New surface grinder for my shop

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Dec 26, 2008
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Crewe, Cheshire, UK
I have had an old Herbert surface grinder for many years, and it has done sterling service over the years, easily achieving 0.0002" accuracy most of the time.



There has been one major problem with it over the years though, it only has a 7" x 4" stroke, limiting the size of jobs I could carry out.

So a new basic machine was ordered and was delivered about a month ago. This one will give me a grind size of 12" x 6"



I had major trouble getting this machine into my shop. The stand was no trouble, but the main casting, minus the removeable table, came in at around 400kgs (about 800 lbs).

I had thought of all ways to get this up the steps and through my shop, but manually moving it into the shop and onto the stand was the major problem.
Luckily John Stevenson came to the rescue will all the right kit to do the job, and it only took about 15 minutes. Having good friends really does pay off when you come across problems like this.

So now comes to the setup of the basic machine.

Firstly was to mount the magnetic chuck, getting it into the correct position and PERFECTLY in line with the stroke of the machine. That was really no problem with a 1/10ths clock and a very steady hand. Unfortunately this is when I found the first problem.

The reason you set the table up to the machine is so that you can use the built on side and end stops to get your job perfectly positioned. These stop strips were made from aluminium, not an ideal material, so one of the first jobs will be to make new ones from strip steel.

I can work without stops for the time being, but yet again, another job has to be done. The mag chuck needs to be faced all over so that anything placed on the table will be ground perfectly parallel to the face of the job that is down on the tables' surface.

But first, the wheel has to be balanced.

Luckily I had managed to pick up a balancing unit very cheaply.

So the wheel had to be dressed to get it running straight before using the balance, that was soon achieved with the supplied dressing stick and holder.

Then it is a matter of mounting the wheel holder onto a balancing mandrel, again supplied with the machine, then place it onto the knife edges on the previously levelled balancing unit.


I ordered two extra wheel holders for a green and blue wheel as well as the normal white wheel. This one hasn't been fitted with balance weights just yet.
This one has, and five minutes later, the white wheel was perfectly in balance, having no heavy spots at all, just by positioning the balance weights in the correct positions. It is just a matter of practice. My old machine ran with no wheel balancing at all, no provision for it, and sometimes caused some bad effects on the ground surfaces, because of imbalance.


So the balanced wheel was fitted to the machine and I started to level the mag chuck.
The first run over got it level, leaving just a spark out over the surface to get it perfect.
Unfortunately, after a little while of doing the spark out, the grinding spindle dropped about 0.002", leaving a horrible groove across the table surface.
Not to be put off, I redid the table top, and on the second run it did the same thing, but not quite as deep.


Time for a bit of ass kicking at the suppliers.

Warco, from whom I had bought the machine couldn't come up with a simple answer other than annoying me stating that I had to go through the balancing routine first. After being told that I most probably had more experience than him with surface grinders (I used to do it in a production environment), he just shrugged his shoulders and left me to it.

So I really do need to sort this problem out before going much further.

I suspected that it was something to do with the balance weight down in the bowels of the main casting, used to support and balance the spindle as it goes up and down.

In these two shots, I have already lifted the support cable up, the cable normally just runs over the top of the cross bar with the locking nut, not an ideal situation, as the tension would be variable as it was metal to metal friction rubbing, plus also it could move from side to side.
I have come to the conclusion that the rough face of the balance weight is catching on the even rougher face of the column insides, so causing the hanging up and sudden release.



So after a bit of further exploration I have decided to swing the weight around slightly on it's lifting eye, so that it is more square to the column insides and make a roller for the cable to run over, so that it can't move side to side.

So that is as far as I have got with it at this time, so watch this space to see if I fall flat on my face. Unfortunately, I have to wait for my mate to come over to lift the weight out for me before I can proceed further.

Luckily, I have a bit more to show you before I had the machine moved into my shop.

As I said earlier, I had bought a couple of special wheels that should cope with 99% of what I want to do, and I had ordered a couple of machine holders for these wheels. Unfortunately, they are not supplied with balance weights, so I have already got through some of the making process.

Grabbed hold of a bit of rough stuff from the scrap box and turned the OD required (measured up from the wheel holders).


Then bored the ID.


Followed up by parting off the disk.



It fits just right


You never know, I might need a few extra over time, so I made two.


