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Steve-O
12-17-2016, 05:25 PM
You've probably read a hundred of these kind of posts so this will be a hundred and one.

I'm new to machining and I'm looking for advice on how to get started. What do I want to build? Well, a lot of stuff: chess pieces (metal ones), engines (Stirling, steam, gasoline, maybe a rotary), rocket nozzles for hybrid rockets, wood gasifier, tool repair, and guns. Plus a lot of stuff I haven't even thought of yet.

I just got a Millermatic 211 for home repairs, DIY powercranks for my bike, the gasifier and other stuff and I'm looking for info on lathes, mills, DRO, CNC, duplicators etc. What do you like? Why do you like it?

Is a Sherline lathe and mill set up adequate for making a small gun? What are some "gotchas" that you wish you knew before getting into machining? That kind of info.

Anything you got would be appreciated.

flylo
12-17-2016, 05:37 PM
You might want to post your location. I'd start witha 12"x 36" min size lathe for gun work but you can always up size & upgrade. Welcome to the forum.

Steve-O
12-17-2016, 05:48 PM
You might want to post your location. I'd start witha 12"x 36" min size lathe for gun work but you can always up size & upgrade. Welcome to the forum.

Thanks. I'm in Denver metro area. Some day soon I'd like to be able to learn at the Colorado School of Trades in Lakewood--one of the best gunsmith schools in the nation. I'm not a young kid. I'm an engineer with twenty years experience in aerospace.

Are there "grades" of lathes and mills? Some are more accurate than others. How do you tell which is which and what you need?

PStechPaul
12-17-2016, 06:08 PM
Welcome to the forum!

You will get a wide range of opinions on machine tools. I have a Harbor Freight 9x20 lathe and a round column milling machine that I have found quite adequate, although they have involved some adjustment and modification. Much depends on your budget and your ability and inclination to tinker with a machine, vs just wanting to be able to do accurate work in a short period of time.

Some people recommend getting "old American Iron" machines, many of which need extensive rework, and/or high initial cost. Some have had good luck with cheap Chinese machine tools, but it's a "crap shoot" and some are good right out of the box, while others need a lot of TLC and may even have "fatal flaws" that just can't be fixed. Top of the line US and Western European or Japanese machines are usually $10,000 or more.

I have no experience with gunsmithing. You might want to check out the videos of the amazing gunsmithing work done by a young woman named "Luna", who is a member of this forum. She also lives in Colorado with her husband and dog(s). This shows her small shop, with moderate size Grizzly milling machine and lathe:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tNc3qhTPxY

Gravy
12-17-2016, 06:08 PM
[QUOTE=Are there "grades" of lathes and mills? Some are more accurate than others. How do you tell which is which and what you need?[/QUOTE]

Yes there are. All the way from the equivalent of Chinese imitations of $5.95 Estes kits to genuine Saturn V complete with Lunar Rover. You will have to figure out what you "need". That part is entirely subjective. And lots of fun.

dalee100
12-17-2016, 06:31 PM
Hi,

Sherline makes some good little tools for the hobbyist. Well suited for people who have little room to work in. People make some very fine model engines and other small things like clocks and watches. Might even make a few small parts for a gun with them. But they neither big enough nor powerful enough to do some of the things you wish to try.

Flylo, like many here, often recommends larger used machines that may or may not be suitable for many due to shop size, power availability, and available egg money. Or even totally unsuitable for the desired job. Watchmakers don't need a 12x36 lathe. On the other hand, a gunsmith will get scant use from a Sherline. And you may live in a tool desert with little to choose from.

You kind of know what some of the things you would like to do are. Next question should be "How much money am I willing to spend". This hobby ain't cheap. One can spend a couple thousand on a machine and then spend as much or more again to even get the tooling it takes to even run it. And tooling is consumable. You will buy it over and over. Milling machines are notorious for making you bleed cash.

New, (probably Chinese), vs old used. Many here are staunch believers in only Old American Iron is worth owning. And will go to great lengths to obtain and then recondition those tools to their satisfaction. That can be a fine hobby and endeavor for those who like that stuff. But do you want to fix a machine before you can even use it or do you just want to use it? If you fall in the latter camp, then you may wish to look more towards new machines. And since you are an Engineer, you should understand that when purchasing, it's often less about the machine, and more about buying a vendor. Buy a good vendor! And every used piece of equipment I bought has all had the same 4 word warranty - As Is, Where Is. Not much recourse if it goes up in smoke the very first time.

There are no "Grades" of machines. A machine is either suitable for the job or it is not. Accuracy comes from the operator, not from the machine. A good operator can make great parts with junk machines and poor ones make junk with great machines. But also remember, accuracy costs money.

