A common misconception is that all milling machines come from the same factory and they just have different names on them. This confusion is understandable due to the fact that most milling machine builders have copied the Bridgeport design, function and style, therefore they look very similar to a Bridgeport.
But to answer the question plainly … no, not all mills are the same. While some marketing companies do put their name on the same mills as others, there are still differences.
To make things more confusing, many popular discount mills you see in books are bought in a large quantity from a factory that gives them the cheapest price. The marketing companies put their name on the machines and when they sell all of them, they start to shop and buy more mills from whoever has the cheapest price. The next time the cheapest price may be from a different factory.
This is why you can ask a user of a machine about his experience with a particular mill and he will give it a good review while another person using a machine with the same name may give you a different opinion. It can be because they are two different mills from two completely different factories.
With that said, you can quickly see the value in buying a name brand mill from a legitimate builder of milling machines.
Other important things come into play when buying a mill. For example, not all mills use Meehanite castings. Today Meehanite has become accepted by most as the best type of casting (Bridgeport used to use gray iron castings, but this process requires aging).
Not all milling machines have hardened & ground ways and table tops. Not all mills have consistency when it comes to general overall quality. The problem is these important details cannot be seen in a catalog or brochure, so a buyer has a real challenge trying to get honest answers to his or her questions.
The best solution to this issue is to buy from a trusted seller with a good reputation. Let’s face it, every machine will eventually need a part because all mechanical moving parts wear. The best time to ask questions about parts and service is on the front end of a purchase.
Buy from someone who will stand behind their machine, provide parts when needed and help you get answers.