Legacy Ornamental Mill Review

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Legacy 1000ex

The Legacy Ornamental Mill is a rather unique tool; to my knowledge the only similar machines in the market are very low-end units and they are far less capable. There are some other types of machines that will do some of the same functions as the Legacy but not all of them. The machine I have is the 1000ex model, it has a 60" length capacity and is capable of milling tapers from the top and either left or right stock rotation coupled to "forward" linear drive.  Since the original purchase of this machine the manufacturer has changed the product lineup somewhat.  The 1200 model is the most similar to the unit describes herein.

At the time I placed my order there was about a six week lag for actual machine shipment. However the company did send out what they call the "media kit" immediately. This kit consists of the owners manual, a project book, a router bit catalog, and several videos. This gave me an opportunity to become a little familiar with the machine before it actually arrived.

The machine came packed in three separate boxes shipped via UPS. Very little of the machine is pre-assembled, the Legacy is really a kit, not a machine. The only shipping damage I could see was a small ding in one of the long aluminum rails, I was able to file the high spots away and rotate the rail so that no moving parts slid across that area. All the other parts arrived undamaged, each part or group is packed quite well; there were no missing parts, in fact, there is even a little bag of extra parts in case you need them.

Customer Service
I had seen the Legacy demonstrated at woodworking shows previously so I was basically familiar with what the machine could do. When I called to place an order I had few questions and they were answered by a knowledgeable salesman.

I have subsequently contacted Legacy by email on three occasions, although they acknowledged my initial request for the informational video prior to my purchase they have not responded to any of the three subsequent emails I have sent. Apparently if you want any information you'll have to use the phone, it seems like it defeats the purpose of posting an email address on their home page though.

In addition to the owners manual, there were four separate VCR tapes that come with the machine. The production quality of the tapes are pretty low however the information is somewhat useful and there are a few good tips on operating the machine presented in them. The "shop-notes" book has plans for several projects which are demonstrated in two of the videos. The plans themselves are fairly straightforward however they are not of the same depth as a typical magazine how-to article, most are only two pages long.

The owners manual is really a two part document. The first part deals with assembly and covers the 1000 and 1500 models. Aside from a few typo's, the assembly directions are fairly straightforward; every step is presented clearly and if followed closely the machine should go together correctly. The second part of the manual explains how to use the machine and perform several common operations. The instructions in this section are primarily text only with a few small illustrations. More illustrations would be nice especially for a new user; given the capability of the machine these instructions could fill an entire book if written and illustrated completely. Even though the manual isn't up to the exceptional standards set by the Leigh dovetail jig (for example), it is adequate and does present valuable information to the user.

As stated earlier, the machine when it arrives is just a bunch of parts, 99% of the assembly must be done by the owner; this makes the Legacy a "kit", not a machine when it arrives. Working over a couple of days I was able to assemble the unit in about 4 hours. The assembly is broken down into logical stages, each stage has an associated bag of parts. Separating the parts into bags this way is a great idea, otherwise a great deal of time could be spent hunting for the right part amongst the hundreds of individual items. I encountered very few problems when putting the machine together, I did have to make the X axis screw block holes larger to allow the shafts to fit into them. Nearly the entire machine can be assembled with the three Allen wrenches supplied with it. This isn't an accident since these wrenches are the ones used to configure the machine as well

Because it takes so long and there are so many parts to handle, one becomes quite familiar with how the machine is built by the time assembly is completed. While it would be nice to have the machine arrive completely assembled, a thorough understanding of how the machine is built is also of value since it must be physically re-configured during some operations.

The thing you don't fully realize if you happen to see the Legacy demonstrated at a show is how much cranking is involved, how dirty they are, how hard they are to clean up, how loud they can be, or how much thought could be required to setup the tool depending upon what you are going to do. I don't fault the demonstrator for this in any way but one should not be too surprised at any of this.

