View Full Version : Thinking out loud

04-15-2003, 07:20 AM
As a follow on to which bearings, I have been thinking a lot today about CNC. obviously the converted drill press "will do", but I'm guessing it's not gonna be long before I need to re-design it. Unfortunately I'm skint, so buying new stuff is out, but in my workshop (read shed) i have a router and a wood lathe. So just wondering if any of their parts could be used to successfully create a stronger spindle for a copper milling machine. I will obviously have to build a full z-axis to house it, but seeing what you guys have done from second hand stuff, and scrap, i feel it can be done cheaply. Any thoughts/suggestions?

04-15-2003, 10:12 AM
Well a couple of hours later, i have the head off' the lathe. I'm just hoping someone will tell me it's gonna be ok for metal use without having to alter it much! Have a look:

04-15-2003, 02:12 PM
Hi Kong,

How large is the spindle on your lathe head?
I purchased a 3-jaw chuck to fit my lathe. I also purchased the cross slide vise that I bolted to my lathe bed. That acts as my tool holder.
My lathe has a 1", 8 threads/inch spindle. That allows me to take light cuts in aluminum. Steel is more of a problem since I have to take even lighter cuts and the vise is hard to adjust in such fine incriments. Also the spindle flexes which leads to vibration.
What are you trying to mill out of copper? Are you trying to engrave it? Or are you trying to cut shapes? How thick?


04-15-2003, 02:21 PM
Spindle size is 1", but I'm not on about using it as a lathe. Since the photo I took, i have removed the motor, leaving a nice solid housing and the spindle. I was hoping to use this as the head on a vertical mill. ie it will go up and down. just wanted to check the bearings are satisfactory on wood mills.
The copper is used to make water blocks for water-cooling computers. The one in the attatched was milled by hand in a drill press with dodgy cross-slide vice!

04-15-2003, 02:30 PM
Water cooling the CPU?

That would have to be a large home made mill.... You have any ideas for the rest of the mill?


04-15-2003, 02:35 PM
The entire block is 3" x 2", 1" tall, so a large movement is not needed. i already have an 18" x 6" x-y table which i bought last week. It's just the z-axis I need to work on. Opinions on the lathe spindle compared to the drill press?

04-15-2003, 02:44 PM
IMHO it would have to be a better option, but it's hard to tell without seeing it. It's hard to judge the size based on that picture.

In any case, I would imagine it would work well if the rest of the machine was built robustly.


04-15-2003, 02:51 PM
Ok, heres a better photo, sat on the 18x6 table. I understand the machine will need to be solid, or it's gonna vibrate like hell.

04-15-2003, 02:54 PM
You going to mount your drill press spindle on your lathe now?...:) :)


04-15-2003, 02:58 PM
Sorry, if it was a joke, it is wasted on me!?
Drill spindle? On the lathe?:(

04-15-2003, 03:01 PM
It was a joke. I was just funnin ya. Since you were mounting the lathe spindle on a mill, your lathe is now spindleless...:)


04-15-2003, 03:03 PM
Dear oh dear! Lol, thnks for the help anyway, I guess I better get planning the rest of the setup.:D

04-15-2003, 10:29 PM
I'm not sure I understand your approach, Kong. Why didn't you just do the milling on your lathe? You could have rigged up a link from the tailstock to serve as a positive feed in the Z axis. A milling vise attachment (built for lathe usage) takes care of the vertical Y and the normal cross slide takes care of the X.

See my ad in the for sale section :D

04-16-2003, 04:19 AM
I see where you are coming from, but let me start by saying I am completely new to metalwork. My lathe is a wood lathe, and so does not have leadscrews and such that would allow for a solid "travel" on any axis. I had already bought the xy-table before I found this site and had already planned to use the drill press for milling - all the info I found on the net was vertical mill related. So I guess I'm sort of stuck. I guess the lathe could be converted, but whichever route I choose, I will need to do a lot of work. Hope this explains!:D

04-16-2003, 09:12 AM
Kong, I appreciate your get up and go but I question why? Used metal equipment is available often for pennies on the dollar. One old nasty worn out mill will still out perform a converted drill press any day. Better yet as Hu eluded to, find an old quality metal lathe and you can add a milling attachment and have the best of both worlds. Metalwork is a fun and fascinating hobby or business, I am afraid you will be off to a rocky and frustrating start with cobbled together equipment.

