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Looking at a Browne and Sharpe #2 Plain Horizontal mill... thoughts?

Salem Straub

Cast Iron
May 22, 2012
A local machine shop who I've bought the occasional used machine from has a Browne and Sharpe #2 Plain, 5 hp for sale. I haven't given it more than a cursory look over yet. It's a little rusty here and there, no pitting or anything as far as I saw, and is 3 phase 440V (I have that). It has what looks to be a couple of horizontal arbor supports, and installed currently a vertical milling head (I think it's actually the universal milling attachment, I have to go back and take a more informed look again). As far as what other tooling, I'd have to look and scrounge about the machine, and probably ask further. I went and looked over the manuals on Vintage Machinery, and it appears to be mid 50s vintage.

Does anybody currently run one of these or have some experience with them? Is it a good machine to have? For context, I'm mostly a knifemaker but I do a lot of die and fixture building in the process of coming up with new types of damascus patterns, and I have a shop full of machine and forging tools, including large power hammers, that not infrequently need some millwrighting to keep in line. Sometimes I built my own machines or tooling from scratch, for instance I have a 100 ton forging press build coming up and I often build forges and other equipment for myself and others. I already have a Wells Index 887 vertical mill, so the B&S would be more of a specialty/odd setups type of machine in my shop. Now and then I come up with a project where a horizontal mill would be ideal. Occasionally I encounter a setup issue where being able to drill or plunge cut parts along the x axis would be very handy, as well.

Does anyone have input on these machines? Assuming medium wear, used but not abused condition, essential accessories plus the vertical head included, and maybe a smidgen of tooling, and location wise in basically a machine tool desert in eastern washington state, what do y'all think it's worth? His first price thrown out was $1200, in the past I've been able to talk him down on a couple things to a reasonable extent but I don't like to be outrageous.
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I have a #2 universal, very little use with lots of tooling I bought for $750 in Madison WI. I have worked a little with this and K&T, and I feel this is a good machine. Mine is a NMTB 40 taper, but the universal head is a #9 B&S. I have seen the heads the quickchange and NMTB 40 as well, so something to consider. It has electric feeds in every direction, but I have found mine to be good quality. AN excellent machine for plain milling, gearmaking, or anything you need stability.
I have a B&S 2H Universal...the "heavy duty" machine although I don't think I've ever done anything that you would call heavy duty.
Like all B&S machines and tools, it is extremely well made and very robust. I also have 2 vertical heads...the one on the machine is NMTB50 and the Universal Vertical Head (which I've never used) is 9 B&S. I paid $1000 for mine but it was completely apart so you have to factor in the 6 months I spend putting it back together.
Thanks for weighing in, guys! Not gonna lie, it would be nice to have something from Browne and Sharpe in the shop. They do have a reputation. $750 with lots of tooling would be an awesome deal, $1000 in pieces sounds more typical for what would pop up around here. I bet that was quite a project!

Edited to add, I've figured out that the vertical head installed is actually the #22 Universal Milling Attachment- which is very good, more versatility as well as x axis plunge cuts possible, and speeds up 2400 rpm which should be nice as I work with small carbide cutters pretty frequently.

I really didn't need this machine to come along. I have a few other acquisitions in line ahead of it, to deal with... I bet I could have them hold it a few months though.
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Horizontal mills are great. Nothing else you can easily get will remove metal when you need to like a horizontal mill.

Bigger is often better, but even a small bench one decently equipped is good to have.
Went back and looked it over pretty thoroughly this morning. It appears as though I may be just taking it, never mind the 1200... there are several problems with it, that the owner agreed make it an iffy investment. I told him I'd enjoy tinkering with it, at least. Sounds like I'll go pick it up later this summer, after some machines there get shifted around and I have room cleared at my shop for it.
The main thing is, there's a shop-built step pulley/jackshaft arrangement, driving the spindle, built onto the back under a shop made sheetmetal cover. The place where this machine had been in use (current owner just got it as part of a big shop liquidation) may have crashed it hard, as there's a box of random gears (a broken one on top) and I doubt the spindle gearbox is operational. First I'll see whether the gearbox is a completely lost cause, and if so, I'll probably yank the jackshaft off and pursue a more streamlined vfd-centered approach to spindle speeds. Other immediately obvious issues of note include, recent forklift damage to the coolant motor mount (broken casting) and some broken/missing handles throughout.
One benefit is, It includes the slotting head attachment as well as the universal head. I still think overall it really has potential, with some time put in.
If I go grab it later this summer, I imagine I'll post some stuff about it with pics at that point...
Thanks again for the input guys! Cheers.
That sounds right to me...the slotter and vertical head make it worth trying to repair the rest of the machine. I can't see anyone but an enthusiast taking this on which makes the machine, essentially, scrap metal.