Evolution of the Vertical Miller

The horizontal milling machine evolved naturally from the lathe in the first or second decade of the nineteenth century. Eli Whitney (U.S.A.) is said to have had one in use about 1818, and in Tools for the Job the late L.T.C. Rolt recounted how the young engineer James Nasmyth (later to become famous as the inventor of the steam hammer and other appliances) fixed one up and milled the flats on hundreds of tiny hexagon nuts for a model of a Maudslay marine engine, while working for Henry Maudslay. Drawings of the early horizontal millers show such a resemblance to the lathes of that period that almost certainly they were in fact lathes which had been adapted to milling. The cutters were really files, made by the file makers of the times, using the 'hand-cutting' methods (really a hammer and a special chisel) which were the only practice available at that time.

The evolution of the vertical miller came naturally after the horizontal machine. I have not found any reliable reference to a date by which the vertical miller had appeared in industry, though this must have been well before 1 900.

When model engineering started to become an established hobby at the turn of the century quite a variety of small lathes were provided by different makers, and the great versatility of the lathe created in itself a tendency to make the lathe do every operation that arose. This was enhanced by the fact that many modellers were working men with very little cash to spend on their hobby. Many were the ingenious attachments devised to enable the lathe to carry out work it had never been intended to do. Such makers as Drummond Brothers modified their lathes with tee-slotted boring tables to help in this work, and even brought out the famous round-bed lathe, which although intended for a cut-price market, also had built into it the ability to do a lot more than just simple turning. But as the years went by it became ever more apparent something better was needed for milling operations. None of the small millers produced by the machine tool industry were oriented towards the home workshop.

Then in the 1920s the Abwood Tool and Engineering Co. produced an excellent vertical milling attachment for mounting on small lathes, especially the popular 3-y in. flat bed Drummond, though adjustable features made it applicable to other lathes too. It had a No. 1 Morse taper arbor which fitted into the lathe

Vertical Milling Machine GreenDrummond Lathe Mods

spindle, and bevel gears with keywayed shafts took the drive up to the vertical cutter spindle, which had a No. 1 Morse internal taper. All the gears were equal ratio mitre bevels, so the cutter rotated at the same speed as the lathe spindle, and all the six speeds of the lathe were usable. The work was mounted on the lathe boring table, and power feeding in one direction came from the lathe screwcut-ting gear. A photograph of this unit set up on a Myford Super 7 is shown in Fig. 1. It was unfortunately a low-volume, labour Intensive unit with vee slides needing hand scraping, but was selling in 1930 for 7 guineas, about a quarter of the cost of the Drummond lathe. Although out of production for many years now, it was in its time a courageous effort, but belonged to the age when most home lathes were driven by flat belt from a treadle or countershaft, and the cost of electric motors made the independent motor drive uneconomic in home hobby applications.

But the need for a handy vertical milling machine had been recognised, and in the early 1 960s that very good friend of model engineers, Edgar T. Westbury, completed an experimental machine, which he described with drawings and photographs in the Model Engineer during 1964. That too was a very labour

Fig. 2 E.T. Westbury's milling machine

Westbury Milling Machine
Fig. 3 D ore-West bury machine

intensive machine with vee slides, and the main castings were much too big to be machined in the average home workshop. At that time he was unable to find any engineering firm willing to take it over and manufacture it. or even to do the machining on a contract basis at such a price as it was thought model engineers would be willing to pay.

Three years later I found myself with the opportunity to take a fresh look at this design, which he had discussed with me during the experimental period. I evolved a new set of drawings for a similar machine, but using flat slideways more economically constructed, a reduction gear for lower bottom speeds, hollow spindle for a drawbar, and other changes intended to make economies or improve the performance. This new design was discussed with Edgar, who agreed to the use of the name Dore-Westbury', the machine to be sold as a kit of semifinished components by my existing firm Dore Engineering. I was able to place the machining of the components with a number of firms already known to me. and the first sets of materials began to go out to customers early in 1968. Since that time many hundreds of sets have been distributed, ail over the world, and are still being made in ever greater quantities by Model Engineering Services, of Chesterfield, who took it over from me in 1971, when I wanted, on account of age, to reduce my commitments.

Castings to the original design are, however, still available from Woking Precision Models of 16 Dovecot Park. Aberdour, Fife, Scotland KY3 OTA. and a machine from these is shown in Fig. 2. The Dore-Westbury machine is depicted in Fig. 3 and the similarity between them will be at once apparent. During its entire life the Dore-Westbury has been undergoing small improvements, and the present suppliers have now decided that the modifications are sufficiently stabilised for the present version to be titled the Mark II model. From now on all machines supplied will be of this form, though still subject to certain optional variations which customers will be able to select as they wish.

The more important changes include an increase in the quill travel from 2f in. to in. Extra pulley steps with a new type of belt extend the speed range slightly from 32 to 1880 r.p.m. with more intermediates, providing for boring head fly-cutting on large radii right through to keyway cutting with 1/16 in. cutters. The reduction gear system now fitted has helical gears which run in an oil-bath,

Dore WestburyDore Westbury

Fig. 5 Rodney Attachment 17

Opposite. Fig. 4 The Dore-Westbury Mkll

Fig. 5 Rodney Attachment 17

sealed against leakage even when inclined away from the vertical, and is quieter than formerly. A larger table, 20 in. by 6 in., can be had as an optional alternative to the normal 16 in. by in. The column and cross tube are steel, as always, but now §• in. thick and enormously stiff. 2^ in. diameter micrometer dials are now standard. The down-feed worm has for convenience been transferred to the right hand side of the head, a coarser pitch rack is now used, and there are a number of other minor improvements.

