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Advice on buying a milling machine

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Paul Mallen26/08/2020 10:16:23
44 forum posts
16 photos

Im looking to buy a milling machine - never operated one before and i can't wait to start learning (I have milled on my lathe to a fashion so not entirely green).

However..... just through searching & reading posts on here i've already changed my mind a few times, so some advice off you good people is in order i believe....

I started off wanting the Clarke CL500 with milling attachment - a very capable machine no doubt, but having read some of the issues people have had with the build quality & fettling to get it set up right i've had second thoughts - plus the fact that the ebay crowd are asking 100 quid short of the RRP for a second & third hand machine really takes the biscuit! So i've decided that i'll get a mill & upgrade my lathe at a later date.

I've looked on Axminster - always thought they were a bit pricey with woodworking tools so never really had much off them & the mills they have in my price range are about as inspiring as the machine mart catalogue, so thats a no go.

Warco - really impressed but a bit out of my price range, same as the Seig machines from ARC,


I have £500 at the mo & i would say £600 - £650 is my limit, i've seen some nice Warco machines, one at £650 i would love but its over a 4hr drive & my car & funds won't stretch that far, so do i hold out for one close to me or do i buy new?

The only new ones i can afford are the micro range, i'm not planning on machining big stuff but i also don't want to buy one that i will want to upgrade after a year or two - although the Clarke CMD300 is online for £637, but is it worth it?

Extra tooling is a bonus, but its also something i can buy as i go along so i'm not too fussed about that.

In reality this is what i will be making, i use stainless steel, brass & aluminium, when i make a bridge (the stainless angle thing) i cut it from angle & hand finish it, but it would be nice to have the option to mill it from a solid block if i could




The other two pics are what i need the accuracy for, making my own tuners is where i'm at now & for that i need to be able to mill accurately, preferably from aluminium but most likely from stainless or brass (not the worm gear & drive just yet).

I'd welcome any advice you may have for me as i'm at a loss & don't fancy buying something that i'll regret when i get it home & try to work on it (just like i did with my lathe...)

Brian H26/08/2020 13:11:56
1797 forum posts
108 photos

Hello Paul, I'm surprised that no one has chipped in yet!

I think that the stainless steel will be the deciding factor, you need quite a rigid machine to tackle this, even the free cutting varieties.

For the budget I suspect that a used machine would be the answer, the problem being to get a good one.

! could suggest a couple of suppliers in the Nottingham area who are reliable and I'm sure others could recommend suppliers elsewhere.

Another factor is the space you have available in your workshop.


Paul Mallen26/08/2020 14:38:44
44 forum posts
16 photos

Hi Brian, thanks for the reply, i could do with as much advice as possible!

Cutting the stainless i thought would be an issue, but if the worst comes to the worst then i would be happy having the ability to skim a few thou off the surfaces of the angle to neaten them up - just that small one in the pics i posted took a day on the files, emery cloth & wet & dry to get that finish so even that would save me some time!

I know my budget isn't big but the only choices that would seem available are the other end of the country, mills on ebay that have the starting price of a new one or something that i would need to hire a crane to get in my workshop! Besides, looking at some of them i wouldn't know where to start........

The space is only an issue where its over 2 meters tall & wide - the bigger issue is that it has to go through a door sized gate & 30ft down the garden where the path is quite narrow - i've almost broke my neck on it just walking up it so if 2 big blokes can't carry it then its a no-go i'm afraid.... I know i should get it sorted as i'm a builder as well but you know what they say about builders working on their own houses - never happens laugh

I am watching a couple on ebay but im not holding out much hope - one is a Seig U2 which i'm hoping goes within my budget as it looks nice & is only up the road, and theres a Warco on gumtree that i really want but its in Dorset........

I don't think i'd have the money to buy from any suppliers if im honest, the ones i've looked at are still way above my price range....

clogs26/08/2020 16:25:49
578 forum posts
12 photos


I guess the answer is don't b in a rush......he who waits an all that.....

be first to look at the adds, everyday....ebay and the like offer a service where as soon as one comes up for sale they send notification......I used it when looking for DB wood lathe.....they're as rare as hens it does work....

Ask all and sundry if anyone hears of anything......

they do come up, promice.....

and whilst ur waiting fix the path, u'll be so pleased u did when ur Bridgeport finally arrives.....

another good source of machinery is old car clubs......I have a good few mates that do have such's not just moddeler's.....

