Vertical knee mill recommendations

Discussion in 'Advanced Gunsmithing & Engineering' started by Someoldguy, Jan 7, 2019.

  1. Someoldguy

    Someoldguy Guest

    As the title says, I want to buy a used vertical mill. Prefer to have DRO on the table already. I have a SouthBend heavy 10 and I just want something suitable for more involved personal projects. I know weight is a friend when it comes to this type of machinery, but I'm just looking for something I can fit in my garage for personal use. And the Heavy 10 is not a big machine, I see no sense in having too large a mill.
    Wonder if any of you could give me some advise as to what to look for. I'm a practical guy, I'm not interested in braggin' rights. Just a decent mill in decent shape. Hopefully for less than $3K, if that's possible. (?)
    Thanks in advance for helpful suggestions.
     
  2. Dusty Stevens

    Dusty Stevens COVFEFE- Thread Derail Crew Gold $$ Contributor

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    $3k will get you a nice real bridgeport with some tooling if you look around
     
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  3. spitfire_er

    spitfire_er Silver $$ Contributor

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    Clausing 8520 is a fairly popular 800 lbs machine. Not a Bridgeport, but still allows you to do many smaller projects including some various barrel work. Used mine to make AR-15 gas ports on several barrels with great success.
     
  4. Daveinjax

    Daveinjax Silver $$ Contributor

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    Finding a good condition small mill used will be tough and come at a premium. You’ll do better looking for a full size Bridgeport , Index , or clone. Whatever you get I’d make sure it uses commonly available tooling and that would mean R8 to me. Good luck !
     
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  5. Someoldguy

    Someoldguy Guest

    Thank you for the replies. A Bridgeport is what I was thinking about, but I thought I'd ask here and see if I was overlooking another obvious option.

    Thanks again for the input.
     
  6. Daveinjax

    Daveinjax Silver $$ Contributor

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    Someoldguy , I looked at your profile and see you’re east of Kansas City. Lots of auctions within a days drive of you. Get on bidspotter and then put in Bridgeport on your watch list and you’ll get an email every time one comes up. I’d put Index in my watched list also. Or just put milling machine. Go to a couple of auctions and see what you find.
     
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  7. Someoldguy

    Someoldguy Guest

    Thanks for the tip!
     
  8. Daveinjax

    Daveinjax Silver $$ Contributor

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    Warning about auctions. You need to have discipline and patience. Decide what the item is worth to you before you start bidding and stick to your price. Be sure to get a quote on moving the item if it’s too big to pickup and walk out with. Add that price and the auction premium to your total so you know what you are spending. It’s easy to get carried away at an auction and overpay.
     
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  9. boltfluter

    boltfluter Gold $$ Contributor

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    Sharp makes a very nice Bridgeport clone. I would add this to your list of descent mills to consider. :D:D

    Paul
     
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  10. JohnMill

    JohnMill Gold $$ Contributor

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    You will find no sense in having too small a mill,, believe me. You can find yourself going through all kinds of gyrations to make up for lack of table travel.
     
  11. Someoldguy

    Someoldguy Guest

    That's pretty much what I've gathered. Guess I'd better just keep looking and saving pennies.
     
  12. wyop

    wyop

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    Here's a thought that keeps the price down on a Bridgeport:

    Look around for a Bridgeport with a step-pulley "J" head These are the mills that have four speeds in straight gear, four speeds in back gear, and you have to change a belt position in the head to change speeds.

    Lots of people are looking for the Series I Bridgeports with the variable speed heads. If you put a VFD onto a step-pulley Bridgeport, you can have a cheap, variable speed mill. These came in 9x42 table sizes.

    Installing a DRO isn't that difficult a job. I tend to favor DRO's with magnetic scales, as opposed to the glass scales. But both work.
     
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  13. butchlambert

    butchlambert Site $$ Sponsor

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    They also come in 36" tables and also a longer table, but I don't remember the long table dimensions. The DRO and VFD are great additions.
     
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  14. wyop

    wyop

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    Butch, I think Bridgeports might have been available in 9x49" dimensions, but I'm not sure whether the step-pulley J head machine were available like this, or just the "Series 1" machines.
     
  15. butchlambert

    butchlambert Site $$ Sponsor

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    You are correct about the 49" table, I think I saw one on a J Head step pulley. I wouldn't bet a paycheck on it though.
     
  16. Dusty Stevens

    Dusty Stevens COVFEFE- Thread Derail Crew Gold $$ Contributor

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    I have a 49” step pulley model. 1976 was the year my dads former plant bought it for their maintenance shop. No power feeds, variable speeds or dro made it rarely used as opposed to the other one fully equipped right next to it.
     
