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How Good Are the Chinese Mills?

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Tony Wells

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#1
My feeling on it is that the lower cost imported machines in general were purchased primarily on price by shops that knew they weren't high quality machines to begin with and they wouldn't lose much using it roughly, or even abusing it. I know of a couple of shops that bought cheap for a specific job and once it was done, they sold it off. They treated it like consumable tooling, and in so doing, neglected maintenance and really didn't care if it were abused, as long as it made the contract. So I'd be wary of a used low end machine that came from a production shop.

In some shops, perhaps they ended up deciding they would move up a notch or two and are selling to upgrade. In that case, it might be a sweet deal, as long as you know what you are getting. In themselves, for hobby use, as long as they are on decent shape, there's nothing wrong with any of them. But, be cautious on older low end import machines, as parts may be impossible to get, should the need arise.

If you don't want a restoration project, buy a used import to get in the game, then decide if it serves your purposes and needs. Later, when you have more experience, you may decide you need more machine. Then you won't be under time constraints, and can save up and then sell off the entry level machine to add to the fund.
 

randyjaco

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#2
If it is in your budget, get the Bridgeport type and bypass the others.

Randy
 

brucer

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generally the machines i see being sold are from people that didnt know what they were getting into from the start....

dont get me wrong the mill/drills serve their purpose.... but if you want to mill, save your money and buy a mill and not a mill/drill...

you dont really want a round column mill or mill/drill, they can be a pain... when you go to a dovetail or square column type mill the cost goes up drastically and there is a reason for it...

for instance, i was looking at purchasing a mill earlier this year, i've wanted one for a long time... i looked at the import mill/drills and also the import 3/4 size mills, when you go to the 1/2 or 3/4 size mills with dovetail column the cost triples and your not getting anywhere the machine that you would get if you spent the same money on a used bridgeport..

with all this being said, i've seen good import mills, but you have to inspect them under power and make sure you know what your buying... i've seen good full size import mills sell from $800 and up, i missed an old Yuasa that looked brand new with vise,collets, sony readouts for $1200.. i would have jumped all over it, but it was 6hrs away, the guy was wanting it gone quick, and i would have had to get a hotel room plus it had snowed like 4 inches that night so i let it go...

i think i did better than the yuasa mill though...
i bought my 1972 bridgeport for $1500, and it was in pretty good condition, i probably could have done better if i looked a bit longer, but it was 40miles from me, the guy held it for me, plus he loaded it for me.

pic of my mill below..., i've been thinking about painting it white :)

if you can afford it go for a full size mill, if you use it you wont be sorry..

IMG00409-20110614-2341.jpg
 
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brucer

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i looked through my phone and found a pic of an old cinncinati toolmaster mill i went and looked at earlier this year... initially the guy was asking $1500 for it, i went and looked at it and knew i could do alot better for the money....
i told him i wasnt interested, when i told him what i did for a living as i was getting ready to leave the guy dropped the price, he came down $500 real quick, i probably could have got it for $800... he said he wouldnt go below $1000, but if i flashed cash i bet he would have, he was acting desperate, like mortgage payment desperate.. i would have bought his mill before i would have bought a mill/drill though... i thought about offering $700 to see if he would go for it but i decided not to..

a person could've bought that mill and added a vfd to it and it would make a nice 3/4 size mill, it was a solid machine with little backlash..

IMG00354-20110203-1509.jpg
 
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randyjaco

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#5
Brucer,
You may want to rethink painting your mill or any tool white. White looks good initially, but in use it always looks dirty and cutting oils and lubes will stain it. Go with gray or a darker color. You will be happier with it in a year or two.
I have a white mill and it looks like hell, no matter how much I clean it.

Randy
 

Zigeuner

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#6
Whyemier link=topic=3189.msg22861#msg22861 date=1313967501 said:
I've been looking at Milling Machines, with an eye on knowing the going price when I decide to buy somewhere down the road. I see a lot of Enco, Rong Fu, and similar types for sale in the $300-$900 range.

Are they any good or would I be purchasing someone Else's problems?
Can they mill steel or are they only good for Aluminum, brass and plastic?