I've even seen stuff turn up in a skip at the scrap yard.....if funds dont allow u have to think outside the box.....

and as for moving said machine about it's not that expensive.....

I paid £150 for a Wadkin RS wood lathe and components from N, Lancs to Peterborough.....door to door

and that weigh'd in at 1/2 ton I guess.....two Euro pallets worth.....the pallets were a 10'ner each....

good luck....

Michael Gilligan26/08/2020 17:03:33
16366 forum posts
714 photos


I can’t really advise regarding a suitable machine ... but I must just say what a refreshing change it makes, to see someone showing the sort of work they want to do, when asking “what should I buy ?“

Be patient, and I’m sure something will turn-up that suits you nicely.


Paul Mallen26/08/2020 19:01:31
44 forum posts
16 photos

Hi Clogs, I'm not necessarily in a rush, just don't really have a clue as to what machine will work best for me, and its a bit bleak on all the usual sites if im honest.......

Everyone knows me by now & i'm the one anyone calls when they hear of anything i might like, so thats covered lol, and i generally get to gumtree quicker than the alerts come through so no worries on that score either - and i'll give the car clubs a look, i have a few mates into that sort of thing.

Transport isn't really much trouble as i have a mate with a pickup, but i'm still limited to where it is because its his haulage business & if he aint got a job there he don't go & he pretty much works all the time anyway.... Thanks for the heads up though, much appreciated.

Michael, thank you & i hope it does turn up & i know what to do with it when it does - i can only take credit for the first two pics i'm afraid, the third is a factory made piece but i made the first two - time spent on the files or 'my apprenticeship' as i call it.

Anyone any experience of the Seig U2? 2007 i think......

JasonB26/08/2020 19:34:08
18875 forum posts
2078 photos
1 articles

From previous discussions I think the main downside of the U2 was a very small amount of head room - distance between table and end of vertical spindle. By the time a vice and say drill chuck had been fitted there was little or no room for a drill bit or the work.

Any of the smaller benchtop type hobby machines will be fairly slow going if you want to hack that bridge out of solid stainless and even taking a few thou off some angle will still requite some handwork to remove machine marks. Not such a problem with the brass and ali parts.

Paul Mallen26/08/2020 21:48:04
44 forum posts
16 photos

Thanks Jason i had read the same thing & it is concerning me a bit, i think its a case of have a punt on it if it stays low enough.

I have a Tyzack bandsaw that i switch speeds & blades to cut timber & metal on, so the option is to cut the shape & mill it down instead of milling through it, might need some new blades though lol.

I want to play around with the machine marks to see what kind of effects i can come up with & how interesting i can make it, be good to see if i can use them to my advantage - although i have a small blast cabinet that will help, its more the pits in the material itself & that was no use at all, bit like shooting a steel plate with a peashooter

Tim Meakin26/08/2020 22:40:02
4 forum posts

Hi Paul,

You said Warco might suit but were too much for your budget.

They have an open day twice a year, dates on their website. They always have some used machines, that they have taken in part exchange usually. I bought my Lathe and Mill at one event. Both were well used but had plenty of life left in them, especially as I am a light user.

They were a good bit cheaper than buying a brand new machine. There is a short, limited warranty, but I have not needed anything.



Paul Mallen27/08/2020 07:54:02
44 forum posts
16 photos

Hi Tim thanks for the heads up on that, it’s good to know!
i’ve seen the used section on their site & they have nothing on it at the moment but I keep checking, I had no idea about the open days though so I’ll keep my eyes on that.

I’d ideally like to buy from a company like that as I’m always aware of being able to get spares, I used to be a bike instructor about 10 years ago & it was about the time we started getting all the Chinese import bikes, we used to call them “Chinese chuck-aways” as the reason they were cheap was because you couldn’t get any parts! I remember one guy scrapped his bike because he couldn’t get a back light lens to fit it, & that’s always stayed with me I guess. Plus the fact they were really cheaply made & a nightmare to work on, seeing all the cheap, new lathes & mills on eBay always reminds me of that - I realise warco import them & badge them up but at least they carry a line of spares which speaks volumes.

There are a few on eBay but the way people bid on them I think I’d be better off buying direct as they bid it up to almost new prices...

Howard Lewis27/08/2020 15:16:31
3605 forum posts
2 photos

Hi Paul,

Since you are new to milling, the one tip that I can offer is not to climb mill.

Climb milling is when the cutter rotates in such a direction as to push the workpiece.

