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Old 06-05-2005, 01:39 AM   #1 (permalink)
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What do you make with your Milling Machine?

For those of you who use/have them, besides drilling holes, what all do you find yourself doing and making with yours. Also, on the money side of the equation, was it worth the investment?

Last edited by Dynamicfigure; 06-05-2005 at 01:43 AM.
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Old 06-05-2005, 03:05 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I make shifter knobs and knives and asst. brackets and plates with mine. It was worth the investment.......I got mine free.
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Old 06-05-2005, 08:04 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I've got 2 mills and a lathe, all old stuff I got for cheap. I shorten and re-spline D44 front shafts, mill and drill flat top knuckles, made high clearance U-bolt plates for my CJ2A, made a clocking adapter for the tail of a TH400 for a friend and I do whatever I need when I need it. Sometimes I need to make a special tool or need to do a quick customisation job on an existing part and it's really good to be able to just walk back to my shop and do it.

What do you mean by 'worth the investment'? Are you trying to make money or are you just trying to do things yourself? If you are in it just for the personal satisfaction of making your own parts, then it is worth the money. If you want to turn a profit with it, consider the whole equation. Tooling costs, set up time, machine time, heating a formerly unheated shop (in my case anyways) all add up. I'm cheap and I make my own tooling whenever I can, and when I can't make it I buy it used with the least cash out possible. I've found it's best that I consider it another hobby. I know I'll never make money at it, so I don't even try.

It's nice when I pick up some extra cash milling and drilling flat top knuckles or shortening drive shafts - but these are examples of things that work out well on manual machines and things that don't take extrordinary amounts of skill, tooling or time. I've built a jig to hold the knuckles and I found the face mill for cheap or I wouldn't even do that.

On the other hand, I won't do axle shafts for other people becuase it just takes too long and I could never justify the tooling costs that way. Moser and Dutchman offer the service for a lot less than I could, and I knew that from the start. Shortening shafts was only about learning and proving to myself that I could do it. No other justification works for this job.

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Old 06-05-2005, 08:30 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Maybe the question should be "what haven't you done with it?"

From a money making perspective, figure on bidding jobs at $50/hour.
Catch is the number of 15 minute jobs that take three hours to set up!
i.e. $150 for a single item, but if you can make 12 of them... 6hours/
about $25/each. If I NEED a special tool, I make it.... if I can find
one commercially for $40, no way would I spend 4 hours trying to make
that.

Power feed on my x y means I can surface cylinder heads with mininum time.
Just set up, light pass (x power feed on slowest setting), while working on on the lathe or something else close by. Very little labor involved (set & go).

Other things like "stair stepping" intake ports (series of circles to remove most
of the metal quickly) means setting x/y manually and then using the feed and watching everything. Lots of labor involved as it has to be hands on. Still for a custom porting job much nice to have most of the work done on the mill... finish by hand (I'd love a CNC machine to do this!!!).

Other times... Aluminum casting. TIG Weld, machine finish the flange. Suddenly makes your day when you realize you have a cracked flange on that tranny you bought for a such a good price. (try getting it repaired on a Sunday afternoon, when you want the job finished by Monday morning).

Ditto for stuff on the lathe. I can take $1 of aluminum, and create $25 of parts in about 30 minutes. I have a demand for those little things, but get frickin' bored of making them after two hours. Still that is $100 in a few hours, which I donate to American Cancer Society (in memory of Dad!).

Will the machine pay for itself... yes, but for a manual milling machine for $1000 figure another $2K in tooling to get some decent items. Time is money, so you need to keep a ballance in your life. For me, four kids... who I love, so getting things done in the shop takes much longer than I could imagine. Rather be at a softball game, movie, or something else with the family. Machines can wait.

Also be aware of time wasters -- spent 3 hours making something and charged the person $40 for it. All they did was BITCH about the price. Mean while could have made a $300 item in three hours for someone else... who was very grateful to have a custom machined part for so cheap (all commercial shops will not touch that stuff for someone walking in off the street).

Good luck,

Tom
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Old 06-05-2005, 11:40 AM   #5 (permalink)
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As you can see mills are one of the most versitle machines you will find in a shop. We bought our used mill from a guy that was closing his shop. The machine has been one of the most useful tools that we have. There really isn't much that you can't do with a mill if you have time and imagination. As stated before, tooling does add up. We got lucky and the guy threw in a big box of end mills and stuff. As for trying to make money... thats really hard to do unless you are well setup. We recently got all the equipment to respline axles (about $600 worth of stuff) and we have resplined 4 or 5 axles but we have more stuff to come. For us having a mill in the shop is also a convienince issue. We no longer have to rely on someone else to make parts for us at his own pace if we need it now we just work thru the night and get the shit done.

