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Looking at a 1930s Bridgeport -- am I crazy?

CarbideBob

Diamond
Joined
Jan 14, 2007
Location
Flushing/Flint, Michigan
. Yes it's not a big horse but sure is a fine pony....

Soft spot for this toolmaker table mill as it was the first machine tool I was allowed to run and I kept it and used it for 45+ years.
Still remember playing with it as a kid and "Hey, if you turn this handle on one end the other moves too and this big thingee moves back and forth" .
Followed by Dad coming out into the shop and yelling "What are you doing? If that was setup for a part you have messed up everything", along with a good swat on the butt.
In time he would teach me how to use it. First part I ever cut was keyways on a jackshaft for the mini-bike. Hooked line and sinker from there.
I'm not much for old or restored machine tools but never seen one of these looking this nice. :drool5: Must be some serious time put in here.
 

shaggy

Hot Rolled
Joined
Sep 29, 2010
Location
Oakland CA
Even after all said, I still like old iron for hobby milling. As long as the price is right and you understand it is limited. My BP has 2 horses with mist cooling, and I find everything I mill is temperature limited, rather than rigidity or power limited. But then, I am a hobby machinist and not working fast to make a dollar.

I still think $2k is too much, though. I got my 1970's vintage CNC BP 6 months ago for $1500, including servo motors that would sell for more than the mill. It's best to decide what you want to do, which machine will do it...and then be patient. With CNC being the new "thing", the manual BP's are not going up in price like they were 10 years ago. There is no hurry finding "your" machine. It will turn up.

Oh, 2k would def. be too much. $1250 is the asking price, and as I'm now thinking, probably better put towards a newer, less-worn machine.
I agree, it shouldn't take long for something better to turn up.
 

gustafson

Diamond
Joined
Sep 4, 2002
Location
People's Republic
Thanks -- I just got word this morning the Ser. No. is 100024.

I think that's 1938. And, could it be, the 24th BP ever made(?) yikes :eek:

since it is first year of production, it is possible

I am not a fan of round rams, but as mentioned, if you work within its capacity, and don't ask more accuracy than it will give, it will do fine

If I wanted a manual bridgeport I would want a short table short knee step pulley.

Quiet and easy to use
 

Milland

Diamond
Joined
Jul 6, 2006
Location
Hillsboro, New Hampshire
Thanks -- I just got word this morning the Ser. No. is 100024.

I think that's 1938. And, could it be, the 24th BP ever made(?) yikes :eek:

Well, crap. If it's really that vintage, it would be a shame to consign it to the scrapper. It might be worth a quick call to Bridgeport, to see if they want it for historic purposes. Not too likely considering all the changes of ownership, but you never know...
 

shaggy

Hot Rolled
Joined
Sep 29, 2010
Location
Oakland CA
since it is first year of production, it is possible

I am not a fan of round rams, but as mentioned, if you work within its capacity, and don't ask more accuracy than it will give, it will do fine

If I wanted a manual bridgeport I would want a short table short knee step pulley.

Quiet and easy to use

That sort of machine would do most of what I need to do. And as an added bonus, I might actually be able to fit it inside the shop(!)
 

shaggy

Hot Rolled
Joined
Sep 29, 2010
Location
Oakland CA
Well, I've walked away from that particular BP. I had a good talk with the owner, but didn't really need to see it to know it wasn't for me.

Thanks to everyone for the feedback.

So, it's back to square one: Waiting for the right machine to turn up -- and hoping it won't take longer than I've got left :)
 

thermite

Diamond
Well, I've walked away from that particular BP. I had a good talk with the owner, but didn't really need to see it to know it wasn't for me.

Thanks to everyone for the feedback.

So, it's back to square one: Waiting for the right machine to turn up -- and hoping it won't take longer than I've got left :)

I never had any CHOICE as to what myself - or anyone else we know NOW - might have considered "the right" machine tool when I was on the clock. Ran whatever the foreman put me onto for whatever task was on the plate. After I had been there for a while, he even let me be the one to pick ...when there was a choice open, anyway.

Main criteria NOW.... .since I do not HAVE to make even a single chip to put steak or whatever the Hell else I'm in the mood for onto my plate - is whether the machine is INTERESTING to mess with as well as "capable enough" to make the odd part for itself, it's fellow litter-mates under roof, or some sort of tooling or adapter-for, just for the Halibut and a bit of fun.

NEXT owner can "make chips" with the lot of 'em. Or not.

What's your actual GOAL? Presuming you HAVE one?

