Benchtop mill or forge press?
I'm a serious hobbyist knifemaker looking for advice on my next major equipment purchase. Making 3 years, likely going to submit JS test blade in the next year or so, really concentrating on guard fit/overall finish work now. I either own or have ready access to a lot of the basics (good 2x72, heat treat oven, forges, power hammer, surface grinder, media blaster). I also do decorative blacksmithing and forge tool making, but knives are my primary concentration.
My question (and I know it depends, just looking for opinions) - would a forge press or a decent benchtop mill be a more logical next purchase? I can't do more than 1 major purchase a year cause I don't wanna get divorced! 🙂 I can see pros and cons to both, and they are very different tools, just looking for other folks thoughts. Thanks!
Hello Steve. In my opinion go for the mill. It will definitely help with guard fit up and numerous other things, such as a super accurate drill press. You already have a power hammer. I think a press can wait.
I second the benchtop mill as the next item in your toolkit. Especially if you are planning to test for your JS. Guard slotting is much more accurate and drilling pins even more so with the bench mill. There are many more uses for that tool to discover as well. I use my mini-mill to surface handle slabs and even non-ferrous metals sometimes.
“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”
Thanks, Brian and Joshua. I was leaning in the direction of the mill but great to get some advice/confirmation! Savings account isn't quite there yet but I'll pull the trigger as soon as I can.
i'm going to somewhat highjack this thread since i've also been looking at mills. What are the opinions of those with some experience in regards to this one from grizzly? i know it has plastic gears, so i'd be looking to get a belt conversion kit, but the table size looks to be more than adequate for guards or even integral liners for folders. Think its got enough juice? otherwise i'll wait for a little bit to go all out and grab one of these.
More a sideline than a hijack, and a useful one as far as I'm concerned. I've not been looking at the Grizzly products, mostly the offerings from Little Machine Shop - specifically https://littlemachineshop.com/products/product_view.php?ProductID=6550&category=2122081981
My concern with a mill drill is that it might not be rigid enough to be a good mill. Tough to ask one machine to do two jobs well, kind of like SUVs being less than ideal cars (poor gas mileage) and crappy trucks. But I could easily be wrong, I'm not a machinist. Would love to hear what the collective wisdom has to say!
From what you've described, I would say go for the milling machine. I have both an air hammer and a 80 ton forging press, and personally couldn't do without either. I call the forging press my "precision" and call the air hammer "my speed". That is ONLY because I have had both in my shop for so long, I've learned how each forges hot steel differently, and how I can do things with each, that I cannot with the other.
From my personal experience.... I have owned both a mini and a full size Mill/lathe combo, and all I can say is DON'T! They simply do not do either job ever remotely well. For me it was one of those expensive "lesson learned" things. 😭
These days I actually have two milling machines....both are Grizzly. Once is a large knee mill, (the one I have is not longer in production, but this one is close: https://www.grizzly.com/products/grizzly-8-x-30-1-1-2-hp-vertical-mill-with-power-feed/g0731 that sits in the Forging shop, and is used for not only face milling Damascus, but I also use it to repair other machines.
I also have a Grizzly https://www.grizzly.com/products/grizzly-7-x-27-1-hp-mill-drill-with-stand/g0704 in my "finish shop" that is dedicated to "knife" tasks.
My lathe is: https://www.grizzly.com/products/grizzly-9-x-19-bench-lathe/g4000 I can't even count how many Damascus Pens I've turned on it.
I know we're all limited by out "pocketbooks", but get the largest, and biggest of any mill or lathe you can. Just remember.... You can do small work on a big machine....but can't do large work on a small one. 😉
Thanks for some great info, Ed. I had not really been looking at the Grizzly machines. In perusing their website I came across this which seems to tick a lot of boxes (1.5 HP, continuously variable speed which implies belts rather than gears, 3 axis DRO) - https://www.grizzly.com/products/grizzly-7-x-29-1-1-2-hp-mill-drill-with-power-head-elevation-and-dro/g0935
Am I hearing you correctly - for smaller work needs I should not be ruling out a mill/drill in favor of a mini-mill? I have neither space nor $ for a knee mill (and I do have access to a local shop with a huge Bridgeport for heavy removal duties as I need them). thank you for sharing your expensive lessons with the community so we don't have to make them ourselves - we can go off and make different expensive "mistakes" to share. 😉