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LMS X2 machine vs Harbor Freight 33686

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Trc687

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#1
Hey guys, I'm looking for recommendations on my first mill and I think I have it narrowed down. For roughly the same amount of money, I can get a Little Machine Shop X2 sized machine, or I can get a Harbor Freight 1.5 HP machine. The LMS machine obviously will be of higher quality and have much better end-user support. I'm worried about size and power though.

My goal with this mill is to make custom motorcycle frame parts like axle plates and motor mounts. However, I also want to use the mill to cut 1/4" slots in the frame tubes for the axle plates, as well as use a 1.25" end mill for tube notching. I'm worried that the LMS machines may not have the necessary quill-to-table clearance and power to complete those operations, especially the notching. However, a round column mill from HF that will cost a lot of money to upgrade to get the precision I want isn't ideal either.

I was hoping the experienced members here could help me out, enlighten me, and point me in the right direction. Thanks!
 

Smudgemo

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#2
Other than to agree service will really only come from LMS, I can't help on the machines but I will note that a hole saw for tube notching will be a zillion times cheaper than an end mill. If you do a lot of notching, maybe a dedicated notcher would be the ticket for that operation? Plus you can buy all sorts of sizes and only need one or two arbors.

-Ryan
 

tmarks11

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#3
I assume you are looking at the $600 Sieg X2?

An X2 is a very small mill. Is your issue budget or available space?

1.25" end mill? No way. Even notching tubing, that X2 will not like it. But that is okay, since you can just use a 3/8" end mill, and easily cut you notch. Just not in one down and up motion.

If you suspect that quill-to-table distance are going to be a problem, than I will bet it will be. Stack up vice + drill chuck (or collet holder), and you run out of space fast. X2 has 11". Vise: 3". Chuck + arbor: 3". Drill length: 3". Pretty tight.

Some specific recommendations:
1. Look for a machine with an R-8 spindle. Some of the mini-mill size machines (and above) have an MT2 spindles. Stay away from those; they are a PIA in my book (I have had bad luck with releasing collets from MT2 spindles). I know the X@ at LMS has an R-8, but I just want to point this out.
2. If you can afford it, the Hi-Torque brand mills from LMS are going to be much better quality than the X2.
3. Get something bigger than an X2 if you have space and can afford it. The Grizzly G0704/Weiss BF20 or BF30/PM25V/Optimum BF30 is a popular bench top mill; decent size, still compact, much more capable than an X2, better fit and finish than an X3. It should be capable of what you have described.
4. Stay away from round column mills.
5. Harbor Freight and precision machinery is an oxymoron.

If you haven't found it yet, this is a great reference site (I pointed you to the LMS mill review, but it also has pages on the basic Sieg X2 mill as well):
http://www.mini-lathe.com/Mini_mill/reviews/lms_mm/mm.htm

Also Hoss' site about the BF20/G0704:
http://www.bf20.com

And here is a picture showing the X2 and PM25V in the same picture:
http://www.g0704.com/images/BF20 vs X2.jpg
 

wrmiller

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#4
If you can stretch it, I too will recommend a G0704 or PM25.

I have a LMS high-torque fixed-column mill that I am selling to a friend because while very accurate and good quality, it was just 'not quite' big enough to do some things I wanted to do. My PM25 is basically the same machine, just slightly larger. (note: Matt at PM has a new version of my mill coming in the end of this month that already has a belt drive and BLDC motor upgrade, which are two things the G0704 owners are likely to upgrade)

Just my $0.02,
Bill
 

Trc687

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#5
Tmarks11,

The Hi-Torque models were the ones I was referring to. Unfortunately, you told me what I already knew and didn't want to hear. I suppose I'll have to save up a bit longer.

The PM-25 that you both recommended looks amazing, but that $1,600 price tag hurts!

Also, on the topic of notching, I saw a technique to notch where the tube is loaded into a vice at the proper angle for the notch. The quill is lowered, and the table is moved along the x axis into an end mill whose diameter is the same as the notch you are trying to make. This way, you can remove bits of material slowly and do several test fits while "sneaking up" on the desired notch location so the perfect amount of material is removed. Is that a better technique than simply lowering the quill and end mill into the tube?

