View Full Version : Is the IH CNC/Mill what I need?

09-14-2006, 12:08 AM
I'm trying to decide what I need to do a fairly long-term project cutting 1/2-inch thick 6061 aluminum. So far, I've sent an email to IH asking for their advice, but I haven't heard back from them.

I need to cut fairly large pockets in the aluminum (about 3.5 x 3.5 x 0.25 inches). Tolerances on the sides can be fairly loose (0.020 or so), but I would like the bottom of the pockets to be +0.0/-0.003 if possible. There are some bearing holes that need to be +0.00/-0.002 if possible.

What I'm trying to find is a mill that has a Y-axis travel of at least 10-inches and that can hog out material at 1/8-inch depth with a 1/2-inch cutter all day long for at least one year. I'm figuring two hogging passes and one finish pass.

Since I'm from the CNC wood-working world, I'm used to feed speeds of at least 360-ipm, but I'm hoping to cut aluminum at 30-ipm.

Will the IH Mill/CNC with a 2hp motor/VFD and flood coolant system do the job? Can I buy the major pieces for about $7,000? Would I be better off looking at something else?

Please let me know what can be done, not what advertising says should be possible;) .

09-14-2006, 08:30 AM
i'm running manual on my mill right now but i have no problem hogging aluminum at .125 pass at a time. i would however, upgrade to a 3HP motor with vfd that will bump your RPM up to 3600. i'm running the stock motor right now with 1600 rpm max spindle speed and this is really kinda too low in my opinion. but other than that the machine exceeds my expectations and i plan to start cnc'ing this christmas.

09-14-2006, 09:27 AM
I think you could build up an IH to do your job if yo need the 30 inch X travel but if you can live with 18 inches on the X, you may can go with the Tormach for $6800 read out of the box. I know the X travel is now around 18 inches and I think that the Y is somewhere around 12 and there is plenty of Z. They advertise being able to hole the clearences and it is an extremely ridgid machine. So take a peak


09-14-2006, 09:42 AM
I've been looking at the Tormach PCNC1100, but their published Y-axis movement is 9.5", less than what I need. Are they shipping mills with 12" Y-axis movement?

09-17-2006, 12:38 PM
After receiving some private emails concerning both the Industrial Hobbies Mill and the Tormach PCNC1100 early Friday morning, I decided to drive down to Ontario and look at the IH firsthand. The IH is one impressive mill! Aaron Moss is probably the most straight-forward, honest person that I've ever talked to in the CNC field. He freely discussed the pluses and minuses of his mill and gave valid rreasons why his mill would work better in my project than smaller mills - without ever being negative about the compititon. At no time was there any pressure to buy his mill. Needless to say, after seeing the mill, turning the cranks and looking at and touching he parts that had been machined on the mill, the mill sold itself. Aaron, with his honesty, knowledge, and humor sold himself. This morning, I'm a happy IH owner. The mill and I arrived in Salt Lake City mid-day on Saturday. Unfortunately, the mill will remain in the back of my Dodge Dakota until Monday, when I can get a Tow Truck driver to come over with his boom and hook to lift the mill out of my truck. (That mill is heavy!)

09-17-2006, 03:04 PM

Did you buy the cnc kit also. Aaron has a good repretation here on the forum. I like the new design that was included during his August batch of machines.

I look forward to watching your cnc conversion.


09-17-2006, 06:30 PM
I just bought the mill to practice on until I know exactly what I need. Admittedly, I'll be a little lost without CNC capabilities for a while . (I use a Shopbot as my main machine. The IH is going to be used to expand the kinds of projects that I can do. One good thing is that I can use the Shopbot as an $18,000 scriber to spot-drill holes and lightly scribe layout lines in alunimun before manually milling on the IH.)

Aaron gave me a good look at his Light Industrial version CNC, which is what I'd really like to buy, but it's probably safer to first see what I need before buying something that might not best fit my needs.

09-17-2006, 09:15 PM
A few months back Aaron did have a New Mill on his web site. I think that it was maybe a 3HP varible speed mill (If memory is accurate) Was that the light industrial version? Like I said, I am even more impressed with the new version of the IH. Looks like Aaron, keeps an R&D effort on going to keep improving his product. I would love to see one in my shop!!