For $500-$1000 more I can purchase a used Bridgeport 'type' (of unknown ancestry) or a horizontal Cincinnati 'type' (also a redheaded stepchild). They are available here in Florida from time-to time but might need some rebuild or search for missing parts. I'm willing to do that if I need to. I'd also have to invest a long weekend in travel there and back to pick them up. Then also the countless weekends getting them set-up/rebuilt.

But some of the Chinese types have shown up here on the Florida market and if they're any good I'd consider one.
Without regard to where the machine is built, I would try to get a mill that doesn't have a round columm. That leaves out most of the small so-called "mill-drills". I owned an Enco Mill-Drill for about ten years and it worked fairly well for aluminum and brass. It wasn't rigid enough for cutting heavy steel parts.

Although it had an R-8 spindle, whenever you needed to change height for a different tool, you would lose your tram setting. At that point you would need to re-indicate to be exactly where you were at the previous tool height.

The other issue was changing speeds. The belt system was rather annoying since it required a wrench and five minutes of fiddling to change speeds. This is not the case on the Bridgeport type with belt and pulley drives since there is a quick release and they can change speeds quickly. The variable speed units are even easier to use.

It at all possible, I'd opt for a Bridgeport style. After years of looking, I found a Webb mill about two years ago. It was built in Taiwan in 1987 and the company is a goping concern with parts warehouses and technical support in California and Nevada. I needed parts to convert it back from a CNC machine to a manual and all of the parts were readily availabe. That's an important factor.

A budget of aobut $2,000 should put you into a machine which will last you a lifetime, especially for home hobby work. I use my Webb nearly every day and it's already paid for itself with ease of operation, accuracy and power.

JMO.
 
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brucer

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#7
watch craigslist and ebay.... dont buy from a used equipment dealer, they usually sell way to high..
also if you have any of those "for sale" type monthly papers, here its called Thirfty Nickel.. you might call around to a couple local machine shops/mold shops/tool&die shops, they might have something available in storage, alot of places sell older machines to rotate newer technology into the shop, they will also be in the know of tooling/machinery in the area probably....

Practical Machinist forums For Sale section is also a good place to look..

you should be able to get a good solid functioning usable bridgeport or bridgeport clone for $1000-$2500... just inspect it under power. if i had to do over again i would get readouts with the mill, it'll make the price higher, but readouts are expensive and its easier to just get one with readouts already..

keep us updated, if i see anything that looks good i'll pass it along...
 

cyrusb

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#8
Something you have not mentioned but bears heavily on your choice is what are your plans? Watchmaking? Toymaking, Bulldozers? Trying to make small things on large slow speed machinery is a pain, if not impossible. And of course, the reverse applies. Try not to buy more machine than you need.
 

Zigeuner

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1200rpm link=topic=3189.msg23033#msg23033 date=1314065990 said:
that`s it! i forgot the 7- ZAY7032G
It appears to have a geared head. That's an advantage in that it can multiply torque somewhat. As I said, I used a round column Enco with belt drive for some 10 years. I made lots of things with it, too. I sold mine for $500 after I got "Bridgeportamania" and I guess I priced it too low on Craigslist because I had 15 calls after I sold it, LOL.

In one regard, I wish I had kept it. It was an OK mill but an absoutely superb drill press. I have an old Craftsmen drill press but it was nowhere as good as the Enco. We live and learn. :)
 
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Zigeuner

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1200rpm link=topic=3189.msg23046#msg23046 date=1314090701 said:
one of these days i`d like to get a used 3/4 size knee mill but the prices on new have really shot up- heck the one i have seems to sell for around $2000 now. i would not pay that much for one. at that price i would find a BP style.
don`t completely rule out a horizontal- i don`t know about your area but they pop up for decent prices sometimes.
a lot of guys seem to really like the grizzly/shop fox 6x21 bench mills- they are a nice size for a small shop and weigh around 450 lbs.
like Zig said the bench mills are great drill presses if you decide to eventually move up.
another thing is the inexpensive imports(note i did not say cheap!) won`t be around much longer i`m afraid, the price on the HF 8X14 lathe has gone from $450 to $1000 in a little over a year. it was a great little lathe for $450 but not for $1000 :)
Yeah, from the standpoint of utility, I'm sorry I sold the old Enco. It was very useful for drilling and boring as well as long as you didn't have too many setups. It would have fit nicely on a bench, too, even though I had the metal base for it. Shoulda, Woulda Coulda, etc. , you know "seller's remorse". I don't sell anything anymore now.