I currently have a joint jigger type tool, but it is hard to remove very small amounts of material repeatedly to do test fits, because it takes too long to get the tube back into proper position on the notcher over and over. I was hoping a mill would be a good solution to that problem. Any thoughts?
 

Smudgemo

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#6
Tmarks11,
I currently have a joint jigger type tool, but it is hard to remove very small amounts of material repeatedly to do test fits, because it takes too long to get the tube back into proper position on the notcher over and over. I was hoping a mill would be a good solution to that problem. Any thoughts?
Shoot, use a file to fine-tune your fit. I forget the sizing, but a 10" file will notch for a 1" tube, 12" for 1.125", etc. I can't recall the exact matching, but it works well. Also, go here http://www.cycle-frames.com/bicycle-frame-tubing/Tabbed-Tube-Notcher.html for an application to print your notch on paper so you can have a visual reference. Print, cut out, tape to the tube, file away.
 

Trc687

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#7
I've used one of those template programs and I have to say, they are VERY helpful. My only issue is that filing, using an angle grinder, tube notcher, etc takes a long time to make a notch that is perfectly positioned. Thanks for all the help, guys!
 

tmarks11

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#8
The PM-25 that you both recommended looks amazing, but that $1,600 price tag hurts! [/QOUTE]

SO you were looking at the LMS High Torque 3990, retails for $895 (plus shipping).

Grizzly G0704 is $1294, delivered. Not a huge increase over the LMS machine.

This way, you can remove bits of material slowly and do several test fits while "sneaking up" on the desired notch location so the perfect amount of material is removed.
ahh, I see. I don't see what that wouldn't work, even with a smaller mill, since you are only removing a small amount of material at time, on the end of tube. The concern would be with work hardening, if you feed too slowly.

Here is where the spindle type is important. A solid 1.25" end mill will have a shank diameter of at least 3/4". An MT2 collet is limited to 1/2" diameter. So you need a mill with an R8 spindle.

Just a note: a mill makes an awesome drill press, with the ability to precisely position the drill, and less run-out than a normal drill press, making larger diameter holes more friendly.

Yahoo has a Mini-mill group that is pretty active; you could report there and see what they think about an 1.25 end mill in a mini-mill on 4130 steel. :D
 

Trc687

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#9
SO you were looking at the LMS High Torque 3990, retails for $895 (plus shipping).

Grizzly G0704 is $1294, delivered. Not a huge increase over the LMS machine.


ahh, I see. I don't see what that wouldn't work, even with a smaller mill, since you are only removing a small amount of material at time, on the end of tube. The concern would be with work hardening, if you feed too slowly.

Here is where the spindle type is important. A solid 1.25" end mill will have a shank diameter of at least 3/4". An MT2 collet is limited to 1/2" diameter. So you need a mill with an R8 spindle.
I was emailing with Chris Wood over at LMS and he told me the same thing. He stated that with an R8 spindle, even if the end mill capacity is well under an inch, you can get special collets that stick out from under the spindle and will hold LARGE end mills tight with set screws. I'm still just concerned about the power I might need to efficiently do what I am looking to do. If using a small mill will actually take me more time than simply using a joint jigger, there is no reason to use the mill. I do think, however, that even a smaller X2 mill would be big enough to machine some motor mounts, axle plates, etc. out of .25" steel.

I know I am jumping WAY ahead into the future here, but how difficult is a DRO installation on a G0704? I was looking for a website or thread that had details on what was involved, but I have come up short thus far. I think potential future maintenance and upgrades should factor into my machine choice, so I guess it doesn't hurt to ask.
 

wrmiller

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#10
Not too difficult. I've only installed two: One on my LMS and then moved it over to the PM25 (had to buy one longer G30 scale). I will say that the job was actually easier on the PM25 because it's a bit larger and there's more room for my big paws. :)

Bill
 
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