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Help w/ Strange Index/Gorton Hybrid on Craigslist

Nov 28, 2017
Howdy folks, first post here although I've been lurking for well over year now.

I'm currently trying to outfit a small home shop with the ability to make some specific geology related tools and equipment. I already have a lathe (two actually, both free:D) and would like to add a small/medium sized knee mill for its versatility. I really don't want to go down the mill/drill route after reading about the "tram it again Johnny" issues. I'm not after full scale production at this point, more aimed at small scale prototyping and development.

While wonderful for many other reasons, unfortunately I live in New Mexico, a comparative machine tool wasteland compared to the Mid West. I've been watching/bidding on auctions and Craigslist for almost a year now and interesting tools are few and far between. This leads me to the machine I'm hoping to get some info on today.

What I'm considering appears to be a Gorton head grafted onto a Index Model 50 base. This is new to me for sure and makes me very hesitant drop his $1700 asking price for it, also it's been posted repeatedly for a couple of months. No mention of tooling or whatnot, and I'd guess it has a B&S 9 taper which is annoying but not deal breaking for me. The table looks small, say 30" or so which would fit nicely into my shop without too much trouble. Much of the government surplus stuff these days has been large 40" tables and bigger.

Essentially, the main questions I have for the more experienced than myself, is the head swap a terrible idea? And, if its not beat to hell, what would be a reasonable price for this odd ball machine?

Gorton Vertical Milling Machine - tools - by owner - sale


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Dec 8, 2007
Buckingham, VA
I dunno about that one. It looks like the head is attached with steel plate. Might not be rigid or be difficult to tram in. I would pass on that.


Sep 23, 2009
Run don't walk from that Frankin mill. Hate to say it considering my opinion of drill/mills but one of those would probably be more useful.

Richard King

Jul 12, 2005
Cottage Grove, MN 55016
$1700.00 for that? No wonder no one has bought it! If he gave me $1700.00 plus the machine I would not take it. If you want to do crappy work buy it for $100.00. If you PM me with your email address I can forward you auction flyers from the midwest. Buy one, and have a LTL trucker ship it to you. or go get it yourself. Rich
Nov 28, 2017
$1700.00 for that? No wonder no one has bought it! If he gave me $1700.00 plus the machine I would not take it. If you want to do crappy work buy it for $100.00. If you PM me with your email address I can forward you auction flyers from the midwest. Buy one, and have a LTL trucker ship it to you. or go get it yourself. Rich

It WAS $1900! I've browsed around some of the Midwest auctions and was amazed at what things were going for. That said, once I factor in shipping/pickup, I'm close to buying something local that I can see in the steel. Thats worth a few extra bucks to me.

"Ewwwwww" was my gut instinct as well but the size and it being two miles from my house kept me pulling it up on CL. I'm a quarter tempted to offer scrap value on it, I can't see him getting much more than that.

Looks like the search continues, thanks guys!

Joe Michaels

Apr 3, 2004
Shandaken, NY, USA
What the machine is, is a poorly made mutt. Seeing what looks like structural steel plate bolted to the column of the Index mill to hold the ram of the Gorton mill is suspect. A connection cobbed together from pieces of hot rolled plate is highly unlikely to hold the spindle of the Gorton milling head square to the table of the Index mill, and looks to have no means of tramming to square things up. The Gorton milling machine used a dovetailed ram to mount the head to the mainframe. Using what appear to be pieces of structural steel plate and possible some heavy angle iron does not look to be either anywhere near as rigid a mounting, nor anywhere near as accurate.

For the amount of time and aggravation this machine will bring you, you will be money ahead to wait and possibly go further afield for a good milling machine.

Simply put: parts of two good old milling machines grafted together poorly does not make a good mill.

Here in the Northeast, good used Bridgeports, some with DRO, can be had for 1500 bucks or a bit more. Something like an old Index or Gorton Mill, as a complete machine goes for a good deal less. I was at an antique engine and machinery consignment auction this past May, and saw an Index Mill, as a complete machine (albeit a bit rough), go for 100 bucks.

New Mexico may be a desert (pardon the pun, I could not resist adding it) in terms of used machine tools. Rather than settle for something like this cobbed-together mutt of a milling machine, I'd think of a way to purchase a better machine, even if it meant shipping it. One way might be to find listings of likely milling machines on Craigslist or similar, then post here to see if any members are willing to do the inspecting for you. With a favorable inspection report, the next hurdle is shipping. Not insurmountable, even if the machine has to be put on a skid and taken by common carrier. Another way is to make a road trip to bring the machine home. One way is to fly to where the machine is, if the distance is too far to drive both ways. Rent a truck with a lift gate and drive home with the machine in the rental truck.

There had to have been a reason someone found it necessary to graft a Groton milling head and ram onto an Index milling machine main frame. It is likely both original machines were severely worn or damaged- one with badly worn dovetails, gibs and feed screws, or even a busted mainframe (dropped during moving); the other machine with a busted or worn out head. The surviving parts put together to make this mutt likely have seen hard use and may have some bad wear on things like the table and saddle dovetail slides and feed screws. Who knows what shape the spindle bearings are in ? This is a machine tool that is likely to be the proverbial bucket of bolts.

Older milling machines have been successfully "converted" using Bridgeport heads, but the work was done by machinists who did the jobs right. Usually a Bridgeport head, grafted onto an older milling machine, is a case of a light-duty head on a much more massive mainframe. I've seen Bridgeport heads adapted and mounted successfully on older van Norman mills, and on ancient horizontal mills. These were good jobs, with properly designed, properly machined and properly fitted mountings. It is not hard to do if a person has the machine shop equipment and skill. This machine looks to be the product of someone who maybe had to work with what they had at hand- and likely were not machinists to start with.

I know the Bridgeport mills are often looked down upon as light duty machines and sometimes called "not a real vertical mill but a glorified drill press". I have a Bridgeport Mill in my home shop and within its limits, it is adequate for most of what I do. Using an edge finder and basic methods, no DRO, I can produce work well within 0.001". The good part about the Bridgeport Mills are they are common as dirt, have a popular spindle taper (the R-8), parts, manuals, and tooling are all over the place for these machines. A basic Bridgeport also can be dismantled handily to move into a tight access shop. A friend and I moved a Bridgeport into his basement shop in an ancient house. We took the Bridgeport apart outdoors in snowy weather, got the mainframe down a basement entry stair and through a narrow passageway and down some more stair, turned a corner or two, and into his shop. The other parts followed. No crane, no forklift, just a comealong, some planks, pipe rollers, and some square steel tube which we used as "slideways" to slide the mainframe down the corridor with low head room and very uneven floor surface. My friend paid about 1200 for his Bridgeport. It has DRO, came with a vise and some tooling including a boring and facing head, and also came with a 3 phase power converter. When we dismantled the machine to get it into his basement, we found it had been rebuilt with "Turcite" on some of the sliding surfaces and was a good, tight machine tool.

I am sure if you are willing to cast your net a bit further afield, with some help from people on this 'board, you might be able to get a good milling machine. The costs of going after or shipping it may be a bit much up front, but if you live in an area with little or no used machine tools around, it's money well spent. Over time, you will not regret it. Wiating for the right deal to come along on your doorstep in an area such as your locality means waiting a long time, and likely settling for something less than you wanted. Paying a bit more up front to get what you need and getting a good machine tool ready to put to work is worth it, in my opinion.