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Thread: Bridgeport Mill

  1. #1
    Registered User grandcanyonminstrel's Avatar
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    Default Bridgeport Mill

    After a 5 year sabbatical from machinery and power tools where I have been building almost everything completely by hand ( incuding double basses!), I've been gradually building up a shop of power tools again, primarily for just rough milling of materials. I've got a chance to add a nice late 1950s Bridgeport J type 1/2 hp mill to the shop. I can think of several nice uses for it right now. Everyone I speak with tells me that if I even think I'll have use for it now, it will soon become an indispensible tool after a little bit of use and learning. Do any other builders out there have one and where do you find it really shines?

    My main interest right now is being able to fabricate parts for and maintain all of the other vintage machinery I currently use, but I'd like to start incorporating it into my building.

    j.
    www.condino.com

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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    I've got the smallest Jet knee mill with a riser block. I wish I had a Bridgeport or equivalent. I may only use it once or twice a month, but it makes possible doing things I just could not do in any other way. If the price is right, just get the thing!

    Also, there is so much tooling out there for Bridgeports...it's just the de facto standard of the industry.

  3. #3
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    Cafe member David Houchens (Bryce on here) does some milling for me once in a while. His father is a retired machinist, and between the two of them they have a pretty decently equipped machine shop. I've also had another luthier friend do some turning for me on his small metal lathe. Luthiers with machine tools are not unheard of, and CF Martin has their own machine shop. The thought has crossed my mind a couple of times to get an end mill and a metal lathe, but I don't want to spare the time to learn to use them and I don't want to spare the shop space!
    I'd say grab it, and you'll find more uses for it than you can begin to imagine now.

    Oh, almost forgot. For the last few years Frank Ford has gotten into machining metal. Many of the lutherie related uses he's found for his machines are documented at frets.com.

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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    I've used a cheaper import mill for years, and find it an invaluable addition to the shop both for instrument work, as well as of course tool making. Of course I've spent more time trying to maintain it and tune it up than it's worth, and I think it's reached it's potential (which isn't all that great). I'm currently in the process of converting to a 40's Hardinge horizontal mill, which is slowly getting closer to finally getting set up. I've been looking for a Bridgeport M-head to set it up as a vertical mill, but recently found an old Rusnok head which though perhaps a bit heavy, I think may end up working out for the better. The Hardinge horizontals are actually quite easy to add a vertical head to. I can't wait to get this thing set up and running, and it will be great to be able to use it both for vertical and horizontal (and finally having a power feed will be pretty nice as well). When this is done, my old one will probably end up being torn apart to salvage any useful parts, and the rest sold for scrap metal.

    Bridgeports are indeed great mills, but if they've been heavily used the tables can get pretty loose pretty quick. If you really want to tighten it up this can involve things like scraping and shimming the dovetails, and can be a pretty involved project to true up. If you're lucky, it may just be a bit tighter at the ends of travel than in the middle, but often times you'll find old used ones with as much as .010"-.020" slop in the feed control. Even if it is sloppy though, if you become familiar with the tool you can often work around it (I certainly have with mine for the past few years). A DRO would be nice too, and I have a feeling I'll be adding that to my list in the near future as well.

    Once you get used to having it around as a tool though, it's easy to wonder how you ever got by without it. I use it more for tool and jig making, though I still often end up clamping one or two instruments a month up on the table for various reasons.

    Here's just one example of a relevant case I just finished about two weeks ago -











    Sure, it could have been done with hand tools and various jigs, but a milling machine can make things so much easier, as well as open a lot of doors you may not have otherwise considered. If you can pick one up in decent shape for a decent price, I say grab it. Once you get used to having it around you may wonder how you ever got along without it.

  5. #5
    Registered User grandcanyonminstrel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    David:

    I do a lot of restoration and repair work and I've still gotta say- that is one nice looking neck fix! The dance around the truss rod is pretty slick. Do you mind me asking how much you billed that out for? Both the structural and finish work look great- that deserves a top price.