04-16-2003, 10:04 AM
Doh! :( I wish I could get a nice old milling machine, but in the UK, it just doesn't seem possible! Prices are rediculous for second hand stuff, either that, or the stuff is worse than garbage!
Your post has made me think about not bothering, but to me, it's all about making those mistakes, fixing them, and then making some more mistakes! i just want to have a go, and if it never turns out any good, what the heck!
I'm off to check through some second-hand papers and sites, maybe I'll get lucky, and thanks.

04-16-2003, 10:15 AM
Is it worth buying form the US and getting it shipped to the UK?

04-16-2003, 10:28 AM
I could do that, but I'm sure the freight cost would be more than that of the machine. And I'm pretty certain you're all missing the point a little, it's not about having an "all singing, all dancing" machine that is 100% accurate and fast, it's really just to give me something to do in the evenings while the missus is at work.

04-16-2003, 10:43 AM
It might be worth while to visit a used machinery dealer and browse the floor and study the way machinery is built. Although I understand you are itching to get into the hobby, metal cutting requires a decently rigid spindle or you just get no kind of results at all. To be rigid, that spindle needs to be supported with a mass of cast iron that will dampen harmonic vibrations. The connection between the cutting table and the spindle needs to be comparatively rigid and massive as well.

There is a machine that might suit you very well, commonly known as a Mill/Drill, and I think these are all made in China. I'm looking at a brand new one in a sale flyer priced at $1595.00 Cdn. It gives you a real milling spindle with proper bearing support and all. It boasts a 1.5 hp motor, 5" spindle stroke, table travel is 19 x 7 inches, can swing a 3" dia face mill, which is included, along with a drill chuck and arbor. Rpms are from 150 to 3000, can use up to 3/4 " endmills, and drill 1.25 inch in steel

That is a very nice machine and totally suited to the hobbyist. Two guys can carry it, so I'd estimate it weighs 250 lbs or so.

04-16-2003, 11:54 AM
You can pick up similar machines over here for about £600. But with the talk of "massive" and "rigid", I'm left wondering what can be done with smaller machines, such as sherline and taig?

04-16-2003, 12:21 PM
I say keep your head down and give it a go. You seem like you want to try this and I think you have a good attitude about it. You understand that it may or may not work out.
Heck I do all kinds of things that don't work out. But I sure learn a lot from trying. I also have a lot of fun. And yes it can be said that some times you end up throwing good money after bad, but hey some times it dosen't cost a whole lot to try.
Good luck which ever way you go.

04-16-2003, 12:33 PM
Originally posted by kong
You can pick up similar machines over here for about £600. But with the talk of "massive" and "rigid", I'm left wondering what can be done with smaller machines, such as sherline and taig?

Massive and rigid are relative terms, but a drill spindle is crap for anything but drilling. Even a small metal lathe is rigid and massive enough for its size. To get the maximum return for your dollars invested, I'd recommend the mill/drill, because you will get a lot of enjoyment out of using it.

04-16-2003, 09:09 PM
I didn't notice the U.K. till I just logged back on. Part of my point is, even with the proper equipment, there is plenty of oppurtunity for doing and redoing, and then often redoing one more time, trust me! Any chance of stepping out to a local community colllege for a night class in machine shop work? At least a good understanding of how the machines feel, look, and sound when cutting right, will let you know in your own project whether it is you or the machine. Mike,

04-17-2003, 07:21 AM
Excellent point MikeA, and if not evening classes, I think I at least need to go and see these machines in action.

04-29-2003, 08:41 AM
Well sounds like you really need a milling machine to build a milling machine. How we get ourselfs in these predicaments?

04-29-2003, 09:58 AM
How true!
I have taken everyones opinions wisely, and I am building a cnc router first. I really have no experience in either cnc or milling, so it should be a learning experiment.
On the other hand, i am still planning the mill, as my father offered me a rather large Sedgewick morticer which has heavy duty cast iron dovetail slides in the z and y axis, and should make a firm basis for a mill in the future.
i will report on the router table sometime next week, as it will have taken shape by then.