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Rockford No 3 Hand Miller

CarbonArc

Plastic
Joined
Nov 6, 2021
I'm set to go look at a very old Rockford milling machine. As best as I can tell, it is a No. 3 Hand Miller. The owner has a 7/8 and 1 inch arbor, a vertical milling adapter, a slotting adapter, and some other tooling for it.

Here's some photos:
Seller is asking 750 for it all. That sounds like a good deal to me (as long as it looks good in person), anyone have other thoughts?
 

hvnlymachining

Cast Iron
Joined
Jun 21, 2019
Location
St.Onge
we have one of those same machines in storage, fine for a hobby shop making small parts slowly. But probably not a good choice for a business. I believe you can only feed in one direction, but don't remember why. Ours didn't have the additional heads, those definitely could be handy. There is information available online about those machines.
 

CarbonArc

Plastic
Joined
Nov 6, 2021
I've read the UK lathes website right-up on them, is there any other info?

Being a 100 year old benchtop-equivalent machine, I don't expect it to be the most capable thing in the world... but my time is cheap and learning is fun.
 

hvnlymachining

Cast Iron
Joined
Jun 21, 2019
Location
St.Onge
It's been years ago, but I remember reading a sales brochure on them with decent function and controls information. Also told a bit about the additional heads. Nothing like a more modern machine operator manual though.

Edit; those machines are easy to learn and decently capable, just short on travels and size restricted, also lack coolant capabilities.
 
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CarbonArc

Plastic
Joined
Nov 6, 2021
It's been years ago, but I remember reading a sales brochure on them with decent function and controls information. Also told a bit about the additional heads. Nothing like a more modern machine operator manual though.

Edit; those machines are easy to learn and decently capable, just short on travels and size restricted, also lack coolant capabilities.
If you ever find that brochure again, I would be interested in a copy.

According to lathes.co.uk, this machine should have a longitudinal feed of 11", a transverse feed of 3¾", & a vertical feed of 4⅞". It also takes up about 4 ft² of floor space, and weighs, with stand, about 500lbs. It should fit in with my Havir 8 inch shaper.

As far as learning goes, the machining program at my school seems to be sinking, so this is my attempt to learn milling on my own.
 

hvnlymachining

Cast Iron
Joined
Jun 21, 2019
Location
St.Onge
Dimensions sound about right, but the motor and mount will add to the weight since they're add ons. There are a lot of oil ports on those machines, most are plugged with slotted screws.
 

Greg Menke

Diamond
Joined
Feb 22, 2004
Location
Baltimore, MD, USA
If you can set up an ER collet chuck and/or some shell endmills this type of machine can end up very handy OTOH the y axis tends to be constrained so any long tooling substantially reduces the already small envelope. The short path from table thru to the spindle makes it quite stiff for its size. My Nichols is a somewhat larger version of the same sort of thing, I use it about half the time compared to the Bridgeport, and only occasionally with the arbor & spacers.

I sure like the small footprint and light weight of this one (y)
 

CarbonArc

Plastic
Joined
Nov 6, 2021
Dimensions sound about right, but the motor and mount will add to the weight since they're add ons. There are a lot of oil ports on those machines, most are plugged with slotted screws.
I plan to disassemble this machine as much as possible, so the motor & extra shouldn't be too daunting. The seller also has a forklift, & I have a 5000lb engine crane at home to get it out of my SUV with. Did the same thing with my shaper essentially.

If you can set up an ER collet chuck and/or some shell endmills this type of machine can end up very handy OTOH the y axis tends to be constrained so any long tooling substantially reduces the already small envelope. The short path from table thru to the spindle makes it quite stiff for its size. My Nichols is a somewhat larger version of the same sort of thing, I use it about half the time compared to the Bridgeport, and only occasionally with the arbor & spacers.

I sure like the small footprint and light weight of this one (y)
Those are some good thoughts. For what it's worth, I believe the vertical head attaches at the arbor support via some drive gears, so that buys a little extra clearance for vertical milling. Slotter head attaches at the same spot too ( and I believe has a ~2" stroke).
 