So no real recommendations from me. Too many variables at play. But if you think about and prioritize the things I have talked about, it will lead you to the machine you want to buy. Whether that turns out to be a Sherline or a big 16x144 lathe.

Oh, and Welcome! You can learn much from everyone here.

Dalee

darryl
12-17-2016, 06:50 PM
The general consensus would be that if you actually don't have room for a larger machine, then choose what you can fit- otherwise don't start off with too small a machine. I'm not a gunsmith either, but there have been times I could have used a longer lathe. I currently use an 8 x 18 lathe and a round column mill- and for the most part they are capable enough- though I would like to upgrade both. I'm just a hobbyist too.

A few easy considerations- if you are going to be doing barrels you need the length. If you are going to be turning large diameters you need the swing. If you are limited to the power that can be supplied you need to stay within that envelope. Do you have 220 available, or limited to 110? That will determine the size of motor you can use. How much weight can your floor handle? How much weight can YOU handle. That will also determine the size of lathe you can install. Going down stairs with all this gear? Personally I've come to the conclusion that the 11 x 27 is about the minimum size I'd upgrade to- for someone without a lathe already this might be a good size to start with, as chances are it would be all you'd ever need. You can make small parts on a large lathe, but not large parts on a small lathe. If you're only ever going to be making small parts, you will need spindle speeds on the upper side- this is pretty much the only area where a smaller machine would shine, excepting weight, size, and power limitations for the installation.

Gary Paine
12-17-2016, 06:59 PM
Welcome aboard, Steve-O.
Lets narrow to a miniature revolver project. Lathe, mill, dividing head, boring head and bars, turning tools and holders, drill bits, grinder for sharpening and shaping tools, heat treat equipment, bluing equipment, good selection of files, vices for bench and milling machine, calipers, micrometers and gages, flat surface like a granite, layout fluid, feeler gages and blocks, cutoff or band saw, and a large shop vacuum for the mess. Hmmm, did I forget something?
Now widen the project list...whew! You get the message. That's why we call it a slippery slope.
Whatever you choose, think ahead. I, like many, bought a whole lot of used tools over the years. My goal was to have the right tool for the job for any job I ran across. Problem with that is by the time I got there many years after beginning the voyage, I find I am way overcrowded. If space will be a problem, think versatility. Kind of like the Shopsmith solution, where a lot of capability packs into a small space. If you think you will have the room, then dedicated machines are far more capable and easier to use. Although many say buy small and upgrade, that is not an easy bite to take later if all your vices, rotary tables, and so on are mini size and you want to move up to a full size machine.

Mike Amick
12-17-2016, 07:07 PM
IMO with that list of things you are interested in working on ... I would say the Sherline won't be big enough.

At least get a 9 or 10 incher ... As another said, a 12x36 is a great hobby machine.

ulav8r
12-17-2016, 09:31 PM
When I graduated from CST, they were installing their first South Bend Heavy 10 lathe. All the lathes they had before then were South Bend 9's with about 28-30 inches between centers. Because the hole through the spindle was about 3/4 inch or less, all barrel threading was done with a fixed center in the headstock and a steady rest. The South Bend 9 is much more capable than the Grizzly 9x20 and similar others, because of the greater weight and length. The weight adds to rigidity. Logan, Sheldon, and Clausing are all brands that are better than the South Bends and do not have as much brand recognition among most hobbyists, so they are often better bargains.

A lathe is easier to find on the used market if you already have a lathe. Therefore any lathe in good condition can be a worthwhile addition to your shop if it does not deplete your resources to the point you can't add another when it turns up. Just avoid any lathe that can't cut threads. A small lathe can be used for making screws, pins, etc. while a larger lathe is set up for a job you don't want to interrupt.

If you have a question about any equipment you might be interested in, many here can help you. Welcome to the forum.

BCRider
12-17-2016, 09:33 PM
Welcome aboard! I can sense the keeness even over the eather.... :)

The Sherline might be able to make a lot of the small parts. But unless you're making something the size of a North American Arms mini revolver you'll fast find that it's way too small for a lot of the parts of something along that line.

Consider too that a pretty big part of maching metal is jigs to hold parts for different operations. Often these jigs can be larger and quite a bit heavier than the items they are used for making. And that means you really don't want too small a machine.

But how big is "big enough"? Well, that's the $64 question...

If you aspire to much at all to do with motorcycles or cars then I'd consider a 12x36 to be a nice size. And as it happens this is a pretty good size for most gunsmithing.

If you don't feel a need to feed that side of the equation then there's much to be said for some of the 10x22 to 11x 24 size machines. Just go into it knowing that these tend to be a little more lightly built and tend to have a smaller through hole in the headstock.

