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IndustryArena Forum > Metalworking Machines > Benchtop Machines > Newbie needs advice - Can Sherline do this?
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  1. #1
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    Red face Newbie needs advice - Can Sherline do this?

    Hi there, I found this forum while researching for a benchtop mini-mill.

    I am thinking of buying a mini-mill that can be upgraded for CNC and right now, Sherline is my top candidate -- either the basic 5000 series or the 2000 series with the 8-direction capability.

    This is what I am planning to make:



    and this:



    My question has to do with the mill's capabilities. I know that rough shaping and drilling is not a problem, but can it do the detailed engraving? I am particularly concerned that the engraving will have to be done on a curving surface (as in the pics above) and am wondering if 1) this is doable, and 2) if I would need the 8-direction mill to do so.

    Thanks so much in advance for your replies! As I said, I am in the research stage, and as such am a total newbie, so please forgive me if this question is too simple for some of you folks.

  2. #2
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    I don't have any experience with this size of machine but I will give you some things to think about. Others will be along later with more hands on input.

    An 8-direction machine (what ever that means) is not that much use for CNC unless all axis are CNC'ed and you have the software to run it. Read very big bucks. You will not be able to make what you have shown on a manual machine regardless of the number of "directions" available.

    What you need is 3-axis CNC controlled with possibly a 4th rotary axis option. 3-axis control is probably good enough to do what you have shown, it depends on how far round the "bend" you need to go. For easy of use your issue is going to be more about software than hardware. It will depend on how much money you have available. Possibly specialist CAD software for this type of work is available.

    Back to the hardware, you might also want to look at Taig:

    http://www.taigtools.com/cmill.html

    For sure this machine can do what you have shown, with the right software. Preloaded ball-screws might be needed for the find detail.

    I would jump right in with the CNC machine, they are easy to use in "manual" mode so you will still be up and running pretty quickly. Used machines off ebay might be a good place to start.

    How many of those handles are you going to make a day? 2 a day or 50 a day makes a big difference with regard to what machine spec you need.

    Just some thoughts for you to ponder.
    Phil


    Quote Originally Posted by dex_games View Post
    Hi there, I found this forum while researching for a benchtop mini-mill.

    I am thinking of buying a mini-mill that can be upgraded for CNC and right now, Sherline is my top candidate -- either the basic 5000 series or the 2000 series with the 8-direction capability.

    This is what I am planning to make:



    and this:



    My question has to do with the mill's capabilities. I know that rough shaping and drilling is not a problem, but can it do the detailed engraving? I am particularly concerned that the engraving will have to be done on a curving surface (as in the pics above) and am wondering if 1) this is doable, and 2) if I would need the 8-direction mill to do so.

    Thanks so much in advance for your replies! As I said, I am in the research stage, and as such am a total newbie, so please forgive me if this question is too simple for some of you folks.

  3. #3
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    Hey dex,

    I don't have much experience with the Sherline mills, but I have plenty with the Taig. I only recommend a Taig and I personally would only consider purchasing a CNC machine!!! Not one that is ready or needs to be converted! But some Sherline supporters need to chime in!

    If your only going to make the flat panel type grips, then you will only need a 3 axis setup.
    If your also wanting to try your hand at the Tactical, ergonomic, or contoured grips, then you will need a 4th axis. Take a look at Ironwood , they have a slight blurb on 4th axis efficiency.

    Just my 2 cents worth.

    Hope it helps!

  4. #4
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    I agree with Philbur that software is the first thing you need to square away. These are full 3D surfaces, so you are going to need something in which to both draw the model (CAD) and then convert it to toolpaths (CAM). These are not simple shapes so you'll have a lot of learning ahead of you. To be blunt if you want to make a couple grips you will probably get them done faster with a set of chisels. CNC will be an investment but it may take you a year or more to get to the point where you can do this, depending on how comfortable you are with 3D modeling and the like.

