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    Default Greetings!

    Hello internet! I am new to this forum and expect to get a lot of (smart alec) information here (if its anything like another forum I know).
    I am curious what is the best lathe to get started with the end goal of making barrels (well, finishing blanks for installation, IE threading the muzzle, reaming chambers, etc). I am on a milk money budget and want something which will last and "grow" with me.
    Thanks in advance,
    DRT

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    Well I'll enter this mine field ! Speaking as home shop guy with 40+ years of experience you need as a minimum a 12X36" lathe with a couple of exceptions I will get to later. You need a spindle bore of at least 1-3/8ths ,a quick change gear box ,steady and follow rests,3 and 4 jaw chucks,live and dead centers,QC tool post,drill chuck for tail stock, and a lot of misc tools to suite the work being done.

    As to machines depending on tooling with machine as a minimum $2000 with no tooling ,$4000 for one with at least most of what I listed above.And remember old out of production machines will be hard to find and $$ if you do find accessories for.

    In used American made machines the South Bend Heavy 10 or 13" ,or Logan 11-12" machines and rarer Clausing 5913 or 5914. Then we get into machines frowned on around here, the mostly Chinese imports in the home shop grade which as far as being usable not all that different than what i listed above.Again these also will be hard to source parts-accs for.

    Power requirements -most all of the SBs and most of the Logans and Clausing's will be 220-240 3 phase which is not a big thing to deal with. The imports due to the market they were made for will be 220 with some that can be changed to 120.

    Nice to have area ,I prefer gear head lathe with vari speed second with belt change a far third. A taper attachment is nice to have but not a requirement for your work but they $500 or more to lathe value and trying to retro fit one will be $$ and or hard.Spindle type cam lock or L long taper preferred over threaded.

    I have owned all 3 of the American brands I mentioned in the 10-12 size range, also the imports from 10' to 18" swing . The biggest issue with the imports is the quailty spec'ed by the importer ,some identical looking machines will be of very different quailty .I have seen this in some of the Chinese lathes that I have owned or worked on.

    Your location will have a big bearing on price and availability. I have a 5914 Clausing with hardened bed, taper attachment,4 chucks ,follow rest,hand wheel 5-C collet closer,Swiss Multi Fix tool post,drill chuck etc. With a 2HP rotary converter system that I'm thinking about selling . Figure about $3750 pick up in Phoenix.This is a vari speed 3 phase lathe. As I'm over 75 I'm starting to down size a bit.

    Hope this long winded reply gives you a idea of what you need to look for.Good luck and happy chip making.

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    Well said, John.

    Gunsmithing lathes are almost self defining because you need the spindle bore and as long as you are dealing with hand held weapons, you don't need a very heavy duty machine. I have owned a 14 1/2" South Bend and still have my 9" Logan. I made a living with the South Bend for decades. For a lathe made down to a price, they are capable of very good work. Before you buy one, put a dial indicator on the spindle and pry upward on it with a stick. If you get more than a few thousandths movement, you don't want it. They have bronze bearings that are practically immortal if they are kept lubricated because they run on an oil film and there is no metal to metal contact. Run one dry and its life is measured in minutes. I would let employees run it, but part of my orientation speech went "If you want to get fired and don't want to wait, let me see you start the lathe up in the morning without checking the spindle oil cups. Don't look for patience or understanding because you won't get any." We ran it for almost 40 years and when I sold it, the spindle play was .0025", up from .002" when I got it. That's what Mobil DTE 24 can do if you are religious about using it. BTW, the spindle doesn't rattle 2 thousandths because it distributes the oil around the bearing and stays in the middle.

    I also ran a 12" Clausing in another shop fro a few years. Another plain vanilla machine capable of good work.

    I have never used a South Bend heavy 10, but they look like they have enough mass. You want nothing to do with a SB light 10. They might as well be made of rubber.

    Bill

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    Default Thank you

    Thank you John and 9100 for the lengthy replies! definitely food for thought! I'll be saving my milk money for sure. The other problem.... space in the garage!! The wife thinks there needs to be 1/3 of it with kids outside toys.... ahahaha

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    Really thanks, John. I also reading and found out for myself interesting points.

