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By Rhyolith
#1183071
I have a medium term ambition (several years at least) to build a working steam engine, teaching myself various skills in the process (which will in turn be useful for my other projects!). I have a Myford ML4 lathe already which I am just beginning to learn to use competently. However I think I need a milling machine as well to be able to for fill my goal.

My primary purpose for the machine is to make this engine, however as this whole project is about long term gains I would be willing to pay more for something versatile enough to do much more. Talking of price, how much should I be saving for a decent machine? My thinking is around £600, but obviously less would be nice.

I will probably go secondhand if possible, as I like old machines and they generally seems to be better value for money. Any good makes/models? Is there a particularly class of machine I should look for? Any good sources? eBay been fairly fruitless so far.

Any further advice appreciated.
Last edited by Rhyolith on 11 Jan 2018, 18:38, edited 3 times in total.
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By bugbear
#1183072
I read 1930's model engineering magazines. Any number of steam locomotives were made using only a lathe. You don't need a milling machine (although a vertical slide for your lathe would be helpful).

If you want a milling machine, that's a whole different story!

BugBear
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By Farmer Giles
#1183076
A Tom Senior light vertical is well regarded in the model engineering world, small enough for a home workshop but a proper industrial machine with a quill head. I was dead jammy and dropped on one for 300 quid a couple of years ago as it was not put on ebay properly. Tom Senior was spelled wrong, it was listed as imperial when it was metric, and it was listed as 3 phase when it was single. Usually they go for 800 plus.

If you have plenty of room you can get more milling machine for less money, something like an Elliot, you will then get power feed tables too. A Tom Senior M1 is also good, cheaper than a light vertical, but it has both horizontal and vertical ability and power feed. I also have an M1 but I like Tom Senior, good Yorkshire tools!
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By DTR
#1183246
A few thoughts from my point of view.....

As above, an idea of scale is needed. How much space have you got? (I assume it's going in that cavernous barn of yours?)

Like Bugbear says, up until the 1970s, at least, it was the norm for a model engineer to have just a lathe (and maybe a small pillar drill or hand shaper). Small (bench-top) milling machines were rare and mostly used by industry. For this reason it is a lot harder to find a small vintage mill than a lathe. So much so that the great Edgar Westbury designed his own bench-top mill that could be built at home from castings. When I was on the hunt for a small mill I nearly settled for a modern machine. It was only by luck that I found my BCA.

On a larger scale, the Tom Senior suggested by Farmer Giles has a fine reputation. They are also rather sought after, and I think your budget of £600 may be a little limiting. Having said that, in my experience smaller machines are perversely more expensive than larger ones. I paid more for my tiny BCA than I could have got a big Harrison for. If only I had the room, and the transport, and a means of shifting the thing..........!
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By DTR
#1183247
One more observation.... a lot of vintage milling machines are horizontals. Horizontal tooling seems harder to find these days, as vertical mills are today's preference. I like horizontals though; as an apprentice I mostly used an Adcock & Shipley horizontal. I preferred it over the verticals that we also used.
By Rorschach
#1183249
On lathes as well as milling machines there is a bell curve on pricing, the most desirable and hence most expensive machines are those that can be transported in a car and moved and assembled by a couple of reasonably strong men. The larger machines that require cranes and specialist transport go for a lot less than you might imagine.

That being said, a lathe and a milling slide can accomplish an awful lot of work, so ask yourself if you really do need a milling machine. I for one would love one and could get good use out of it, however I have absolutely no room for one at the moment.
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By Rhyolith
#1183276
To answer the the scale question:

I don’t intend to jump straight into trying to build a loco, I think that would be difficult considering I am still learning the basics of how to operate a metal lathe. So when I said “Steam Engine” I meant something something simple to teach me the basics, like one of those stuart kits (or something similar out of scrap bits). After that maybe a model steam launch (boat) as I already know how to build a wooden hull, it would be a nice merging of skills. A loco would be my long term objective after all that... if I get that far!

In the very long term I’d like to go up to full size stuff. So if its viable to get something huge, I would!

As DTR suggested I have a lot of space, however the floor of my workshop is ply and I only have a caddy van for transport so machines weighing tons probably aren’t an option, but something quite large might be. Honstly it seems the way to go from what you all saying. I don’t have three phase.

Possibly the biggest limitation is lifting. My workshop has only a fairly large normal door with a step for access, so anything that can’t be moved with manpower will be hard. Suppose a temporary ramp would help?

