Ultimately when a person purchases a machine it is their purchase and they need to be happy with what they bought. From 1971 to 1999 I was involved in the machining/manufacturing business in various capacities. I learned the trade through an abusive apprentice system and made everything one could imagine from stamping dies, forming dies, injection molds, cams, machinery,and propellor blades. In the 1980s I also went back to school and became the manufacturing engineer for the company. When I look at a machine now I look at things that made machinery function well in the past and do my best to ignore things that are unimportant. For me this makes the task of deciding to purchase a machine or not purchase a machine the result of asking and answering certain questions:
1. What do I need the machine to do? Will it provide enough bed size and X,Y Z capacity for my needs? Does it offer precise positioning and feed control in the X,Y and Z axis?
2. Will the machine provide the amount of precision and repeatability that I need?
3. Are there features on the machine that I don’t need that will make it stop working if they malfunction?
4. Is it made from machined cast iron and contain enough mass and weight? Does it have sufficient power and rigidity to take a decent cut in steel without stalling out or shaking and vibrating?
5. Most importantly, will the machine take industry standard accessories like R-8 collets, boreing heads, R-8 end mill holders, quality Jacobs and Albrecht chucks? Will the bed hold at least a 4″ rotary table that uses a dividing plate and sector arms? Will it take a standard clamping set? Will it take a small industry standard milling machine vice?
I had the same choice a few years ago and bought a Harbor Freight Mini Mill instead of a Proxxon or Sherline. It was around $500.00 dollars and was one of the best purchases I could have made.