I upgraded. The mini-mill wasn’t cutting it so I ordered a new Grizzly 1006 milling machine. This thing is HEAVY, not relative to most builder’s mills, but it’s still 566 pounds! Had to get the truck to bring it up the driveway from UPS freight, get a friend to help me get it out of the truck with the tractor, and then into the garage into place with his engine lift. Ugh, what a pain. But it’s in place and working beautifully. I now know why a bigger, stiffer mill is really important. It just doesn’t move, it cuts right through the tube like butter. So many little intricacies though to all this, i learn many new things each day I head down to the shop. The size of the table is a big thing too. This table is 9.5″ by 26″ or so, which will easily fit my 8″ rotary table and have room left for (the eventual) Anvil seat- and chain-stay fixtures. I wish I could’ve afforded a square or dovetail column mill, but being at least $500 more than the one I got, it’s suitable for me right now. I’ve been told you never need to raise or lower the head on a round-column mill (thanks Steve of Coconino) to cope tubes so no need to spend the extra money for a bigger dovetail machine. Also, since we’re moving to norcal in less than a year…well…this will suck to move enuf as is.
I also received the Henry James Access 65 frame jig/fixture last week! Not building frames yet, but practicing on thin-walled tubing first before I potentially waste any good tubing. I am still no expert TIG welder…I’m amazed at how hard the technique is to learn and retain – I need to practice almost every day and that’s still not enough. Over time, I know I can be a great welder but I still have lots to learn by trial and error.
Hank’s jig is great. At $2600, it’s one of the cheaper but solid frame fixtures out there. Everybody wants and Anvil (for the most part) but at double the price…not everyone can do it. The Access 65 is 65 lbs, has a very OPEN design so all joints are easily accessed from the front or rear of the fixture. It’s easy to figure out and has a really cool new “Universal Axle” for the rear dropouts – one axle that fits all sized hub spacing as well as Hank’s brake & bridge jig.
There are a couple of things I’ve noticed so far that I do not like about the jig. One is that there’s no good way of holding the seat tube securely in place. It sits there, against the BB and seat tube/seatstay support beam, but when you’re fitting the top tube (file, check, file, check, file, check…to infinity) it can slip out and ding itself on the floor (it happened to me several times, i’m a slow learner apparently). Hank gives you some springs for the top tube support bar, so I may transfer one of them to the seatstay, or fashion something else, to hold it against the rear v-notch support beam. The Anvil, and many other fixtures, have a ‘cone’ that fits down into the top of the seat tube which holds it in place – and also adjusts the ST angle. The only way you ‘set’ the seat tube angle in the Access65 is by correctly mitering the top tube to the right length, and/or using a protractor or angle finder to check the angle. The other main tube angles have nice etched marks on the fixture, but not so for the seat tube angle. Not as ideal, but it works just fine.
The second thing that I don’t like is the fixture support. It is made to fit onto a Park PRS-03 bike stand (the old clamp version). This is the big stand with the very heavy steel plate base. So, it swivels on the vertical plane no problem, and can swivel on the horizontal plane, but not as easily at all compared to the Anvil fixture. (Oh..why did i have to learn on an Anvil fixture?) The fixture support for the Anvil is custom made – it’s on locking wheels, is in all-ways swivelable (yes, that’s a word), every angle can be set up right away, and every tube is plumbed for purging gas. That’s what you get for $4k I guess. The Access 65 is very suitable for what I need, and many a great framebuilder use it. So if you’re wondering if I’d recommend it, especially to the starting framebuilder…YES! It’s a great frame fixture that is very well fabricated and I look forward to many years building the best frames I can possibly build!