I've got a 12x36 myself. And truth be told I could do probably 95% of my work on a 10x22. But when I do need the longer bed or bigger head stock through hole it sure is nice.

All in all I'd echo the suggestion for a 12x36 unless you're strapped for room. Then I'd say go with a 10x22 and just temper your dreams that last 5% and live within what you have. And really? It won't be an issue much of the time.

Machines vary but MOST of the 9 inch stuff I've seen tends to be far lighter than what you get when you jump to 10". For anything to do with machine tools weight is good. Much of what you are buying with "better" machines is simply more cast iron. And it DOES make a difference. But it may be many years of machine work before you can tell that difference. Much of it is that last couple of percent. You know... the last 2 or 4% that costs twice as much as the other similar size but way cheaper machine.

In terms of quality levels? Oh sure, they are there. But the reality is that most of us can't afford the higher priced stuff. It's an expensive enough HOBBY as it is. But if you've got the cash to spare we'd be happy to guide you on spending it if you let us ride along and drool. Does Hardinge still make tool room lathes? Can you afford the "cubic cost" price tag that goes with it?

Lathes basically make "round things" and mills make "flat and square things". Now that's really simplifying it but at the core this is the nut of the matter. So you'll want a mill as well. Now if you trip over a "Deal Of A Lifetime" on a used Bridgeport far be it for me to say that it won't go well with your "small" 10x22 lathe. But just be sure you don't mind the cost of the VFD to make it turn and that your ceiling is tall enough.... and the fact that I'll drool on my monitor when you post the pictures.

Mostly though I'd say that a 12x36 calls for either one of the larger bench top mills or one of the smaller knee mills. But if you end up with a 10x22 then one of the nicer bench top mills would be what I'd consider a "balanced" companion.

To go with your machine tools you WILL want a metal cutting bandsaw. I went with a 4x6" saw that can be run in a vertical mode. I use it in the vertical mode at least half the time. This one feature has kept me from "upgrading" to a larger bandsaw simply because the smaller 4x6 saws are the only ones with this vertical mode ability. And I don't have the room for a separate vertical metal bandsaw.

You're set up for welding with a lovely machine. So you're laughing there. But... plasma?

Consider too that tooling for the lathe and milling machine will cost you about half again as much as the cost of the two machines put together. Most of this will be put towards the mill. But the lathe will demand and get it's own pound of flesh too. Don't forget that when setting your budget.

All in all from having played with a few lathes over my life that are both larger and smaller than what I have now I'd have to say that we really can't beat a 12x36 for a home shop if the size of the shop will support it. I can't recall the last time I wished for a bigger or better machine. And since I set it down on a nice solid pair of pillars at a better height than I tolerated for too many years I have to say that it's like it has a whole new life and I'm even more happy with it than I was before.

And for all that it SEEMS large and bulky if you don't know what they can do I just finished making two small parts for a Steven's Little Scout rifle from the early 1900's. So it can do small parts just fine too.

Steve-O
12-17-2016, 11:13 PM
Wow, thanks folks. This is good stuff! Please keep it coming. I especially appreciate the talk about brands and bargains. I ain't made of money either so I gotta rein it in.

As far as space goes, I have two cars in a three car garage. My wife and I keep talking about moving. If it happens we both agree to move to a place with a few acres and an out building (barn) for some proper space.

Budget? Geez! Budget. I dunno yet. I could save up for a nice 12x36 but I get the impression I'd be trying to run before I crawl. Is that justified or should I just bite the bullet? I get the idea that you can make small stuff on a big lathe and not the other way around but would using a 12x36 for freakin chess pieces be a little unwieldy or not at all?

What about CNC? Seems like the most expensive thing you can buy for a shop. Is it a lot of buck for the bang or is it worth it? What about DRO?

rsal
12-17-2016, 11:16 PM
Since you are in the Denver metro area, I would schedule a visit to CST and pay close attention when going in the machine shop area. Note what they are using now and that it your starting point. Do not be afraid to ask them why they are using those. I would bet they will be honest as to any issues they have with them. It would give you a head start knowing how the machine runs when you start school.

When I went there, they still had the South Bend 9 as the main lathes with 2 other larger machines, both South Bends but I do not remember which ones but if i were to guess one was a 13 and the other a heavy 10. The 9's were the work horses. All of the basic projects were done on them and they were not exactly babied. Most students had no machine shop experience when they began and some mistakes happen.

