Astra L4 vertical/horizontal imperial milling machine.

(Now sold - I'm leaving this page up as it may be of interest to other Astra owners).

This machine is fitted with the rare quill-feed vertical head rather than the bevel-drive 'knuckle' head more commonly found on Astras. This head offers much greater clearance beneath the cutter as well as quick, simple speed changing and all the advantages of a quill, and is virtually silent in operation. (It's the same model featured on page 17 of 'Vertical milling in the home workshop' by Arnold Throp.) Both motors fitted are three phase - the original 3/4hp vertical motor and a new 1hp horizontal motor - and have been running via a single-phase inverter speed control recently for maximum flexibility. Vertical head and horizontal spindle have all new taper-roller bearings. This machine is in extremely good order - the vertical head in particular is in virtually new condition. Only two months since a complete rebuild of the whole mill from bare metal upwards.

Astra vertical/horizontal mill
Horizontal mill, vertical mill and drill in one compact unit

Main features:
  • Very small footprint. Ideal for small workshops
  • Vertical and horizontal capability in one machine
  • Self-powered head, so no compromise on speed ranges
  • Change from vertical to horizontal in seconds and back again with no loss of head settings
  • Horizontal mode can be a way to turn wheels and suchlike that are too big to turn in your lathe. (Think of it as a stub lathe that will swing up to 2' in diameter!)
  • Head can be fitted or removed via just three bolts
  • Head swivels 360 degrees
  • Table has rapid-traverse lever option as well as feed screw - could be useful for light slotting, graduating (see below) or perhaps surface grinding
  • Sturdy construction minimises chatter
  • Head can extend out on overarm to reach awkward surfaces
  • 2 MT sockets
  • On maker's steel cabinet stand with large built-in storage cupboard
  • Splits into moveable units. Packs into medium hatch/estate. Fits through domestic doorways.
  • British designed, Italian made
  • Horizontal and vertical modes have separate motor switches
  • No complicated wiring. Just plug three wires into your inverter and you're in business - get any speed without changing a single belt
  • Vee ways fitted with neat custom-made swarf covers
  • New drive belts fitted
  • Vertical socket has 'tang catcher' so drill chucks can't spin and spoil socket
This L4 also has some unusual features compared with other L4s I've seen and was probably among the last batch made. The main casting is 3.5" taller than normal and a correspondingly longer vertical feed screw is fitted. This gives even more usable room under the vertical head. It has also been fitted with a conventional bevel-drive vertical feed and hand wheel (by me, see below), in addition to the usual ratchet feed - a big improvement. Paintwork is a hard wearing enamel, mixed up to be an exact match of the original Astra blue/grey. The machine is complete with drawbars, original table stops, 1" precision-ground horizontal arbor and arbor support.

Eye-height view
This is the machine shot at average eye height to give a more accurate feel for its moderate size. You can see the switch to horizontal mode is made simply by moving out the overarm.

Vertical feed unit
This is the newly made vertical feed unit before painting.

Final components
Vertical feed components. A ball thrust bearing was added before assembly.

X travel --- 12.5"
Y travel --- 4.75"
Vertical travel --- 12"
Table size --- 16.5" x 4.75"
Sockets --- 2 MT
Base footprint --- 18" x 23"
Overall height 75"
Tee slots --- 2 (0.375" slots)
Table dials --- Imperial

Graduating the table feed dial
This shows an interesting use of the horizontal mode - graduating the table-feed dial using the Astra's lever crossfeed and table stops.

neil f
web dot master at riscy dot uk

More information on Astra mills can be found at:

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