    The one I'm looking at is pretty simple and in good condition. No digital readout and it has the round ram head, not the dovetail ('think I got the nomenclature correct), 1/2 hp single phase, and the step pulleys for speed adjustment along with a LOT of tooling and accessories; pretty much plug 'n ' play once I set it up- even the finish is in nice condition. One thing I already figured out is that I know I'll want to pair it up with an old South Bend lathe right next to it to really have nice machinihg capabilities...

    It looks like it will not cost me anything out of pocket, besides giving up a good bit of floor space in an shop where that is already at a premium. As a mandolin builder, it takes up a LOT of space; as a double bass builder, it only represents about 3 instruments stacked against the wall. My biggest delimma is how to transport it. It is currently in a low headroom garage with no lift on site and I need to get it in through a 7" opening once it gets to my place... I'm almost thinking I'll need to rent a forklift and a trailer large enough to transport both the lift and the mill, that way I'll be self reliant on both ends (but my wallet will be a lot thinner....). 'Not to mention the impending surge of sudden best friends who will be lined up to use it before I even get a chance to work out the kinks!

    j.
    www.condino.com
    Last edited by grandcanyonminstrel; May-28-2010 at 2:06am.

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    Registered User Joe Mendel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    I have an Enco Mill/Drill that I use a lot. I cut the angle & radii for open back banjo necks, with the help of a jig. I've done truss rod slots, guitar saddle slots & the intonation on adjustable bridges. If I were more machinist oriented I'm sure I could do a lot more with it. I did a similar neck repair on a guitar neck, except it was the heel that was destroyed. I milled the heel off and left a tenon around the truss rod, them milled a slot to fit the tenon in the new heel. Then only hand fitting I had to do was to square the corners of the tenon on the neck. It is as tight a joint as I've ever made. I wish I had taken pictures. Great work David.
    Here's a picture of my banjo neck jig, it has gone through several revisions/improvements since the picture. It works like a charm. I'd recommend getting it. Even if you only have a few ideas for it now, at some point you'll wonder how you ever did without it.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Joe Mendel; May-28-2010 at 7:18am. Reason: Additonal comment

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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    What did I charge? Probably not enough. I estimated that job with an open quote for actual hands-on time. It went so smoothly with no hitches though, that the billable hours I logged ended up probably below market value for that repair. I think it came in at about 8hrs total, with finish work and setup. That's the problem with investing in better tooling. I have to rethink charging actual billable hours, as being able to charge customers less due to the fact that I've invested more in tooling and refining procedures, only makes sense up to a point.

    If you're getting a nice cache of accessories with it, that's quite a bonus. Often times even if you pay good money for a milling machine, it ends up being the cheap part. More collets, hold downs, all sorts of different vises can be nice, more and more end mills, boring bars, then you start wanting a nice rotary table..... Moving them can be a challenge, but if you have the time they can be broken down a fair amount. The knee and table can be pulled, obviously the head - still, each of those parts can be pretty hefty. It may just be worth calling around to see if you can find someone to pay to move it, preferably with a truck with a small crane arm. Even a few hundred bucks here can be well worth the investment compared to doing it yourself. My shop is in a basement (with the elevator unfortunately decommissioned), and I hire some folks from a local machine shop to help me out moving big equipment. It costs a bit, but people with experience moving these things know all the tricks, and can do in half an hour what would take me a week.

    That's a cool setup Joe - Is there a shoulder bolt and sleeve hidden under that vacuum hose?

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    Thanks folks! Y'all have removed all doubt from my mind and now I'm sure I won't be getting any machine tools! I don't even understand the language you're speaking; 'shoulder bolt and sleeve', 'rotary table', 'round ram head', 'DRO'... I'm still trying to learn to use the computer f'r cryin' out loud!

    Great looking repair, David. Last year I had a beheaded Gibson in here and I just made him a new neck. My tools will handle that.

