Mill question

Norcal911

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Sorry guys.....i know this has been posted, just couldn't find it. First, i'm not a gunsmith and i'm not becoming one. I do tinker, build up some 10/22, mount scopes, bed stocks here and there......nothing special. I want a mill. I'm not going to start CNC production-lining anything. Budget is about $3k total. Most people have said to just find a bridgport and learn. I want something that is nimble enough to use as an accurate drill press but heavy enough to make or modify a small part here and there. Trying to stay away from 3 phase power. Considering one of the larger Weis machines, a jet jmd 15 or 18, or a Sieg. DRO's are a must. Any suggestions or words of wisdom?-Norcal911
 
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Rubicon Precision

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I’d agree with those saying get a Bridgeport. If you have the real estate, a knee mill is so handy.
95% or the time, mine is used as a base for my barrel vise. BUT, when I really need it, I REALLY need it. A knee mill is so versatile, many things would be hard, if not impossible to do with a simple 3 axis mill.
VFDs are cheap. Wiring one isn’t going to be much more than running a dedicated circuit to any other small 240v mill.
 

Geno C.

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Yeah, don’t let 3ph bother you. Give wolf automation a call and get the vfd that fits the size mill you get. A 5th grader can wire them.

I first bought a tree mill, then got a good deal on a Bridgeport. The z collets on the tree were quicker, just harder to find. If you can find one with a dro already on it that would be a big plus. They are handy to have.
 

Waorani

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Another vote for Bridgeport. Power feed is nice to have too, especially if you can buy w/ machine. I've been progressively adding to my
Bridgeport whenever I could come across a good deal.
 

Spdy

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Add Another vote for a Bridgeport mill if you have the room. 3 phase just requires a converter so not a problem. Definitely look for one with DRO on. Other desirable options are chrome ways, power feed(s), central lube and tooling. I just sold my late father’s varispeed Bridgeport with all of those features, collets, cutters, rotary and fixed vises for $3500 so they are out there.
 

Praeger

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I do tinker, build up some 10/22, mount scopes, bed stocks here and there......nothing special. I want something that is nimble enough to use as an accurate drill press but heavy enough to make or modify a small part here and there.
For what you are describing, a Bridgeport style knee mill is overkill. Great machines and many good clones, but a big work envelope. There are many bench top mills that will easily do the light precision work you listed. Grizzly and Precision Matthews are what I'd recommend, although there are others.

As with all metal working, reserve a block of your budget for quality tools. If you are starting from scratch, you could easily burn up 25% of your budget on a vise, indicators, micrometers, v-blocks, parallels, collets, cutting tools, and drill chuck. And that's just for starters. A mill will allow you to fabricate parts with a high level of precision which would otherwise be nearly impossible to make. Biggest problem is pretty soon you'll be looking for a lathe.
 

propeine

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umpteenth vote for get a bridgeport.

Those mini mills are not bad once you add all the aftermarket stuff to make them sort of heavy but machining has high forces and high vibrations. Mass is what fixes those things. I paid 1200 for my bridgeport with tooling. It doesn't have a DRO sadly but thats easily added. I paid another 150 dollars for a 3 phase conversion box off amazon (not off brand) and wired it in about 4 minutes. The chinglish manual is a bit hard to follow but there is plenty of help online.
 

clcustom1911

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Yeah, don’t let 3ph bother you. Give wolf automation a call and get the vfd that fits the size mill you get. A 5th grader can wire them.

I first bought a tree mill, then got a good deal on a Bridgeport. The z collets on the tree were quicker, just harder to find. If you can find one with a dro already on it that would be a big plus. They are handy to have.
TREE MILLS ROCK. Love my 2UVR!
 
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Wannashootit

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I have a Tree knee mill, and a LMS benchtop mill...
The benchtop mill gets the most use because, well...barrel work is mostly lathe work; and usually the milling I do is "light", and it's used a lot for drilling/tapping receivers for scope mounts (old milsurps- Mausers, etc. that aren't set up for them).

Benchtops are restricted by table size and rigidity limits hogging-type cuts. But, if most of your work is small and light in nature quality benchtops are nimble, and are quite capable if you don't push too hard and take light"ish" cuts.

As said, power is no longer an issue thanks to VFD's, and they also give variable speed ability in case you end up with an older knee mill that's not VS.