After putting on a marking coat, using a round bar centre finder, I roughly marked out the segments I require. They don't need to be exactly the same, something near enough will do just fine.


It was just a matter of getting the two opposing lines parallel with the vice jaws and making the cut.


But not cutting all the way through.


Then just snap them off, the second pic shows how many I made.



This is another job that requires finishing off, dressing, drilling and fitting a grub screw and ball bearing, but the machine fix must come first.

To Be Continued.


I assume that this was a Herbert 'Junior' and if correct, I had one until I moved to a smaller home.
I made mine into a tool and cutter grinder prior to getting a Clarkson Mark 1 and making a Quorn.

Unquestionably, a delightful tool.

It certainly was Norman, and it gave me many years of good and accurate service. I just hope my new machine can be made to work so well, as I have a dedicated grinding DRO to fit to it if it works out OK..

The Herbert started off as a 3 phase machine but I easily converted it to single phase whilst still retaining all the electrical safety switches.

Thanks, John.
Mine was 1PH and all of £100 and a few new wheels( for safety's sake) and saved me hours of hand scraping worn tooling.
I recall doing the worn saddle of a friend's Myford 7 and it was a few 'licks' and almost as good as new. The worn bed was Blancharded on a local Lumsden and at a cost of less thn £50all told, he had a very nice lathe instead of one only fit for turning bananas.

OK, I'm far too old( 85) to learn how to post - or even take digital photos but I can read questions about how to improve 'new' cheap lathes that have been built down to a price or a simple but impossible tool which can be created on a surface - or a tool and cutter grinder.

It would be interesting to see what the removal of a few tenths can create.

Thank you


I have found a surface grinder indispensable when it comes to things that need total accuracy or perfectly flat sliding surfaces. With the selection of wheels I have, I will be able to level off or shape anything from solid carbide to rubber. In fact I use my surface grinder for making and shaping all my tooling, from 15 thou wide parting or grooving tools to resharpening 16mm 6 flute solid carbide milling cutters, so proving that they aren't just for flatting things off.
With the correct tooling and accessories (built up over the years) it really is amazing what shapes can be ground on such a simple machine.

I have just noticed that someone over on MEM has just bought one of these machines.,5193.0.html

By the looks of it, he has no idea about this type of machine, and risked almost everything by not taking off the table (a 5 second lift off job) when lifting it into position. Reading the manual works wonders.

This machine is like most Chinese ones, from lathes to mills, very good value for the money, but do require setting up correctly for them to work to their best ability, and that is why I am showing a warts and all commissioning of one of these machines, just in case someone following along in the future at least stands a chance of setting it up correctly.

So if anyone has any questions, I will try to answer them to the best of my ability on the understanding that this is a machine that is new to me at this time. On the other hand, if anyone has already set up one of these machines, hints and tips will be greatly appreciated.

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I sort of followed 'your words and music' and then the pictures and found little if anything to criticise. Consequently, I have given it a 'Likes'

You mentioned 'doing ' milling cutters and whilst I have the usual gubbins for the Clarkson and the Quorn. Oh and the Kennet and (clears throat) a Stent, the most interesting addition was the Vertex BSO Dividing Head and tailstock. In a fit of self indulgence, I bought a set of collets as well. The Myford ones are sort of less versatile.
So I can 'do' ends of end mills and slot drills far easier than with the stuff that is suggested in the Clarkson books.

What I miss is a home made tilting table- which went with the old Herbert.

Having prattled too long, I look forward to what is a very important but often neglected branch of model engineering.


At the end of this saga Norman, I will show all the bits of tooling that make up my lathe and tool grinding kit, in fact, the lathe tooling holder is a very simple little thing that does a perfect repeatable job of it.

I have also invested in one of the Arc Euro mill cutter grinders, but it won't do more than four flutes or larger than 1/2", so that will be fine for when I build my new CNC mill, for which I now have everything ready to go after this grinder is sorted, so I also have an ER holder for the surface grinder for sharpening the ones it cannot do.

At the bottom of this page

I bought my 5C version many years ago and John S gave me the proto of his version so it can use ER collets as well.

So really, I have no use of a Quorn or any of the other sharpeners, as I don't use anything that I can't sharpen on my surface grinder, so to me, it is an indispensible machine.

