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B.C.A Jig borer VS Warco WM12

what is best for me? Looking for advice.

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Jake Middleton-Metcalfe17/02/2021 12:13:56
7 forum posts
14 photos

Hello Model Engineers, this is my first post but I am a long time reader of these forums.

Basically I have the option of buying a B.C.A jig borer from a friend for £800GBP, supplied with loads of collets. a good price... they are quite specific machines - here is a link to a discussion about one:

My main alternative is a Warco WM12 which goes for £755 (reason for that above say a seig sx2p is that the warco has 165 cross travel, quite good cross travel for a machine this size)

So what is the best machine for me? Well here are thing things I am always doing in my day job as a concertina maker:

-center drilling holes in small nickel silver cylinders

-using 1/16th end mills to mill slots in bits of sycamore

-occasional milling of small mild steel or stainless components

-all work is on nothing larger than a 6 and 1/4" hexagon and that is within the capability of either machine.

-usual thing - its a small workshop so cant really fit bigger machines

-my budget is £1000 inc tooling.

Now I am aware jig borers are not for milling really, being more for drilling very precise holes (I have never used a jig borer I learned milling on a bridgeport). However for my quite narrow selection of tasks would the BCA be a better buy given that it would be a more precise machine? My only worry really is trying to mill steel on it. Perhaps super fine cuts of say 0.1mm and I might be ok?

What do you good people think?

All the best

Jake Middleton-Metcalfe

Edited By Jake Middleton-Metcalfe on 17/02/2021 12:21:08

Phil P17/02/2021 12:31:11
792 forum posts
194 photos

My gut feeling is get the BCA jig borer, depending on what model it is reflects the price you should be paying for it.

However make sure it is fully tooled up with collets etc, the collets for the BCA are like hens teeth, I have had mine for a good few years and there are still a few odd sizes I would like to find.

The BCA should in theory hold its re-sale value a lot better than a modern new machine might, if you buy the Warco and try to sell it next week you will not get anything like the amount you paid for it, but the BCA should at least get your money back.

The BCA is not the machine of choice for removing a lot of metal, but for precision work it will be a delight to use assuming it is not already worn out. 

I am a bit biased as I am fortunate enough to own a pre WW2 Boley & Leinen jig borer which the BCA was copied from. But I also own a larger milling machine for serious metal removal so I can use whichever one suits the job in hand.
I will wait now for all the flak from the Warco contingent on here. devil

Have you considered a Centec 2 milling machine ?

A pal of mine has just finished totally rebuilding one, and it will be offered for sale very soon at a fair price.


Edited By Phil P on 17/02/2021 12:38:51

Tony Pratt 117/02/2021 12:38:24
1830 forum posts
12 photos

Only you can answer the question, for your limited requirements either will do the job, as usual the Warco offering is out of stock.


Colin Heseltine17/02/2021 12:39:53
634 forum posts
220 photos

My thoughts are similar to Phil's. I admit I am in the lucky position to have Bridgeport sized machine and also a BCA. Before I had the big machine my previous machine was a Chester Super Lux and I had a major problem with the motor failing so I machined (slowly and carefully admittedly) the slots in a table for a GHT Pillar Tool on the BCA.

As Phil said the BCA should hold its value.


JasonB17/02/2021 12:59:22
22011 forum posts
2539 photos
1 articles

Having the rotating table on the BCA would seem to be a big advantage for the type of work you describe. Also not to hard up up the spimdle speed if needed for the small dia milling cutters. As Phil says make sure it has the collets you are likely to want.

Edited By JasonB on 17/02/2021 12:59:47

Clive Foster17/02/2021 13:00:31
2990 forum posts
105 photos


Before deciding to buy that BCA you need to take it for a serious test run doing things you expect to be doing.

I got mine, a wartime version so pre-BCA proper, after a good deal of thought and careful specification analysis to prove that it was suitable. After about an hour I began to wonder if I'd got things right but figured it was mostly not being used to it. After a week I hated it !

We just didn't get on.

Primarily because the real world work envelope is smaller than you think it is. Its very cramped for setting up. Not much room for drills and a drill chuck. Stub drills, which I didn't have, are pretty much essential I think.

The grip of my collets on cutters was pretty indifferent too. Major issues with pull out being normal. Setting up to cut at an angle wasn't as easy as you might think from just looking at it and cutter projection combined with short travels severely limits the size of jobs that can be done.

The belt drive concept is ingenious but I was never sold on it in practice.

Having rotary table facilities built in looks good on paper but, unless your work demand lots of PCD and similar jobs its not worth the permanent lack of space and doesn't have the flexibility of a separate table.

