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Homemade vertical mill drill

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matthewsx

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Well, I guess I'm gonna try to make myself a mill for cheap.

I found this column on Craigslist for $80.

column.jpeg

And I ordered this spindle I can power with a VFD I already have.

s-l1600.jpg

And I'm going to get one of these cheap x-y milling tables.

milling_table.jpg

And probably look for a really flat piece of C channel steel about 18" wide for a base.

c-channel.jpeg

What do you think?

Cheers,

John
 

matthewsx

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I should have less than $500 into it and hopefully better capability than a cheap mini-mill. I can make it CNC later if I want to as well.

One of the things I'm concerned about is attaching to my base with enough rigidity. Currently it has an aluminum plate with three 1/4" screws holding it on. What I'll probably do is weld a thick-walled square tube to the base and cross bolt it down. Some well placed screws should allow for tramming it to the table.

I'll post more pictures as I go and probably be asking questions of the members here.

Cheers,

John
 

matthewsx

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Take a look at the design for the Taig mill. Might give you a few ideas. Taig Tools
Those are cool little machines for sure;)

Obviously the biggest area I'm compromising on is the x-y table. I wanted to use an American made CNC stage but anything close to the size I will need is prohibitively expensive. I've read some of the tutorials for how to make these cheap tables perform, and since it will just be bolted down I could eventually replace it if I can't get the accuracy I want.

I'm not a very good machinist so I see reconditioning and building tools as a way to improve. I just finished my lathe mounted milling attachment

millattch.jpeg

and cut my first really ugly slot in a shaft. Doing that convinced me to try something bigger.


Cheers,

John
 

MontanaLon

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You have to wonder how the first mill or lathe for that matter was made without benefit of either a mill or a lathe. It is one of those things that keeps me awake at night. If they were able to do it, then it is possible so what is stopping me?
 

Submachine

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I did something similar but I picked up a yusa xy table. 10 times the quality of the one you are going to use. I got lucky and only paid 125 for it.

Your work looks great
Sub
 

DiscoDan

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Too bad we aren't closer. I recently picked up an x/y table that came from a Burke #4 bench mill. It was a knee mill and they cut it off at the z-handle. Nice piece. Just needs a new y-axis nut. Keep an eye out for something similar. Those ebay specials leave a lot to be desired.
 

matthewsx

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I did something similar but I picked up a yusa xy table. 10 times the quality of the one you are going to use. I got lucky and only paid 125 for it.

Your work looks great
Sub
Thanks,

I didn't actually build the little compound in the photo, just figured out how to get it mounted to my qctp. The eBay seller turned down my offer on the x-y table so that may be a sign....

John
 

matthewsx

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Too bad we aren't closer. I recently picked up an x/y table that came from a Burke #4 bench mill. It was a knee mill and they cut it off at the z-handle. Nice piece. Just needs a new y-axis nut. Keep an eye out for something similar. Those ebay specials leave a lot to be desired.
Hi DiscoDan,

Maybe we can work something out, how much does it weigh?

John
 

matthewsx

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You have to wonder how the first mill or lathe for that matter was made without benefit of either a mill or a lathe. It is one of those things that keeps me awake at night. If they were able to do it, then it is possible so what is stopping me?
Two appropriately spaced trees and some animal gut I've read;)
 

ThinWoodsman

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One of the things I'm concerned about is attaching to my base with enough rigidity. Currently it has an aluminum plate with three 1/4" screws holding it on. What I'll probably do is weld a thick-walled square tube to the base and cross bolt it down. Some well placed screws should allow for tramming it to the table.
The way the Taig handles it is one bolt going through the center of a round bearing surface - allowing the column to tilt, but also making it east to knock out of trap. The column and the base are square tubing, maybe 2-3" (I haven't checked). The table is bolted into the base.

A weld would certainly work, but you should consider at leat bolt-then-weld. You don't want that getting knocked a hair out of alignment during welding - the base wouldbe aligned to the column, but the table wouldn't.

Obviously the biggest area I'm compromising on is the x-y table. I
Check out the scraping threads on this forum. Way too much skill involved to just dive into, but it gives you a look at what's possible down the road.

The table will be fine for milling, but not very precise. I'd be surprised if the one I have on my drill press holds 0.005. Should get you started though, and any engineering process is one of continual refinement.
 

DiscoDan

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Hi DiscoDan,

Maybe we can work something out, how much does it weigh?

John
Hey John, I see you are in Elk Rapids. I'm not from MI but I did graduate from WMU in 1988.

The table is currently in pieces. I was going to clean it up and paint it and try to replace the y-axis nut or try to fix it because it is different than ones I have seen before and probably not easily obtainable. A guy on ebay is parting out a machine and wants $100 just for the nut and no guarantee it will be any better. I think this one could be bored out and insert a new piece of brass/bronze and then re-threaded. Let me see if I can figure out a shipping cost. It is heavy, so probably pretty expensive.
 

