Import Milling Machine Quality
I am in the market for a used vertical milling machine. The market appears to be dominated by machines made in Taiwan and mainland China. Most manufacturer web sites do not say where their machines are made. Most just say "import", which I suspect is code for Taiwan or China. Which Asian milling machines are the best made in terms of quality of construction and precision?
I plan on buying used, so spare parts are a consideration. I'm thinking about a Sharp brand mill an Acer E-Mill or a Supermax milll since all three of these companies have offices / headquarters in Southern California where I am located. Thanks for the input...
I'd add Lagun to your list, but if you can, find a real BP, the parts support is better than any of the imports, and these days used BP prices are pretty attractive.
John F. is a member here and does a very good job of rebuilding BPs. You can probably purchase a rebuilt machine from him for about what an import would cost.
Lagun! can't go wrong with it, and price is reasonable. Been lovin' mine since the day I got it.
Depends on what you are doing as to what is best for you.. The bridgeport mill is extremely versatile, but is a 50+ year old design.. Other manufacturers have improved the design with heavier castings, box ways, larger quill etc
I'll second that on lagun awesome machine. If you can find one with a 40 taper that much better
There's one on ebay close to you. scan vertical milling machines. select "price, lowest first" I think it's the fourth of fifth one.
I plan on using it for home hobby gunsmithing. Mostly 1911 pistol work. I've seen a Lagun mill at the community college where I took a machine shop course. The one the college had was not working so I never had a chance to use it. The college also had a few Grizzly mills that I thought were inferior to the Supermax, Acra, and ofcourse Bridgport mills that were in the shop.
Examine your workload. Is a turret mill right for you? The usual turet mill has an R8 spindle which is adequate for small work and tool hop application but if stock removal is paramoung consider a machine with an #40 milling taper. It's three times as stiff and because of its positive key drive will not slip.
There are beefier version of the turret mill furnihed with a #400 MMT: the Bridgeport series 2 for example, the larger Laguns, and a number of import machines.
I mention these because discussion often focuses on "Bridgeport" mills as though no other vertical mill existed. Not every machine shop's requirements can be satsfied by a small, economical milling machine with its large work envelope for its foot print but limited power and rigidity.
It wouldn't hurt to stock spares in anticipation of breakdowns and future wear. A spare spindle cartridge, quill pinion with associated shaft, worm gear and worm, lead screws and nuts, belt, and motor. If you have these in stock and the machine breaks down immediate repar is possible and you have no need to feverishly scrounge.
I stocked spare cross-feed and compound screws and nuts for my lathe when I bought it new in 1971. Nearly 40 years of moderate use and good care have passed and I only had to take up on the nut adjustment twice. I made a spare lead screw and bored a half nut insert when the lathe was new. The spares still sit covered in preservative on the shelf. I have spares for my turret mill and have never needed them.
However Murphy's law still applies. Had I not had spares I'm sure I would have had a Friday night breakdown when I abolutely positively needed a ;athe or a mill over the weekend. Life is like that. Spares are good.
I have the smallest of the laguns, the FTV-1, it usually does come with R8 but I got the NTMB as an option. It does add about 1K to the machine price from what I remember but so worth it.
I got a spare belt as they're the first thing to go on mills, thankfully the lagun won't need it for at least 10+yrs. Most taiwan machines go through belts every 2-3yrs at best.
Other option if you can find one is EX-cell-O's, XLO that were made in Canada, very similar travels to the laguns and also made stronger than a bridgeport, and had a few additional nice features. Some are R8, some are 40 taper.
The Excello's are the finest of the small turret type mills.
I was taught how to use a mill on a Bridgeport. My first two mills were 9X42 J head Bridgeports. Paid good money for them. They worked OK. I figured turret mills are just versatile machines with inferior rigidity. I picked up a Taiwan built ACCU 9x49, was used for a decade in a production shop. Paid $400 for it. I would rather not own another machine with the name Bridgeport on it. That Tai machine will run circles around a BP. The extra few inches of X travel and more rigid casting is a delight.
The variable head BP's do have a superior head design compared to many asian import machines. The ram ways that move the head in and out aren't always as accurately machined on import machines as they are on an Excello or BP.
OP said Home Hobby Gunsmithing on 1911 pistols.
A Bridgeport or = is a bit overkill as is, for pistol work. A step pulley machine with a VFD eliminates a lot of $$ wear parts, and special reeves drive belts.
Average length of cut will be under 6 in long. .100 deep cuts are really hogging in pistol work, and usually only ~ 1 in long.
A 3/4 end mill would see little use. A R8 taper machine will do just fine for average gunsmith...
The heavier machines are better, but overkill for the delicate work done on pistol frames and slides. Like using a 20 in Pacemaker to make sewing needles.
No need for lots of x or Y travel when working on something 6 inches long and 1 in wide.
Having multiple sources of new/used parts, is a BP advantage over most discontinued model imports...
Also keep an eye out for Wells-Index (also known as Index) mills. All but the model 837 are US made and the company is still around building mills and supplying parts. They are very well built but often sell for less than Bridgeports since they are not as well known.
Originally Posted by L Machine
I've use Excello's, nice machines. I did prefer it over the Bridgeport.
Originally Posted by Garwood
As far as Bridgeports having superior head designs, I have to disagree with that. The Sharp mill has a far better head design than the Bridgport.
You might also look out for an Alliant, which is the first (?) Taiwanese clone built to supply the former Bridgeport dealers that were cut out of the sales loop by BP. These were a little more robust and had chrome ways among other improved features. They are no longer imported, but parts can be purchased from Sharp Industries in So. Cal as they seem to be the same machine, or at least that has been my experience.
One thing not mentioned that I saw is the option to buy a step pulley machine and run it off of a VFD. The step pulley BP's are more trouble free than a vari-head design and the VFD means you don't have to do many pulley changes.
The Clausing Kondia knee mills are a high quality machine made in Spain. They are a bit more versatile than a BP much better than Taiwan made and parts are readily available.
I notice that nobody has suggested a Deckel FP1.
Do people only buy one when they want to collect and look at one,
rather than use one? And its universal.
I have an Alexander Master toolmaker clone and whilst I am not into guns I am sure that it would be ideal.
Link for Deckel
Link for Alexander
"import" 90 percent of the time is code for "China" A shame the word "import" has been so misused that that is what it means now, but that's pretty much it.
Originally Posted by L Machine