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Out of the box, the mini-mill comes with an adjustable plastic chip shield, but a few hours of working with it convinced me that it was impractical for my needs. First of all, it is too small and gets in the way of the work. Secondly, while it can be raised up and down, the range of movement is too limited to be very useful - especially during drilling operations where the head moves up and down by several inches. Finally, it gets in the way when you need to change tools, tempting you to leave it off permanently.
I did, however, appreciate the extra protection it provided, so I set out to design a better chip shield that overcame the shortcomings of the stock shield. After several iterations, the one described here has proven to be very practical and easy to use, as well as easy to make.
This shield is somewhat like the stock shield, but much larger and easier to use. The front of the shield is flat for excellent visibility while the angled tabs on either side deflect chips towards the back of the work area. A small brass handle facilitates lifting of the shield and the shield can instantly be locked in place at any desired height over an 8-inch range, or left to move on its own as the head is lowered and raised. This ability of the shield to "float" is especially useful when drilling, as the shield stays in place as the head is moved up and down. A swirling mass of drilling shards rapidly spinning a few inches from your face will quickly give you an appreciation for this feature.
When the shield is in the fully raised position, which takes just a second, it is completely out of the way of the work - and the milling tool if you need to change tools. Another incidental safety feature is that the raised shield blocks access to the motor controls, ensuring that the shield is lowered into operating position before the mill can be powered up. For operations where the shield simply is in the way, it can be removed completely in about 2 seconds and later replaced just as quickly. Additional shields designed to your own specialized shape and size requirements may easily be adapted and mounted as needed.
Skill Level: Intermediate
Topic Length: About 25 pages when printed