I've no doubt it's good for the work it was designed for when used in the way its supposed to be used but it has serious practical limitations as a general purpose machine. Especially so if you try to drive it like a normal milling machine. You really have to be happy thinking in polar (circular) co-ordinates rather than cartesian (rectangular) ones to get the best out of a BCA.

Basically I "screwed up by the numbers" when I got mine.

If you learned on a Bridgeport you probably won't have the right mindset for driving a BCA. That rotary table with radial slots changes a lot of things when compared to the conventional Tee slotted rectangular table. Mine wore a grid of tapped holes sub plate pretty much permanently. Even with the extra mounting flexibility I messed up several jobs partway through due to not recognising later access issues when making the original set up.

If you buy the Warco you will almost certainly be complaining "its too small" on a regular basis but at least Bridgeport learned habits will work OK.

In fairness I have to say that I now drive a Bridgeport which is pretty much right for me (at least Bridgeport learned habits work!).


Phil P17/02/2021 13:10:01
792 forum posts
194 photos

One big pointer I can add is that there are BCA collets and then there are BCA collets. They all look the same but there is one crucial difference.

If you know what to look for, some of the BCA collets have internal threads so you can use Clarkson screwed shank endmills in them. They took forever to find but I have them in 6mm, 10mm, 1/4" & 3/8" sizes. I probably use the 1/4" one 90% of the time for the work I do.

Colin's comments about endmills walking out of the collet are very valid, and for any proper milling work you really need the internal threaded collets to prevent that.


Dave Wootton17/02/2021 13:14:12
230 forum posts
56 photos

I agree with Clive, I was bought up on large mills such as Bridgeports ,Huron and Adcock and Shipley, I bought a BCA about 3 years ago and could never get on with it and sold it a little later ( didn't lose on it) , as Clive says didn't have the mindset for it. Brilliant little machine and will do everything you need, but if you are used to more conventional mills do try it out first.

It might only be me though, I bought and rebuilt a Cromwell lathe, it was lovely, but I never got used to the oddball control set up with all the handles in the wrong places, and that had to go too. nothing wrong with the lathe- just me!


Edited By Dave Wootton on 17/02/2021 13:14:52

Jake Middleton-Metcalfe17/02/2021 13:49:56
7 forum posts
14 photos

Well I wasn't expecting to get input on this so fast, this certainly is an active forum.

It sounds like the way forwards for me is:

-go visit my mate and actually have a go on the machine - he is quite a drive away but its a major purchase anyway and I had better be sure the working area on the bca is actually ok regarding particularly the z axis.

-be certain about which of those rare collets actually come with the machine and in particular are they internally threaded at the end. I was a bit concerned when I saw the collets were tightened on the cutters with a knurled hand turned dial type thing rather than the usual drawbar.

I will have to wait until after the lockdown to visit my mate but as someone pointed out the warcos are sold out anyway, so what can you do. Plus its not a massive rush, I always manage to get by doing the things I need with the various fun and convoluted ways of setting up a lathe in the meantime. Though it can be slow to set up of course.


Here is a fun image of one of those tasks



Edited By Jake Middleton-Metcalfe on 17/02/2021 13:51:51

Edited By Jake Middleton-Metcalfe on 17/02/2021 13:52:57

not done it yet17/02/2021 14:22:10
6519 forum posts
20 photos

As my wife says “ it is you meannesses in life that you regret, not your extravagances”. Get both.🙂

Nigel Graham 217/02/2021 15:22:33
1898 forum posts
26 photos

As the proud owner of a Myford VMC Mill and a BCA jig-borer, both of which with a Newton-Tesla 3ph conversion, and a Machine-DRO 3-axis d.r.o. on the milling-machine...

The jig-borer I would agree with what others say, is something you almost have to think of with your jig-borer mind plugged in. They do come into their own for polygonal and radial work, but their small size limits what you can do on them. Thnk of them as instrument-makers' tools capable of small detailing.

I am presently making a chuck-adaptor for my BCA, based on a recessed disc holding an RDG-supplied Myford chuck holder, with locating-peg for the machine's table centre-hole, and holes for T-slot bolts. This so I can transfer work in a chuck or ER32 collet between lathe and jig-borer.

Beware that 1/2 " dia plain hole in the table... I don't know where it goes but it's deep and seems to open into the area of the worm-wheel, so you don't want it eating swarf and 12BA nuts.


Finding tooling is the problem. Not (normally) of course for the Warco, but for the BCA.

