Introduction to Milling – another Axminster skill centre course

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.

Setting up the milling vice parallel
Setting up the milling vice parallel

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.

Clamping to the table requires imagination
Clamping to the table requires imagination

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:
fullsizeoutput_53f fullsizeoutput_53e fullsizeoutput_53d fullsizeoutput_53b
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.

5 thoughts on “Introduction to Milling – another Axminster skill centre course”

  1. Just to let you know that lathes are not restricted only to circular work. Workshop practice series no5 is entitled – milling operations in the lathe. It is written by Tubal Cain who has posted over 700 machining vids on youtube. You are thinking that the work must be in the chuck and the tool in the toolpost but, If you swap things around you can hold the milling cutter in the chuck and mount the work on the cross slide in place of the tool post. This gives you one axis across the lathe but you can also add a vertical slide so that you can move the work up and down too. Then it is like having a milling machine lying on its side. Look at myford vertical slide on ebay to see what I mean. Tubal Cain says there is very little that can be done in a milling machine that cannot be done in a lathe.
    btw thanks for your oxy propane info. Have you ever heard of an oxygen concentrator? They produce >90% oxygen by removing the nitrogen from the air and are made for medical purposes but refurbished ones with no medical certification get sold for oxy propane so you dont need a cylinder any more. I am just getting kitted out myself and might be firing it all up for the first time tomorrow.


    1. Dear j8ck8 (though I suspect that is not your real name!)
      I personally am aware of these facts but thank you for bringing them up. I can get a milling slide for my own lathe though after due consideration felt it would have too limited a performance. I only have a small machine and I think most small machines now have this accessory available. I therefore decided I would opt to get a full milling machine if I could. I have a boring bar to use in the chuck which is one of the types of tools you refer to which I think I will be able to use to slightly bore out dropout sockets to size more accurately. As I have not used this yet I haven’t posted any information on it. I appreciate the articles are not always as comprehensive as they should be but they are more intended to highlight the possible usefulness of techniques rather than to be instructive.
      I am also aware of oxygen concentrators (I used to prescribe them!). I know of two framebuilders using them with propane and am hopeful that a promise of an article on the very subject will be forthcoming soon. I haven’t used one myself but can see there may be advantages.

      1. Incidentally, my wife informs me Tubal Cain is mentioned in the Bible, a descendant of the original Cain; and was referred to as “an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron.”

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