    As for the machine requirements, my guess is that a 4-axis setup would probably work, while a 3-axis one would probably work for the first but maybe not the second, depending on how fussy you are. You could rough the general shape out by flipping the workpiece over, but the fine engraving could get hairy. Ideally you want to keep the cutting point perpendicular to the surface plane of the workpiece. You can do larger features by using a ball-end bit or cheat a little by using very small bits, but these will only take you so far.

    The chief challenge with 4-axis work is software, which tends to rapidly exceed the cost of a full hobbyist machine and tooling. My suggestion would be to call Sherline and Taig and get their feedback as they may know of some very specific solutions or what other customers have done.

    Also, for working in wood your #1 concern will probably be spindle speed. Anything which can't do at least 10k isn't worth considering and 25k would probably be better.

  5. #5
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    I believe that wood wants to be routed at high speeds (10-20k?) so you might want to check the maximum spindle speed of the brands/models you consider.

    I've got Sherline manual tools (lathe and mill) and would think that the CNC'd version of the mill would work OK for wood. Stainless steel (or even carbon steel) would be more of a problem. I think that Sherline sells an optional high speed spindle pulley set that will take you to 10k rpm. I don't know how high Taig goes.

    If you only need to work in wood, you might want to look into CNC router tables.

    Mike

  6. #6
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    Hi dex games, All the information listed below is good advice! What is 8 direction by the way? I never heard that one before. Anyway I have many CNC machines and many different programs. You can definetely get away with just 3 axis. As far as the sherline goes, they are just toys. And you will probably end up with more heartache than anything resembling your picture. For the price of a new sherline you would be better off buying a used cnc machine. I have a four axis CNC mill (Smithy, 1240) It's a nice size mill. Anyway, the first thing I would do if you bought a decent cnc mill is make a collar for the spindle. You would use the collar to attach a dremmel to your Z axis. RPM is key when you're talking about fine detail in wood. Dremmels are good for about 40 to 50,000 RPM. And will by far give you the finest finish, with a broad range of tooling as well. Also, have you ever used any design software? If not, there is a learning curve. And you should expect at least 2 to 3 months before you turn out a decent prototype.

  7. #7
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    Hi dex games
    I have used my Sherline 5400 deluxe mill for about 10 yr's.
    At first -10 years ago. I thought my mill was very nice.
    Yes it still works ok. But today Im not too imprest with it?
    I gess its ok for small lite delicate work.
    Like checkering. I perfer doing it by hand my self.
    Anyway if you want to do gun hand grips?
    Yes a sherline is more than able to do them.
    You will want 4th Axis. And get a cad/cam software that suports 3d & 4th Axis. Its the software that will kill your pocket book.
    Im in the same boat looking for software.
    If your going to spend the money on a CNC Mill & all accessories,Software ect. Better to go with a mill in the size of x2 or better yet x3.
    Point is LARGER is better.
    Taig products look very nice. But are not cheap $. But then ether is Sherline. And a Taig is alot more heavy duty than a Aluminum Sherline product.
    My view of Sherline products is over price & not made heavy duty for larger milling jobs. But then most people dont buy them for more heavy milling.
    But then again most people like me soon out grow the little toy mill.

  8. #8
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    I agree with oldboy, I'm sure the sherline is more than capabable of producing the part you requier. (considering the sherline does have the third axis!!!) The problem I forsee is if you wanted to make anymore than 2 maybe 3 a day. The best software and cheapest that I can recommend is Bobcad. It goes up to four axis. And sells for about $500 to $600. The price is negotiable!!! I still say you could get away with only three axis though. I can tell you right now that if I were to do this on my machine, I wouldn't go beyond 3 axis. I can't see why you would need to. And if you don't have any experience with programming, then I wouldn't even think about fourth axis. (unless you let someone else program it) Better yet! Just pay somebody to program it for you. Save it to a thumb drive, and you will always have it. And you don't have to buy software!

