Astra L2/L4 Horizontal Milling Machine

Hi All
Earlier this year I aquired a Astra L2/L4 (not sure exactly which) milling machine being throw out by a local machine shop and I am
currently cleaning it up to use at home. I was wondering if any of uk.rec.model.engineering readers also have one of these machines and how they have got on with using it.
I am thinking about adding a vertical head to my machine, has anyone adapted a non Astra vertical head to fit their machine - I would be interested in what you had used as a alternative drive unit.
As this is a great site for getting useful information, I am hoping that someone out there could give me some tips.
Cheers for now and Happy Christmas to one and all.
Dave
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On 20 Dec 2006 04:17:34 -0800, "Steam Train Dave"

I remember Neil Fazakerly having an Astra mill (or maybe two). He's a visitor to this site but I'm not sure how frequently. You might find his contact details via the Google archive
Charles
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Charles Ping wrote:

Hi Charles
I had a look back in uk.rec.model.engineering and found Neil's last entry around June 2003 - I tried his e mail address with a message but it was bounced back as address unknown. I will just have to want and see if anyone else wants to offer some information / experience.
Thanks for the name.
Cheers and Happy Christmas
David Ingram
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On 21 Dec 2006 07:54:03 -0800, "Steam Train Dave"

David
These are Neil's pages http://www.anf.nildram.co.uk/workshop /
and this is his Astra http://www.anf.nildram.co.uk/workshop/astra/astra.html
and an email is here on the contact page http://www.anf.nildram.co.uk/beebcontrol /
Charles
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wrote:

Hi Dave. Just seen your post. You'll find some info on the Astra on my workshop site as Charles has posted above. There's also some useful info on the lathe archive site at http://www.lathes.co.uk/astra/index.html
I don't have my Astra anymore as I decided to go up a couple of sizes. Astra made a nice motorised quill vertical head but they're rare as hens' teeth. The more common fitting was a conventional knuckle head driven off the horizontal spindle.
What sort of head you can fit will depend on the depth of the overarm. There were two thicknesses and the thinner one isn't really suitable for mounting a head on without adding some major bracketry.
-Neil F.
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Hi Neil
Thanks for coming back, hope you have had a good Christmas. I have a older Astra mill with the thinner overarm and not the style in the photos on the Lathe archive web site and your Astra mill. I have never seen a Astra mill motorised head goingon Homeworkshop or fleabay, so as you say I guess they are like hen's teeth - I have only seen one knuckle type head going which was for a much later INT 30 spindle unit. I was thinking about grafting onto the horizontal Astra a non std vertical head to give me both forms of cutting - as you have grafted on a Bridgeport head onto a Tom Senior major base - you have some experience of this, I am not thinking about a Brigeport head - that would be far too big. I was thinking of possibly using two different ideas, A) first was to use a Bridgeport right angle quill drive head with a adaptor plate / tube to give me a fixed vertical drive from the current spindle - I need to know some details on the clamping arrangement of the drive and its size to see if that will work. B) second as small motorised heads are all but non existant as sold items to use a mini mill head which has a internal quill feed (such as the EuroArcTrade X1) as the head with a adaptor plate to clamp the head to the mill knee dovetails above he horizontal drive - I have seen a photo of a similar adaptor for a Tom Senior head.
What do you think adout these ideas?
How did you get on with your Astra - was it ok in the horizontial mode or were you limited to cutter size because of the size of the drive motor.
Cheers for now.
David
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Sorry David, didn't see your post for a while.
I would go with the lighter head. The Bridgeport angle drive looks like it might extend too far over the knee and you need to keep the spindle central over the saddle's Y-travel. Plus a quill feed is always worth having if you can manage it, especially for light cuts or smaller components where 'feel' is an advantage. With a lighter head you could probably bracket it onto the end of the overarm as per my TS/BP, then you might be able to extend the arm and use the horizontal function without removing the head or losing its alignment (which is what I do on my TS).
As for the Astra itself. The body is a very strong box section and the knee and table are fine so long as there's no wear to speak of. I found the weak spot to be the table x-drive mechanism (leaving aside the lack of continuous vertical feed). The quick-acting lever drive is very useful but it leaves the table prone to vibrating back and forth under the action of a heavy cut. I traced this to the long spindle on the x-drive worm wheel. The long length of this spindle lets it twist like a torsion spring when the cut tries to push the table back, and this is not helped by the spindle only being clamped at one end. I couldn't see any way to eradicate this spring, short of redesigning the whole feed system, but I would have started by making a new worm wheel spindle out of silver steel and clamping it at both ends.
I think the horizontal mode was OK, but you can't expect a small mill to drive large wide cutters unless you increase the HP, but then you run into even more of the problem above.
The Astra is a good little purpose-designed horizontal mill, but you'll have quite a lot of work to do to make it a good vertical mill. Still, that's half the fun isn't it?
-Neil.
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On 26 Dec 2006 01:44:43 -0800, "Steam Train Dave"

