Selecting a lathe.

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing' started by ajridgedell, Feb 28, 2012.

  1. ajridgedell

    ajridgedell Well-Known Member

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    I'm a relatively newly licensed manufacturer of firearms, mostly for building ARs. I've had a few barrels threaded for muzzle brakes and would like to start looking for a lathe to perform these operations myself; along with chambering barrels and other operations common to a gunsmith's lathe. Also i would like be able to build suppressors, (not until i am licensed for that), but would want that capability out of my lathe. I have no clue where to start looking or what is needed. I have never used a metal lathe before but am familiar with similar tools. Any help / advise would be appreciated.
     
  2. rscott5028

    rscott5028 Well-Known Member

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    Just over a year ago, I was considering a lathe for hobby gunsmithing.

    I ended up going with a new Grizzly so that I'd have a little better support/comfort.

    If I was in your position, I'd hire someone with extensive experience either full time or as a consultant.

    It's never about what you're able to read/learn. It always comes down to what you don't know. And, experience is key.

    From the lack of response to your post, I'd say the experts here are reluctant to offer advice as it would take volumes to be worthwhile.

    Nonetheless, they are usually always more than happy to answer specific questions.

    Best of luck!
    Richard
     

  3. ajridgedell

    ajridgedell Well-Known Member

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    I did look at a new grizzly online the other day, I just didn't know if there were any online sources that specifically sold different lathes new and or used. I have been considering taking gunsmith classes where I could learn to use a lathe for my applications. Anyone know of a web site that has variouse lathes? An online search for me didn't turn up what I was looking for.
     
  4. IdahoCTD

    IdahoCTD Well-Known Member

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    Birmingham is a good brand for import lathes but they are considerably more than Grizzly. Spend as much as you can upfront so you don't outgrow it or wish for something of better quality down the road.
     
  5. Bughole

    Bughole Well-Known Member

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    Grizzly is good and also check out Baileigh Industrial. Both have reasonable priced pieces that with operator skill will work for gunsmithing. Try and get ahold of some take off barrels or discards to practice on. Shorten them up rechamber reinstall and shoot for accuracy. The learning curve is pretty steep for match quality machining. GOOD LUCK:cool:
     
  6. Trickymissfit

    Trickymissfit Well-Known Member

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    you need to know right upfront wether or not your going to use three phase electricity (440 vt.) or not. If you do go the three phase route, you'll suddenly open the door for a bunch of equipment that you could get to before. If you have three phase the best current production lathes are the Hardingh bench lathe (an AR barrel fits nicely inside the spindle). The other would be a Colechester out of the UK. The rest are distant. If you can find a good used Monarch Double E that will handle an eight or ten inch chuck, you'd be way out front.

    Single phase equipment is really ment for the hobbiest first, and manufacturing last. I have not seen any Asian built lathes that I'd give much more than $4K for tooled up. A Colechester or Hardingh are that much better! Nothing cuts threads as well as the Hardingh, and they are typically capable of holding five tenths or less all the time.
    gary
     
  7. ajridgedell

    ajridgedell Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the info guys, that's what I wanted to know.:D
     
  8. Hired Gun

    Hired Gun Well-Known Member

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    I found an Asian lathe (Sunmaster ERL-1340) that easily runs .0001" and I was happy to pay near $11,000 for it naked. Our chambers and threads come out looking like chrome.

    [​IMG]
     
  9. Trickymissfit

    Trickymissfit Well-Known Member

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    are you sure about posting one tenth accuracey? A slant bed Hardingh CNC lathe (not the one I was refering to) is often regarded as the most accurate lathe on the planet, and they are good for about .0003" taking light cuts in steel. A Monarch Double E is known tobe the most accurate hand lathe ever produced when in good shape, and it's in that same range when optical scales that are aligned within a couple tenths. The only reason it's that good is due to the way over built spindle line that used class seven bearings. With the exception of the Hardingh bench lathe, I've never seen any bench lathe hold much less than .0008" in near perfect condition, and most are over one thousandth of an inch.
    gary
     
  10. Hired Gun

    Hired Gun Well-Known Member

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    While I don't have your experience or knowledge of machinery for sure, I know my Starrett .0001" indicators can be made to run dead smooth no movement on things we dial in or have cut. As one famous smith once told me, it's way better than what's needed for gunsmithing. We are not making diesel injectors here.
     
  11. Trickymissfit

    Trickymissfit Well-Known Member

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    I wasn't so much knocking your setup (your business), but figured you got too many zeros. I once scraped in a Southbend, and seriously beefed up the bench work it was mounted on (similar setup to what you are using) by adding a ground 3/4" steel plate under the entire lathe. Had to make a new drive belt of course. Then made two more plates for the bench to go between the it and the floor. It would hold .0003 to .0006" all day long till it got some wear in the slides. Then it was a steady .00075" machine with high speed tooling. I could have gone in there and tweaked the bed a little bit and maybe picked up another two or three tenths, but it was plenty good enough for what it was being used for. The idea was to leave about five to seven thousandths of stock on the parts to save labor cost in the next operation. Prior to that they were leaving about twenty thousandths on Rex M2 and Speedstar.

    The frame design on the Hardingh bench lathe is very stiff, and I honestly thing that's 70% of why they are so accurate. By the way the only machine I've ever seen with less lead error in a thread form was an Excello thread grinder! But if I were ordering a new lathe this afternoon, it'd be a Colechester
    gary