Manual Mill & Lathe Reccomendation

I’ve read through a lot of the threads on the site about what mills and lathes people have but I haven’t seen anyone really mention these. Does anyone own one? How has it treated you?
I was originally looking to get a RF-45 mill, but I’m really looking for a mill that I can buy new that has the DRO installed from the factory. I’m not looking for a full size knee mill as I really can’t fit one into our shop.

Here are the machines I’m looking at…



I personally have great experiences with that lathe, would highly recommend. It seems to handle just about everything I could ever see wanting for FRC applications.

1 Like

Team 78 has the following:


We installed DROs from PM as well on both machines.

While larger machines would have been (and are usually) better, at the time we were working on a second floor and were unable to move large machinery into the space…as well as only having access to 120V power.

The mill has much to be desired. The bed is harder to move around manually and the DRO is absolutely a must. But for entry level type stuff, its worked out pretty well (and I think is a bit less intimidating for some people). We were able to make some tube parts milled to length and have hole patterns…just takes time and patience. Now I dont have experience with the -727…only the -25. There is a comparison chart to check out the differences:

The lathe isnt that bad for the size…and paired with the DRO, can make some decent shafting and spacers. It also came with power feed in two directions…which works pretty well.

Are you positive you can’t get a 32" or 36" knee mill to fit? It would be a fairly large improvement over the one you linked. There tend to be a lot on the used market and most come with DRO already installed.


1 Like

I’m not sure where to look, or what to look out for on older machines. I am much more comfortable buying new as there shouldn’t be any major issues with what I’m getting. I know the few times I’ve looked through Craigslist in my surrounding area I didn’t see much worth pursuing.

Why would I need something that large anyway for FRC? I will be running most of our larger tube operations on our CNC router tubemagic jig.

Also… I don’t have multi-phase power…and I don’t want our first machine to require me to install a VFD on it…

There are options for changing out motors on machines for single phase but you obviously move down in Hp. We have a mill, CNC, and cnc router access. I will give my insight on why we use what.

We run all of our tubing on the CNC. Its more rigid than almost all CNC routers. Its not obnoxiously loud. Its extremely accurate but this also falls onto machine care, maintenance, and setup.

The CNC router is almost all lexan. Intakes. Intakes. Intakes.

Our manual knee mill (no DRO) is used for simple brackets, giant hole saws, facing stock, and any drill press operation because its extremely rigid. Previous to our CNC, all metal parts went through this mill.


1 Like

Does anyone have any experience with a CNC lathe? I feel like it would be really handy to have premade gcode and just place the part and go.

I disagree. Theres no advantage for a large bridgeport type mill for FRC. if you have it, great. yes its stiffer but considerably larger and more intimidating, ergonomics less friendly for high school kids. you just need something to cut tubing straight to length and features typically smaller than 4".

I’ve heard nothing but good things about the PM brand. That particular model I’d be concerned with the head tilt going out of tram. But yeah, considering a good DRO is important as it is what allows good precision. Theres no need to just rely on turn dials…

I would love a CNC lathe, particularly one with a 5C head to run hex shafts to notch perfect snap ring grooves. Taig makes one. But honestly not really that worth it.

Ooooo. I want my team to get that lathe too!

We have 2 of those lathes and they work amazing for us

I have a couple of questions can you answer them if possible?

Can you do shafts with the slots for retaining clips?
Also can you do holes on the face?
Can you tap on the lathe?

Its yes to all of the above, but we have found challenge with tapping, you really have to get the settings dialed in, we do tapping manually after using the lathe to put a hole in the center and we found this works well for us

1 Like

We have Tormach 15L, and it’s cooler than it is useful. We used it to make a threaded drum this year, but ended up turning the threads off after the fact. We could have just 3D printed the part instead. About once a year we get a fancy part that we turn on the CNC lathe, but it’s almost never a necessity.

Maybe we’re just not using it to it’s potential though. Other teams might be able to get more out of it.

Edit: We would probably get a lot more utility out of a 4th axis on a CNC mill.

i imagine you could do all that with any sort of lathe and a tail stock, at least in aluminum.

youll also want to immediately get a quick change tool post

and i would consider doing a compound slide delete. rarely have i found the need to do less than .0001" precision or tapered angles for FRC. it always seems to get in the way, and i prefer the extra rigidity.

1 Like

I love quick change tool posts. They made life very easy in college when I was doing lathe operations.

1712 purchased one of these this season. We haven’t done a ton with it so far, but it’s handled what we have so far. The drawbar is a bit of a pain to change tools with (compared to knee mills) and the bed may be very slightly out of level (not to the point it would cause issues in FRC), but otherwise it’s working well so far.

Try making a spindle lock.

1 Like

We outfit our shop with a ton of JET tools and we’ve been happy with them and there are tons of options and accessories for DROs and probably even auto feeds if you wanted. If you call around to their local distributors I bet you can find somebody to cut you a good deal. I don’t want to publicly go into the specifics of our deal but the owner of the reseller was a huge believer in STEM and gave us a ton of free accessories for the machines (cutters, lubricants, etc…)

For disclosure we did not get the mill-drill equipment but basically everything else they sell so I can only vouch for the overall quality of their brand after 2 seasons of heavy use.

We ordered this Lathe from Precision Matthews last year using grant money. It’s been great! Nice big bore, solid 3 jaw chuck with reversible fingers, foot brake, guard with interlock, built-in DRO, and a bunch of other features we don’t use :slight_smile: Precision Matthews were also really great to work with. Recommended.

We ordered one of these a few weeks before build season… still have not received it. Grizzly keeps saying there are product stock delays, and now they’re also charging us an additional $300 due to “law changes”. Hopefully we’ll be able to receive it before next build season :slightly_smiling_face: