Help with selecting bench top lathe and vertical mill

Far North Hunter

Well-Known Member
LRH Team Member
Joined
Jul 6, 2019
Messages
251
Location
10,000 Lakes
Wanting to purchase a new bench top lathe and vertical mill to allow me to do action truing and throating on prefits. This will be my venture into extending my personal hobby of accuracy and reloading.
I would appreciate the voice-suggestions of “been there-done it”on brands/models.
Thanks in advance for your guidance.
Doug
 

shortgrass

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 31, 2010
Messages
2,797
Location
Western Oklahoma
Thank you. What size does a person need?
Minimum 12" swing with a 1 3/8" spindle bore. 36" to 40"length is ideal for gunsmithing. Bench top tools lack the rigidity to do much. Sure, a small lathe would be handy for making small parts, but for action truing and throating not so much. Most bench top mills have round columns. This can be used effectively with an experience person at the handles, but will be an absolute PIA for a novice. It's not the cost of the machine tools, themselves, it's the cost to 'tool-up"! That's where the expense is, tooling & cutters/tool holders & collets/chucks/vise/dividing head.
 

J E Custom

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 29, 2004
Messages
10,726
Location
Texas
Thank you. What size does a person need?


The best Allround spindle size is 1.570 dia and at least 36" bed between the centers. (Normally at least 40" Ways) I would look for a gearhead model also. I would recommend something like this In ether a bench top or a floor model. I have owned several lathes before finally getting one that would do most types of gunsmithing, and spent more money on tooling for working between centers (Instead of through the spindle). So I would recommend getting a capable lathe the first time and save money in the long run.


J E CUSTOM
 

birdiemc

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2011
Messages
905
Location
San Antonio, TX
If I were able to go back in time, I would probably go with the lathe J.E. linked...assuming you're new to lathes. I was in your shoes 6 or 7 years ago trying to figure out what lathe to buy, I ended up with a smaller grizzly, only has 1" spindle bore which limits me, change gears for threading, and just not a rigid as I would like. I bought that brand new though, cuz at the time I was scared to get an old used lathe, didnt know what to look for. I'm on my second lathe now...got over that fear pretty easily, and I have a bridgeport clone milling machine now and am having more fun than you could imagine. But like shortgrass said, the lathe is just the first expense, then comes all the tooling....between all the machines and tooling I'm probably $20k in at this point and I dont have near enough tooling to do what I want...every time I dive in to a new project i have to drop another $200 for something it seems (there goes that barrel i was going to buy).
I could have bought some really nice custom rigs with what I've spent putting together a hobby machine shop, but i never did it to save money, i did it just to see if i can...so far i haven't regretted a penny.
 

Mram10us

Well-Known Member
LRH Team Member
Joined
Oct 19, 2019
Messages
3,555
Location
Idaho
I bought an eisen which is a precision mathews with a different brand sticker. 12x36 will work great. Don't count out the chinese cheapo ebay carbide tooling. I have used many name brands but still turn barrels down with the chinese stuff and it works great. Tooling can be inexpensive if you ask us before purchasing :)
 

Far North Hunter

Well-Known Member
LRH Team Member
Joined
Jul 6, 2019
Messages
251
Location
10,000 Lakes
I bought an eisen which is a precision mathews with a different brand sticker. 12x36 will work great. Don't count out the chinese cheapo ebay carbide tooling. I have used many name brands but still turn barrels down with the chinese stuff and it works great. Tooling can be inexpensive if you ask us before purchasing :)
Appreciated!
 

shortgrass

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 31, 2010
Messages
2,797
Location
Western Oklahoma
I bought an eisen which is a precision mathews with a different brand sticker. 12x36 will work great. Don't count out the chinese cheapo ebay carbide tooling. I have used many name brands but still turn barrels down with the chinese stuff and it works great. Tooling can be inexpensive if you ask us before purchasing :)
Precisely! Go ahead and buy that cheap, Chinese stuff. They're well on their way to owning 1/2-3/4 of this country, anyway. I work in a machine shop ( I have been in machining since '74). We bought some lower cost inserts off of e-Bay trying to save, as it's tough enough competing against imports as it is. They looked the same, but they didn't last as long as the name brand and the finish wasn't nearly as good. The chucks that come on most of these imported lathes are just bare basic as are the "tooling packages" that come with the mills. "Work holding" is far more important than most give it credit for. Direct mount chucks s&ck for "high accuracy" work, they are fine for general machining. A good chuck mounted to a back plate that has been 'trued' to the machine it will be used on is a far superior set-up for extreme accuracy. The chucks and tooling packages that come with these lathes and mills are hobby quality. Top of the line work requires top of the line tools. I can not imagine doing the vary best I can when it comes to barrel work, both for myself or my clients. If "good enough" is good enough for you, that is your choice as we still live in the USA, at least for now..
 

tobnpr

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 30, 2013
Messages
177
A vertical mill isn't needed for barrel work. Nice to have in the shop- but you won't use it for barrels other than fluting or perhaps some breech extractor cuts on older rifles.

Not clear what you meant by "throating prefits"- but if you did indeed mean just that, you don't need a lathe at all.
Throating can be done by hand with a Uni-Throater. If you meant chambering barrel blanks that's a different agenda- and you would probably machine shouldered barrels and not nutted "prefits" if you have a lathe and the capability to use it.

A 12 x 36 is fine. The term "rigidity" gets used a lot, but IMHO a one-ton machine isn't necessary for turning hollow one-inch steel tubes. Lack of "rigidity" can be compensated for with light cuts, which is mostly the norm anyway for barrel work; esp when holding in spiders and not a chuck to avoid shifting the workpiece. Plenty of smaller machines that are very "tight" and capable of extremely precise work that would not be considered "rigid". That said, makes sense to buy as large as you can fit (with a short spindle if you work through the headstock). Longer bed gives you the ability to work between centers.

Really comes down to budget and what you plan to do with it. Depending where you are geographically, used machines can be found that offer great value as they often come with tooling- but you need to be able to evaluate the machine so you don't end up with something clapped-out that becomes a money-pit project.
 

Primary

LRH Assistant
Here are some related products that LRH members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to LRH’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to LRH discussions about these products.

 
 
Top