How good is a bad Bridgeport?

Investigator

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Just trying to get an idea what conditions to settle for in a used Bridgeport. I have a round column 8x28 now, it is what it is but within its envelope it does good work. If I'm looking at used and possibly abused mills, how much wear and tear on a full size B'port would still be better than a new square column from China?

I know that is a really subjective question without a definite answer, but I don't know how else to put it. I'm not talking about needing to replace a motor, or cross feed, just the basic wear and tear on the ways, table and spindle. I don't want to buy one and need to do a full rebuild and scrape the ways to get it where I can use it. I can handle backlash with careful use. I won't be making parts for NASA, this would be for a home shop, I need the machine to hold at least .005" and a minimum of .003" would be better.

Scott
 

mmcmdl

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I've sold nice BPs in the $3000 range , all with readouts and power feeds . They were variable speeds , the pulley heads were $2200-$2400 . I have a BP in the garage that I might be selling soon , at this point , I can't get the Kubota into the garage . :(
 

pontiac428

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How much better is a worn BP compared to it's high grade clones, like Lagun or the Taiwanese badges like Acer, Sharp, Atrump, Supermax, etc?
 

mmcmdl

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I had the Lagun FTV-2 and loved it . 10 x 50 inch table . It went to some foreign country that the buyer was queen . No kidding . :grin: Showed up in a Rolls Royce and peeled out 31 Benjamins , picked it up the next day .
 

jwmay

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Once saw the table shift a 1/8” as it entered the work on a worn out Lagun. I determined this machine to be garbage, and never again graced the handwheels with my loving embrace. But my supervisor, a toolmaker of forty years, uses that machine day in and day out, turning out “one off” parts to tolerance as if it were a brand new machine. He even repainted it, and has had it moved twice, in order to keep it nearby his office, as he’s been shuffled through departments. How good is a bad Bridgeport? About as good as the man at the cranks.

Even so...I’d buy the new square column.
 

Janderso

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Speaking from experience,
I owned a worn out Bridgeport,
I was able to do some decent work. Having a knee mill is great.
It’s frustrating that the full travel of your X axis goes from smooth as glass (loose) to very tight at the ends. A bent table is common.
Over torquing the T-nuts over the years causes the table to warp. The slop in the ways is common, you can overcome it by locking down everything you can.
I don’t have the time or energy to rebuild a worn out mill.
Buy one that serves you well.
My 2 cents sir.
 

projectnut

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Personally I'm not a fan of the Chinese machines. I've used a few in my day, but they were disappointing experiences compared to the US made iron. I do own a Bridgeport, but again it was not originally my machine of choice. I was originally looking for a Tree brand machine, specifically the 2UVR model. We had several Bridgeports, and Trees in our shop, and the Trees were by far the easiest (for us short guys) to setup and use. Changing tooling was easier, and the Tree machines seemed more stout and less prone to vibration.

That being said I looked for over 2 years for my first mill and found every Tree machine on the market to be either wildly over priced, or worn to the point it would have taken more time and money to refurbish than it was worth. In addition I found the tooling to be far more expensive and much harder to find.

One thing I did note throughout my search was that machines that appeared to be run hard and put away wet generally reflected lack of attention in their state of repair. Those covered with dried cutting oil, filthy oil and grease fittings, and covered in chips showed far more wear than those kept clean and regularly lubricated. On the other hand those with no signs of having been used, and sporting a fresh paint raised red flags as to what the condition of the machine was before the new paint was applied.

I almost put purchasing a mill on the back burner until someone alerted me to one from a local high school that was sold at an auction. The buyer bought it as part of a lot and was only interested in keeping another machine in the lot which happened to be a Clausing lathe. I contacted the buyer and went over for an inspection. What I found was a mill in reasonable condition for a reasonable price. There was about .030 backlash in the X lead screw, and .020 in the Y lead screw. The table didn't bind throughout the length of travel, and did not get tight near the ends. The variable speed head was quiet and would easily shift from high to low range, and the auto down feed worked properly. About the only problem I found was that the ram wouldn't change position regardless of how loose the retaining bolts were. After an extended period in storage the ways on the ram had rusted to the point the head wouldn't move. About a weeks worth of daily doses of penetrating oil finally freed the head.

Digging into the history of the machine I found it was originally purchased by the high school in 1972. It was in their machine shop until about 1992. At that time it was replaced by an early CNC machine and sent into storage. In 2002 the school district deemed it to be surplus and was auctioned off at that time. Essentially it sat for 10 years in a store room. If the machine is being sold by the original owner they should be able to provide some history. If it's being sold by a vendor they should know where it came from and what type of work it did.

