Jump to content
I Forge Iron

Bolton ZX45 Mill Drill?

Recommended Posts

RPM is way low for a lot of things which might be a bit aggravating if you use small milling cutters.  That's one problem with the chinese geared head machines--they compensate for other issues by taking away the higher RPMs.

I haven't use that particular brand but have used similar in other brands.  They have good points and bad.  The geared head is really nice...but will be a bit noisy in a chinese machine and gear life is a crap shoot.  In spite of the theoretical horsepower, this aint no bridgeport so you'll have to learn what the machine likes and hates--and work with it instead of trying to make it work with you.  They're OK for casual light use as long as your expectations aren't for a true "industrial" mill.

Expect some spindle run-out and that you'll probably have to toss out the chinese drill chuck and get a better one right off the bat (and a better quality arbor the new chuck).  

If you have room, a way to move it, and can wait, it tends to be a better value to buy a used bridgeport/clone of the heavier machine on the used market.  Most of the time they are far above the lighter mills, even used, and the value is better.  It might cost 50% more to begin with but will hold it's value better so actually costs less in the long run.  Not everyone is in that situation though.  I toss the idea out because I wish to heck that's what I had done in the early days rather than thinking the mill/drill/light mill route was reasonable.

There are other foibles on these like poor adjusters for the gibs and other mediocracies.   Overall, it's better than none but not by enough to say that it's a great way to spend your money.

So what do you intend to do with it? That has a lot more to do with whether it's appropriate than anything else.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey josef,  I haven't used that machine, but I know a bit about those style machines.  What are you looking to do with it?  They can be good little machines for light duty, small work. If you have the room for it a full sized mill can usually be bought for the cost of one of the bench tops.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the feedback, folks.  While I would love to have a used bridgeport, I'm not sure I've got the room for it.  My needs are fairly simple.  I have an itty bitty Grizzly mill drill that I have been using for milling out parts for pedal steel guitars and also for milling out peg boxes, and nut and bridge slots for dulcimers that my wife builds.  I've enjoyed using the little mill drill but have at times wanted something larger.  Also, I getting ready to build some things that will require either hiring a machine shop to do or do them myself and thought maybe this would be a good time to upgrade.  A lot of times I would like to be able to fashion special fixturing for ironwork projects and a mill would help out a lot.  I'd like to be able to mill out special dies for my power hammer, and I know that a mill drill won't be as fast or powerful as a bridgy but I'm usually not in a huge hurry either.  I want to stay simple.  I don't want or need DRO or power feed.  One nice thing about the Bolton is that the head will rotate 90 degrees so that I can drill a hole in the end of a long shaft and then thread it.  I like the idea of a gear head cause I can change speeds easily.  The Bolton seems like an okay compromise, just unsure of their reliability.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ok, it does sound like your uses is generally reasonable for a machine like this and you do understand that it's not the same as a full blown mill (many don't understand that bit).  Simply understanding that the machine is what it is... is half the battle on these.  Proper expectations count.

It's chinese and the same as about 10 others sold under different brand names if not exactly the same.  The only thing to know is that being of that heritage, you'll have to do some tweaks and fixits right off the bat.  The one issue that really bites is spindle run-out.  If there is any way you can test the actual machine for run-out before you take delivery, that can really pay off.  Nothing worse than getting a 700 pound machine in your shop only to find that you've got .005" run-out or more in the spindle.  The fix for that is a bit hard.

If you can replace any bolt that you might have to touch (like riser clamps) straight off with top quality, it will pay.  I've snapped those chinese bolts several times because they are so poor.  The chinese bolts also tend to gall in the threads so at the very least, you need a good anti-seize on them.

One benefit of the Grizzly version over this brand is that Grizzly is large enough to back up what they sell.  They do tend to help if the machine has problems.  They're not perfect but they don't usually just point fingers back at you.  I see Grizzly has the same machine at basically the same price.  Jet tends to be a little more expensive but there are some Jet dealers who have machines that you might test on the floor before you take it home.

It will pay to skip the cheaper tooling and buy the good stuff.  It might cost more at first but is well worth the extra expense over most of the chinese R-8 endmill holders for instance.

Since getting the geared head Doall drill press, I can say that geared head is wonderful.  You will be losing the higher RPM option but since your use seems quite variable, I think it is likely a good idea for you.  No more vibrations from "belt set" or the fiddly work of changing pulley grooves means you tend to choose the correct speeds instead of just fudging it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 months later...
On 7/5/2017 at 4:01 PM, BIGGUNDOCTOR said:

You find the small table Bridgeports everyonce and awhile and they are less expensive because of the small table. I see used vertical mills for under $1500.

My first Bridgeport had a 30" table and a round ram with a J head. 

Later I bought a much newer machine with a 48" table and power feed but no head. The round ram J head fit but was missing the head rotation gear. 

Eventually I put a much newer J head on it as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've looked at used Bridgeports a lot in the last while.  It's very frustrating because they are either more expensive than these mill drills or they are far away from me in Knoxville, TN.  I'm currently looking at the Precision Matthews PM-932 mill drill.  I got some bad reports about Bolton, but at least one good reference about PM-932 on another forum.  I'm trying not to be in a hurry though.  Still looking.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...