The Sherline is small and while useful for some gun work, the size will limit what you can do. Mostly pins, screws and bushings are what it will do best. It will allow you to get your "feet wet" in machining.

rsal

BCRider
12-18-2016, 02:36 AM
Steve-O, yes that size of machine is bigger than you need for making chess pieces. But what will you be doing either side of the chess pieces? And then either side of that? THIS is the question you need to ask yourself and answer.... and it's the right time to actually be honest with yourself

On the other hand the little gun part I just finished off was made from a 2 inch piece of 5/16 drill rod which was turned down and ended up being just about 7/8" long in total. Working on the portion that was .149 in diameter by a touch more than 5/16 long was not hard at all. So it's not a big deal to work on small parts on a bigger machine. Besides a lot of folks don't consider a 12x36 to be big. It IS large for home shop use when it's all for fun.

If the whole schtick will be strictly a hobby then you can buy machines and simply choose projects to fit the machines. But you already mentioned doing some gun smithing. So will there be any barrel work in there? If the answer is "yes... maybe?" then you need a lathe large enough to accept a barrel in some way or form either through the head stock or between centers.

If you are willing to give up on doing barrel work you can STILL do a LOT of gun smithing on a more modest size machine. Hell, most small parts could be done on one of the small 7x14 table top machines. Or even the Sherline lathe. Or the Taig. I don't recommend going that small but the simple truth is that likely 8 out of 10 things I make could be done on a machine of that sort of size. But those other two? They would not even fit in that size of machine

You mentioned some engine options. What sort of size? If they are the sort that end up not much larger than a big tin of soup you can do that sort of stuff on a 9 or 10 inch swing bench top machine just fine. But this is why I suggest that you need to sit down and figure all this out.

Now I'm not a big fan of the very small table top lathes. They can quickly become crowded when working with a slightly larger piece and full size tooling. For me the really nice compact size machines are in the 9 to 11 inch swing range with beds from 18 to 23 inches. After that you may as well jump up to the 12x36 size. The reason why I'm not a fan of the really small machines is that once you start filling up the working room with regular length drill bits and chucks you run out of space really fast. On some of the 7 inch swing table top lathes you literally could not have a 2 inch piece in the 3 jaw chuck and then use a 1/2 inch drill bit in the tail stock chuck. There's simply not enough bed length on the smaller versions to fit it all in. But I do see that Grizzly has a rather decent looking 8x16. Now for smaller hobby size work THAT could prove to be a not bad size and weight. But other than making firing pins, screws and other small parts you could kiss any gunsmithing goodbye with that size of machine.

Here is one I found that is nicely on the cusp. Precision Matthews has an 11x27. It looks like it might just be the King of the bench top lathes. It's also got a 1.5" through bore in the headstock so you could even be back in the running for most of that barrel work.

Check it out;

http://www.machinetoolonline.com/PM-1127-VF.html

But before you leap stop and really figure out the sort of things you want to be able to do with it and then figure out what a good size for that sort of stuff would be. Keep in mind too that if you want to do a lot of work in steel that bigger and heavier is better to some extent. With aluminium and brass you can do some pretty big stuff in relatively small machines. But working with steel puts a lot more load on the machines You CAN whittle out parts from a 12 inch bar of 2 inch diameter steel. But you'll need to be VERY patient doing such work on something like the relatively lighter 9x18 machines which are out there. The same job on something like that 11x27 with the heavier bed would still be a big job but not nearly as painful.

boslab
12-18-2016, 02:50 AM
Welcome, I'd love to hear about the aerospace bit (unless it's a "if I told you id have to kill you" aerospace job, don't laugh please) whatever size lathe you think is too big, multiply that by 2 to get the right size for you, lathes are like bust size I discovered, I've been recently caught in top secret negotiations (hidden from wife) for a 17 X 80 DSG, note to self, close computer properly.
You wouldn't go far wrong with a Bridgeport, and a small surface grinder is very useful, esp for parts with some "finish", somthing I avoid myself, good belt sander makes pretty finish when welded up stuff is what your about.
Whatever you get, just have fun, you only live once for definite, and I discovered that money (apart from being made up by banks) isn't everything
Btw at least 90% of us are certifiably, clinically insane, who also write things down without thinking so try not to get offended as they/we don't actually mean to be rude, maybe we should be using Skype or somthing as well
Anyway welcome to the farm
Mark

J Tiers
12-18-2016, 03:05 AM
For gun work. I would NOT directly worry about the size of the lathe swing, as in 9", 12", etc.

If you will be doing long gun work, you will want a bed length that takes a reasonable barrel length that you might want to work on.

AND, possibly more important, you want to have a hole through the spindle that is as big as possible so the breech end of the barrels on guns you may work on will go through, if possible. That will help on bed length, because the spindle can swallow part of the barrel. (Not much help on tapering the barrel, maybe.....)

Pick the SIZE of the lathe swing-wise to satisfy these two considerations. Most any barrel work will NOT strain ANY machine as far as swing, so that just isn't an issue by itself. But, bigger spindle bores DO tend to go with larger lathes.

