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I'm interested in hearing from the list about how you have used a vertical (metal) milling machine in rodmaking.  I've enjoyed a 7 x 14 lathe for 2 years, making ferrules, winding checks, shaping cork, and making round reel seat parts. Now I might enjoy adding a benchtop mill to the shop. One obvious use pertains to putting a groove on the sole of a hand plane.

What else have you tried on the milling machine in pursuit of the bamboo rod?  Drawings are appreciated too.  (Paul Franklyn)

    I just got my mill in November.  It's actually a mill-drill similar to the Grizzly G3358 with an add-on power feed.  After I recovered from hauling it into the basement, I made a nice batch of extra quick-change   holders   for   my   7X10.    I'll    finish    some non-rodmaking projects, then I'll rework my  roughing mill.  The holddowns will be moved closer to the cutter and the plywood panel holding them will be made of a steel plate.  (Grayson Davis)

      Take a look at this site to see what your lathe and a small mill could accomplish.  Several of the items he made could be used in rod making.

      This guy has way too much free time.  (Ralph Tuttle)

        I've visited that site before. That gentleman does some very nice machining work, and he's quite sharp when it comes to the design of his projects.  I only wish I had half his talent.  (Mark Wendt)

          Now you've gone and done it! You've got me all excited about going out and getting that micro MILL/DRILL Harbor Freight  sells  (300  bucks)  to  match  their  little  red MINI-LATHE which I already have and upgraded with the extension sold by Little Machine Shop.

          I am wondering if any of you have had any experience with this mill and what your response to it is?

          I've been wanting to make some wooden reels for over a year now and was thinking this might do it and can I not use it like a small inverted router for making reel seats and those little clamps I make by hand with a file in a vise for my MHM?  (Dick Steinbach)

            Why not spend the extra $99 and get a minimill that's a lot more capable than the micro mill?  You'll have more capability, a broader range of tooling available, and be able to machine more things jumping up a little in size.  The Central Machinery minimill accepts R8 collets in the quill.  You'll end up spending more than that to upgrade the micro mill.  (Mark Wendt)

            If it were me, which it isn't, I'd spend somewhat more and get a larger, heftier machine like a Taig or Sherline that could later be upgraded to CNC. I'm guessing that you'd soon want a bigger machine if you went with the Harbor Freight. Or, they have a larger one at Harbor Freight for $470.  My $0.02.  (Neil Savage)

              Do not ignore used machines.  They will often come with tooling for less than a new machine.  (Grayson Davis)

              Thanks Guys, what you say makes a lot of sense. Harbor Freight is only a mile down the road from me and I'm going to take a look at them again, but I would like to draw your attention to the following link.

              They have a great chart which I invite you to look at and their " information is put together from published specifications and by measurements made by users of the machines. It is believed to be accurate, but there are no guarantees". The way I understand these people (and they seem to be quite expert), they say "All the mini mills listed on this page are made in the same factory in China. Except where they have different features, the parts are interchangeable. In our experience there is not a noticeable quality difference between the brands" soooo, it looks like the Homier, Harbor Freight and Cummins are basically the same machine to me?

              If I were a young buck in his sixties a big machine is a wise investment in the future and I would go for it in a heartbeat but I'm into small projects at this point in my life and I think I'll just pass.

              Now my other questions were about could I make reels, use it as an inverted router to mortise reel seats, clamps for MHM, etc. and it seems the answer is yes although nobody responded directly the link to that  guys (Ishmura) Mini-Lathe workshop sure is an eye opener.  Thanks for the link. It's on my favorites list. Thanks for the advice and support.  I'm making a much more informed decision now and I appreciate your time and input.  (Dick Steinbach)

                Other than the spindle taper, the machines are virtually identical.  Micromark has changed out the feed screws on their tables so that they feed at .050 per turn of the wheel. which makes for less funky number graduations on the indicators,  which means less mental gymnastics.  I use the Shumatech DRO 350 (Digital Read Out ) display on my mini mill, so I don't have to worry about those things any more, and backlash doesn't matter with the DRO either.  For information on the DRO go here.  This DRO works on both the mini lathe and mini mill.

