I'm looking into a 3 in 1 (need to save space and money) combo. I've looked at the Shopmaster Eldorado, Smithy and Grizzley.
Use will be for turning some small shafts (12-20" long, 2-6" in diameter) and making some beveled gears. Nothing real demanding I guess. I'd like it to be CNC upgradable. The Shopmaster and Smithy seem to be pretty decent but I'm not sure about the service/support from these companies. Grizzly seems ok too, not sure how easy the CNC upgrade would be for it.
You won't be able to turn 20 inch lengths on either the Shopmaster or Grizzly. The 20 inch spec on them is from spindle flange to tailstock barrel. When you add a faceplate, driving dog, spindle and tailstock centers, you lose about 4 inches (more if you use a chuck). Then you have to subtract the width of the saddle (doubles as milling table) to see how much cutter travel you actually have. So figure the longest turned surface you can make will be a bit under 10 inches. These machines are fairly decent short lathes, but short is the operative word. Smithy does make a long bed machine (36 inches) that could do it, but it is pretty expensive.
Realize also that none of these machines are very good as mills. The mill heads aren't very rigidly mounted, and the work envelope is really cramped. The lack of rigidity means you have to take very light cuts to avoid chatter. You'll need an index head mounted on a sine plate to cut the gears. You'd run out of room to do that for gears much over 2 inches. (It isn't the gear size so much as it is the size of the index head and sine plate that eats up the room.)
These machines are ok for small work, and for milling aluminum or brass, but for your jobs in your materials, you need bigger equipment. I'd suggest at minimum a 12x36 lathe, better a 14x40 (note, a used 10 inch South Bend would do, but I'm talking mainly about new imports here), and at least the largest of the mill/drills (RF30 type). Much better would be a knee type mill.
Yes the two machines will be larger, and weigh more than the 3-N-1, but you need the size, and you need the weight (for rigidity). On the used market, you could very likely get both for less money than a 3-N-1 too.
I've been down this road. I started out with a Shoptask (now Shopmaster). Then I very quickly bought a RF30 mill/drill as I discovered the inadequacies of a 3-N-1 as a mill. Then I bought a 13x40 lathe to handle longer pieces, and to be able to single point thread them. Now I have a 15x60 Colechester Triumph
2000 lathe and a Bridgeport size mill. Unfortunately, with machine tools, size does matter.
The one nice thing about the Shopmaster is that it is already set up for adding CNC (the cog pulleys are mounted and the stepper mounts are there). But you have to realize that its work envelope is smaller than you imagined, and it still isn't a very good mill. For a model shop that never handles anything longer than about 10 inches, and works mainly with aluminum or brass, it is pretty good. But for things larger or harder than that, it is woefully lacking.
So in closing, eiher rethink the size of your projects, or rethink the size of the machinery you need. You won't be able to do what you want with the size machines you're thinking about.
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They'd be adequate. (Do realize that they'll need some tweaking to get them ready to work. That's normal for any of the import machines in this price class.) MSC, ENCO, J&L, Travers, (even the infamous Harbor Freight) sell similar machines (probably from the same factories). Shop around, you can probably beat Grizzly's deal, especially if you can find a distributor's showroom or warehouse close by so you can save on shipping.
I've kicked the tires on that one a couple of times myself. I've resisted buying one though. A horizontal mill is very convenient for certain sorts of milling jobs (and typically lots more rigid than a vertical mill of similar size). Having both in one machine looks like a good deal. It isn't quite as versatile in vertical mode as a purpose built vertical mill of the Bridgeport type, but it is much better as a horizontal mill than a Bridgeport with a horizontal adapter. Still, I'm continuing to look for a used *separate* horizontal mill for my shop. That'll probably be better, and much cheaper too, since hobbyists tend to shy away from them.
Well, from what I've seen, a horizontal mill has a horizontal drive shaft above the work. You slot cog-like cutting tools onto said shaft and make it spin them as the work passed by underneath, cutting nice channels and so on. Or facing the side edges of the work.
