Tuesday, January 25, 2011

.50 BMG striker assembly and more work on the bolt

Well, as my last post may have indicated, I haven't gotten a whole heck of a lot done on my .50 BMG rifle. I did manage to pick up some M2 drill rod the other day from my local Fastenal. I must admit that I have done a fair bit of business over the last few years with Fastenal, and as soon as I found out that I had one locally, I knew that they would carry some specialty materials I use on occasion.
One material I use from time to time is O1 tool steel, sometimes referred to as drill rod. I went to Fastenal this last week while I was out running errands and getting parts to repair my truck hoping that the local Fastenal kept O1 tool steel in stock, as the store in my old home town did. I must admit I enjoy using O1 for a lot of things, as it machines well and is easily hardened by oil quenching. Unfortunately, the local chain did not have any O1, but they did have some M2 cold roll high speed steel drill rod, which I purchased a small 3' length of in 5/8" diameter. M2 machines well, but the most efficient way to do so is with carbide cutting bits as they are hard enough to take the abuse. M2 is pretty tough stuff in its annealed state. No way I could have made decent cuts in this stuff on my old lathe. However, the new-to-me Enco 13x40 ate it up.
I only got to work on some stuff today, but something is better than nothing.

I started out with some 5/8" OD M2 solid round stock (they were out of 1/2" OD) and since I wasn't exactly sure how long the overall firing pin/striker assembly was going to be, I just ran the whole 3' length through the headstock of my lathe and faced off the end of it. I then center drilled it and extended about 4" of material from the chuck and locked a live center in place to support the center drilled end. I then cut a 2.25" section down to a overall outer diameter of .124" so it would slide smoothly in the drilled end of the bolt. I then stepped up a small radiused section to .25". The stock was then extended further out of the chuck and a 6" section behind the firing pin was turned down to .45" OD. I then ran the machined end through the end of the bolt to get an idea of how long this thing needed to be.

 I found that I needed about another 6" past the .124" OD section, with just a little bit of that being "just in case". If there is anything I have learned in my experience working with metal, it's that it is easier to keep a little extra material on the part to be made than to trim to exact size right off the bat. Odds are this will allow for fixing small screw ups and prevent you from having to make an entirely new part, which wastes even more material than leaving a little extra in the first place.
I kept about 1.25" of the .45" OD section, and turned the remainder down to .30" all the way to the end. The last 1.5" was then turned down to .244". This was done in preparation for the threading that needed to be done next. I then turned the lathe speed up to about 1300 RPM so I could sand and polish the whole thing. I had to use a file and sand paper to get the end of the firing pin to the rounded shape I wanted.
I started cutting the threads on the end while it was chucked in the lathe before I realized I was wasting my time. Threading something that small on the lathe is still a bit of a chore due to part flexing. I remembered that I do own a tap and die set, so I got a 1/4x20 die and threaded the end the whole 1.5" length that was turned to .244".
I dug around in my parts box and found a spring that will probably work (at least for now) and put it in place on the firing pin. I had to take a few measurements to figure out what length to trim the spring to, hence the difference in the next few pictures.
Ignore the tap, it was just laying there when I took the pic. That is a standard 1/4" nut holding the spring in place for the moment.

Next, I needed a "washer" of sorts that would be pinned in place and capture the firing pin spring. I started off with a section of 4130 1.5" OD round stock that had to be faced off. I only needed a .375" long piece 1.36" in diameter, so I started facing the end before center boring to .350", turning the outer diameter to 1.36" and parting off the .375" section needed.

This piece was tapped in place with a hammer into the sections of DOM I had threaded onto the bolt that act as sleeves.
I then spun the rear outer sleeve onto the bolt as far as it would go before putting a 8" C clamp on the bolt to retain the "washer". The threaded end of the clamp went inside the outer sleeve and kept pressure on the "washer" made of 4130 1.36" OD. I had to do this because this piece was going to be pinned in place by an off-center hardened roll pin and drilling anything off-center is a bit of a pain. With a C clamp around the whole bolt keeping pressure on the inner "washer", I tightened up the bolt in the milling machine vise, took some quick measurements, adjusted the XY table of the mill, and chucked up a .25" center drill in the mill in order to make the initial drilling. This is an absolute must. A normal drill bit would wander off center and eventually snap. The center drill is only about 1.25" long, is very rigid, and has a very small but reinforced cutting end.
After the hole was started, it was a piece of cake to finish the hole and the drill it out to .1875 in preparation for a hardened roll pin. This pin retains the "washer" which holds one end of the firing pin spring.

