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Milling Machine

An unofficial resource of techniques, information and best practice to help you get most from your Armortek model.
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Greg Clement
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Milling Machine

Post by Greg Clement » Mon Nov 04, 2019 10:21 am

I’m a newbie to this hobby but as soon as I saw Armortek was releasing a Chieftain I couldn’t resist and handed over my hard earned cash to become the proud owner of number 36.

Over the last couple of years I’ve been looking at some of the builds on the forum and more recently the Chieftain builds by Stephen White and Phil Woollard. Now, whilst I have no aspirations (or the skill) to achieve their high standards, I know I won’t be satisfied with just bolting it all together and spraying it with a rattle can.

Consequently I’m looking to buy a “hobby” milling machine.

Whilst I have no experience of using a milling machine, I do know its a bit more complex than using a cordless drill and I’m confident I can learn.

My problem is I don’t really know what I should be looking for. I’m minded to go for the Warco WM12 Mill but then I wonder if I should be looking at something smaller, perhaps the Proxxon MF70.

Does anyone have any views or experience of these machines or manufactures? Any help would be gratefully received.

Oh, and if anyone thinks I’m making a big mistake I would like to hear your views too.

Greg Clement

Apologies to Admin if I have posted this in the wrong section of the forum, please feel free to move it.

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Stephen White
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Re: Milling Machine

Post by Stephen White » Mon Nov 04, 2019 10:52 am

Greg, I'm happy to kick off but I'm sure others will chip in. Since you mention Warco, I'm assuming you're in UK.

Firstly, if there's a choice between a lathe and a mill, I'd choose the latter. If the budget runs to both, you're made.

Secondly, there is age old advice to decide what size you need and buy bigger. I've experience to validate that advice. I first bought a WM-12 and pretty quickly found I needed something bigger. There are two issues, the ability to hold work of the size you need but more importantly, the rigidity of the machine when cutting. I found the WM-12 was struggling at times. I now have a WM-16 and it's ideal, big enough and rigid enough for some heavy cuts, although the Chieftain hull sides and castings will challenge it.

Thirdly comparison between the WM-12 and -16 raises the question of DROs (Digital Read-Outs). You can do without but they are a very significant aid to accuracy and repeatability. The -16 comes with a built in Z axis DRO and Warco offer a simple 2-axis DRO for the X-Y axes which you can fit yourself.

Fourthly, there is the question of tooling, which will chew up more budget. If you are familiar with the subject, you'll know what you need but I"m happy to give some advice about start up kit.

There is a good reason for going with Warco rather than any other UK supplier. Unless you go for a British made lathe such as Myford (watch the ££££ mount up), they all sell Chinese. Only Warco, to my knowledge, undertake to strip and commission their imports and that gives you huge reassurance about the quality of the product and the customer support on offer.

I swear by Proxxon tools and they are my first choice in most cases. Their mills and lathes however are fine for small details but just aren't man enough for the sort of jobs you'll end up doing. They also come at a high price premium.

Hope that's a useful starter. We've had this discussion before on the Forum but I couldn't find the thread(s.

Stephen

Vince Cutajar
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Re: Milling Machine

Post by Vince Cutajar » Mon Nov 04, 2019 11:03 am

Hi Greg
I’m minded to go for the Warco WM12 Mill but then I wonder if I should be looking at something smaller, perhaps the Proxxon MF70.
I see this question crop up many times on model engineering sites and the usual suggestion is to get the largest one can afford. Keep in mind that you will need to buy other tooling to get you started, like a milling vice, clamping kit, collet chuck and collets and cutters, etc.

I cannot comment about the machines you mentioned but I have seen good things about Warco's after sales service.

You are so lucky over there in the UK that are so many dealers that cater for the model engineering hobby. Warco, Arceurotrade, Chester and Amadeal spring to mind. Shop around as many times some basic tooling is thrown in the deal.
Oh, and if anyone thinks I’m making a big mistake I would like to hear your views too.
That's a risk one has to take as one might regrettably find that machining is not one's cup of tea and you end up with an expensive lump of metal sitting idle in the workshop.

Vince

davidwilkins
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Re: Milling Machine

Post by davidwilkins » Mon Nov 04, 2019 12:50 pm

Hi Greg,

I started off with a small milling machine like the wm12 from warco but soon found out that it was just to small so I upgraded to the wm16, I found this to be just the right size machine for building armortek models. Also warco has a brilliant backup service.

