Planning on getting a lathe...

This is a discussion on Planning on getting a lathe... within the General Firearm Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; I've been a hobby gunsmith for most of my life, self taught. Throughout the years I've noticed that most pro's use a lathe for even ...

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Thread: Planning on getting a lathe...

  1. #1
    VIP Member Array automatic slim's Avatar
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    Question Planning on getting a lathe...

    I've been a hobby gunsmith for most of my life, self taught. Throughout the years I've noticed that most pro's use a lathe for even simple projects. I'm considering getting a small one like the Microlux 7x16 to start with. I'm on a budget so I can't afford nor do I have the room for one of those Clausing monsters.
    I've never used a lathe, but do pick up info quickly. I've done a lot of research, but still have questions as to capabilities of this particular model. I would like to be able to not only make items like firing pins, screws and pins, but also cut and clean up internal and external threads, recrown pistol barrels, etc.
    My question is, can any lathe do these chores or do I need a top end model? Thanks in advance.
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    I am not an expert but I have had some experience in a machine shop years ago. Any lathe can do these chores but the more features you can get the easier it will be. Cutting threads is tough tedious work. The more automation the easier it will be.

    Also you need to get one long enough for a rifle barrel. Many inexpensive lathes are under 20 inches. I am not a machinist and am not up to date on newer equipment so I can't really suggest too much more.
    It is surely true that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink. Nor can you make them grateful for your efforts.

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    Many of the small "micro lathes" like you are talking about do not have threading capability, so you need to watch for that.

    As for crowning pistol barrels, more than likely the hole in your headstock will be too small for you to put the pistol barrel in as far as you can, most of the holes are only around 9/16ths of an inch. You could run it between centers and use a brass cone that slips in the barrel and on the tailstock center and then "dress" up the crown, the brass being sacrifical so that you dont cut into your tailstock center.

    Heres the thing. Some of the small lathes will be OK. Some will do it and some wont. If you want to be able to thread, turn between centers, the lathes that do that will be more expensive because there is more to them.
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    Okay, I just did a search to look at what it has to offer...

    MicroLux 7 x 16 Lathe Specifications
    Maximum swing over bed: 7 inches diameter

    Maximum swing over carriage: 4.5 inches diameter

    Distance between centers: 16 inches

    Main spindle speeds: Continuously variable between 0 and 2,500 rpm

    Spindle bore: .787 inch diameter

    Main spindle taper: MT3

    Carriage cross-feed travel: 2.560 inches
    Compound slide travel: 2.165 inches

    Tail spindle travel: 2.125 inches

    Tail spindle taper: MT2

    Motor: 500 watt (0.67hp) DC (operates from standard 120v AC wall outlet)

    Thread cutting: 12 to 52 tpi in 18 steps

    Overall size: 12.75 inches high x 12 inches deep x 38 inches long

    Weight: 86 lbs. (basic machine, no accessories.)



    Your spindle bore is .787. That wont get much in the spindle except for the smaller .22 barrels.

    You have 18 thread pitches in which you can cut. Thats not that great. Chances are great that the threads that you want to cut will not be there. Most gun stuff are actually extra fine threads,so you'll need a lot of different pitches.

    That lathe may be a good start to actually learn from, but it will be limited. If you want to do gun work, once you get the basics figured out, you'll outgrow it and want something bigger.
    I would rather stand against the cannons of the wicked than against the prayers of the righteous.


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  6. #5
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    I have to second HotGuns' response.

    If you're making jewelry or confine your gunsmithing to small-bore handguns, the Microlux might do. Frankly, I don't think it has the balls to cut threads in hardened steel.

    I'd be on the lookout for a toolmaker's lathe with maybe a 36" bed. The swing is less important for gun work but bigger is usually an asset. Find out who in your area handles industrial auctions, subscribe to their newsletters, and keep your eyes open. You may end up with a nice used lathe with a 3-phase motor, but you can handle that with a converter box for a few hundred bucks.
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    Don't underestimate the capabilities of an older full size lathe. I picked up an old Rockwell 10 x 24 lathe a few years back and took 3 months restoring it to perfect condition. I was also lucky that it came with most of the desired goodies such as the factory taper attachment and metric conversion gear set etc. I have a total of $1100 in it including the purchase. 50 to 1500rpm and 54 pitches per gear set on that model.
    Restoring it will also give you a real good understanding of how the machine it self operates. If you go this route do not under any circumstances skimp on bearings and materials. If you do it will never meet or maintain its minimum tolerances.

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