email: tony@lathes.co.uk
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ELGIN Precision Millers
VM-5 & VM-2 Vertical and HM-5C Horizontal
Elgin Home Page   Elgin HM-5C Horizontal Miller

A 76-page full-range catalogue circa 1920/1930 with screwcutting
charts and details of other Elgin products is available


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 18
1/8" 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..

The superb Elgin Models VM-5 Precision Vertical Miller with the separate column and head mounted on the maker's welded metal base

Neatly arranged table power feed mechanism with a standard fractional h.p. motor fitted with a worm-and-wheel reduction gearbox and drive through the usual kind of universally-jointed shaft

Although the makers listed the spindle as running in special sealed "Super Perfect" precision pre-loaded ball races, it was the quill element that was thus supported, the spindle being retained at the bottom in a pair of Timken taper rollers arranged back-to-back to produce a very rigid installation. In addition, the pulley ran in its own bearings, so relieving the spindle of any distortion due to belt pull. Once fitted the roller bearings could not be greased - however, a good solution was to use  "Hi Compression White Lithium Grease", as might be employed in aircraft practice. The bearings were held in place by threaded "pin-spanner" washers with a bend-down tab for secure retention. 

Spindle components. Just visible on the outside of the quill housing are the teeth for the fine-feed drive


A later Elgin VM-2 with one-piece column and head purchased in the mid 1950s by a "Graham Research" - a Company still in business today


Elgin Home Page    Elgin HM-5C Horizontal Miller

email: tony@lathes.co.uk
Home   Machine Tool Archive   Machine-tools Sale & Wanted
Machine Tool Manuals   Catalogues   Belts   Books  Accessories

ELGIN Precision Millers
VM-5 & VM-2 Vertical and HM-5C Horizontal

A 76-page full-range catalogue circa 1920/1930 with screwcutting
charts and details of other Elgin products is available