I have since changed the wm16 for a axminster sieg 3 and I only changed it because of health problems with my back requiring a very high table height which would have made it very difficult to use the wm16 height. I consider both of these machines to be excellent value for money. As regards accessories I think DRO is a must and if you are going for a rotary table then I would go for a 150mm one, the smaller ones are just to small.

Proxxon tools are of very good quality, I have a PD400 lathe and this is a brilliant machine but does not get used anywhere near as much as the milling machine and on hindsight I would probably purchase a cheaper lathe from warco.

These are just my thoughts and experiences with learning how to use these tools.

Regards

David

Greg Clement
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Re: Milling Machine

Post by Greg Clement » Mon Nov 04, 2019 2:12 pm

Steve.

I'd be very interested in your suggested "start up kit".

Greg

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Stephen White
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Re: Milling Machine

Post by Stephen White » Mon Nov 04, 2019 3:36 pm

Greg, I'll post something a bit later. Meanwhile, this is the thread I remembered.

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=7494&hilit=milling& ... 2617d042f2

One aspect I didn't mention is power feed. You can certainly do without it but after you've milled some of the longer Armortek parts, manual feed becomes very tedious. Warco sell a power feed for the WM-16 which is easy to fit yourself. It makes a lot of difference both in achieving a more consistent finish and saving effort, not just with milling but in returning the table to the next position.

I also listed some sources for learning milling skills here;

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=6425&p=54569&hilit= ... e8e#p54569

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Stephen White
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Re: Milling Machine

Post by Stephen White » Mon Nov 04, 2019 4:31 pm

Greg - everything I've got in my workshop is of course "absolutely essential".....but, you've got to start somewhere. I may have missed something vital but here is a possible list to think about (I've used Warco descriptions where I can):

1. Holding the Work, without which you're not going anywhere.

- clamping kit for milling machines, 42 pieces
- engineer's vice (the Rolls Royce is the Warco DH-1) - the engineer's vice is setup to minimise the tendency of the movable jaw to lift when you clamp.
- pair of toolmaker's parallel clamps
- set of parallels. These seem like a luxury but you'll use them all the time, in the vice and in clamping material to the table.

2. Cutting the work. This involves the cutters and drills themselves and the means of holding them in the mill spindle taper (which is Morse No 2 in the WM-16)

- Four flute end mills. Get as many sizes as you can afford but as a minimum, 11mm, 8mm, 5mm and a selection of the smallest you can find.
- Two flute slot drills (used for plunge milling ie cutting vertically into material to create a bore).
- Slocum or Centre drill set for starting a drilled hole
- set of metric HSS drills
- Collet chuck and set of ER-25 collets in sizes to match your cutters. Don't be tempted to try and hold milling cutters in the drill chuck which comes with the machine. Like any 3 jaw chuck, it lacks the precision and power to hold a milling cutter solid when side milling.

3. Measuring, marking and setting up the work

- metric steel ruler
- digital vernier calliper
- steel engineer's set square(s)
- test dial indicator
- engineer's scribe

You will need some cutting fluid to lubricate your milling. Fortunately, WD-40 is the best for aluminium, so you don't require anything special.

I'm sure I've missed something, perhaps which may be absolutely essential to another engineer. Once you've got going, looking for useful new tools becomes an obsession and the Forum is littered with great new bits of kit. The trick is to be realistic about how often you're likely to use something and whether there is another way of doing the operation. There is ofter more than one way to do something.

If you do get beyond the basics, there are a few things I'd go for next:

- rotary table. This has many uses and can get you some way towards CNC capability.
- tilting table (to make cuts off the vertical). Note though that the WM-16 head can be tilted which goes some way towards this capability. It isn't the whole solution though and you'll need to re-tram the head to vertical after you tilt it.
- adjustable boring set
- V blocks for holding cylindrical stock and a set of 1-2-3 blocks for work holding.
- precision tilting swivel vice

I can also add a couple of YouTube channels which I rate highly in addition to the ones in the other post:

Tom's Techniques:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqR9wR ... pqiN8C0dIg

This Old Tony:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5NO8M ... Xp6z8Xl7yQ

Stefan Gotteswinter:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCY8gSL ... R9X061jFWw

Best of the lot -

Joe Pi:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpp6lg ... ZYJppaFa5w

As I said in the other post, YouTube is full of presenters who have weird accents, hyper personalities, terminally boring delivery, obsession with too much detail, downright incompetence etc etc. I can vouch that all the ones above are none of these things. They are all excellent, full of good advice and all share a very obvious sense of humour and light touch.