If you don't need a knee mill- I'd think carefully before buying one. Yes- you can find them for $2-$3k, but will be much older models and you'll need the ability to evaluate it's condition (or have someone knowledgeable with you). Rebuilding a head is an expense you won't like. You likely won't find one with a DRO in that price range, which means you'll need to add one. I know there's guys that'll say otherwise, but a DRO is mandatory for me on a mill. Too many changes in feed direction, and dealing with backlash on an old machine with worn leadscrews often leads to inaccuracy.

For the same coin, you can get a brandy-new 1 hp, VS benchtop- with DRO- that might be able to handle your intended uses.

https://littlemachineshop.com/products/product_view.php?ProductID=5550
 
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flyer

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I've used many types of mill from a Shoptask 3in1 to a large mill-drill to Bridgeports to CNC Bridgeports to CNC milling centers to little horizontal mills.

The biggest step up in versatility is going from a mill-drill or 3in1 to a knee mill. You can do so much more with a Bridgeport (or clone). There are a few smaller knee mills but you usually pay more and might have trouble with finding collets or accessories.

If there is any way you can get a Bridgeport with a VFD, it will probably be the best way to go and possibly cheaper than even small bench mills and mill-drills due to common and cheap tooling.
 
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Lapuapalooza

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I was once told you can build little parts on a big machine, but you can’t build big parts on a little machine. Get the biggest one your space and budget can hold. 3phase power is a non issue. I bought an electronic phase converter from MSC about 15years ago for $125. The only thing it won’t cover on a 2hp motor is rapid reverse of the spindle.

I know you mentioned small parts and things, but once you get the mill your life will change and you will be wanting to make all kinds of big stuff on it too.
 
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flyer

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I agree to a point. A Series 1 size Bridgeport or clone is pretty small as full size knee mills go but I don't think I have run in to any machining jobs where it would be too small unless I needed a crane to get the workpiece to the mill.

It's just an incredibly versatile size and machine layout which makes a lot of jobs easy that would be difficult or impossible with a mill-drill or 3in1 machine.

Going bigger is only necessary to increase speed (more ridgidity=bigger cuts) or if you have specific needs for a crane size job.
 
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Lapuapalooza

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I agree with you too. I haven’t been to an auction in a while, the the standard size knee mills with a table 9”x49” and a 2-3hp motor would bring more money than a mill with a 5hp motor and a 12”x 60” (if I have the size correct. It’s been a while). If you have the space for it, why not...
 

flyer

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You usually lose any savings with the cost of the first move and a phase converter that can run a 5hp motor costs more too.

I wanted to buy a Shizuka (I think) a few years back. It was full CNC and crazy cheap but I couldn't figure out the logistics because it was too big, you can't turn the spindle vertical in a standard height garage.

The guy selling it figured that out after he bought it, that's why he was taking a loss.

If you have a huge shop with high ceilings and awesome electrical service, it would be fine but those are luxuries most can't afford.
 
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MarinePMI

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I have a Tree knee mill, and a LMS benchtop mill...
The benchtop mill gets the most use because, well...barrel work is mostly lathe work; and usually the milling I do is "light", and it's used a lot for drilling/tapping receivers for scope mounts (old milsurps- Mausers, etc. that aren't set up for them).

Benchtops are restricted by table size and rigidity limits hogging-type cuts. But, if most of your work is small and light in nature quality benchtops are nimble, and are quite capable if you don't push too hard and take light"ish" cuts.

As said, power is no longer an issue thanks to VFD's, and they also give variable speed ability in case you end up with an older knee mill that's not VS.

If you don't need a knee mill- I'd think carefully before buying one. Yes- you can find them for $2-$3k, but will be much older models and you'll need the ability to evaluate it's condition (or have someone knowledgeable with you). Rebuilding a head is an expense you won't like. You likely won't find one with a DRO in that price range, which means you'll need to add one. I know there's guys that'll say otherwise, but a DRO is mandatory for me on a mill. Too many changes in feed direction, and dealing with backlash on an old machine with worn leadscrews often leads to inaccuracy.

For the same coin, you can get a brandy-new 1 hp, VS benchtop- with DRO- that might be able to handle your intended uses.

https://littlemachineshop.com/products/product_view.php?ProductID=5550
If you're just making smaller parts, this is a good recommendation. Those LMS bench mills are overbuilt in the rigidity department. Very solid, and the variable speed is nice when trying to dial in the right speeds/feeds. Ditto on the DRO. Once you use one you'll wonder how you got by without one...