Whereas a vertical milling machine has a vertical shaft which points down at the work, like a column drill (drill press). You can still cut channels with it, just the cutter acts on a different plane. It's not as good for facing the sides of things, though, I expect.
With a horizontal mill you can stack several cutters along the shaft with spaces inbetween in order to cut several parallel channels in the item as well as facing the sides, should you feel the need.
You can do a lot of milling type stuff in a lathe - imagine clamping a shaft in the lathe with cutters attached, and you have a horizontal milling machine if you clamp the work to the cross slide. And if you bolt an angle plate to the slide and bold the work onto that and put a cutter in the lathe vice, you have a vertical milling machine on its side. And you can use the lathe as a drill. And all sorts.
I want a lathe, but if I get one it'll fall through the floor of my 1st floor flat and kill the people on the ground floor, which would be unfortunate.
Really the issue boils down to the moveable quill on the machine. Vertical machines tend to have them, horizontals, rarely. A moveable quill makes the machine less rigid and makes the spindle itself smaller.
So horizontals can take heavier cuts as a rule. They are typically geared such that the spindles can be turning at
60 or 70 rpm to take advantage of larger diameter milling cutters, with a consequent increase in torque.
For example, a bridgeport has a spindle that's sort of an inch or so in diameter, and because it has to slide in and out of the spline on the top, it is reduced more up there. The bearings are about two or three inches in diameter.
The hardinge horizontal I own has a spindle that's a steel tube about 2.5 inches in diameter, and the bearings are about six inches in outer diameter. Nothing slides so the spindle is the same cross section all the way.
Because vertical machines have motors that ride above the spindle, they get real tall real fast. For a person with limited headroom a horizontal has a distinct advantage. Of course the lack of a moveable quill gives that machine a distinct *dis*advantate when it comes to drilling holes.
I use a drill press for that.
Most milling can be done on a horizontal - I have various angle plates and also a bridgeport vertical M head that can be fitted to the machine - but I rarely use them. One can also find the factory made vertical attachment that hardinge put out - but those don't have a quill and as such are not really that handy. I've done various jobs including deep pocketing and it's not really a problem. You just have to stand by the side of the machine to see what's going on.
One of the best adaptations I've seen for an M head to these things is here:
where the support axis of the head has been raised up a bit. That is one of the problems one encounters, you run out of room between the bottom of the quill and the top of the workpiece with a setup like this.
Atlas, Sheldon, and Benchmaster all make small horizontal machines I believe.
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They can both do essentially the same things, but some milling jobs are easier to do on a horizontal than a vertical, and vice versa. For gang, straddle, or slab milling, the horizontal excells. For pocketing and angle milling, the vertical excells. And of course the vertical usually has a quill, so it can be used for drilling, boring, and reaming.
Sounds good. You can do a limited amount of milling with a lathe too.
You should be prepared to stone off burrs, adjust gibs, set geartrain clearances, etc. You should also drain the oil and flush out any casting sand before you start it for the first time. In addition, you'll need to "level" the machine so it'll cut true. What you're basically doing here is taking any twist out of the bed by using shims under the bench mount, or adjusting the leveling legs if it has them, so that it will cut a true cylinder. (You have to do this with any lathe you've moved.)
One way around this is the way the Nichols mill does it. The spindle is mounted to the column via a set of ways, with a lever and segment gear engaging a rack to raise and lower the head. Add to that the right-angle head for the machine and you have the ability to drill or plunge mill. The spindle is a NTMB 40 taper, and the right-angle head uses the same taper.
However, this is a fairly small machine, by comparison with a Bridgeport.
Note that while the name is the same, as far as I can tell, I am no relation to the person who built the machines.
A good summary. If you are looking at the Grizzly horizontal/vertical combo, you really should consider a used Van Norman mill. They come in a range of sizes from the 1300lb #6 and 1800lb #12 to 7000-8000lb beasts with 50 taper spindles. Model 12's show up on ebay every month or so, the going rate is usually under $1000, sometimes a lot under. I bought mine from a local dealer for $500. Van Norman mills do not have a quill, so you need at least a drillpress.
For more info, see my Van Norman website:
There are also pics of my #12 in action in the dropbox: