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Discussion Starter #1
I've been looking at different types of lathes and am wondering if anyone here knows what is required for threading barrels, chambering, installing muzzle brakes, etc. I'm guessing that the longer lathes with between 35-40" between centers would be required. Belt drive? Gear drive? Required RPM range? What accesories are needed to do the job properly? From what I can tell, a proper new lathe will cost about $2-3K. Are there problems to look out for when purchasing a used lathe?

Thanks.
 

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The Hog Whisperer (Administrator)
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Well this could take a while but I'll try to keep it short.

You would probably be best with a 36" bed, might get by with 30." Lathes are often marked by the max. diameter object you can 'swing' (rotate), then the usable bed length. And generally the bed length is somewhat proportional to the swing - ie. 10x30, 12x36, 9x30, and so on.

Don't need much swing to work on barrels but the extra capacity doesn't hurt.

Used.... the big things to check are the wear on the 'ways' or the part where the carriage slides back and forth, and the condition of the change gears. Ways can sometimes be reground but if they're warped, you are SOL. Change gears can sometimes be found on e-bay, as can just about every other part you would ever need (except the ways which are integral to the bed). Check bearings, generally theses are replaceable, beware of old lathes with babbit bearings.

Brands - based on what is listed on e-bay, Atlas is the most popular, followed by Southbend, then probably Clausing, and a whole bunch of other stuff you never heard of like Sheldon. South Bend is still in business supplying replacement parts, and Clausing will sell you Atlas parts. Atlas oem'd lathes over the years with many of them being under the Craftsman label.

There is a lot of interchange between brands, things like tapers, drill chucks, and sometimes even the big 3 and 4 jaw chucks that go on the headstock.

Do a little digging on e-bay and you should get a pretty good idea of what's out there.

What else - although it's replaceable, a lead screw is expensive. So that ought to be in good shape.

Needs - wow, that could be a long list. 3-jaw chuck, 4-jaw, steady rest, taper rest (somewhat optional), taper attachment (needed to taper barrels), boring bars, different size/style of cutters, thread gages, micrometers, calipers, live and dead centers, maybe some lathe doges and a driveplate, ordinary drill chuck for your tailstock and LOTS of drill bits, and probably 20 things I forgot to mention. If you can find a good deal on a used lathe - look for sales in your area - the tooling that comes with it could easily be worth much more than the lathe.

To cut threads you want a quick-change gearbox. Change gears are a pain.

You definitely want an original manual, these and reproductions are on ebay all the time. Most manuals have sections on threading, sharpening tools, etc.

Other books - "Machining Fundamentals" by John R. Walker. Look on Half.com, an older edition is fine.

Other stuff - you can't do lathe work for very long without a bench grinder. A drill bit sharpener is nearly mandatory.

You'll need a LOT of scrap to practice on, and some time to mess around with it. Oh yeah and some good cutting oil. Old toothbrush works find to spread it.

Whether v-belt or flat-belt is not much consequence. Both have their advantages/disadvantages.

$2-$2K is probably about the least you could spend on a new machine. Visit a few sales in your area, you might find one in a barn somewhere being auctioned off.
 

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The Hog Whisperer (Administrator)
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What mike says is good counsel.

About the length of the bed, if you're working with barrels that are already tapered and contoured, then you can easily get by with a 20-24 inch length bed. Keep in mind that although some of the Asian 9x20 lathes appear attractive in their price, they are really just elaborate do-it-yourself kits! Most folks serious about using them spend literally hundreds of hours fine tuning them, making new tooling and reworking existing tooling on these cheap machines to make them servicable to the degree of precision you'll be demanding for barreling and chambering work.

Although Ebay sells lots of lathes at auction, I certainly wouldn't buy one unless it's near enough to you for hands-on inspection before the sale. The points Mike enumerated are excellent issues to examine on any used lathe, and don't neglect the cost of quality tooling to go with a lathe that's been "stripped" for sale! It can cost an arm and a leg just to get a bare-bones lathes work-ready!

Do LOTS of reading and homework before you go out to buy a lathe!

Here's a forum for owners of 9x20 import lathes, while they deal in depth with the nuances and upgrades to these lathes, the information there if you read through their archives and articles will give you some feel for things to watch for and be careful to examine before buying a lathe.

This could become a very lengthy thread, but there are many here on this forum who can help you out in this regard.

God Bless,

Marshall
 

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I went through this about a year ago.
I bought a Smithy 1220 LTD. I have threaded a couple barrles and made muzzle brakes for them(The mill also works really well). I have trued two actions and chambered two .270's.

The reason you might not need such a large bed is the spindle bore. You usually want to keep the work close to the chuck anyway.

Oh yeah, Get a four jaw chuck and a dial indicator then throw the three jaw under the bench.

I am still a major rookie and have some interesting chunks of metal to prove it.

http://www.smithy.com/granite1220xl.htm
Request a catalog they usually have some sort of sale going on.
John S.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I talked to a gun shop owner friend, and he advised me to take a beginning machinist course at the local vo-tech in the evening or weekend if available. I think that, in addition to some books on the subject, is what I'm going to do before I buy the lathe. He advised me this be the absolute best route to go because it's how everybody starts. I suspect it will actually save me time and money to persue it going this route. I should also get a lot better feel for all the attachments and accessories and types of lathe available this way. Thanks for all the advice.
 

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The Hog Whisperer (Administrator)
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Good idea on the course, money well spent.

On the long bed issue, it's very handy for crowning barrels without taking the barrel out of the action. On a Remington it's criminally simple with their round receivers. But with a 4-jaw it's not really a big deal to adjust for any ordinary receiver.

Run a steady rest out near the muzzle.

The hole through the headstock varies quite a bit by brand. On an Atlas or Southbend in the 9" - 12" range, it's only about 3/4" of an inch. If you are crowning you won't get the entire barrel back through the headstock where you can keep the crown near the chuck. On Marshal's Clausing it's WAY bigger than that, close to 2 inches I think. I think I figured out that he can run an entire mauser receiver back in the headstock, if you take the trigger off and bolt out.

So the longer bed (more than 24 inches) will be a convenience for some operations.
 

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LATHES

KciH,
Great advice from Mike G, Marshall S and the gunshop owner. I've been a machinist for 23yrs and was fortunate to get my apprentice work at Hughes Tool. Please take at least a basic course, it will prevent alot of frustration and mistakes.
As for lathe choices I would like to enforce the statement about used equipment, do not buy it unless you can inspect it! Have your friend show you where to look for "slop" in a lathe ( the compound, cross-slide, tail-stock, ways ECT. )
As for Asian products, some are plenty good for gunsmithing but, my advice is to stay away from anything Chinese. Tiawain products can be aquired that have quality, one of best indicators is the price. Cheap prices mostly reflect poor equipment and results, focus your search on moderate to higher priced equipment, your end product will reflect money well spent.
Good luck!
JB
 

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I bought a Grizzly mini lathe from the out store.
Piece of junk. Not even a reasonable blob of cast iron to MAKE a lathe
out of. It does on center boring, but cutting is easier done with a file
while the lathe spins the work.

Then I read about what to look for in a lathe.
http://www.google.com/search?q=what+to+look+for+in+buying+a+lathe&btnG=Google+Search

Then while I was at an auction, a Clausing 5914 lathe presented itself
with terrible paint, a coating of grim, and lots of tooling. I rubbed my
finger in the ways near the headstock. My finger was now very dirty. I
got over that dirty feeling, and looked at the clean spot I had made on the ways. No wear on the ways! The machine had not been used much. I bid $1200 and was in a few seconds the winner. I then had to get a mountain of tooling and a 1200 pound lathe home. I also had to convert it from 440V 3 phase to 220V 3 phase.

Now after chambering a few rifles, I realize that the real prize in old lathes is "original paint".
 

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I too have an older Clausing lathe a model 5300. A real gem to be sure. As mentioned once purchased, it's a real chore getting them home and set up.... definitely not something you'll do with a buddy and carry down a flight of stairs! Took a deisel tractor with a bucket using nylon slings and chains to move mine into the shop.... but boy, the stability all that mass creates when you're making chips!

Yep, mine needed paint as well, but at 500 bucks, well, it wasn't a hard decision to make. And as Mike has pointed out, I can run a standard Mauser, Model 700 or Model 70 barrelled action clear through the headstock if the trigger and safety are stripped off! Try that with those Asian wonder machines!

Be careful, be watchful and most importantly, be patient, and you'll find a machine that both fits your budget, and one that will have quality workmanship and a much broader spectrum of application than the import machines could ever offer!

Good hunting!

God Bless,

Marshall
 
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