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Choice between cheap mini milling machines.

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andrew lyner03/01/2020 22:37:35
149 forum posts
2 photos

I guess there is really no answer to this question but I want a milling machine in order to expand my experience further than my present mini lathe is taking me.

I'm at 'entry level' and I can see there's a limited choice available. There seems to be a relevant cost barrier around £500. Below this the machines are more lightweight, with, for instance 10mm steel drilling capability below and 13mm above. I do not have room for my drill press and a milling machine so perhaps that forces me to the larger option. Table size and movement range are probably not too relevant (although I know I'll want to do larger stuff eventually. But my requirements are more in the direction of mending and adapting things, rather than making fine models - at this stage, at least.

So the questions come down to "What will I sacrifice if I go to a smaller machine?" and then "Is there a significant and consistent difference between the available makes?"

There is no way I will be spending much more money and I have yet to see a better make on the second hand market that I could afford or fit in to my shed.

Vic03/01/2020 22:42:34
2396 forum posts
12 photos

Are there any particular models of machine you’ve been looking at?

andrew lyner03/01/2020 23:43:25
149 forum posts
2 photos

I have looked at the two Clarke models (CMD10 and CMD 300)

Seig SX1 and SX2

Axminster SX1

AMA-MI-XJ12

and a few others

There are the Warco range (I have their Super Minin lathe and that is pretty fair but some people are not so pleased with Warco, I have read.

I see other models on Bangood and Alibaba but those suppliers have awkward websites and I have shied away from them.

andrew lyner03/01/2020 23:53:05
149 forum posts
2 photos

I notice there is an almost parallel thread to this one which is about lathes. So perhaps my question should be more about that small and large question. I assume they all work fine as a drill press and I keep finding the 13mm chuck on my Titan is useful. Bu I guess I could always use reduced shank drills - as long as the machine is happy with that approach.

I have bought and used a small vertical milling table for the lathe and I have to be extremely gentle with that so I am used to 'limitations'. It is a real pain to change from turning to milling on the same machine!!!

Paul Kemp04/01/2020 00:48:29
376 forum posts
18 photos

Andrew,

I have the equivalent of the Clarke CMD10 as one of my machines. Despite the fact I have done some good work on it I wouldn't recomend you adopt one as a primary means of drilling holes! Anything over about 10mm will mean some extreme frustration, trust me. I certainly wouldn't recommend any intent to replace even a small 1/2" capacity drill press with one of these! As a light mill it is fine in my small shop at home but it's not a serious contender for doing any reasonably large jobs. My advice for general purpose work is look for something bigger and heavier with a bit more grunt if you want to drill 13mm holes, especially in steel!

Dont get me wrong, for what it is I am satisfied with it but I do have experience of commercial machines and I bought it with eyes open and a reasonable idea of what to expect having trained as a fitter/turner. My main mill is an Elliot Omnimill and that has both horizontal and vertical facility and that will do 13mm holes in steel as thick as you like for fun but that is a light industrial machine and a whole different ball game! I don't have experience of the larger Sieg machines but they do get a good write up and seem from what has been posted on here to be quite capable. If you don't have much experience of milling I think you would find one of those much more suitable. Have a look at Ron Laden's thread on his and some of Jason's posts for an idea of what they can do.

Just my 2penny worth!

Paul.

Journeyman04/01/2020 08:47:55
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675 forum posts
108 photos

Basically an unanswerable question, as much like buying a car, beauty is in the eye (bank balance) of the beholder. Have a look at Journeyman's Workshop for my take on milling machine buying.

John

not done it yet04/01/2020 09:03:21
3905 forum posts
15 photos

Seems to me that ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ holds sway.

The likely best way to buy cheap and get a good bargain is to buy a good second hand machine.

If space is the problem, either that needs accepting or addressing. If it is the money, that is your choice (or limit) and we are not going to alter that.

I don’t think you are going to get a definitive answer on this thread for those options.

But you are spot on to avoid the ‘no guarantee merchants‘. You might get a bargain - or there again, you might end up with someone else’s reject and be the owner of a ‘dog’.

Tomfilery04/01/2020 09:56:31
119 forum posts
4 photos

Andrew,

The trouble is is all depends upon what you want to use it for and what your expectations are!

I have an Axminster micro mill, which I've owned for quite a few years and which has dome pretty much everything I wanted of it. I would have liked the longer table (which wasn't available at the time I bought mine), but have rarely really needed it.

