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    It's time to add a basic milling machine to the basement hovel. At the moment, I'm considering an Atlas MF and a horizontal Benchmaster. The Atlas is missing its power feed table gearbox, arbor, and some other non-critical parts. The Benchmaster is complete but it's a production machine with lever rack feeds.

    First, I'm strongly leaning towards the Benchmaster, since it's a hair biggger I can't afford to tool up an Atlas the way prices are right now. The BM can also be converted to screws and a vertical head. However, the Atlas does have a backgear, screw feeds, and there's still something of a parts supply from the company and a large installed user base. Anything I'm missing?

    Second, assuming I do go for the BM, how well does a small lever feed machine work with typical HSM use? At least until I can add screws (that was an optional kit way back when). I'm not going to be doing anything really super precise for the time being. I've also noticed that a large percentage of these being used in private hands are the production models.

    Anyone?

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    As a long-time user of horizontals in my shop,
    I would say that I use *all* the handwheels
    pretty much across the board. Replacing the
    table feed with a rack would severely hamper
    its use.

    Also back gears (or other low speed operation)
    is a really nice thing to have for those mills.

    Jim

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    You might also want to keep an eye out for Clausing, Rockwell, and Hardinge mills, if horizontal is the way you want to go. They can run a little more than the Atlas, but are much more capable and still fairly easy to move.

    If you are looking to acquire your first mill, wouldn't a vertical mill be a better choice?

    Mike

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    I'm on something of a tight budget. Hardinge horizontals and Clausing verticals are out of my league. One thing that draws me to the Benchmaster is that it's ready to roll without additional expense. The BM can be converted to screw feed and a vertical head without too much trouble. Transverse feed is already with a graduated handwheel.

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    OK, the lever feeds are a complete non-starter, out of the box. They are NO GOOD to you, unless you put long-range indicators on every feed.....don't go there.

    Yes you can convert to screws, but you will either make a lot of stuff, or spend a bunch of money. You said tight budget.....

    The Atlas is a very nice little machine. Power feed you do not need, even if its nice.

    Arbors you can MAKE, and you will have to, because MT2 arbors are not commonly available. I have made several, so it is not hard to do, although mine were MT3.

    You will want 7/8", 1" and 1 1/4" arbors, probably. That will allow you to use the common cutters that you will run into used.

    As far as vertical mills, well I have a horizontal with vertical head, and it doesn't get teh V-head on it very much. I would rather just slap a right angle plate on the table and go.

    I saw a VERY nice atlas today, with the Marvin vertical head. REminded me that they are actually nice machines. Their one problem is that the table seems to be all slot and no table.

    Oh, yeah, cutters. Cheap used, not really expensive new, unless you want gear cutters, or special ones. Plain milling cutters, slitting saws, etc are not high-priced.

    Victor Machinery has them. Import, yes, but mostly Polish...i.e. good.

    BTW, the Atlas with the Marvin head went for $900, so they ain't cheap. But the Marvin might have added $300-$400 all by itself, if the numbers I have seen are reliable.

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    That bad? How usable is it, I mean really, from a functional standpoint? I realize inital setup can be a bear. The use of junk-quality 15" dial verniers as a DRO seems interesting. I've seen some of that with the import mill/drill guys.

    Right now my options are kind of limited. Either machine will be a good deal, just after the purchase I'm stuck for anything but consumables.

    Given all the funny little stuff (like the arbor-driving spindle nose) that Atlas machines need it may not be practial for me. I've done pretty well with my lathe but my precision skills are lacking.

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    I would concur with the advice on avoiding the lever/rack feed unless you are going into production of some sort.

    Constantly setting up stop blocks is going to kill your love for the machine.

    Those cheapie digital readouts are a good idea but require brackets to be fabbed specifically for your machine...and they need a little design work so the scale & reader can take misalignment without grenading, yet be stiff on the long axis to avoid lost motion or flexure errors.

    IMHO the dials would work much better for various classes of work that would be found in a home shop.

    -Matt

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    For a small horizontal mill, think about a Burke #4, a well-built and stout machine. Small enough to move easily, mine has a cast iron base attached by four bolts. #9 B&S arbor taper is not terribly common any more, but plenty of tooling still available new and used. I have not found an affordable verticle head, but get by very well in "verticle mode" by chucking end mills in a collett when necessary. I bought my machine locally via Ebay about three years ago for $415 which included a box of horizontal cutters.

    Tom B.

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    The Benchmaster is a very basic machine. The Atlas is a "mini-industrial" machine.

    Both are usable, I think I would prefer the Atlas.

