At the end of November I attended a two day course as an introduction to using a milling machine. This will be another machine to complement the lathe in producing custom bicycle parts. Now I will be able to make things that are not only round, which is the limitation of a lathe. The milling machine enables the cutting of shapes that are square or curved or stepped, together with slots, so I should be able to make various types of dropouts and no doubt other things. It can also be used to mitre tubes. The course costs £275, including lunch and refreshments, a slight increase on last years fees. There were 4 students to one tutor and I was lucky enough to be taught by Bob Rolph who had previously taught the small lathe course.
Students use the Axminster SX3 machines for the course (other machines are available) and there is no hard sell to purchase Axminster’s own products.
As with previous courses it started with the introduction and Health and Safety talk with issuing of safety items, in particular safety spectacles which should be worn at all times. The action begins with setting up the machine to check it’s accuracy and the use of various tools, in particular types of milling chucks and cutters, together with methods of use and tips and tricks known only to practical engineers.
The object of the course was to make a small V Block in mild steel which required all the basic milling operations to be used viz: facing all 6 sides accurately, cutting a slot either side, cutting an enclosed slot, drilling a hole and lastly cutting a 45 degree V section with central slot, for which we used a slitting saw. For work holding we used the vice, which proved not to be the ideal method, albeit convenient , and clamping to the table, which is more secure but can be a pain to set up.
With the help and instruction from Bob everyone completed the exercise in a timely fashion. It turned out that setting up the workpieces on the machine table takes most of the time, with the milling operation itself, much less.
We were shown what can happen if things go wrong but when working on our own pieces Bob had an uncanny knack of appearing on your shoulder just before you made a mistake!
The final result:
There were also intermittent demonstrations on a larger machine of techniques that are more advanced and could not be fitted into a two day course. These included use of an indexing chuck, dividing head, boring bar and fly cutting. Also the benefits and use of a digital readout which can be retrofitted to most mills or fitted as standard.
Overall, as with the lathe course, I could not find anything to fault it, everyone had a first class experience. Before attending I did buy a book which claimed to be a complete course on milling, but it really taught me zero about what I needed as complete novice. I really cannot imagine having been able to start operating a mill before I went on this course and I may now understand the book better.