                I got my mini mill to try my hand and making reels.  I picked up the 6" rotary table and dividing head from Little Machine Shop with just that in mind.  Also realize that you've got one heck of a drill press for boring out your reel seat inserts.  There's a bunch of things you can do on the mill that you can't do on the mini lathe with the milling attachment.  Plus, the setup is a lot more rigid than the mini lathe  w/milling attachment.  (Mark Wendt)

                  Thank you very much Mark!  I may be pestering you quite a bit more one of these days' but here is where I'm at right now.  I picked up the Harbor Freight for 300 which was far less than the catalog and got up at five this morning and unpacked and cleaned off the goop. It works, thank goodness, and I am spending  a lot of time at the Little Machine Shop site studying their educational materials.

                  I plan to order some startup stuff as soon as I get over the learning process to be sure I don't order a bunch of things I don't really need just yet.  Thanks for the info. on the DRO; I don't think I will be jumping into that right away but who knows? I want to get my rods looking the way I want them before I rush off in another direction. I did bookmark the site and saved your information to my archives for when I'm ready.

                  My first project will be to see if I can make some of those simple little clamps I designed for the MHM

                  I presume if I made them out of plastic I could just put a router bit in the chuck, line everything up and move the table down the center of the stock; but I have no clue how to do that in metal; as you can see, I have  to  mill  a  sixty  or forty-five degree grove down the center of the square stock.

                  Anyway thanks to you and everyone for your help and enthusiasm.  (Dick Steinbach)

                    What you need is a chamfer mill, which you can get in 60 degree and 90 degree included angle. Most don't come to a perfect point though, so you'll have to run a small diameter end mill down the center of the part to make clearance for the apex of the strip.

                    When you go to mill it line your part up in the machine and take multiple depth cuts. The chuck is really designed for doing drilling only and doesn't like to have lateral loads on it so you'll have to take very light cuts, go slowly and use a good cutting fluid. For aluminum A9 is hard to beat, and Moly D is good for steel, brass, etc.

                    Other than the small cuts, it's fairly similar to routing it.  (Mark Shamburg)

                      One more thing to add to what Mark said, most of the chamfer mills are not designed for center cutting, and ones that have points on it will give you a terrible finish if you try to drag the mill through the stock.  They were designed with putting a chamfer on the edge of the material, but if you do like Mark says, use a small end mill till you get to the depth of the V that you want, a chamfer mill should work out just fine.  Same kind of idea for cutting dovetails into a work piece.  You take out the material that's not part of the dovetail with a normal end mill, then use the dovetail cutter to cut your dovetails.'

                      Just remember, munching metal is tons of fun! (Mark Wendt)

                    You're very much welcome.  The Little Machine Shop and I are old friends...   ;-)   Chris has managed to separate me and some of my hard earned money quite often.  Nice folks, and a pleasure to do business with.  He's also quite knowledgeable on these little machines, and won't steer you wrong.

                    The DRO comes in real handy.  If you ever find some spare time, consider making one.  It really does add to the ease of making the machine work for you, and it's far more accurate than the hand wheels and their divisions.  There is no backlash in the scales, so it knows exactly where the X, Y and Z axes are.  Plus it has some really neat features like laying out bolt hole circles (think holes on the sides of the reel spools) and a few other things which can come in real handy for making stuff.

                    The router bit may or may not work, even in plastic.  Different geometry than an end mill, and it may not clear the chips.  Router bits are also designed to be spun at high speeds for their cutting, somewhere around 10k rpm  I think.  Your mill will top out near 2000 rpm.  Give it a try though, it might work.  Since you are using plastic, you won't be able to damage the mill in any way.  Have you gotten yourself a nice milling vise?  Check with LMS on that.  If you have the micro-mill, you can probably fit a 2" or 3" vise on it.  I'm using a 4" vise on mine, but until I'd gotten the air spring setup and the extended Z axis rack, it was a little tight under the quill if I was working on a goodly sized chunk of metal.  Check out the Frank Hoose's site for tooling and stuff that you need to get started.  Here's the applicable page for that, and he's got a wealth of information on not only the mini mill, but also the mini lathe. You might have difficulties cutting a 60 degree groove in metal though.  You'll need a face cutting setup, and a way to clamp your part so that the cut will be made horizontally to the quill.  There really isn't a 60 degree end mill type cutter.  The 90 degree groove (45's off the face of the piece) you can do with a normal end mill and V blocks.  I just did that on a project for my mini lathe.  (Mark Wendt)

    I've had my mill for a couple of years and I would be hard put to choose between it and the lathe; if I were forced to.  The lathe does machining on circular stock and the mill handles all other stuff.  It pays for itself as a precision drill press.  You can place drilled holes 1 to 1/2 thousands of an inch including depth.  The addition of a rotary table allows you to bore holes about as large as you want in irregular shaped material and easily make gears.  The mill makes a very good companion to the lathe.  (Onis Cogburn)