RDG lists a very limited range of threaded adaptors with what I think are Metric fine-pitch range threads to which you could attach small drill-chucks or FC3 cutter holders. They also list a small boring head and a fly-cutter for the BCA - though a fly-cutter seems to me a somewhat unlikely tool to use on a jig-borer.

Otherwise for all things BCA our best bet other then lucky second-hand finds, would seem to be Tenga Engineering, who say they are the original manufacturers! I have not bought from them but they've been going a good while and they do advertise complete machines in ME and on the site. I have noticed though that they are a bit coy about prices! I don't know why.


I've just bought an M6 clamping set from Arc, and found the T-nuts do fit the BCA with just a little easing of the undersides (I turned them, holding them on a spare bit of studding in chuck.). Watch though, just as on any T-slotted table, that the studs do not go though the nuts and contact the base of the T-slot.

My intent really is that the Myford will do all the lumpy milling and the jig-borer's main role will be in pitch-circle and radial detailing, such as fluting my T&C Grinder hand-wheels too large for knurling as actually on the design. This may over time also help save machine setting-up time, since the rotary-table function is already there on the BCA.

Colin Heseltine17/02/2021 15:41:42
634 forum posts
220 photos


Funny you should mention the M6 clamping set. I have just bought one to use on the small fixture plate I made to use in the vice of the large mill. Its very handy that they also fit the Cowells Mill and I found yesterday they fit the BCA rotary table slots. So quite pleased.

I can concur with the comment re collets creeping out of the standard collets. I have a couple of the threaded ones but not the other two. When I milled the GHT pillar tool table on the BCA I had the collet creep.

I spoke to the guys at Tenga a couple of years ago and they were thinking of closing down then.


Phil P17/02/2021 15:58:54
792 forum posts
194 photos
Posted by Nigel Graham 2 on 17/02/2021 15:22:33:

Otherwise for all things BCA our best bet other then lucky second-hand finds, would seem to be Tenga Engineering, who say they are the original manufacturers! I have not bought from them but they've been going a good while and they do advertise complete machines in ME and on the site. I have noticed though that they are a bit coy about prices! I don't know why.

I do.............. Last time I enquired the internally threaded collets were over £75 each and that was a few years ago. !!

Not being able to find much for sale, I have made quite a bit of tooling for my machine.,2198.0.html,2391.msg45518.html#msg45518


Jake Middleton-Metcalfe17/02/2021 17:36:43
7 forum posts
14 photos
Posted by Phil P on 17/02/2021 15:58:54:
Posted by Nigel Graham 2 on 17/02/2021 15:22:33:

Otherwise for all things BCA our best bet other then lucky second-hand finds, would seem to be Tenga Engineering, who say they are the original manufacturers! I have not bought from them but they've been going a good while and they do advertise complete machines in ME and on the site. I have noticed though that they are a bit coy about prices! I don't know why.

I do.............. Last time I enquired the internally threaded collets were over £75 each and that was a few years ago. !!

Not being able to find much for sale, I have made quite a bit of tooling for my machine.,2198.0.html,2391.msg45518.html#msg45518


quite a project, very impressive. Thank you for the share.


I have to say I do sort of WANT to get the jig borer as they really do look incredibly cool and certainly well made. I will have to see how I get on with it when I next see my friend. I did not think about actually making the collets but its a good point

There is something really great about these old British made machines. Though I am always careful not to end up like my other mate Ian who has a workshop filled with about four old "project" table saws only one of which actually works, well what can I saw he certainly follows his heart and will "get round to the rest some day"

I appreciate all the input from everyone on here


Edited By Jake Middleton-Metcalfe on 17/02/2021 17:37:12

Nigel Graham 217/02/2021 23:44:41
1898 forum posts
26 photos

£75+ each... Ouch!

I thought they'd be pricey, but didn't expect that much.

I reckon I'll be making tooling if necessary. I have 3 or 4 few collets of the screw-in type, and a small drill-chuck for it, and those should suit most of the likely tasks I envisage for the machine.

Completed the chuck adaptor this evening - I put a small 3-Jaw chuck on it and that's half the headroom gone. I did though put a set each of M6 and M5 tapped holes in the adaptor's base disc so it can be used like a small face-plate within the area bounded by the ends of the T-slots.

William S18/02/2021 00:44:07
69 forum posts
307 photos

Hello Jake,

As a Proud owner of a B.C.A mk3 and an Axminster sx2 mini mill(very similar machine to the wm12) , I would say get the B.C.A. Providing it is tooled up and in a good mechanical condition.