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Greg Menke

Diamond
Joined
Feb 22, 2004
Location
Baltimore, MD, USA
Now a slotter head is a win for sure... I have one mounted on the Bridgeport. I've only used it a few times but it was super-handy on those occasions. I have a bunch of vfd wiring and related nonsense to support it... so it kinda hasn't really paid for itself. Something easy to mount and take off that doesn't require switchgear and conduit, and get in the way when moving around the machine is a great idea.

The Nichols has an occasionally seen fixed quill vertical head driven via bevel gears off the spindle. I've not used one but I have the impression it has similar envelope constraints so benefits from short gage length tooling ie collets but maybe not large drill chucks. I do have a 30 taper taiwanese clone of a Clausing mill-drill head which is set up to mount in the Nichols overarm bore- it fits but most definitely doesn't leave much z envelope.
 

JST

Diamond
Joined
Jun 16, 2001
Location
St Louis
The two arbor sizes it has are the handiest for that size mill, they fit gear cutters (7/8) and many standard cutters (1").

Horizontal mills are good at many things, but not everything. The best companion for a shaper is a vertical mill, and that has a vertical head. Most vertical heads have no "quill" (movable sleeve carrying the spindle, similar to a drill press), which can be an issue with restricted vertical travel, but they beat not having a vertical head at all.

The overarm support looks substantial. Seems like a fairly good prospect, despite the small work envelope. You will have to decide if the work envelope is good enough for you.
 

Frank R

Stainless
Joined
Dec 18, 2009
Location
Dearborn, Michigan
Buy it, learn a lot, have fun.

You will learn what you like and don't like. Then sell it if you need/want something else.

Even if you lose money on the sale, consider it the price of an education. When you divide your loss over the number of hours of learning and entertainment you will find this a pretty good use of money.
 

CarbonArc

Plastic
Joined
Nov 6, 2021
The two arbor sizes it has are the handiest for that size mill, they fit gear cutters (7/8) and many standard cutters (1").

Horizontal mills are good at many things, but not everything. The best companion for a shaper is a vertical mill, and that has a vertical head. Most vertical heads have no "quill" (movable sleeve carrying the spindle, similar to a drill press), which can be an issue with restricted vertical travel, but they beat not having a vertical head at all.

The overarm support looks substantial. Seems like a fairly good prospect, despite the small work envelope. You will have to decide if the work envelope is good enough for you.
That is good to know about the arbors. I am trying to shop around for some on eBay. What horizontal cutters are good "multi-purpose" bits? Slab, side & face, and fly?
 

tonylathes

Aluminum
Joined
Oct 31, 2009
Location
UK
If you ever find that brochure again, I would be interested in a copy.

According to lathes.co.uk, this machine should have a longitudinal feed of 11", a transverse feed of 3¾", & a vertical feed of 4⅞". It also takes up about 4 ft² of floor space, and weighs, with stand, about 500lbs. It should fit in with my Havir 8 inch shaper.

As far as learning goes, the machining program at my school seems to be sinking, so this is my attempt to learn milling on my own.
Might the catalogs reproduced on my site here help? http://www.lathes.co.uk/rockfordmillers/page2.html
 
What horizontal cutters are good "multi-purpose" bits? Slab, side & face, and fly?

Now you need a cincinnati #2 or Norton Tool and cutter grinder to keep your cutters in shape. :)

Since you have a shaper, don't spend a lot on slab mills.
Plus they would not be the best match for a small horizontal anyway.
But any other kind of horizontal cutters are good.
Saws or all thickness, slotting cutters of all thickness and configuration, angle and double angle cutters, and *especially* gear cutters are a good match for horizontals.
You probably won't use them often if at all, but round (cove cutting) and corner rounding cutters sometimes go cheap at auctions so you might as well pick them up if seen.

