Hello, I'll admit I'm new to metalworking, but in looking around at all
the newsgroups, forums, etc., I see a lot of people recommending buying
used American machinery as opposed to new imports. My question is- how
exactly do I do that? I know its stupid but if somebody could just
point me towards a source for these tools I would be very grateful.
Thank you all,
You can always check out industrial liquidations and visit
auctions. Used mills regularly appear on sales of Winternitz, for
example, check out winternitz.com (my area, chicagoland). I am not
endorsing or recommending them as I have not always been thrilled by
my results at their auctions, but they at least have a website that
You can also try your luck on ebay by patiently waiting for local ebay
sales and inspecting merchandise prior to bidding.
Note that a big minus of "old iron", for those of us with limited
space, is its size. For instance, this 2 HP vacuum pump weighs 500 lbs
and is about 2x4 feet in footprint.
Just eb patient, open minded and inquisitive and you will find a good
deal. Lose about 10 auctions for every one that you win, that helps
get a good price.
Where are you?
<mumble mumble> people always want help but don't want to give away
their location <mumble mumble.
Some parts of the world are much easier to buy old iron in. And the
consensus that old iron is better, is only true if you know what you are
looking at and can judge the difference between a dirty but otherwise
solid piece of old iron, and clapped out pieces of shit being foisted
off on guys or gals that don't know any better.
Given the rise (somewhat, and arguable) in quality of the import
machinery, and that the heyday of what is currently our target specimens
of old iron was 30 to 60 years ago (maybe some wear, eh!), you really
need to educate yourself, or at least hook up with someone that can give
you some pointers on a firsthand basis.
That said, I'd bet that a pile of the guys here started out with
clapped out or beaten to death machinery, and learned much about machine
tools and dealing in same as they rebuilt themselves a working machine.
Northeast USA seems about the best place to be, with limited pockets
of very good pickings on the west coast. If you are a resoursful
imaginative scrounger that does not get easilly discouraged, used is
going to work out fine. If you require the confidence that goes with
being able to call someone and order parts, the choices in old iron are
reduced rather a lot, and new starts to become a better option.
Machine tool dealers are everwhere. Start in the phone book under
"Machine tool dealers".
Watch the local papers, or place a wanted ad. Craigslist, same. Is
there a model engineering group or metalworking club near you? Do you
know about Home Shop Machinist magazine? Many dealers of used and new
equipment advertise there. Check at the local newsstand or take a
chance, and subscribe.
Want more information? Put up some of your own. Where the heck are you
and what are you interested in specifically, are the two biggies. No
point in finding you a lathe if you want to do ornamental sheetmetal.
I live in South Carolina, migrating between Florence, Columbia, and
Greenville, with space for a mill in either Greenville or Florence. I
am primarily interested in making small pieces for home automation and
robotics, especially gears, but I'm sure you can understand that I'd
like to get the most machine I can on my limited budget.
As for the white pages etc, I've been looking for about 4 months now
and have yet to find anything at all in my area- in fact, on several
occasions when I was asking around Florence I actually had to explain
what a mill was! I'll be the first to admit that I'm not knowledgeable
about these tools, certainly not knowledgeable enough to be able to
disassemble and reassemble a knee mill or anything (although I could
probably handle the first part <grin>). I hope this helps to narrow the
field a little, and thank you for your prompt replies,
OK, you need to look at your needs, how much space do you have ? full size
American machines need a lot of floor space.
You need to look at money, you want to spend $400 on a mill, you are
probably going to spend $600 on tooling.
You buy a mill, you are going to want a lathe, with the size and cost
requirements for that.
My personal experience was to buy a HF 7X lathe and Minimill first because I
was putting everything in a 10 x 10 shed and I wanted to have some room for
the saw, grinder, drill press, welder, etc, Tec... After a few years I
expanded the shop to 10 x 16. Then I bought a larger mill, a Nichols horz
mill, still rather small, but at 1000 lbs, more than enough for what I
You can find machines everywhere, but you need to look hard in the
Southeast. I live in Florida, a vast wasteland if you are looking for iron,
but they can be found.
PS I know of a Baker bench mill for sale for around $400 in Sanford FL.
You say you want a mill. What type of mill, horizontal, vertical, pug
To cut gears you would probably need a horizontal mill with overarm
support, and a rotary indexer. The horizontal mills are a dime a dozen.
I just gave one away a couple of months ago. You should be able to get
one for under 500 dollars with some tooling. There was that big one
that someone was offering for 500 dollars with a bridgeport vertical
head on it. If you had the room that would be a steal. The facemill
cutter and bp head alone were worth that. Equivilant to a bp but with
a very rigid table and power feed in all three axis. It is usually to
not get involved in gear cutting but buy stock gearing unless you are
making repair parts that are not stock. Boston gear, Martin gear and
some others have a pretty good inventory of gearing.