    I don't know what you mean by "funny little stuff that Atlas machines need". As long as you have the overarm and support, you should be fine with it. "Arbor-driving spindle nose"????? AFAIK the arbor just fits in spindle, tighten drawbar and go..... nothing special, nothing that the B-M wouldn't need also (maybe it has everything else with it?).

    And, if you will have trouble making arbors, you will have MORE trouble making lead screws for the Benchmaster. So funds will have to go towards that, instead of useful accessories.

    Overall, the Atlas sounds like the better deal, even if it is missing some power feed stuff.

    Oh, yeah.....back gear.....YOU WANT IT.

    Horizontal mills use slow RPM on the cutter. You will want that back gear to avoid burning up cutters.

    On my Lewis, the back gear goes to about 35 rpm, and I use it a lot. I only get out of back gear for "vertical mode" with small cutters.

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    Another comment about vertical heads.

    Don't buy one unless you have used the machine
    in its original form, as a horizontal, for a
    while. Only then should you seek one out and
    retrofit it.

    You may find that that day simply never comes,
    once you get used to being a member of the
    'sideways' breatheren.

    [img]smile.gif[/img]

    Oh yes, slow speeds are nice for those, but
    you still can run an endmill right in the
    spindle at high speeds too.

    Jim

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    Jim's comments bring to light a question. How many folks out there belong to the "Universal Church of Sideways Brethren", i.e. are there folks in the audience who have the resources to mill both horizontally AND vertically, but prefer the former over the latter? Are there more of you out there or is Jim the only member of the congregation willing to stand up and be recognized? Thankfully, the shaper/planer folks have finally made themselves known with many great stories, thoughts and suggestions. How about the horizontal millers? It would certainly help expand the horizons for those of us w/ limited "left-right" experience. Just a thought...

    Phil

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    At the risk of shooting myself in the foot, since i've been "sort of" watching for one over the past couple years; perhaps the best of the small horizontals is the Bridgeport (Adcock & Shipley, imported by BP and rebadged). Unlike the hardinges and some other small mills, its parts like the saddle were designed and sized for real milling operations, and it has one shot lube and some other amenities. Quite svelte, but very capable. Not real common, but there are a few every year. They often go for "around" $500.

    smt

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    At the risk of a maybe thread hijack (apologizing in advance), I am a little curious about horizontal milling technique.

    I've read that horizontal milling should be rigged for climbing cuts. When I set up my Sheldon accordingly, I had the perhaps expected problem of backlash in the feed causing the table to "jump" when the cutter got a nice chomp into the workpiece. Non-climbing cuts worked fine of course. Is the solution for this to tweak out all the backlash?

    Thanks,

    Gregm

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    I like a universal type mill, something on the order of a #6 or #12 Van Norman, where you can put the head almost anywhere you need it. The biggest drawback, for the work I do, is the lack of a quill with power feed for drilling and boring. For me, a horizontal mill really shines for milling deep pockets. The chips can be flushed out easily instead of being building up in the bottom of the pocket. As far a small horizonal, what about a Nichols?

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    J Tiers, The simplicty of the Benechmaster appeals to me. I gather they were once popular as second-op machines in industry, and rather solid. In lathe form, I've seen what happens to Atlas machines (and their zamak) that are well-used. Not that they aren't great, just that a "ridden hard" one might not be the best thing.

    I believe the Atlas machines used a screw-on spindle nose to drive the arbor. Lots of other parts like that, too. I don't know exactly how the Benchmaster does things, but this one is all set to go. Under power and running, too. The Atlas is something of a project.

    All right, so the arbor isn't that tough to make? Past discussions seemed to involve talk over what nth degree they should be machine ground to. I'm still working on tapers, too. Making a leadscrew seems like a easy project, although you can get stock for a buck or two from Enco.

    Other than being a PITA, what's the general prodecure with the mic limits and stop blocks used on production machines?

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    How many folks out there belong to the "Universal Church of Sideways Brethren",
    Count me in.....
    As far as vertical mills, well I have a horizontal with vertical head, and it doesn't get teh V-head on it very much. I would rather just slap a right angle plate on the table and go.
    I've read that horizontal milling should be rigged for climbing cuts.
    Its just the feed direction, but don't do it unless you have a zero-backlash adjuster. Sure it is supposed to get better finish, but with any backlash you nearly can't do it, so whatever. Maybe with the lightest of cuts you can get away with it.....maybe.

    I believe the Atlas machines used a screw-on spindle nose to drive the arbor. Lots of other parts like that, too.
    Here is a reference that should fix up your concerns about the spindle:
    http://www.lathes.co.uk/atlasmiller/index.html
    Look at third picture down. The nose has OD threads, but the arbor fits into a taper in the solid spindle.