I guess my point is that a relatively thorough inspection will needed on any machine you are truly interested in to be sure the machine will be "reasonable" condition. Many can be dismissed due to obvious lack of maintenance and operator care. Patience and perseverance are the keys to finding a good machine at a reasonable price. Don't be fooled by a machine that looks shiny and appears to have little or no wear. These machines were purchased to work on a daily basis. If the normal wear parts like crank handles, feed levers, and adjustment fasteners don't show some wear proceed with caution.
 

vocatexas

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There was a pretty nice looking B-port clone on Dallas Craigslist not long ago. I see some from time to time up in your area. There's a Craigslist ad in San Angelo for a guy selling out a machine shop. He lists two mill/drill machines (a large and a small), but doesn't have pics or any description. The large one could be a B-port, or may be something else.
 

Investigator

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My question is difficult to put into words, both the asking and the answering. Let me put it in terms I am more used to.
I've been a commercial mower for several years, putting it in those terms..... A commercial Scag zero turn rider is a pure joy to use. It cuts great, has lots of power to get through tall and thick grass and even light brush. A Commercial Scag with thousands of hours on it isn't anything a pro would keep using in most cases. But that same unit for a guy with a large yard he mows once a week would still be far and away better than the 38" rider he could get new at a big box store.

Does a B'port knee mill start out with such a high level of quality and accuracy that even after years of use and wear it is still better than an new square column?
 

BGHansen

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Depends on where you want to spend your time. You can pick up a very nice BP in my area (Michigan) for $3000. No work required to get it up and running. I looked at a project years ago for $1000. Head made a ton of noise, table had been drilled/milled multiple times, surface rust all over, broken crank handles, lots of play in the table (gib adjustment?), etc. I had to budget to buy something that didn't need to be worked on and was making parts minutes after it was powered up. You could save some money on a fixer upper, but around here the price difference wasn't worth it in my case.

Might be best to find a nicer machine and not have to rebuild it. I always ask the seller why they're parting with the item. Not that they'll be truthful, but maybe they're tired of fiddling with the problems and bought something that works. Here are some Texas-area Bridgeports and clones on CL.

Bruce

$1500 - Acer 10 x 50

$4300 Sharp 10 x 50 CNC machine with controller issues

$1750 Bridgeport that needs work

$6900 Looks to be recently rebuilt BP

$5900 Sharp 9 x 48

$4500 BP 9 x 42

$4000 BP - step pulley model

$7900 RAM CNC mill
 

projectnut

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My question is difficult to put into words, both the asking and the answering. Let me put it in terms I am more used to.
I've been a commercial mower for several years, putting it in those terms..... A commercial Scag zero turn rider is a pure joy to use. It cuts great, has lots of power to get through tall and thick grass and even light brush. A Commercial Scag with thousands of hours on it isn't anything a pro would keep using in most cases. But that same unit for a guy with a large yard he mows once a week would still be far and away better than the 38" rider he could get new at a big box store.

Does a B'port knee mill start out with such a high level of quality and accuracy that even after years of use and wear it is still better than an new square column?
The short answer is YES.

The Bridgeport milling machine, like the Scag mower you refer to is built for thousands of hours of dependable service. Both are built to serve the professional all day every day. With routine maintenance and minimal repairs it will produce quality parts and last for decades. Like the mower should you need parts they are available at a reasonable cost and in a timely manner. I have had my Bridgeport nearly 20 years (the machine is 47 years old) and have not had to purchase a single replacement part due to wear or damage. I have added a DRO and replaced a couple parts that were missing when I purchased it. I don't use the machine the same number of hours as in a professional setting, but I have used it as much as 60 hrs. a week, with the average being closer to 10-15 hrs. a week.

As for the import mill drills I'm not aware of what if any replacement parts are available. I do have a couple friends that went the import route several years ago. Both were professional machinists (now retired). They both used their machines extensively and after a few years both machines started to show signs of considerable wear. Both have now been replaced with Bridgeport's. One was replaced with a brand new machine to the tune of over $14,000.00 while the other was replaced with a well equipped used machine at a cost of around $3,500.00.

As for the mower, personally even though I now only mow an acre or so on a weekly basis I would never buy a cheap mower from a big box store. I believe in the long run it's better to spend the money up front for a quality piece of equipment. Nearly 20 years ago I purchased a JD 445 AWS garden tractor for mowing, hauling, plowing, and other landscaping work. I all the time I've had it the only thing it's needed are regular oil and transmission fluid changes, a couple batteries, and a new set of tires. It starts every time I turn the key and does everything I ask it to do without hesitation.
 

mmcmdl

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I use an Exmark Lazer Z 60 on my 2 properties that total 2 acres . Why ? Because most of the mowers are now built offshores . I have restored older IH and CC SGTs for years and have them all over the country . The newer stuff basically sucks with the vertical engines . I also own a Toro TimeCutter 42" for a backup cheap mower and I bought a new Ariens 52" ZTM the beginning of this summer . The Exmark and Toro now sit un-used . I also run a Kubota diesel with a 60" deck , front end loader , post hole digger , 6 foot rake , grader box , etc . Not sure what this has to do with mills , but heck , if you see a good deal on a BP go for it . That's a no brainer .
 

ezduzit

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Avoid bottom feeding clapped out domestic or cheap-crap Asian machines. Find a quality machine in excellent condition with comprehensive tooling.
 