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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    Jim,
    You can't go wrong. It's really an incredible machine, very versatile. Even today with CNC and the like the metalworking world would grind to a halt without the Bridgeport or facsimile, we use them many times a day. Old machinists like to joke about how it's the only machine that can reproduce itself. Even if you don't use it to it's full potential, it's still the world's best drillpress. Tooling can be a little spendy but you can scrounge around here and there and aquire what you need. If you have a 6" vise, a set of collets, a drill chuck and a set of hold down clamps you'll be more than dangerous.

    Like David said, hiring a local rigger would be the easy way out but if you're like me, well, cut some lengths of black pipe for rollers and round up a 5-6 ft crow bar. You can scootch that baby in and around the driveway, garage, right up to the back of a tilt trailer where you can grab it with a come-a-long. Chain it down tight for the trip. 25 years ago I bought my first Bridgeport from a guys widow. It was in the basement so I had to bring it up a narrow wooden stair case, through the family room and out into the garage. Now there's a story for another day!
    Bill James
    www.axinc.net

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    Registered User Joe Mendel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    Yes, David there is. My shop is also in my basement, we took the head and table off & carried it down the steps in 3 pieces. It was still danged heavy, 680 lbs., if I remember correctly, and it's much smaller than a full size milling machine. It has been one of the best tool purchases I've made. I had it delivered in on a lift truck & the guy set it down in the garage, and I stood there thinking, "how am I ever going to get this thing downstairs." Thank God for good friends & workout partners.
    Bill, your tale of moving the Bridgeport makes my back hurt. No doubt the family room had a pristine hardwood floor.

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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    I used my mill to do a tricky repair on a 1958 Gibson Flying Vee with the neck broken off from the body. J T Ribiloff, then at the Gibson custom shop, found some vintage "korina"...actually black limba...that had been used for shelving that I used to make a new section of the heel that had shattered. I recut the mortise and the back of the neck on the mill, matched grain, and all was well. The guitar (which was original but badly refinished) got re- refinished at Gibson and sold for a lot of money.

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    Moving heavy machines could be a thread unto itself.
    Back in my cabinet shop days, those days of edge banders, panel saws, drilling machines and such, I learned a lot about water pipes, crow bars, gantry cranes, hoists and just plain thinking things through. People look at my band saw and say how'd you get that in here?! It was simple, really, hoist is out of the truck, set it on water pipes, and the rest is the easy part. Some people don't believe me when I tell them I unloaded the two 22' X 12" H-beams that hold up the loft in my shop and put them in place by myself, but it was actually pretty easy.

    Just a couple of days ago, trying to get the Airstream ready for a bluegrass festival, I let it jack-knife backing up in the soft dirt. A come-along, floor jack and a couple of sheets of plywood later, I pulled it sideways up the hill so I could get in out of where it was and hitched to the truck again.

    What I'm saying is; you can move a milling machine and you don't have to spend a lot of money and you don't have to be a hulking young buck either!

    How would I get a Bridgeport through the nicely finished family room with the hardwood floor?
    Perhaps with two pieces of carper, four boards (or two pieces of plywood), and four water pipes. Put down one piece of carpet, put down two boards parallel and three water pipes across those. Roll the mill on the pipes on top of the boards and when you get to the ends of the boards, well that's where you've already put the other piece of carpet and the other two boards. Keep grabbing the water pipe that comes out from under the back of the machine and putting it in front, and by repeating the procedure two people can roll the mill for miles if they need to.
    Last edited by sunburst; May-28-2010 at 11:20am. Reason: why not...

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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    "No doubt the family room had a pristine hardwood floor. "

    .....

    Actually the floor was fine. The stairwell...well... it wasn't pristine to start with.
    Bill James
    www.axinc.net

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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    I've moved my old Ekstrom Carlson pin router all over the shop solo with a Johnson bar and steel pipe. My employees couldn't quite believe it coming in the next day and seeing 1,700 lbs. of old iron 50 feet from where it was the night before. Care and patience and a modicum of good sense is all it takes. Of course I'd rather have a forklift! You can also rent machinery moving dollies which is what I did for my CNC machine after getting it in the door with a forklift.