DiscoDan

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I will try and get some pics today but one thing to be aware of is that it is a single t-slot table.
 

ericc

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I am trying to do the semi-homemade mill thing on the cheap too. I started out with a drill press and an import XY table. I think that I paid too much attention to the Internet naysayers who warned that the chuck would come off due to side loading. It never did, but all kinds of other bad things happened. The main problem was the quality of the import XY table. I am now using a Burke table, just like discodan, but this is still a little bit sloppy. I have to take a good look at the gibs. The other problem was the Z movement and tram. Anyway, the setup is making real parts which are doing real work, so that's good. My next step is to put a better vertical head on the machine. I just got a junk wood lathe headstock...
 

matthewsx

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I am trying to do the semi-homemade mill thing on the cheap too. I started out with a drill press and an import XY table. I think that I paid too much attention to the Internet naysayers who warned that the chuck would come off due to side loading. It never did, but all kinds of other bad things happened. The main problem was the quality of the import XY table. I am now using a Burke table, just like discodan, but this is still a little bit sloppy. I have to take a good look at the gibs. The other problem was the Z movement and tram. Anyway, the setup is making real parts which are doing real work, so that's good. My next step is to put a better vertical head on the machine. I just got a junk wood lathe headstock...
Yes, I did the angular bearing and er32 collet chuck held in with a set screw mod to my drill press. But I still need the press for making holes in stuff and was wary about putting too much more into it. When I found the column I figured why not give it a try. The powered spindle is key for my build since I don’t have to worry about tool holding or pulleys and belts.

Did you cut down your column and mount the table on the base?

Cheers,

John
 

DiscoDan

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John, I forgot that you can see pics under another of my posts titled
Identify my tool flea market finds
 

matthewsx

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I just went to the local steel supplier and picked up some off cuts. The idea is to weld a section of the 3” od square tubing to the channel at a 90 deg. angle and slide the column over that. I’ll secure it with bolts and have screws going into tapped holes in the column that I can use for fine adjustment. Whatever xy table I end up with will bolt down to a base fabricated from the c channel.

Cheers,

John
 

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matthewsx

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I will try and get some pics today but one thing to be aware of is that it is a single t-slot table.
Yes, I probably want a little larger table. I’m still hoping to find something from a decommissioned CNC machine that I can adapt.

Another possibility would be a combination rotary/x-y table.
 

ericc

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...
Did you cut down your column and mount the table on the base?

Cheers,

John
I used the whole horizontal mill and put a vertical head on the overarm. Somebody hit the horizontal drive countershaft with a tractor.
 

DiscoDan

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ericc, just curious what head you used? I own a Pratt & Whitney 3C bench horizontal mill and I want a vertical head. I am actually gathering parts for a home-made version based on some I have seen on Youtube.

Thx
 

matthewsx

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I used the whole horizontal mill and put a vertical head on the overarm. Somebody hit the horizontal drive countershaft with a tractor.
Ok, I thought you still had the drill press setup....
 

matthewsx

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The main problem was the quality of the import XY table.
Hi Ericc,

I'm wondering how much worse these are than the tables on a cheap mill/drill from China? Did you try and tighten things up on the one you had, or just use it as shipped?

BTW, I'm originally from Cupertino....

Thanks,

John
 

DiscoDan

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Guys, I should also weigh in on drill press conversions. I bought a vintage Craftsman from a dude that had replaced the bearings and kept it in great shape. It came with a Craftsman collet chuck typically used for cutting wood or plastics. I bought a Shars x-y table and tried milling some aluminum. It cut but I was not impressed at all. The Shars table has heft to it but is not very precise. It definitely needs taking apart, cleaning up and deburring, and lots of adjustment. That's why I recommended finding a table like I have from Burke. It's OK for drilling holes but not for milling.
 

mickri

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I am pretty sure you don't want to hear this but I would search long and hard for a used off brand mill, even a mill/drill, before I would ever try to make one. You will be $$$$$ ahead in the long run and have a better, more accurate mill. I have seen used off brand mills sell for little more than scrap value because 1) people are fixated on bridgeports and CNC mills and 2) mills are heavy and expensive to move if you have to pay someone to move it. IMHO unless you are a very skilled machinist/fabricator I think that it would be very hard to even duplicate the accuracy of a round column mill/drill in a home made mill.

I paid around $500 for my round column Excel 31 mill/drill. The table is smooth and accurate in both the x&y directions and I don't seem to have flex or movement in the head when milling. The quil is accurate in the z direction. With careful planning I have not had to raise the head to change tools. There is no way that I could have cobbled together a home made mill that would have been anywhere near as precise as my mill/drill.

