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Thread: "Gunsmithing" lathes

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    metalmaster10's Avatar
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    Default "Gunsmithing" lathes

    I just wanted to share some pro and con info on my newest lathe if anyone is interested.
    I was looking for a long time for a new lathe. I wanted something large enough to be robust,
    small enough to move into my shop, and would fit into my limited budget… hard to fill all 3.

    You may have seen the Grizzly line of gunsmith lathes advertised in your favorite shooting publications...
    Well, I got the 16X40 G0509G last year. This is the largest in the “gunsmithing” line

    Here is my experience overall.
    Price: This seemed to be the “best bang for the buck”
    Ordering: there were mix-ups even placing the order… then Backordered! …. Then delayed….then confusion about specific
    shipping requirements! It took over 3 months to get the machine here!
    I thought since this was a catalog item it would ship right out, I was wrong!
    Packing: The machine came fully crated and pretty well protected.
    The Machine: To compare this to a Hardinge tool room lathe would NOT be appropriate, this is an import machine.
    But, here is my opinion based on 20 years of machining experience.
    Overall it is well equipped, came with a steady rest and a follow rest. (I was able to use the follow rest to turn a
    14 inch long shaft .473 diameter to within .0015 end to end my first try the way the machine came in the door!)
    this shaft was a rush job and a one shot deal…I was glad it came out right. I am pretty sure the outcome can be better
    with this machine, but I thought that was pretty fair.
    The tailstock is great. Moves free and smooth, but not sloppy; Long stroke. Holds MT#4 and has a good lock.
    Carriage / Cross slide: These both work well. Very smooth, but not slopy; with plenty of travel on the cross slide to work across a part.
    Backlash is “ok”…. It is a manual lathe. Good compared to an old machine, but fair for a new one.
    The graduations on the handwheels are easy to read. There is a unique way to switch from inch to metric
    that is pretty slick and easy, but a little sloppy. If you are trying to do work to tenths care must be taken with the dial collar.
    However, if you are doing work to TENTHS you are already taking every precaution! ;-)
    The quick change toolholder on this was nice for a “budget” model. Maybe not quite an Aloris, but very nice for 1/4 the price, no problems there.
    Even came mounted and ready to use.
    The Compound Cross slide: This is where I am a little disappointed. It works great. Like the other moving parts, smooth but not sloppy.
    Nice Long travel. However, there are only graduations from -65 deg. To +65 deg. Instead of -90 to +90.
    If you want to put a face angle of 20 degrees on a part you have to guess! This seemed like a crazy shortfall to me.
    Try hard to do everything else right and fail on this.
    Optional Taper attachment: I purchased this…. Now I don’t know why. There are no graduations on it! WHY NOT ? ! ? ! ?
    Headstock: Break-in went well, time consuming, but needed. I spent 30 or more minutes at every RPM.
    Runs smooth all the way from 45 RPM up to its max 1800 RPM.
    The outboard end of the headstock comes with 4 adjustable bolts to help center up a long shaft or barrel.
    I have used this for a 42 inch long 1” dia shaft and it worked GREAT! The only machine I have that has this type of device.
    Came with a nice solid 8” 3 jaw chuck. (Also a 4 jaw and a faceplace that are still in the wrappers)
    The gears work well, but can be a little touchy to “find” some of the feeds. This isn’t too big a deal, but it is noticeable and takes a little care.
    The overall control features are easy to use and well laid out. The half nut lever is the only part that isn’t as smooth as the rest to operate.
    Again, not terrible, but not a $35,000 machine.
    All-in-all. With all the extras, shipping, triple ball bearing center, keyless chuck, etc. to my door wired up for about 9K
    I think this is a good buy for a new machine in this size bracket.
    I have this right next to an Acer the same size that cost twice as much and I much prefer this machine other than the compound graduations.
    We have 16 engine lathes in our shop ranging from 1942 WW2 Pacemakers, to S. Bend 17” Turnado’s,
    Nardini, Cincinnati, to this. This is now my “go-to machine” I have made a lot of chips with it.
    Compared to the other “import” machines I have looked at in this price class I would rank this very high.
    The other machines I looked at in this price were not as well refined in their movements. Again, this machine is NOT a Hardinge,
    but it also does not carry that price tag. If you are looking into one of these ask questions about shipping or a truck will show
    up and you will have no way to unload! Be sure to get real answers not the vague stuff from a sales clerk.