Opposite, Fig. 7 Amolco attachment

Although colleges and commercial workshops will probably wish to use the all-over belt guard, it may be debatable if the cost of this is justified for the solitary mature modeller alone in his home workshop. An alternative belt guard which covers the spindle pulley only and does not impede belt changing so much is available and is shown on the Mark II machine in Fig. 4.

No doubt the most important improvement is the (optional) provision of power feed for the long movement of the table. A small motor with a 4-step pulley and enclosed worm reduction gear provides feed rates of .5. .62. .85 and 1.1 inches per minute.

A number of attachments similar in general concept, though much different in detail, to the old Abwood, have come on

Fig. 8 A molco machine

Drummond Lathe
Fig. 9 Mentor machine, now superseded by the FB2 and Maximal attachment

the market in recent years. Tew Machinery produce the 'Rodney' to suit the Myford \1L7 and Super 7 lathes, and This s marketed by Myfords. It is shown in Fig. 5 and the complete vertical miller based on this attachment is that shown in

Another attachment, the 'Amolco' is supplied by N. Mole & Co. Ltd. and appears in Fig. 7 This has its own motor and attaches to the top of the lathe bed also. It is made as a complete machine, shown in Fig. 8.

Fig. 11 Astra machine

Fig. 12 Twin machine

Elliot machine Equipment supplied a continental machine, the Mentor' which was available both in bench and floor mounted forms. The bench machine is shown in Fig. 9. They also have the 'Maximat' attachment to suit the lathe of the same name, which fits on the back of the lathe bed and has independent motor drive (Fig. 10). This is also available as a floor machine, the FB2.

Other complete machines include the Astra' supplied by Scot Urquhart, which is really a horizontal miller with an extra vertical spindle with its own motor. Made in several sizes, the small one is shown in Fig. 11.

Twin Engineering Co. introduced a bench machine illustrated in Fig. 12 and also a floor mounted machine of similar size but slightly different design.

Finally the old established firm of Tom Senior Ltd. now produce their type E

machine which is floor mounted and shown in Fig. 1 3.

So it will be seen that there are now many machines and attachments which are of suitable dimensions for inclusion in the limited space of most home workshops. It would be useless to give any details of prices in a book of this kind, as such information would probably be incorrect by the time the book was printed, and readers are therefore recommended to enquire of the various advertisers.

A summary of the leading particulars of all these machines etc. is given in Table 1 but again specifications are amended by makers as time goes by, and it can be no more than a general guide.

A brief word must be said about foreign machines, particularly those coming from Far Eastern countries. It would appear there are several factories producing machine tools and accessories. Some appear to be quite good, but others are definitely not good, and I do have personal experience of some of these. I have not had the chance to see one of the milling machines working, but those I have inspected in exhibitions have some cheap and nasty features, although the main items such as spindles, bearings, and slideways may be excellent. Some of the machines are more suitable for commercial factories than home workshops but there are others of modest dimensions. To anyone contemplating buying one of these one can only suggest that a close inspection should be made by a knowledgeable engineer, and that a working demonstration should be requested, of the actual machine which is to be bought.


Machine or

Make or supplier


Table size

Spindle speeds

Spindle nose

Woking Precision



650, 1120, 1850,

2MT plus

Models Co. Ltd.

bench machine


Myford thread

1 6 Dovecot Park

kit of parts.

Aberdour, Fife,


Model Engineering

Dore Westbury'

1 6 x 5 J

34 J, 90. 188

2MT plus


bench machine

304, 790. 1650

Myford thread

6. Kennet Vale,

kit of parts


Dore Westbury


32 1880

2MT plus



(20 x 6

Myford thread

bench machine


kit of parts.

Tew Machinery Ltd.


For Mytord

Driven from

2MT plus

Manor Works


ML7 and

lathe spindle

Myford thread

Church St.

S77 lathes.


Rodney plus'

15 x 4±

320, 450, 610,

2MT plus


floor machinc.

850, 1040, 1490.

Myford thread

2190, 2750

N. Mole & Co. Ltd.


For Myford

Motor drive.

2MT plus

5. Tolpits 1 tine.


& Boxfoid

4 speeds. 325

Myford thread

Watford. HhiIS.


to 1600

Dcnch miller.


325 1600

2MT plus

Myford thread

I ABI F 1 (continued)

Mtichine or

Maku <>r Hupplicr


Table size

Spindle speeds

Spindle nose

Clliott Machine


20$ x*

350, 640. 780





B.E.C. Houaft,

Bnnch and

Victyiia Rd.



London, NW10 6NY

FD2 Maximal

211 x 6


attachment or


floor machine

Scoi Urquhart Ltd



620. 900.


317. 3/3.1, Earlsfield Rd..

bench and

1200, 1850



London SW18 300


Hor. with vert.


Twin Eng. Co.


20 x 6


2MT plus

Caxton Way.

bench machine

1650. 2880

Myford thread

Holywell Ind. Est.

and floor

2MT plus

Watford. Herts.


20 x 6

380, 640,

1100. 1900.

Myford thread


Tom Senior. Ltd ,

Senior type E'

25 X 4$

480. 950,


Atlas Works,

floor machine.


Hightown Heights.


West Yorks.

Un-machined castings only supplied Head swivels.

Now superseded by Mk.il

Complete kit of parts. All machining done that would be difficult in home workshop. Head swivels.

Rigid head.

Rigid head.

Rigid head. Rigid head.

Swivelling head.

Swivelling head

Motorised head.

Rigid head.

Swivel head.

Swivel head

Solidworks Assembly Projects

Fig. 13 Senior machine

Fig. 13 Senior machine

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