For the sort of machines that we have, that could be disastrous.

DON'T ask!

The cutter should be rotating so that the teeth that are going to be doing the cutting are approaching the workpiece, in opposite directions..

For End mills, the usual maximum depth of cut is taken to be no more than a quarter of the diameter of the cutter.

But you don't have to remove all the metal at one go. Taking at least one roughing cut, followed by a small finishing cut may be more accurate (Allowing you to measure before setting and taking the final cut ) and is kinder to both machine and cutter.

The feed rate should be based on "Feed per Tooth". Usually 0.002" (0.050 mm) per tooth.

Feed/tooth x no. of cutting edges x speed in rpm = Feed rate.


0.050 x 4 x 400 = 80 mm/minute, but you may well be feeding slower than this.

Particularly since few hobby machines come with powered feeds. You will need to learn the skill of turning the handwheel at a constant and consistent speed.

(Many of the figures published by machine manufacturers are based on big, heavy, rigid, industrial machines; which hobby machines are not )

This is based on the machine being rigid and any bused feed axes being locked, with the cutter being held firmly in a proper chuck (NOT a drill chuck ), with the work held firmly.

(Cue the expense of buying a good milling chuck )

If the work is not held securely, the cut will be inaccurate, the cutter and work possibly damaged, and you wearing the work, if not actually injured!

When you graduate to slitting saws, do not use a key to drive. Rely solely on friction between the arbor and the saw. I have sen slitting saws, driven by a key, shatter when they jam!




Edited By Howard Lewis on 27/08/2020 15:20:24

Bo'sun27/08/2020 16:48:42
202 forum posts

Hi Paul,

You say you're a 4 hour drive from Warco. Unless you want to eyeball before you buy, I believe delivery is included in the price.

Tim Stevens27/08/2020 18:37:18
1268 forum posts

Paul: Your idea of milling stainless parts (as your picture) from solid will take hours, and is likely to wear out your cutters and your patience. Cutting away most of a solid block, when angled stock of the right thickness is available (as your picture) offers no advantages, and is likely to end with distortion of the workpiece as you have removed any internal stresses. If good finish is what you seek, I suggest a polishing spindle and a selection of mops.

Howard: I invite you to consider your advice - Climb milling is when the cutter rotates in such a direction as to push the workpiece. This is surely wrong?

Regards, Tim

Peter Cook 627/08/2020 19:00:56
18 forum posts
2 photos

I can't help with the core question. I have recently bought a Seig SX1LP from ARC. It meets my needs fine.

One thing I would say is to remember to budget for tooling, clamping, vices etc. I was warned to budget for at least as much again as the mill for a decent set of tooling and work holding. I can believe it from what I have spent so far!! When keeping your eye out, look for something that comes with a reasonable amount of tooling.

That curved top edge on the bridge is going to need some sort of rotating work holding (or a CNC setup - which is a whole different game!)

Baz27/08/2020 20:59:26
473 forum posts

Tim you are correct, climb milling is when the cutter pulls the work towards it, conventional milling is when the cutter is pushing the work away. You soon find out if you are doing it the wrong way, usually ends in a big bang and swear words!

Clive Foster28/08/2020 10:40:25
2373 forum posts
76 photos


Stepping back a little.

Do you just want to make components of similar size and complexity to those in your pictures or do you want to go the whole hog and get into home shop / hobby machining?

Thinking out of the box.

If you only want to make a few varieties of parts like those in your pictures I wonder if one of the more rigid varieties of small desktop CNC router devices might be up to the job. There seem to be a number of versions built in Plano-Mill style with the side arms fixed and the table moving in both X and Y which should be much more rigid than the original versions where the side arms move.

Working areas look to be maybe 9" square by 3" deep. Which might be enough. Obviously not up to heavy, proper engineering level, cuts but a carbide cutter whizzing round at high speed will get the job done, eventually. Especially if you saw out most of the waste first. Hardly matters if it takes 3 or 4 hours to do something you could do in half an hour on a ME size bench mill as you don't have to stand over it. Light alloy should be well within the capabilities of a decent one. Steel and stainless steel ought to be possible with a well made one.

But does anyone know for sure?

I'm actually a little surprised that no one has yet marketed a small CNC Plano-Mill style machine with a head of basically same style as the small bench top mills. Basically the subtractive machining equivalent of the desktop 3D printers with similar, but a bit larger, work envelope to be used in the same manner with small carbide cutters running under High Speed Machining style low load strategies. Which would probably be just what you want.