Cheeseking

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Avoid bottom feeding clapped out domestic or cheap-crap Asian machines. Find a quality machine in excellent condition with comprehensive tooling.
Sure. Buy once cry once however the challenge to this approach lately is finding such a machine for sale.
Even if you have as much as 5-10k in your pocket and are ready and willing to spend it on a mill - the truly truly truly i said it 3x nice ones (not “re-built” / painted etc) are rare. Really rare.
Folks that have the nice ones for the most part keep them. I say that because I happen to own such a machine and it will go to the grave with me.
So if you are patient, have money in hand, a truck/trailer ready to go and a bit of right place right time luck then I highly recommend waiting for a nice one then pounce.
Don’t hesitate or you will always regret it.
 

Flyinfool

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If you are really lucky and can find a Tree 2UVR in reasonable condition, by all means don't even worry about ripping you pocket getting the cash out fast, it will not last long. I scored one by getting lucky and answed the addwithin 5 minutes, made the deal on the phone, and had 4 other parties show up for it while I was loading it. Mine was a total steal at $1000, with a 2 axis DRO, AND a full pallet of tooling. The Tree is definatly better than a Bridgeport but they are very rare. This is not to say a Bridgeport is bad, far from it, I would not hesitate or spend time thinking about a Bridgeport that you find or it will be gone by the time you decide especially if it is a good one.
 

Cheeseking

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We had a few but too hard find parts for old Tree mill. Zps in WI may be the only option.
Crazy special spindle taper kind of like Cincinnati Toolmasters. Good machines but use proprietary collets.
Something R8 is going to be a better choice IMO.
 

vocatexas

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On a side note- when you look for stuff in Texas you have to remember- from Houston to El Paso is 750 miles and Houston isn't even close to the eastern border. This is a BIG state. Texarcana is closer to Chicago than it is to El Paso.
 

jwmay

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I’ve had my little round column mill for a few years now I think. It’s still as good as it ever was.

If I get your mower analogy correct, I oughta just keep quiet. I never owned anything but a piddly little round column mill drill. The equivalent of a 10 hp Craftsman rider circa 1998. My lawn hasn’t suffered though, so far as my own experience can tell.

From the many professional machinists I know, a Bridgeport, well used, would still be leagues above it in every regard. Most would decline to even call my mill/drill a milling machine. They might call it a “hobby mill thing” or “a really nice drill press”...but not a milling machine.

I don’t know anybody in person that’s used the square column jobbers. It’ll probably be hard to find someone who’s had both, which is what you’re looking for really. Good luck! And not that you asked, but don’t buy anything sight unseen for fear of losing the deal of a lifetime. They made a whole bunch of these things. There will always be another one.
 

Joeman77

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I guess it depends what you're after. I've got an Alliant, a BP clone from the 80's that I've owned for about 25 years, wouldn't trade it for a new Chinese anything. I've run the cheap stuff a few times and that was enough.
Just remember, you can't duplicate nice rigid heavy iron with light bench-top castings and that's the difference.
 

projectnut

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We had a few but too hard find parts for old Tree mill. Zps in WI may be the only option.
Crazy special spindle taper kind of like Cincinnati Toolmasters. Good machines but use proprietary collets.
Something R8 is going to be a better choice IMO.
The Tree mills were originally made in Racine. There still seems to be a fair amount of tooling and a number of machines for sale in the Wisconsin area. It's getting to the point that what's left on the market is slowly coming down in price. Last year a friend of mine purchased a NOS taper boring head from a local used equipment dealer for $200.00. Those heads originally cost around $1,000.00.

I think it's purely a function of supply and demand. There are far fewer Tree machines in service than there were 30 years ago, but the tooling is nearly bullet proof. We had at least a dozen Tree brand machines in our shop(s), but as far as I know only 3 are still in service. They were purchased by a local shop when the company closed the inhouse shop in 2000. All 3 seem to be in good condition, and well tooled.
 

Janderso

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I know 3 guys that have Tree mills. One of them has two.
I can't look them in the eyes without looking away. :)
Great milling machines.
 

