Quantcast
  1. Sign up now and join over 35,000 northwest gun owners. It's quick, easy, and 100% free!

Mill & Lathe Questions From Moron

Discussion in 'Maintenance & Gunsmithing' started by PlayboyPenguin, Jan 1, 2012.

  1. PlayboyPenguin

    PlayboyPenguin Pacific Northwest Well-Known Member 2016 Volunteer

    Messages:
    4,833
    Likes Received:
    1,742
    I am considering putting together a small collection of tools to do some gunsmithing work. Mostly customizing/restoring old gun but I might also get into doing some custom 1911 work down the road. I am a woodworking gun and definitely not a metal working guy so I have a ton of questions. I will try to make this one short and easy.

    I have about $5k to spend on the first couple of machines I want to get. I am thinking the first thing I should buy is a mill and maybe a lathe. My question is what size do you think I would need for a small shop? Should I get a table top or freestanding? What minimum horsepower would you recommend? Should I buy separate machines or a combo machine? Do I need a drill style milling machine or vertical? Is it more important to have your lathe be top notch or your milling machine?

    I notice some of the table top mills have better specs than the freestanding ones as far as speed and HP are concerned. THIS ONE is along the lines of what I am thinking for the mill as far as table tops are concerned. or should I get something more like THIS ONE? Than again, maybe I need a vertical mill like THIS ONE.

    Or should I get a combo setup like THIS ONE. It sure would save room in a small shop.

    If I do not get the combo I was thinking of getting a lathe similar to THIS ONE.

    Feel free to tell me I am completely wrong with any of the above choice. I want to hear the positive and negatives and all the opinions on what direction i should go. I am good at the actual restorations, but I am a complete newb when it comes to the tools. Until now I have done everything the slow and old fashioned way...by hand. Keep in mind this s not going to be a big commercial production shop. Just a small shop were I can restore a few firearms and maybe build a gun or two a week/month.

    ***EDIT: The initial $5k is for machinery only (mill & lathe). I intend to buying tooling as I go over the next year. I have budgeted spending about $500 a month for at least twelve months to get a pretty good starting set up. Also, the machines shown are just an example. I have not decided on any brand ***
     
  2. Rascals

    Rascals Portland Or Active Member

    Messages:
    384
    Likes Received:
    122
    First off I dont care for any of those you listed. Some experience with them and found them lacking. 2nd most of the time you can go to auctions and get good machines for allot less then those and they are better made. You smaller machines usually go for more becasue people are trying to save space. I have gone into auctions and waiting while people were spending lots of money on the small ones and bought nice and big great machines at a fraction of what the smaller not as good machines went for. Take a friend or somebody you trust out and get good machines that will last. I have had new ones like you posted come out to our shop and they were junk before they were even used.
     
  3. CarlMc

    CarlMc Safely north of Seattle Active Member

    Messages:
    348
    Likes Received:
    97
    First off, a moron is a stupid person. Stupidity can’t be cured, but ignorance can. You’re curing your ignorance, and that’s a good thing. I’ll try to help a little.

    As a disclaimer, I’m not a gunsmith, but for my job I’ve acquired some machine shop equipment at work and they get more and more use. I do R&D, so something new is always coming across the machines. That said, I do use the imported machines from Grizzly, and don’t have the space/budget/skills to justify a full sized machine such as a Bridgeport.

    The first important bit of information to know is that the machine will be less than half the cost of your investment. If you have 5K to invest, start with a machine less than 2.5K and assume the rest will be tooling. The tooling will eat you alive if you let it, but wisdom helps keep the cost down. This is where ignorance can be expensive.

    Steer well away from the combination lathe/mill machines. Any machine that attempts to be all things can do no one thing well. I actually recommend a “square column mill” which is a gearhead mill/drill that allows the head to go up and down without losing the index. A round column mill will lose the index (where you were) when you have to raise it up and down. The round column mills have belt drive, which is nice, but a gearhead mill has more power and it’s easier to change speeds. The round columns have their uses and many folks like them, but you’ll find the column less troublesome, frustrating, and so on. Those are a budgetary compromise, and you can trade time for money there. That’s your call, given your budget.
    A lathe is nice, but for gunsmithing, you need a large lathe, and with tooling for the mill, you’ve gone through your budget. The Grizzly gunsmith lathe (I got one very similar for work) is about 3K, and the tooling will run you even more.

    The tooling that comes with these machines are best considered starter tooling. Toss all the cutting tools provided and get US made cutting tools.