    I am NOT trying to sell anything and I am not affiliated with this company, just trying to give info if anyone is considering this type of machine.

    Happy ‘Smithing
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    bridgeport's Avatar
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    Thanks for the review, glad you are pleased. I would be very interested in the wear characteristics of these units after varying periods of time.

    Regards, B

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    Quote Originally Posted by bridgeport View Post
    Thanks for the review, glad you are pleased. I would be very interested in the wear characteristics of these units after varying periods of time.

    Regards, B
    Me too!
    I was a little schepticle about it, but figured I would give it a shot. I have heard good things about the Grizzly machines, and for the most part so far so good.
    I will definatly note if it looks to wear soon. we are a year in and nothing noticeable yet.

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    Metalmaster10;

    Thank you for your review and comments. I have suspected that the Grizzly was a reasonable quality lathe, but did not know for certain.

    I have a couple of questions about the Grizzly.

    1) What is the gear noise like when the lathe is operated at different speeds?

    2) I have listened to an Acer running and thought it was reasonable quite. Is the Grizzly more quite.

    3) One of the issues I have with my current lathe is that I would like to have the lowest speed down to about 10 RPM for some specialized reaming that I do, will the Grizzly operate at that low of RPM?

    4) That is excellent results with a follow rest, I have never been able to get a follow rest to work that well.

    5) A test that I like to use for a lathe is to turn a 2 or 2.5 inch diameter low carbon steel(12L14 if I have it) bar 30 inches long between centers to see if the lathe will cut withing in +/- .0005" over the length of the bar taking a .010" cut. Have you tried that and if so how does it do?

    6) What is the noise level while cutting threads?

    7) What is it about the Grizzly that causes you to like it better than the Acer?

    Best Regards;
    Steve

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    Hey, if your a year in and still happy, that says something. My guess is the grizz will give you years of satisfactory service. Any machine run hard in production will wear over time, no surprise with that. Smithing ops generate almost zero wear, on my machines at least. Production work with multiple operators is the big killer, but for the money, you could burn a machine out and simply replace it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bridgeport View Post
    Hey, if your a year in and still happy, that says something. My guess is the grizz will give you years of satisfactory service. Any machine run hard in production will wear over time, no surprise with that. Smithing ops generate almost zero wear, on my machines at least. Production work with multiple operators is the big killer, but for the money, you could burn a machine out and simply replace it.
    DUDE, YOU'RE FROM L.A. ! You know you will get arrested just for looking at a gunsmithing page, right? I'll try to stay off my...
    Anyhow, you are right, we won't wear it out like in production.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jockofthelowveld View Post
    Metalmaster10;

    Thank you for your review and comments. I have suspected that the Grizzly was a reasonable quality lathe, but did not know for certain.

    I have a couple of questions about the Grizzly.

    1) What is the gear noise like when the lathe is operated at different speeds?

    2) I have listened to an Acer running and thought it was reasonable quite. Is the Grizzly more quite.

    3) One of the issues I have with my current lathe is that I would like to have the lowest speed down to about 10 RPM for some specialized reaming that I do, will the Grizzly operate at that low of RPM?

    4) That is excellent results with a follow rest, I have never been able to get a follow rest to work that well.

    5) A test that I like to use for a lathe is to turn a 2 or 2.5 inch diameter low carbon steel(12L14 if I have it) bar 30 inches long between centers to see if the lathe will cut withing in +/- .0005" over the length of the bar taking a .010" cut. Have you tried that and if so how does it do?

    6) What is the noise level while cutting threads?

    7) What is it about the Grizzly that causes you to like it better than the Acer?

    Best Regards;
    Steve
    1: gear noise is pretty mild.
    2: maybe SLIGHTLY more than the Acer. The Griz actually makes more noise winding up to speed than running.
    3: My lowest RPM is 45, top is 1800
    4/5: I have not done any "real testing" yet. What I Listed was run "out of the box" that is why I was fairly impressed.
    6: nothing really noticeable while threading. I don't have any that I would say are louder threading than turning. I"m a bit confused by this one. I have done a fair amount of threading on the new Griz but avg sized stuff; 12-18 tpi. I did have to single point a custom .390 X 24 pitch Left Hand fine thread last week.... that was fun. took longer to grind the tool and do a test part than the real part.
    7: Our Acer is only 5 years old, has trouble with feeds internally, a drive gear is chewed up already, the compound is fair at best.
    Believe it or not, the Griz seems more robust for far less $$

    ***NOTE: our situation is a little unique. since it is a training facility our stuff doesn't get worn out, it gets broken from the learning curve. ***

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    We have an 0554Z Grizzly and it has worked well for over 2 years. One problem we had was the starters for the motor. Replacing them was a chore as there was barely enough of the wire to connect the new ones. Otherwise, the lathe has performed well and holds its zeros well.

