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Thread: Lathe on the Reloading Bench?

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    Default Lathe on the Reloading Bench?

    I've been thinking about adding a small Lathe to my reloading bench and ran across this one:
    http://www.harborfreight.com/7-inch-...the-93212.html
    It is on sale for $349.99 with coupon code 97746036 until 4/8/11.

    I've been trying to make a Lock-N-Load modified case for 325 WSM since they are not available. I've had much difficulty getting the hole drilled and threaded centered and straight -- seems like this might be just the answer. Of course I could send a case to Hornady and they will make it for me but this seems like a lot more fun. I also have some top punches for lubing and seating cast bullets I'd like to modify to fit the bullet more accurately.

    Years ago I used to play with the large lathe we had in the farm shop. This little one seems very interesting. Of course it's made in China and is very low end but for the money it looks like it's worth a shot. Over all it seems to get good reviews, not from real machinists, but from hobbyists. For a little more money there are lots of others, e.g. http://www.grizzly.com/products/7-x-...al-Lathe/G8688 but I think the HF would be ideal for me and the price is right.

    Anyone else have a small lathe? What do you use it for?

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    Member Alangaq's Avatar
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    I have a very cheap, abused, and used wood lathe.... it is excellent for flinging jaged chunks of wood at high velocity into tender parts of your body. It also works great for generating copious amounts of sawdust, wood chips, teers and blood. I have also found that with minimal effort you can get it sufficiently out of ballance to shake and vibrate every single item off of the work bench within 10 secconds... fun stuff!

    So far I have been unable to find a small metal lathe within my price range.... but the one you mention might be just the thing for playing around with.
    “You’ve gotten soft. You’re like one of those police dogs who’s released in to the wild and gets eaten by a deer or something.” Bill McNeal of News Radio

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    Member marshall's Avatar
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    At that price it seems hard to pass. Should be fine for light bench work. I have a Harbor Freight about 20 miles from my house, I may take a closer look.

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    I just picked up the March edition of Machinist's Workshop and in there is an article about problems with mismatched top punches / seater stems and the major effect on accuracy. Their example is for a 9mm bullet. Currently I shoot a lot of Saeco #944, a 200gr 44 wadcutter. My Lyman sizer top punch does a number on the outer rim of the bullet since it's for a Keith style bullet and only contacts this one with the thin outer rim. My first project will be to try to make one that fits, along with a new seater stem.
    I have tons of old molds I like to play with so this will keep me busy!

  5. #5

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    The thing with those Harbor Freight lathes is that they are VERY sloppy. Lots of backlash in the dials. AS long as you are aware of it and don't count on the dial indicators on the machine for precise measurements you can do OK with one. You just have to measure a lot and it's hard to be really precise. If you're looking for better than +/- .002 accuracy you might want to spend the extra money for a better machine.

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    Is there a shop in Anc or the valley that sells decent hobbyists level equipment for a less than outrageous amount of money? I would like to get a simple mandrel tube bender as well as a metal band saw and a few other items. I am not a machinist and it would just be for fun projects. I have used lots of harbor freight tools equipment and it is generally passable for small projects or very occasional use. For things I plan on keeping for years or using regularly I pay for "the real deal". They were definitely a nice place to have up the street, but for Alaska both Harbor freight and Northern Tool lose pretty much all of their value when you factor in shipping!

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    I remeber Dad thinking the same darn thing a about a meat band saw and grinder combo they had back in 2003. That thing was the biggest piece of doo doo anyone could throw money at. The grinder worked pretty decent most of the time although we really bought it for the saw as it would have been the most efective way of taking care of alot of meat.