Joeman77

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My question is difficult to put into words, both the asking and the answering. Let me put it in terms I am more used to.
I've been a commercial mower for several years, putting it in those terms..... A commercial Scag zero turn rider is a pure joy to use. It cuts great, has lots of power to get through tall and thick grass and even light brush. A Commercial Scag with thousands of hours on it isn't anything a pro would keep using in most cases. But that same unit for a guy with a large yard he mows once a week would still be far and away better than the 38" rider he could get new at a big box store.

Does a B'port knee mill start out with such a high level of quality and accuracy that even after years of use and wear it is still better than an new square column?
Well, if the two started out life equal it would probably be different, but realize they aren't designed with to function the same right off the get-go. The B-Port (or clone) was designed to split tenths repeatably for daily use over many highly repairable/rebuildable years and parts are available to do just that, unless it's been badly abused it will do just that. The "Square column" units are designed to maybe hold within a couple of thousandths. And aren't really designed to throw away, but parts can be a challenge. And like it or not if you use it, regardless of how careful you are at some time going to have a crash and need support.
Also remember, lots of times the big heavy one (lathe, mill, grinder or whatever) probably doesn't need a stand but, will probably be 3 phase and might actually be cheaper because lots of "new to the game" guys don't understand how easy it is to make or use, VFD's are getting more affordable and make the 3rd phase quick & easy.
I know it's become a bit long-winded but ...
 

kopeck

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I had the same exact question you did, I was thinking I wanted a smaller import mill. I wanted to avoid something with a round column but I wasn't picky other than that. Most used ones in my area will still fetching a good price, some more than you could order one new (how does that work?).

Then a few BPs became available close by for a decent price. I ended up buying one, I figured A) having a worn mill is better than no mill, B) Any tooling and experience I pickup along the way will be easily transferred to a newer/better BP or BP clone in the future.

Yeah mines worn but it doesn't have any major binding issues so it's worn evenly at the very least. They were also using it right up to the point where I bought it so everything works though a few things need some attention. It was cheap enough that I can fix some things and still be OK.

Not sure if I did the right thing or not. We will see.

K
 

mksj

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I have to agree with Bruce, find a nice used machine that isn't worn out, or consider a Taiwanese clone. Depends on what you want to spend, and the scope/size of work. You are not going to wear out any of these machines using them as a hobbyist. I had a new mainland Chinese square column mil (Optimum BF-30) that I purchased at a little over 3K about 10 years ago and could do tight tolerance work with no issues. I hated the ergonomics and that everything was cobbled together even though it was considered high end. It now sells for 5K+. Parts were a nightmare, and there was little support from the dealer who later went out of business. I sold it and purchased a new Sharp (Acra) which has been trouble free and a pleasure to use. I would never go back to a square column Asian mill unless I was downsizing and had limited space.

I looked at the used market, Bridgeport's were typically over priced for what you got, the Lagun's FTV-2's I checked out seemed to be in better condition at a lower price. They all needed some work, the variable speed drives were noisy and often the table drives weren't working. The ones I looked at were back-up machines in shops that mostly went CNC, or didn't pass accuracy requirements which were 0.0005". I was looking at 3K plus probably another 1K to rebuild the heads and drives. The Sharp (Acra) new started at 6K for the base model, lots of other Taiwanese mills in that price range. I also wanted to make sure parts were available, and they were mainstream models that had been around for a long time. That parts were available from multiple sources.

If I had a budget of 3-4K I would have gone with the used market in a machine that wasn't worn out or required minimal work to getting it working well. At 5-6K, either a pristine used mill with all the add ons or something new. I do not see that the Bridgeport name alone assures you that it is any better then say a Lagun, the Lagun's I milled with were solid and a pleasure to use. I purchase my mill and lathe to be the last machines I expect to buy until I am long gone, and then someone else will get to enjoy them after me.
 

ezduzit

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Maybe a more specific example would be helpful. For ~ $4000, which would you choose?
Bridgeport like this:
https://machineinventory.shop/shop?olsPage=products/recondition-bridgeport-milling-machine-basic-1-hp-mikk

or the PM 833T, which is from Taiwan, and with a base it is about the same price
https://www.precisionmatthews.com/shop/pm-833t-page/
Neither is a good buy. You want to find a fair deal, from a private party, on a quality, used machine, in excellent condition, with comprehensive tooling package.
 

ArmyDoc

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Neither is a good buy. You want to find a fair deal, from a private party, on a quality, used machine, in excellent condition, with comprehensive tooling package.
OK. But between these two, which would be the better machine?
 

ArmyDoc

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The Bridgeport.
Cool. That's good to know, because I suspect the 833T arguably represents best of class for bench-top square mills (i.e. it's as good as anything out there in it's class). If a bridgeport in decent condition is better at even money, it is clearly better if you can find one for a grand less (or more), especially if it comes with tooling.
 
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