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dskinsler83

Harbor Frieght

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Does anyone use the Harbor Frieght mini mill and lathe in the home gunsmith shops? What all can you do with these tools?

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The Harbor frieght is the same machine as the little grizzly, Microlux, etc. Nice little machine. you can do most everything with enough patience but they chatter a lot and you have to make a ton of passes. If you have the space find a used Bridgeport for 1500 or so..you wont be sorry. If you buy a sieg you will end up getting a second mill. the bigger Sieg is a bit better but still a bit too flimsy for production work. With patience they can make nice stuff. Look at the practical machinist sight and search for 1911s.

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Well I'm looking to just be able to do work on my own toys and my buddies not looking at production. I would like to fit barrels and slides for 1911s and do slide cuts and serrations. Thread flute and finish ream rifle barrels and things like that

Edited by dskinsler83

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Comparison chart of mini mills http://www.littlemachineshop.com/Info/minimill_compare.php

You most likely will wreck a few things learning on these little machines. They can cutt serrations, even cut sight dovetails with a few passes but they chatter quite a bit.

The Rong Fu mills are worth looking into too if you want something a bit bigger. I started with a MicroLux mill and have a mid sized Grizzly now. I would never go smaller again. I find the midsized mills are big enough for me and move enough I don't want to tote around a Bridgeport.

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Well it would be a learning experience I would practice on things before actually working a piece of stock. Excuse my ignorance but what do you mean chatter? Wobble???

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Just search Google for "Micro Mill 1911" or "Micro Mill gunsmithing" and you will see the pros and cons. I have seen a lot of good work done with Micro Mills only but it is a lot harder. They are not very rigid and therefore it is hard to get clean cuts. Even when bolted down to a strong bench they flex and twist a bit too much for me. A micro mill is definately better than no mill though. They are cheap and can easily be sold for what you buy them for. I had one and am not sorry I had it. I sold mill for a decent amount and already had a load of tooling when I got a bigger mill. They are nice for the money.

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Get on the Home Shop Machinist Forum and use the search function. This has all been gone over many times on there. There is a wealth of good info on everything you ever wanted to know plus some humor and some BS.

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I have built 2 complete guns now with my little Grizzly mill, everything from frame/slide, barrel fitting, sight cuts, and cocking serrations.

You have to learn what you can get away with as far as material taken off per pass etc. and if you are patient enough they will turn out good work.

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technetium-99m

I too was able to do most everything on my little micro-lux. I had no problem doing sight mounts, fitting slides, done a few high power cuts and ball mill cuts. Cutting Cold style serrations was no problem. I never liked doing STI style serrations on the machine though because mine always looked a ouch ragged. With patience these little mills can do a lot. The point I was trying to make is that if you choose a little mill the cost of the actual mill soon becomes forgotten; when you have $3000 invested in rotary table, vices, cutting tools, arbors, measuring tools, etc. the difference between a $500 mill and a &1000 don't seem so big. I sold my little mill for the same price I bought it for and put the money into a bigger machine. Setting up is much easier on the bigger machine and I don't need to make as many passes.

I would watch Craigslist since I see one or two little mills sell each month. They sell for the same price as new but often include a couple thousand dollars worth of accessories. I bought my little one for $600 but it had a rotary table ($300), vice ($150), face mill ($75), boring head (100), and 200 or so milling bits ($1500?). I eventually sold the mill but came out way ahead on the deal.

Buying a mill is like buying a gun. They seem expensive but hold their value well. If you buy used and sell used you often end up losing nothing.

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Oh I agree on the tooling etc. cost, the cost of the machine has been easily eclipsed by the cost of tooling.

My purchase of a little mill was made for 1 reason only. I had no room for anything bigger.

Next time I'm making room by golly!

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I was watching one guys you tube videos and he had some little purpose made jig for cutting hood length and the lug floor for 1911 but he never mention where he bought it. He didn't make it it was bought

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I have the harbor freight mini-mill. It is capable of doing anything on a 1911, but like shooting sports, the results depend on the indian, not the arrow. I know nothing about machining and just dove in and started making chips.

The first cut I ever made in steel was lightening the slide on a STI short-block kit. Talk about high pucker factor, but it turned out well. I've also made wings/shrouds for AP, drilled and tapped for scope mounts, etc.

It will chatter very badly if you get too aggressive. The column is not very rigid, so when you put a high load on the bit, the column flexes and starts bouncing the bit against the work. There are a lot of things you can do to help the situation, but it's always going to be a small, light machine.

