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Small bench mill or go big? (for a newbie)

jhov

Aluminum
Joined
Jun 5, 2020
I've wanted to buy mill for years now and may soon be pulling the trigger. It would be for hobby development and prototyping, but if a design bears fruit I'd like to start a business with it. My first consideration was to buy a new Taiwanese manual mill and convert it myself. I figured this would be a safe bet, considering I don't know how to properly inspect a used mill, the cost is in my price range and it would be a good way to learn the ropes. Then I figured I'd at least look at the used market and found a 1998 Haas VF-3 local to me and for not much more than I was planning to spend on the little bench mill + conversion. How in over my head would I be to try to start out with something like that? For my background, I was an aircraft mechanic for 8 years, now attending college for a mechanical engineering degree.
 

Totallyrc

Aluminum
Joined
Jan 16, 2010
Location
CT, USA
If you want to have a hobby converting machines, then buy a mill and convert it. If you want to make parts, buy the Haas or something similar and use the time you would have spent converting the manual machine learning how to use the ready to go machine.

Mike
 

GENERALDISARRAY

Hot Rolled
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
Plus if you decide flyfishin is where you would rather be. You have a machine tools to sell. maybe at a profit even.

Not a piece of absolute garbage trash to haul off.
 
Joined
Nov 19, 2007
Location
marysville ohio
A converted taiwan mini mill is useless. The money and time spent is right down the rathole, gone forever. If you decide to go a different direction after you get the Haas their is always another dreamer to sell it to.
 

jhov

Aluminum
Joined
Jun 5, 2020
The Taiwan mill I'm looking at isn't quite a "mini-mill". It's a 2HP bench top setup with a 8 1/4" x 33" table. My biggest concern with going big is going broke before I can get started. $10k sounds like a decent deal on a VMC until it doesn't work for any reason and I'm sure paying double the cost in just repairs isn't impossible. How does one go about inspecting a used VMC? Any tips? Any known bad apples to avoid?
 

thermite

Diamond
The Taiwan mill I'm looking at isn't quite a "mini-mill". It's a 2HP bench top setup with a 8 1/4" x 33" table.

Like it or not, that is still a "mill-drill" that might even do a half decent job as a substitute for a good drillpress -"good drillpress" having gone scarce in the market as well.

But not worth much as a mill other than fostering misunderstanding as to what manual mills neeed to do a proper job.

Easily an extra 1,000 to 1,500 lbs avoir of Iron in their ass, even to use the OTHER Taiwanese verticals - "Bridgeport type" manual mills heftier and more durable than "BeePees" (round-ram) or "BirdPorts" (dovetail ram) that were NOT starved of Iron whilst still in the egg. Forty-taper spindles for starters AND NOT Are Ate.

CNC y'see MAY be hefty. Most of it is hefty "enough", and some is scary massive.

But not always.

Since it doesn't get tired, bored, drunk, drugged, subject to "highway hypnosis", use cell-phones, ear-buds, need to go for a piss, eat lunch, take a shit, nor otherwise get distracted, a CNC critter CAN get the same amount of metal removed as a heavy-hogger by making a borderline insane count of LIGHTER cuts, and very rapidly. Identical parts can come out "lights out" even and hit the same spec all day, all year. Humans try to do that, the brain can go bugf**k off the boredom.

Have a care as to how you compare CNC with "all manual". The "yardsticks" are very different.

My biggest concern with going big is going broke before I can get started. $10k sounds like a decent deal on a VMC until it doesn't work for any reason and I'm sure paying double the cost in just repairs isn't impossible.
THIS .. is where yah learn that ability to fault-isolate and REPAIR CNC critters is more interesting and more useful, and even can PAY better if yer fast and correct first-go, at it... than pushing the buttons on one that never sets a foot wrong.

Because they DO "set a foot wrong" now and then. And SOMEBODY has deadlines to hit and needs good field service and/or "in house" and right capable "DIY" to prevent downtime from turning into loss of revenue or even loss of a good customer.

Machinery with nothing able to conjur up the odd challenging surprise about it?

