How to buy a mill–and how to get it home

By Tom Suddard
Mar 16, 2024 | Bridgeport mill, Making stuff, Mill | Posted in Shop Work , Features | From the Oct. 2022 issue | Never miss an article

Photography by Tom Suddard

If you’ve ever used a drill to turn a round hole into an oval–it’s okay to admit it–then you understand the basic theory behind a mill. As we explained in the last installment of “Making Stuff,” a lathe spins the work while holding the tool steady, while a mill spins the tool while holding the work steady. 

But what can you …

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kb58 SuperDork
8/23/22 12:05 p.m.

Buying a mill or lathe is virtually the same thing when it comes to getting it home. If you're up to moving it yourself, look into renting a "heavy equipment" trailer. The trailers are made specifically for the task and lower flat to the ground, which is needed when moving XXXX lbs things on and off. Paying an equipment mover can be much more expensive, but weigh that against the hazards of moving said equipment into position safely.

f1carguy New Reader
8/23/22 2:25 p.m.

Rule number ONE - When transporting top heavy equipment is to build a transport pallet - longer and wider than the object so it can't topple over!

Rule number TWO - Bolt the object to the pallet.

Rule number Three - Use a set of small rollers to move the object. Cock the rollers to turn corners. A crowbar does the moving.

I have moved 5 and 8 ton commercial washing machines all by myself.

carguyrory New Reader
9/16/22 6:31 p.m.

I've moved a tire changer and balancer as well as a lift (twice) by myself. A piece of nice 2x8 or 2x10 running on another nice piece works really well and can help distribute the load. For extra smooth, apply a little Johnson's Wax!

kb58 UltraDork
11/21/22 10:31 a.m.

Editorial note: The above article repeats twice.

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
11/21/22 10:39 a.m.

In reply to kb58 :

Thank you for catching that. It looks like a bug is displaying the text twice. We're working on it from our end to try and fix it.

Thank you for your patience.

apexdc New Reader
11/18/23 3:17 p.m.

I went through a lot of this progression and ultimately decided to get a good quality, but small counter top lathe and mill.  They are a funny lot. The Harbor Freight one probably comes from a Chinese company that builds equipment to different spec requirements and is more like a kit to build a lathe. 

The basic cast frame is the same for almost all, but companies like Little Machine Shop (goofy name) and Micro Mark have excellent machines with good quality digital read out, high torque motors, better quality gears, etc.  My lathe weighs less than 100 pounds and has a work envelope of 7" x 16". My mill weighs a little more and can handle a much larger piece.  

I restore motorcycles and work on cars, as well, but the vast majority of parts i need to make easily all within the capacities of my mill. Sure, I can't cut as deep or work as fast as I could on a larger piece of equipment, but the reality is they work perfectly for most of what I need. If I need to work on something larger, which is extremely rare, I take it to a machine shop. 

Also, they don't take up a ton of space. A serious machinist would not take my setup seriously, but I have sure made a lot of cool stuff on it.  That is a brake caliper mount for a seventies flat track  bike below.  

Please note that this is not the least expensive way to go. But, I simply didn't have the room for some massive serious equipment. This is has been my setup for years now and I have only had one time that I took something to a machine shop and that was something I could have possible done at home, but there was an element to it that I felt was beyond my skill set.   


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