The smallest bore you probably want is a size that takes a 5C collet, which is something like 1 3/8" clear thru the spindle, to allow most barrel work. That usually does not appear in any machine smaller than a 10" or 11" machine. Combined with a long bed, it may not be available below a 12", but there are exceptions.

Black Forest
12-18-2016, 04:24 AM
Welcome, I'd love to hear about the aerospace bit (unless it's a "if I told you id have to kill you" aerospace job, don't laugh please) whatever size lathe you think is too big, multiply that by 2 to get the right size for you, lathes are like bust size I discovered, I've been recently caught in top secret negotiations (hidden from wife) for a 17 X 80 DSG, note to self, close computer properly.
You wouldn't go far wrong with a Bridgeport, and a small surface grinder is very useful, esp for parts with some "finish", somthing I avoid myself, good belt sander makes pretty finish when welded up stuff is what your about.
Whatever you get, just have fun, you only live once for definite, and I discovered that money (apart from being made up by banks) isn't everything
Btw at least 90% of us are certifiably, clinically insane, who also write things down without thinking so try not to get offended as they/we don't actually mean to be rude, maybe we should be using Skype or somthing as well
Anyway welcome to the farm
Mark

Mark my boy, what are you talking about some of us don't mean to be rude.....are you crazy! Some of us don't mean to be nice but once in a while it happens and I hang my head in shame.

Black Forest
12-18-2016, 04:28 AM
To the OP. I have a medium sized lathe. It weighs over 6000 lbs. I do small parts on it quite often. 3mm diameter bolts was the last small thing. It has nearly 5 foot between centers and I often do that kind of work also. Farm repair type projects. I have a farm.

Mark gave good advice with go as big as you can fit within reason.

flylo
12-18-2016, 04:35 AM
For rifle work bump up to a 14x40 with a 1.5" thru hole & life will be easier. My Pacemaker is oversized & over powered but is very heavy,rigid, high precision & smooth. Swings nearly 20" over the bed & 56" BTCs & about 6500#s. A Logan 11" & up has the larger head same as a 14 & the larger bore & IMHO is a step up from a South Bend. Also I'd get use to using a 4 jaw chuck while many will disagree you can always get it perfect even with a cheap chuck & if you watch some who uses one it doesn't take much longer to chuck up a barrel in a 4 jaw. You be using spiders which are like small 4 jaw chucks anyway. I wish I could go to your gun school. Can I move in LOL, I don't ear much & am a lot nicer the these thugs will admit. I have a collection of old gunsmithing books especially for accuracy. You can learn a lot from even the old books when things were done by hand & many good youtubes. Auction are the cheapest place to buy, but you want an auction of a shop closing with the machines under power & not the "dump jour junk consignment auctions" I enjoy buying & will be more than glad to help. Good luck & keep us informed. I have a new set of AGI lathe & mill gunsmithing DVDs 23 total the take you up to speed quickly. PM your address & I'll send you a set as my gift to get you started, May take a week as we're having some weather & I don't walk so well. Also are you aware of Obama's August executive order barring gunsmiths from doing anything that causes firearms to be more accurate? Which is what good gunsmiths do. I think it will be tossed soon but be aware of it. I'll PM some books & you tubes I like. We do have a gunsmithing section on this forum but the general is used more. Good Luck!

boslab
12-18-2016, 05:10 AM
Mark my boy, what are you talking about some of us don't mean to be rude.....are you crazy! Some of us don't mean to be nice but once in a while it happens and I hang my head in shame.
Sorry, I know your niceness (is that a word) is purely accident, but you do keep having them, you got that altruistic incontinence, a new disease I both made up and cured,
I've seen a turner taking the piss and making a m6 fitting on a lathe with a 12' swing, it was funny, a photo would be great, but we weren't allowed to take photos
Mark

1-800miner
12-18-2016, 10:04 AM
All the advice above is good. BUT...my advice to a greenhorn would be to get ANY lathe in your budget. Learn with it. network with others, ask lots of questions.
If the bug bites you, I promise, no matter what your first machine is it will become too small/slow/sloppy/underpowered/wrong color.
By then you will know some one that wants your old tired machine while you are eyeballing the next machine of your dreams.

tmarks11
12-18-2016, 12:01 PM
Is a Sherline lathe and mill set up adequate for making a small gun?

