View Full Version : HF Micro Mill ok? (newbie first post alert!)

08-03-2004, 11:40 PM
Hi All,

This is my first post here! :banana:

A nifty resource this is! Anyhow, A spanking new Harbor Freight store opened up in my neighborhood and I went down for a lookee about. I spyed the aisle with the mills and saw the Micro-Mill sitting there. Neat little machine. Ok, on to my question. Is this a decent little mill? It is priced at $279 and I have a 10% off coupon too! I am presently using a cruddy drill press modded with an X-Y vise as a mill but want/need better. The parts I work with are small (for RC cars) and should be well with in the table capacity of the Micro-Mill. After reading a few threads regarding the mill here I did not see anybody jumping up and down screaming badly about it.

So is it OK or crud? I plan to do a CNC mod sometime in the future. For now I am happy learning more about machine work manually.


High Seas
08-04-2004, 07:59 AM
Can't say if thats a good piece of gear - But the price is way better than the $299.99 in their catalog! With the coupon it looks like over 20% off.
Just a little piece of confusion to think about. Cheers - Jim

edit : added
If you haven't yet - do a quick search on the site here. I remember a problem that one member had when considering doing a cnc on the system. Something about it not being cost effective to replace the threaded rod - to match to motors/controller or something. But if you can use it manuallaly - sounds like a player.

08-04-2004, 09:41 AM
I'd go for it... we have a HF store around here and I've viewed that mill often. but my needs didn't warrant a purchase. You can always take it back if you feel it doesn't hold up to what you expect for that price...many times you can tweak those machines until they are quite acceptable.

08-04-2004, 02:26 PM
I think if there is enough money left over after next week's pay I'm going to buy that little mill. After talking to some friends in the local metalworking club I'll keep the HF Micro-Mill as a manual unit and buy a CNC ready Sherline when that time comes.

Thanks for the input!

08-04-2004, 03:51 PM
There is a guy in NJ who sells the X1 mill on ebay already converted to cnc for 1700. He emailed me photos at one point but i ended up going with the X3. Sieg has always made good mills and the size is the only difference. They are usually well powered and put together well. As long as you dont push it farther than it was intended to be used it should last you a while. I say go for it.
On plus on the X1 compaired to the X2 is it doesnt need a slave z axis drive since it only has one screw for z movement. The X2 has 2 screws.

08-04-2004, 04:11 PM
I would recommend against buying the micro mill, I bought one a few months ago and used it for about a week and the motor controller fried on it, wouldnt take any kind of load at all without the little error light coming on and shutting the motor down. So I took it back and got another one, and that one lasted almost an hour before doing the same thing. So I took that one back and upgraded to the mini mill, which has a built in cooling fan for the motor controller and also has a 4/5 hp motor instead of a 1/5 hp, so its much more effective at removing metal. I have had one problem with the mini mill since I got it, I accidentally clipped my vice while using a fly cutter and the sudden stop (neither mill is effective at milling steel) caused one of the plastic gears inside to shatter. I replaced it with a new one from http://www.littlemachineshop.com (littlemachineshop.com) and have been more careful since that incident, so havent had any more problems. If you get a mini mill I would recommend using low gear for the most part (1000 rpm) as it is much harder to break internal parts as theres less inertia if the bit suddenly binds and stops the spindle than in high gear.
Although high gear is nice for a final pass to give the work a nice finish. I just dont recommend it for removing large ammounts of metal.

Anyway thats my review, the micro mill is underpowered junk with a poorly designed motor controller, and the mini mill even though more difficult to convert to cnc control (but still possible and has been done by several people) than a micro mill, it is better bang for the buck.

If you do choose a micro mill even after reading my review, there is a yahoo group dedicated to converting them to cnc control Here (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/hf47158toCNC/)

Also when considering the cost of either mill, dont forget to factor in tooling costs. Both mills come with a drill chuck, and that is pretty much all its useful for, drilling. You'll need collets or end mill holders, end mills, maybe a fly cutter set and boring bar too depending on what kind of work you want to do.
Tooling can easily cost one or two hundred bucks or more. Especially if you add a rotary table.

08-04-2004, 05:50 PM

where did you get your X3 from?


08-04-2004, 06:28 PM
I've got a Homier mini mill. The mini mills are sweet, light duty machines for what they cost. The plastic gearboxes are a bad design feature. Many people make custom motor mounts and convert to a belt drive, no gears to break then. I recommend getting a mill with the R8 spindle taper, rather than the MT2 taper. There are TONS of R8 Bridgeport tooling that will fit right up in the mini mill. You will be hard pressed to find much in the way of MT2, other than a drill chuck and a few collets. Good luck.