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    Member Alangaq's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dont45 View Post
    I just picked up the March edition of Machinist's Workshop and in there is an article about problems with mismatched top punches / seater stems and the major effect on accuracy. Their example is for a 9mm bullet. Currently I shoot a lot of Saeco #944, a 200gr 44 wadcutter. My Lyman sizer top punch does a number on the outer rim of the bullet since it's for a Keith style bullet and only contacts this one with the thin outer rim. My first project will be to try to make one that fits, along with a new seater stem.
    I have tons of old molds I like to play with so this will keep me busy!
    I have run into similar problems with top punches over the years... one way to fix it is to pick one of your best bullets and seat it about half way into a slightly larger die, then coat the bullet in a good mold release, rough up your odd sized top punch with sandpaper and then splooge on a blob of JB Weld. run the top punch down ontop of the bullet and maintain slight pressure by hanging something off of the lubersizer handle. when the epoxy cures you will end up with a custome fitted top punch that will last indefinately so long as you dont drop it and chip the epoxy. you will need to take a file and profile the excess epoxy off before use though.

    I know it isnt nearly as good as fixing one with a lathe, but if you got no lathe..... eh.... then it works
    “You’ve gotten soft. You’re like one of those police dogs who’s released in to the wild and gets eaten by a deer or something.” Bill McNeal of News Radio

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    Sponsor ADfields's Avatar
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    Sloppy, tons of lash, tend to chatter but you can tune most of it out if you know what you’re doing. My experience was more like +/-.004” which means it easy to be 6 or 8 thou out but after lots of tuning and learning how it will lash I can usually hold .002” meaning +/-.001” so they can definitely work. Don’t forget the tooling, like reloading you will be nickel and dimed to death for tooling to be able to do anything so don’t think you’re gonna get off for just the price of the machine!

    What I want is a Smithy next time, a friend has one and they are worth the money . . . I could lose half the tools in my shop if I bought an $1800 1220 Smithy. AIH sells JET which is better quality for not too long money when you factor in the shipping and tuning a Harbor Freight machine will require . . . I think it was $500ish at AIH last time I looked. All gonna get more expensive with the fuel price so if you want something made of heavy iron I think now is the time to get it!
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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    I went with the Grizzly version of that lathe. As mentioned they have backlash/slop and chatter when making cuts. I had a Taig before the grizzly and wanted the additional capabilities, i.e. to turn larger material and cut threads. Because of the slop I'm always fighting the machine to do decent work.

    In hindsight, a Taig or a Sherline is a much more useful machine, because they can do precision work right from the factory. No you can't do gunsmithing work with them, but for the reloading bench they are excellent tools.

  11. #11

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    Unless you just don't have the room you're a lot better off looking around for an old Southbend or Logan lathe. We found a 10"x36" Logan in an old mechanics shop that had been barely used and bought it, along with some tooling, for $350. MUCH better machine than the Chinese stuff. Not big enough bore through the spindle for rifle barrels unfortunately, but will handle most any other hobby project.

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    You being from Mass. I would think you could find a used American made bench lathe for a pretty good price. That said I have one of the HF 7x10 mini lathes that I put a 14" bed on and tuned it straight. Mine with sharp HSS tools will cut to + or- .001 or closer If I sneak up on it careful like. I usually fine tune things with a file when within about + .001. I have made a bunch of loading stuff on it from simple bullet sizer dies to press mounted one stroke aluminum gas check makers. It makes a very good case trimmer with Lee cutters and holder. I actually used it to chamber a 22KH barrel liner for a TC 44mag barrel. It is not a high quality lathe but it does work and very good work can be done on it if you know how. I find it way to handy to ever be without and it takes up very little room. What is a lock-n-load case? If it's a drilled out primer hole and threaded, it would be very easy. Also on the top punch thing, the epoxy works very well and can easily be removed with a little heat. I like 5min epoxy, it's tough enough and much faster set up time. You can also make them on the lathe very easily by turning the outside to dimension and drilling the inside too big and using epoxy. Saves a lot of time over making a cutter that matches the bullet nose.

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    Thanks for all the feedback and tips. I see similar warnings about the Chinese tools, especially from HF, on the machinist boards so I'm going to look at going a different route. I like rbuck's suggestion to find an American made lathe eventhough my wife will kill me.
    For quality Chinese made which looks like the best there is the Lathemaster 8X14 for $869 plus lots of shipping. I could buy a very nice gun for that!

  14. #14

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    There is a Yahoo group specifically for the 9x20 size import lathes. They are quite capable of quality work after a tune up.

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