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mini mills - which is the best?

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Tim Hadleigh07/08/2011 00:15:48
11 forum posts
Hi, l want to buy a mini mill, such as a Warco, Clarke etc... Anyone got any hint as to which are best and which to avoid?
mick H07/08/2011 08:41:46
772 forum posts
28 photos
I have a Warco WM14 with which I am quite pleased. It seemed to offer good value for money at the time my wife bought it for me, and crucially it fitted into the little space that I have available. I believe that the spec has since improved eg digital speed readout and a decent quill handle . I did have a few peripheral problems in the first couple of weeks but these were sorted out by Warco with little fuss.
I have done some quite useful work on the machine but on occasion I could do with a bigger table with more traverse both X and Y. As I build Gauge 1 stuff it generally does the job with room to spare. I think the machine is accurate and is enjoyable to work on. The motor is powerful enough but the drive to the quill is a plastic helical gear. The first one that the machine had failed quickly and badly but was replaced by Warco without problem. The replacement was 3 mm thicker than the original and after 2 years shows no signs of I put this down to a rogue piece slipping in at the factory. The machine has a tilting head which facility I very rarely use although it is quite easy to reset accurately. The slide protector, a piece of rubber is absolute rubbish and I replaced mine with some concertina stuff from Arc Euro.
Whilst the mini mills all seem to be much the same I would advise a careful look at the various specifications to make sure that they will handle work that you forsee and perhaps do not yet forsee.
Mark P.07/08/2011 10:43:30
627 forum posts
8 photos
Hi Tim,I have a Warco WM16 and find it quite pleasent to use like Mick with the WM14 I've had no real problems with it .One thing I would say is buy the biggest one that you can afford! But look at all available,most of the budget ones are made in the same factory but painted and badged up for the importer.
Geoff Theasby07/08/2011 12:47:17
613 forum posts
17 photos
I am about to buy a mill. I considered two, one made by Warco. I rang both companies, and put the same questions regarding reliability to both. Warco were open and helpful, and the other company blamed its customers for overloading their machines.
You may guess as to which one I will go for.
Peter G. Shaw07/08/2011 20:50:08
1458 forum posts
44 photos
I have the Warco MiniMill.
What follows is an honest description of what I have found on my mill. It has to be said that whilst some of the problems do appear to be common to this series of mills, indeed I do wonder if they may be common to Chinese machines full stop, I have to admit that I could just have a bad one. Somehow I do not think so!
I bought this mill because I felt that it was a weight that I could physically handle (clean forgetting that I could dismantle it), because it has the 3MT headstock which matched my lathe, and because it has a square column thus avoiding the loss of registration which can occur with round column mills.
Although this is not a Sieg X2, it is of a similar design and has at least one of the X2 known problems: plastic gear breakages. Fortunately Arc Euro Trade do replacement metal gears (look under C3 lathe spares). Alternatively, you could fit a belt drive as some people have. The other known X2 problem, that of electronic board failure may not apply as this mill has an uprated motor as against the original X2, hence I assume it has an uprated electronic board - at least mine hasn't yet failed. Since buying mine, I have become aware that there are at least two versions of the electronic board.
In terms of sliding surface finish and accuracy, my machine leaves a lot to be desired. To be blunt, I think it has been a Chinese confidence trick as all the easily visible sliding surfaces, column, saddle and underneath the table are very nicely finished and smooth. However, the matching surfaces of the moving parts have been finished off with an angle grinder. These surfaces cannot be seen unless the machine is dismantled.
The table on my machine is warped. Actually, I think it is not so much warped as been ground wrongly as as far as I can tell both the table and the dovetails underneath are concave. I have not yet been able to check the saddle or column. I have a friend with the same mill and as far as I can tell, he also has warping but nowhere near as bad as mine. Regrinding will cost in the region of £80.
Main bearings grease was just about dried out, as were those on a friends MiniMill. Also some people don't like the factory bearings and replace them with better quality ones.
The return spring idea is not very good which is why certain people with the same or similar mills have replaced it with a gas strut. Apparently one from a small Peugeot car is ideal. Also, one advantage of fitting a gas strut is that it allows for a slight increase in operating height, but it does then need the rack extending.
Apparently as well, the column is thought to be weak. Some people have stiffened it by adding various bits of metal. A trawl around the internet should reveal some of the ideas.
I, and I know other people have also done this, have now embarked on an exercise to improve the mill by correcting all the known deficiencies. In my case this is likely to be a long, long exercise.

