High Value CNC Brands
This is a set of brands I've either personally used or seen mentioned as offering very high value. In some cases, they are high end, and in other cases they are simply lower end products that are better made than their competition. Brands in bold face are brands I have dealt with myself. The others were recommended by various online sources.
Alpha Gear: Low/no backlash planetary gearboxes for motor drives.
Bayside: Low/no backlash planetary gearboxes for motor drives.
Fafnir: Quality bearings.
Naachi: Quality bearings.
American National Carbide: High quality inserts for only about 2x the knock offs in price.
Carbide Depot: Has some Russian-made carbide inserts that are a great value. I've used these guys and they are great to deal with.
Gesswein: Makes of fine stones.
Kennametal Inserts: Outlast the knock offs.
Klingspor: Sanding discs. Buy CS411 alumina zirconia discs from Klingspor, or something similar from Norton, Walter, or 3M. They last 3-4 times as long sanding metal.
AB Tools: Their Shear Hog indexable endmill is said to make a 10 HP spindle look like its got 15HP.
Albrecht: Invented the keyless chuck. Lathemaster sells a knock-off that's very well made!
Atrax: Carbide end mills available from Enco. US made. People say they work pretty well, and they're very reasonably priced.
Atsco: High quality air tools.
Balax: Nice taps, available from MSC at reasonable prices.
Bison : Great lathe and collet chucks. Polish. Distributed by ToolMex. A recent query on HSM produced an almost unanimous praise for their quality!
Buck : Another great lathe chuck maker. I've got a Buck 6-jaw that is my favorite chuck. I never seem to use the 3-jaw any more!
Circle: High quality boring bars at reasonable prices (on eBay anyway). Division of Kennametal. I absolutely love my Circle boring bars. There is no comparison to imports.
Cleco: High quality air tools.
Cleveland: Drills & Taps
D'Andrea: Very high quality boring heads. A more modern variant than heads like Narex. Iscar and others private label these. Maritool will be private labeling at a great price.
DeVlieg: Very high quality European import tooling.
Dixi: Saito and DIXI are the premier manufacturers of micro-cutters for the watchmaking community.
Dotco: Very well made air tools. Not cheap!
Dorian: Make very nice tools. They have a particularly nice patented indexable dovetail cutter.
Dormer: Excellent taps and drills.
Duramill: Make great end mills.
Erickson Tenthset are great modern boring heads.
Everede: Make nice boring bars recommended by the gang on the HSM board.
Fullerton: Inexpensive but good cutting tools. Purchase from Discount-Tools.com. Niagaras and Hanitas are better, but more expensive.
Garr Carbide Endmills: For tough metal.
Glanze : Indian made carbide insert tooling. I have the CCMT lathe turning set sold by Grizzly--very nice!
Grobet: High quality files.
Groz, also called Bayard : Indian made vices and tables. Bayard is sold by Penn Tool. Good drill press vise choice. Buy a Kurt for your mill though.
Guhring: Folks on Practical Machinist swear these are the best drills.
Hanita: Awesome brand for endmills. Last forever.
Harvey: Excellent cutters, especially in small sizes.
Helios: German tools. I have a Helios planar gage.
Interapid: Indicators. Lots of pros swear these are the best indicators you can buy. I have a 0.0001" model.
Iscar Helimill: A couple of big steps up from the import face mills that use TPG inserts. Supposed to be 10x as efficient. Very costly though.
Keo: High quality cutters at reasonable prices (on eBay anyway). Single flute deburring tools work very well too.
Kant-Twist: World's best clamps. Throw away your C-clamps!
Komet: German manufacturer.
Kurt Vises: Doesn't seem to be any good substitute to these excellent vises. I bought a 4" and a 6" off eBay where they can be had for a little less than half what a new one costs.
Lovejoy: Lovejoy 205 insert face mills cut great and leave a nice surface finish. Preferred by some over flycutters. Rake angles make them good for light duty machine tools.
Micro100: US made carbide tools.
Minicut: Another good brand for endmills.
Mitee-Bite: A step up from the basic T-slot clamping sets. Highly recommended.
Moore: Awesome tooling, though Old School.
Narex: Makers of excellent boring heads.
Niagara: Their endmills and cutters get rave reviews. Not cheap, but very high quality. A new one will make your mill cut like it was a much better mill!
Nicholson: The best files to be had. Try their "lathe" files.
Noga: Indicator holders. Deburring tools. The Practical Machinist crowd swear they make the best indicator holders.
Northfield: Fantastically precise and repeatable chucks for CNC.
OSG: Very good Japanese made end mills.
PEC (Products Engineering Corp): Useful measuring tools for less than Starrett.
Phase II: Good quality Asian imports. I have their 8" horizontal/vertical rotary table.
Pratt Burnerd: A super high-quality lathe chuck. Looks like the next step up after Buck.
Precision Manufacturing: Very good quality boring heads.