    As for the "lots of other parts like that", I don't know who said what to you about which.... maybe you should find out for yourself.

    I do NOT like Atlas lathes. The shapers are fine, and the mills seem fine too. Zamac does not HAVE to all fall apart. I have two shapers, and all the zamac is fine on both. The lathes use it in some bad spots......

    As far as arbors, you can look at this thread (Photobucket is doing maintenance right now.) Note that I did NOT need an arbor in order to do the keyway in the new arbor.
    http://www.practicalmachinist.com/cg...c;f=1;t=009885

    But, do whatcha like, and do it right.........

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    I have pieces of a Benchmaster horiz in the basement right now. It was a manufacturing setup used for a slotting operation in aluminum. This was evidenced by the TONS of aluminum chips that were on it and the hydraulic table drive conversion. The Benchmaster was a VERY popular small scale manufacturing mill and had the advantage of simplicity and possible high spindle speed over the Atlas. This one was set up with a 2hp 3450rpm motor and a large drive pulley.

    The only real advantage I can imagine on the Atlas is the backgear (handy for working with a fairly large cutter in steel) and the avaliability of new parts (I assume Clausing handles those as well as the Atlas lathe parts). 6 of one, half dozen the other in this case. If one works and the other doesn't that solves the problem... buy both of them! [img]tongue.gif[/img]

    I too am a sideways guy... VN#6 and 22L. The 22L will go from full horizontal (with the overarm, support and outboard bracket installed) to full vertical or anywhere in between in less than seven minutes (and that includes stashing the horiz arbor and drawbar, installing a collet and accompanying drawbar and inserting an endmill).

    The great advantage of the VN is that you can do horizontal slotting, cutoff and side milling operations and then flip the head up for vertical work without ever moving the workpiece. Once you think about what you are doing, you start to really love the VNs.

    Bob-O, we just need to find that secret stash of VN high-speed motor-driven drilling/boring attachments that someone is hoarding. Alternately, we mount a Bridgeport head on the overarm or spindle head.

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    OK, I think I understand the arbor confusion. We're both right. Tony's site uses photos from a '40s catalog. Later on, Atlas sold the mills with a arbor that went into the MT taper (and presumably could be driven by it OK), but was meant to be used with a screw-on spindle nose. The spindle nose keyed to mate with the arbor.

    That's a nice looking arbor. You did the taper with tailstock setover, right?

    Hey, now you're getting too close. <g> I'm the very happy owner of a 1951 Atlas QC 10x24. Probably the last one in as good a shape in the area.

    Mike, I have no first-hand experience with the mills, but my impression from RCM is that Clausing's support is minimal comapred to the lathes. They'll mail you blueprints for most of the parts, though.

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    Well, even blueprints are more than you can get for a Benchmaster these days. It's Ebay parts only and damned few of them. I have been looking for a parts mill ever since I got this one. No dice. Of course, about six months before I got this one, there was a Benchmaster listed WITH THE VERTICAL SETUP, in pieces for $250. I don't think it even got a bid. :mad:

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    That's a nice looking arbor. You did the taper with tailstock setover, right?
    Thank you.

    I did the taper with the compound. All done in one setup between centers so that there was no funny business in re-creating a setup etc during the job.

    I don't see how a screw-on deal would have helped with the arbor.... after all, it could unscrew. Maybe it was a hold-down setup instead of a drawbar? Or just an ejector, to help remove the arbor?

    My Lewis has a threaded nose also, and I keep a thread protector on it that doubles as a jack-screw to remove the arbor. But it uses a drawbar.

    As far as larger cutters and steel, depends on what is "large". I often use a 4" diameter cutter. Not that big, considering a 1" arbor leaves only a bit over an inch of radial clearance to the arbor after the spacer diameter is considered.

    OK, so that 4" cutter is 12" in circumference. To stay at 80 FPM, reasonable for many types of steel, you need to be at 80 RPM. That is pretty low, starting at 1725 rpm on the motor. It is a 21x speed reduction, not really practical on a one-stage belt reduction.

    For tool steel, 40 FPM (thus 40 RPM) is reasonable. That's even harder without back gears.

    The B-M has one-stage belt reduction. The listed speeds start at what appears to be 450 rpm and go higher (lousy half readable scan), per the catalogue pages in the Benchmaster section of the www.lathes.co.uk link. The pulleys appear to be about right-sized for that, so I tend to believe it.

    450 rpm is way too fast for lots of horizontal mill work, although its OK for typical end mills used with a vertical mill.

    OK, a VFD, but then where is the torque? It is still a direct belt drive to the spindle, and belts slip. Back gears increase torque at the cutter also, while keeping the motor speed high and belt pull low. That avoids slippage.


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