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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    The Johnson bar is a remarkable thing. Perhaps invented around the time of the wheel..?
    James (Condino, not Bill), I don't think you will have any regrets. I used to have a small one and for some reason over the years sold it. I regret it.
    David, that is a beautiful job.

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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    I used my enco milldrill and my southbend lathe to build my cnc router. Iwould love to have a Bridgeport.
    In a previous post someone mentioned that a mill could reproduce itself, but I think the lathe is actually the machine that is more credited with this characteristic. You can do almost any kind of machining with the right attachments on a good lathe.

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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    Here is my Bridgeport Round ram. http://brantonknives.com/index.php?o...1&key=11&hit=1
    I'm in the process of painting it and adding a VFD.
    I have another old Bridge Port that has been converted to CNC.
    You can see most of my shop equipment here.
    http://brantonknives.com/index.php?o...emid=5&catid=4

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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    Where I come from, the term "Johnson bar" was used in reference to a 1-1 ratio forward-reverse gear box that was coupled to a standard transmission, and found in old industrial equipment, such as the old straddle lift lumber carriers used in mill yards many years ago. I was curious as to what was being described here.
    Thanks.

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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    My use of the term was in reference to a kind of pry bar that gives a huge amount of leverage in lifting heavy things. A flat steel plate, bent and attached to a long wooden handle, perhaps 5 feet in length. The angle is probably 30-45 degrees. You slip the horizontal plate part under something, usually a cast iron machine, and then you can lift it enough to get pipes, as Rick said, under the machine. Then you can roll it around. You need at least 3 pipes so you can get a new one under the machine before the one at the back has been rolled out from under. At least that's been my experience.

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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    The one I've got is about five feet long and is all steel and weighs in at a good 30 or 40 pounds. There are also ones with wheels as the fulcrum. You can also get in under a corner of a machine, twist the bar and turn the machine or even pry up and move the thing a few inches at a time.

  21. #21
    Registered User grandcanyonminstrel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    It looks like I've worked out a rigger and as I stated earlier, the machine will be no cost to me, except for a measurable amount of shop space . Here are a couple of images:







    j.
    www.condino.com

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    Registered User grandcanyonminstrel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    Are you guys for real? 'Buch of nerdy old guys sitting on the computer bragging about their johnsons....

    j.

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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    I'll jump in to endorse the acquisition of a Bridgeport. It's the toolmaker's tool, and once you've made a few tools and fixtures you'll discover that it also gives you better control for operations you could have done with woodworking machines, or by hand.

    Moving machines: I use a forged prybar or crowbar with a skinny tip to wedge the base away from the floor, or to scoot it sideways in small steps. Once the machine is >1" in the air I can slip in the Johnson bar, which is a pry bar with wheels and a long handle. This speeds the process of lifting to >4", L and R sides alternately with blocks. Blocks are positioned to leave space for my pallet jack to lift the machine. Rolling a Bridgeport on a pallet jack requires care - consider that there are only 3 points of support, and that the center of gravity is high. Rollers are safer. With a Bridgeport you should lower the knee all the way, and ideally turn the head to lower the motor. With a pallet jack I highly recommend one or two spotters, to help push and to watch for tipping before it gets out of hand. Also remember that for all the weight, a steel load on a steel surface can slip rather easily.

    For transport you'll want a comealong for ramping on and off the trailer.

    I don't want to make too much of this, but I have seen several machine tools go over. It's always scary.

    John

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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    I forgot to ask but I'm pretty sure she'll be three phase, do you have a converter?
    Bill James
    www.axinc.net

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    Default Re: Bridgeport Mill

    If it's three phase, use this: http://www.factorymation.com/s.nl/it....f?category=32

    John

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