Maybe I am missing something here.
 

matthewsx

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I am pretty sure you don't want to hear this but I would search long and hard for a used off brand mill, even a mill/drill, before I would ever try to make one. You will be $$$$$ ahead in the long run and have a better, more accurate mill. I have seen used off brand mills sell for little more than scrap value because 1) people are fixated on bridgeports and CNC mills and 2) mills are heavy and expensive to move if you have to pay someone to move it. IMHO unless you are a very skilled machinist/fabricator I think that it would be very hard to even duplicate the accuracy of a round column mill/drill in a home made mill.

I paid around $500 for my round column Excel 31 mill/drill. The table is smooth and accurate in both the x&y directions and I don't seem to have flex or movement in the head when milling. The quil is accurate in the z direction. With careful planning I have not had to raise the head to change tools. There is no way that I could have cobbled together a home made mill that would have been anywhere near as precise as my mill/drill.

Maybe I am missing something here.
No, I don't think you're missing anything.

My old mill was a Gorton 1-22 that I got for just being able to haul it away so I know what a real unit looks like. I'm well aware that what I'm attempting is a challenge but I don't have to make high precision parts right away and my current space limits me to something no bigger than the Rong Fu units that sometimes pop up for what I expect to spend on my project.

I could also buy something new if I really wanted to but honestly, if I just needed to get parts made I have a great local machine shop that can do anything I want for less than it costs me to do it in-house.

I've spent far more on less satisfying things in life so why not give it a try, I know when to stop if it's going sideways and I can probably sell the parts I have to someone else for what I've got into it. But thanks for being a voice of reason, we need more of those;)

Cheers,

John
 

ThinWoodsman

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Actually sounds like a fun project - determine how much of a mill's capability you actually need, and build that. If you stumble across a great price on the perfect mill, you can disassemble the home-made one and fashion a tool cutter grinder out of it or something.

So, those X-Y tables. I have one bolted the drill press table (one of them Porter Cable floor jobs), with a drill press vise bolted to it. The vise and the drill press table introduce so much imprecision themselves that it's difficult to determine how sloppy the X-Y table is. It was pretty bad until I took it apart, cleaned/stoned the ways and tightened the gibs. If I have the drill table locked and trammed, then the X-Y table will hold to a straight (scribed) line for drilling multiple holes, and is repeatable. I think this is the one I got: https://www.shars.com/products/workholding/machining-tables/compact-machine-slide-table . I can chuck up some drill rod and measure the runout of the T-slots if you're curious, but it you'll probably be going with the larger model (https://www.shars.com/products/workholding/machining-tables/heavy-duty-mill-drill-table) so the information won'tbe very helpful.

The main thing you're going to have trouble with is rigidity. I'm sure you've seen the gingery stuff, made out of cast concrete. I'm a little hesitant to trust something as brittle as concrete for the entire casting, but filling large-diameter square tubing with concrete should do the trick. Use lots of down pins to join the frame together so that the load isn't entirely on the weld.
 

ericc

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ericc, just curious what head you used? I own a Pratt & Whitney 3C bench horizontal mill and I want a vertical head. I am actually gathering parts for a home-made version based on some I have seen on Youtube.

Thx
Hi Dan. The head I used first was a Harbor Freight rotary tool with a speed control and 1/8" end mills. I lost the 1/4" collet, and I think that this was good, since this setup is marginal for the larger end mills. I am trying to graft a more substantial head that should be able to run larger end mills. It will be made from the headstock of a wood lathe. Once I got past that stupid xy vise, which is barely adequate for a drill press vise, the setup could make good parts.
 

ericc

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Hi Ericc,

I'm wondering how much worse these are than the tables on a cheap mill/drill from China? Did you try and tighten things up on the one you had, or just use it as shipped?

BTW, I'm originally from Cupertino....

Thanks,

John
I think that they must be much worse, since I see good work coming out of the Chinese import mill drills. Although I don't personally know anyone who owns one, from indications on the Internet, their main problem is the column rigidity. The problem about the XY vise is that the dovetails are not precise. They are NOT machine slides. If you tighten them enough to bind, they will still rack and ruin the part. They need to be tuned up, and they are so imprecise that even a cold chisel would be better than nothing. They are not even good for lining up a drill location, since the gibs must be so loose that the whole thing wobbles when the drill point hits the punch mark. If you tighten them, they shift and the drill point gets bent. The main reason I have one on my drill press is that they keep the metal from spinning dangerously if the drill point catches. They are not even flat on the bottom, so if you put a piece of material on parallels, it will drill off square. Correct me if I am wrong, but it is possible to drill square on a Chinese mill drill, right?
 

mattthemuppet2

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I would skip the XY table completely and go with linear rails. Make your own table!
 
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