Kind of an "accident" here, Old Iron was. KNEW it was no longer a good time for a stiffened-up Old Fart to keep-on messing with motor cars, what with all the mandatory testing and multiple confusers wired to the "bus". Jaguar has FIVE of the little dirty-beach-sand f**kwits always arguing with each other over who gets to shit in my Oatmeal FIRST, and on which day of what week.

Buggers get too damned ornery, I just go and drive the ignorant-reliable MOPAR van that day. Dumb as a box of rocks, low-tech, never got no collitch education, so it spends all its plotting and scheming time figuring out more clever ways to RUST faster.
 

Newman109

Diamond
Joined
Sep 4, 2006
Location
Sacramento County, California, USA California
Disagree. He still had smarts enough to "ASK PM". That rules out BOTH of "crazy" and "stupid". Leaving unf**king BELEIVABLY... ignorant.

. of what an old "round ram" Bee Pee.. was never.

EG: any more resemblance to one of the many ACTUAL "milling machines" it was only ever about as much add-on "accessory" to as..

.. a set of clip-on supplemental rear-view mirrors were for making it SLIGHTLY less hazardous to tow a 40-foot sailboat on trailer behind a clapped-out ....Volkswagen "Beetle".

You think that is some kind of a dull, bad, ATTEMPT at a joke? Just go ahead. Buy the Bee Pee!

Vintage "collector's item?" So is my fossilized wrinkly ass!

Astonishing how many opportunists have wanted to take a chunk out of it - 75 years ... and still counting. Go figure what it was they expected to DO with the divots, had they succeeded?

So is a "collector's item" a far less painful 1938 vintage rusted tin can.... that once held a ration of REALLY dreadful Lima beans. Or SOCONY-Vacuum "Gargoyle" lubricating oil. "Empty" is "empty", either way.

"Milling machines exist"

Go ye forth and find one!

But, but, but, it's got a Morse taper spindle. Surely you missed that. :rolleyes5:
 

thermite

Diamond
But, but, but, it's got a Morse taper spindle. Surely you missed that. :rolleyes5:

Oscar Beale sure as shit didn't "miss that". MT had proven good enough for straight-ahead inline-thrust drilling, wrong as can be for milling-cutter side loads, last quartile of the 1800's already.

Drilling, tapping, counterboring small fastener holes off a big horizontal mill's over-arm, same workpiece, is EXACTLY what a significant portion of early BeePee - and not-only - add-on heads DID.

Goldilocks economics.

One less machine to migrate to. Less precise than a jig bore as to positioning, but good enough. More precise than a drillpress without need of building a jig plate with drill bushings and having to "register" the fool thing to boot.

"Real", as-in 'solid frame" vertical mills surely existed for hard tasking. "Real" as-in raised-up ON horizontals, Mill Hands hadn't the least problem running end-mills in our spindles, ever the job required that.

Mill had no movable head? We moved OUR head to make use of the line of march we DID have.

BFD. Didn't know no better if yah didn't HAVE no better. "JFDI", Not HARD. Just awkward. And then it wasn't even awkward.
 

shaggy

Hot Rolled
Joined
Sep 29, 2010
Location
Oakland CA
Oscar Beale sure as shit didn't "miss that". MT had proven good enough for straight-ahead inline-thrust drilling, wrong as can be for milling-cutter side loads, last quartile of the 1800's already.

Drilling, tapping, counterboring small fastener holes off a big horizontal mill's over-arm, same workpiece, is EXACTLY what a significant portion of early BeePee - and not-only - add-on heads DID.

Goldilocks economics.

One less machine to migrate to. Less precise than a jig bore as to positioning, but good enough. More precise than a drillpress without need of building a jig plate with drill bushings and having to "register" the fool thing to boot.

"Real", as-in 'solid frame" vertical mills surely existed for hard tasking. "Real" as-in raised-up ON horizontals, Mill Hands hadn't the least problem running end-mills in our spindles, ever the job required that.

Mill had no movable head? We moved OUR head to make use of the line of march we DID have.

BFD. Didn't know no better if yah didn't HAVE no better. "JFDI", Not HARD. Just awkward. And then it wasn't even awkward.

The very first mill I was ever taught to operate was a big old Cincinnati horizontal. A little while later I was put to work operating the 'milling attachment' of a brand-new Emco Unimat that the boss had bought for the factory, thinking to save himself some money.
I doubt it saved him much, seeing as I was on minimum wage already. But I hated the feel of that toy lathe, and still remember what a let-down it was after my time on the big mill.

The crying shame of it is that the Cincinatti is most likely landfill today, while the cheesy little Emco will still fetch 3 or 4 times what it's worth.
 

