Trying to identify Becker/Brainard vertical mill
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  1. #1
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    Default Trying to identify Becker/Brainard vertical mill

    I have had this mill for two or three years. The head is a Bridgeport C head with stationary quill. It's a mid 1930's model, prior to the formation of Bridgeport Machines Inc. I have done all my research on the head because I had a serial number and manufacturer on the nameplate to look up. I was always curious about the knee because it has no nameplate or any manufacturer's name in the casting. I didn't know anything about milling machines before I got this, so my lack of knowledge kept me from seeing one obvious detail. I finally realized that none of the modern knee bases have an x-axis travel for the head on the base because sliding quills came out shortly after my head was made. I always thought my base was some more modern vintage import. The shape of my base is very unique, though. As is one other thing, the knee screw and its housing.

    So I started looking at old machines and saw a picture of a Becker vertical machine. Sure enough, it has an identical shape, exposed knee screw and its lower housing. I haven't seen this style and shape anywhere else. So I started looking more closely at my machine. What I originally thought were DRO mounts, look exactly like like the old pulley and belt mounts.

    A few other things I've noticed is that the dials don't match. I thought maybe the saddle was modern and stuck on an old base, but the dial indicators match on both the Y-axis, which is part of the base casting and the X-axis which is on the saddle. The only difference is the dial. So I assume the saddle is original and the dials might have been changed out on the Y-axis. Also, many of the Becker machines I've seen have a different shape base at the bottom. The No. 2 has the same sloped downward style as mine, but my machine doesn't look like a No. 2. Later models have a raised lip around the edge of the base, presumably for catching oil and cooling fluids, while mine has a rounded, sloping edge on the bottom of the base. My machine has what looks just like the Becker door where the model name would be. Unfortunately the door is missing. I am still left wondering why I don't see any manufacturer name in the casting.

    So all that's left is to post the pictures and see what you guys think. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Sorry for the lousy photos, the mill is crammed in the corner of the garage and hard to get to.







  2. #2
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    A similar machine "in the day."



    Joe in NH

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    And a whopper - ghostly style
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails becker.jpg  

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe in NH View Post
    A similar machine "in the day."



    Joe in NH
    I should have posted the old photos I was referencing. Thanks, that happens to be one of them. According to Vintage Machinery, that similar machine is dated to 1907. Here are a few prior to that one. The first two have base bottoms that look just like mine, smooth, sloping downward into rounded edges. The No. 2 is dated 1892, the gear cutting machine is 1902 and the last one dated 1905 shows the earliest machine I could find with the newer style base that has a lip around the edge.

    John Becker manufacturing Co. was founded in 1889. Becker merged with Brainard in 1899 to form Becker-Brainard Milling Machine Co. Becker left Brainard in 1903 and then formed Becker Milling Machine co in 1908. So it seems right around the time Becker retired from Brainard, that's when the bases changed. Maybe it's just coincidental, but that's irrelevant. What is relevant, is that I can't find any machines with the rounded edge base like mine after this 1905 machine. So I am assuming that my machine is right around the turn of the century if it is a Becker or Becker/Brainard. It looks a lot like the No.2, but it is not exact. So unless my machine is a copy, it's just a different variation of a machine that isn't pictured. But why no markings in the casting? It looks like some of their early machines might have had the name painted, and the only casted markings were on the door, which I am missing. That could explain it, but I really hope someone who knows more about these can tell something more definitive.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails mill1892.jpg   mill1902.jpg   mill1905.jpg  

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    I would say it is a Becker No.3 from around 1896.
    Missing a lot of parts.

    Illustrated catalogue of machinery, tools and supplies

    John Becker Jr., is in front of a No.4.

    Rob
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails becker-photo-1a.jpg   becker-mill-1896-2.jpg   becker-mill-1896-2-2-.jpg  

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    I had a #3 converted to motor drive.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails becker-1.jpg   becker-4.jpg   becker-3.jpg   becker-2.jpg   becker-5.jpg  


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    Mine came with a lot of tooling including the rotary table.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails becker-tooling.jpg  

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Lang View Post
    I would say it is a Becker No.3 from around 1896.
    Missing a lot of parts.

    Illustrated catalogue of machinery, tools and supplies

    John Becker Jr., is in front of a No.4.

