Drill Press or Milling Machine?

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Sean Olson
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Tell us something.: I play traditional Irish music on, amongst other instruments, the penny whistle and traditional flute. I've recently dabbled in instrument making.

Drill Press or Milling Machine?

Post by Sean Olson »

Hi, everyone! I've been playing penny whistle and traditional Irish flute for about five years or so and very recently began trying to fashion instruments of my own. It's a bit of a misguided journey, as I have no prior experience with anything like this. I decided to start with wooden whistles and so far I've put a lot of effort into just learning to turn, bore, and ream pieces while keeping things concentric. I've created a few monotone block flutes as well as head and body joints using both a mortise and tenon and metal slides to join them, but I haven't put it all together into a functioning instrument yet.

I've been cutting fipples by hand and haven't yet cut any tone holes. I'm unsure if I should invest in a drill press or milling machine next. I've been considering the PM-25MV, which seems to be popular for home workshops. I figure that—for work of this size—a benchtop mill can double as a drill press while also machining more complicated cuts like the window and labium of a fipple. I'm probably getting way ahead of myself, but I could also use a mill to cut windways or even blocks or seats for keys using a rotary table or dividing head. It just seems more versatile! However, mills are very expensive, tend to have limited space between the table and spindle, and I'm still at the very beginning of this journey, so a drill press would likely allow me to make a lot of progress for far less money. Since I'm totally new to this, I was hoping that folks with experience making instruments and/or machining could offer some insight.

Is a milling machine the right tool for the job? Is it as versatile as I think it is? Am I missing some important considerations? Any thoughts, insight, or suggestions are appreciated. Thanks for reading!
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Tell us something.: Can play several instruments at an unimpressive level. Currently most interested in whistling with a side of flute.

Re: Drill Press or Milling Machine?

Post by Narzog »

I'm not a master and I've wondered the same thing for holes, but I have also spent a good amount of time making whistles in the basement.

I dont have a actual big mill, but I have a mini 3018pro cnc upgraded to be able to mill aluminum. I have used this to cut windways in tubes, much better than hand using a hacksaw or something, although its not required for making your own, basic things like a dremel, hacksaw and files can do a lot. That said if your goal is to make ones to sell, that quality and consistency and time saved from milling will be excellent. But you may want to look into cnc milling instead of a manual one. I've never used a manual, and I expect it could cut a windway much faster than my little cnc one. And a big cnc will cost way more. But if you can learn how to make cad files to run the cnc with you can have it run and cut things while you do something else. Also it removes any human error, when you can tell it to go drill 6 holes with 1 endmill, all of different sizes and positions, and as long as you measure the starting point correctly everything will come out right and consistently.

I have also used my mini cnc to cut holes. It just takes a long time, 20-30 minutes. Once again this is because its tiny. This does take out some of the possible human error of possibly drilling slightly off, or getting runaway. Also I don't need a ton of different bits.

That said for holes you can get a good drill press for not a ton of money. You just need a ton of bits, and that will work fine for holes.

I dont know anything about normal mills but I'd think you could also use it as a drill press, if it has the height for the longer bits.

One of the most important things you need by far is a good lathe, I'm assuming you have this seeing that you mentioned turning. And seeing that you linked a $2k mill, I'm assuming you have a decent lathe already and not some little wood lathe like I do that isnt good for precision work.

A video I saw a while ago was this
https://www.irishflutestore.com/blogs/n ... fery-ellis
He seems to haev a 4 axis cnc. This seems like the perfect tool, if you can get your hands on one.

I've found that one of the most important things in whistle/flute making is having the right tools for the job. So if your willing to invest in the right tools and put in the time I can see you being a seller one day if you wanted to. hopefully this info is somehow helpful.
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syn whistles
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Re: Drill Press or Milling Machine?

Post by syn whistles »

Another alternative might be to look for a second hand engravers pantograph. I use two of them, one just for windways and the other is a 3D model that mills finger holes.
Milling is certainly a better option to drilling holes, especially in Aluminium, it produces a clean sided cut without the chatter you get from drilling. Using a mill also lets you do all the different size holes without changing bits.
So good it has to be a SYN!
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