Need some recommendations for tooling

We just received $4,000 from our school and have to spend it within 2 weeks.
Because of this limitation we have decided to spend it on tools.

Currently our shop has
2 drill presses (One large one and one portable one)
A bench grinder
A chop saw
A miter saw
A finger brake (has to be refurbished)
and a bunch of basic hand tools + handheld power tools.

We also have this mill although its never been used as it was installed in a different room. Since then a lot of its included accesories have been lost (Stuff like handles) and we will have to buy replacements. In the end we estimate $400 for all the basic tooling and replacement parts we need to get this mill up and running. We will need pretty much everything including a vise. We do not really know much about what we need exactly so any help is appreciated.

Our want list of tools goes like this

1st on the priority list is a table saw as we plan on building a 50% field for our shop and possibly even a 100% field to host a week 0 competition next year although this is dependent on hoping next years field is a lot simpler to build then this years. We allotted about $300 for this and plan on getting a portable Dewalt model.

2nd is a basic CNC router like an X-Carve. Although I would love something a bit more powerful as we would really like something we can cut gussets on regularly. We also plan on using it for belly pans.

3rd is an Arbor press with a hex broach. Would love recommendations for something decent that will work with the Andymark broach.

4th is a small bench top lathe. We are looking at something basic from harbor freight at least for now.

Last is a belt sander although we probably will not have enough funds left over.

Id love to hear your recommendations on what we should do. I have a few peoples input but would like more as we want to make sure we can best utilize the money.

Fully depending on how your school allows you to spend money-

Craigslist could be your best friend for the Arbor Press, Lathe and Belt Sander. These might allow you to save some money in order to get everything on your list.

A Craigslist buy might also turn into a good ‘project’. This would also allow you guys to be able to take apart the machines you buy for any maintenance they would need after purchase. I think it’s very important for students to be able to not only know how to use these machines, but maintain and repair them as well.

I will verify but I do not think it’s possible to buy things on Craigslist. Although I agree if this was my money that would be the first place I would go.

Maybe you didn’t mention having some, but precision measuring equipment?
The best machines can make plenty of scrap and you don’t want to wait until practice time to find out. Calipers and maybe some mic’s too.

If you can, I would look for a used Bridgeport or lathe. With that money you can probably pick one up and buy tooling for it. I’m sure RoboChair and Cory will have some more ideas when they catch wind of this thread :). Also, IMO that mill may not be worth fixing as the money you put in to it you might be better off saving it for a Bridgeport.

I should mention a Craiglist deal is almost out of the question. The money is from our schools budget and has to be spent pretty particularly. Even ordering from Amazon is very difficult.

I found a used Bridgeport on Craiglist for $2,500 that a business has and I am currently trying to convince them to donate it to us but I doubt they will bite.

It would be a shame to throw out something we did spend over $3,000 on albeit around 6 years ago. Even if we just skimp on tooling and end up using it as a slightly glorified drill press.

The lathe is going to be much, much more important than the CNC router. I would prioritize even a crummy Harbor Freight benchtop lathe over a hastily bought router. You can buy all sorts of gussets these days, but making custom shafts, spacers, and all sorts of things is more necessary. I’d put that over anything else on this list.

  1. Table saws are good, very useful and you have selected a reasonable price point. Remember that carbide blades will cut aluminum with great care.

  2. I have no recommendations for you at that price range really, I have heard good things about the X-carve and shapeco and those should be in the range you need. One of them 2 has full cad of the machine free to download so you could get the minimum and beef it up and/or make another with the first.

  3. A nice arbor press in that range will be around 400-700, plus 200 for the broach. The cost of entry sucks but a good arbor press is a very useful tool for FRC teams even more so when paired with a lathe and mill.

  4. The Harbor Freight one will be enough to start you, I have a few upgrades to suggest.
    Buy some digital scales for the X and Y axis (and your mill) here and here
    A Quick Change Tool Post
    I would suggest a set of cutters like this as well

  5. Harbor freight has a 1 inch belt sander for around $50, not fantastic but it helps.

All those sites have good stuff for cheap, let me know if there is anything in particular you are still looking for.

EDIT: Chris is me has a good point about the lathe

I have had people tell me that but I just do not see my team using it that much. Its probably just a tool a will learn to love and see uses for but currently I see a cnc router as much more useful for our team.