    Since you’re inclined to get smarter before you get poorer, I suggest finding some forums or mailing lists that cover these interests. Yahoo has a few, and there are a number of boards devoted to general and specific topics and machines.
     
    borrowedsig and (deleted member) like this.
  4. Ownerus

    Ownerus South Clackamas Co. Active Member

    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    60
    A favorite topic of mine. I bought my first lathe (a used 9x30 South Bend) 35 years ago and have been off the deep end with tools ever since.

    Pretty much ditto on what Carl said except that I would add that, while tooling is expensive and the need for more unending, you don't have to buy it all at once. Indeed, you'd be foolish to try since you don't really know what all you'll be doing.

    A year after buying the lathe, I bought my first mill. A small knee mill similar to the Grizzly G0730. It's been a good little machine with a few mods like a power feed on the table and I made a 6" riser block for the head since it really didn't have enough useful Z capacity. The Grizzly may be made a little taller than mine. I'd go as large as you can on the mill. You gain a lot of rigidity that you will come to appreciate. It's easier to do small work on a large machine than it is to do large work on a small machine. If you can buy, even used, a Bridgeport type knee mill, you'll be much better off in pretty much all respects. If that's to big for your situation, get the biggest you can and ditto on the square or dovetail column instead of round. You end up doing a lot of up and down as tools like drills and reamers tend to be long (especially in a drill chuck) while end mills in a collet are short and it's common to use both on the same part/setup.

    As for the lathe, same story, bigger tends to be better. My 9" South Bend is a wonderful little machine and very versatile but is a bit small for some smithing type operations. I have a really old 16" South Bend that will do pretty good work if I'm patient to take care of the bigger jobs. Most of the new smaller machines tend to have relatively short beds. Get longer if you can. You won't actually use the length very often but it's invaluable when you do need it. A large spindle bore is also desirable and in many operations is a trade off if you lack sufficient bed length. That lathe you list is a fairly nice size for most operations and has a decent hole through the spindle for that size machine and enough bed length for most purposes.

    This is a topic that's tough to cover in short form. Just go for it and know you're going to have a lot to learn and it's going to cost a lot more over the long term (helps spread out the pain). If you're at all mechanically inclined, most of it can be figured out as you go. If you want to make things, you're on the right track.
     
    daneyboy007 and (deleted member) like this.
  5. PlayboyPenguin

    PlayboyPenguin Pacific Northwest Well-Known Member 2016 Volunteer

    Messages:
    4,833
    Likes Received:
    1,742
    Thanks for the info so far. Especially the info of round column versus square column. I have edited my initial post to include the following info (which I should have put in it in the first place but spaced...:)

    ***EDIT: The initial $5k is for machinery only (mill & lathe). I intend to buying tooling as I go over the next year. I have budgeted spending about $500 a month for at least twelve months to get a pretty good starting set up. Also, the machines shown are just an example. I have not decided on any brand ***
     
  6. CarlMc

    CarlMc Safely north of Seattle Active Member

    Messages:
    348
    Likes Received:
    97
    Separating tooling and machine budgets is a good thing. Sounds like you have a plan.
    I’m going to wade into this carefully, because just like certain firearm crowds, folks take their own choices personally and get mighty upset when you threaten their apple cart. For your budget, you may get told to wait, wait some more, and then wait another while to acquire a higher quality American made piece of machinery. The problem is that you’ll get clapped out American machinery that requires a whole lot of rebuilding to get to where the imported stuff is right out of the box. Granted, the imported machines aren’t up to American standards, but they are new and good enough for what most of us do. On the machines at work, I’ll be hard pressed to ever be able to work as accurately as the machines are capable of. I’m just not that good, and since perfect is the enemy of good enough, my work has to be good enough to do the job, and anything else is overpriced.

    Which leads me to my next point: If I needed incredible accuracy, I can get it, but it will take awhile. The machine is only as good as the operator, and there are many clapped out machine owners turning out some phenomenal work.
    I’d strongly suggest that you look into getting digital readouts. At a minimum for the milling machine, and eventually for the lathe. Lathe workpieces are easier to measure in place than mill workpieces, and on my Grizzly mill/drill at work that isn’t sold anymore (RF45 equivalent, similar to the G0720R without the power feeds and other bells and whistles.) I put a three axis DRO on it, and now wish I had a 4th for the column. There was too much hysteresis in the leadscrews and elsewhere to be able to hit the spot I wanted and I hated counted turns when there’s thirty other numbers going through my head at the same time.
    I’ve purchased Grizzly products with my own and my employer’s money for years, and have for the most part been fairly satisfied. Their customer support is pretty good, although it has been slowly slipping in the past few years. The have one of their two storefronts in Bellingham. You pay a little more for their stuff than other sources, but Harbor Freight’s, while cheap, does leave a whole lot to be desired in terms of build quality. If you want to build a kit machine, then maybe HF is the way to go, but that’s your dime. Several other companies sell very similar branded machines, and there are forums and web sites devoted to helping you pick out what’s best for you.

