Restoring A Strange Milling Machine From Craigslist

[diyVT] found a real white elephant in this milling machine from Craigslist. It cost him only $200, cheap for a small mill, so it was worth the gamble. We’re not sure what to call this — it’s not exactly a gantry mill, not a horizontal mill, and definitely not a knee mill. The tag says V-Mill, made by either Pierce West or Tree Tool and Die Works, depending on which ID plate you read. The Tree has a three-phase motor, but it came with a phase converter, so it should be good to run on single phase 220 volt household power.

The machine was in good physical shape, at least until the previous owner attempted to move it out of the garage. During the move one of the cast iron chain drive handwheel brackets broke into three pieces. Cast iron is no fun to weld. It has to be pre-heated, welded with nickel rod, and slowly cooled. Some hackers would have given up or built a new part, but [diyVT] accepted the challenge. He put the puzzle pieces back together, grooved them out with an angle grinder, and welded everything. The result wasn’t pretty, but it only has to take the force of the handwheel and the 200 lb gorilla spinning it.

After a bit of work on the motor and head, including a new belt, this tree was ready to cut. [diyVT] snuck out of a family bar-b-que to cut his first chips on the new (to him) machine.

25 thoughts on “Restoring A Strange Milling Machine From Craigslist

  1. ” During the move one of the cast iron chain drive handwheel brackets broke into three pieces. Cast iron is no fun to weld. It has to be pre-heated, welded with nickel rod, and slowly cooled. ”

    Now where’s that J-B weld article when one needs it?

  2. It’s way easier to braze cast iron, and I doubt you are gaining any strength by welding it. I’ve fixed a few castings that have been broken, welded, and broken again. Haven’t had a braze fail yet.

    1. Brazing was always my go to when doing cast iron – saw way to many folks really mess up with stick rod – you still need to be careful when brazing – but always worked for me, and that included several castings that weighed a few hundred pounds

  3. Tree was around until about the year 2000 or so. Long history, ending with fairly well regarded CNC machines. Back in the day, they sold, among the complete milling machines, vertical heads for horizontal milling machines. This appears to be a vertical head mounted on a Vmill.

    I have never run across a Vmill, or Pierce West, before, but there were a lot of manufacturers back in the day, some of which built machines to a price point that a head from a major maker could be mounted to. Nothing comes up in a <1min google search, so…..

    1. I’d call that a planer mill. Looks like an odd small planer that someone added a tree head to, or it may have come factory with it. Where the head mounts looks perfect for a clapper box. Unfortunately I couldn’t see anything about the long axis movement other than a handwheel. If the handwheel disengages and allows a power feed, it’s definitely a planer.

      1. Could be. I’m not sure of rigidity as a planer, but for the same reason you can’t identify long axis (Y) motion– not good enough view– I certainly can’t say anything against this conjecture

  4. I cast my vote for him to be banished from the internet until he gets rid of that piece-of-shit camera.
    wow. It’s like I just turned 40 again, lost my vision and knocked my glasses off my nightstand.

    1. The camera is fine, it’s just the voice controlled focus feature that is failing. You can here that he is voice commanding the camera to focus several times but the camera doesn’t then focus. The must be something wrong with the voice recognition!


  5. Nickel works but there are better options. My dad uses Lincoln 91K2H dual shield wires and migs it. V out the breaks and lay in a pass with he wire. While it is still red start peening it with a needle descaled to help eliminate stress. Keep making passes and peening till the break is filled in. This is how we welded all the covers on my Monarch 10EE and he has also welded all sorts of other stuff with this technique and never had a weld failure.

    Brazing works but it permanently contaminates the parent material so if you need to try something stronger than brazing you can end up SOL.

    1. The piece does not appear to need precision, and regular E7018 ban be used to weld preheated cast iron.
      Some peen the weld to relieve stress as it cools.

      We only wish this was not also done on precision parts for equipment…. =)

  6. this is wat i found on tree precision tooling :
    “Eagle Machine Tool Corporation announced the purchase of the assets of Tree Machine Tool Co., formerly located in Franklin, Wisconsin. Tree Machine Tool has an installed base of some 900+ machines in the United States. The purchase included all parts inventory, intellectual properties, customers and suppliers files. “With 18 years of retrofitting and manufacturing custom solutions, plus 16 years experience supporting the Dynapath Controls that were prevalent in the Tree Mills, we believe this purchase is a natural fit to future opportunities of Eagle Machine”, says Ted Fleis, owner of Eagle Machine.”
    could the millinghead is from tree i found one that looks pretty familiar to the one you have :
    found sumting under V mill , i think its the name for a gantry type milling machine in general
    hmmmm van norman has a gantry verry simulair to the one you have

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