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Lathe question

 
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  #1  
Old 12-25-2009, 07:07 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Texas
Posts: 295
Lathe question

I know... this is like the 1 millionth time that someone has asked this question. My bad

Here's the deal- I've been looking at lathes. Not the full on barrel making lathes. That's out of my league. I've been looking at mini lathes. Specifically this one. It seems to be the cats ass to the mini-lathe crowd.

I'm toying with the idea of teaching myself machining. I live too far away from anyplace that I could take lessons from and I'm not a complete novice when it comes to machining (almost but not quite). My thought is that I could tune up my skills on the little mini lathe and also figure out if I really want to take the next step up and buy a good tool room lathe without tying up a big chunk of money... except the lathe is just the beginning. I have enough Starrett measuring tools to get started so that's not a big factor. The "accessories" which are really what make the lathe a functional tool are easily the cost of all the way up to double the cost of the lathe. It's not inconceivable to have an $1,800.00 investment in a full on mini-lathe setup with all of the play pretty's that make it useful. That's Plan "A".

Plan "B" was to step up to the Grizzly gunsmith lathe and learn on it. However... I've seen mixed reviews on the lathe. Some say it's great for gunsmith work and some say it's too sloppy. It's also double the cost of any realistic estimate that I could make for a working mini-lathe setup and that doesn't count tooling and "accessories", power, a place to set the lathe up, etc. So, my initial investment to test the waters would be pretty high if I went this route. High enough that it probably makes more sense to shop carefully for a good toolroom lathe but a good version of those seem to be hard to find unless I wanted to tackle a lathe rebuild project. I don't. I wouldn't even know how to begin that process.

Plan "C" is to keep researching until the interest light goes out. I've been doing that for years... and the light never completely goes out...

Thoughts? Good or bad. All opinions are appreciated.

Merry Christmas
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  #2  
Old 12-25-2009, 10:33 PM
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Location: Carlisle, PA
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Re: Lathe question

You can buy the fully tooled mini lathe, then buy the Grizzly and have spent 1-1/2 times as much as it would cost to just get the Grizzly to start with.

I have a 12x36 Taiwanese gear head lathe that is 20 years old. I've used it to do a whole lot of things in that 20 years. Most recently I've used it to chamber and crown barrels for a couple of my hunting rifles. Works really well for that after I made a couple of minor modifications.

All lathes have slop in the cross feed and compound feed screws. One of the first things you learn to do is to work around it by always approaching from the same direction.

The feed screws on my 12x36 aren't perfect so I took a few minutes and made an attachment that allows me to use a dial indicator to measure cross feed travel.

I've looked at the Grizzly small and large gunsmith lathes at the show room in Lycoming PA. They look good to me. I see no reason the small one can't be used to do first class work including but definitely not limited to chambering and crowning rifle barrels.

Grizzly has a reputation for standing behind their tools.

Go to the gunsmithing part of this forum and and you will find all sorts of threads on the Grizzly lathes.

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They aren't perfect but there are some folks out there doing world class work on them.

Fitch
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  #3  
Old 12-26-2009, 03:57 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2009
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Re: Lathe question

Mike,

I've been a machinist for too many years, so I'll give you my opinion. The type of lathe doesn't matter. The condition really doesn't matter as much as it is made out to be.

What matters is learning how to use what you have. I could give a complete noob the best tool room lathe in the industry and he wouldn't be able to do squat with it. Now an experienced machinist could do excellent work on an absolute piece of crap.

Machining is a lifelong learning experience. Once you start on the lathe it won't be long before your after a mill and learning how to use a sine bar.

Get what you can afford now and step up to a better lathe later. If you crash a $500 lathe it won't hurt near a bad as crashing a $4500 lathe.
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  #4  
Old 12-26-2009, 04:35 PM
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Location: Texas
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Re: Lathe question

Quote:
Originally Posted by DragonsBane View Post
Mike,

I've been a machinist for too many years, so I'll give you my opinion. The type of lathe doesn't matter. The condition really doesn't matter as much as it is made out to be.

What matters is learning how to use what you have. I could give a complete noob the best tool room lathe in the industry and he wouldn't be able to do squat with it. Now an experienced machinist could do excellent work on an absolute piece of crap.

Machining is a lifelong learning experience. Once you start on the lathe it won't be long before your after a mill and learning how to use a sine bar.