Putnam: HSS cutters available from Enco. US made.
Rapid QCTP's: Very well made QCTP's.
Record: Excellent English-made vises.
Romicron make great modern boring heads.
Royal: Makes some nice products. Their EasyChange R8 quick change system is one example. I have a Royal live center that's great.
Saito: Supposed to be some of the best micro-cutters as used by the watchmaking world.
Seco Carbide Tooling: Especially the parting tools. R220-13 range is a very good multi tip cutter for a light vertical mill (BP and clone).
SGS: Great US made end mills. Try Carbide Depot for good prices.
Simonds: High quality files.
Sip: Very high quality rotary tables.
Skoda: Eastern European live centers that are well made.
Slater: Rotary broaching tools.
Suburban: Nice precision vises for surface grinders among other things.
Swiss Precision Instruments: Despite the name, they are headquartered in California and make all sorts of nice stuff. J&L, McMaster, and MSC all carry their products.
Thinbit: Great small tooling brand. They're owned by Kaiser.
TMX (Toolmex): Indexable tooling. Same guys as sell Bison in the Americas.
Tree: Made an amazing automatic boring head capable of cutting tapers:
Rotating slide determines what taper will be cut...
Vixen: Supposed to make fabulous files for aluminum.
Walther: High quality tooling, such as rotary tables.
Wohlhaupter: Boring and facing heads.
Yuasa: Even better quality than Bison, very good chucks, rotary tables, boring heads, and the like. I have several Yuasa tools and they're a cut above even Bison.
AccuSlide: Fabulous CNC conversion for Hardinge lathes. Just clamp it to the ways and it has the X and Z motions built in with ballscrews and linear rails. Turns the Hardinges into gang lathes.
Aciera: Very fine small mills. Originally Swiss, now owned out of Indonesia.
Alliant: Makers of Bridgeport clones. The story goes that these mills were made by Sharp in Taiwan. Supposedly, Alliant was made by the dealers that Bridgeport dumped one Christmas back in the early 80's. The biggest 8 or 9 dealers got together & each submitted one improvement over the 2J Bridgeport, had the machines made, & sold a bunch. My mill has oilite bushings in the VS drive, the motor shaft is supported on the other end of the VS pulley by a ball bearing (if you've ever had a VS motor off you know what I mean), has simple to adjust backlash adjusters on the X & Y axis, etc.
American Pacemaker: The gang on PM really love these machines, and rate them better than Monarch, Mori Seiki, or LeBlond.
Andrychow: Polish lathes that are built like battleships. Parts are available from www.toolmex.com.
Brown & Sharpe: People love the Brown & Sharpe surface grinders for their extreme accuracy and ruggedness.
Cadillac: Great 14" lathes made by Takisawa.
Cincinnati: Great stout machines. The VC750 comes recommended as a starter VMC that's available cheaply.
Colchester: A good alternative to the Monarch lathes.
Darex: Makers of the oft-maligned Drill Doctors as well as the much better made professional tool sharpeners.
Dean Smith and Grace: Very high quality older manual lathes.
Deckel : Everyone knows this German brand, which is pricey. What are the alternatives, clones, and knock-offs that are good? For example, Harbor Freight has a knock-off cutter grinder.
Dumore: The most popular brand of toolpost grinder.
Ellis: Really nice horizontal bandsaws that last forever. I like the look of the machines. They can be used vertically too.
Emco: Not Enco--EMCO. Very well made Austrian small machines. The Asians copied them for a lot of designs.
Emco Compact 5 CNC Lathe: Note the 3 position tool turret!
ESAB: Makes great plasma cutters (I have a PowerCut 1500) that often sell for less than Miller because they're not as well known in the States.
Feeler: A Taiwanese clone of the Hardinge lathes as well as nice drill presses. These machines have a good reputation and can be had at a discount compared to a real Hardinge.
Feeler: A Taiwanese Hardinge HLV-H Clone...
Fehlmann: Swiss made small jig borer that can also mill and is extremely accurate. Would be sweet in a home shop!
Fehlmann Jig Borer...
Gack: A really modern German shaper. They are a bit unorthodox and hard to find information on, however.
Goodway: Very well made lathes from Taiwan.
Grizzly: A lot of folks say their quality control is better than some other Asian dealers.
Grob: Make the best vertical bandsaws as well as a big version of a die filer that is very well made.
Hansvedt: Make interesting benchtop EDM sinkers. One of their manual sinkers would make a cool CNC conversion.
Hardinge HLV Lathe: An excellent high precision lathe available in the used markets. Also see "Feeler", a Taiwanese company that made a nice clone. Hardinge second op, chuckers, and TFB lathes make excellent CNC conversion candidates. AccuSlide and OmniTurn make these conversions (or did, AccuSlide no longer in business). The CHNC is an awesome purpose-built CNC lathe. Hard to find these unless they're pretty old, shops make too much money with them and they're built to last. It isn't hard to restore one. Several great threads on restoration over on CNCZone.