I can quite understand it all but I'm a very old chap with a very short time left. My Stent came from a deceased builder and my part machined castings for the Kennet was getting rid of his workshop because of advanced lung cancer. The Quorn is one of those 'master pieces' that is a learning situation- at almost every turn.

The overall cost? A few fills of petrol or diesel- no more. However, I am always interested in what someone else does. It keeps the grey matter active- which is crucial to survival.

More power to your elbow- or whatever that means

Is it worth fitting a couple of sheets of steel down the inner sides of the column to smoothly guide the weight? I'm thinking of something like 18SWG and stainless, just to avoid any issues with corrosion over the years. They could be attached with screws from the outside of the column above and below the extent of the weight's travel.

The workshop in the development labs where I worked had a Herbert Junior, that I'd borrowed the use of a number of times for 'foreigners'. I learned that they were getting a new second hand grinder from the factory and asked If I could purchase the Herbert. I was told to ask the site manager and duly sent him a note asking to purchase the 'grinder that was being removed from the Labs'. He phoned me up and suggested £75 and I said I was happy with the price.

A couple of months later an invoice arrived in the post to my home address. "Jones & Shipman 1400 grinder. £75 + VAT" It turns out that the Labs had got a J&S grinder from the factory that they sent back because the hydraulic oil pump motor needed replacing!

Since I was planning my permanent workshop at the time, it got modified to fit the J&S grinder.:)

Surface grinders are wonderful things to have if you've got the room for them.
I have a machine that looks just like yours. My down feed is graduated to .001" so one of the first things I did figure out a vernier scale and print it on one of my printers. Just taped it to the machine but now I can dial in .0001".

You are certainly correct Mark, a surface grinder, from the view of the average model engineer looks a very extravagant bit of kit, but a basic one, maybe a couple of hundred pounds, can become a necessity at times, especially if doing a few outside jobs. With a few speciality diamond 1/16" cutting wheels (bought very cheaply off ebay) allows me to cut up and shape rock hard pieces of hardened steel without having to have it softened first, so if ever you get the chance of a cheapo one, take it, they can pay for themselves in no time.

With regards to the 'rubbing'.
I have already rotated the weight on the end of the cable and it looks like I will get about 3/8" clearance at the nearest point, so I think that should solve half of the equation, just need the pulley making to prevent it wandering side to side.


It seems that some of these machines are made without the balance weight down the main column, is yours one of those?

A couple of years ago, I bought a dedicated DRO for the Herbert grinder, but never got around to fitting it as the height wheel had a very good and solid scale on it, and a couple of 10ths could easily be achieved, so I saved it until this one was purchased, just needed to get an 8" scale for it instead of the 6" one I already had. The dedicated DRO easily reads to 0.0002" (but if I wanted any more accuracy, I could just buy a 0.001mm resolution one instead as the display head can use it) and it also has built in vibration dampening for a rock solid display, but for rough manual stuff, I have noticed that there is a fair amount of backlash in the handles, so they will be one of the next bits to look at, in fact, the scale in the Y axis moves by itself as you turn the handle because it has very little spring pressure holding it, I hope it will only be a spring bending exercise to cure it.
As I said before, most of these far eastern machines really do need a good dose of looking at when first commissioned to get them to give many years of good service. My large mill (Chester 836) didn't need anything doing to it, and it runs and cuts beautifully straight from the crate and the lathe (Chester Crusader), much the same thing, only needing a few cosmetic bits doing at the factory to make it a fantastically accurate machine, though I did have input at the suppliers before I would take delivery. I suppose it is luck if you get one that was assembled by a proper engineer or not.
I am just waiting delivery for some pointed grub screws to finish off the extra balance weights, so give it another couple of weeks and this machine should be ready for a lifetimes work.
On the other hand, I have sitting outside (under cover) a brand new Sieg Super X2P Hi Torque mill that I am going to convert to CNC, and that looks like there is going to be a mountain of work needed to get that rigid and accurate enough for what I want it to do. I suspect that this grinder is going to be needed to get that something like.

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It gets really interesting especially with the frightening dip in the value of China's economy.
Will the next surface grinder or indeed any Chinese product come onto our shelves- dearer or cheaper.
So John, have you paid 'more or less' than you ought?