CJD

Aluminum
Joined
Aug 28, 2019
I was cut on manual milling 40 years ago, but took a break almost that long. I literally stumbled into my CNC Bridgeport, but now I cannot imagine going back to manual. It cuts circles (literally) around a manual set-up. I figured out thread milling, which is the bomb for tapping anything you can fit on your table. No more breaking off taps in the last of 10 holes. You program in the air conditioning, and then load the machine and watch the part take shape.

The BP is not as capable as a modern CNC machine, but for my hobby milling it does very well. The beauty of a CNC BP is everyone is afraid of them. Like I said above, mine ran $1500 for the entire rig...and just one of the 4 servo motors that came with it are worth over $1k. I had to put $2k into updating the controls, but now it runs like a top. I would rather cut a circular part in the BP than on the lathe!

Anyway...I bring this up so you are not afraid to broaden your search for later CNC bridgeports. They turn up regularly, and are well worth the extra initial cost. Everyone who has milled CNC wants the latest greatest HAAS or such, so the CNC BP's are a bargain.
 

shaggy

Hot Rolled
Joined
Sep 29, 2010
Location
Oakland CA
I was cut on manual milling 40 years ago, but took a break almost that long. I literally stumbled into my CNC Bridgeport, but now I cannot imagine going back to manual. It cuts circles (literally) around a manual set-up. I figured out thread milling, which is the bomb for tapping anything you can fit on your table. No more breaking off taps in the last of 10 holes. You program in the air conditioning, and then load the machine and watch the part take shape.

The BP is not as capable as a modern CNC machine, but for my hobby milling it does very well. The beauty of a CNC BP is everyone is afraid of them. Like I said above, mine ran $1500 for the entire rig...and just one of the 4 servo motors that came with it are worth over $1k. I had to put $2k into updating the controls, but now it runs like a top. I would rather cut a circular part in the BP than on the lathe!

Anyway...I bring this up so you are not afraid to broaden your search for later CNC bridgeports. They turn up regularly, and are well worth the extra initial cost. Everyone who has milled CNC wants the latest greatest HAAS or such, so the CNC BP's are a bargain.

CJD, I really appreciate your post. This issue seems to come up for me fairly regularly. And you're right, I always revert to manual machinery out of fear of the unknown.
I see these old CNC BPs for sale, and I'm completely in the dark as to where I'd even start to evaluate. I wouldn't know a dinosaur from a potential goldmine, and recoil at the thought of the frustration and expense I'd be getting into, reasoning that such machines were most likely put aside for good reason.

But, you have certainly given me food for thought :) --thanks

(PS -- Can you give an examples of the 'newer' CNC BPs you speak of, as opposed to obvious dinosaurs? But maybe that topic deserves it's own thread. --cheers)
 

jccaclimber

Stainless
Joined
Nov 22, 2015
Location
San Francisco
I haven't seen your intended use case listed yet. Oil theorem might apply seeing as you live in about the same machine tool desert as I do. The right oil is much better than the wrong oil, but the wrong oil is much better than no oil. Just depends on how patient you are and what your real needs are. It's still worlds better than an unmentionable.
Noting that this particular decision has already been made, I'm normally in the anti-M-head camp, but might disagree here.
I have a varispeed J-head in my garage, but 98% of the things I do on it could be done on an m-head without even much pain. Hell, the lead in our machine shop has an old Rockwell in his garage in Oakland. It's a floppy noodle, but it was easy to move, takes up little space in this area where space is expensive, and gets him through the quick home projects that he wants just done right now. Anything that warrants a bit more planning he does on better suited machines at work.

Mine's actually one of the CNC dinosaurs mentioned above, but with a half functioning computer, and the floppy disk it ran from long dead from dust and old age. Bought it as a manual machine, but it still has the servos, I'll have to get it running properly one of these decades.
 

shaggy

Hot Rolled
Joined
Sep 29, 2010
Location
Oakland CA
I haven't seen your intended use case listed yet. Oil theorem might apply seeing as you live in about the same machine tool desert as I do. The right oil is much better than the wrong oil, but the wrong oil is much better than no oil. Just depends on how patient you are and what your real needs are. It's still worlds better than an unmentionable.
Noting that this particular decision has already been made, I'm normally in the anti-M-head camp, but might disagree here.
I have a varispeed J-head in my garage, but 98% of the things I do on it could be done on an m-head without even much pain. Hell, the lead in our machine shop has an old Rockwell in his garage in Oakland. It's a floppy noodle, but it was easy to move, takes up little space in this area where space is expensive, and gets him through the quick home projects that he wants just done right now. Anything that warrants a bit more planning he does on better suited machines at work.

