Listed as both the later VM-2 (taller one-piece main column) and earlier VM-5 (two-piece column) the beautifully made Elgin vertical miller sold alongside the similar machines branded Cataract and Hardinge by the manufacturing company, Hardinge Brothers Inc. The first VM-5, with a single T-slot on top of its main column, betrays the early origins of the machine where originally, instead of a custom-made vertical head, the headstock from one of the company's precision bench lathes would have been used to create a simple horizontal stub miller. Although the manufacturing dates of the VM- 5 and VM-2 (and HM-5C horizontal version) are uncertain they are likely to have been made from the mid 1930 until some point in the late 1950s - although currently the last known sales catalogue is dated 1953
Fitted with an 181/8" x 18" table with longitudinal, traverse and vertical movements of 12, 6 and 7 (later 9.5) inches respectively, the miller was not intended to tackle heavy work but designed, according to users, as an exceptionally fine, toolroom-class machine that was smooth-running and with a sweet action to its controls. The table, knee and column ways were all hand scraped to a perfect fit and provided with individual locks, the 3 T-slot table was ground on its top and side faces and the vertical feed screw fully enclosed and equipped with a ball-bearing thrust pad. Although early versions were fitted with rather small feed-screw micrometer dials later models (probably post-war), were given a larger and very much easier-to-read type graduated in 0.001" increments.
Hardened and ground both internally and externally, the spindle was carried in a limited-travel ( 1.75-inch) fine-feed quill moved by worm and wheel gearing with a micrometer stop provided to compliment the fine-feed micrometer dial. The quill ran in special sealed "Super Perfect" precision pre-loaded ball bearings with the nickel alloy steel spindle rigidly supported in a pair of Timken taper roller bearings mounted back to back behind the nose. In addition a further refinement was incorporated (though not mentioned by Elgin): the 5-step drive pulley ran in its own bearings, with drive the spindle through a key, a design that relieved the spindle of any distortion due to belt pull. Cutter-holding collets were of the draw-in, direct-fitting type - either a No. 2AB or No. 2A as originally used on Reed-Prentice "Becker" millers (and still available today from Hardinge). Although there was no quick-action drill feed the whole head, mounted on the end of a solid steel bar that passed through the top of the main column, could be angled over at 90-degree to either side of vertical. Five speeds were provided of 400, 700, 1250, 2250 and 4000 r.p.m. driven by V-belt (which could be changed without any dismantling) from a rear-mounted, flange-fitted 1150 r.p.m. 0.5 h.p. motor.
Available for mounting on the owner's own bench, the miller could also be ordered fitted to the maker's laminated wood or 1/4" welded steel stand - the latter with a very robust 3/4-inch thick top plate. The main machine was 33.5 inches high, 24 inches wide, 22.5 inches deep and weighed approximately 1000 lbs. In 1953 the steel-stand version, complete with motor and wired ready to run sold for US$1550. A table power-feed unit was available for an extra $220, a swivel-base precision vice for $90, an indexing head for $125 and a 40 : 1 dividing attachment for £110. Collets for the spindle were listed at a modest $4 each, though today that has risen to a more substantial $147.
If you have an Elgin miller of any type the writer would be interested to hear from you..