Basically if you have the money or can find a way to get one they are great machines that do have a potential to make money if you know what you are doing.
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Old 06-05-2005, 12:29 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Milling machine use

I was not really thinking of it as a money maker in any way, but I am a hobbiest who spends most my free time with wood and metal, as such I have been looking at getting a real nice drill press. The nicer you get on drill presses though, the closer the price point gets to a milling machine like say this one: http://www.penntoolco.com/catalog/pr...ategoryID=4493 or this one: http://wttool.com/p/3006-0080 or the HF knockoff: http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/cta...emnumber=42827

Add that up to what I heard one guy say which was that a drill press makes a lousy mill, but a mill makes a great drill press and it has got me scratching my head on spending the few hundred extra dollars and getting a mill. I'm just wanting some external justification on spending the extra cash. By the way thanks for the replys to, I really appreciate you guys letting me know your thoughts.
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Old 06-05-2005, 04:00 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dynamicfigure
I was not really thinking of it as a money maker in any way, but I am a hobbiest who spends most my free time with wood and metal, as such I have been looking at getting a real nice drill press. The nicer you get on drill presses though, the closer the price point gets to a milling machine like say this one: http://www.penntoolco.com/catalog/pr...ategoryID=4493 or this one: http://wttool.com/p/3006-0080 or the HF knockoff: http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/cta...emnumber=42827

Add that up to what I heard one guy say which was that a drill press makes a lousy mill, but a mill makes a great drill press and it has got me scratching my head on spending the few hundred extra dollars and getting a mill. I'm just wanting some external justification on spending the extra cash. By the way thanks for the replys to, I really appreciate you guys letting me know your thoughts.
The guys quote is spot on. More precise location of holes (dial it on with the x-y lead screws) and of course slots for those obnoxious mismeasured hole locations vs. the infamous "larger" holes...

D.
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Old 06-05-2005, 04:29 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dynamicfigure
has got me scratching my head on spending the few hundred extra dollars and getting a mill. I'm just wanting some external justification on spending the extra cash. By the way thanks for the replys to, I really appreciate you guys letting me know your thoughts.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nike
Just Do It!
If I had a mill I'd be in the shop working on paintball stuff, or thinking of things to build.
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Old 06-05-2005, 05:30 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I haven't touched my drill press since the day I bought my first vertical mill. I should sell that drill press and put the money in my bead lock fund...

I like the big heavy old American iron, but that mill drill from Penntool looks pretty good after reading the specs. The 32x9 table is on par with the smallest Bridgeports. The 18.5" spindle to table distance, 5" spindle travel and 75 rpm low speed are on par with any Bridgeport. That model must be bigger than the mill drills I'm used to seeing.
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Old 06-05-2005, 06:08 PM   #10 (permalink)
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never used a mill but i'm running dana 44 flat tops and i wanna say it was like 50-60 bucks to have them made flay and driled and i still need my steering arms drilled out(tapererd hole) and it kinda sucks to get it all lined up, marked, and then take it to the machine shop on monday and then put it together the next week. kinda nice if i had the machine in house.
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Old 06-06-2005, 12:36 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dynamicfigure
...a drill press makes a lousy mill, but a mill makes a great drill press...
Amen -- especially if you have motorized cross-feed. Be careful of cheap mills with large tables; you'll sacrifice rigidity when the table isn't centered.

I love doing stuff for myself in the shop -- I have easily a man-day into two revisions of a throttle cam for my 302 swap, and it is buried under an air filter housing where nobody but me will every see it. Still, I'm happy.

As with any hobby, be careful making it into a business, or you may suck the joy right out of it. Listening to friends and acquaintences bitch about price for something that would have cost them 2X over from a professional gets old quick. Time is money, but free time can be even more valuable.

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Old 06-06-2005, 03:19 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Dunno how others feel but IMO, if you really want to build stuff a mill and lathe go hand in hand. Many parts are rotational and, even though they can be made in a mill, it's extremely time consuming.

For me, getting a lathe and a mill was taking the hobby to the next level. The things you can build with the pair opens up a huge door that is really only limited by your imagination and tooling.

If you decide to look for one, try to get one in decent shape. I know many will tell you an old bridgeport is better than a newer import but from the old bridgeports I've seen, they're flat wrong. I bought mine at an auction for $4k and it was around 5 - 6 years old with low miles. Auctions are a good place to look if you don't have any friends who can hook you up with a connection. Things to consider is repair part availability and getting the manuals with the machine (or being able to find them for download/copying).

That's all I got...