Go over to www.practicalmachinist.com and have a look at the Machinery
for sale forum there.
IIRC there is a Harbour Freight mill there, a lot nearer to you than
to me, for a $1000 asking price. It is an A1-S type mill, which is a far
cry above the benchtop mill-drill units. It apparently does not have
many hours use and the guy speaks well of it in the ad.
Whether it suits you needs, you have to decide, but I would buy it if
I were closer, even being a HF machine.
North and South Carolina are not the most industrialised areas, but
there seems a steady trikle of machines advertised in that area.
Get on the mailing lists for a catalog from Enco (useenco.com, IIRC),
harbour freight, KBC tools, McMaster Carr (if they will send you a catalog).
Get subscribed to Home Shop Machinist, too. Lots of tool suppliers
advertising there with some quite decent bargains to be had (as well as
some cheap junk, but...)
You can generally buy a machine directly from an individual a lot cheaper
than you can from a dealer. The trick is finding what you want. One of the
best ways is to talk to a local machine shop owner or two. They often know
when someone has a machine for sale. I got my Bridgeport from a shop that
had just acquired a CNC and needed to make room. I paid a lot less than I
would have to a dealer and I'm sure I have the shop owner more than a dealer
would have given him. And he borrowed a fork lift from a business neighbor
and set on my truck for me. And I heard about it from a friend who was,
himself, a machine shop owner (and who had once been an employee of the guy
who sold me the mill).
Indeed. Networking networking networking
I got a welder or two today because I passed the word around that I
wanted cast offs.
Got an Airco 250 Heliweld Squarewave with chiller, a Airco 200 Mig (3
phase damit) a Lincoln AC225 and a big old Lincoln 300 crank front.
Neither the owner nor I know if any of them actually work. Cost me an
hours labor ($65) knocked off the 7 hour bill. And the 500 lbs of
various welding rod was free.
If even one of these works..Im way ahead on points <G>. And most are
simple enough to repair.
Hell..Im already way ahead just on rod alone. A friend of a friend
recommended me for machine repair to yet a third guy in mid summer.
Now Im the "guy to call" when they have machine or electrical
problems. He turned me on to his buddy who had the welders.
"That which does not kill you,
has made a huge tactical error"
THe American versus import argument is an old one that i dont want to
I'm an Metalworking Hobbyist int he same situation as you whose been
laying low and quietly looking for the right machine and situation,
I'll share some things i've learned and figured out through talking to
machine tool dealers looking at auctions and listening on here and so
Regardless of where its made honest full industrial tools will outlast
any hobbiest grade equipment. I dont think there is a single soul in
this newsgroup who would argue that point
But the usual downsides to industrial tools are SIZE, and POWER. as
long as you can address those two issues then you are always FAR ahead
bying an industrial tool in decent shape than a shiny new hobbyist one.
Up Here in canada (Cannot speak for the US but i'm sure some oof the US
business owners will be able to confirm or deny this in a second) Large
expenditures that have a limited useful life (Vehicles and machine
tools and so on) are considered capital expenses and are written off
across a nuber of years, Sometimes decades before they are beat up and
clapped out Especially if the place required the fuctionality of given
tool but didnt put the stresses that a day yo day job shop would. (An
engineering shop for example would have machines thay are used for
making prototypes but never used in large scale production the way a
job shop would. Or a place that needed to hold TIGHT tolerances whose
machines have "clapped out" to their standards and are "only" accurate
to some ridiculously tight precision. There are places that will
discard machines better than some other can be bought new because that
amount of wear is unacceptable to their application. to them its junk
to you its gold
The Value to an industrial shop of a written off tool is trivial
especially since writing it off has helped to get the replacement in.
For example If the machine is not accurate enough to make aircraft
parts in a shop making aircraft parts its Junk and is a cost for them
to remove and a drain on floorspace
Machine tool dealers tend to scoop up machines from that type of
situation and from liquidations or from trade ins against new tool
IF you have room for a BIG tool they are usually MUCH cheaper than a
Small tool Especially if you consider it pound for pound. because the
space limits their resale value
Case in point is the Number 4 Cinicinnati Milling machine shown and
listed for sale in this group from about two weeks ago. it looks liek a
BEAUTIFUL machine but no one with a small shop can handle a machine
with a TEN FOOT TABLE despite it being on sale for merely $500 if
Hobbyist sized machines command a LARGE premium for their lack of size
and ease of manageability. I would LOVE an old Clausing Mill (8520 or
similar) IN GOOD SHAPE and for many of the hobbyists here thats enough
of a machine for them. I'm waiting till i build my Garage and get a
Good concrete pad in then pick up a full sized used knee mill if i can.