    There are methods out there of milling on a lathe, and the workpieces have to be really small to make it practical. There are methods of turning work on a mill, and your workpiece can be really large or really small. You need a rotary table to do that, and I’ve done some work that would be best done on a lathe except for one feature that couldn’t be milled away. You’ll wind up with a rotary table sooner than later anyway. I think for what you’ve described, a mill would be the first machine to get, and then once you’ve gotten enough experience not to break too many tools or knock off fingers, get the lathe. Getting them both at the same time and trying to learn two machines simultaneously can be difficult.
     
  7. Straight Shooter

    Straight Shooter North Bend OR Active Member

    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    33
    To better answer this what operations are you planning to do that would require a lathe or mill?

    Not much 1911 work needs either of these. Files and stones are the order of the day when building 1911's. What sort of guns would you be building a week or a month? If you intend to sell any of these you will need an 07 manufacturing license. If any of these guns belong to another then an 01 FFL is in order. If rifle barreling is in your future it takes a pretty nice 13x40 or so sized machine to hold the tolerances that todays shooters are demanding.

    If this work is personal stuff a way to go is to take a machining class at your local comunity college. Once you take a class many schools will let you return to use the machinery on lab nights. This is how we operated until our demand increased to the point we needed the machines on a near daily basis.

    For 1911 work cutting dovetails, drilling and tapping holes a small bench top mill would be one of the first I would buy. Pistol barrels can be reworked in a really small benchtop lathe.

    Another consideration of starting out cheap or small is if you ever intend to buy bigger better equipment there will be a substantial depreaciation on the old stuff.
     
  8. PlayboyPenguin

    PlayboyPenguin Pacific Northwest Well-Known Member 2016 Volunteer

    Messages:
    4,833
    Likes Received:
    1,742
    Straight Shooter,

    That is a good idea about the machining classes. I will look into any near me. I know there are no gunsmithing classes but learning the machines would be great.

    As for manufacturing, I do not see that anytime in the near future. If it happens that would be great. I would love to produce 1911's...but like I said, that is unlikely anytime soon. Right now I would mainly like to be able cut slide for updated sights, port barrels and slides, recrown revolver barrels, etc. Small stuff.

    I am considering buying a small table top mill like THIS ONE to play with at first. If I turn around and sell it for half price in a few months to get a better one I am not out much at all.
     
  9. Ownerus

    Ownerus South Clackamas Co. Active Member

    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    60
    Ditto to Carl again. If I was starting out today, I'd probably have Grizzly stuff. I have some as it is and most of it I've seen hasn't been too bad quality wise. As it is, I have a 35 year hodge podge of new, used, old used, rebuilt by me, American, Import, etc. stuff. I've never worried about the depreciation of the equipment (other than with the tax man) because when I buy another machine, I still keep and use the old one. I have stuff that was probably making making parts during WWI. I bought an old #2 Brown & Sharpe universal milling machine that probably dates from around 1912 at a farm auction for $750. Did a bit of work on it (not much) and it has allowed me to do a lot of things I couldn't do on a Bridgeport. And it's still pretty accurate. I bought a new Chinese CNC router (think Harbor Freight only without the quality control) that required extensive rework by me to get it flat, square, plumb and make the tool changer work but even that, now that it's producing, has been a good purchase. I couldn't have afforded the 4X$ it would have taken to buy a "good" machine. And, without the lathes, mills, drills, welding equipment I already had I couldn't have made it work. Everything is a trade off. You buy the best you can afford and you make it work. The more tools you have, the more opportunity there is for new things to do.
     