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    JBCGUNS is offline Aluminum
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    [, this is an import machine. ]

    Great report.
    I'm in Australia and haven't seen a grizzly lathe but I'm aware that they are popular in the USA.
    Where are they made?

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    Tool_guy is offline Plastic
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    Quote Originally Posted by JBCGUNS View Post
    [, this is an import machine. ]

    Great report.
    I'm in Australia and haven't seen a grizzly lathe but I'm aware that they are popular in the USA.
    Where are they made?
    I believe the three machines sold as gunsmithing lathes by grizzly are made by two factories in asia. The smaller unit being from mainland china, and the two larger ones being taiwanese.

    I have been looking into importing one of the taiwanese units and am lucky enough to work for a large tool retailer in QLD.

    I'd be happy to let you know prices etc when I hear back from our buying agent.

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    I have a grizzly lathe G4002 12in by 24in bed it works pretty good I have done production work on it and it holds tollerances very well even turning hardened pins to plus or minus .001. I have had about 7 years now and have done all kinds of work on it even reface my own brake rotors on it have taken the removable peice of the bed out to turn the rotors for my 99 silverado, and it worked great. My father has a grizzly lathe G9036 I think that is the model. I instaled a dig read out on it for him and it works pretty good too I haven't used it a whole lot, but what I have used it it worked good. He also has a milling machine with the NT#40 this is were the problems come in. When we first got it the spindle was running out about .005 you would put in a 4 flute end mill and it would only cut with 2 flutes it was running out so bad. The only good thing about it was they were very easy to deal with in getting the spindle replaced. I installed it myself and they shipped the parts free of charge. I also worked with a guy who bought a grizzly mill and he has trouble with as well.

    So 2 lathes work good
    2 mills both poor quality and performance from the factory. with a new spindle my dads mill now works great but a person should not have to change spindles in a machine 1 week after you purchase it.

    My dads thought are this they are good machines to start out with but he will not buy anymore of them.

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    Jeff Walker is offline Plastic
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tool_guy View Post
    I believe the three machines sold as gunsmithing lathes by grizzly are made by two factories in asia. The smaller unit being from mainland china, and the two larger ones being taiwanese.

    I have been looking into importing one of the taiwanese units and am lucky enough to work for a large tool retailer in QLD.

    I'd be happy to let you know prices etc when I hear back from our buying agent.

    I have the 16x40 gunsmith lathe from grizzly ( g0509g ). It says made in China right on the front panel. Metalmaster10 gave a great review of the lathe. I've been running mine for over two years now, and I have built quite a few very good shooting rifles on it and would like to add my findings here.

    It's the smoothest running lathe I've ever run....but the only American lathes I've ever played with were old and worn out. Everything seems great to me, but one piece of advice to anyone who gets one....be very careful changing gears both in the headstock and gearbox. It tells you right on the front to only change gears below 500rpm and have the selector in neutral ( the one that looks like a gearshift and is numbered 1 thru 8 ). I will take it further and say you need to only turn the lathe by hand when changing gears. I baby my lathe, but still had to go into the headstock last year and just got done fixing the gearbox last week. The gear cluster on the input shaft in the headstock can slide due to gear clash during changing. Mine got up against the casting and was making a roaring or grinding noise that was showing up on my work. I went in, found what was happening and fixed it. In the gearbox, one of the brass forks ( which actually solid instead of what I consider a fork ) failed. I went in, saw what happened, made a replacement fork in my other lathe and mill. I also modified the new fork a little because I saw why the original one failed and that it was doomed to fail from the start. After going into the gearbox and seeing how it all works, I can tell you it would be wise to turn by hand when changing gears ( the selector labeled R S T is the one with the weakness and is only weak when going from R to S or S to T...the other way is strong )
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    Once I complete my training at CST, I will be opening my own shop. I would really like to buy American, but I also want to be able to start up my business without going $10-15 THOUSAND dollars into debt. I have been looking at different lathes and settled on the Grizzly 14x40 and the above reviews really make me feel like I won't be buying a "money pit" right off the bat (I'll be paying cash for it--no debt). I have looked into used SB's and the such, but I know VERY little about metal lathes and refurbing one may be great if you have the time and knowledge and the $$$ for the parts. I really need a machine that is more or less "turn-key" ready. I know the tooling and the such will set me back, but at least I'll try to be a profitable the first or (realistically) 2nd year. Make enough dough to at least pay the bills and make a name for myself (locally), then dream about getting rich...LOL