The threaded end of the striker/pin assembly protruding from the end of the bolt sleeve.

Ignore the coffee mug behind the bolt. Yes, that is a Pyrex coffee mug. Courtesy of my girlfriend this Christmas. Found it here.
You can see the firing pin protruding just slightly from the bolt head.
I also drilled and tapped the rear sleeve area for a retaining screw to keep the sleeve from rotating on the bolt itself. The sleeve was then counter-bored for the round allen head of the screw.
Not a whole lot of progress, but better than nothing.
I am getting closer and closer every day. I even took the liberty of ordering some ammo the other day, I found a great deal on some surplus .50 BMG ammo for 17 bucks for 10 rounds. That should be enough to test everything with once I get the parts back from being hardened.
That's all for now, hopefully I'll get more done tomorrow.

Life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. And sometimes you screw that up too.

Well, I didn't get a whole lot done over this last week. A few weeks ago, the power steering went out on my truck, and since I couldn't figure out if the power steering pump was bad, or if the steering rack had gone bad, I decided to replace both as well as the inner and outer tie rod ends. I didn't have the funds at the time, so I had to wait a couple weeks until I had all the funds together, and that wound up being last week into this week. That literally took me a week to get everything together and put it on the truck. I called around to every vAuto Zone in the area to see if anyone had the rack. I finally located one way on the other side of town. I headed that way in short order.
Day 1:
To start with, I had to special order the power steering pump and new pulley assembly. I requested that those parts be shipped to the vAuto Zone nearest me, as I was informed that the parts would be in by 1700 hours that day. When they brought the steering rack up to the counter, I noticed it had the wrong part number on it, but it was only off by one part number (i.e. the right part was 6115, the part number on the box was 6114), but it rang up as the right part number. A quick peek in the box revealed that it sure looked like the one on my truck, so I went ahead and paid for the rack, pump, pulley, outer tie rod ends, and some miscellaneous other things.
I got home with my parts and removed the rack, pump, and tie rods from my truck and tried in vain to remove the power steering pump pulley from the pump. After a few hours of jacking with it, I finally just cut the pulley off with a cut off wheel mounted in a grinder. I win.
I then found out that the steering rack I had just purchased was not the right one, the mounting holes weren't even close to correct and the hydraulic valve assembly was incorrectly placed. I had to head to work later in the evening, so I decided to stop by the store closest to me and see if my pump and pulley were in yet. The employees at that store didn't even know what I was talking about. I went ahead and dropped off my pump core (bad idea, more on that later). I tried to exchange the steering rack I had been sold in error, only to be told that I was S.O.L. That store refused to help me in any way. I was informed that since it was the wrong part in the box and was rang up as something else, I had no recourse. I left there pretty pissed off and headed to the store where I had bought everything.
I got to that store and told them what had happened. They accepted the return on the old rack and ordered a new one for me from their hub. I was then told they would call me the next day when the pump came in. So, the end of day 1 netted me a headache and an increase of blood pressure and not even half of the parts I had paid for.
Day 2:
Woke up to the parts store calling me and informing me that my new steering rack was in and ready for pick up. I had some other errands to run for the day, so I cleaned up and headed out the door. I stopped by the Auto Zone closest to me to see if my pump and pulley were in. They were, so I picked them up. I headed over to the other side of town to pick up the new rack. With the new rack mounting holes and valve assembly closely inspected, I tossed it in the trunk of the car and headed to work. I was beat but happy.
Day 3:
Went to the garage to put my new parts on and found out that there were parts on the old pump core that I needed but had neglected to remove. Crap. I hopped in the car and headed up to the store where I had taken the pump core for return hoping to salvage the parts I needed. I actually did not catch any hell from them when I asked to salvage the parts needed, so I pulled the parts and headed home. When I got home, I assembled the pump and pulley and the bracket that mounts on the motor that holds the pump. I wanted to get the rack installed before mounting the pump assembly so I could still access everything from the top side of the engine bay. I tried to screw the new outer tie rod ends on to the inner tie rod ends on the new rack, and the tie rod end in my hand literally slipped over the threads. No fit. They had sold me two different tie rod ends, but some quick measurements showed them to be identical parts and part numbers, but the overall appearance of them was different. I assumed that one tie rod end must be incorrect. To make sure, I tried threading both onto the other end of the rack. They both threaded on fine. Son of a........ Those ignorant sumbeeches put two different inner tie rod ends on the steering rack. Dammit.