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    Quote Originally Posted by ryansuperbee View Post
    I agree with oldboy, I'm sure the sherline is more than capabable of producing the part you requier. (considering the sherline does have the third axis!!!) The problem I forsee is if you wanted to make anymore than 2 maybe 3 a day. The best software and cheapest that I can recommend is Bobcad. It goes up to four axis. And sells for about $500 to $600. The price is negotiable!!! I still say you could get away with only three axis though. I can tell you right now that if I were to do this on my machine, I wouldn't go beyond 3 axis. I can't see why you would need to. And if you don't have any experience with programming, then I wouldn't even think about fourth axis. (unless you let someone else program it) Better yet! Just pay somebody to program it for you. Save it to a thumb drive, and you will always have it. And you don't have to buy software!
    Yes 3 axis will get you started.
    But there may be a day when you need the 4th axis. And the 3 axis software may not suport it. Then you will need to purchase all new software.
    Software Upgrade?
    If you plan on going into production. Even on a small scale.
    Best to get the right stuff that will do the job now and in the future.
    Only YOU know what your needs are. Be wise plan ahead.
    I wish I did. I would have invested my 3000 + bucks in a larger mill.
    And never got all the Sherline products.

  10. #10
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    Yes, oldboy is right. If you were going to approch this seriously, Then you would want and eventually need the fourth axis. Some things are just not possible without the fourth axis. Also the fourth axis is a cheap upgrade for what you can do with it.

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    Whoa! I can't thank you guys enough! :cheers:

    1) The 3D software learning curve I'm not too worried about, because lots of guys offer affordable CAD design services where I live. As ryansuperbee suggested, I'll just have someone program the designs for me and save them on a thumbdrive.

    2) That's it then, I'm now leaning toward a CNC milling machine (instead of just CNC-ready) with 4 axes of movement. What do you think of Townlabs? http://www.townlabs.com/index.html. The features listed on their ebay listing sounds pretty convincing: http://cgi.ebay.com/4-Axis-CNC-Mill-...QQcmdZViewItem

    (Ryansuperbee: Townlabs offers an optional bracket that will attach a RotoZip or Proxxon rotary tool to the spindle for high-speed detail work -- thanks for pointing out that I needed that!)

    3) Are there any other capable brands you can recommend that offer a better value for money?

    Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou! You guys are the best!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by dex_games View Post
    That's it then, I'm now leaning toward a CNC milling machine (instead of just CNC-ready) with 4 axes of movement. What do you think of Townlabs? http://www.townlabs.com/index.html. The features listed on their ebay listing sounds pretty convincing: http://cgi.ebay.com/4-Axis-CNC-Mill-...QQcmdZViewItem
    Town Lab's machine is a rebuild of the Sieg X1. This is not a criticism as the X-Y part of the X1 is pretty decent, while they've replaced the Z, which is where the X1 suffers. Bear in mind the shipping costs may add up because it's made in the northeast US.

    What makes me worried about Town Lab's machine is the cost, which is low considering that it's US-made and has servos, ball screws, linear rails, etc. Consider that in the US, the KX1 (Sieg's factory-built CNC X1) costs almost $1000 more and doesn't have linear rails or servos, no 4th axis, and is made in China, where labor is 1/10th the cost it is in the US. I have no direct experience with them, so maybe they are all precision components and not just transport-grade surplus dsigned to look great on paper. Just saying it strikes me as interesting.

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    Hi dex games. If you want a well rounded. Reliable machine, with fourth axis and good reputation for being a solid machine. Check out www.cncmasters.com. And look at their Jr. mill. I think this would be the right machine for you. For what you will be doing with it. It will give you plenty of rigidity, and they also have plenty of accessories. You need to check out their air turbine accessory! Talk about fine detail!!! Anyway the cost is more, BUT it's right in the middle. It's not too much machine, and it will keep you happy for years to come. Forget the grips. A machine like this could even produce the guns themselfs!!! (except the barrel) The sherline just would not hold up. Look at that machine and let me know what you think.

    P.S. I looked at the townlabs and again, you are just going to end up with heartache. The townlabs is underpowered in all departments. And it lacks rigidity. You can't even find decent ballscrews for under $2000. Townlabs is at best, one step up from a sherline. But they are both toys. Neat toys! but still toys. You wont make money off of them!

