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Cheaper Machine w/ Upgrades vs More Expensive Machine Nearly Stock

bvaughan

Plastic
Joined
Nov 25, 2023
Location
Crittenden, KY
I'm sure this has been asked, but I couldn't figure out a good way to search for it, so feel free to point me to existing posts. I tried to provide context, but if I'm missing something, not thinking of something, etc. please tell me.

Anyway, I'm looking for advice on whether to get machine A that is cheaper (less powerful spindle, lighter and less rigid, slightly smaller envelope), but with "upgrades" (e.g., power drawbar, flood coolant, probe, etc.)... OR machine B that is more capable (opposite of above), but with fewer upgrades (initially).

I'm leaning towards the more capable, but less tricked out machine. I have the space and power for it so my thought is as I spend time with it, and figure out what I spend the most time doing (and what I find most annoying to deal with) and upgrade accordingly over time. However, I'm sure you folks, collectively, have made both choices and loved/regretted them.

For context, it would be our first machine and I'm squarely in the hobbyist/maker category at this time. I am taking machining courses at the local tech college and my wife runs a small business this machine would support, but would likely never overtake the laser as the primary tool. I don't have a specific set of projects or parts I'm looking to start with, so I'm after broad general capability but without a need for automation as most early parts will be one-offs and not production runs.

For example, it might be to make dies for silicone molds for small resin parts rather than the final parts themselves. Beyond that, it would be any number of random things I dream up, but again, would likely be less than 5 of any 1 thing.
 
Personally I'd always lean on the side of a more rigid, larger capacity, bare bones machine over a weak, sloppy, small machine with every bell and whistle.

When I just want to deck off material and can't get the finish I want, I'm not even going to bother to try complex work since utter failure will likely follow. No sense in wasting material, time and tooling on something that gives sub quality results.
The frustration alone will kill your desire to even try.

One last thing, I was given advice from a retired, long time machine shop owner who said

"when it comes to buying machines remember, you can make small parts on a big machine, buy you cannot make big parts on a small machine"
 
Should I buy a Honda with racing stripes, or should I buy a 1 ton truck without racing stripes?

PS. I don't know what I'll use this vehicle for.
I think he's looking at hobby machines, hence categorizing essential features like power drawbars as options. Apparently a 30 year old Haas VF0 with ATC and flood coolant would be considered "tricked out".
 
I think he's looking at hobby machines, hence categorizing essential features like power drawbars as options. Apparently a 30 year old Haas VF0 with ATC and flood coolant would be considered "tricked out".
Correct. It's why I stated I was very much in the hobbyist category as an attempt. In fairness, $100K for a hobby is well within the reach of some. I'm not part of that crowd.

I was trying to approach it more philosophically to avoid a holy war re: brand, country of origin, used vs new, etc. Maybe a better scenario would be something along the lines of within the same manufacturer, would you opt for a cheaper model and use the remaining budget for quality of life upgrades or would you use the budget on the core machine and forego the upgrades.

Maybe it's a bad question or one without an answer.

EDIT
You're right. I'm probably not asking this I'm the most appropriate place. I really wasn't sure where to ask because I also didn't want a bunch of hobbyists with homebuilt routers and a spindle made from a Ryobi laminate trim router telling me "there's no reason to spend a dime over $1200 unless you're building engine blocks for F1." The higher-end hobbyist range is fairly narrow, unfortunately.
 
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There is one thing to look at though regardless of hobby mill, commercial mill....
you can buy a machine stripped, and just add the add on's that cannot be field installable.

So like your not going to buy the 6k spindle and later change it to 15k....
TSC usually isn't very field installable, unless you purchase it with a TSC ready
an auger may even be something not field installed.....

So you can buy a big stripped machine, pick and choose the options that you want that you cant buy later,
and buy the others down the road.

I bought a new machine stripped for like $35-40k only added rigid tap and 10k spindle,
all the other options I added later as the machine paid for them, If the machine didn't make me any money,
I didn't have to pay for options that I pre installed.

