First lathe - South Bend SB1001 for gunsmithing?

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing' started by Damascus, Feb 18, 2014.

  1. Damascus

    Damascus Well-Known Member

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    Hey guys, I own/operate a small gunsmithing business here in the mountains of western N.C. for the last 8 years. Since I served as a sniper in the Army for 3 years, I built my business around long range precision bolt rifles and AR's. I guarantee my rifles to produce 5 shot groups at .5 MOA or better - and so far (knock on wood) haven't built one that hadn't performed.
    Up till this point, I have been building my rifles by ordering Remington actions from Brownells, as well as short chambered, pre-threaded barrels. I then blueprint the action and lap the locking lugs, square the bolt face, etc, using both Manson and Brownells precision hand tools, and finish cutting the chamber by hand. I then use hand tools to cut target crowns with a slight counterbore (45 degree step down to 11 degree crown).
    Well, lately, I have been turning down several possible builds because the client was requiring a chamber like 6.5x284, 338 Lapua, etc, since (to my knowledge) short chambered barrels are not available in these calibers. (Yes, I know Midway has a 6.5/284 Shilen barrel, but its factory contour, and I dont use barrels that are any lighter than a standard varmint contour.
    Now, I have operated lathes before at previous jobs, and I do run a small milling machine, so I am not a stranger to precision metalwork - that being said, I have not ever had to do anytthing that requires the precision of cutting a barrel chamber. I am selling my motorcycles to pay for this lathe - so I am looking to spend around $1500 - $2200.... I can possibly push it to $3000 if theres no other options. All the advice thus far has told me to buy one with a spindle bore of no less than 1.5" - but all the ones I find that do this (Like the Grizzly G4003G and Smithy MI-1237L) are too high for me to afford without additional financing - which I'd like to avoid at all costs..
    I have read many great things about South Bend and Jet brand lathes - my local Jet dealer has nothing with a spindle bore over 1" thats under $7K... But I did see a South Bend SB1001 on Grizzly's website thats right in my price range...
    Grizzly.com
    It has a spindle bore of 1 1/8"... I know thats not enough, (and I will be purchasing the 8" 4 jaw chuck as well) - but ALL I want the lathe for is chambering and crowning. I have absolutely NO interest in "turning" down the barrels, changing tapers, etc... With a 1 1/8" bore, shouldn't I be able to chuck even a fairly large blank mid-barrel somewhere for chambering? Most of the blanks I'd be ordering would be straight taper, 1.25" to .930 at muzzle.. and I would turn down the chamber end and thread it, chamber it, and crown it... Can I do these operations on this lathe?
    If not, the next step up would be the larger lathes I mentioned earlier.
    Also, is there anyone here using any of the Smithy combo mill lathes? The Granite combo's seem like a decent unit - but I worry that it wouldn't have the capability of either a dedicated mill or lathe would.
    Sorry for being long-winded, I just wanted to consult the elders before dropping 2 grand on a piece of machinery LOL.
    Thanks in advance for any and all help and/or suggestions!
    -Chris
     
  2. shortgrass

    shortgrass Well-Known Member

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    Unless you're going to chamber using the steady rest or between centers you'll need a lathe with a spindle bore of 1.375" minimum, 1 1/2" would be better. If you planned on chambering between centers or with the steady rest bed length comes into play. A combination machine, like the Shop Smith, will make you plenty of tomatoe stakes, it's just not enough machine. You really need a bigger machine than you have discribed to be able to do acceptable work. Two Grand, as you put it, is nothing to spend on a lathe. Plan on spending that much or more on tooling and accessories.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2014

  3. MTBULLET

    MTBULLET Well-Known Member

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    +1 on shortgrass

    I'd recommend saving money until you can get what you need.
     
  4. shortgrass

    shortgrass Well-Known Member

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    About the best size, overall, for a gunsmithing shop is 13" x 40" or 14" x 40". Longer than 40" wouldn't be a deal killer, but anything over 60" would be exessive for gun work. You want a lathe big enough, 'cause it'll help make a lot of tools instead of buying them. On the other hand, a lathe that's too large will deny you the sensitivity that I like for chambering. I did cut a couple of chambers on an ancient Monarch 16" x 96" but it was quit unwieldly. Look over the 'used' market. Your within reach of a couple of metropolitan areas that'll have used machinery dealers.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2014
  5. J E Custom

    J E Custom Well-Known Member

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    I'm like the rest, Buy a lathe with at least a 1&1/2'' spindle or you will regret it.

    I also recommend a gear head lathe if you can find one.

    I compromised and found a General Machine 14x40 gap bed with a gear head and 1.6 spindle diameter and I have seen no loss in precision.

    There are many times that for one reason or another The spindle saved me lots of time. in some cases I could have used a 3'' spindle diameter.

    Don't compromise, keep looking.

    J E CUSTOM
     
  6. shortgrass

    shortgrass Well-Known Member

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    I drive a 19.5" x 96" Summit on a regular basis. I would NOT want to use it to chamber with! Another thing to mention,,, you don't need a taper attachment. It'd be a nice addition, but is not a "must have". Barrels come already contoured from the maker. I turn away re-contouring jobs in my shop 'cause I have no means to stress relieve after turning. As far as I'm concerned, that's the barrel makers job.
     
  7. Damascus

    Damascus Well-Known Member

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    Exactly what I wanted to know, and exactly why I posted my question here and here only :)

    Well, looks like I am going to have to put in 3K+... I am only intending to chamber/build perhaps 15 rifles per year - if that number goes up, I can also sell the cheap chinese lathe and get a tool room quality unit.

    Out of these 2 models, which would be YOUR choice? Both seem to be gearhead, both have adequate spindle diameters, and the Grizzly comes with a 4 jaw chuck, however I would obviously purchase one for the Smithy as well. As far as tooling goes, I already have a Manson floating reamer holder, as well as several PTG facing and crowning cutters... I also have finishing reamers in .243, .308, .300 Win Mag, and traded someone out of a new .338 Lapua rough, so additional tooling hopefully won't be too terribly bad.

    Grizzly G4003G
    Grizzly.com

    Smithy MI-1237L
    MI-1237L Gear Drive Lathe | smithy.com
     
  8. Trickymissfit

    Trickymissfit Well-Known Member

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    Buy whatever lathe that suits your needs. I'd look for a gear head lathe if it were me, that's about 10" x 40". This will give you a few more options to make some more money. I would also look for a lathe with hardened ways, unless you know how to scrape.

    I personally like Buck Chucks, and there's a distance between them and the other hand chucks. Still they are expensive. Buy one that uses a master jaw set up. This will pay for itself over the years.

    Barrel steel can be somewhat tough to cut, and also the opposite. I personally would rather cut the threads with high speed rather than a carbide insert. Others may also think differently, but I've threaded some pretty tough stuff in my lifetime.
    Tooling will end up costing you almost as much as the lathe when it's all said and done. I like the Alorus stuff, but there some other good ones. Just make sure you can get a good supply of tool blocks over the years.

    Now I'm not going to bother to say what lathe to buy, as I only know of one good hand lathe still being manufactured. The better lathes will almost always be wired for three phase electricity, and that's a major factor for many.

    gary