According to UPS, my new milling machine is on the truck and out for delivery. Woo! Hopefully I’ll have a chance to get it setup over the weekend.
Why a Mill?
Because I want to create aluminum and plastic parts that are too difficult or imprecise via the tools I already own or have access to. I have been learning the ropes of my new Sherline lathe, and there are operations that I need a mill for.
The mill I ordered is similar to the one above, but without way covers and motor couplers, and with hand wheels.
Why a Taig Mill?
It weighs under 100 pounds, so I can move it from bench to shelf. Or bench to closer. Or bench to bench. Seig mini mills weigh in at over 150 lbs, and micro mills weigh in at 125 lbs or so.
It is said to be built with greater precision that the many Seig micro and mini milling machines.
If I choose to, I can very easily convert it for CNC use. The motor coupler kit will cost about $107.
I plan to machine small parts, so the mill’s small size might not be a limitation.
Why not a CNC Taig Mill?
Added cost, lack of space, lack of experience.
Added costs would be the motor coupler kit ($107), stepper motors and control parts ($600), an emergency stop ($20), limit switches ($8?), a parallel port PC card (<$50) or SmoothStepper USB controller (~$175), control software ($175), CAM software ($??), and possibly a new CAD package.
There would have to be a semi-permanent enclosure and coolant loop (probably Fogbuster + air compressor). That would mean added costs and the need for a dedicated space.
Since I have never milled parts before, it seemed that starting off with an automated milling machine would be counter-productive. Once I gain a little experience and familiarity with manual milling, I will revisit the idea of converting the Taig mill for CNC. Or I will look into getting a desktop/benchtop CNC router, which will offer me greater 2D capabilities. Or, if we move to a bigger place, or I open a separate office, studio, or workshop, I will look into getting a larger and more capable CNC mill.
You have to learn to crawl before you can walk, right?
Why not a 3D Printer?
Because a 3D printer cannot work aluminum, wood, acrylic, or UHMW polyethylene.
Why not a CNC Router?
A CNC router makes more sense for cutting a lot of small 2D parts or larger parts from sheet materials. I could definitely use one, but I can’t see myself using one to its full potential right now.
Carter Tools’ website is somewhat archaic (although not as badly as Taig’s), but it’s very informative and Nick Carter really knows his stuff. I did a lot of research and pretty much knew exactly what I wanted and needed, but there were a few back and forth emails anyways before he accepted my order.
What They Say About Tooling
I have been reading up about benchtop CNCs and small milling machines for a long time now, usually in pockets of interest after which I decide to wait a little longer before buying a mill.
One of the common things I’ve heard over and over is that when you buy your first home milling machine, prepare to spend a lot on tooling. Vises, workholding equipment, end mills, measuring and layout tools, etc. etc.
Because the Taig is a small benchtop mill, I couldn’t just buy vises and tooling designed for larger mills. I did plenty of research, and just placed what I hope will be my last accessory order for a while.
Once I get my feet wet, I’ll be in a better position to determine what kind of end mills to order next. For the time being, I ordered two small USA-made 2-flute end mill sets and a couple of specialty aluminum and non-ferrous bits.
I plan to write a lot about the various tools and accessories that can be used with the small milling machine, so I spent way more than I would have if not for ToolGuyd. A lot of these items are not tied into the Taig, so they can be used with other equipment I might buy or use in the years to come.