I've done loads of drilling (usually in the range 1-6mm) and quite a lot of milling and it is Ok. As ever, on those occasions you want to take a deeper cut, or use a larger milling cutter, it will show it's deficiencies. I once broke one of the nylon gears when using a dovetail cutter too large for the machine to drive reasonably and got a spare from Axminster by return post - which I thought a bonus!

Most of my work is in respect of narrow gauge railway models at 16mm/ft.

Regards Tom

andrew lyner04/01/2020 11:20:42
149 forum posts
2 photos

@Paul "I have the equivalent of the Clarke CMD10 as one of my machines. Despite the fact I have done some good work on it I wouldn't recomend you adopt one as a primary means of drilling holes!"

Now that's the sort of comment that means something to me; thanks. My existing drill is not big and I would definitely not want anything less beefy.

@not done it yet"

Seems to me that ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ holds sway.

The likely best way to buy cheap and get a good bargain is to buy a good second hand machine."

Thanks. I was expecting to get that reaction and I agree that there is always the possibility of finding it's true. I don't usually buy down-market but I will have to accept that risk because I am just not going to spend much more than a few hundred quids. I got the same advice about buying my first lathe and, if I had followed it, I am sure I would still not have a lathe. The opposite advice will often be given by tradesmen who buy cheap and often because they get upset when a pride and joy gets damaged, stolen or lost.

Buying a cheap second hand machine just doesn't seem to be on the cards unless I am prepared to do a lot of fettling (no equipment for that job) and to be prepared for significant extra expense. (I just don't see 'good' second hand machines that are my sort of price). The Chinese milling machines never seem to go very 'cheap' on the s/h market. People go wild on eBay sometimes and will bid as high as the best new prices. The large, classic machines are just too big and heavy for my situation. On that note, I am also being considerate for anyone who may need to clear my shed out. A half tonne of desirable machine tool could easily be an embarrassment for a non-enthusiast when something that would fit in a hatchback would not be.

'Good Engineering' involves appropriate choice of equipment and materials so I don't feel bad about going against the good sense of experienced machinists in this case.

@Tomfilery: "I've done loads of drilling (usually in the range 1-6mm) and quite a lot of milling and it is Ok."

Thanks. It confirms that I should go for a bigger machine.

Edited By andrew lyner on 04/01/2020 11:41:10

Martin of Wick04/01/2020 11:24:25
123 forum posts
4 photos

What will I sacrifice if I go to a smaller machine?

Rigidity, power and usability - you will be confined to very light cuts and may have great difficulty milling harder materials - you will probably be OK on non ferrous stuff. anything else will just be a frustrating pain in the arm as you wind the table back and forth a gazillion times.

Is there a significant and consistent difference between the available makes

for machines in the same class, not really - brushed vs brushless / belt vs VSD / bigger vs smaller table / spindle taper etc.

The only thing that really matters on a mill is mass rigidity and power . Every time I have brought a hobby mill, I have always regretted not getting the next size up. Still looking for the perfect Centec - one day....

Nick Clarke 304/01/2020 11:50:11
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505 forum posts
12 photos

I bought a Sieg SX1L from Arc which has since been updated. It is a bit small for what I might need at some stage, but I have occasional access to a larger one at the club and I could not fit a larger machine in my own workshop. It is very useful and extremely convenient if accept it's limtations.

Bazyle04/01/2020 12:19:48
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4886 forum posts
195 photos

If you have a limited size workshop you just have to accept that you cannot make spare parts for the Titanic. If you need to drill big holes a lot build a bigger shed, then get a big radial arm drill. Otherwise do what countless modellers have done and drill a circle of small holes, saw out the waste and clean up with a file.
What you need is a second hand Warco (or equivalent Minor mill-drill. They have a round column and people are now queuing up to whine about that because you lose position if you move the head up and down. If you need more vertical movement get a bigger shed and a bigger mill. They are only used by hobbyists so most have little wear but a few get neglected or abused. They are the best value for under £500.

mgnbuk04/01/2020 13:48:35
591 forum posts
24 photos
What you need is a second hand Warco (or equivalent Minor mill-drill.
One on ebay at the moment item number: 303431719522. Includes Autolock chuck, vice & rotary table and currently no bids at £200 start price.
Nigel B
not done it yet04/01/2020 15:02:11
3905 forum posts
15 photos

Are you sure it includes the rotary table. Yes, in the pics but not in the description?

andrew lyner04/01/2020 15:56:57
149 forum posts
2 photos

@mgnbuk I've seen that posting but that Warco is far too big for me, I'm afraid it would fall through my shed floor! The bids have started at £200 but there are six days to go. I have followed countless eBay postings and the bids for a desirable item tend to shoot up at the end.