Robert Reid
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Re: Milling Machine

Post by Robert Reid » Mon Nov 04, 2019 8:33 pm

Just my two percent of a dollar...

But you may be better off, if you have the space, getting a full-sized machine. The reason is that with most machining now done on CNC machining centers and, well, overseas, the big machines go begging. Plus accessories are more plentiful and cheaper. Old tooling for Bridgeports (and I am sure there is a UK Equivalent) are not expensive. Collets, rotary tables, 90 degree heads... all much more reasonable for non-commercially-viable bigger machines than for hobby machines that are always in demand.

Just something to think about.... but over here, you can buy a NICE bridgeport for less than $2,000. And usually it comes with a lot of tooling. Which is a great way to buy machines. As a package. Because the accessories do not add that much to the price. You can make out like a bandit at a shop closing down or at a used machine tool place on those machines that are not economical for production... but too big for most people with apartments!

Cheers,

RPR

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Re: Milling Machine

Post by John-Heaps » Tue Nov 05, 2019 8:38 pm

Hi Greg,
i agree with what most of the guys have said, think what size you need and then buy bigger so it can really do what you want it to, the most important bit of this is a bigger machine will be more rigid and be less prone to flexing in use, yes even with massive cast parts this can and does happen, also the bigger machines are less prone to going out of true as temps shift through the year cycle, the old saying is "a big machine can cut small parts but a small one wont fit big parts".

if you attempt cuts with a small mill that are not well within its spec you can ruin the work piece, the tool, the machine or all of them.

If i can give advise ( i have lathes and mills both large and small) i would recommend getting a machine with a variable speed motor control so you can set the cutter speed to the ideal for the type of cutting tool, depth of cut, type of material being cut, swarf clearance, cooling, surface finish required ect ect.

i could recommend attending a model engineering show that has trade stands present so you can see the physical size of the machines so you can judge if you will have the foot print in your workshop for the make of machine you want, dont forget to think about max up of the head and left and right of the table in use.

As a novice there is a great set of model engineering books full of great advice and hints/tricks from prominent (world class model engineers) available from.
Special Interest Model Books Ltd
PO Box 327
Poole
Dorset
BH15 2RG

www.specialinterestmodelbooks.co.uk

i can recommend them as i have a load of them covering several areas, not expensive and a great source of info for when we have a senior moment and dont think straight.

i hope this could be of some use and welcome to the world of metal munching.

Regards
John

Greg Clement
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Re: Milling Machine

Post by Greg Clement » Mon Nov 11, 2019 10:05 pm

Sorry for the delay in responding, I did post a reply at the end of last week but for some reason it has not uploaded.

Thanks to everyone who has commented and provided advice. Steve, like you, I also thought there was an earlier thread on milling machines but at the time could not find it.

What seems to be coming over loud and clear is – buy as big as your budget and workshop will allow. Robert, I like your logic but I just don’t have the room for a full size machine.

I honestly thought the Warco WM12 would be more than adequate but having heard the experiences of other it’s clear I shouldn’t be looking for anything smaller than a WM16 or similar.

Stephen, at first your “starter kit” looked over the top but on closer inspection it all made sense.

John, thanks for the link to Special Interest Model Books, they have some great titles and I have already placed my first order.

I do have one more question. Some machines have Z axis DRO fitted as standard. Does the add on 2 axis (X and Y) DRO talk/connect to the Z axis on the machine or do they remain independent?

I will let you know what machine I buy and in the coming months provide some updates on what’s gone well and what I would do differently.

Greg

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Stephen White
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Re: Milling Machine

Post by Stephen White » Mon Nov 11, 2019 10:38 pm

Greg, they remain independent of each other, although the readouts for X and Y will be next to each other on the same display. You could opt to buy a 3 axis DRO, with the three integrated and that then adds a lot of extra capability. There is currently a lot of advertising on social media for a Chinese 3 axis DRO with optical scales for under £100. I believe it’s very similar to the one Warco are selling.

I’ve got a lot of the books John Heaps recommended and they are excellent if a bit dated in presentation. You might also care to look at the Crowood Metalworking Guides Series, which are well produced and excellently illustrated. You can get the on Kindle as well as hardback.

Phil Woollard
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Re: Milling Machine

Post by Phil Woollard » Tue Nov 12, 2019 8:34 am

Or you could get one of these see below! 8) we have to be careful talking about the need for machine tools as we could put potential customers off the brand, I do use them but it's all possible without and a whole lot cheaper. 8)
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Mechanical engineer, Pyrotechnic technician, and small time farmer.
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