Which milling machine to buy

ericwesley

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Mar 2, 2021
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Hello I am an outsider.. an artist working on a project, I would like to start making clock parts , specially gears. Can someone recommend a small milling machine and lathe ? I am looking at the microlux machines and sherline found in the micromark catalogue. However I need to know that the machine can work with dividing heads .. also any recommendation for the dividing heads would be greatly appreciated.* Please understand I do not need top of the line equipment. Thank you, Eric
 

Hessel Oosten

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Apr 26, 2017
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Hello Eric,

As you saw now about 44 members have read your question and no answers till now...

I think, but may be wrong, that your question has a too wide spectrum and so cannot be answered in a simple and compact way.

Let me “translate” your question if the message was placed on an "automobile-lovers forum"….

"""Hello I am an outsider.. an artist working on a project, I would like to start making automobile parts , specially tires. Can someone recommend small machines with a quite different functionality. I am looking at the 2 mentioned machines found in the automobile parts catalogue. However I need to know that the machine can work with special sort of rubber tires .. also any recommendation for these specialized rubber tires machining would be greatly appreciated.* Please understand I do not need top of the line equipment. Thank you,"""

In other words, do not ask something like: “I want to buy 2 different cars with 2 different colors: any help appreciated….”.

As you hopefully see, people can type here books full of information or … say nothing in this case (and that is the easiest way).

The best way to get an answer is to show that you did a lot of your home-work and then ask a specific question.

I really hope that you will find a positive and helpful attitude in this answer.

Intention is really –not- negative (in that case I should not have answered ! and typed all these letters).

Hessel
 

Allan Wolff

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Mar 17, 2005
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Eric,
Both milling machines will work with a dividing head, but it will need to be a small dividing head. Sherline makes an indexer that might do the job. They also have an electronic attachment for their rotary table that will do dividing (and also cost about as much as the mill.) I don't have experience with either unit since I use a Taig lathe with homemade dividing setup. You might want to look at some of the clock building projects in this forum to see what other people are using.
Good luck in your search.
Allan
 

ernienoa

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May 3, 2017
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It is hard to make a recommendation without knowing all of what you want to do, how much experience, and so on.

I can tell you what I have and have used. My lathe is a Myford Super 7. A very nice machine and is great for clockwork. That said the chuck is very used, so I depend on collets for most work. It has a three-jaw chuck, four jaw independent, four jaw self-centering chuck, and ER 25 collets. I also have a set of Morse taper collets. It has a small milling table with limited abilities. My mill is an old enco round column heavy mill drill machine. I can fit the er 25 collets to it too.

The dividing head is a Myford version that was meant for the lathe but is also adapted to the milling table.

I think a better machinist could use this equipment to its fullest. In my hands, I struggle to make accurate parts. That said I have turned out some nice items, from trains to clocks.

All my stuff is used, and I was lucky to have the opportunity to get it, it is a much-reduced price than new.

Hope this helps.
 

karlmansson

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Apr 20, 2013
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Eric, I looked into this a few years ago and it's a hard question to answer because while most milling machines will handle work within its work envelope, that is no guarantee that it will be the perfect fit for YOUR work. It makes it even harder if you are unsure of what your work is or will be. Which was the case with me.

So rather than start by telling you what you should get, I'll tell you what I did, plan to keep doing and what I've used so far and you can compare with your own needs:
I considered a Sherline milling machine. And while I'm sure it is a fine machine, I realized that the second hand value of it would probably not last should I want to sell it for an upgrade, and import charges to Sweden were prohibitive. Had I been in the US I probably would have gotten one. I ended up finding an offering for an Aciera F1 in decent shape and got that instead. Slightly larger work envelope than the Sherline and built like a tank. With a pricetag to match. I then quickly realized that the bearings in the Aciera were VERY hard to replace or repair should I fudge it up so I decided to get a slightly more forgiving machine to learn on. Also something that could be used for toolmaking, clockmaking and just general machining. That ended up being a Cormak HK25. A machine very similar to that sold by Precision Matthews in the US. Probably a Chinese base machine spruced up in the country of "manufacture". Mine is "made" in Poland. For it, I managed to find Sherlines rotary table second hand with a retrofitted stepper. This is what I intend to use for indexing wheels. That sends me down another rabbit hole of making a controller for the stepper. I'm thinking Arduino. The Aciera has a direct indexing attachment but that requires a different indexing disc for each tooth count. These can be 3D-printed but it's a lot of work for the odd sized gear teeth in many watches. Few can be re-used. I now have two milling machines (different sizes), a 102 bench lathe and a couple of Geneva style watchmakers lathes.

Along this journey I also considered cutting gears on one of my lathes. I found, adapted and actually used a milling attachment for my Lorch Geneva 6mm lathe. Not suited for clock size work though. I then also manged to locate a milling attachment for my Habegger 102mm center height lathe that I though would be useful for radial drilling and cutting gear teeth. Haven't used it yet as I first need to work up a way to index my spindle and make an overhead drive for the milling attachment.

Moral of the story: this can be a very interesting tooling, inventing and collecting adventure if you let it be. If you just want to start cutting teeth, know how big the wheels are going to be and don't want any fuss, that can also be done for a price. The Sherline tools can be scaled up with a little ingenuity. Look up the user bowerclocks on instagram. He has a wheel cutting setup based around a Sherline rotary table that can handle wheels up to 48" in diameter.

I now have four almost functional ways of making wheels in a great variety of sizes. I have up until today cut zero working wheels. I do in the other hand enjoy restoring old machinery and the clock making stuff is further down the line for me.

Bottom line: If you want a setup that is known to work with all moving parts that you need, get a Sherline 5400 mill with the CNC rotary table and upright angle attachment. No trying to make parts form different maker work together, no retrofitting, it will just work right out of the box. And being in the US I imagine support will be very good.

Regards
Karl
 

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