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"Built Dam Strong!"

06 April 2014

A new tool (to me) that weighs more than most cars: TOS FA3V Mill

Let me tell you a story . . .

Back in December a cow-orker of mine let me know that a machine shop was shutting down. He follows a LOT of estate sales sites, so he's always a good source of info on where the good stuff is. I am nearly always interested in at least doing market research on tool prices, and they had a rather nice lathe in the advertisement, so I went to the location. Everything from the shop was stuffed into a few 40' long shipping containers. I met with the shop owner. He was selling off what he could before moving to Maine to take care of his ailing mother. To say he had a lot of stuff is an understatement! The lathe I originally went to see was fully tooled and priced well, but much too much for my pocket wad. The other thing that caught my eye stuck in a back corner of a container was this beastly monster of a thing. It was a mill, billed as a "Sigma knee mill." I could see why he didn't want to move it to Maine. It was taller than I am and I had never seen a mill in person with as wide a table as this thing had! I was reluctant to, but I asked what the price was. I was shocked when I was told. It was cheaper than scrap! He just wanted it sold so he didn't have to bother with the beast. I thought it over for a couple of days and decided to buy it. I'm still not sure exactly why. Hah!

A deposit was put down and I thought arrangements were made to pick it up on one of my company's flatbed trucks. I showed up to pick it up with the truck, and the seller was there with a friend and they were like . . . "That's not the kind of flatbed we were expecting." I was like, "Well, WTF? I said flatbed. I didn't say tiltback. What are we going to do now?" It was too late in the day to have the guy's friend with a tree-felling service to lift it with his fancy truck-mounted crane. Their forklift was no where near beefy enough to move the sucker. I was slightly annoyed, as this was the fault of the agent who had been arranging the sale. Oh well. We agreed to split the cost of a tilt-back. It wasn't ideal, but, it would get gotten and it would be moved correctly. As to where I was moving it, it was and is in the deepest, darkest (but not dankest) corner of the shop that I work out of, after I asked my shop foreman who was cool with it as long as one of the company owners doesn't get a wild hair up his bum and says to get it gone. (That's fairly unlikely as the owner keeps some of his own crap in that corner and we never really need that little bit of space, as it is just awkward for how we have the shop set up, anyway.) This made unloading the thing pretty easy. The truck delivering just backed into the shop, and we lifted the thing up with a sling using one of the 5T overhead gantry cranes. Ah, the convenience of working at a place that deals with heavy stuff all day, every day. =)

Now that the thing was in my possession, I let it just sit for a while. I was working 65+ hours a week, it was effing cold in the shop, and there were a lot of things going on that required my more immediate attention. I did take the time to spray down the whole thing with WD40 to keep the water from condensing too much on the surface, and I cleaned up the table a bit, but I mostly didn't mess with it as I was move worried about how to power it up, as I had never even seen it working under power. (I figured I could fix nearly anything or in the worst case, sell it for scrap and make more than my money back!) The mill is a true industrial machine that requires 3 phase electrical input. That's not something you commonly find in the more familiar (to me) housing electrical service. I spent a while learning about VFDs and the weird and wild world of rotary phase converters, but I was really worrying about a lot of silly stuff. Recently I got a wild hair and pulled off the cover from one of the subpanels nearest to the mill. Right. Three phase. Duh. I work in an industrial steel shop. I felt pretty retarded. I even found a good length of heavy gauge four conductor wire. I jury rigged the wiring and . . .


The first time I kicked it on, I didn't check the darn spindle speed settings. It went to 2,000RPM and started spraying oil EVERYWHERE! I did the whole hands up to my face OMGWTFBBQ TURN IT OFF TURN IT OFF! thing and set it down tot he 45RPM you see above. LOL! Well, it works!

CHECK THE SETTINGS BEFORE YOU TURN THINGS ON!

So, the good:
1. The machine powers up.
2. The spindle brake works darn well. (Reading the manual, keeping the stop button press shunts DC current through the motor windings, causing it to slow down very quickly, with the warning that this is NOT to be done more than 2x a minute, or you'll fry stuff.) This is great because there is no physical brake to wear out like on many other machines!

The bad:
1. The quill down feed lead screw is sheered in half. I have some suspicions as to why, and I'll show that later.
2. The power feed (which is on ALL THREE AXIS!!!!! which is a feature that you nearly never see on any more typical mill you'd find in the US!!!!) only works in one direction. Flipping the lever to the other direction does nothing. I will have to determine if this is a physical or electrical thing.

So far, that's it. I'm sure I'll discover more stuff as I go through everything, but, I'm very OK with things as they are now.

Of course, I know you just want pictures and for me to mostly STFU. So, here we go with a crapton of pics!

 I can honestly say that the Communists were generally terrible, but their graphic artists were frickin' awesome! I don't know what that symbol is supposed to be, but I absolutely love it. I think it is just super cool looking. Oh, right. TOS, is the "brand," not Sigma, as originally billed. This is a mill made circa 1965 in Communist Czechoslovakia, as you can sort of see on this motor info plate:

This is where the confusion comes from:
 
 It turns out that Sigma imported a bunch of these TOS machines in the '60s and '70. I worked very long and hard to figure out all this info, as let me tell you, it isn't so easy finding information on this stuff! LOL! It's like I'm digging in to a cold case in some mystery novel! I love it.

