Harold Hall

Workshop Processes


Adjustable head milling machines

In some workshops though, the level of the error is in the hands of the user as their machine is of the type that are fitted with heads that can tilt, Photograph 1, a situation where greater errors then those found on fixed head machines can easily occur. The content of this article is therefore of considerable importance to readers with such machines.


Another factor is of course that the spindle should ideally be perpendicular to both the X and Y axis. For the reader who is not conversant with this terminology Sk. 1 should make this clear. Beyond that, the three axis are allocated positive and negative directions but using these will for most overcomplicate the issue and so I will refer to left and right and towards and away throughout the article.


Returning to the spindle there will be errors as viewed from the front and side but we will consider primarily that from the front, where an error exists from the side the considerations will be the same. In practice there will be a combination of the two errors but this having only a marginal effect on the findings.


The Theory

Before going into the level of the permitted error as detailed in the specifications, and in which direction, lets consider the theory. It is though much easier to visualise the effects if they are magnified beyond what will occur in practice. Sk 2 shows an end mill that is not at 90° to the workpiece, what then if the workpiece is traversed to the left? In this case, Sk. 3 shows that the cutter will produce a concave surface. However, if we consider the workpiece approaching from the left and feeding right the cutter will still produce the same result, Sk. 4, but there the similarity ceases. Closer examination of the two sketches shows that in Sk. 3 the cutter is cutting on its outer diameter whilst in Sk. 4 it is cutting on its end, a way in which the cutter is not intended to be used.

Having therefore decided that an error in the                orientation of the spindle is inevitable, does this mean that machining should always be carried out in the direction that gives the result in SK. 3? If there are no factors that prevent an operation being carried out in the preferred direction then it should be used, some workpieces will though make this impractical. Consider the part in Sk. 5 that requires the two recesses to be exactly parallel and the depth of one precisely the correct depth in relation to the other. If the part had to be turned end on end to machine the second side these requirements would be more difficult to satisfy. Because of this, we have to accept that machining in both directions is a necessity. However, this does not eliminate the fact that there may be a preferred direction.


I maybe wrong, but I do not think I will be the only one that gives this situation less consideration than I should. I did when I purchased my milling machine measure what the error was and marked this for reference on the front of the belt guard. The guard being very heavy I replaced it and the information was lost so my machining has subsequently been done largely without considering the consequences.

Tilting Head Milling Machine, Hobbymat BFE65


All pictures can be clicked on to provide a larger view