As to 3/4 Knee mills, those are truly few and far between. I've never even seen one in the flesh in Sacramento. I would have liked a smaller mill since the Webb is really huge and it weighs in at 3,500 pounds. But I had to jump when heard about it and I'll just have to deal with it. Fortunately I have a 24 X 36 foot barn in which to play. LOL.

Mr. Enco, ca. 1998.
 

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Highpower

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#12
1200rpm link=topic=3189.msg23046#msg23046 date=1314090701 said:
one of these days i`d like to get a used 3/4 size knee mill but the prices on new have really shot up- heck the one i have seems to sell for around $2000 now. i would not pay that much for one. at that price i would find a BP style.
-----<snip>-----
another thing is the inexpensive imports(note i did not say cheap!) won`t be around much longer i`m afraid, the price on the HF 8X14 lathe has gone from $450 to $1000 in a little over a year. it was a great little lathe for $450 but not for $1000 :)
I know what you mean. I bought my Enco mill three years ago, (brand new) paid $2480, and got free freight. Today the very same mill sells for $4700 plus freight! :wowed:
Has interest in these machines really grown that much in the last couple of years or what? confused4.gif
All I know is I am mighty glad I got my foot in the door when I did!
 
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cyrusb

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I don't know if the interest in machines has gone up, but the dollar has sure gone down.
 

kike

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#14
Hello everybody !! : I have two years ago this popular in Europe chinese machine (mill-drill ) and I satisfied,it is enough by quality-price I paid new condition 1200 Euro,for this price I know can not ask for more.
sorry my english
regardas Enrique
 

george wilson

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I haven't had the (dubious) pleasure of using a mainland Chinese mill. I did buy a Valumaster 42" table Bridgeport clone for my shop at my former job. I sent it back. When I moved a dial indicator ACROSS the table,it showed that the table was something like 2 3/4 thousanths higher at the front edge than at the rear. Some bias is expected,but that was just way too much. A bunch of trouble getting the heavy thing back onto the pallet,and wrapping it up with plastic wrapping(the same way it was received).

I have had 2 Asian mills,but both are Taiwan made. I encourage all to pay the extra money and get one of Taiwan origin. My first was a round column,which I used for a few years. It did o.k.,but was not possible to keep trammed in due to the column bending some as the head was raised or lowered. The one I have now,I got in 1986. A Bridgy clone. It has been so satisfactory,I haven't bothered to replace it with a real Bridgy. I had its brother at work,too,where it was used much harder. Never had an issue with it,and the table is dead parallel with the cross travel.

When I sent the Valumaster back to MSC,they made me a deal on a more expensive and larger Taiwan made mill. I had bought a lot of other machines and tooling from them.
 

brucer

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i agree with george... seems like alot of the taiwanese mills are of better quality than straight up made in china machines..
 

george wilson

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#17
I bought 2 Bridgy WMC mills from Wilke Machinery Co. in York,Pa. One for work,and 1 for my home shop, They no longer sell machinery,though. Don't know why. There was a German guy in Newport News selling exactly the same mill,but with the name "Newport" stuck ion the ram. He was asking $6000.00 for them in 1986. Mine cost about $3500.00 at the time.

This con man told me that they took the machines apart and reworked them. His head "engineer",an English guy took me aside and told me that they did NOTHING to those machines. They were left in their crates and sold.

Both the mills I bought are step pulley mills. I haven't found a variable speed import that runs as smooth as I'd like. Wish it was a 3 phase machine,and I'd put a VFD on it. At the time I bought it,the VFD's weren't as known as now,and they have come down in cost a lot over the years. So,I bought both mills as 1 phase.
 

Zigeuner

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#18
george wilson link=topic=3189.msg23226#msg23226 date=1314230669 said:
I bought 2 Bridgy WMC mills from Wilke Machinery Co. in York,Pa. One for work,and 1 for my home shop, They no longer sell machinery,though. Don't know why. There was a German guy in Newport News selling exactly the same mill,but with the name "Newport" stuck ion the ram. He was asking $6000.00 for them in 1986. Mine cost about $3500.00 at the time.

This con man told me that they took the machines apart and reworked them. His head "engineer",an English guy took me aside and told me that they did NOTHING to those machines. They were left in their crates and sold.

