Well Christmas has come and gone and, for me, that usually means new additions to the workshop. After many months of researching a milling machine purchase I finally settled on a RF-45 clone from Machine Tools Warehouse located in Cambridge Ontario (Canada). It was a toss up between the Busy Bee Craftex CT054 knee mill and the RF45 clone. There was a lot of debating between the 2 and the decision ultimately came down to work envelope size. As nice as a knee mill would have been, the one that was available to be was slightly on the small size. Now that the money has been spent the machine is sitting in my garage I feel pretty good about the choice.
I opted not to purchase the stand that went with the machine for the sole reason it lacks storage space. In my garage I covet not only my square footage but also my cubic footage. Most milling machine stands have a door with one shelf; I am unsure how anyone can make use of such a poorly designed stand. I realize that a lot of it has to do with economics. For a bit more money I am able to build a stand that will include a lot more functionality. It started with a cheap Craftsman slider drawer 33426 roll cabinet tool box. Then a trip to the metal shop got me 36 feet of 2 x 2 x .100″ square tubing and a 4 x 8 sheet of 11 gauge metal. The plan is to weld up a sturdy stand out of the 2 x 2 steel and build it so that the tool box will fit in the center of it thereby allowing me way more storage space. The cabinet will not hold any of the 750 lbs. worth of machine weight; the steel frame will accept the full load. With the casters left off of the roll cabinet it will allow me to build the height of the cabinet very close to the same dimensions of the factory stand.
A few more work shop additions also included a 220v power feed for the mill. As well I obtained a .500″ R8 keyless DC500 chuck from Glacern Machine Tools for the mill.
Most of the machining I do does not involve parts that are any more then .003″ accurate. I realize that to many machinists this is probably a sin. The fact is that I obtained the machines to help support my welding projects and welding is not .0001″ accurate. As I spend more time with my lathe I find new interests are emerging and new projects are being stirred up in my head, projects that involve more accuracy. Since the milling machine is now home in my shop the process of outfitting it with all the tooling comes next. I figured it was time to get some micrometers, a test indicator, and a set of machinist squares into the tool box. This is just the beginning and it appears that the difficult decision of which mill to buy was actually the easiest decision. The time consuming job of researching which mill vise, end mills, fly cutters, and various other tools I need to obtain will begin. First things first, I will spend the next few weeks getting the stand built and the machine mounted.