  10. CarlMc

    CarlMc Safely north of Seattle Active Member

    Messages:
    348
    Likes Received:
    97
    It was great for Straight Shooter to begin by inquiring about requirements. This is really the beginning of defining what you need.
    My local community college had machining classes, but the hours were screwy and I couldn’t line them up with my work hours. It would have been definitely useful to me.
    There is one common specification you should shoot for. Any milling machine you get should have an R8 arbor, regardless of its size. R8 is the standard tooling attachment method, and if your machine has a Jacobs Taper (called JT) then finding tooling that will fit will be difficult without an adapter that takes up valuable vertical envelope. The R8 will also allow you to grow and transfer the tooling to larger machines.
    While defining requirements is the best start, its your money and you can get any machine for any reason you like. When specifying a machine, you’ll find out soon that its never big enough, and the stuff you use it for grows substantially. Having the ability to cut metal means you’ll repair all sorts of stuff, fabricate instead of buy, and the list goes on. Doing what I do, knowing I have the ability to take a piece of otherwise scrap material and turn it into something that fills my need is awesome. I throw away less stuff, knowing that I can make it into something useful later. It really does change your thinking about how you approach problems.
     
  11. Straight Shooter

    Straight Shooter North Bend OR Active Member

    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    33
    That little machine would be something to play with. I urge you to take the class as soon as possible to get some fundamentals down. Winter term is about to start. Even signing up to audit will help. These classes are usually in the late evenings. In a few weeks when you get to the mill you will be allowed to bring in some outside projects. Then you will have the advantage of the instructors experience in setting up and machining the sort of projects you actually want to do. Then do some serious shopping. Matt at Quality Machine tools has pretty good equipment for the dollar and usually free shipping.
     
  12. PlayboyPenguin

    PlayboyPenguin Pacific Northwest Well-Known Member 2016 Volunteer

    Messages:
    4,833
    Likes Received:
    1,742
    Anyone have specific suggestions where to take classes. All I am finding is places that want to give you a tech degree for like $20k. I just want to take some basic courses. I would love to find a local gunsmith that wanted some free labor. Would love to learn from an experienced person.
     
  13. Straight Shooter

    Straight Shooter North Bend OR Active Member

    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    33
  14. PlayboyPenguin

    PlayboyPenguin Pacific Northwest Well-Known Member 2016 Volunteer

    Messages:
    4,833
    Likes Received:
    1,742
    I am in the PDX/Vanc area
     
  15. CarlMc

    CarlMc Safely north of Seattle Active Member

    Messages:
    348
    Likes Received:
    97
    You can call up your local CC, tell them what you want to do and then allow them to route you around a few people until you get the right person, or figure out their web site.
    The other option is to start looking at the course catalog (often available on the web) and skip the tech degree stuff, heading directly to the classes you are interested in. Look over the prerequisites, and keep in mind that many classes will require blueprint reading of some kind. These are definitely worth taking on their own, since your work may be yours or someone else’s drawings. Working off of pencil sketches from folks who have training is a world of difference better (and less hassle/expense) than from someone who doesn’t know prints.

    Either way you do need to talk to an advisor to make sure you’re not missing anything. Academics make assumptions that non-academics would never dream of, and they’ll trip you up.
     
  16. Straight Shooter

    Straight Shooter North Bend OR Active Member

    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    33
    Portland Community College has an extensive course list. Mount Hood Community College has Machine Tool courses too. School starts the 9th.

    The problem with working under or for a smith is it takes up valuable time to teach you. Between the extra time, ruined parts, broken, dulled cutters and being in the way it cost about $250 to $500 a day to train someone advanced skills. That said there are a few smiths around that teach private classes and those are the going rates.
     
  17. PlayboyPenguin

    PlayboyPenguin Pacific Northwest Well-Known Member 2016 Volunteer

    Messages:
    4,833
    Likes Received:
    1,742
    Clark College in Vancouver appears to have a pretty extensive course. They have classes specifically for mills and lathes. Anyone know anything about them? recommend them? Unfortunately the college is closed until Wed. I might start another thread asking as well.
     
  18. Straight Shooter

    Straight Shooter North Bend OR Active Member

    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    33
    They look very well equiped to teach you anything you would ever need to know to do gunsmith machining. Clark College Catalog
     
  19. cyclesurvival

    cyclesurvival Vancouver Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,090
    Likes Received:
    52
    I went through their program 2 years and a 1 year of special projects, I'm back now studying Business. When I went through the machining program there was a lot of machines to play with up to 25 horse lathe that would really let the chips fly!! I recommend it to anyone who wants to do gun work. Thay offer some nights classes you might check into those if time is a problem. Kids ya know.
     
  20. CarlMc

    CarlMc Safely north of Seattle Active Member

    Messages:
    348
    Likes Received:
    97
    DieselScout and (deleted member) like this.