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Old 06-06-2005, 03:59 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Just as a heads up. I just got back from an industrial auction. They sold 2 mills, on vertical, and onther combination vertical and horizontal for $500 each. These were big, heavy, industrial mills that would require a forklift or something else to move them. They also sold 2 lathes for under $750 each. I am on my way to another one tomorrow to try to get better deals...
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Old 06-08-2005, 09:29 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Dad bought a 2hp Grizzle table top mill/drill that we have been very very happy with. I have done a bunch of cool stuff on it and it works great. was about 800.00 bucks at the time.
I am pretty sure its this one.

http://www.grizzly.com/products/item...emnumber=g1006


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Old 06-08-2005, 10:04 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Mine isn't grizzle, it's older, but the exact same design... and I like it a lot also. But I had to build a bigger/beefier workbench for it.. it's 700 pounds with the vice and a little tooling.
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Old 06-08-2005, 03:46 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Dumb question, would a mill like a bridgeport beable to do engine work? (ie clearance a 350 block to make it a 383) and stuff like that?
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Old 06-08-2005, 08:31 PM   #17 (permalink)
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My background is in precision molds and medical prototypes and I will say that If you can get a mill in your garage/basement or nearby you will open up a great area of creation that can lead to many killer parts for your rig or others. I also agree the Mill is the most versatile tool in the shop...besides the hands and mind. Get a mill......dont go cheap and the rest will fall in place.
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Old 06-10-2005, 02:23 PM   #18 (permalink)
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My lathe didn't come with a steadyrest, new & used ones cost a fortune - so I made one. My mill is a Lagun 9x49, 3hp, made in Kalifornia.


http://www.apexdog.com/images/sr1.jpg

http://www.apexdog.com/images/sr2.jpg

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Old 06-11-2005, 07:56 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Nice steady. I need to make one too. That project has been on my to do list for over a year. I'll probably get to it as soon as I have a job where I really need it
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Old 06-12-2005, 07:21 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Well worth the investment, we started out with a TREE 310 Journeyman and now have a Tree 1050 30hp center, 24 tool caraige and 40x 19 table, and a new chip convayer. weight was around 16,700 # one real big Fork lift to move it......Just program and go
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Old 08-06-2005, 10:26 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Dumb question, would a mill like a bridgeport beable to do engine work? (ie clearance a 350 block to make it a 383) and stuff like that?
Can anyone answer my question?
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Old 08-07-2005, 10:44 AM   #22 (permalink)
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Can anyone answer my question?
That's a lot of weight to be putting on the table of a Bridgeport. You might check the manufacturer's specs to see what the maximum weight you can put on the table is. If you're not doing this as a production affair, a vertical might work for you, but I think you'd want something real heavy to hold that much weight on the table.

I may have the wallpaper that says I should be able to do this stuff, but I'm still a hack. A real machinist may say I'm full of shit, but I'd think most of the smaller bridgeport verticals (those that would be realistic in a home shop) would be too small for such jobs.
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Old 08-07-2005, 04:32 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Alright thanks.
I never really considered the weight of the block on the milling table. Forgot about that.
So if I wanted a mill to work on engines, i'd have to get a larger one, with a table that can support the weight? Thanks
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Old 08-07-2005, 04:51 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Mills are extremely handy tools. I would have one in a heart beat if A, I could afford one, B, A had a place for one, and C, if I had the power for one.

I have used them on many occasions, and they are very very versitile. With many, you can buy attatchments to do horizontal milling as well.


I dont htink you could machine a small block chevy on one, But i know you can machine a kart motor lol. Most engine shops have HUGE pieces of equipment. Large Mills dedicated to face milling for squaring decks and heads. Also, the machines they use to bore engines are usually dedicated boring/honing machines. Way beyond what you could justify buying, unless you were either a millionare, or were going to open up a shop lol.

Using a verticle mill without DROs or CNC controls on them is kidna like "oldschool" but you can still do soem pretty wicked stuff on them. I would kill to be able to have one, but thats not gunna happen while I live in this house. I havent done anything too complicated on them, but I have had projects where I would kill to have one. If you think you can get a good deal on one, DO IT! you def. wont regret it.

You dont really need anything like a cincinatti (which will put a bridgport to shame) You can get high quality imports like jet or Rong fu, which, will be accurate, just not with heavy feeds like a quality american made one will. Id guess even grizzly stuff would work well for basic things. Its not like your gunna be makin shit for nasa... or are you?

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Old 08-08-2005, 01:04 AM   #25 (permalink)
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What do I make on my milling machine?

1. Anything my customers pay me to.

2. Anything I design.

3. But I cheat sometimes by using the CNC!

BUT!!! If any of you do get a mill in your garage/shop. TAKE A CLASS! otherwise you'll make trips to the ER and/or blow a lot of money on cutters and/or destroy your new toy.

BUT! Like others have said, it will open up a new world. You'll cross over from FABRICATING to MACHINING! 1/8th will suddenly become .125" 3/16 is now .188"

It'll be really cool.

my 2c.

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