Get what you can afford now and step up to a better lathe later. If you crash a $500 lathe it won't hurt near a bad as crashing a $4500 lathe.
I have a very good friend / machinist (he builds some amazing motorcycle parts. He protoypes on a mini-lathe that's set up for CNC and builds the production parts on a Bridgeport CNC mill and ??? CNC lathe. Not sure what the lathe brand is. The Bridgeport was an impressive thing to see. ) that has told me the same thing. That's why I didn't want to start on the $3,000.00 end (which is an el cheapo lathe when you get down to it). I think that the $600.00 micro lathe will tell me whether machinist work is for me. I think it is... Either way I'm looking at spending some money... At the moment I don't have a place to put something the size of the Grizzly Gunsmith lathe (if you don't count my dining room )

Thanks for the replies so far.
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  #5  
Old 12-30-2009, 10:41 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: South Texas
Posts: 55
Re: Lathe question

Mike,

Another possible way to view this is to look at your simple goal at this time. Do you want to just cut a few threads on a couple of barrels or do you just want to learn something new?

I get your point about being from Texas and no one to talk to or learn from. There are some awesome DVDs out there though…

One teeny-weeny little bitty consideration you may wish to keep in your back pocket; when you purchase a lathe and get started, you will be a McMaster or MSC junkie. You will be watching sales and free shipping for the next several thousand dollars. Load up on this stuff and when you decide to make your purchase of another lathe, then you get to staring at the bucks in tools you don’t know if they will be useful or simply fit your mini-jobbie.

It is like purchasing a long-range rifle; do you want to go the factory rifle route and have it slicked up or do you want to start with a custom long-range rifle?

Whichever way you go you will learn tons…that is what counts!

Happy New Year!
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  #6  
Old 12-31-2009, 12:43 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Blackfoot, Idaho
Posts: 8,115
Re: Lathe question

When I was in your shoes, about 2 mo ago. All thinking pointed at the need for a lathe.

My neighbor and shooting buddy has a larger one, size enough to do about anything with a rifle. I spent an afternoon with him machining a simple straight forward idea that I have. Set up time was the killer. Once rolling things went smoothly. But it was his lathe and his time. This was the factor that tipped the scales to purchasing my own.

My first attempts to find a used lather were futile.

I then searched all the mini-lathe forums I could find. This was an eye opener. Each lathe had some sort of down side. Most were made in the same city in china. Only colors differed.

I finally settled on the Harbor Freight model 93212-9VGA. (7 x 10) Its the same as models from other outlets but is red in color vs blue.

I went to the HF place and looked and studied, kicked and prodded and dinked around then got the idea to talk to the Man.

We wrangled a bit and I ended up with the
44859-4VGA (8 x 12) actual (8 x14) I figured that was a plus.

The next size down weights about 84#. This one weight about 254#. That must be a plus also.

Got it for the same $ out lay as I would have got the smaller version.

It seems that each store can make their own deals on some thing.
Freight was 0.00 as it was shipped to the HF store on the weekly delivery.

All in all it is working nearly perfectly for my needs which are prototype bullet/jacket development.

It runs quite true though centering the tail stock was a learning curve. My first project was to turn a bushing to hold bullets in the 3-Jaw head stock. It turned out very well but I have to learn how to polish the inside.

I have no previous machining experience or education. And know nothing about different types of metals other than copper and brass.

I've started the slow methodical acquisition of additional parts and pieces to make things a little more useful. Most things can be made DIY. Such as follow rests etc, and other innovations.

BTW, this model is not related to the smaller minis. Much more robust tail stock and is not made in Sieg(sic) China....but probably just down the road.

I can now add some much coveted letters after my name. Such as PPPM. (Pretty Piss Poor Machinist)
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  #7  
Old 12-31-2009, 01:45 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: South Texas
Posts: 55
Re: Lathe question

Mike,

You apparently have some knowledge and experience with Glocks so you have great foundation.

Even though we are in TX, there may be somebody close to you that has something of interest. Houston has a sizable steam train group. The DFW area has a gaggle of different lathe hobbyist, work groups, etc.

Go to PrecisionMachinist.com and see if you can find someone in the area. HomeshopMachinst.com, et al, will have someone poke their head up and invite you over. I emailed Grizzly and asked for references in the area and Midland/Odessa and Tyler were the closest to me in San Antonio (my lathe is in South Texas between Laredo & SA).

Another way to get someone to speak up is do like I did once, write "there must not be any machinists or hobbyists in South Texas..." or "I think I am one of three who owns a South Bend in Texas." They will come out of the woodwork.

They are out there and every single forum and individual I have participated with have multiples of individuals who are extremely experienced and exceedingly patience with a way of words and instruction.

Good luck!
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