(Not necessarily Bridgeport since Bridgeports just like South Bend
lathes command a name premium that isnt necessarily due to the quality
of the machine) Its also noteworthy that Three Phase machines are MORE
affordable than single phase ones and can be accomodated in home shops
for VERY little extra cost via a phase converter or frequency drive.
and the bigger a machine is the harder it is to move and sell so the
less it costs if you have the means to deal with it.
Thats one of the best things that a home shop could wind up with. But
if the size of industrial machinery it may not be an option.
Small "Old Iron" Machines like the aforementioned Clausing or a
Hardinge milling machine are Rare and command a premium due to their
manageable size, Some people have no choice in machines but to go with
those because that is all that will fit. That small size and associated
premium price can also mean that some very worn out machines can be
sold when they really should have gone to the big foundry in the sky
Old worn out machines are of no use to anyone but are out there ...
Buyer beware. New machines (Wherever they come from) have parts
available for them. Usually Fabricating your own repair parts for old
machines is a daunting task to say the least but in theory a lathe is
the only tool capable of copying itself. Buying a machine tool sight
unseen CAN be dangerous for getting you with a dud but can also get you
a good machine. But whenever possible Inspection and local movement are
Machine tool dealers, Auctioneers Classifieds and EBAY are all
legitimate sources that you can investigate locally. but usually
machine tool shipping is a dodgy, difficult and expensive affair that
is best avoided whenever possible.
Hope this all helps and its not long overkill.
Man you guys really get the deals- unfortunately, there seems to be an
ocean in between us. I have to ask, I'm looking at spending <$400 for
this, am I just asking too much for too little? Should I wait and
revise my budget upwards when possible, or should it be possible to get
good/decent used equipment for that price, and I'm just not seeing it
yet? Thanks again,
To score a useable machine in that price range borders on the
miraculous. Worth gloating over, in any case. It's not that there are
not any around, but it's along the lines of answering an ad that wants
to sell "an old chevrolet" and finding a mint 'Vette on blocks in a barn
. It has happened, it will happen again, it might happen to you, just
don't expect it to happen to you.
Get a machine that you can actually do any work on, with tooling, for
that price, and people start throwing rocks at you. :-)
If you buy a bare machine, count on spending pretty much the cost of
the machine or more, on tools and tooling to make it do what you need it to.
Yeah, I was beginning to get the impression I wasn't going to grab one
for that, unless I was willing to do quite a bit of repair. I am pretty
mechanically inclined, and have no question that I could
<b><i>eventually</i></b> fix an older machine, but I'm thinking that in
the time it would take me to do so and with the cost in parts it might
actually be cheaper to get a more expensive one in better shape.
As far as tooling goes, yeah, I was budgeting about 600 for that-
indexing rotary table, involute cutters (what's the deal with hobs? I
don't mean to sound stupid but I don't really understand what I'm
supposed to do with a hob if I get one), a vise, I already have a
pretty nice set of endmills etc, that I picked up for a couple of bucks
on ebay...<shrugs> now I just need the mill. There's one on ebay, the
HF minimill, that's apparently got a "bad drive gear" and may wind up
going for the ~300 range, inc shipping- worth it?
I've also just got a response from my craigslist ad, says he has an
import 3-in-1 in need of some repair- I'm questioning the whole 3-in-1
thing, but at $200, the price may be right. Am i being stupid?
Thank you guys for all your advice, it really is amazing...
A hob will cut all tooth counts for the size it is, a set of gear
tooth cutters is each good for a range of numbers. Hobs are generally
used on gear cutting setups where the blank is geared to the cutting
spindle, so that the spacing is proper. The individual cutters do one
tooth at a time. Hobbs can be used one tooth at a time as well, but with
slightly poorer results.
For $200 the 3-in-1 may be worth a look. Calculate ito the equation
that parts will NOT be available. Can you make them? (they may be
available, but if you work that into your calculations, you will do
better for yourself).
You might consider that for $200 you buy it, clean it up, and sell it
for a little more, if it is in a reasonable conition to do so with.
LittleMachineshop.com sells belt drive conversions and replacement
parts for minimills.
if you are willing and able, look for a machine with electrical problems - I
don't know why this should be the case, but most folks who work with machine
tools somehow shy away from any electrical problem - so a nice machine that
won't run will be hugely cheaper (and cheaper to get running) that a running
but less nice machine.
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