——-

I watched that tublcain video about making a stuart kit. I struggle to see how it could do a lot of the operations he did without a mill... maybe skilled file work? There seems to be a necessity to get alot of faces flat and parellel, etc. At the least it seems like its easier with a mill.
By Sparks73
#1183287
Rhyolith wrote:To answer the the scale question:

I don’t intend to jump straight into trying to build a loco, I think that would be difficult considering I am still learning the basics of how to operate a metal lathe. So when I said “Steam Engine” I meant something something simple to teach me the basics, like one of those stuart kits (or something similar out of scrap bits). After that maybe a model steam launch (boat) as I already know how to build a wooden hull, it would be a nice merging of skills. A loco would be my long term objective after all that... if I get that far!

In the very long term I’d like to go up to full size stuff. So if its viable to get something huge, I would!

As DTR suggested I have a lot of space, however the floor of my workshop is ply and I only have a caddy van for transport so machines weighing tons probably aren’t an option, but something quite large might be. Honstly it seems the way to go from what you all saying. I don’t have three phase.

Possibly the biggest limitation is lifting. My workshop has only a fairly large normal door with a step for access, so anything that can’t be moved with manpower will be hard. Suppose a temporary ramp would help?

——-

I watched that tublcain video about making a stuart kit. I struggle to see how it could do a lot of the operations he did without a mill... maybe skilled file work? There seems to be a necessity to get alot of faces flat and parellel, etc. At the least it seems like its easier with a mill.



You can use a lathe to both mill & linebore...

You can cut gears using the "free hobbing" process as well...
By chaoticbob
#1183306
Rhyolith wrote:
Possibly the biggest limitation is lifting. My workshop has only a fairly large normal door with a step for access, so anything that can’t be moved with manpower will be hard. Suppose a temporary ramp would help?

——-

I watched that tublcain video about making a stuart kit. I struggle to see how it could do a lot of the operations he did without a mill... maybe skilled file work? There seems to be a necessity to get alot of faces flat and parellel, etc. At the least it seems like its easier with a mill.


Although, as has been pointed out, many wonderful things have been done with a lathe and a vertical slide, I suspect that was more out of necessity than choice. Having a dedicated mill makes life so much easier! Go for it I'd say.

I wouldn't be too worried about getting a heavy machine into your workshop. Where there's a will there's a way! Personally, depending on the slope, I'd be wary of using a ramp as floor-standing mills are very top-heavy. If you can beg, borrow, rent or buy an engine crane it might be possible to make a temporary stage level with the shop floor outside your workshop, use the crane to lift it onto the stage and roll in. There are other methods of lifting heavy things - if neolithic man can make Stonehenge without popping round to Machine Mart for a crane, surely you can get a mill over your step. The plywood floor might be more of a problem though!

Places to look for good used machinery include Pennyfarthing, Quillstar and Tony Griffith's site. The stuff on those sites at the mo is well over your budget, but tbh I think you'll have to strike very lucky to get a good 2nd hand floor-standing mill for £600.

REgards, Rob
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By Farmer Giles
#1183311
There's an Elliott on ebay now. £600 on a buy it now. item no. 172954405897, complete with DRO

Looks like it is working but needs a bit of TLC, depends if you don't mind that kind of stuff, I love doing machines up :)
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By DTR
#1183316
Harold Hall did a write-up on making a Stuart engine using just a lathe. It's well worth a read (as is just about everything else on his website):

http://www.homews.co.uk/page42.html

While I agree that a mill is definitely nice to have, for about three years I did all my milling on an ML4.....
By chaoticbob
#1183328
Farmer Giles wrote:There's an Elliott on ebay now. £600 on a buy it now. item no. 172954405897, complete with DRO

Looks like it is working but needs a bit of TLC, depends if you don't mind that kind of stuff, I love doing machines up :)


Almost worth it for the Mitutoyo DRO's - but it looks like quite a project! Perhaps not what the OP's after if wanting to acquire basic machining techniques. It's said that at a Fleadh the All Ireland flute championship was won by a guy who, on discovering his instrument was broken, hollowed out a carrot and made music to charm the Angels from Heaven. I'm sure that's true.
Serious point is that an experienced machinist can turn out precision work on a worn machine, but it's not a great starting place for a learner. I doubt the flautist started his career with a carrot!
Rob
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By Farmer Giles
#1183330
It does look like it needs more than a little maintenance but if you keep looking the ones that are sound but need not much more than a light derust and grease do turn up.