I am not a big fan of the gussets on the market as most lack cross support and are on the thinner side. I have ones that I designed last year (were cut by our waterjet sponsor) but Id prefer to do it in house. There is also some time a nice custom designed gusset would have suited our needs better then cots offerings.

Yes and no, it depends on what you are buying. Tooling is tooling for the most part and can still be used in a later machine. Just keep in mind that the goal should be to upgrade it in the future and your tooling should be useful for the new bigger machine.

This is very helpful thank you.

Also, do you have any particular recommendation for the arbor press. Not to sure what I am looking at and how to figure out which one is better.

We have this one:

It’s a 1/2 ton and really small so you can’t use it for much, but the overall quality of it is pretty good and they make bigger models.


Some more on this. Our school bought a Shapeoko 2, the predecessor of the X-Carve, two years ago. We have spent the last 1 1/2 years working on it and trying to make it function well. We’ve had many problems, and have successfully only cut 3 things out of plywood with it. IMO, take a look at Carbide 3D. They are led by the inventor of the Shapeoko that split off from the project to start his own company. The Shapeoko 3 looks to me to be superior in build quality and rigidity, and they have great technical support, and it is light years ahead of the Shapeoko 2. PM me if you want more specifics of the Shapeoko troubles we had.


If I were buying a lathe today it would probably be something like this. or this G0765

We own a G0752 and it has worked well for us for several years and honestly we haven’t really had to push it to it’s limits very often and the G0768 is a bit smaller but also $700 cheaper.

My advice is to stock up on all your consumables for the next couple years. Tape, zip ties, zip tie mounts, taps, blades, bits, rivets, VexPro parts, electronics like the PDP, RoboRIO, motors, batteries, zip cord, and motor controllers.

I would also recommend a good set of Hertel HSS bright finish screw-machine length drills from Enco.

That $4k is going to disappear in the blink of an eye. If you are going for something big, I’d focus on getting on a good one if that rather than a sucky one of multiple things.

On table saws, SawStop might be a good idea for students. They aren’t cheap, but far cheaper than a missing finger.

Or you can forget all this and just prepay your FRC registration. Then if you get another sponsor later on and you have a balance with FIRST, you can get it regranted back to you to spend however you please.

I would put a lathe way up your list of tools.

For your budget, I would suggest this Lathewith Tool stand. This size lathe could really accomplish any future machining needs you might have.

With a lathe you can quickly make custom drivetrain axles, make spacers, Standoffs, etc.

I would also order additional tooling including:
Typical carbide cutting tools
Cutoff tool
Grooving tool (multi-blade set) for E-clips and C-clips
A Drill and Tap set
If you don’t have a micrometer and calipers already, I’d add that to the list as well.

I’ve ordered tooling from in the past, and can recommend them.

We actually do have access to a Sawstop down in the middle school. It is a very nice tool but I think its overkill for what we are doing.

We actually just did the whole stockup thing with our remaining school budget. (The way our school budget works is that the money disappears once the school year ends) Which is the same reason why we can not use the money for a second regional.

You will need a 4 or 5 ton arbor press to get one with enough working height. You can make a smaller one work, but it’s not easy or convenient.

Enco has this one for $550

10/10 would highly recommend that you buy an Evolution Power Tools RAGE3. Here is a link to the Amazon page but I am sure you can buy it elsewhere too.

We have used this saw to cut all of our 2x1,1x1, angle, and almost anything you can think of needed for frc except for sheet (we use a jigsaw). Last year we cut 90% of our robot out with the rage3, and were very, very happy with how it performed. We would not be able to function with out it. It is far cheaper than some of the nice horizontal bandsaws and it makes cuts that are very comparable to them as well. The cuts are very very smooth and will provide a surprisingly flat surface for when you are riveting things together which is important for good joints.

Also, I forgot to mention. A CNC router although seems like it will be more useful than a lathe, our team could absolutely not live without a lathe. There are so many things that we do on the lathe that no other tool can substitute for. We have been fortunate enough to have one since our team began, and I can say it has easily become our students favorite tool. We did majority of our plate parts on a drill press with some calipers and a center punch with printouts of the part 1:1 and had very nice results. We use a Porter Cable Jig Saw, and a Cheap Ryobi Belt sander, and Ryobi Vertical Band saw to clean up edges and finish our parts.