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Milling Machine Questions

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by watercrawl, Mar 6, 2012.

  1. watercrawl


    Jun 2, 2006
    Okay, first of all, I cannot have a 2,000 pound Bridgeport mill in my shop/garage. It's not going to happen no matter the cost, no matter how much better it might be. I know it will be....doesn't matter. :D

    Now, I basically have been saving my pennies for a while now and I would like a new TOY....and I would like a milling machine. There are certain things I believe a milling machine can do that I know would be useful to me. I can do them all now with what I have, but having a milling machine might (hence the query) make them all easier and more precise.

    What I want a milling machine for:

    First, I make a handle style similar to how the Japanese traditional knives are designed. Kind of like a mortise and tenon. I've attached a simple illustration picture I made. Being able to make this mortise and tenon a little more precisely and quickly would be great. Now it's saw's, sandpaper, filing guide, drill press, etc. Recently I've been using a milling bit in my old table top drill press and it's helped a lot. Having an actual milling machine would seemingly make it a lot easier still.

    Second, milling down handle scales so they are even on both sides. Today this is done with a bandsaw and either sandpaper on a surface plate or belt grinder. It's not very precise and isn't a huge deal, but I figure if I start with perfectly even scales, I'm more likely to end up with even handles easier.

    Third, milling slots in scales for hidden tang knives. PITA to do now....and I really don't do them for this reason.

    Fourth, milling metal parts for handles. I simply don't do these now either and would like to be able to. I would like to be able to make brass/copper/stainless fitting for the aforementioned Japanese style handles.

    Fifth, I eventually want to try my hand at making some folding knives.....and I believe a milling machine would be nice to have if/when I ever do. However, I don't know the specifics here so....

    I believe all of the above can be done fairly well with one of the mini mills (perhaps minus the folder stuff) from various places like this one:


    I know it wouldn't be as good as a Bridgeport, but I believe it would work well enough for my hobbyist use at the above tasks.

    Now, kind of the reason for the query more than anything else. Past that mill, there are mills like these:



    Twice as expensive, four times the weight and generally more heavy duty.

    With one of these machines I'm sure the above tasks would be even easier and whatnot, but what I'm wondering if stepping up to one of these machines would allow me to:

    1. Surface grind a 2" x 12" piece of 1/8" down to 0.10"? I know a surface grinder would be better at doing this, but I'm just wondering if one of these mills would work in a hobbyist scenario where time isn't a HUGE deal.

    2. Taper a tang

    3. Put the initial distal taper on a 8" long, 2" wide blade? Annealed and hardened?

    From some internet searches and reading a few PM threads, one can surface grind with a mill using a fly cutter. My question is more can it be done with these machines when I don't have a Bridgeport monster. If not, I question my need to spend the additional money.

    Attached Files:

  2. Mike Davis

    Mike Davis

    Feb 7, 2006
    The 2hp mill would be my suggestion. You want the rigidity and the power when fly cutting down a large chunk like that. Also it comes with a 3 inch fly cutter. I have a mini mill and it will not do this operation. Just my 2 cents.
  3. Patrickknives


    Dec 13, 2006
    I have a small mill/lath combination and it should do most of what you want. I think the key is the heavier the mill the bigger the cut you can take, less time spent. Mine is at the bottom of my expectations, I wish it was a little larger, but it works fine and I do many of the operations you describe. Handle material and brass are non-issues but stainless gets to be tough. My only issue with this type of machine is it takes quite a bit of space but I use the mill and the lath all the time so It works out.

    Give a little though to the cross slide size (see below as well)
    •Longitudinal Travel: 7-5/16"
    •Cross-slide travel: 4"
    everything you want to do must fit in this area , this results in a pretty small working area.

    The last 2
    Surface grind a 2" x 12" piece of 1/8" down to 0.10"?
    Put the initial distal taper on a 8" long, 2" wide blade? Annealed and hardened?
    I have a set up to do this but be aware that it is complicated if you dont have a full 12" of travel on your slide and its complicated to hold down the piece while working.

    My last suggestion is to watch craigslist for used sales, these show up all the time and could be in your area, you will save on the machine and they will usually give you all the tooling that they have purchased. The tooling may cost as much as the machine once you get fully set up.