Watch this gal work. No CNC in sight. This is part 15 of the series:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlkIwj3z8yc

true temper
12-18-2016, 12:57 PM
The Clausing on here might be a good option. https://denver.craigslist.org/tls/5907096870.html

MrFluffy
12-18-2016, 03:36 PM
I think we're all dreaming of what we'd like as our first machines, but remember the old adage, a machine in the shed is worth two in someone elses and your first lathe doesn't have to be your final one unless something goes very badly wrong :)
Shop, barn, old iron, uh oh. Looks like we're heading for another future area of heavy gravity to make the world spin on its axis unevenly. Best get some more kit bought for mine to counterbalance you all over there :)

Hopefuldave
12-18-2016, 04:29 PM
I agree with the "machine in the shed is worth..." etc, and my first lathe was a learning experience I wouldn't have missed.

I learned that I wouldn't have another lathe with (missing) changewheel threading, no power feeds, screw-on chuck and no (missing!) backgear - it did only cost me 70 (about 100 US$) and most of the tooling and accessories carried over to my second (still current) lathe - mostly didn't fit number 1, in fact! While I was getting very dissatisfied with it, I DID manage to turn out useful items, like fork seal and bearing drivers, spacers and bushes, but hit its limits before mine, pretty quickly.

Number 2 does exactly what I need, after researching what I needed!, sure it would be nice to spin a 17" bike wheel or get a fork stanchion through the headstock, and having to swap 2 gears to move between inch and metric threading isn't as easy as flicking a lever, but... it's great to be able to cut any thread from 2 tpi to 120, 16mm to 0.2mm pitch, and although it needed work (hacked VFD to get 415v from 240 for it's unusual motor, some Unobtainium bearings worked around) it cost way less than a secondhand minilathe...

The Clausing that was pointed out looks a hell of a lot better than my "starter" (an old English "Challenger" from the 30's? 40s?), but that's reflected in the price!

Dave H. (the other one)

BCRider
12-18-2016, 04:31 PM
I think we're all dreaming of what we'd like as our first machines, but remember the old adage, a machine in the shed is worth two in someone elses and your first lathe doesn't have to be your final one unless something goes very badly wrong :)
Shop, barn, old iron, uh oh. Looks like we're heading for another future area of heavy gravity to make the world spin on its axis unevenly. Best get some more kit bought for mine to counterbalance you all over there :)

I think you're right. I've only been around here for a short time but I've already seen a couple of similar threads go this way. A newcomer asks about starting out with modest size machines and suddenly folks are saying that the only way to do this hobby is with a 6000lb DS&G and that a Bridgeport is a little light but they can get by. And anything lighter is just a toy and if they can't commit fully then they should not bother..... SHEESH! And this thread is well on the way given that the Bridgeport has already been mentioned.

Steve-O asks about getting into the hobby in a modest way with smaller machines and points out that he would like to do it on a budget and for a modest footprint worth of space and weight. And for MOST of what he listed in his first post a 9 inch South Bend or Logan or a Grizzly 10x22 or some other similar size class lathe would be just fine. And that size is already a big step up from what he was eyeballing in terms of a Sherline, Taig or 7" mini lathe.

The big crunch decision will be what he decides about rifle barrel work. That more than most things will set the minimum size lathe decision.

flylo
12-18-2016, 04:51 PM
I like the fact that big quality manual lathes are like tractors. You can buy a big well tooled & well maintained lathe for what you can a small easy to move noodle lathe & I'm not knocking any lathe. But you need a few more feet, some common sense on moving & unloading & the rest is years of joy. I have $1600 in my Pacemaker & it's as fine a lathe IMHO as you can get. Even came with a Buck Adjust Tru chuck & a 4 jaw & a taper attachment, steady & follow rest. A little too big for gun work but works fine. Bought it to build a full size Gatling Gun which is coming along. It came from Checker motors in Kazoo which are favorites too. I also go down in size to an EMCO Unimat I make hollow point bullets in the living room on a hosptal tray in the winter. Any lathe is better than no lathe & you're not marrying it so you can upgrade or change when something better comes along. Just my opinion which is worth twice what you pay for it.:p

Steve-O
12-18-2016, 10:33 PM
Again, thanks for everything so far. Always welcome more.

Here's "where I'm at."

Yes I'd love to get deep into gunsmithing and one day I'll be making guns. The reality is that Colorado School of Trades costs about $20k for three years of education so. . .that's a lot of saving. Or I'll pick up a temporary job. Hey, pain is temporary, glory is forever, right?

Moving is a real possibility in the next few years and I'd rather move a big ass lathe and mill once. So I have a rough near term plan and a long term plan.

Near term: Just get started. Find something high quality, low price, bench top sized and play around. Get smart with brains and hands. Save up money.

Long term: Get serious. Fine tune my desires, strengths, and abilities. School? Upsize equipment? Sell old stuff maybe? And go from there.

You might think that all this info is confusing but it's actually helping me figure this stuff out. Thanks again and keep the advice coming.