    Rob
    Sorry for my lack of responses. It's been hard to stay in the conversation because I'm still on probation here and require moderator approval for all my posts. (Edit to add: looks like I just got off probation, my post went up right away on this one! Yipee!)

    Thanks for sharing that link. What am amazing reference of tools at almost 1000 pages long. I found myself "shopping" a bit too much, those prices are fantastic! So I downloaded it for later.

    I looked at some of the specs in the catalog and tried comparing my machine to them. My machine knee has 18" of travel, which is the specs for the No.5. My head has also has a lot more travel than the No. 3 and No. 4, but I have a Bridgeport head, so that's not really a useful comparison. Besides, my machine is nowhere near as big as the 6' 8" height of the No.5, even if it had all the missing pulleys. However, my table is 38"x10", which makes your guess of a No. 3 spot on. So I guess we have it figured out, it's a No. 3. Not sure why I have more travel on the knee, but I'm pleased I do. I sure wish I had all the parts. At the bare minimum, it would be nice if the power feed components were still here.

    For how little I use this machine, it's fine as it is for me. It's also in great condition for its age.
    Backlash is very low, around 0.005" on X and 0.0015" on Y. Dovetails are in excellent condition, only major damage is a chunk of steel missing about 1" long in one of the T-slots. I've kept it lubed up and clean, but I haven't done any disassembly. One concern I have is that the knee is really hard to both raise and lower. I'd guess raising the knee feels like about 25lbs of work, lowering feels like about half of that. Is that typical? One of these days I might disassemble it and see if I can clean it a little better, do you think that would help?

    Thanks so much to everyone for helping me find out this information. I am pleased to know what I have and I love it even more now!

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    image.jpgimage.jpgimage.jpgimage.jpgUK immigrant,about 1900!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pelle View Post
    One concern I have is that the knee is really hard to both raise and lower. I'd guess raising the knee feels like about 25lbs of work, lowering feels like about half of that. Is that typical? One of these days I might disassemble it and see if I can clean it a little better, do you think that would help?
    No it is not typical.
    There could be a number of things that are causing it.
    Lack of lubrication on the knee ways, the elevating screw and nut, the bearings for the beveled gears, the bearing of the shaft for raising the knee.
    It could also be knee gib screws are to tight.
    Binding in the beveled gears. Binding in the elevating screw and or screw nut.
    It could be a combination of the above too.

    A disassemble and clean could not hurt.
    One thing I see in your pictures is that the crank handle hanging on the knee elevating shaft is to small.
    Try using the crank handle on the saddle shaft.

    Rob

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    Okay, thanks for letting me know. I've read around about people wanting to power the knee feed on their machines because it was kind of hard to crank. So I figured it could just be normal. It made sense to me, because that screw has to lift an awful lot of iron with very little gear reduction. I've of course checked the obvious things like the ways, gears, elevating screw and gibs. Everything looks sound to me. Really, this machine is in such good shape, I thought it was a modern import when I got it. Screws look good, ways are pretty darn good for its age, gears look like someone just replaced them recently. It just looks really good to me. The only thing left is to check the bearings and parts I can't see without disassembly. Since you have verified that it shouldn't be that hard to crank, I'll plan to disassemble and deep clean.

    The crank handle shaft on the knee screw is a little smaller than those on the saddle. That's why they are where they are. The saddle handle fits loosely on the elevating shaft, and it does work, but it's a little sloppy. The larger handle didn't really help much either.

    I have been using Vactra Way Oil #4 on pretty much everything, because I happened to have a gallon of it in the shop. Now that I know what this machine is, I'll do some reading up on lubrication after I deep clean to make sure I am using the right oil for everything. Can't imagine that would be making it hard to crank, but I'll check it over to be sure.

    Thanks for the assistance.

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    I just dragged a Becker/Brainard No. 3 out of a basement. Dismantled the entire unit. No,pulleys, Fitted with a Bridgeport head. It does have the feed unit for the table. I might try to power that, not sure how yet. As to the Knee,mine cranks very easy up or down, you might have some chips in there. I am just starting to reassemble it and see if it even runs. Took 3 separate days about 3 hrs each to strip it down and move it to my garage. I have more time than money in it. Hope yours works out.


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