Enjoy your machine ,


09-17-2006, 09:38 PM
Congrats Richards, you have not done yourself wrong as I too have given the IH considerable thought and research and I think its a good deal. Unfortunetly I don,t own one but I most likely will in the near future. Enjoy !!! Post some pics.

09-17-2006, 10:39 PM
Aaron's R&D is the main reason that I bought the mill. Just seeing several mills, each equipted with different components, showed that he is very serious about building quality kits that do exactly what he says that they will do.

Although it's been more than twenty years since I owned and then sold a Bridgeport clone, and therefore am very rusty when it comes to cutting metal, I could easily see that parts cut on any of his mills were top quality.

Between the standard kit and the light industrial kit, he's got a solution that should work for almost everyone. Depending on the version, there's plenty of torque from servo motors, various optional motors and vfd units, various tool holders, the choice of gear driven or belt driven spindles, etc., etc., etc. Aaron talked about various bearings that he's tried with spindles being driven at 4,500 RPM, various oils and oiling methods. He showed me how easy it was to use both the R-8 tool holders and the 30-taper tool holders (excuse my ignorance of the proper terminology for the larger tool holders - I've seen them on large industrial machines, but never on mills costing less than $10,000). In short, Aaron not only talks the talk, but he walks the walk. When he discounted the price from $2,000 to $1,800 when he wrote the invoice, he mentioned that he had an Internet special going. I told him that since I didn't know about the special, he could have easily charged me full price and I would never have been the wiser. He simply said that that was not how he did business. That's when I knew that I was dealing with an honest man.

Anyway, after visiting his shop, talking with him, seeing and touching the mill, looking at the products that he has in the catalog and seeing ideas that are being tested, I felt very comfortable buying from him, knowing that I wouldn't be taking a gamble on a product dreamed up just to make a quick buck. His mill is big and heavy, easily able to do what he says that it will do without complaint for years of hard service. Aaron's product is exactly what I've been hoping to find.

09-19-2006, 08:53 PM
psst... richards. no responses to my thread here ( http://www.cnczone.com/forums/showthread.php?t=23994 ). what do you know?

09-25-2006, 07:03 AM

I own the IH mill, among other mills. I will tell you right away that the machine before CNC conversion is quite a piece.... pos that is. The quality of the final product relies entirely on quality of the kit and installation. It's so bad that it can't go anywhere but up. I swear the machine uses bondo as a structural component in some areas. Okay, that's an exaggeration but it's still bad.

I would highly advise against wasting time with the machine in manual mode and install the CNC kit ASAP.

09-25-2006, 11:34 AM
I guess that I must have been lucky. My IH is giving me great cuts. By knowing that the quill is 'loose', I don't use it except for drilling holes that I'm going to bore to a larger diameter. Other than not having a Z-axis depth stop, I'm quite satisfied with the machine. Granted, making only straight cuts and retangular pockets is limiting (unless I borrow a rotary table from a machinist down the street), but it's a start. Since I haven't owned a mill for about twenty years, I want to go manual long enough to relearn how to properly cut metal. After 'feeling' the cuts through the handwheels, I'll now what to expect with the CNC upgrade, because, at least to me, adding computer control to a machine can add to my problems as easily as it can solve my problems. (I do have a little experience in the area of enhancing machine operation via computer controls, since I've designed/built/installed/programmed process control computers for more than thirty years. One of the first things that I always tell a customer is that if he can't make the machine work properly manually, he probably won't be able to make it work via the computer either.)

09-25-2006, 05:14 PM
Mine has worked very well out of the box too. I must admit, I can't wait to CNC it, and purchased Aaron's kit, but that has to wait until I finish my CNC lathe conversion.

I too wanted to understand how the machine felt and operated manually before losing that "touch" to CNC. I was running a small Iscar Helimill indexable end mill this weekend on some aluminum extrusion, and the machine performed well. Probably my biggest gripe is that there is just never enough RPM for aluminum, but it still works okay if you keep the feedrate cranked.

Since having put together a poor man's DRO, I find I don't even think about the quill slop since the DRO tells me what it's doing all the time.

I know some others have had troubles, so either the quality control has been improved since they bought, or it is random. Hard to say which, but I do see Aaron getting good results on the videos on his web site. I also wonder how the revised model with ground ways and larger Z-axis slide area performs.