PStechPaul
12-18-2016, 11:01 PM
The machine tools I have are small and light enough that I was able to unload them from their crates in my Isuzu Trooper, remove heavy items like the motor, headstock, and tailstock, and then get them up some steps into my house, by myself. I also used a hand truck and a chain fall to assist, particularly when doing tricky stuff like positioning the head of the mill on the round column. I also mounted the mill on a heavy wooden bench on casters, so it could be positioned where needed and to help with cleanup. My 9x20 lathe weighs about 250 pounds, and the mill/drill machine is about 470 pounds, but the easily removed components are mostly not more than about 100 pounds.

I was at first going to get a combination lathe and mill, but it is better to have both as separate tools to avoid time spent switching setups. But if you can find one for cheap, it may be a good starting machine. Here are some ideas from the Denver Craig's List:

http://denver.craigslist.org/tls/5924399586.html (Lathe/mill $750)

https://images.craigslist.org/01111_jOwMMuh9sZj_600x450.jpg

http://denver.craigslist.org/tls/5882054817.html (lathe/mill $1000)

https://images.craigslist.org/00t0t_cRqCCZ49xkz_600x450.jpg

http://denver.craigslist.org/tld/5896695853.html (Atlas 10x24 $1250)

https://images.craigslist.org/00v0v_h5WaeSczI2e_600x450.jpg

http://denver.craigslist.org/tls/5896919493.html (Round column HF mill/drill $700, $1/pound)

https://images.craigslist.org/00404_kh3c1Fz2hys_600x450.jpg

BCRider
12-18-2016, 11:49 PM
Steve, if you're looking long term it sounds like you're already commited to diving into this hobby hook, line and sinker and you ain't letting go of the hook because it's already down and snagged on your spleen. At least that's what it looks like from here as I sit with the bandaid on my own spleen.... :D

If this is the long term goal and you want to start out in a smaller and cheaper way I would suggest that just about anything is a good start. Buying SOMETHING will allow you to read and immediately put into practice what you read about. So while I hate the things even a 7x16 mini lathe would aid in your education. And you could do some smaller projects along the way.

The school is a lovely idea. But if you're not going to actually make a living from machine work then that is a VERY high cost for a hobby. If you are keen and don't shy away from a challenge and don't mind frequently transferring the contents of your "Box of Destroyed Dreams" to the metal recycling depot in your area you can learn a helluva lot on your own. Mistakes make the man after all. If you don't shy away from a challenge each and every time you step into your shop you'll learn at least as much as we have in fairly short order.

Later on when you are settled into your new long term digs THEN look at a 12x36 or a 14x40 as a long term purchase. And a milling machine to go with that size of lathe. And there's a chance that once you have a 7x16 all dressed up with the mods and improvements you might just want to hold onto it as your premier small parts machine.

On the other hand if you leap into a 10x or that PM 11x27 size lathe up front you may or may not find that you even need to upgrade to something larger. The lathe and the stuff you make will quickly tell you and by that time you'll know what it's saying.

In any event you WILL want that 4x6 horizontal and vertical combo bandsaw I mentioned earlier. It's not a bad size and it's cheap enough to buy it and sneak it into the house when "she" isn't looking. And for doing any metal work you WILL want such a saw.

Don't discount the value of good hand tools either. A big solid 80lb bench vise and a good sturdy bench to bolt it to is at LEAST as important as your first machine tool. The vise justifies buying a bevy of files in all shapes, sizes and cuts along with hammers and punches and chisels, oh my..... I cannot stress how important a good solid bench and vise is to any metal worker's shop. The heavier the vise and the heavier and more solid the bench the better. I sort of wondered about my sanity when I lugged my present vise out to the truck about 35 years ago. It literally does weigh 80 lbs. But that doubt quickly turned into confidence and assurance that I'd made the RIGHT decision. And today it's a soft spoken but highly key partner in my own shop. If I did not have the vise I do I would be a lesser person and probably spend more time out stalking strangers in the dark... OK, I'm exaggerating. But not by a whole lot. You will NOT escape hand tool work easily. And for doing hand tool work a big solid, low slop and heavy vise is like having your BFF there with you helping out when you need them.

38_Cal
12-19-2016, 01:11 AM
First off, welcome to the insanity! Much of the advice you've been handed will need to be distilled to find the answer that fits your budget, space available and project requirements. For my background, I'm a semi-retired gunsmith, currently teaching machine shop classes at the local community college's gunsmithing program. I might be a know-it-all, but I freely admit that I don't know it all!