2 cents.
 
You're right. I'm probably not asking this I'm the most appropriate place.
You're actually better off staying here, but starting over from scratch.

If you go to a hobby forum, you're just going to end up in an echo chamber with lots of people giving you objectively bad advice.

Ask any question here and you'll get a lot of different opinions which you'll have to sift through, but at least they're coming from people who have actually made parts for a living.

Back to square one... what's your budget, how much space do you have, how much power do you have, and what's the size of your entry door?
 
I appreciate it.

Budget is small. $15K including delivery.

Footprint: I have what is the size of a 2 car garage, but wouldn't want to spare more than maybe 6'x6' as I use the space for many other things (welding, woodworking, couple go karts, etc.)

Power: single phase 220/240VAC 50A

Entry door: standard residential rolling garage door

I'm somewhat handy (certainly not the best), but by no means looking for a project. I'm looking for a machine that works, not a machine to work on. I'm not outright ruling out a used machine, but have limited time available so I don't want to spend my 1 weekend day a week for the next 3 months getting something re-ready to make chips.

EDIT
Fully expect the response to be I'm expecting a unicorn that craps rainbows. I'm fairly certain I won't be happy with things like a Taig, Sherline, etc. A new Sybil eclipses the budget. I know Tormach doesn't go over well here, but for my purposes a 770M would likely get it done for me. Where I'm blind is in the used market for Haas, Fandal, etc. so would need some direction.

I'm spoiled in class as everything there is many 10s of thousands out of my range.
 
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Agree with above. We don't buy China spindles in here for a reason. There is a TON of ways to save money if you learn how to fix machines.....within reason.
 
I appreciate it.

Budget is small. $15K including delivery.

Footprint: I have what is the size of a 2 car garage, but wouldn't want to spare more than maybe 6'x6' as I use the space for many other things (welding, woodworking, couple go karts, etc.)

Power: single phase 220/240VAC 50A

Entry door: standard residential rolling garage door

I'm somewhat handy (certainly not the best), but by no means looking for a project. I'm looking for a machine that works, not a machine to work on. I'm not outright ruling out a used machine, but have limited time available so I don't want to spend my 1 weekend day a week for the next 3 months getting something re-ready to make chips.
What are you expecting to buy? Manual machine? CNC? DRO? Any clue what you want to make? Or just ability to fix something with more balls than a drill press?
 
I appreciate it.

Budget is small. $15K including delivery.

Footprint: I have what is the size of a 2 car garage, but wouldn't want to spare more than maybe 6'x6' as I use the space for many other things (welding, woodworking, couple go karts, etc.)

Power: single phase 220/240VAC 50A

Entry door: standard residential rolling garage door

I'm somewhat handy (certainly not the best), but by no means looking for a project. I'm looking for a machine that works, not a machine to work on. I'm not outright ruling out a used machine, but have limited time available so I don't want to spend my 1 weekend day a week for the next 3 months getting something re-ready to make chips.

EDIT
Fully expect the response to be I'm expecting a unicorn that craps rainbows. I'm fairly certain I won't be happy with things like a Taig, Sherline, etc. A new Sybil eclipses the budget. I know Tormach doesn't go over well here, but for my purposes a 770M would likely get it done for me. Where I'm blind is in the used market for Haas, Fandal, etc. so would need some direction.

I'm spoiled in class as everything there is many 10s of thousands out of my range.
$15k? You can do miles better than what you're looking at. Start looking for an early 2000's era Brother or Robodrill tapping center. They're small enough to fit in your garage, be moved around with a cheap pallet jack, can be run on a 30A breaker, and are orders of magnitude better than a Tormach. Not to mention if you ever need to sell it you can get your money back. You will need a phase converter though.. buy that used too and you can probably just stay within your budget if you shop smart.

Edit: I just checked and phase converters have come down since the insanity of the last few years. I run my Brother off an American Rotary AD20 which are $1600 shipped new right now. Last year they were $2500. You've picked a perfect time to buy, with a recession just getting started. There will be plenty of good deals in the coming months.
 