  4. watercrawl


    Jun 2, 2006
    Thanks guys.

    I've been watching CL within a 250 mile radius for the last six months and haven't found anything worth getting.
  5. JMJones


    Jul 14, 2010
    Just to give my perspective. We make similar style knives. I thought a mill would be great for all sorts of stuff. I got a Grizzly G0704 and had trouble from the start. Eventually grizzly took it back on warranty and credited my purchase price to a new mill. I purchased the G0619, the same as the G0463 you linked to with a few more bells and whistles. The machine works great and I have never had a problem. However I have not found having a the milling machine (and actually a surface grinder too) to be that big of an advantage in my knife making. I just dont use it much at all. If I was a machinist and had the skills to use it to its full potential, had the patience to do all the setup and fixturing or was making many exact copies of something, I am sure that it would prove its value. However that is not the way I work and think of the mill and surface grinder as almost unnessary expenses for my shop. If you want to go from 1/8 to .10, use a 36 grit ceramic belt on the flat platen of your belt grinder, hold the steel with a magnet and you will be done before you would have made your first chip with the mill.
  6. Alpha Knife Supply

    Alpha Knife Supply Always Innovating Basic Member Dealer / Materials Provider

    Oct 14, 1998
    The first two Grizzly mills you list are too small and underpowered.

    I wish I had known about this company when we bought our mill 7 months ago:

    I really like the PM-45:

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Be prepared to spend money on tooling. Many people told me this before buying a mill but I did not understand.
  7. kc custom

    kc custom KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 20, 2005
    First off what the mill will do and what its meant to do are different. I won't suggest any
    particular one but for the folder frames I make I have the third one you listed. No complaints
    for the last 4 years. There's all kinds of reasons for say different type column and just how
    many different things you are going to use it for. If using it for any kind of grinding, tapers and such
    be sure to cover as much of it as possible cause the grit will be hell on the ways.
  8. wquiles


    Sep 12, 2005
    I am a machinist, and I have a 1000 pound "small" floor knee mill (like a mini Bridgeport) with an 8x32 table. The advice above is really good (the heavier the mill, the more rigid, the less chatter, etc..). An R8 spindle is most definitely the way to for mills in this size range, and parts/tooling are plentiful on Ebay. And although a mill/lathe combo is attractive at first, most folks agree that having a dedicated mill will serve you much better AND give you a larger working envelope.

    I participate more in the Flashlight Related Materials/Mechanical/Machining Discussion at the CandlepowerForums. You have to sign up to see this subforum, but it is composed of several machinist with the same size mill (and lathes) as you are looking here. Since it is more "dedicated" to machining, posting in that subforum gets you really good, quality advice - folks there are always willing to help out.

    Watch out - another thing above was very true. You will spend a LOT of money on the tooling. I am not kidding - I am not exaggerating. Yes, having the mill is awesome, but it is expensive to buy and VERY expensive to use. True, Ebay is your friend for gently used tooling, but be prepared and budget for tooling ...

    Last edited: Mar 7, 2012
  9. MountainBilly


    Nov 13, 2007
    I could not use a 1 ton mill in my shop either due to the floor structure so I hunted for the biggest one I could find under 1000#. I watched Craigslist and inquired about a "Chinese mill" for $550 which turned out to be a 1985 Rong Fu RF-30 which was the old G1006 Grizzley.(looks nearly identical to the current G1006 but better made) The point is that I was the first to realize what it was because I had done my homework and was thus the first in line to negotiate. I got the guy on the phone and at that point he had already received other offers but was waiting to see if I wanted it after hearing all the details. I told him that I thought the price was right and would pay the asking price if he could throw in a decent vise. he threw in a 6" Bridgeport vise. I picked it up the following Saturday in Olympia and with mill, cabinet, welded steel dolly and vise I'm at about 900#. If you can afford to wait keep looking and learning.
  10. cbr900son


    Mar 3, 2011
    I went with the http://www.grizzly.com/products/Drill-Mill-with-Stand-29-inch-x-8-inch-Table/G0705 and am happy with it now that I have a power feed and dro setup. The only negative thing I have to say about it is I wish it wasn't a round column but for me it hasn't been a huge issue really. Pretty solid with decent power for the $. Now some of the ones you linked have the ability to be converted to cnc if you wanted to down the road.
  11. TMHunt

