Friday, November 23, 2018

Milling Machines

When I grabbed the Logan lathe, the old Craftsman drill press I got too had been modified a bit.  There is a square tube along one side, and a corresponding square rod with a circular array of bearings....  Cheap mill.  It was fitted with an X - Y table.  Mr. Garcia was resourceful.

I found a Big Joe mill (Taiwanese clone of the Bridgeport circa 1970's) on Craigslist.  Only $2500 asking price.  That's just over a dollar a pound.  Not too bad, only thing listed for a couple weeks.  I went by and looked at it.  Parked under a tarp, a leaky tarp.  Been in the wind for a few months.  Surface rust, not under power.  Nope, 2500 is a bit tall for me.  "What would you offer?"  This is the red zone.  I was dancing on the edge of a cliff.....  Rusty, not sure if it even works...  How bad could it be?  I wasn't too cued in on prices for one, so I shot low: 1400, if you have a forklift.... Sold.

....oh crap.....

Disclaimer:  This blog post outlines how I tackled some projects, while doing my best to be safe, legal, and all-around sensible. Just because I could do these things without crushing any limbs, burning down the house, letting the dogs out, destroying my car, annoying the locals, or running afoul of Town Hall, does not guarantee that you will be able to do the same. While I hope that the material here will prove helpful, you emulate my procedures entirely at your own risk.*

The following are my personal thoughts, for academic study only.

Loaner trailer, and a couple days later, I had it home.  Unloading it was..... a learning experience.  Dragging it through 50 feet of blow sand was a learning experience.  Yes, his dolly works a treat on 3/4 plywood cut into 4x4 sheets, but I had to use a leverPutting the ram and head back on alone was a learning experience I very nearly messed up.  Those engine hoists are fine and all, but the wide foot of a mill tends to step on top of the arms of the hoist, and then tipping is next.  Not a happy place to wind up..... alone.

And then Milling for Dummies 201 class began...

Meet Big Joe

aka Rusty

Impulse buy or decent learning tool?

Needless to say, lots of issues.  Sticky spot in the bed ways, head problems resulting in noise.  I paid a bit for tuition that time.  Good, unbeatable experience.  Most of it what not to do.

Did not get a lot of milling done with that, but I learned a ton with it.  Found out how to go online and dig for manuals, how to bind them, blow up the exploded diagrams on ledger size paper, and using map colors to differentiate assemblies.

Now, I have a different mill, and am in process of retrofitting the DRO...  Life keeps getting in the way but it'll get done.

The New Mill!!  Oh baby!

Old red is a good trailer but I don't recommend it.  A drop deck trailer like this to move with is better.  It's a beauty.  It's worth the rental price not to lift the weight of a machine tool.

Remember Small Tools Inc.?  Excellent bunch of folks there.  They let me find my own shipper, small fee for palletizing, and a classy experience all around.

Moving the mill

I learned a lot about moving heavy equipment through sand.  Rollers, levers, plywood, strategic trees, come-alongs, proper ratchet straps, blocking, dunnage, jack stands to hold up the loose end of the trailer, trailer house pier pads.  All of those are mandatory in soft sand.

Parking brake set, wheels chocked, pad under trailer jack, check.
Pier pads down, and jack stands under the rear trailer lip, check.
Roller sections set to match slope of trailer, check.
2 Safety straps to hold mill to front of trailer, check.  Runaways not allowed!
Slack off one, then the other, alternately to let the mill down the roller deck.
Lever it on the dolly, then lever it down the plywood path, a come along attached to a strategic tree for additional motivation.

Once on the shop floor, solid bar for rollers into it's final position.
It's also useful to mark the center of gravity on the side of the foot.  Push till the front roller is close to C of G, then position the next roller in just behind the front of the foot.  Then push a bit more, tip, roll, tip, roll.  Just be careful with it wanting to tip and spit out a roller.  Wooden wedges can be worth their weight in gold to hold a roller in place.  Two people is best, front and back.  You need lots of run away room, too.  If it's going over, it isn't worth the potential death sentence to try and stop it.  (Imagine where it will fall, and don't be there, ever.  I can't even reach under the mill on it's feet when I drop something there.  I have to get a coat hanger or a magnet to fish it out.  I get goose bumps just thinking about it.) Go over your egress routes till your partner knows without asking how to escape.  Leave yourself an out.  I moved out Big Joe by myself with the rollers and C of G method.  No danger at all.... that time.  I learned to take off the table, lower the knee, and invert the head to lower the C of G to avoid tipping.  Worked a treat.


Study up on current prices for tools and tooling.
Know your subject well.
Develop a strategy.
            Not under power = my offer is 50% off asking right then!
            Obvious rust or damage =  25% minimum off the remainder
Moving is a head scratcher.  Until you have done it a couple times.
I'm not a machine rebuilder, but I don't mind getting dirty.  I don't mind fixing things.  I get to understand how they work that way.  And I pay my "less than 20% list price" rule when some rehab is needed.

Up next..... where to find manuals, old training docs, and how I use them.

*shamelessly stolen from this man.... who I admire and emulate.


  1. Stubborn.
    I like that.
    You got a hell of a deal for that price and if you got it working at all it was worth the education.
    I can and do sympathize with you about one thing, sand, really sucks!
    So did you get rid of the old one or do you still have it?
    Sounds like you must have a fairly good amount of room anyway, something I would kill for.
    If you still have that drill press gizmo hanging around some pictures would be interesting.
    I am constantly amazed at the things I see like that on YouTube.
    Glad to see you post something too, I like your writing style and general outlook on life.

    1. My wife asked me once why I was so stubborn. Family rebelled against England, Mexico, the north, and stuck it out in western Oklahoma during the dust bowl. I got it honestly.

      Yeah, I do have the old Craftsman. I'll put that in a post shortly. I've kinda abused it. Run out was horrible, due to using it for a mill I'd reckon.

      I gave Big Joe to a man that is a machinist, designer and all around great guy. He has it as a project in waiting. That fellow has taught me a lot, and gives me stuff he doesn't need from time to time. I figure I should do the same.

      Thanks for the blogroll add, and I can hardly wait to see if you can use the stuff I sent. It should ease the cleaning on that drill press a bit... maybe... hopefully....

    2. PS And thanks for the kick in the butt. I need those once in a while to get back on track. Some one I respect does that, and I'll even thank them for it!! I appreciate it.

  2. I am assuming you are still sorting out the nw mill. it dosn't look like it has any power feeds on it from what I can see in the picture. is that something you are going to be looking into?
    I know that stuff isn't cheap.
    Is the DRO working now?
    those things are the bomb.
    Updates man, I want updates!

  3. DRO is still in the box. That's up after the power X axis feed is installed. Found out the handles on the Supermax are farther away from the table than a Bridgeport. So, I get to make a spacer block for the power feed. That's up later this week. Maybe get some work on squaring the block tonight if all goes well.

    Man, you sure have a lot of pep leftover after a 12 hour night shift. Updates coming... Promise.

  4. I have no idea what all you have for tooling or if you ever bother with cheap Chinesium crap at all but someone sent me this link to Banggood. They are having a sale on Lathe Tooling. Something to look at anyway.

  5. I'm having to slow down. Umexpected medical, tires on the truck, washer dryer water heater and couple more major expenses ate any extra I had. This month was a beast.

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