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To the OP. FWIW,
I've been there. Started with a 5k machine (CNCmasters CNC Jr) at a company I worked for. Pretty much junk. Floppy, tiny work envelope, Motion control software very limiting. Next was my own $$ on a Novakon Torus pro $15k delivered. (Similar to Tormach 1100, but a bit larger with servo's and linear rails on the Z axis with power draw bar). Made a ton of stuff on it. Did a good enough job in alumium. There's no getting around physics with a 3hp spindle and friction based tool holding (TTS, unreliable, pullout issues on any tool larger than 3/8"). The control software on these hobby machines CAN go nuts for no obvious reason (windows based control ?). Be prepared to take a while and don't expect great geometric tolerances. If this only for hobby use in a garage for 8-10K would be reasonable IMO. All the stands these machines are set on are horribly designed and any flood cooling is nightmare. Problem with these is the more capable you get, the worse the machine gets. I spent a ton of time trying to making it something it will never be (Industrial grade reliable machine). It's easy to burn a lot of bandwidth modifying/adding to the machine to make it more capable. When I started getting jobs making parts for $$ I should have kicked it to the curb and got a real machine (Which I did eventually. Brother S500 X1).

I get it, you have limited space and resources. Just use it as intended. Slow, Standing in front of it with a squirt bottle etc. and make do dads while learning. However, There's no way I would spend 30K on a new Tormach no matter how many lights and sexy they make it look even with a BT30 spindle). If I were to do it again, I would look hard and far for a used Brother/HAAS min mill/robodrill or similar. These old machines may look like hammered dog shit, but will still make great parts at lighting speeds compared to any brand new hobby mill.

BTW,
Real Machines are insanely easy to use in comparison to the hobby units.
 
I get it, you have limited space and resources. Just use it as intended. Slow, Standing in front of it with a squirt bottle etc. and make do dads while learning. However, There's no way I would spend 30K on a new Tormach no matter how many lights and sexy they make it look even with a BT30 spindle). If I were to do it again, I would look hard and far for a used Brother/HAAS min mill/robodrill or similar. These old machines may look like hammered dog shit, but will still make great parts at lighting speeds compared to any brand new hobby mill.

BTW,
Real Machines are insanely easy to use in comparison to the hobby units.
Did you really throw Haas in with Brother and Robo?

Only thing I will mention from experience, and likely similar to all others here.. You will be drinking out of a fire hydrant trying to learn and absorb the 'world of milling'. There is a LOT to learn! Figure out what your expectations are for today and the future. Ask pointed questions. Hell, I had to learn the difference in an Acme screw and a ballscrew. What is an angular contact bearing and why does it matter? You will have to understand that the machines are only one part of the equation. You have to learn about tooling, fixturing, mill paths, etc.

Most people here are not going to recommend to you a POS hobby toy. Put it this way, if someone offered me a BRAND NEW Tormach vs a broke Robo, I will take that Robo without question. You made it clear you don't wish to work on one and I totally respect/understand that. But I also guarantee if you get something like a Tormach, you WILL be working on it! Fixing well designed machines is far easier than trying to fix bad/cheap designs.
 
Budget is small. $15K including delivery.
And for this reason alone: your best machine is going to be what's the best combination of nearby, not worn out and nearby. Did I mention nearby? I just looked at a 500 mile radius around your location on CL and unfortunately there ain't much used out there.

As others have already said: you will wish for something better within the first day if you go the hobby route.
 
I run a Kira VTC 30 S. great machine in terms of rigidity even though it is only a 30 taper. Controller is a bit lacking.
 
Ha, I sniff around Kira machines a bit and stumble into this...wtf?
Boy, whoever set that up ought to be shot!

Kira are pretty decent machines. Pretty simple. Not the best in control integration, but once you figure out things like recovering the tool changer and make some notes, easy to keep running.
 








 
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