I’ve been in 4 different shops over the past 5 years. For most of that time, I was just trying to put together the tools needed to make bike frames I could be proud of, but lately I've re-prioritized my space for machining the tools I sell. The space I currently occupy is tiny at about 360 square feet. I have worked pretty hard to organize the space to make the most of it, and I need to continue to be very thoughtful about what sits where to make things work. I hope to get a video tour posted soon, but for now enjoy these photos and written descriptions.
My CNC Mill
This machine was made in 1996, and I bought it in the spring of 2018. It's a Bridgeport Torq-Cut 22 with a 6500rpm spindle, 22" x travel, 22 pocket tool changer, and it's even wired for a 4th axis if I ever get that far. What was once a serious industrial machine is now something most modern machine shops wouldn't waste their time on. It's not that the machine is any less capable today than it was 22 years ago—in fact with the development of CAM software to write the G-code programs for you, a machine like this is more user friendly and capable than ever. But when compared to new machines it is very slow and lacks some of the more sophisticated features and fluidity. It's a great machine for me because it fits in my shop and I don't have to make massive payments on it every month. It's an on-ramp as I figure out where I fit in the business and machining world, and sooner or later I will probably trade up to a newer and more capable machine. For now it's far more capable than I am, and I'm glad to have it and put it to work making good parts for framebuilders.
This manual mill was my first real machine tool. It was made in 1967 and I bought it in 2015. I used it to make a ton of little tools and fixtures around the shop, as well as to miter all the tubing for my bikes for a few years. I think a Bridgeport style mill is the manual milling machine for a bike framebuilder in a shop where space is limited. When you have more space, having a handful of horizontal milling machines is even better, as they can be set up for dedicated operations and they generally have a smaller footprint and are more rigid by design, but they just aren't that versatile and you need a lot of shop space to make that work well. One Bridgeport style mill can be set up to do all of your tube mitering, be used as a killer drill press, and be used to machine random tools and fixtures which are specific to your process that can't be bought. I intend to offer more and more tools that are ideal for use with a Bridgeport mill. I think framebuilders in smaller shops would be well-served to have a nicely equipped Bridgeport like I have had the past few years—with a digital readout, a Kurt-style milling vise, and a few shelves within arm's reach that hold all of the collets, necessary wrenches, a drill chuck, and the full complement of hole saws and arbors for mitering. A machine set up like this in addition to the right tools that can be set up and put away quickly is a super effective way to integrate machine mitering into your framebuilding process for relatively little money and space.
My Manual Lathe
I bought this machine when I bought the Bridgeport manual mill (Brigdy). I think for framebuilding the mill is more important, but the lathe is a close second. It's super useful for squaring and preparing head tubes, making your own seat collars, spinning tubes if you want to remove mill scale and polish them up, and especially for making all sorts of bushings, spacers, collars, posts, etc., in daily shop life. I sometimes wonder how people live without access to a lathe, as they are just so incredibly useful.