links across it so it acts as a reversing switch. To reverse I stop the mill throw the switch to the other side then restart the mill. To stop the switch being moved accidentally it is mounted on the back of the box so it requires a deliberate action to change direction. Simple and easy to do.


JasonB28/12/2019 18:47:47
23076 forum posts
2771 photos
1 articles

The main difference between a tapping head and using a mill with tapping mode is that the mill is not auto reversing so you have to do that yourself, not an issue with through holes but you need to take a bit of care not to drive the tap into the bottom of a blind hole.

The tapping mode on the Sieg machines is not just a simple fwd/rev, the board is programmed to provide more torque at lower revs when in tapping mode so you can drive quite large taps at a slow speed which gives you time to react and change direction by the easy to reach buttons on the quill levers.

The Brushless motor in the SX3 will also account for some of the weight difference though it is a slightly smaller machine. The SX3.5DZP would be about the same size as the LUX

Couple of clips of tapping mode being used on the smaller SX2.7mill from ARC.

Gazz29/12/2019 18:38:57
78 forum posts

Budget, really... just over a grand, but saving up and trying to sell a few things to get nearer what the sieg SX3 seems to go for (£1600... hoping there will be a sale one day, as only seems to be arc selling it)

Access to the shed, down a slightly sloping tarmac drive, through a gate that's about the size of a standard door, along paving around the back of the house, shed currently has grass outside the single 600 x 400 paving slab outside it's door, but that will change soon,

Doesnt have to be bench mounted, but i only have the height of a pent roof shed, i'm 6'3, and i'd guess at the tallest end it might just make 7 foot.

What i want to do on it... make swarf
it'll mainly be stuff for my simulators.. using train and bus parts modified to work with the computer instead of air / high voltage, so making control levers up with pocketed switches in the rotating alli disc, couplings for a bus steering wheel to motors etc.

RE: the DPCO / DPDT switch thing to reverse a motor, i believe the chester Lux mill uses a standard 240v AC capacitor start/run motor, so reversing that may not be that easy? i'd have to access the start winding and swap the power input on those before and after the cut out switch for the start winding? not something i'd dare do on a new machine... but if i can get a second hand one at the right price....

Gazz31/12/2019 14:42:57
78 forum posts

The more i think about it, the more i'm leaning towards the heavier gear head mills like the chester lux,

i believe these are RF45 clones, and amadeal do one, possibly warco,

But are there other ones to consider available in the UK for about the £1500 price mark?

old mart31/12/2019 15:01:20
3912 forum posts
268 photos

The only feature of a mill for home shop use which I would find essential is the R8 spindle taper.

Gazz31/12/2019 20:54:37
78 forum posts

Thankyou, i think i've come to the same conclusion, i'm starting from scratch with tooling for a mill, so R8 seems to be the one designed for milling machines.

old mart31/12/2019 22:31:08
3912 forum posts
268 photos

I would also tend towards getting er25 collets rather than er32, they go to 16mm, and if you need bigger, then a shell mill of 40 mm is easy to get.

John Haine31/12/2019 22:35:50
4718 forum posts
273 photos

If you go for R8, use R8 collets direct in the spindle.

old mart01/01/2020 13:47:13
3912 forum posts
268 photos

R8 collets are definitely a very useful addition, especially when your Z axis is shorter than you would like for the taller jobs. It would be best start with the sizes which match the cutters you have. We have the full set at the museum, and most of them have never been used.

Vic03/01/2020 11:31:36
3092 forum posts
16 photos
Posted by old mart on 31/12/2019 15:01:20:

The only feature of a mill for home shop use which I would find essential is the R8 spindle taper.

My first mill was an Elliott Omnimill which had an MT3 quill. I didn’t have any issues at all using it. An Omnimill in good condition is arguably better than any hobby mills on offer in terms of capability and quality. Turning one down if offered at the right price just because it isn’t R8 would quite frankly be rather daft. My current Warco VMC is also MT3 and works fine. I could say a knee mill is essential but realise some folks prefer bench mills.

ER collet chucks are very useful and makes quill choice much less important. In my opinion the best size if you only want to buy one is the ER32 as there are more fittings that take this size than say ER40 or ER25. One very useful example is a spin indexer and when I bought mine was only available in ER32.