  14. #14
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    Short Z-axis travel and lack of rigidity with the extended quill are a couple of down points, as is the 3,000 rpm spindle for woodwork. Yes you can fit a faster spindle but you don't buy a machine at this price in order to throw half of it away. A round column CNC is a bit of a dinosaur. Not very good value for money in my opinion.

    Phil


    Quote Originally Posted by ryansuperbee View Post
    Hi dex games. If you want a well rounded. Reliable machine, with fourth axis and good reputation for being a solid machine. Check out www.cncmasters.com. And look at their Jr. mill. I think this would be the right machine for you. For what you will be doing with it. It will give you plenty of rigidity, and they also have plenty of accessories. You need to check out their air turbine accessory! Talk about fine detail!!! Anyway the cost is more, BUT it's right in the middle. It's not too much machine, and it will keep you happy for years to come. Forget the grips. A machine like this could even produce the guns themselfs!!! (except the barrel) The sherline just would not hold up. Look at that machine and let me know what you think.

    P.S. I looked at the townlabs and again, you are just going to end up with heartache. The townlabs is underpowered in all departments. And it lacks rigidity. You can't even find decent ballscrews for under $2000. Townlabs is at best, one step up from a sherline. But they are both toys. Neat toys! but still toys. You wont make money off of them!

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    Not sure if your up for rolling your own router but with the sizes your wanting to cut it would seem like you could build a really nice, accurate router in a small size and add a 4th axis later is you wanted.

    All the precision equipment is expensive IE ballscrews, servos, linear bearings etc. But if you just need a work envelope the size of a sherline or taig all those parts can be found rather cheaply compared to really long pieces.

    So I guess I am saying you could build a badass small machine that was super accurate and fast for what you will probably end up spending in the long run trying to get a sherline to do this for you. May be something to think about if your up for building the router.

    I have a sherline and right now it is being a pain but its an older model and I need to update a few things to get it running smooth. It is a hobby machine for sure and not for production.


    Bo

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    Hi Philbur, I think that you would have to agree that no matter what machine he chooses, to do fine detail in wood like that would requier an extreamely high RPM. There's no way of getting around using some sort of dremmel or air turbine. If he were to buy this machine he would not have to "throw half of it away" as you say. The collar is simply an attachment to perform finer detail work. If he wanted to mill some aluminum or steel gun parts out afterwards, he would simply remove the collar and use it as normal. So he would be utilizing the entire machine. As far as the "Not very good value for money in my opinion" as you also said. The reason I recommended this machine is because it does have an excellent reputation. The other reason I recommended this machine for is because he explained what he would be using this it for. To make gun grips. Why would he need more Z axis for? I think for the price (which may be more than what he wants to spend!) This will easily do what he want's it to do. I'm affraid that any machine that you are referring to, that has twice or tripple the Z axis and has a tremendous amount of RPM at the spindle. Will cost thousands more than he is probably willing to spend. And there's no doubt, the CNC jr. is a FAR more superior machine than the sherline. I'm just trying to recommend CNC mills that are somewhat close to his price range, and can support his needs. As far as building your own CNC router such as Bowman suggested, Dex games would have to know for sure that all he would want to use the machine for is wood (and other soft materials) Whereas the Mill (with the collar attachment for the dremmel) can do wood and metal. Furthermore, the CNC jr is the only machine I can think of (within a resonable price range) that obtains all the demands that Dex games requiers. (Collar for dremmel or air turbine, Fourth axis, versatality, rigidness and good reputation.)

  17. #17
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    http://www.taigtools.com/cmill.html

    10,000 rpm. No silly quill, lots of help from a large user base, no box full of burnt out dremels and last but not least, half the price.