09-25-2006, 07:56 PM
I bet if you go back and watch those videos a couple of time, you will get all fired up and start tearing into that pretty new IH, haha.

I finally had access to high speed internet this weekend and saw Aaron's video, it almost made me break out the old credit card!! I now understand what flood cooling is also.

Take care,


09-25-2006, 09:44 PM
I bet if you go back and watch those videos a couple of time, you will get all fired up and start tearing into that pretty new IH, haha.



You're right, but I'm my own worst enemy. I gotta finish some of the projects I've started first. I continue to make progress on the lathe.



10-15-2006, 01:35 PM
After using my IH in manual mode for over a month, I have nothing but good to say about the mill. Although I would like to install Aaron's CNC kit, so far, the standard mill and an 8-inch rotary table can do everything that I need to do - and turning those cranks gives me some much needed exercise:)

All of my cuts have been in 6061 aluminum, mostly 1/2-inch thick with some 1/4-inch. Typically I run at 1,600 RPM, 15-ipm, 0.25-inch depth with a 2-flute high-helix 1/2-inch cutter. It only takes a few minutes to be ankle deep in chips. Best of all, the cuts are good and clean and nearly perfect if I make a 0.020-inch finish pass.

To make things simple, I use AutoCAD LT to generate the drawings and then dimension the coordinates at 10:1. That gives me the exact number of turns on the hand crank to reach a destination. Then to keep things simple, I dump the dimensions into a spread sheet that automatically figures relative moves based on the cutter's current position. It's not as convenient as CNC, (I'm just too used to the ease of cutting things with my Shopbot), but the bolt holes, pockets and other simple cuts that I need in the motor mounts that I make doesn't exactly require rocket science - just a reliable, heavy duty manual mill.

10-16-2006, 12:55 PM
What I'm trying to find is a mill that has a Y-axis travel of at least 10-inches and that can hog out material at 1/8-inch depth with a 1/2-inch cutter all day long for at least one year.

I'm hoping to cut aluminum at 30-ipm.

Given the above I would think seriously before investing thousands of dollars into a benchtop mill. You can drop $8,000 to $9,000 into a benchtop mill quite easily and what you will have will not compare to a real VMC that can actually run all day long for a year and hold the tolerances.

For example when my brother purchased his Haas VF2ss he sold his Haas VF1 for $6,000. He only paid $12,000 for it a few years prior and it came with a bunch of tooling. He only had about $1,000 in maintenance while he owned it. I have spent more than that fixing my benchtop mill which is current broken down again.

If I had it to do over again theres no way I would have ever gone down this benchtop mill road. If you decide to go the benchtop route get the performance specs and tolerances it will hold in writing with a money back guarantee.

10-16-2006, 05:48 PM
Mine has worked very well out of the box too. I must admit, I can't wait to CNC it, and purchased Aaron's kit, but that has to wait until I finish my CNC lathe conversion.
Hey Bob,

I really like your website. I was reading thru it over the weekend and it has a lot of helpful and good stuff, some great links also. I'm curious why you would buy the kit instead of making it yourself, maybe not the ballscrews, nuts or power supply, but the rest. I know it would take more time (I know most of us want to start using it right away) but is the kit that much better than what you could do? Thanks.


10-16-2006, 08:19 PM
Kimoyo, the thing I am saving by buying their kit is time and frustration. Is it a bargain? Well, it depends on how you value the time and frustration. I know that I don't have enough time to get to nearly all the projects I'd like to tackle.

I have looked over Aaron's photo essay carefully on installing his kit, and I envision taking that mill apart and reassembling 10-15 times if I have to engineer all of that myself. Just being able to disassemble once and bolt it back up with a proven CNC kit will save a lot of trouble.

If you imagine the amount of effort required to find and adapt surplus ballscrews bought on eBay, versus just buying them ready to go, that has to add a lot. Engineering the angular contact bearing assembly has been talked about in a lot of places on this site, and will require a fair amount of effort.

In the end, I don't think I'd save that much money or wind up with a higher quality conversion than what Aaron sells. There are a lot of other things I'd like to do to improve the mill, such as a belt drive conversion, power drawbar, one shot oiling, flood cooling, tool touch sensor, and so forth, that I feel would be better time spent than engineering the basic mechanicals on my own.

With that said, I did buy the "mechanicals only" kit. I mean to fit my own servos and build the electronics.