Do you know if it is a MK2 or MK3?

This has a major impact on the table travels, It seems Clive had a Mk2 and comments on the work envelope being small. MK3 machines gained I believe 1 to 2" of travel on all slides which may not sound a lot but I have bored out a Land rover series 2a front wheel hub, wheel studs holes. Okay the clamping arraignment was a bit heath Robinson but I did not know at the time the centre hole of the table is threaded!

The capacity I suppose I haven't struggled with as I do own all the original spindle tooling which does seem to help a lot. The front hub I used the "Tenga" type small boring head, which equipped with a carbide tool chomped though the cast iron and weld without any complaints.

The worries people have for them being more a drilling machine are not really valid in my opinion, for hobby use, I'am able to achieve a higher depth of cut on the BCA than on my mini mill! The spindle set up is key to this, I set mine up in the dead of night to actually hear the oil squidging about with me swinging off it! Not scientific I know but boy what a difference it made to the depth of cuts. Yes in a industrial production environment they are not a mill, but for hobby use you ain't going to wear it out.

This is where I have to confess to owning 2 BCAs, My first one is in a rather used condition, which was staring me in the face when I went to view it but I had been rather excited buy the full set of spindle tooling and purchased it anyway! My second machine is mint, all original hand scraping on all the ways etc. Although this has very little in the way of tooling in comparison to my first. The first machine had come straight from industry to my workshop, (mid seventies to 2018) the second machine despite being older (mid sixties) took an early retirement in the early 90s and made 1 clock in 25 years!

What I am saying is tooling made the worn out machine worth it as I had to fight the machine very little, tightening up on the extremities of travel was just something I had to live with. Coming from the mini mill which I found frustrating to use due to the lack of quality control. The worn BCA made my milling jobs something to look forward too!

You say you have been brought up on Bridgeports, I being an apprentice being brought up on Bridgeports at exactly the same time as learning the BCA I haven't found any problems switching between the 2 types of machine if anything I am more adaptable at work because of having to be creative with set ups on the BCA at home!

The collet issue is an important one to make, early machines use 3/8X26tpi on spindle tooling MK3s use M9x1mm the dimension everywhere else are exactly the same! so take a not of the bottom of the drawbar some people have forced incorrect era of tooling in the drawbars which does wreck them (obviously!) The threaded collet issue is important aswell Internal threaded collets were only avaliable in 6mm, 1/4", 3/8" and 10mm if you have them you are well set up! I made up a 6mm and 1/4" fc3/weldon/side lock shank arbors that go directly in the spindle which I use all the time. I intend to make other sizes when time allows.

you also mention you have a small workshop, neither machines are big so your fine on that front however there is a vast chasm between the machine weights the BCA is extremely heavy so just expect that when it comes to moving it!

If you look through my albums there is one or 2 pictures which show my machine in action

I hope that makes sense


Jake Middleton-Metcalfe18/02/2021 09:51:16
7 forum posts
14 photos

Very interesting William s, I did not know there was a difference in travel on the mk2 and 3. How much space do you actually get between the spindle and the table on a mk3?

I will find out what version the one my mate has actually is.

Nigel Graham 221/02/2021 23:18:29
1898 forum posts
26 photos

A point worth considering for using a jig-borer is that if you do own drawing / re-drawing, is what the geometry can do for you.

For example, I need make 4 identical, Stephenson's Link Motion expansion-links. The drawing's dimension for the arc centre is radial, but all the others are Cartesian... and of course, in vulgar-fractions. I have yet to measure the range available but if the BCA will accommodate > 5" radius, it seems to me the entire link can be made from all-angular and decimal dimensions. I'd have to re-draw the links to suit (I use TurboCAD) but to machine the things means having to convert all the 64ths to decimals anyway.

I'd prepare the blank by drilling the two valve-rod holes and using them to fit it to a sub-plate itself clamped to the machine table.

The die-blocks could be made on the BCA too.

(If that radius won't fit the jig-borer, I'd have to use the milling-machine and clamp the material to an extension-arm on the 3" radius rotary table.)

Jake Middleton-Metcalfe22/02/2021 12:26:59
7 forum posts
14 photos

the BCA mark 3 has 8" of travel in all dimensions so only max probably just under a 4" radius from the centre of the table.

I was able to get hold of a copy of the original operating service manual which has all of the specs on it. I have uploaded it to an album on my profile in case anyone on here is interested.

service manual 1.jpg

Phil P22/02/2021 12:38:32
792 forum posts
194 photos

Thanks for posting the manual, I have been wanting a copy of that for a while.


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