The problem with the second hand market in these things is it's a seller's market for small milling machines.

mgnbuk04/01/2020 16:25:13
591 forum posts
24 photos

Are you sure it includes the rotary table. Yes, in the pics but not in the description? Are you sure it includes the rotary table. Yes, in the pics but not in the description?

Seller's description has terminology issues, but I read it as including everything as shown in the pictures :

"Warco minor Mill/Drill, 1hp motor 240V. good condition, comes with stand which can be unbolted and some extra bits. Clamping kit, vice, some cutters, drill chuck, no drill bits, rotary dividing vice, tool holder."

Andrew - if that is too big, then the smaller bench top machines are really your only option & you will have to operate within their power / rigidity limts, both of which will be a lot lower than a modest "Minor" type mill/drill.

If you can find one, an Emco FB2 bench mill (or clone - various sellers sold Taiwanese or PRC copies a few years ago) is a better bet than the modern variants IMO. Still a 120kg machine though. I have a clone ("Ajax" base & table with a "Denford" column & head) & won't be changing it any time soon. I wouldn't bother with a Chester Champion - which I looked to buy before the FB2 came up. Similar base & table design to the FB2, but inferior head & column design, with less rigidity & poor speed range.

Finding the right mix of fit for space, fit for purpose & fit for pocket isn't easy - good luck !

Nigel B

(sorry for the mix of text size & font - can't seem to find away to edit it)

Edited By mgnbuk on 04/01/2020 16:25:29

Edited By JasonB on 04/01/2020 16:44:32

Derek Greenhalgh05/01/2020 09:24:48
8 forum posts
4 photos

Bare in mind limiting to £500 for a mill, remember you will still need tooling, some form of holding your part be it a vice or clamp system, cutters etc. you can eat up the 500 on those alone without even trying, Last year i bought an HBM bf28 vario, almost identical to the PM25mv and Warco have the same machine, cannot remember the exact number but since then i have spent well over £1000 on DRO, rotary table, vice, collet chuck and collets and a few basic cutters. I already had DTI, micrometer, calipers etc. from having a lathe.

I was told the cost of the mill is the cheapest bit and would probably end up doubling the cost of the mill on kitting up, I'm not far away and still do not have all i need/want. Something to take into consideration.

Derek

Hollowpoint05/01/2020 09:47:11
277 forum posts
30 photos

A late model dore westbury might fit the bill. You should get a decent one for £500. Not too big and functions well as a drill.

Ron Laden05/01/2020 10:08:47
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1600 forum posts
275 photos
Posted by Derek Greenhalgh on 05/01/2020 09:24:48:

Bare in mind limiting to £500 for a mill, remember you will still need tooling, some form of holding your part be it a vice or clamp system, cutters etc. you can eat up the 500 on those alone without even trying, Last year i bought an HBM bf28 vario, almost identical to the PM25mv and Warco have the same machine, cannot remember the exact number but since then i have spent well over £1000 on DRO, rotary table, vice, collet chuck and collets and a few basic cutters. I already had DTI, micrometer, calipers etc. from having a lathe.

I was told the cost of the mill is the cheapest bit and would probably end up doubling the cost of the mill on kitting up, I'm not far away and still do not have all i need/want. Something to take into consideration.

Derek

A good point Derek which is easy to overlook when you start out.

Just over a year ago I bought my SX2P mill second hand (12 months old) for £500 and since then I have spent at least £750 on tooling and mods.

Ok, I have done it bit by bit as and when I can afford it and let the jobs I have done on the mill dictate what I need, I havnt bought much just for the sake of having it but it is surprising how the cost of tooling soon adds up.

Ron

Vic05/01/2020 10:27:45
2396 forum posts
12 photos

Choosing a mill is a matter of perspective. I know a few folks on a model ship building forum that absolutely love the little Proxxon Micro Mill MF70. They use them for milling tiny wooden and plastic parts and larger machines can’t match the Proxxons 20,000 rpm high speed. Easily moved from room to room and can be kept in a cupboard when not in use. Absolutely no use to me but in the right hands it’s perfect.

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