Here's the mill in all it's faded glory:
 It was supplied with this milling attachment:

 The machine was used for 30 years to mill aluminum heads. That's all it did. The above milling attachment has 16 carbide inserts and can skim many heads in a single pass. This thing will be for sale shortly, and I will put the money from the sale towards a Vise and maybe some tooling.

The paint on the mill has seen better days:
 Again, I totally love this logo!
 I saw some surface rust on some parts, but I took care of that:
 You can tell it has been around a while when some of the info plates are just . . . blank:
 I think this bar was used to mount the heads:
 That will also be for sale, too.

POWER METER!
 I think that is just too cool! The more I dig in to this machine, the more I like it.

Here is the gearbox selection stuff:
 This takes out most of the guesswork of what speeds to select! I haven't seen anything quite like this before. I think it is pretty darn handy and it looks AWESOME! (I like that. heh)
 The center lever selects the range:
 While the lower lever selects the specific speed. The range is from 45 to 2,000 RPM. That is a very useful range. I much prefer having a machine that goes slow. Slow is good for big cutters, which this thing has the power and rigidity to use. I will be using everything this thing's got, for sure, in the future! MUAHAHHAH!

Another blank plate:
 Basic electrical info on the setup:
 This is the spindle motor:
 And again, I LOVE THE LOGO! It's so darn cool.

Here's what the table looked like after a simple WD40 and stone application:
 There are some dents and knicks in the table, but, it's not in bad shape at all! It stoned out smooth and clean. The stone I am using is that round orange thing you see above. It is actual a dual grit stone. One side is a medium grit and the top orange side is fine (I think).

Spin!
 Action shots are so cool!

This thing has certainly been used:
 The teeth on the hand crank are worn. I am liking going to weld them up and use the mill to square them off and size them. Cool! =) It is missing the quill feed crank, so that is something that will have to eventually be address, too.

This is something I find annoying:
I hate it when flat head screws get all boogered. I am likely going to replace them with hex heads, as most of the rest of the machine uses them.

So, this is why I think the quill feed lead screw sheered in half:
 That skinny piece bolts to the quill and is supposed to be flat. That dark spot towards the main block is actually the metal distorted outwards from the bend. I suspect that something very heavy was dropped onto that part at some time, which caused the lead screw to bind and sheered it. I am going to try to fix it via my press. If I can't, or I break it, then I will have to make a new one and get a new lead screw. It's not too bad, just mostly annoying.

You can kinda see how the block is bent in this pic:



I forgot to take a before shot of disassembling and cleaning the quill feed mechanism out because, well, I was excited. heh

I can say this thing hasn't been cleaned too regularly. There are supposed to be full depth diamond knurls on these dials:
 I will be cleaning everything piece by piece. I mostly just was wiping things off and taking off the simple crust I could.

This is pretty indicative of the state of nearly everything:

 Cover plate before cleaning:
 After a quick WD40 and paper towel wipe down:
 Much better, but not great, for sure. I think that I will stick most of the small stuff in my sandblaster and repaint. It won't ever be perfect, but I'm totally OK with that. For now, I just clean most of the crap off.

Looking better already:

Now that kinda leads me into the saga of taking the darn milling attachment off the thing.

This is the top of the quill, which has an aluminum plug installed to keep crap out:
 There is no draw bar, which is annoying and something I will also have to deal with. That aluminum plug is in there TIGHT! I am thinking that I will have to drill and tap it and use my slide hammer to get the effer out. I can't get a rod all the way up through the spindle to knock it out from below because I don't think the table drops low enough to let me get something up in there that is long enough for me to knock the plug out. I can try using several pieces of something, but I'm doing this by myself, so we'll see what ends up being the most expedient method of getting it out so I can work on getting a draw bar made up so I can actually hold other tooling in the spindle and start doing some WORK!

The biggest issue with the milling attachment is that it had been bolted together for decades. The huge cap screw bolts (they took 1/2" heck socket!!!) needed a lot of force to get them out. The spindle, of course, just spun.

The first plan of attack was this strap wrench:
 That didn't do much of anything. After another trip to HF (5 minutes away from work, thankfully):
 That held better, but still wasn't enough.

I went BACK to HF to get the adapters for the 3/4" corded Milwaukee impact we use at work:

 THAT got the bolts off lickety split. YAY!

One of the last things to figure out is what spindle taper I have. Pics for reference trying different things:

 That's a typical, but large, Morse taper bit.

This is something else, and closer to being correct, but too small:


I almost forgot! I have to fix the light bar, too:

 That about sums it up for now. I have a lot to do to it, but, my CRX takes first priority now. (I got most of this work done on Saturday waiting to hear from the powder coaters that my suspension parts were ready, so I figured I should be productive on such a nice day while waiting!)