Mill Power Lift

Get rid of the crank! This power conversion effortlessly lifts and lowers your mill head.

by Charlie Briggs

For those of you doing work with a milling machine in your shops, I have something here that will drastically reduce the effort we often go through, sometimes on a daily basis. I have tried to write it in such a way as to help the “electrically savvy” as well as those who might not be familiar with rectifiers.

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My mill, a model JMD-18 by Jet, was considered a rather top-of-the-line for a Chinese manual mill, but it is probably similar to, if not identical to, those made by Grizzly and others. Mine, sitting on and bolted to its base, is almost seven feet tall and the uppermost quarter of it, the “head”, weighs close to 400 pounds. With some effort, after loosening two large bolts on the right side of the mill head with a wrench resembling a tire tool/lug wrench, one can raise and lower the head to adjust for shorter or taller projects by using the large and heavy cast iron crank engaged in a rack and pinion on the left side of the mill (not to be confused with the spindle handles, located on the right side of the mill which simply operates the Z axis, moving the chuck or collet up or down). Larger and/or very expensive mills often utilize either hydraulics or a substantial gear motor to do this job or use a powered “knee” design to raise and lower the bed instead of the crank, but I doubt if many of us are lucky enough to have one of these.

Eleven years ago I suffered a very severe neck, back, and shoulder injury. As I have gotten older, fighting the crank has become more and more of a chore, often causing me to choose other, sometimes inferior, options. So, like I did on my 7” x 19” tool room lathe almost twenty years ago (American Gunsmith, December 2004), I modified it! In a nutshell, I found a low cost and readily-available gear motor I thought capable of doing the job and then modified and adapted it to my mill in place of the crank. Hopefully, with the creativity and insight of most gunsmiths, you can see what I’ve done here and make any necessary changes for your mill.

Read more in the February 2023 issue.

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