Mine's actually one of the CNC dinosaurs mentioned above, but with a half functioning computer, and the floppy disk it ran from long dead from dust and old age. Bought it as a manual machine, but it still has the servos, I'll have to get it running properly one of these decades.

"I'll have to get it running properly one of these decades".! I like your optimism :D

I take it your machine can manually overide the original computer? I wonder how many CNC machines are set up also with manual controls? I'd guess not many (that I've noticed, anyway), but it would seem a necessity to me, given glitchy electronics or funky software.

To your question about intended use, I mostly make small parts and adaptors, for my own projects, and whatever else some friend or other might bring over. Often I could use a bigger or sturdier mill for a particular job, and just have to pass on it. I'm kicking myself that I prematurely got rid of my 'floppy' Rockwell vertical.
A '3/4-size BP' seems pretty well ideal right now.
 

jccaclimber

Stainless
Joined
Nov 22, 2015
Location
San Francisco
Yes, I can and do use it as a manual. The main differences vs. a generic BP from the same time are
The bloody heavy electrical cabinet on the back of the column holding the computer, servo controls, etc.
Ball screws on X and Y (this would have been an option otherwise).
The hand wheel knobs fold in so you don't get smacked when it's under its own power. This is actually a bit annoying in manual, but it makes sense. Once upon a time I suspect it would stay in whichever position it was placed, but there's now a worn out detent or something.
An very slow actuator that automatically lifts and drops the plunger for the Bijur oiler. There's also a sensor that keeps the spindle from starting if it's empty. This was jumpered when I got it. How hard is it to fill the &@*! oil container vs. taking it apart to bypass the float switch? Not like it uses it all that fast.
A large servo on the X and Y. This also means there is no handwheel on the left side of the X, only on the right side.
The control pendant/CRT screen, more or less also cooked. I was able to get a modern monitor and keyboard hooked in, but wasn't able to get the software running. Sadly without a DRO I don't get position without something to read the servo encoders. This is the one reason I am likely to get it working at some point.

I haven't seen one in a while, but they did also make BPs with shorter tables. It makes them a bit easier to use so long as you have just one vise mounted, but also makes it a bit harder if you like to leave a vise on one side and and a rotary table on the other with plenty of room to work around each.
 

CJD

Aluminum
Joined
Aug 28, 2019
The CNC BP’s are usually set aside when some part of the controller goes bad. Usually by the time the machine is up for sale, this is a moot point, as the controller is obsolete anyway. In general the Servoes and encoders are extremely durable and can be reused. Change the brushes on the older servos every decade or so, and they keep on running. Updating the controllers can be done by piecing it together for a couple grand, or as a Complete set through Centroid for 3-5 grand.

The factory CNC BP machines have very large, fat servos with heat sink fins on them. That is the sign of an OEM setup. The older conversations have the thinner but longer servoes...these are brushed DC motors, and easily adapted to any controller you want to. The latest servoes have transitioned to stepper motors, which are thinner and shorter, in general.

The “fear” in looking at a CNC machine is, since the controller is likely inop, you can’t run the stops like a manual mill to check for wear. You could, but it would be a day’s job, and most sellers would frown on taking a day to take the servoes off the machine to check. Instead, you have to go by the condition of the visible ways, And general condition to indicate the care the machine has received. Most later BP’s have chromed Y ways that hold up to a lot of use. They will also have the zero lash ball nuts.

You can always manual mill with a CNC machine...but you can’t CNC with a manual. Once you’ve seen the capability of a CNC machine you will realize it’s worth a bit of risk getting into it. It is amazing watching 3 axis moving at the same time to perfect points. In my case, the mill came with an old HAAS rotary table In the deal...so 4 axis in simultaneous motion. It’s a whole new dimension in Milling capability.

Anyway...just throwing is out are an option. I bought mine thinking I would convert it back to a manual...but I was too dumb to know what a great deal it was until I studied up to figure our what I really got. Shear dumb luck! A lot better deal than I got on my lathe...but that’s another story.
 

shaggy

Hot Rolled
Joined
Sep 29, 2010
Location
Oakland CA
Thanks for the great CNC info and stories, guys. Sounds like with luck it can turn out alright, albeit with a potentially long learning curve, and a project I'm not sure I'd have the resources or space to carry out. But I'll put some time into learning what I can, and then keep my eyes open for what might come along. I'm sure you wouldn't mind if I ever lay out a prospective buy for comment, as you've already been so helpful.
--cheers
 

CJD

Aluminum
Joined
Aug 28, 2019
Talk about tight space...

The first time my mill homed to the x limit it dented my wife’s car. She got a lot of honey do mileage out of that mistake! I look as tight space as less floor to clean chips after every job!??
 








 
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