Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    (Allegheny County)
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    43
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    Default Thinking about buying a lathe

    I'm considering buying a mini lathe, and possibly a mill down the road. I have a drill press, so I should be able to get by for most stuff and farm out the serious milling work. I'm a tinkerer and do it yourselfer, and the idea of getting into home gunsmithing appeals to me.

    The thing is, I have no experience with one. I have no gunsmithing experience - beyond changing springs in my Beretta, and building my
    AR. So, I guess the thing is, where do I get started?

    I figured getting a lathe would be a good start. I can learn how to use it and practice on cheap stock for a while. I'm so ignorant, I don't even know what features to look for. I want to be able to thread, so I need an auto feed with different gears. I want to be able to make a taper, too. What else should I look for?

    I have a couple projects in mind, but realize I won't have the skill to be able to start them for quite some time. For example, I want to thread my Beretta barrel, I want to make a conical bushing for it, I also want to make a thread protector for it.

    After getting a mill, I can think of probably a hundred different projects i'd like to do. Rail accessories, scope rings, small internal parts, maybe even a pistol frame (of course with ATF approval) or slide . Eventually I want to get a Form 1 and make an attempt at a suppressor.

    Pretty much all things that require some serious skill, but I gotta start somewhere and it's good to have goals. Tech school is not an option, but maybe a metalworking class at CCAC might get me started?

    So help me out, what should I look for when buying a mini lathe? What features/accessories do you consider mandatory? How should I go about learning how to use it? How cheap can I go with one? If a $500 (or even better, $250 used) mini lathe is not realistic and I need to drop $1200-$2000, I will probably scrap my plans.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Lebanon, Pennsylvania
    (Lebanon County)
    Age
    62
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    Default Re: Thinking about buying a lathe

    I can't answer your questions about features to look for but I want to bring this to your attention if you haven't seen it already:

    http://forum.pafoa.org/everything-el...-deckplat.html

    Perhaps the person selling the tools can tell you what you need to know.

    I don't have a short temper, I just have a quick reaction to bullshit.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    reading, Pennsylvania
    (Berks County)
    Posts
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    4338

    Default Re: Thinking about buying a lathe

    if you have the room, shop around go to auctions an read threw the penny pincher papers. I had picked up a clausing 30" bed a 3 jaw and 5 jaw chuck complete collet chuck set and just about a full cuting tool set for $680 at a sale.
    if you want to learn about them just google it there is pages of info about what to look for and how to use them and there is also vo tech classes on how to use them.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Chambersburg PA (Pure Appalachia), Pennsylvania
    (Franklin County)
    Posts
    1,643
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    220975

    Default Re: Thinking about buying a lathe

    If you understand usenet, rec.crafts.metalworking is a fair place to start. The signal-to-noise ration has deteriorated over the past few years, but there are some good folk there who can and often DO help.

    Your thought about picking up a night school course at the local ComCol is a VERY GOOD option. They have the tools and the knowledge, usually, to get you off on the right direction, without too much fooling around.

    i have an old 6x30 Atlas, and just last year, for my birthday, Mrs Flash bought me a new mini-mill, the Harbor Freight #44991 unit, which will be more than adequate for my needs for a time to come. Tooling is what you will need, and that can be either a money-pit or a clever, economical walk in the park, depending on how you approach it.

    Oh yeah, you are going to need some precision measuring gear, too. Don't spend a lot until you know what you want to do, and there are ways to do that economically, too.

    http://www.mini-lathe.com/Mini_mill/...s/versions.htm
    http://www.littlemachineshop.com/Inf...ll_compare.php
    http://metalworking.com/tutorials/AR...524-index.html
    http://w3.uwyo.edu/~metal/faqa.html
    http://www.penntoolco.com/catalog/pr...ategoryID=2402
    http://www.tools4cheap.net/proddetail.php?prod=40pos
    http://ronreil.abana.org/index.shtml
    http://lindsaybks.com/dgjp/index.html
    http://www.jpfo.org/filegen-a-m/boltaction.htm (Yes, JFPO is here, too)
    http://www.suppliersonline.com/propertypages/4130.asp


    There. That should keep you reading a while. I have a gang of other links to tools and tooling, materials and all kinds of stuff.

    PM me if you like, we can go on from there.

    Flash
    "The life unexamined is not worth living." ....... Socrates

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Near Indiana, Pennsylvania
    (Indiana County)
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    Default Re: Thinking about buying a lathe

    Mini lathes are perfect for making minature things, model train & airplane parts, not so perfect for any sort of serious gunsmithing.

    Same goes for the mini mills.

    All I ever learned as far as proper instruction was back in high school when they actually had metal shop and AG classes. My actual real instruction time was probably less than 5 hours per machine, everything else came from tinkering and trial and error.

    I currently have access to both, large Grizzly models, but don't use them much anymore, I leave the machining to the pro's, but that is because I don't have to pay for the service.

    The big thing with a lathe is getting your workpiece centered correctly, and as for a mill, make sure you use a quality vise, do not cheap out on a vise as it will make or break your part. Having a part shift or pop out of a cheapo vise is no fun.
    Always remember to remove your T-Handle from the head before turning on the lathe, your teeth will thank you.

    A few books on the subject from Amazon or ebay should be enough to get you started on the basics.
    No participation trophies 'round here...

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    In and out of, Pennsylvania
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    Default Re: Thinking about buying a lathe

    Quote Originally Posted by Flash View Post
    ...The signal-to-noise ratio has deteriorated over the past few years...
    Off topic, but I giggle every time that is used in normal conversation. I'm a nerd I guess.

    On topic, I have a friend who is looking for a lathe, so I will forward him this thread.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Somewhere, Pennsylvania
    (Westmoreland County)
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    36
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    Default Re: Thinking about buying a lathe

    Best advice that I can give is to buy the biggest machine that you can afford.

    There are lots of used machines out there in great shape, don't be afraid of them.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Lawton, Pennsylvania
    (Susquehanna County)
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    Thumbs up Re: Thinking about buying a lathe

    Check out Grizzly. com in Williamsport , they now carry gunsmithing tools including lathes in there 2010 catalog. I use a lot of there machines for woodworking and find the quality good and prices are also.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Welfaristan., Pennsylvania
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    Default Re: Thinking about buying a lathe

    Im going with Grizzly as well . $1k for a mill and $1k for a Lathe. Nothing Giant , just enough to make some things.







    Do yourself a favor and stay away from Harbor Freight .I've asked about 10 professional machinists what they think about the ones these guys offer and the conversation usually ends with "SHIT"



    NO ATF approval for making your own guns Unless they're NFA and you're not selling what you make.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Finleyville, Pennsylvania
    (Washington County)
    Posts
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    Default Re: Thinking about buying a lathe

    Quote Originally Posted by Lucas View Post
    Best advice that I can give is to buy the biggest machine that you can afford.

    There are lots of used machines out there in great shape, don't be afraid of them.
    I would add to that you should also make sure you can power the thing. Make sure your electrical service is up to snuff, some of the larger units take 3 phase power. Although, I think on many you can ge away with adapters, but still, lots to look into with VFD's and such.

    (I just follow a lot over at docsmachine.com and the Tinker's Guild)

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