Haulin: Very slick looking French lathe. The ELP 5024 looks like a nice size for hobbyists.
Hwacheon: South Korean Mori Seiki clone.
Lathemaster: A better-quality mini-lathe. Also look for the 8x18 sold by others. Note that their keyless chucks are also extremely nice and much cheaper than an Albrecht.
Lisle: Another high quality drill sharpener. The Lisle 91000 is supposed to be especially well made.
Lodge & Shipley: There are those who say the Hi-Turn lathes are just as accurate as a Monarch 10EE but with greater capacity.
Logan: Great lathes. Can be had for less than South Bend-larger machine for less money. Still being supported too.
Matsura: Supposed to make great CNC's that never wear out. Machines that are particularly highly recommended include:
Maxturn: Maxturns were made by Takisawa, which is a good brand.
Monarch 10EE : Super precision high tech for pre-WWII technology lathe. The electronics for the variable speed are finicky and scare some folks off, but in the worst case they can be replaced with a modern VFD (purists will hate you for this!). They are probably the most beautiful lathe design ever:
The gorgeous Monarch 10EE in newly restored form...
Moore: These guys invented the most precise machines and tooling in their jig boring lineup. Not sure what you'd do with one in a home shop, but I always look at things made by Moore.
Mori Seiki: All the precision of a Hardinge or Monarch in a much larger capacity lathe. Mori's were some of the best manual lathes ever made. Check out the Korean-made copies that were licensed by Mori by brands like Webb and Hwacheon. Their CNC machines are also supposed to be built like tanks: real precision machines that last forever. People are still getting great mileage out of 80's-vintage SL lathes such as the SL-1's and SL-2's.
Myford: Perennial favorite small lathe of the English.
Namseon: Another South Korean company making Mori Seiki clones.
Nardini: Excellent Brazilian-made lathes. Look for the ones with green paint as the ownership changed hands when they started painting them gray. The green ones are nicer, though newer gray ones aren't bad. They're a definite cut above most of the Asian imports.
Okamoto: Very well made Japanese surface grinders. Not quite as well regarded as Brown & Sharpe or Taft Pierce, however.
Okuma: Japanese brand. Good manual lathes made by Takisawa. More recently they make very fine CNC lathes and mills. Supposed to be a little harder to use but much more accurate and higher performance than Haas.
Rivett 608 Lathe Restored...
Rivett: Extremely high quality small precision lathes.
Schaublin 13 Milling Machine...
Schaublin: The Deckel of lathes. Also make beautiful small mills--Schaublin 13.
Sidney: Very well made lathes. Stopped manufacturing in the early 60's.
Southbend Lathe on Custom Bench...
Southbend: A low end lathe in its time, but still of "professional" quality, the Southbends are much sought-after today.
Standard Modern Lathes: Great Canadian lathes and still in business.
Smithy: Another higher quality than usual Asian made tool.
SRD: Make a drill grinder / sharpener that many say is the best there is.
Summit: Good solid heavy-duty lathes.
Taft-Pierce: Highly prized small surface grinders because of their compactness and their tilting head.
Takisawa: Good imported lathe.
Thiel: Very fine German milling machines--similar to Deckel.
Themac: Precision toolpost grinders--top end and very expensive when new!
TOS: Well made Czechoslovakian lathes. Not quite as good as Mori Seiki and the Korean clones, but pretty nice. Also, their FNGJ 32 mill is supposed to be very nice and well made.
Tree: They made my favorite knee CNC mills, the 325's and 425's. Very well made and rigid machines that are said to run circles around Bridgeport knee mills. They also have amazing boring heads.
TRENS: The brand name that came after TOS for well made Czech lathes. Prices have gotten pretty high after Czechoslovakia joined the EU due to currency exchange rates.
Victor: Good lathes made by Takisawa.
Webb: Good lathe brand. Also called "Whacheon". South Korean Mori Seiki clone.
Webo: Cool European drill presses.
Webo Drill Press...
Weiler : Supposedly awesome lathes from Germany.
Whacheon: Good lathe brand. Also called "Webb". South Korean Mori Seiki clone.
Wohlhaupter: Some say these are the world's finest automatic boring heads. Those folks probably haven't seen some of the even more expensive heads available such as a D'andrea, but the Wohlhaupter is definitely a very finely made German product.
YCI / Supermax / Super Max: Bridgeport clone that's better made than the originals according to several sources I've heard. Alliant is another such.
Yuasa: Takisawa made the 14" lathe for these guys.
Given my fascination with all things CNC, I had to include my crib notes for this area.
SHS (Best, 4-way loading, caged balls)
Whoops! Careful Rigging That New Machine Tool!...
Do you want to be a better CNC'er?
Get Better Tool Life, Surface Finish, and Material Removal Rates.