Vic03/01/2020 11:53:20
3092 forum posts
16 photos
Posted by Gazz on 31/12/2019 14:42:57:

The more i think about it, the more i'm leaning towards the heavier gear head mills like the chester lux,

i believe these are RF45 clones, and amadeal do one, possibly warco,

But are there other ones to consider available in the UK for about the £1500 price mark?

The 626 type mills start about that price. The more expensive versions are variable speed. They have forward and reverse and my Warco VMC is a modest 1.7m tall. They are easily split into three parts - head, column and base if needed for transit/installation.

Graham Stoppani03/01/2020 13:17:11
126 forum posts
26 photos

I bought a used Warco Minor (RF-45 clone) from the classified section of this web site. Its MT3 and I haven't had any problem with that. Maintaining registration of the Z axis is a known issue with this type of round column mill/drill.

What may be a deal breaker for you is getting it in your shed. You will need an engine hoist to assemble it even if you have broken it down to transport it and get it through the door as it weighs 300kg with a lot of that weight in the head casting.

Gazz03/01/2020 19:22:18
78 forum posts

Thankyou, i guess i need to add in the cost of a second hand engine crane, or the hire of one when i find the mill i buy,

I keep seeing these : **LINK** on ebay, guess it's just another RF-45 type clone, tho now we're into MT4 tapers, but with these larger machines i need to worry less about the height between the table and spindle nose to be using collets directly in the taper, so an MT4 to ER collet holder will be what's up it's snout most of the time i guess.

I may be getting too big now, and the SX3 sized machine would be better, but i wonder that for about the price of a new SX3 i could get a much more capable machine... just without the luxury of infinitely variable speed and tapping facility built in...

Of course, if i could find an SX3 for about a grand second hand, i'd jump at it,

Andrew Johnston03/01/2020 19:54:37
6678 forum posts
701 photos

A word of warning; MT4 is not common from professional or model engineering suppliers.


not done it yet03/01/2020 20:18:29
6889 forum posts
20 photos

My lathe spindle is MT4. I would have preferred MT3 in all my machines but all my kit is now MT2, which is good enough for me. Reducer sleeves for MT4 are easily available.

Meunier03/01/2020 21:18:17
448 forum posts
8 photos

Seeing JasonB's video above on tapping steel 12mm prompts me to enquire...I need to drill and tap 12mm blind in 30mm thick ally per Shaun O'Sullivan's bandsaw holding block (my clamping kit is 12mm).
The WM18 does not have a tapping function, would it be OK to tap under power to a pre-determined depth and then use the Fwd-Off-Rev switch to halt tapping and then reverse out ? TIA for any comments.

Edited By Meunier on 03/01/2020 21:19:18

Paul Lousick03/01/2020 21:44:23
2078 forum posts
728 photos


Tapping is probably less that 1% of the work the that you will do on a mill. Rigidity is a far more important feature. I used to own an SX3 and only used the tapping feature on thinner material, prefering to thread deeper holes by hand for fear of breaking a tap. Especialy in a blind hole.

The variable speed on the SX3 was a nice feature until I started having problems with the electronics (expensive to replace) and found that the column flexed under heavy loads.

I now have an RF-45 clone which is a more rigid machine. It has a single speed AC motor without any fancy electonics to go wrong and a geared head. No tapping feature but a more reliable mill.


JasonB04/01/2020 07:06:51
23076 forum posts
2771 photos
1 articles

Dave, part of it will be down to how fast you can react in reaching for the stop switch, once a tap as coarse as M12 starts to draw itself in things move very quickly, think of disengaging the leadscrew on the lathe when cutting a similar pitch.

The type of tap you are using will also play a part,from trying various ones on the SX2.7 a traditional taper tap will take more effort from the mill and you won't be backing it off to break or clear swarf unlike the spiral flute one in the video.

I don't know the electronics of your WM18 but as I said above the board on the SX2.7 has a separate setting for tapping that gives extra torque for short periods as the higher current draw may otherwise damage things. I think this is one of the reasons Paul may have had issues with his SX3 as he was doing a lot of work on it that really would have been suited to a larger mill ( small 6" traction engine)

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