Micro-mill and dial making

Thread: Micro-mill and dial making

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  1. #1
    Member doctorb's Avatar
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    Micro-mill and dial making

    Hi guys,

    There have been a few people asking about suitable mill types for watchmaking. From what I have read, the two best and affordable are the Taig and the Sherline. My question is whether CNC is required to make a dial, or whether a manual mill will be able to perform a suitable job? Obviously this answer depends on the complexity of the dial, but lets think something simple, maybe along the lines of a Pyrolume watch dial.

    Is it possible to cut out a dial blank and cut out some simple index marks on a manual mill? Or is CNC required for this type of work?

  2. #2
    Member SquishyPanda's Avatar
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    Re: Micro-mill and dial making

    Precise instruments were made for centuries without computers. I imagine a manual watchmaking mill/lathe should have markers specifically for watch applications, i.e. you can rotate the table in 1-hour (30-degree) increments easily, etc.

    CNC would only be necessary if you're doing really complex stuff with irregular shapes.


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    Re: Micro-mill and dial making

    oops
    Last edited by skoochy; May 20th, 2009 at 13:53.
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  4. #4
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    Re: Micro-mill and dial making

    Quote Originally Posted by doctorb View Post
    Hi guys,

    There have been a few people asking about suitable mill types for watchmaking. From what I have read, the two best and affordable are the Taig and the Sherline. My question is whether CNC is required to make a dial, or whether a manual mill will be able to perform a suitable job? Obviously this answer depends on the complexity of the dial, but lets think something simple, maybe along the lines of a Pyrolume watch dial.

    Is it possible to cut out a dial blank and cut out some simple index marks on a manual mill? Or is CNC required for this type of work?
    All mass produced indexes I've seen are made by stamping. I forget what the exact technical term is, but it is the type of blanking where the blank is supported from the bottom as the tool comes down through the die by a second tool beneath the die. I've heard this called "precision blanking" but I don't think that this is the textbook name.

    Or, you can do what I do when I need indexes and make them with a file. As you can make also all flat watch parts, including pallet forks with a file (or series of files) if you are patient and take your time about it, you can do indexes also.

    The first index I made I threw away three attempts before I did one that satisfied me. Now I suppose it would look crude to me. The section in Daniel's book on Watchmaking that deals with making pallets was my guide in this.

    On an engraving forum, I've also seen indexes of great complexity and precision produced by Western (Cowboy) engravers making very elaborate Rodeo presentation buckles. They do the "indexes" with jeweler's saws and files. The sizes of the numbers and letters is pretty much the same as watch dials.

  5. #5
    Member doctorb's Avatar
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    Re: Micro-mill and dial making

    Quote Originally Posted by Somewhere else View Post
    All mass produced indexes I've seen are made by stamping. I forget what the exact technical term is, but it is the type of blanking where the blank is supported from the bottom as the tool comes down through the die by a second tool beneath the die. I've heard this called "precision blanking" but I don't think that this is the textbook name.

    Or, you can do what I do when I need indexes and make them with a file. As you can make also all flat watch parts, including pallet forks with a file (or series of files) if you are patient and take your time about it, you can do indexes also.

    The first index I made I threw away three attempts before I did one that satisfied me. Now I suppose it would look crude to me. The section in Daniel's book on Watchmaking that deals with making pallets was my guide in this.

    On an engraving forum, I've also seen indexes of great complexity and precision produced by Western (Cowboy) engravers making very elaborate Rodeo presentation buckles. They do the "indexes" with jeweler's saws and files. The sizes of the numbers and letters is pretty much the same as watch dials.
    I'd love to see some examples!

    Anyone have any experience in using a manual mill for dial making?

  6. #6
    Member skoochy's Avatar
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    Re: Micro-mill and dial making

    . .
    Last edited by skoochy; May 19th, 2009 at 09:06. Reason: Can't delete!
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    Re: Micro-mill and dial making

    I think the biggest mistake I made was going for a "budget" mill instead of a more industrial piece of machinery. The microkinetics benchtop mill that I have is very good value for the money (about $6k with all the addons) however it lacks support for many of the better CAM software packages or any sort of probe / scanning setup. To answer your question, you can produce just about anything on a hand driven mill or lathe. It is probably a milder learning curve as well since you don't have to spend time figuring out the mysteries of G-code. You can always pickup a solid mill such as a sherline 5400 and upgrade it with CNC controllers and stepper motors down the road. If you are even remotely considering machining case components I would strongly suggest you take the plunge and put yourself into an entry level industrial CNC mill right off the bat. It is a tremendous up front investment (probably $15k usd) but if you're resourceful you'll find a way of making it pay for itself within 6 months. If you are looking to just make dials you may want to consider purchasing a simple lathe for a few hundred $ and investing the rest of your money on a vintage rose engine.

  8. #8
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    Re: Micro-mill and dial making

    Quote Originally Posted by doctorb View Post
    I'd love to see some examples!

    Anyone have any experience in using a manual mill for dial making?
    Try some of the engraving forums. There are two in particular that I look at and they happily co exist with each other. I have a reference to may favorite one at the bottom of this message. Lettering and making very small number is a constant theme with them.

    There are specialized pantographs (pantographic mills) that some engravers who have a lot of lettering work use to cut out very small letters and numbers also. All of these are manually operated.

    I've done dial printing, but I've never turned a dial, such as cutting a a depression for a small seconds hand or for a chronograph dial, but can't imagine it needs a CNC machine.

    Actually, dial making is a sub business of name plate manufacturing. Pretty much everything I learned about dial making I have learned either on engraving forums or from reading name plate making sites.

    Another way that small letter, indexes and parts are made is by photographic milling. There's a book or two on the subject which you can find if you look around for them. I've never used this technique, but it is often used to make small thin metal parts for models and displays.

    The engraving forum I visit the most is Engraver's Cafe, which is at igraver.com
    You'll only occasionally find a post that deals directly with watches, but if you look at the posts selectively, particularly those on belt buckles, you'll find a lot of useful hints for hand making indexes.
    Last edited by Somewhere else; May 20th, 2009 at 05:13.

  9. #9
    Member doctorb's Avatar
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    Re: Micro-mill and dial making

    Quote Originally Posted by PyroLume View Post
    I think the biggest mistake I made was going for a "budget" mill instead of a more industrial piece of machinery. The microkinetics benchtop mill that I have is very good value for the money (about $6k with all the addons) however it lacks support for many of the better CAM software packages or any sort of probe / scanning setup. To answer your question, you can produce just about anything on a hand driven mill or lathe. It is probably a milder learning curve as well since you don't have to spend time figuring out the mysteries of G-code. You can always pickup a solid mill such as a sherline 5400 and upgrade it with CNC controllers and stepper motors down the road. If you are even remotely considering machining case components I would strongly suggest you take the plunge and put yourself into an entry level industrial CNC mill right off the bat. It is a tremendous up front investment (probably $15k usd) but if you're resourceful you'll find a way of making it pay for itself within 6 months. If you are looking to just make dials you may want to consider purchasing a simple lathe for a few hundred $ and investing the rest of your money on a vintage rose engine.
    For dial making, are you saying that the best bet would be to get a mill, lathe and rose engine? Or that a lathe and rose engine alone will suffice?

  10. #10
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    Re: Micro-mill and dial making

    Hi there,

    If you can find a good cnc or nc mill with a good cadcam package you should be just fine.

    With practise it's not that difficult

    .http://www.embeddedtronics.com/micromill.html



    Regs

    Bry
    Last edited by bry1975; May 21st, 2009 at 04:06.
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