    Mike

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    willbird is offline Banned
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    I have a lathe that is the same color as the OP's lathe ;-). I'm happy with it generally. Just a few minor things.

    1. The compound degree graduations do not exist for the full swing of the compound, this leaves you guessing for the angle you generally use for single point threading. The cross slide is about the same width as the compound so there is no place for the graduations to exist.
    2. The graduations on the tailstock quill are .1" apart not 1/8's, 1/16 as is "normal"
    3. The slowest rpm is a bit "fast" for threading to a shoulder (will add 3 phase motor and VFD to cure that)
    4. The quick change is a bit "weird"....it works but it does not "feel" like any other quick change I ever used.

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    jamie76x is offline Cast Iron
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    The grizzly equipment is good for a hobby type guy, But its not comparable to 40 year old iron. I hear the term "gunsmithing lathe" sooften and i think its nonsence. Gunsmithing is probly the most simple lathe work i have ever done. You need far less tooling and accessories to gunsmith than a good job shop set up on a lathe. I always have a few lathes for sale and get so many of the dreaded calls " Do you have a gunsmithing lathe?" If you tell them its not made specificly for gunsmithing, they practicly hang the phone up. Look at the meatheads on tv that are Hot shots of the industy using junk bench top lathes... Anyway, back to the question.... Grizzly stuff is ok if you want to have a new shiny lathe, but best bang for your buck is to pick up an older monarch, south bend, leblonde etc etc and give it the right tooling. it will outlive the aisian stuff.

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    willbird is offline Banned
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamie76x View Post
    The grizzly equipment is good for a hobby type guy, But its not comparable to 40 year old iron. I hear the term "gunsmithing lathe" sooften and i think its nonsence. Gunsmithing is probly the most simple lathe work i have ever done. You need far less tooling and accessories to gunsmith than a good job shop set up on a lathe. I always have a few lathes for sale and get so many of the dreaded calls " Do you have a gunsmithing lathe?" If you tell them its not made specificly for gunsmithing, they practicly hang the phone up. Look at the meatheads on tv that are Hot shots of the industy using junk bench top lathes... Anyway, back to the question.... Grizzly stuff is ok if you want to have a new shiny lathe, but best bang for your buck is to pick up an older monarch, south bend, leblonde etc etc and give it the right tooling. it will outlive the aisian stuff.
    If you want to put the barrel through the head stock you need two things, a short headstock, and a headstock with a decent sized bore, then add in being able to do metric threads without a major hassle, and you have knocked out 80% of the "old iron" that will fit in many peoples workspace.
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    Its all a matter of perspective. If you are working in a machine shop and the machine is running 8 hours a day you need to balance it out to something that will last 6 years. Pay for itself, pay the operators wages, pay for a replacement machine and give the owner a respectable profit. Paying $30,000 for a new machine or $10,000 for a boat anchor and then pumping another $10,000 into it to make it last 6 years is not out of line.
    If you are working in a gun shop and the machine gets 1 or 2 hours a week you have to remember that if you haven't paid for the machine, paid the operators wages, paid for the tooling and maintenance and provided a profit for the shop in 6 years there is little point in owning it. You would be far better off to spend $3000 on a Wilton Square wheel belt sander and start turning out high quality recoil pad installations and use it for polishing and bluing.
    I have had one Taiwanese machine for 31 years and when I bought it everyone told me I would have to replace it in two years. It's still as good as the day I bought it. Many parts have been replaced but it hasn't cost me all that much. It has probably installed 300 barrels, 600 muzzle brakes and made more one off parts than I can count, so its paid for it self hundreds of times over. Oddly enough, other, better machines have come and gone too. I am looking at another new machine so that I can dedicate the old one to cutting oil and collets and it will be a new Asian machine. I don't expect to live another 10 years and I don't give a rats patoot about the next guy. I use a machine a lot more than most gunsmiths and with proper maintenance even the cheep ones should last the average gun plumber a lifetime. Its nice to have something nice and if you are a hobbyist or made of money you can do it. Its no different than fixing up an old Corvette to drive on the weekends. But if its a business decision and other bills are screaming and other tools could make you more money, you have to separate want and need. Guns started out being a hobby to me just like most people. Some where along the line I had to wake up and grow up and face the fact that I couldn't have it all. A good gunsmithing shop almost MUST have a lathe and the best is ALWAYS the best but some times you have to settle for second best. Its all a matter of perspective.
    metalmaster10 and cjdavis618 like this.