  17. shortgrass

    shortgrass

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    If I was looking for a vertical mill for my home shop or small gunsmithing business I'd not get hung-up on the Bridgeport name brand. Yes, Bridgeport is a good mill that many consider to be the standard. But after 40+ yrs of machining I've used mills with the brand name Sharp, Lagun, Acer, Clausing, Seiki XL, Index, Wells/Index and Gorton, as well as true Bridgeports, and a few others. The Gortons were "fixed head" machines, but any of the others had all the adjustments on the head that a Bridgeport has, and I'd be comfortable and happy with any of them for gunsmithing/tool room work. I'd be looking for the all the mill I had the room for in the shop. My preference would be one with a 10 x 54 table, as you can do 'small work' on a big table but it's more difficult to do "big" work on a smaller table. But I could, and I do live with a Index with a smaller table in my shop. When buying, condition is everything. End up with a mill that has 4-5hp and you have a "hoss". R8 is pretty common but there's nothing wrong with a CAT40 or CAT50. I'd not let the fact that a nice mill I was looking at had one of the CAT tapers instead of R8, unless I already had a bunch of R8 tool holders. And thinking of tool holding, I'll opt for a tool holder over a collet any day. A lot of the CNC mills have CAT40-50 taper. They won't have if there was something 'wrong' with CAT tapers.
     
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  18. wyop

    wyop

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    I agree with everything you've said here. The issue for some people will be the size and mass of a mill that uses CAT 40 or 50 spindle tapers; They're usually beefy machines. I'd expect most any machine with a Cat 40 spindle to weigh at least 4,000 lbs. For someone who has the room and the floor capable of holding the weight, a mill that uses Cat 50 tooling will often be cheaper (and the tooling cheaper) than the Cat 40 stuff, at least from my experience browsing in used machine tooling shops. No one seems to want those machines any more.

    The R-8 collet system really is pretty weak stuff - it isn't able to transmit the full 2HP of a typical Bridgeport-style mill to the cutter held in a R-8 collet all that well. The reason why we see CNC machines use the Cat 40's and 50's is that a Cat (NMTB) style collet can transmit real power into the tool - like upwards of 20 HP worth of power. R8's have long since started slipping at 5 HP. Bridgeport-style mills are just not that rigid a machine. I like the Sharp version of the Bridgeport-style mill - they're a tad better built and they're more solid in how you can lock up the head's pivot functions.

    Also agree about not getting hung up on the Bridgeport name. I'm unsure how much people would want me to prattle on about machine tool makes and quirks, so I just stuck to answering the question. Gorton mills aren't shown much love in the hobby market, so their prices tend to give excellent bang:buck. Same deal with K&T mills, my favorite in beefy horizontal/vertical mills. One day, in my new shop, I'll have a K&T #2 or #3 mill added to my collection. My wife isn't looking forward to the day I die and she has to figure out how to get all this metal back off the property... ;)

    For folks who have never seen a "real" mill go to work: You should make some time to snoop around Youtube and look for videos showing a horizontal mill (with optional vertical head attachment) and look at how much those mills can hog off in one pass. That takes rigidity as well as power. Bridgeport-style mills don't have that kind of rigidity, but in gunsmithing, we're rarely taking heavy cuts. Rigidity also gives you better surface finishes - surface finish is a function of tool sharpness, speed, feed, and then the mass/rigidity of the machine. Small, "floppy" machines like a Bridgeport have to take light cuts due to their R8 spindle and lack of mass. Sadly, those monster mills get tossed into the scrap pile at $0.30/pound all too often. If you have the room and desire to learn how to operate a "real mill," you can get screaming bargains on these monsters from the WWII era if you can haul them away. NB that you might be picking up a machine that weighs 6,000 to 12,000 pounds to get this bargain, however.
     
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  19. liljoe

    liljoe Silver $$ Contributor

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    I own a Gorton mill. Bought it pretty cheap and gave it some love. It has a NT30 taper.
    Joe Hynes
     
  20. theallcineyes

    theallcineyes

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    I have owned a 60's vintage 9 x 42 Bridgeport and cant say enough about it.I wish I still had it. It was well used when I purchased it, and had its quirks, but I was still able to do what I considered precision work with it. Something to keep in mind, tons of parts available for a Bridgeport. DRO is nice, not a necessity in imho. And with 10K to spend, you should be able to end up with a lightly used Bridgeport, with DRO and a ton of tooling!

    Good luck in your quest and enjoy whatever you end up with!
     

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