Spare me. May as well watch re-runs .... on a black and white still photograph.
 

kustomizer

Titanium
Joined
Aug 17, 2007
Location
North Fork Idaho
The Taiwan mill I'm looking at isn't quite a "mini-mill". It's a 2HP bench top setup with a 8 1/4" x 33" table. My biggest concern with going big is going broke before I can get started. $10k sounds like a decent deal on a VMC until it doesn't work for any reason and I'm sure paying double the cost in just repairs isn't impossible. How does one go about inspecting a used VMC? Any tips? Any known bad apples to avoid?

I had nightmares for weeks waiting for my first one to show up and again one time when I bought 2 and built a new building at the same time, '09 came along at a bad time but it has all worked out just fine. We have had only a few orders since this Corona shit started and if it goes on another few months we might get caught up enough to go fishing.
Anyhow a note on the Haas, their are folks on the phone at the factory that will help you at no cost to you diagnose, swap parts from one axis to another or just about whatever it takes to find the problem. You can order parts and put them in/on yourself without much more than basic tools and knowhow. I would imagine there is another shop near you with someone that would go look at this Haas machine with you for the price of a 30 pack of beer or a bottle of Brandy, in my experiance once you get away from the silicone valley and big Boeing areas you find shop owners to be fairly friendly and helpfull as long as they don't see you as trying to take unfair advantage of them or make yourself a pest.
I would be a lot more concerned that the Taiwan mill would let me down and find the only support available was at the point of sale.

I think it was Mark Twain that said "any tool is the right tool if thats the tool you have" and in many trades that is true, a pipe wrench or a ratchet can make a damn fine hammer but a glorified drill press rarely makes a good milling machine. Of couse by "perspective", if you never get the chance to run a good machine you won't know the difference.
 

Garwood

Diamond
Joined
Oct 10, 2009
Location
Oregon
The Taiwan mill I'm looking at isn't quite a "mini-mill". It's a 2HP bench top setup with a 8 1/4" x 33" table. My biggest concern with going big is going broke before I can get started. $10k sounds like a decent deal on a VMC until it doesn't work for any reason and I'm sure paying double the cost in just repairs isn't impossible. How does one go about inspecting a used VMC? Any tips? Any known bad apples to avoid?

Realize that you don't know what you don't know, but that's OK. The right choice is a VMC if you have a place to put it.

My advice is have a coffee can full of cash and watch craigslist. When a VMC pops up for a few grand research the hell out of it, ask questions here and be prepared to drive fast and put a deposit down and setup rigging.

I've bought several good working small, quality VMC's for $500-$2000 and have hauled off more than a few larger machines for free both to scrap and one of the machines I use in my shop that I use.

Haas is very expensive used for what you are getting. Most used Japanese machines from the 1980's are more capable than a same size Haas from the early 2000's. Sure, you might get your money back out of the Haas, but nowadays I'd say Haas costs more to fix than old Fanuc stuff. If you buy the Jap machine right you can surely get what you paid for it back out.

I once paid $600 a 12 pack of Heineken for a good Mazak lathe from a friend. The primary part that came off that machine had $600 in profit in each one. I scrapped that lathe out and still tripled my investment. That was after a decade and many hundreds of thousands of dollars in product off it. It still ran perfect, just bought a newer, easier to use machine and nobody wanted a CNC from 1979.
 

gundog

Hot Rolled
Joined
May 31, 2004
Location
Southwest Washington USA
I've wanted to buy mill for years now and may soon be pulling the trigger. It would be for hobby development and prototyping, but if a design bears fruit I'd like to start a business with it. My first consideration was to buy a new Taiwanese manual mill and convert it myself. I figured this would be a safe bet, considering I don't know how to properly inspect a used mill, the cost is in my price range and it would be a good way to learn the ropes. Then I figured I'd at least look at the used market and found a 1998 Haas VF-3 local to me and for not much more than I was planning to spend on the little bench mill + conversion. How in over my head would I be to try to start out with something like that? For my background, I was an aircraft mechanic for 8 years, now attending college for a mechanical engineering degree.