Somewhat perplexed


A few years ago I kept a very close eye on far eastern prices, coupled with insider information from a few retailer friends, allowed me to give a 12 month warning about high price rises. They turned out to be spot on, and hopefully a few people managed to get their new machines at the lower prices before they got hiked up by as much as 50%. My mill is a good example, I paid 4K pounds for it just before the rises, it now retails at over 6.5K.

Unfortunately, this latest China fiasco I don't think is to do with manufacturing costs at this time but more of political unrest within the country between the old communist regime and the new 'westernised' thinking population. All I can see of the outcome is higher than normal price rises coming fairly soon, only time will tell if I am right or not.

With regards to my grinding machine, it pays to shop around. I purchased mine from Warco, hundreds of pounds cheaper than the same unit from Chester.

The only difference that I can detect is the colour of the paint.

Thanks John for the insight! Actually, I am really interested . However, I'm delighted to read of your purchase.

Thank you

You might be wondering where this post has gone, why the job hasn't been finished ages ago.

To cut a long story short, it began a couple of months ago as I was preparing for a wonderful holiday by the Black Sea in Varna, Bulgaria.

The holiday was fantastic, I managed to get about OK and even started to walk some more, but the problem started a week after I got back, and these two photos show my dilemma.

A few years back, I had an accident at work (not my fault) that left me with damage to the nerves in my right shoulder which left these three folded up fingers with very little strength in them, with only normal use of thumb and forefinger, so I made sure that all my machines were fitted with power feeds on all axis to allow me to continue using my shop, plus I started to use my left hand a lot more.


Now the dilemma.

About a week after I got back from holiday, I awoke one morning with the thumb on my left hand bent over and folded tightly across my palm, causing excrutiating pain if I tried to move it to where it should go.


So having to modify my shop the once to allow me to continue, it now looks like that things will have to be put on hold again until the medicos can sort out this problem for me, and by the prognosis, the thumb looks like it might have to go. I have enough trouble drinking my coffee now without losing the most important appendage on my hand.

So it might be a while before I can show again what I am up to, but bear with me, I will be back.

There are a couple of nice things to have happened to me, I have found myself a wonderful new partner, and my little pup 'Gunner' has grown into a fantastic little miniature red Jack Russell, who is never more than a few feet away from me.



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So sorry to hear you've got more medical issues. Hopefully you and the doctors will get it sorted out.

Glad to hear you've got others, human and animal, that can lessen the load a little.

You are one of many who is an inspiration to me when circumstances cause me to take things more slowly than I would like.

Wishing you the best,

Hi SS,

Thanks for the well wishes.
I have been through a lot worse than this over the last 15 years, and I have managed to overcome it each time. I will have to call it a day when all my limbs are non functional, I am at 50% give or take a little now, so hope to carry on a lot longer. The only problem is that my mind, even though I have very bad short term memory, has so many long term ideas and projects inside of it, it is the physical side that is letting me down.

Just to give you some idea of 'Gunners' size BTW. The mesh behind him is 3/4", giving him a shoulder height of around 7.5 to 8", very small indeed for such a powerful little package. He will make an ideal 'ratter' as he will be able to go down very small holes. I just need to find him a 'red' small lady friend to get his breeding established.

My new lady friend has really brought me back from the brink with her understanding. She is forcing me to carry on with my machining, and even when eventually move to Bulgaria, she has said I must take my workshop with me. Don't get many like that nowadays.

Thanks again SS

Best wishes with your medical issues John. Can't go past a Jack Russell to take care of you. This is my little rascal Benji

Thanks Larry, and Herb, great little dog, he or she, I am sure Benji gives you more love and attention than you could ever give it.
Having had Jack Russells for 40 years, I just can't be without one in the house.
Shame about the breed not being correctly recognised by the upper echelon of snob breeders, except for the Parsons, which to me looks nothing like a JR.
I had one of the very first chocolate brown JR's in the country, but they are now fairly abundant in certain areas, but the red ones are rather rare, even though they originated from the choccy brown ones, and I would like to get them established before they die out completely, that is why I didn't have Gunner castrated when he was a pup. I just hope I can find a nice lady for him from a different gene pool.

I actually got into my shop for an hour today, and even though my pain threshold had been reached, I did manage to get some of the pulley made for the surface grinder. Another hour and it should be finished.

Thanks again gents