Both the mills I bought are step pulley mills. I haven't found a variable speed import that runs as smooth as I'd like. Wish it was a 3 phase machine,and I'd put a VFD on it. At the time I bought it,the VFD's weren't as known as now,and they have come down in cost a lot over the years. So,I bought both mills as 1 phase.
I agree that the step pulley machines are generally very quiet, at least the ones I've used. That said, the variable machines can be made to run smoothly. When I got my Webb Champ, it was noisy in high range at speed (It has a range from 60 to 4,000 rpm). I also discovered that the downfeed was not working. I disassembled the head and replaced a broken gear and its mate as well as all of the sheave bushings and both belts, the main and the timing belt. It's very smooth and quiet now. It was built in Taiwan in 1987. I was lucky to find it.

The Webb has a 3 hp 3 ph motor. I run my machine it using a 5 hp RPC that I built. If it had been a step pulley machine, I would probably have used a VFD, although I like the simplicity of an RPC.

I also agree that there are a few con men running around when it comes to used machinery. I met a few of them in the past ten years. Fortunately there are some straight shooters too.

Mr Webb. :)

WebbSmall.jpg

The broken gear. I replaced the mate even though it was unbroken since this one had several missing teeth so I wasn't going to take a chance. Replacing parts in a Bridgeport style down feed is akin to brain surgery. It's not for the faint of heart. LOL.

WebbFeedBevelPinionB.jpg

The infamous worm cradle with its new gears. It took me a half a day to get to this point. LOL.

WebbWormCradleA.jpg
 
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Zigeuner

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#19
Whyemier link=topic=3189.msg23228#msg23228 date=1314234747 said:
Not being familiar with these type mills, which ones are Taiwanese? What names should I be looking for? I take it those with a cylidrical column should be avoided. So the question coming from my ignorance is this. Is there a square or rectangular column?
Hi, you posted this while I was writing. Sure, there are square column mills that are small and compact. Grizzly sells some of them and they can be very good, although if you buy new, you will pay as much as a used Bridgport or clone.

There are a few larger machines that are made in Taiwan and elsewhere. Lagun is, I think made in Spain and they are very good. The larger (10X50) Grizzlys' are (I think) made in Taiwan and are nearly identical to my Webb which as I mentioned is from Taiwan. If you look closely at Grizzly's pictures on their larger mills, you will see that there is a large "M" cast into the base behind the table. I was told by the Webb rep that this stands for Meehanite process, which is a licensed process for making high grade cast iron.

Harley Davidson, AJS, Matchless, BSA and Triumph all used Meehanite in their flywheels for many years.

As a general rule the smaller the machine series, the more likely that it was built in R.O.C. This is not bad in my opinion. You have to take in on a case by case basis and search out reviews and comments.

The problem with the new Webbs or similar Grizzlys, laguns, Acers, and the like is that they are in the $10,000 range for new. I looked for ten years for a decent Bridgeport and finally found the machine I have for $1,500. It was a CNC machine and the computer was gone. I modified it back to a manual machine and that cost another $1,000 for parts from Webb doing all of the labor myself. Fortunately I was able to do this.

The nice part is that I got a machine with ball screws. Some say this is bad on a manual but all you have to remember to do is to lock the table each time you make a cut. On the god side, there is zero lash on the Y and about .005 on the X so I can't complain.

I would keep looking for a Bridgeport or equivalent were I you. They make a great hobby machine for sure and they are not all that hard to fix. Parts, data and support are all readily available, too,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meehanite
 
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george wilson

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#20
ANY,repeat,ANY machine made in Taiwan is advertised as such,especially by Grizzly. Read their ad for the machine in question. Usually says MADE IN TAIWAN in bold letters. They cost more,too. The most expensive lathes that Grizzly sells are also made in Taiwan.

If I recall correctly,these Taiwan made machines are usually among the larger machines,though I am sure that all sizes are made there. Seems like Grizzly only sells their larger sizes.

I was lucky to get mine before Taiwan became premium priced. My 16" x 40" Grizzly lathe was a very cheap machine,at about $3000.00,and it was Taiwan at the time. These days,you won't get Taiwan at a low price.