Folk on this forum are model engineers who take great pleasure in using their machines and building up their skills but there is a fair bit to learn and fair amount of kit to even get properly started so you can turn out good work of something move than very basic complexity. Like those in your pictures.

The water slide down the rabbit hole is endless. Fun though. If thats what you want to do. OK I do 12 inch to the foot work, 45 years in over £25,000 spent on "stuff" and maybe £250,000 to start over all new.


EDIT, anyone wishing to comment on the CNC part of this post can you please do so in a new thread I have created here


Edited By JasonB on 28/08/2020 13:09:57

Howard Lewis28/08/2020 12:14:37
3605 forum posts
2 photos

Quite right Tim!

A triumph of confusion over logical thought.

The main thing is not to do it, for fear of loud bangs, broken cutters, and damaged workpiece.

Now, how would I know that?


Paul Mallen28/08/2020 12:33:51
44 forum posts
16 photos

Bit late replying but thank you to everyone who has replied so far & please keep them coming, this is just the sort of knowledge/advice i'm after so thank you all, i'll try to address each one so sorry if i miss any points out.

Howard - yet again this is the type of advice im looking for so thank you, i do follow and understand what you are saying - only one question; you mention about the depth of cut not being more than a quarter the size of the mill - does this change with different metals or is it just the general rule of thumb?

Bo'sun - I had literally just seen that on the Warco site when i was comparing them to ARC so thanks for the heads up & yes, if i buy new then i will be taking advantage of this!!

Tim - I realise that now and would only be looking to mill that from brass - which i would cut the 'L' shape with my bandsaw & then finish the surfaces off by milling, i can buy the stainless angle so i'm good with that and i have a polisher that i use, although i currently have a thing for the brushed look, so i'm looking at buying some coarse mops to help with this.

Peter - Yes i've heard that and i am keeping my eyes open for something with a few extras, although that seems to give the ebay lot carte blanche to bid up to & over the actual RRP of the machines, and even some sellers seem to think along those lines too by the look of the starting prices..... As for the curved top - no problem, thats done by hand & i have a few very sharp files that make short work of that so i wouldn't even think about trying to cut it on a machine.

Clive - I have looked at those small mills as there are quite a few of those kits on ebay & i really don't think they would suit me - i'm a bit of a big lad & very heavy handed & break things all too easily, so i think it wouldn't last 5 mins in my workshop.

i understand where your coming from but i too have a workshop full of machinery & 'stuff' that i've collected over the years, and will always find room for some more! I'm very much a 'messer' and will have a go at anything - usually because i can't afford it os i make it, thats always been the driving factor & always will be i think... i've been making guitars & basses for over 10 years now and i want to be able to produce what i've shown whenever i have a build on - sometimes they get sold if i can bring myself to part with them & some are paid commissions for people. I've always made my own bridges but in the past these have been brass or ally block & plate drilled, tapped & bolted together so i want to be able to loose the bolts - hence the stainless angle - and the tuners are something of a dark art that very few people delve into, which is what makes me want to make my own, so although i would like a CNC machine eventually, i want to be able to learn to make it by hand first. I already own a 3D printer which is an awesome piece of kit on which i prototype everything first, i just need the mill to craft the next level prototype.


I know i asked about the Seig U2 before, but i'm looking at an X2 now - anyone know if theres much difference between the two?


Edited By Paul Mallen on 28/08/2020 12:34:23

Edited By Paul Mallen on 28/08/2020 12:37:13

Howard Lewis28/08/2020 12:49:30
3605 forum posts
2 photos


I am possibly over cautious (Not that it has prevented me from breaking cutters! ) so I never go as far as a quarter of the cutter diameter, as a depth of cut.

Despite being an end mill I prefer to use the side of the flutes. (Probably explains why I break cutters! ) and work at full depth, taking small sideways cuts. This avoids the vertical face having a series of marks from each increment of depth, when cutting a rebate.

For cutting slots, it is best to use a Slot Drill, smaller than the required width of slot, and then to take final cuts to open out to the final width. Otherwise I tend to get a slight offset at the end, due to cutter / machine deflection.



JasonB28/08/2020 12:57:53
18875 forum posts
2078 photos
1 articles

I have moved the discussion about suitable hobby CNC configuration to a new thread, any comments on Clives post can be made here as it could be an interesting subject.

Edited By JasonB on 28/08/2020 13:08:28

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