After using the machine for only a short time, it is quite evident that there is a whole lot of cranking involved as well as loosening and tightening of screws to configure the machine and change gears. Thought should be given before changing the machine setup because duplicating an exact setup later could be difficult. I have had a problem with one of the rotation direction gear sets. The flat plates on either side of the gears came loose and rotated out of position. The big gear that rides on the rotation gears wobbles a bit (it has to have some slop in it to be able to work) and without the plates it is likely the gear will jump off of the direction gear (to some degree this is an issue with the replaceable drive gear as well). The most likely result of this is the stock will be ruined. I disassembled the gear sets and re-assembled them using thread-lock on the screw threads, so far this has resolved the problem.

With the two crank handles installed to operate the headstock and X-axis independently the crank handles can hit one another. I cut the end off of one so this would not happen; a picture of this can be found on the "walk-around" page.

On the 1000 and 1500 models the bed can be tilted quite a bit (compared to a traditional lathe). To adjust the bed tilt angle 6 bolts need to be loosened and re-tightened. On the 1000ex model the method of lining up the bed is somewhat crude. If precision is required the bed height or tilt needs to be checked with measuring tools to make sure it is set at the desired angle or a consistent height below the cutter. With the optional leg stand kit there are two crank wheels at either end of the mill that can be used to move the bed more conveniently. These are only available as part of the $400 stand. When the machine is being assembled it will be important to make sure not to get the outer and inner bed rails too close together, this will make it difficult to move the bed rails. When I assembled mine originally I made them too tight. I have since separated them by a few hundredths and it is much easier to move the bed now.

One aspect of the machine that should be understood is that it is more or less designed to be operated in a "free-form" manner. By that I mean the measuring and setup devices aren't really precise nor convenient enough to be used to make precise and repeatable cuts when compared to most shop machines. That does not mean that the machine is sloppy (well I guess it does mean that); anyway, this isn't the kind of machine you operate "by the numbers".  It's forte' is in producing parts that are close-enough not necessarily 100% to plan.

The Legacy does require an inordinate amount of fiddling in order to accomplish anything.  The major frustration for me is changing bits.  I've used two types of routers on this machine and neither is particularly friendly when it comes to bit changes.  The only way I can see this improving to an almost tolerable level is to use the Eliminator chuck for PC routers.

The recommended practice for cutting is to always feed in a single direction.   Doing anything else is an invitation to error.  This is mainly because of an induced error that is translated into the Y axis when the carriage changes direction.  The error corrects itself when one returns to the original feed direction.

Dust Collection
The factory offers a dust collection kit, this kit is designed to be used with the leg stand but there are a few parts that are attached to the router carriage. The fabric chute that makes up part of the DC kit should make cleanup quite a bit easier but the machine by nature will create a LOT of dust and chips that aren't going to conveniently land in the chute.

While the dust collection could be improved with the DC kit and / or other measures I don't see how using the machine could ever be as clean an operation as many other machines in the shop. A compressed air supply is very useful for blowing chips out of the rails and other parts.  Bottom line, be prepared for a big mess.  I have made my own dust curtain to hang from the router carriage, it does help deflect the chips to a more convenient pile.

This machine is unlike most woodworking tools; compared to most other woodworking machines, you could make some projects almost in entirely on the mill alone. Until you have to start changing gears on the machine, it's somewhat fun to operate.  If you could change sync ratios and directions with the flip of a switch you could really be creative with the machine (assuming it was easy to change router bits too).  As it is, the manual gear changes and cranking kind of put a ball and chain around the creative process; you can do it, but it just isn't convenient - this become obvious very quickly.

The Legacy is overpriced for what it is; a kit of parts.  A current model similar to this runs over $2850!  Unfortunately there aren't many alternatives available if you are looking for a something that will do the same basic functions at the same capacity.  The cheapest alternative would be to make your own but that would require quite a bit of effort (it has been done though).

As to the machine as a tool, it can provide nearly limitless creative possibilities just like the company advertisements state. The forte of the Legacy is in operating it as an indexing long bed lathe.   Although it is theoretically possible to do joinery on it, the mediocre accuracy and repeatability places limitations on this.  Make no mistake about it, this is a thinking-mans machine. If you want to be able to successfully produce shapes and joinery with this machine it will take a concerted effort to understand how to operate it.   However, if one takes the time to learn how to use it within its limitations, this machine could allow a user to expand their woodworking repertoire quite a bit.