David
A Bridgeport J head (as Neil has) would be too big but an M head might suit. It was what Adcock and Shipley fitted to the 1ES at times. Peter Forbes had one - can't remember who he sold it to.... http://www.lathes.co.uk/bridgeport/page2.html
Charles
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Seasons Greetings from Spain!
Dave,
I too have an L/4 purchased 2nd hand years ago and its been sitting i my shop all this time as I have not had the chance to get the projec off the ground!
I exchaned a couple of emails with Neil when I first tried finding vertical attchmnt with no luck at all either! This put things on hol ever since and have managed just by milling on the lathe with th vertical slide.
I have more time now and after selling my Taiwanese 12" import (was fe up spending more time fixing and improving rather than making!) hav decided to take up on some old projets including the Astra.
Just by chance, I bumped into this spindle on eba http://cgi.ebay.es/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ih 0&sspagename=STRK%3AMEWA%3AIT&viewitem=&item00063349571&rd=1&rd=1
I went off and bought the thing and should be arriving shortly. know... it has a MT1 but this bothers me none as I now only have th Tos Su-16 lathe and all the tooling that I have is MT1.
I have been assured that it is very, very robust. Once I get receive i I will be able to tell you more on the subject. I also have considere making a casting copying the vertical head but this also has bee postponed as I do need to do some milling rather right away. Anybod willing to cooperate on a vertical milling head project?
By the way, anybody out there have a Tos MN80A or Su-16 like mine?
Kindest regards to all and Happy New year!
Latheworks
http://personal.telefonica.terra.es/web/metal-latheworks/Main_Espx.htm
Tos Su 16 Astra L/
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wrote:

Hello to Neil, Charles and Latheworks
Happy New Year to you all.
I have had a cold for a few days so have not been able to come back.
Neil I think I will follow your suggestion and fit a non standard head with a quill down feed, as I have the thinner overarm I will probably fit a seperate clamping plate for the vertical head.
By the look of both your Astra photos and Lathework's Astra photos, I also have a narrower table as it only has two 'T' slots. The thinner arm and only two table slots suggests to me that I have a much older Astra mill to you two!
Neil you mentioned that you had found the X movement created a bit of vibration due to the worm wheel only being clamped at one end, I will have to have a look at this during the rebuild - I wonder if a simple screwed center coming in from the back would eliminate this by holding the worm wheel more ridged?
Latheworks, I would be interested in some feed back after you have had your vetical head delivered to see what you think of it. I assume from the photos that it will have a seperate motor drive through a vee belt.
Cheers all for now.
Dave
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Hi to all of you!
Nice to see that this thread is picking up some momentum!
Only yesterday did I receive notice from my local post office that th pkg presumably containing the V/spindle has arrived but it is 3 Wis Kings over here in Spain so post office is closed today!!!
The unit comes with spare drive belt and pulley. I have also contacte seller and have been informed that a MT2 with quill down feed coul also be supplied but would propably run up to USD 200 + postage. I a waiting for confirmation though for me it would be rather steep!
As soon as I receive the spindle I will keep you posted and sen photos.
Rgd
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Hi Latheworks
I would be interested in the information on the MT 2 quill spindled milling head if the American supplier sends you any information, as currently I would probably have to buy a new small milling machine (X1 type) to get a milling head anyway.
Cheers for now
Dave
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wrote:

I'm not too familiar with X-type head, Dave, but it doesn't look like it has a fine downfeed. It seems to use a rack on the rear upright to feed the whole head down. Given that there's only a ratchet vertical feed on the Astra, wouldn't that leave you without any way of applying a fine vertical cut?
-Neil F.
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neil f wrote:

Hi Neil
The X1 unit I have been thinking about is supplied by Euro Arc Trade, it has a screw feed to the main head assembly and quill down feed on the head for the spindle. The quill down feed operates from both a lever and handwheel (via worm wheel drive I think). I think you are visulising the X2 units which had a lever down feed to the whole milling head. Correct me if I am wrong, heads such as the Bridgeport and Tom Senior used a rack and gear quill down feed operated from a quick down feed lever or a fine down feed hand wheel?
One of the problems with using the X1 head is that the motor is only 150 watts power so is a little small for the bigger bulk of the Astra body, but it does have a MT2 spindle so the tooling would match the currect horizontal abour and my ML10.
Ref your comment on the Astra ratchet feed - did you find this a to course or was it more convenient to fit a handwheel to the Z axis?
Cheers for now Dave
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neil f wrote:

Hi Neil
The X1 unit I have been thinking about is supplied by Euro Arc Trade, it has a screw feed to the main head assembly and quill down feed on the head for the spindle. The quill down feed operates from both a lever and handwheel (via worm wheel drive I think). I think you are visulising the X2 units which had a lever down feed to the whole milling head. Correct me if I am wrong, heads such as the Bridgeport and Tom Senior used a rack and gear quill down feed operated from a quick down feed lever or a fine down feed hand wheel?
One of the problems with using the X1 head is that the motor is only 150 watts power so is a little small for the bigger bulk of the Astra body, but it does have a MT2 spindle so the tooling would match the currect horizontal abour and my ML10.
Ref your comment on the Astra ratchet feed - did you find this a to course or was it more convenient to fit a handwheel to the Z axis?
Cheers for now Dave
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It wasn't so much the coarseness as the intermittent drive. You keep having to stop feeding to return the lever to pick up the next pawl. I fitted my Astra with a handle and conventional bevel drive in the knee as the Astra head didn't have a fine down feed - just lever feed. I see that the current Astras on the Italian site now have a similar knee feed too. The simplest Z fine feed would be to fit a handle and a bevel drive at the bottom in place of the ratchet wheel (a bit like one of the Centec models). I was going to do something like that but went for the knee feed in the end as it was more fun to design and make. I had two Astras at the time so I used one to machine the knee of the other.
-Neil.
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neil f wrote:

Hi Neil
Thanks for your explanation regarding the change you made to the Z axis on the Astra, I think in the first instance I will just refurbish the mill as is and have a think about how I may modify the feed on the Z axis. I was thinking on just changing the ratchet lever for a handwheel so I could operate the rise / fall using two hands and have a (hand fed!!!!) continuous up or down motion. I was going to fit a form of Z axis measurment to the knee possibly a 2" feed DTI or a simple DRO as there is no current rise / fall measuring facility. Your handwheel modification would provide this if I went that way.
Cheers for now.
David
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wrote:

Hi Latheworks
Just a quick e mail to see that vertical head you ordered for your Astra L4 mill has arrived?
Wondering what you think of it and if you received any information on the MT2 quill feed vertical head from the same supplier?
cheers for now
Dave
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I think all Astra's had two tee slots originally, but a number of owners (myself included), added a third one in the centre. The table is made of pretty tough stuff. I remember watching an HSS tee-slot cutter glow red and lose its edge as I cut the slot, using a Bridgeport at night school. I used up two cutters in the end. Not sure it's worth it really unless you have a lot of tooling that won't fit.

I don't think that would help, Dave. The shaft actually twists along its length (like a torsion bar spring), so the only thing that would help would be an added clamp at the other end. Unfortunately the shape of the casting doesn't help you add a clamp but I'm sure something could be done.
-Neil F.
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Hi Dave
Have you thought about a Centec 2A or 2B vertical head.
These heads should be easy enough to adapt to fit your Astra and the have both fine feed and lever operation of the quill. The main mo would be devising a way of driving the spindle.
Only problem, of course, is they are fairly rare, although it would b worth ringing the advertisers in Model Engineers Workshop and Th Engineers Emporium http://www.theengineersemporium.co.uk/index.html wh sometimes have useful stuff.
Good luck.
Joh
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