I just picked up a Whitney #6 (slightly bigger travels than yours, plus rise and fall head) for $5 at auction.
The good is that it is all rescraped by the PO who aged out. The bad is that mine does not have the correct spindle (seems to have a trashed grinding spindle. Someone previous to the immediate PO must have been using it as a tool and cutter grinder). No motor nor any other tooling.

If you are getting a vertical head and a slotter with yours, besides the overarm, vise, arbors, and assorted tooling, that is quite useful. Slotters will solve a lot of otherwise difficult or expensive tasks. Even if only internal keyways (without broaches). With a rotary table you can do all sorts of internal splines and gears.

smt
 

CarbonArc

Plastic
Joined
Nov 6, 2021
Now you need a cincinnati #2 or Norton Tool and cutter grinder to keep your cutters in shape. :)

Since you have a shaper, don't spend a lot on slab mills.
Plus they would not be the best match for a small horizontal anyway.
But any other kind of horizontal cutters are good.
Saws or all thickness, slotting cutters of all thickness and configuration, angle and double angle cutters, and *especially* gear cutters are a good match for horizontals.
You probably won't use them often if at all, but round (cove cutting) and corner rounding cutters sometimes go cheap at auctions so you might as well pick them up if seen.

I just picked up a Whitney #6 (slightly bigger travels than yours, plus rise and fall head) for $5 at auction.
The good is that it is all rescraped by the PO who aged out. The bad is that mine does not have the correct spindle (seems to have a trashed grinding spindle. Someone previous to the immediate PO must have been using it as a tool and cutter grinder). No motor nor any other tooling.

If you are getting a vertical head and a slotter with yours, besides the overarm, vise, arbors, and assorted tooling, that is quite useful. Slotters will solve a lot of otherwise difficult or expensive tasks. Even if only internal keyways (without broaches). With a rotary table you can do all sorts of internal splines and gears.

smt
You picked up a mill for $5? Luck you!

Thanks for the advice about the cutters, I've been watching ebay for the past couple months, cutters in my size seem to go for ~5$ each, perhaps double that for gear cutters.

A rotary table and dividing head are on my list of 'wants' as is a surface plate. I've never used a tool grinder before, just a bench grinder to shape HSS.

The collets are R8 style.
 

JST

Diamond
Joined
Jun 16, 2001
Location
St Louis
Slab mills work fine, BUT.... you need to have an outboard overarm support. With that, they are fine if you don;'t take cuts that bog the motor.

I sometimes use a 2" helical slab milling cutter on my small Lewis mill. Works fine. Helical slab milling cutters cut with less force than most, due to the helical teeth. The "high helix" are the easiest on the machine.

The "plain milling cutters", with straight teeth are the hardest on the machine. They slam like crazy as they start a cut, and you want to keep a minimum of two teeth in the cut or they will keep slamming.

That goes for form cutters also, such as the standard convex and concave cutters. Any straight tooth cutter will slam like crazy starting at least. Cutters with even mildly helical teeth are easier on the machine, mostly because they make it far easier to keep two teeth in the cut.

If you have a horizontal mill, never turn down any cutter that is compatible with your arbors, reasonably priced, and not too big to fit your mill. Everything from slitting saws to slab milling cutters, not forgetting gear cutters.

You may find you want that cutter someday. And they no longer "grow on trees", since horizontal mills went out of common use. At worst, you can trade for stuff you want more.
 
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CarbonArc

Plastic
Joined
Nov 6, 2021
I just passed on some cutters yesterday unfortunately, didn't have my calipers on hand to check what size arbor they go with. At 4$ each maybe I should have bought them all and sorted it out later. Mind you I don't have the machine yet...
 

Greg Menke

Diamond
Joined
Feb 22, 2004
Location
Baltimore, MD, USA
I kept fishing in ebay until I found short enough 1", 1.25" and 1.5" arbors for my Nichols. Some years ago I scored a trove of horizontal milling cutters with a variety of oddball types and various arbor sizes, its nice to be able to use them. Yeah I'd never pass up a slab mill in reasonable shape either :)
 








 
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