In my home shop, I have a well overloaded 2'x8' heavy wood construction workbench with a heavy and a light vise on it. I also have a Rockwell 11x24" lathe, an Enco 13x40" lathe and an Enco 10x54" vertical mill. The smaller lathe will do everything except metric threading and longer barrel taper turning. The big lathe has metric change gears. The mill is big enough to do everything I can do, including cutting octagons on long rifle barrels. The lathes both run on 110v, the mill is 220v with an rpc. All the machines came to me used, with a small amount of tooling with each...and I've spent easily half the value of the machines in tooling and accessories for them!

As for training, if Denver has any Community Colleges with machine shop classes that allow "hobby" students, see if you can get in before buying too much machinery. The training will be invaluable, you may make some contacts on good used machinery sales, and you won't regret knowing how to run a lathe and mill before starting gunsmithing school. Along with CST, take a look at Trinidad State Jr. College. As a public school, it should be a lot less money, you would get in-state tuition, and it's well regarded. With either school, get a copy of the required tool list in advance of starting so that you can begin collecting the goodies you'll need. Also, start collecting gunsmithing books...Jerry Kuhnhausen's series is excellent, other respected authors are Roy Dunlap, Steve Acker, and more than I can think of this late at night! Above all, ask questions! Use the search function on this site! Remember that for any subject, you're likely to get six to twenty good ways of doing the same job depending on the experience, education, and tools that the folks answering your questions have!

JRouche
12-19-2016, 01:23 AM
welcome.... JR

patclem
12-19-2016, 01:59 PM
I'm in IT professionally so I have to buy any tools I want to learn to use. I started with a mini bench top mill and a 9x20 Chinese lathe. Save your money.
I now have a gear head round column bench mill but it's sturdy and can take a cut. A square column or knee mill is much better though, because you can change bits without repositioning.
I now have a Southbend 9a, which is 100 times the Chinese lathe, even after I had done all the mods to make it sturdy. If someone gave me one, I might take it to hack it into CNC.
Since then, I've been divorced, moved from my tiny basement shop to 3 flat acres, built a 32x48x12 shop, and planning a plasma table. Space changes everything. I have my feelers out for a knee mill, maybe an ironworker.
I would say hone in on something you'd really like to do, and over-buy your equipment capacity.
If it's light enough for two people to pick it up, it's junk for metal working. Metal is a tough material and your machines have to be tougher.
Oh well, that and 50 cents will buy you a Coke.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Steve-O
12-20-2016, 08:50 PM
First off, welcome to the insanity! Much of the advice you've been handed will need to be distilled to find the answer that fits your budget, space available and project requirements. For my background, I'm a semi-retired gunsmith, currently teaching machine shop classes at the local community college's gunsmithing program. I might be a know-it-all, but I freely admit that I don't know it all!

In my home shop, I have a well overloaded 2'x8' heavy wood construction workbench with a heavy and a light vise on it. I also have a Rockwell 11x24" lathe, an Enco 13x40" lathe and an Enco 10x54" vertical mill. The smaller lathe will do everything except metric threading and longer barrel taper turning. The big lathe has metric change gears. The mill is big enough to do everything I can do, including cutting octagons on long rifle barrels. The lathes both run on 110v, the mill is 220v with an rpc. All the machines came to me used, with a small amount of tooling with each...and I've spent easily half the value of the machines in tooling and accessories for them!

As for training, if Denver has any Community Colleges with machine shop classes that allow "hobby" students, see if you can get in before buying too much machinery. The training will be invaluable, you may make some contacts on good used machinery sales, and you won't regret knowing how to run a lathe and mill before starting gunsmithing school. Along with CST, take a look at Trinidad State Jr. College. As a public school, it should be a lot less money, you would get in-state tuition, and it's well regarded. With either school, get a copy of the required tool list in advance of starting so that you can begin collecting the goodies you'll need. Also, start collecting gunsmithing books...Jerry Kuhnhausen's series is excellent, other respected authors are Roy Dunlap, Steve Acker, and more than I can think of this late at night! Above all, ask questions! Use the search function on this site! Remember that for any subject, you're likely to get six to twenty good ways of doing the same job depending on the experience, education, and tools that the folks answering your questions have!

Thanks especially for the books. I need a good set!

38_Cal
12-23-2016, 04:43 PM
You're welcome. As far as I'm concerned, the most important tool in my shop is my library, and I include the internet resources available to us now as part of it! One thing you may not think of...get a few older Brownells catalogs going back in five year increments for about 25 or so years. Many items in them will be the same, but you'll find gunsmithing tools and products over that time period that may not now be on the market, that once you learn to use a lathe and mill, could be made by you to help make your gunsmithing projects easier to do.

RB211
12-23-2016, 04:55 PM
I agree with 12x36 lathe. Nothing less than a knee mill. CNC if you can swing it. Of course you are going to start out with a small lathe and crappy mill, learn from them and eventually wind up with what I recommended at first. We've all done that.