    Phil

    Quote Originally Posted by ryansuperbee View Post
    Hi Philbur, I think that you would have to agree that no matter what machine he chooses, to do fine detail in wood like that would requier an extreamely high RPM. There's no way of getting around using some sort of dremmel or air turbine. If he were to buy this machine he would not have to "throw half of it away" as you say. The collar is simply an attachment to perform finer detail work. If he wanted to mill some aluminum or steel gun parts out afterwards, he would simply remove the collar and use it as normal. So he would be utilizing the entire machine. As far as the "Not very good value for money in my opinion" as you also said. The reason I recommended this machine is because it does have an excellent reputation. The other reason I recommended this machine for is because he explained what he would be using this it for. To make gun grips. Why would he need more Z axis for? I think for the price (which may be more than what he wants to spend!) This will easily do what he want's it to do. I'm affraid that any machine that you are referring to, that has twice or tripple the Z axis and has a tremendous amount of RPM at the spindle. Will cost thousands more than he is probably willing to spend. And there's no doubt, the CNC jr. is a FAR more superior machine than the sherline. I'm just trying to recommend CNC mills that are somewhat close to his price range, and can support his needs. As far as building your own CNC router such as Bowman suggested, Dex games would have to know for sure that all he would want to use the machine for is wood (and other soft materials) Whereas the Mill (with the collar attachment for the dremmel) can do wood and metal. Furthermore, the CNC jr is the only machine I can think of (within a resonable price range) that obtains all the demands that Dex games requiers. (Collar for dremmel or air turbine, Fourth axis, versatality, rigidness and good reputation.)

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    The only thing that makes the Taig better than a sherline is that it has a bigger motor! The Taig is still just a toy! There's nothing wrong with using a quill. Some of the biggest CNC mills use the quill design. And if he was serious about the fine detail engraving of wood, then dremmel is not the way to go. That is why I also suggested the air turbine, which will last far longer. 10,000 RPM is not enough for fine wood work. And yes it is true, the taig is half the price. But EVERYBODY who owns machines know that you get what you pay for. With a machine like Taig, you WILL need a large user base. I'm not saying that the CNC jr is the best choice. But it's definetely a better choice than a taig and sherline, and the Taig and sherline both fall under the toy catagory. And also, you can't take a CNC mill seriously when it has a "light switch" on the side of it. Hey it works. All I'm saying is that it's a cheap way of doing things and it looks like the Taig all around was built with the same standards.

    P.S. You will have far more ridgity with the CNC jr than you would with the Taig. Even with the quill fully extended! Just one look at the two machines specs will tell you that. Not to metion when you look at them side by side! I'm sorry, but the Taig is cheaply put together. And who ever buys a machine like this will regret it. Its something that I would probably buy for elementry kids to learn on.

  19. #19
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    I disagree with what superbee has too say. Yes, the Taig mill is a smaller than the obvious bigger mills. But that does not make it a toy. Some very serious work can be done on a Taig if you properly set your parts up and set yours speeds and feeds accordingly. The machine is what you pay, is what you get. Meaning, that your paying for a solid, accurate machine. More rigid than the Sherline and slightly larger too.

    Actually, looking at superbees last comments makes me think he is slightly ignorant. The Taig is not cheaply put together, it's put together with actually high quality and within it's limit. If you wanted too add more features too it, ballscrews etc, that could be done by the owner and that would add too it's already "standard" quality. To say thats it's cheap, people will regret it is quite ignorant and senseless.


    -Jason

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    Jason, sorry to sound ignorant! I would think the same thing too. I guess I should explain my background so you can understand why I am against these types of machines. In college, (Mechanical engineering) we had many different types of machines. Big and small. Are smallest one greatly resembled the Taig. We mostly used wax blocks on it, but occasionally aluminum and rarely steel. To run steel on a machine this size you have to run it incredibly slow. But even with aluminum you would have problems with rigidity. These machines are bolted together. You can't expect hardly anything out of them. And what I mean by that is, yes you can cut nice looking parts out with the Taig. But at the cost of a lot of time. I have had lots of experience with all sorts of CNC machines, and I own six of them. (Plasma, laser, router, bender, mill and lathe) So, unless you have ONLY used small bolt together machines and you have nothing else to compare it to. Than you should talk to someone who has used both sizes of machines. I have, and the small ones just don't measure up. Especially in production. Sometimes it seems like I'm debating CNC machines with somebody who has never even ran a CNC machine before. I'm sorry guys. I want other people to know my experiences with similar machines. I'm not here to argue. I'm just telling it how it is.

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