Hope this helps.
Peter G. Shaw
107/08/2011 21:04:24
65 forum posts
1 photos
I have had a Warco WM16 for a couple of months. As a beginner I am just now starting to use it for milling and I find it easy to use and plenty accurate enough for my needs (I can get within a hundredth of a mil consistently) It is an electronically variable speed machine and has a quill speed readout and a digital depth readout both of which I find invaluable. I have had no problems with it but it was advertised as coming with both a 3/8 Whitworth and a 10mm drawbar; a couple of months after delivery I noticed I hadn't got the 10 mm bar. Warco sent me one without quibble.
When I purchased it I visited Warco's showroom with the intention of getting a WM14 but I am glad I ended up with the bigger machine. As a previous poster has said take into account what you want to do with your mill and the space you have available and get the biggest you can afford. I would also suggest that if you can you visit your chosen supplier or go to a show and visit their stand and try to get a feel for the level of service you can expect from them. I have no connection to Warco other than as a satisfied customer but have no hesitation in recommending the mill I have.
Jon07/08/2011 21:50:27
1001 forum posts
49 photos
The level of service shown at shows is far different when your money has been taken! Ordered three times, failed repeatedly three times, never again would they get the chance.
As mentioned before, it depends what you want to be able to do. Small machines will not be rigid, therefore must take ultra light cuts taking an eternity.
For me the RF25 just make sure you set head so that all the height you need is obtained. Quiet too £600 to £800 inc Machine Mart.
If having to spend around a grand i would personally go without, pay the extra £200 for a Lux mill, ZX45 etc. 23 3/4" X travel, to better have to pay three times as much.
Andrew Johnston07/08/2011 22:40:11
6679 forum posts
701 photos
I can get within a hundredth of a mil
What's a hundreth of a mil? It's US speak for a thou; but I doubt you're machining to 10 millionths of an inch.
blowlamp07/08/2011 23:12:56
1663 forum posts
106 photos
Posted by Andrew Johnston on 07/08/2011 22:40:11:
I can get within a hundredth of a mil
What's a hundreth of a mil? It's US speak for a thou; but I doubt you're machining to 10 millionths of an inch.
I took him to mean 0.01mm.
Robbo07/08/2011 23:33:07
1504 forum posts
142 photos
How about the "Lux Milling Machine" on ebay, located in Oswestry, looks a bit light rusty,currently around £370.
Jon09/08/2011 00:25:48
1001 forum posts
49 photos
Noticed that the other day Robbo, its a buyers market at the moment.
Could have expected £500 last year but that is on that site anything could happen perhaps even more than a new one or remain same price.
DerryUK09/08/2011 16:12:32
125 forum posts
What are the manuals like for the smaller Warco's? I have a super major and the manual is rubbish (though I like the mill.)
I found a manual on Grizzly's web site that covers the same machine as mine and is a half-decent attempt at an operators manual.
mick H09/08/2011 18:59:02
772 forum posts
28 photos
Derry, the manual for WM14 is rubbish as well.
Charlie,09/08/2011 20:42:32
76 forum posts
1 photos
Hi tim
I have had a WM16 mill for a couple of years, It came with a little green tool box
that i am very fond of, It a lovely little tool box,As for the machine itself, The slide
cover(with the texture of flat black chewing gum)came apart in under three weeks
with little use,The motor runs well enough in forward but struggles and hunts in
reverse,On any job over 20 minits i useualy blow a fuse which is fun to replace if
you have the machine backed up tightly against the wall as i have,I have used all
the fuses that came with the machine and i now make my own (to spec of course)
I dont use it a lot now as reading the blog on this site leads me to beleive that i
will inevitably encounter problems of a more seriouse nature,And i didnt pay that
kind of money to get into a rebuild project,I have all the projects i need right now,
And i use a Clark Metalworker with rhe square column for most of my milling
And i recon if you dont give it to much to do in one go it a helava machine for the
money,To sum up the WM16 gives me the impression that it was thrown together
by a group of retards working in an early learning center,But i do love that little
green tool box,Regards
Clive Hartland09/08/2011 21:01:28
2838 forum posts
40 photos
Perhaps Tim who started the thread could give us an idea of his price range to buy a machine.
Looking through what is available I am now looking at' Wabeco' machines.
Even thinking of going to the works in Austria to visit and look at what they have.
I think one might just fit in the back of my Estate car.
What do I tell the customs though?
Roderick Jenkins09/08/2011 21:56:01
2201 forum posts
616 photos
Posted by Clive Hartland on 09/08/2011 21:01:28:

What do I tell the customs though?
Nothing, Austria is in the EC - no barriers!
They do look like nice machines.
EtheAv8r10/08/2011 11:26:11
111 forum posts
3 photos
Posted by Clive Hartland on 09/08/2011 21:01:28:
Perhaps Tim who started the thread could give us an idea of his price range to buy a machine.
Looking through what is available I am now looking at' Wabeco' machines.
Even thinking of going to the works in Austria to visit and look at what they have.
I think one might just fit in the back of my Estate car.
What do I tell the customs though?

You can see them in Stamford, Lincolshire - possibly a bit closer? That is where I got my Wabeco lathe. I did not go for a Wabco mill though - I nearly did, but I went Sieg KX3 to save some dosh. Hope I made the right decision!

Tim Hadleigh10/08/2011 13:43:18
11 forum posts
Thanks to everyone for their extensive replies to my mini mill query.
I was thinking around £600 - £800 as a budget but am put off of the Warcos thanks to your combined opinions. Will look at the Wabecos and Clarkes. Maybe l will have to up the budget to get something heavier.
Steambuff10/08/2011 13:49:16
539 forum posts
7 photos
Remember to look at the Sieg ones. (I seem to remember that some of the Clarkes ones are Siegs in a different colour)
Axminster and Arc Euro Trade sell the Sieg models. (Arc Euro Trade also offer an optional preperation service, where the Mill is stripped down and setup correctly)
I ordered a X1L from Arc Euro Trade with the optional preperation option. (Not long to wait now for it to be delivered)
Peter G. Shaw10/08/2011 15:26:16
1458 forum posts
44 photos
Might be worth looking at Arc Euro Trade's new Sieg Super X2 plus mill at around £515.
These use a new 500W motor (350W originally) and the larger table from the X1 series mills Arc supply. Also, they don't have the two-speed gearbox, using instead electronics for a speed range of 100-2500 rpm. Which suggests that they may not be affected by the gear breaking problem or the electronic failure problem.
And if you go for their preparation service at £155 (£670 total) then you should be assured of a reasonably good working machine right from the start.
Anyway, good luck in your quest,
Peter G. Shaw

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