The best resource I have found for the mill (including lots of the improvements you can make) is the Yahoo group:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GrizHFMinimill/

Also:

http://www.mini-lathe.com/Mini_mill/Main/mini-mill.htm

http://www.littlemachineshop.com/

I will eventually get a bigger machine, but the mini-mill isn't a bad way to get started. As others have said, the mill isn't really the big investment, the tooling is. I paid about $400 for my mini-mill, but I bet I have over $3000 in tooling. I did initially chose the Harbor Freight version because it has an R8 spindle like most Bridgeport clones. That way all of my tooling will fit when/if I find a steal on a real mill.

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Well from what I have watched on the on line vids is barrel fitting and slide fitting and sure with small slow passes these would do the job. I've not seen any in slide serations yet. I know nothing about maching and like I saud I would use scrap stuff to get the hang if things. But I can measure and I can work with my hands and can be patient. Like I said this would be for my own gun building and maybe a friends but mostly just me.

What are do you need to go with the mini mill? I've looked at the new Little Machine Shop branded one and it's not much more than the harbor frieght but has a bigger table and 30% more travel on the X and Y axis. I would purchase the Weigand 1911 barrel fixture as well.

What about the mini lathes? Would they handle finish reaming a rifle chamber and barrel threading and fluting??

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What are do you need to go with the mini mill? I've looked at the new Little Machine Shop branded one and it's not much more than the harbor frieght but has a bigger table and 30% more travel on the X and Y axis. I would purchase the Weigand 1911 barrel fixture as well.

What about the mini lathes? Would they handle finish reaming a rifle chamber and barrel threading and fluting??

At the absolute bare minimum to start making chips you will need a vice and/or clamp kit, a collet, an end mill bit and maybe some parallels.

The thing that will make working on rifle barrels tough on the mini-lathe is the 3/4" or less spindle bore.

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This is an interesting thread for me to follow. I am a self taught home shop machinist that has built a handful of race guns both Limited and Open.

I did all this self teaching and building on a Harbor Freight Rong Fu (column type)mill.

Typical rational: It's cheap and I could get it into my basement by my self.

I put a dro on it to deal with amazingly bad backlash and a power feed so I could slow it all down to a pace that would actually cut nice while (in the beginning) I would stand there pinching my cheeks together hoping I wouldn't hack the thousands of dollars worth STI parts waiting for me to turn them into cool looking and good running pistols. I get better and better at dealing with the limitations of this set up but my advice,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,buy up!!

If it has to be a bench top type find one that has a knee or at worst, a square column geared head. Having generous Z travel means nothing if while you make Z move your xy zeros can't be held. Get DRO's from the begining and a power feed.

If I had to do it over again I'd put a 3 phase motor on the harbor freight geared head mill and make the third phase with a variable frequence drive. Total speed control with very little loss of torque. More sharp tools, big tiltable wilton vise and all the fixtures brownells sells.

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...which measures movement of whatever axis you have them on.

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I just installed a Shumatec DIY DRO kit running open-source software with cheap chinese scales on my mini-mill. It makes things much easier and I only have about $250 in the DRO+scales.

http://www.shumatech.com/

http://www.wildhorse-innovations.com/

I also have a power window motor sitting on my workbench that will turn into a power feed when I get energetic :)

Openmike makes a good point about the Z-axis... That is something that I constantly fight on the mini-mill. I sometimes even have to drill holes using jobber length drill bits held in a collet because I run out of room for a chuck. I have a swivel base that I never use for my Kurt-clone vice because I can't afford the extra couple of inches of height, plus the higher off the table you get when milling, the slower you have to go because the lack of column rigidity starts to really become evident.

I lust after a bigger mill, but the mini-mill is adequate for my needs so I'm going to work towards getting a mid-sized lathe before I upgrade my mill.

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I have been looking at getting a BF20 mill, does anybody have any input on these?

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Another vote for buying a used larger mill. I started with a mini and did some nice work with it but like others have said, multiple passes, chatter and on mine the table would not stay tight. I had to keep pressure on the table lock to keep it tight while it moved.

I found a nice used 9"x42" 3hp variable speed Sharpe (Bridgeport clone) on eBay with power feed, DRO's, and lube system for $1,000. It weights a ton (literally) but it so much better than the mini. Its a 3 phase motor but with a static converter it runs on 220.

http://www.brianenos.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=124130&view=findpost&p=1403066

other threads on the same subject

http://www.brianenos.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=79456&st=0&p=930953&hl=grizzly&fromsearch=1entry930953

http://www.brianenos.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=59235&st=0&p=689554&hl=grizzly&fromsearch=1entry689554

http://www.brianenos.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=16490&hl=grizzly&st=0

Edited by TMC

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The flex on small, cheap machines will damage tools and negate any savings, in addition to being difficult and time consuming to set up and do good work on. There's the same difference between a bridgeport and a big cnc.

It wouldn't matter so much in plastic and aluminum, but on good steels it gets really noticeable!

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