There is no doubt among those who know,that Taiwan made machines are much better than Chinese. Taiwan has been at it a lot longer. Eventually,when China gets its' act together better,their machines will be premium,and some cheaper country will move into the bottom rung. Japan used to be there. Now,their stuff is VERY expensive.
 

george wilson

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#21
IF you get a horizontal mill with a small size taper,you can make your own arbors. My first mill was an Atlas with a #2 Morse taper arbor. I just made my own. Next,I had a Burke #4. It had a #9 Brown and Sharpe taper. Again,I made my own arbors. Then,I got a round column vertical mill,then my Bridgy type. However,I also have a nice Harrison Universal(table swivels) Horizontal mill. It has #30 tapers. Luckily,I was able to get them fairly cheap from Wholesale Tool at the time. My Deckle fp1 uses #40 tapers. I have a few arbors for it,but to tell the truth,I use my Bridgy for just about everything. Just used to it.
 

Zigeuner

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#22
Whyemier link=topic=3189.msg23306#msg23306 date=1314315656 said:
Just saw this on Craigs'list. $850, Just down the road from me so delivery is not a problem. Just don't know what the reviews on this would be. It is made in Taiwan and virtually unused if the guy is to be believed. HMmmm?


http://Tampa.craigslist.org/hdo/tls/2564789287.html

New Central Machinery milling machine 2 horse power motor. Mill was bought many years ago by a friends father. The mill was taken appart to get it into basement and never put back together. So it sat for many years.

My friend gave me the mill and I cleaned all the cosmilene and old grease off the mill and put it back together and it is working as it should. I have the draw bar and drill mandrel installed on the mill.

Items missing ( drill chuck, collets, the stand, and vice, but I am adding a vice I used on my drill press). When new it was $1499.00 from Harbor Fright. I can deliver, call and we will talk...Brian


•Location: Spring hill
That's the very same machne that I had for about ten years. I paid $750 on sale from Harbor Freight in the crate on sale in 1995 or so. It's OK, but I can't see $850 on one. I sold mine for $500 about three years ago.
 
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cyrusb

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#23
I think $500 is perfect, plus it's close. Spring Hill huh? I have a condo in Timber Oaks.
 

cyrusb

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That machine looks at least 20 years old if it's a day. Your wife is right, $600 tops. Plus it looks like you have the upper hand, being the only one in Spring Hill who could actually pick it up. Yeah , New Yorkers, Just look what they have done to the place!
 

Tony Wells

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#25
It does seem that these little mill/drills have gone way up. I bought two of them years ago for second ops machines, and they were less than $1200 each if I remember correctly. I still wouldn't give $850 for one. That machine ought to go for 5.
 

Zigeuner

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#26
Whyemier link=topic=3189.msg23318#msg23318 date=1314322185 said:
Thanks Guys, I'll fill you in on what happens tomorrow. I'll tell him I saw his ad and had never seen one of these Taiwanese/Chinese machines in the flesh (true) but his price was above what I'd bugeted for one. If he budges I'll haggle.

If he won't haggle I'll tell him to call me if he doesn't sell it. I might not have purchased another by then.

I sure would prefer a bridgeport type, its what I got used to way back when. But then...I'm not used to anything anymore so this may be the way to go.
Hello again.
I finally got onto the H.F. Site. It wouldn't open for me yesterday. See the link below. That machine is the same or similar to the one that they presently sell for $1,199. As I mentioned earlier, I paid $750 for mine in the mid 90's. The one that I had was rated at 2 hp and had an excellent motor. I think they are all made by a company called Rong Fu, unless the Chinese are copying themselves. LOL.

http://www.harborfreight.com/1-1-2-half-horsepower-heavy-duty-milling-drilling-machine-33686.html

If you buy the one mentioned, there are some nice modifications that you can do to make life easier for you. The thing that bothered me the most was the hand crank on the left side which would raise and lower the head for different tool heights. I made a three-handled crank which relieved the problem considerably. Here's a picture of that.

HFMill-Drill002.jpg

On the right side, there were two draw bolts which had to be loosened each time the head was moved. I added some extensions with levers to make this easier and remove the need for a wrench. Another picture.

HFMill-Drill003.jpg

Also, I got tired or raising the plastic cover each time to change belt positions. I removed the covers and added a quickly removable stainless steel belt guard on the right side. That made changes of speed much easier. Pictures.