08-04-2004, 07:57 PM
I would get the X2 mini mill, would be a much better choice, little more power and travel, Its well worth the extra money. If I was to do it again I would get an even bigger mill.


08-04-2004, 08:51 PM
I got mine from www.lathemaster.com
He doesnt display them on his website because he cant keep them in stock long enough, but they are great. As big as a RF at half the price

08-06-2004, 01:20 AM
Well I think I am going to wait a bit before buying a new mill. Shame to let that 10% off coupon go to waste though! ;)

Thanks for the input all. I'll save my dimes for a better/bigger unit like the Sherline.

08-07-2004, 04:46 AM
Well I dont think Sherline makes a mill thats bigger than the smallest harbor freight mill. They are better than harbor freight though, light years better. Just a bit limited on project size.

08-07-2004, 08:02 AM

Explain why they are so much better.

The reason that they arent better is they are light weight, aluminum, small motor, doesnt accept standard tooling and the motors in the cnc package are really weak. I have run a sherline once apon a time and it sucked really badly.

I wouldnt suggest the micro mill either, the mini seems to be much better, and the fact that I have one and can mill stuff really nicely and fast vs that sherline is another plus.

I know a guy who makes similar stuff as me on sherline mills, it takes him many hours to complete one peice when I can complete a very similar peice in half an hour.


08-07-2004, 10:53 PM
Quality of workmanship is about it. Sherlines are American made to some pretty tight tollerances. If I were interested in making really small precise parts I'd buy a Sherline, but i'm not, I dont think I'v made a part yet under 1 square inch and I rarely care if my parts are a couple thousandths off from perfection. The HF mills are Chinese mass produced machines with very little quality control. But they sure do offer the bang for the buck, and thats why I own a mini mill.

08-09-2004, 05:23 AM
Misterb the "problems" you describe with the micro are.. not being insulting.. but operator error mostly. The micro shots down for two reasons. One is your about to fry the electronics. I consider that a good thing. Second is because there is a fault with the boards. Theres a link in the mills cnc group to fix it. It involves 20 seconds and a glue gun.. its not a biggy.

The micro is NOT meant to be a full sized mill or anything like it. It's meant to be a desktop mill. And it is the best one you can buy for anywhere near the money. It blows away the sherlines and taigs because of the quality of its components >in my opinion<. The downside of the price is you need to do some tweaking when you get the mill. Cleaning it up.. tramming it etc.

To the guy talking about the CNC kits.. those kits are NOT produced by Sieg etc. Theyre produced by an independant guy and they are WAY underpowered. You need 150oz in motors driven my a microstepping chopper drive for the mill. Dont blame the mill for the low quality addons someone produced.

To the guy who started this thread. Depending on what yo u want to spend you wont go wrong with a taig, sherline or micro cnc'd. If you have more space and money the mini is fantastic.

01-06-2007, 04:27 PM
I took the plunge and got the HF micro mill, like some one said I can alway take it back. I had a discout for 249.00 plus a 20% off one item. That put it about 200.00.

The reason was one the price and two the dials were in .000 of an inch. If I was going to buy a mini mill for 500.00 I would look at little larger mill for the money.

I want to have a cnc mill and thought this would be a starting point to make some chips, even if they are small.

BTW, this is my first post to the group, so hi to all.

01-07-2007, 09:57 AM
I have one of the micro mills and am quite happy with it. Just be careful about fly cutting and the plastic gears will hold up just fine. I consider them to be expendable as a metal gear would probably break more expensive parts ( gears run less than $5.00 each). I am using mine right now to make various tooling for both it and my mini lathe and for my RC addiction. If you take small cuts this machine is just fine. If you are trying to do production and take heavy cuts, buy something bigger. If this is just to make parts for your RC hobby, then your money was well spent and you'll learn alot. No matter what size mill you buy, you'll have to tram it in and learn it's limitations and how to work within these limitations. Most of all HAVE FUN with it and enjoy your new hobby as you will soon find yourself losing hours in front of the thing and enjoying every minute of it.

Hope this helps

01-07-2007, 10:30 PM
If you just got a micro mill, then Chris over at Little Machine Shop is your new buddy.
The best addition is the extended Y axis - #2297 - $79.95
The extended x is the next upgrade.

These are not a bridgeport but they get the job done.