When I bought my first CNC bed mill I paid to have it inspected by a repair tech it cost me $200 and was money well spent it turned out to be a good machine and I bought it. When you start using a CNC you are going to make mistakes and you won't know if it is a machine problem or an operator problem so it is nice to know that the machine checked out and you need to figure out what you are doing wrong.
 

eaglemike

Stainless
Joined
Apr 25, 2014
Location
san diego
The Taiwan mill I'm looking at isn't quite a "mini-mill". It's a 2HP bench top setup with a 8 1/4" x 33" table. My biggest concern with going big is going broke before I can get started. $10k sounds like a decent deal on a VMC until it doesn't work for any reason and I'm sure paying double the cost in just repairs isn't impossible. How does one go about inspecting a used VMC? Any tips? Any known bad apples to avoid?
In this forum, that isn't even a mini-mill. TBH, making a living with one of those converted can be done if you have the perfect parts for that machine. If you have any desire to do real work, you are FAAAAAR better off with a Haas, , FADAL, or any decent Japanese made VMC. The Haas control (to me) is far friendlier than the Fanuc stuff for a first timer. If I was in your shoes, knowing what I know today, I'd find a fadal that wasn't totally wasted. I used to be a Haas fan, but no more. The lack of support for the older control is beyond disappointing. There are complete aftermarket control setups for a Fadal machine. Lots of the parts are available from supply shops. There's a large user base, and they seem willing to help. I've never owned one, but that's the way I would go. Some people like Tormach - that would be a step up from the machine you are considering. They have some factory support.
Good luck!
 

countryboy1966

Hot Rolled
Joined
Jan 10, 2009
Location
Thompson, Ohio
I bought a bench top mill as my first mill. I was more in a space constraint issue. Had to retrofit it... I graduated to a real mill and I still use the bench top for a basic 4th axis op.

GO with a legitamate machine. I wish I did/could have.
 

jhov

Aluminum
Joined
Jun 5, 2020
Thanks everyone for the feedback. I'm leaning toward the Haas or similar. Space isn't a problem, but after doing some measuring, I don't have any entrances that are large enough to get it to where I was planning to have it. I do have another location available with 10x10 garage doors, but it isn't air conditioned :( Anyway.. time to start researching the machine in depth. Thanks again.
 

drcoelho

Stainless
Joined
Feb 19, 2017
Location
Los Altos
I was in same situation as you, went with the Brother Speedio, very happy with the decision. See thread below to see how tight a squeeze is possible for this machine:

New Machine Day: Deckel, Weiler and Brother

P.S. Yamazen removed some components from the top of the machine to allow fit through door, then re-installed...they did a great job supporting the move-in of the machine.
 

jhov

Aluminum
Joined
Jun 5, 2020
The Brother Speedio is definitely out of my price range, but I'm now researching and shopping around for a used VMC. I think the VF-3 I mentioned is a no go, simply because I'd have to keep it in an garage without climate control. I'm now searching for a 96+ Fadal 3016. I can just barely fit it into my climate controlled shop and I read that parts are easy to come by.
 

Garwood

Diamond
Joined
Oct 10, 2009
Location
Oregon
I read that parts are easy to come by.

I'm sure they are.

Whenever I see that Fadal virtue touted I wonder if anyone else ever notices that all the Fadal threads on the internet are about guys fixing them up?

IMO, sure a dirt cheap little Fadal would be a fine starter machine. I sure as hell wouldn't actively search one out though. Buy something low cost that you do not have to mechanically rebuild the entire thing because it was a POS when it was new. Maybe something that will interpolate a round hole?

My point is just don't limit yourself. IMO, Fadal prices are retarded.

1982 Suburu wagons with 300K miles and a slipping clutch don't sell for $15k right? That's about the equivalent to Fadal that needs a bit of work.

Same time you can commonly buy older machines built to far higher standards for less money. It isn't because they're money pits or unreliable. It's because they don't have an internet fanbase made up of a bunch of rebuild a wreck internet threads. Because they don't break down or wear out.
 








 
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