    TMHunt Knifemaker/Moderator Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jan 15, 2012
    You might want to check out smithy. I bought a bx-288 11 years ago and have yet to have the first problem with it. And its very accurate! They don't make that model anymore but they do make a cx-329 which is probably better anyway. They are out of ann arbor mi. And you can get them sigle phase, just plug then in the wall and go. If its mostly mill operation you want to do I would stay away from the 3 in 1 mach. Milling is there secondary function and they don't have as much travel. Dependin on what you want to do you might as well plan on droppin a grand on tooling!
  12. TMHunt

    TMHunt Knifemaker/Moderator Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jan 15, 2012
  13. Nathan the Machinist

    Nathan the Machinist KnifeMaker / Machinist / Evil Genius Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 13, 2007
    The 3 in one machines have a lot of compromises in their design. As a lathe, the spindle is raised above the bed in a way that significantly increases the distance in the iron between the cutter and the work piece, which reduces the cut you can take and creates accuracy and finish issues. And the mill is not as functional as a separate mill. While it will cost more to get individual machines, it is probably a better value overall to go with separate machines. Also, your cutters last longer in more robust machines.

    In my experience I have had bad luck with older used lathes and have found that new Chinese/Taiwanese lathes like TMHunt has can actually be pretty good. The hardened ways and modern bearings really are better than an old SouthBends (bleh). However, for me, older American mills have worked out pretty well, though they're hard to find much smaller than a Bridgeport. Two thousand pounds really isn't that heavy (I've put a lot more in garages without problems), assuming you have a concrete floor. Don't let that little bit of mass intimidate you.
  14. javand

    javand KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 17, 2010
    Yeah, be intimidated by the 6,500lb K&T vertical that I've got to figure out how to wrangle into my shop, through doors that have gravel on one side, and sloped uneven asphalt on the other. 1200lb bridgeport is a featherweight, my bandsaws weighs more than that. ;p
  15. javand

    javand KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 17, 2010
    Even with dirt you've got options, I know people running 6000lb powerhammers in dirt floor shops with railroad ties dug in and steel plates on top. Certainly not ideal, but servicable.
  16. butcher_block

    butcher_block KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 6, 2004
    sad to say but its one of the deals that workes liek this
    smaller mill and know that you cant do alot of stuff (im there right now) and a bridgeport thats more then you will likly ever need

    i looked at the 2/3s sized bridgports but it seems that many of them need reworked like the mini mill to get them working nice (add that to the cost of the mill and a used port seems liek a steal so long as its not used up)
  17. watercrawl


    Jun 2, 2006
    Thanks for all the replies, suggestions, and comments fella's....and even a phone call. :)

    A few of my thoughts:

    I know the advantages of a Bridgeport and I honestly would love one. But it just doesn't make sense....sorry. Phase converter or VFD, 220 line, finding a good one at a price I can swallow, maintenance if it ever did break, real estate in my tiny shop....no way. I get maybe 10 hours average in the shop a week....I want something I can play with ocassionally. I don't need a production machine that can take 0.20" x 2" wide passes (I made that up, so don't stone me if it sounded stupid) in stainless steel all day long. If it took me an hour to mill down a 0.125" piece of 12" x 2" 52100 to 0.100"....I'm totally okay with that.

    I "need" a mill for what (after some research) appear to be fairly light duty tasks and in a very light duty environment (being it won't get used that much as this is a hobby) so I've decided I would like one of the mildly larger square column mills.

    I've done a lot of research before, and even more after, I initially posted this thread. I have found a 10% off coupon for Grizzly and will be purchasing one from them in the next few days.

    Thanks again for all of the help. :)
  18. Patrickknives


    Dec 13, 2006
    Nathan hit the nail direct "The 3 in one machines have a lot of compromises in their design." I like my little machine but I need to work arround the design issues each setup, for the footprint it works for me but no matter what I want to do I have a number of issues to resolve in set up to get started working.

    Good luck on the mill and dont worry the kids do not need shoes more than you need tooling.

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