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    A Rockwell makes for a good gunsmithing lathe. I do my chambering in a 6913 Clausing. For chambering in the headstock you can get by with a worn out lathe. OK, jump on me. I don't have or want a worn out lathe, but it matters little chambering in the headstock.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Butch Lambert View Post
    A Rockwell makes for a good gunsmithing lathe. I do my chambering in a 6913 Clausing. For chambering in the headstock you can get by with a worn out lathe. OK, jump on me. I don't have or want a worn out lathe, but it matters little chambering in the headstock.
    Are you saying a using worn out lathe to chamber between centers does matter???????

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    Old American iron will probably have 'issues' like 60 years of wear and tear you will have to deal with and a scarcity of parts and the price of those parts. And then there is the metric hurdle.

    New Asian iron especially the lower end will probably have right from the factory 'issues' you will have to deal with, but most cut metric w/o a lot of hurdles.

    Pick your poison.

    I have a Logan 14", hardened ways and 1-3/8" spindle hole which is a fairly lightweight machine 1800lbs compared to industrial lathes with that swing, but has been a good choice for gun work once I rectified it's biggest issue.
    I tossed the reeves drive and installed a larger hp motor and vfd.
    No more vibration, belt slipping.....just dial the speed.

    Unfortunately, no metric threading either w/o some gear changing and all that.

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    Don't over look the second hand market.
    Go online and study what is available and at what price.
    Get in contact with your Universities, High Schools and Trade Schools. Put up fliers and notify the staff of what you want.
    Community Buy-and-Sell publications are a great way to advertise your wants. You can literally purchase from someone too lazy to advertise their goods.
    Consider transportation before purchase.
    I've seen good lathes sell for less than $500.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NRDock View Post
    Are you saying a using worn out lathe to chamber between centers does matter???????

    Seems my other post was deleted. NRDock, read my thread again and comment on what I posted.

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    As a result of taking classes at several gunsmithing schools, I've gotten to try a bunch of different lathes for gunsmithing. As a result of teaching in a shop where the lathes were almost all much larger than required for gunsmithing, I've seen how to adapt to big iron.

    My $0.02:

    All of the lathes already mentioned are an "ideal" size for gunsmithing in that they don't take up a lot of room, they don't require a large power service, they're easier to move, etc.

    There were lathes made by the following companies that work well for gunsmithing:

    - South Bend (Heavy 10 or "10L" and the Heavy 13)
    - Clausing (the model's mentioned above, with the 5913 being my favorite)
    - Sheldon
    - Logan
    - Delta/Rockwell

    You can use larger lathes for gunsmithing, but you might end up doing most of your work between centers as opposed to putting a barrel through the spindle. If you have a large(r) lathe with a large spindle, you might find that with some tooling, you can work quite effectively through the spindle - you'll have to make barrel extensions and the like, but it will work. I've done gun work on a Cazeneuve HB 575, which is a beast of a machine, a toolroom lathe with big horsepower to take heavy cuts. The Caz lathes are nice in that you can switch between metric and imperial threads with the twist of a knob - no gear changes necessary. I'd love to have a HB 575 in my shop, but alas, I don't have the room to house one.

    My ideal lathe would be one where it was about 13x40 to 13x60, with a 3" spindle diameter that was only 14" long through the headstock. That lathe probably doesn't exist, but that's what would be ideal.

    What do I use? A Sharp 13x40 with variable speed. I got tired of looking for a smaller lathe in Wyoming - I can find large iron all day long here (15" swing and up, up, up), but smaller machines are scarce in this area. Which of the above lathes do I like the best? I have to be honest: I really like the South Bend Heavy 13. It works well, and if you get one that's 60" between centers, you have everything you'll ever need in a lathe at quite a reasonable price. The Heavy 13's aren't bid up beyond all reason, the way the Heavy 10's are. After that, I'd take one of the Clausings mentioned, but I'd be expecting to replace the hydraulic variable-speed drive on the Clausings with a VFD.


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