Guard off:
HFMill-Drill005.jpg

Guard on, notice knurled nuts to permit quick removal.
HFMill-Drill004.jpg

In order to remove the cover as mentioned above, I first had to remove the step pulley from the spindle. It wouldn't come off. Nope. Not at all. I was fearful that I would damage it. After examining the problem, I decided to make a puller......that only took two days and some lathe work and welding. Ha. Picture.

HFMill-Drill006-1.jpg

One other issue that I had to tackle shortly after I bought the machine was the metric set screw that was used to keep the R-8 collet from rotating. It was a standard metric screw (forgot the size, maybe 5mm) that was simply run through the side of the spindle. After a short while, it got peened and the collets wouildn't go in. I was forced to remove the spindle and address the problem. I found an old Harley crank roller (I forget the size other than to say it just fit the slot in an R-8 collet. ). I measured it for a tight (did I say tight?) press fit and I drive it in with my Chinese 20 ton press. It never moved or wore at all after that. There was room inside of the cavity around the spindle to permit some of the bearing to stick out so I didn't even grind it off. Problem solved.

After all of these changes, it was fairly easy to use and did a rather good job on most things. I had a 6" vise on it which was the only one I could find cheap and it was too big but it worked. The machine would be better served with a 4" or 5" vise. CDCO and ENCO have these at reasonable prices.

So when people talk about round column mill/drills, I've been there and done that! LOL. ;)

Good luck. Hope this helps!
 
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cyrusb

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#27
Nice, good luck. Now you can go ahead and make something instead of rebuilding something ;)
 

Zigeuner

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#28
Whyemier link=topic=3189.msg23370#msg23370 date=1314376622 said:
Zigeuner,

I like your mods, I'll have to incorporate a couple of them at least.

Now I'll have to start looking for and saving for a larger, better lathe. O' No! When I think of how long it took to convince the wife of the necessity of my getting this mill. Sorrow, woe is me.
I think you will enjoy that machine. As I said, I had one for a long time until I got a bigger one. By all means, if that power feed woks and fits, grab it. $100 for a nice unit like that is a great price.

They say that those can be run on 220 or 110 but when I checked, the control switch wasn't easily deciphered. I left mine on 110 and never had a problem.

Let us know what happens.
 
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george wilson

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#29
I wish to warn all of you that the wiring diagrams inside some of these machines are BOGUS!!!!! IF you ever decide to re wire your machine to 220, REMEMBER where he wires WENT when it was hooked up to 110. My Wholesale Tool round column mill had a completely bogus diagram inside the motor's box.

My electrician was there,and told me the machine would run better on 220(it had done just fine on 110,though what he said was true). He took the wires loose and re wired the motor according to the enclosed diagram. NADA!! After he had hooked it up several times,he could either not get it to run,or only get the motor to run backwards.

I am NO electrician,except for simple stuff. Somehow,I had a burst of intellect that day,and suggested that there was only one way he HADN'T tried to hook it up. He gave me a quizzical look,and tried it. It finally worked. I'm still trying to figure out how I had kept track of the 5 pole positions in that box,and all his variations on them!!!
 

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#30
george wilson link=topic=3189.msg23407#msg23407 date=1314397523 said:
I wish to warn all of you that the wiring diagrams inside some of these machines are BOGUS!!!!! IF you ever decide to re wire your machine to 220, REMEMBER where he wires WENT when it was hooked up to 110. My Wholesale Tool round column mill had a completely bogus diagram inside the motor's box.

My electrician was there,and told me the machine would run better on 220(it had done just fine on 110,though what he said was true). He took the wires loose and re wired the motor according to the enclosed diagram. NADA!! After he had hooked it up several times,he could either not get it to run,or only get the motor to run backwards.

I am NO electrician,except for simple stuff. Somehow,I had a burst of intellect that day,and suggested that there was only one way he HADN'T tried to hook it up. He gave me a quizzical look,and tried it. It finally worked. I'm still trying to figure out how I had kept track of the 5 pole positions in that box,and all his variations on them!!!
I took one look and decided to leave mine on 110. It ran just fine. The wiring diagram, as you say, is bogus. No one could figure it out from the diagram. I just left mine and never looked at the wiring again. LOL.
 
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