Lathe question

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing' started by Mike6158, Dec 25, 2009.

  1. Mike6158

    Mike6158 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    297
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2003
    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 :)
     
  2. Fitch

    Fitch Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    478
    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2009
    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.

    Benchrest Central Forums - Powered by vBulletin

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

    Fitch
     

  3. DragonsBane

    DragonsBane Member

    Messages:
    9
    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2009
    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.
     
  4. Mike6158

    Mike6158 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    297
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2003
    :D 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 :D )

    Thanks for the replies so far.
     
  5. blackbrush

    blackbrush Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    55
    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2008
    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!
     
  6. royinidaho

    royinidaho Writers Guild

    Messages:
    8,853
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    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 [FONT=arial, sans-serif]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
    [/FONT][FONT=arial, sans-serif] 44859-4VGA[/FONT] (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.:rolleyes:

    I can now add some much coveted letters after my name. Such as PPPM. (Pretty Piss Poor Machinist):)
     
  7. blackbrush

    blackbrush Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    55
    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2008
    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!
     
  8. DragonsBane

    DragonsBane Member

    Messages:
    9
    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2009
    Roy,

    I typically just wrap some 600 grit or finer around a dowel rod to polish the inside of something. It all depends on the size. I made a bar a long time ago to hold emery cloth to polish the larger stuff. Yo ucould even polish it down to 2000 grit if you want a finer finish. Just make sure you keep a loose grip on the dowel in case it jams up, so it doesn't pull you into the chucks (really BAD day).

    The higher the speed, the quicker the finish, but it is also a little more dangerous.
     
  9. Fitch

    Fitch Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    478
    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2009
    That'll work.

    I polish chambers, and other ID surfaces, using a wood dowel with a slot sawed in the end. Auto parts stores have selections of wet and dry usually from 400 to 1,000 grit. I usually use a dowel about 2/3's the diameter of the ID I'm polishing and dip the paper in cutting oil before I use it. Stick a piece about 4 diameters long in the dowel, slide it into the chamber, then turn on the lathe at the highest speed. The oil both drags the paper out against the surface being polished and tends to keep it clean by floating the particles out from between the paper and the metal.

    Keep it moving in and out to get a cross hatch - doesn't take more than 15 to 20 seconds, with each grit.

    With the rod noticably smaller than the chamber there is little chance it will grab but I hold it loosely anyway.

    Fitch
     
  10. DragonsBane

    DragonsBane Member

    Messages:
    9
    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2009
    Oops! I forgot about the slot in the end.:D

    It really sucks if the dowel grabs. Spent 8 weeks with my right hand in a cast from a dowel grabbing. Broke 6 bones in a blink of an eye.

    It depends on what i'm polishing as to whether or not I use cutting oil, but for most things it'll work just fine.

    WD40 will work in a pinch.
     
  11. Fitch

    Fitch Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    478
    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2009
    Ouch!

    I keep the dowel quite a bit smaller than the ID of the hole, no bigger than about 2/3's the size. The relatively short piece of emery paper has never bunched up to grab the dowel ... yet (been doing it for 50 years or more), but I'm careful anyway.

    Glad you are healed up again.

    Fitch
     
  12. Mike6158

    Mike6158 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    297
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2003
    Thanks for all of the replies. The main thing that will dictate the size of the lathe, if I get one, is the location that I have to set it up. I don't have room for a big one right now.

    Blackbrush- I know the area your in. I've got customers (I do contract control system and PLC programming for the energy business) all over that area. Blackbrush (the company) is familiar too but I've never worked for them. Don't think they still do processing and compression. I've worked everywhere from Tilden down to Alice over to Freer, Carrizo Springs, Eagle Pass, etc., and on down into the valley.

    Thanks for the info Roy. I haven't checked HF yet.

    Polishing- Just an idea but have you thought about using Flitz or Semi-Chrome (I like Flitz) on one of those cotton-wool mops that "they" sell for cleaning guns (bore mop)? Or super fine steel wool? I'm betting the steel wool is a bad idea for some things due to impregnation of the particles in whatever it is that you are polishing.
     
  13. blackbrush

    blackbrush Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    55
    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2008
    Mike,

    You are halfway there...

    As far as room, I have mine stuffed lengthwise in a finished out shipping container on the ranch. I am just outside Cotulla so you realize how hot it gets. Summer comes and I turn on the a/c, play and learn. If I didn't mention it before, I have a South Bend 10L or 10x36. In an 8' wide container (minus about 10" for finish out) I have yet encounter a space issue.

    I love my SB, but it is the only thing I know. My mentor recommended it and that took a lot of heat off me as he earned complete trust and admiration in the machining industry and precision long-range shooting systems as well as myself. Coming full circle, I would not persuade you on this brand or that. There are many good/great lathes out there.

    This I will say; after you purchase a lathe, or lathe and mill, let the money spending begin....

    Cheers!

    Wally
     
  14. Mike6158

    Mike6158 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    297
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2003
    :D

    That's what I'm afraid of. A year ago I was happy that my out of the box .270 was giving me sub moa at 100 yards. About a month ago I was griping because my .308 VTR was grouping under 2" at 300 yards (I got over that one). I've always said that I would never own or need a custom rifle (it should be ready in 5 or 6 months). Now I've got a Kestrel, very good rangefinder (finally... that took three tries), ballistics software,etc. On the upside, I've had good reloading gear for at least 10 years and I've honed my skills with that. But, I have to admit that reloading has and probably will be an evolving skill. I seem to learn something new all the time.

    This was linked to by a guy on a machinist site. He liked it and the price is pretty attractive considering all of the accessories and free shipping... the DRO option price is real nice since its installed

    PM1236