    I picked up a milling machine last year, and have spent the time tooling up and doing some mods like adding a DRO to it, extending the Z axis travel by installing an air shock and extended rack.  I also bought a rotary table and dividing plate set up for it, in the hopes to try my hand at making reels.  I've made some tool holders for my QCTP on my lathe, and also made up a ferrule slitting tool/holder that mounts on my QCTP on the lathe.  That tool is featured in a Power Fibers issue a few months back.  It works pretty slick.  (Mark Wendt)

      Did you buy a 4 inch or 6 inch rotary table, and which one if you will try custom fly reel making? I've had the same ambition. I have the Micromark version of the Seig mini mill. It appears that a 4 inch rotary table for the mill is a realistic and practical fit, though that probably limits the size of a fly reel to 3 inches. Advice?

      (I built the QCTP tool holder for slitting ferrules, per your Power Fibers article, and tried it on scrap ferrules. It works well.)

      After scouring the web I could find nothing for or about home makers of custom fly reels. Perhaps this is due to specialized equipment and a different machinist culture.  It would be helpful if there were a web site or list for custom fly reel makers, helping the learning curve with drag mechanisms and reel spindles.  I've got a long way to go with machinist skills on a mill, but I may cease to exist if I am not learning something new.  (Paul Franklyn)

        I ended up getting the 6" rotary table.  The 6" will work if you install the extended Z axis rack from Little Machine Shop.  You might also want to go ahead and order the air spring for your mini mill.  I did, and what a difference in the "feel" of the mill.  The extended rack requires either the air spring or some other method other than the spring loaded arm that comes on the mill.  The spring loaded arm won't allow the mill head to go up all the way with the extended rack.  I also ordered the dividing plates with the  rotary table, which also came with a mill table tail stock.  This setup will allow me to cut simple gears too (think the click pawl setups that Hardy reels use).  I also ordered a 5" chuck, so I should be able to make reels up to 4" in diameter if I choose, though I suspect most of the reels I plan on making will be trout sized reels.

        Thanks!  Glad somebody tried it!

        Yup, it's tough to find somebody out there that is willing to talk about making reels.  Check with Ted Godfrey and Richard Bradley.  I've chatted a bit with them, and also one of our friendly Canadian rod makers, Alan Taylor.  A lot of the drag mechanisms are patented, which is probably why you don't see a whole lot out on the net on those things.  (Mark Wendt)

          The four inch table that Harbor Freight sells is not a very good table.  The shaft is loose and must be tightened up before it is usable.  Expect some work to get it into usable shape if you buy one of these.  (Onis Cogburn)

            Heh, even the 6" table that I got from LMS needed a little tweaking to get things up to snuff.  Not much mind you, but there was just a little too much backlash in the worm gear for my preference.  Took about a minute to fix though, so no biggy.  Which shaft was loose on your RT?  The one connected to the handle, or the one connected to the table (the turning part I mean...)  (Mark Wendt)

    I agree that the $300 micro mill is too small; it is better for clock makers and tiny parts. I am getting the milling machine from Micromark, on sale recently and periodically for $450 (normally $525), which is almost identical to the ones branded by Cummins ($399 on eBay), Harbor Freight ($499) and Grizzly ($525).  The spindle shaft on the Micromark version is an MT3 taper, so I can use the same collets on the mill or their 7 x 14 lathe.  (Paul Franklyn)

    Once again I want to thank you both (Mark & Mark, as well as other responders), for your interest and your help. You saved me a lot of time, headaches, and money to say the least and you gave me a great education in the bargain.

    One important tip I learned which may be of great interest to other beginners on the list is that one can buy a milling attachment that fits right on the lathe.  In many cases it may be all you need to accomplish what is desired. Saves lots of space in the small shop and is much more economical.  (Dick Steinbach)

      You're very much welcome.  Always enjoy sharing information, because I figure it's part of the deal.  When I first started out making rods and all the other things it entailed, the folks on the list were always willing to help me out.  I just figured it was my duty to pass it along.

      Yup, you're right on the button there.  I'd initially thought about going that route, but decided for the things I wanted to do, I was better off getting a dedicated milling machine.  So far, I haven't regretted that decision.  (Mark Wendt)


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