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    jamie76x is offline Cast Iron
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    I would like to add a few thoughts.... Tiawan and chinese machines were built much better 25 years ago than today. The quality of the metal is the problem and quality controll over there must be an inside joke.

    Some one mentioned that most of the old iron is ruled out for small spindle and not cutting metric threads. Not every lathe is cut out for gun smithing but any good lathe will work. Most gunsmiths only know how to do gunsmith type work with a machine suited for just that. How many gunsmiths can cut a gear? A real machinist can make a metric threaded barrel properly without going through the headstock on an old lathe. I am not far from the grizzly store in PA, and when ever i am in the area i stop in, Its a cool store with everything in the catalog on the floor. I have a few small pieces of equipment from there and for the price its acceptable for occasional use. But when youtry using the stuff daily, it wears out fast.

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    We don't see the Grizzly or Jet here in Canada so I can't say what they are like. I have only worked on one Asian machine one that I would class as junk but most of it was from neglect. Personally I find the old Southbends, Boxfords and Atlas much to light for what I do. They will work but you have to baby them and take light cuts. For what I do now a large spindle is nice for long stock but I gave up Micky Mousing barrels through the headstock years ago. Its to risky and takes forever to set up so 40 inch centers is a must for what I do. The machine I am looking at now is a Modern C0636A 14 x 40. It speaks Cantonese or Mandarin and I have used the 60 inch model when I worked for a local machine shop. We ran the snot out of that machine and it seamed to work fine. I know several people who currently use the 14 x 40 with no complaints. I believe they also make the 40 inch in a variable speed model but I have no use for that. I have used machines with infinite variable speed but its sort of like having a taper turning attachment. It sounds good in the bar after a dozen beer but by the time you get to work with the hang over the next morning you really don't care anymore. I think the price on the one I am looking at is about $7000.00 CAD which is pretty much equal to USD right now. I would like to have one machine set up for ER40s and cutting oil for threading and chambering and a second machine set up for ERs and chucks with water.

    Modern Tool Ltd.



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    willbird is offline Banned
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    Quote Originally Posted by speerchucker30x3 View Post
    We don't see the Grizzly or Jet here in Canada so I can't say what they are like. I have only worked on one Asian machine one that I would class as junk but most of it was from neglect. Personally I find the old Southbends, Boxfords and Atlas much to light for what I do. They will work but you have to baby them and take light cuts. For what I do now a large spindle is nice for long stock but I gave up Micky Mousing barrels through the headstock years ago. Its to risky and takes forever to set up so 40 inch centers is a must for what I do. The machine I am looking at now is a Modern C0636A 14 x 40. It speaks Cantonese or Mandarin and I have used the 60 inch model when I worked for a local machine shop. We ran the snot out of that machine and it seamed to work fine. I know several people who currently use the 14 x 40 with no complaints. I believe they also make the 40 inch in a variable speed model but I have no use for that. I have used machines with infinite variable speed but its sort of like having a taper turning attachment. It sounds good in the bar after a dozen beer but by the time you get to work with the hang over the next morning you really don't care anymore. I think the price on the one I am looking at is about $7000.00 CAD which is pretty much equal to USD right now. I would like to have one machine set up for ER40s and cutting oil for threading and chambering and a second machine set up for ERs and chucks with water.

    Modern Tool Ltd.


    You mention the alternative to a short headstock with a large bore, enough room between centers to do a barrel, but that gets us into a fairly large machine that does not fit well into the "hobby" format many gunsmith's start off with in the garage or the basement. For just messing around any old "old iron" will work for most people, but when a specific task is considered with inflexible requirements (the length of the part we work with) it knocks out a lot of options.

    Bill

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