Day 4:
Called around to the store I got the rack from and asked them to see who had another rack. Turns out one of the Auto Zones one town over had one, and they offered to ship it in and have it by 1700 hours that day. I held my temper and my tongue and simply informed them I would pick it up in person. I prefer to drive the 20 miles and personally inspect it instead of waiting on the invalids at one of the local stores to correct any more problems. 20 miles later, I went in, rack in hand, (plus one of the ball joints they sold me did not have a jam nut, so I was returning it as well.) and told the guy behind the counter what was going on. I had to explain to this guy (who was an assistant manager) two or three times what was going on, and finally had to show him the difference in the threads with the tie rod end I brought for exchange. Fifteen minutes later, he finally tried to correct the problem via his computer....
Which was out of service due to a poor connection.
The assistant manager finally just handed me the new parts (which were literally inspected with a digital caliper before accepting them) and I hit the road.
Upon returning home, all the parts were checked for fit and set up for installation the next day, as I had to head to work.
Day 5:
Parts were installed with little to no trouble and aside from needing an alignment, all was well.
I headed to work that afternoon and.......
The truck started overheating. Badly. I found a small water leak in a steel line that attaches to the water pump, and after having my girlfriend bring me a new part, I figured I was back in business.
After work I limped the truck home (as fixing the leak did not stop the overheating problem) and went in to beat my head against the wall before going to bed.
Day 6:
Got up, went through my daily coffee routine and went to look at the truck. The heater hadn't been blowing hot in a while, so I figured the heater core needed to be flushed. I took the hoses on the firewall off and hooked up a water hose to it and blew out a bunch of crap. I then switched the hose to the other heater core outlet and backflushed, removing more rust and crap. I switched back and forth for about five minutes before calling it good. A quick test drive later, and I still had an overheating truck. Bypass heater core, remove thermostat, backflush radiator, aaaaannnnnnddd....
it still overheats. Crap.
Off to work I go for the day, and to get some time to think.I finally decided that since the only things that were left in the cooling system were the water jackets in the block, the radiator cap, and the water pump (I had replaced the radiator 6 months ago), I would replace those the next day.
Day 7:
A quick jaunt back to the closest Auto Zone yielded a new water pump, thermostat (why not?), and some a radiator cap. Three hours later, the motor is back together, the water jackets were confirmed to not be clogged but were flushed out anyway, and everything is ready to be filled and tested. Upon reassembly, I find that the idler pulley bearing has gone out and is grinding like a son of a gun. Ok. Another trip to the parts store. Problem fixed. I then fill the radiator and take the truck for a test drive, wherein the truck begins to overheat slightly. I slow down so I can shut the truck down and let it cool off, and all of a sudden the throttle cable sticks wide open. I dropped it in neutral and turned the key off. Tapping the pedal a few times freed up the throttle cable. I restarted the truck, and apparently the thermostat finally decided to open. Truck starts to cool down and I head home, exhausted but satisfied. I pull in the driveway, pop the hood to top off the radiator overflow and check everything out when I hear a new noise.
The bearing on the belt tensioner is going bad and needs replacing.

Some days I have all the luck, and I swear it's all bad.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The .50 receiver, bolt, and some other miscellania.

Well, I finally got around to taking a few pictures of some new parts I had fabricated for the .50 BMG rifle I am building.

As I previously mentioned, I wasn't happy with a handful of the parts I had made, either for reasons of aesthetics, or due to them being really heavy. Heavy is good, up to a point. Heavy is really good for rifles like this, as the increase in mass translates into a rifle that is easier to shoot due to reduced felt recoil. After a certain point, though, it becomes too hard to transport the rifle. Such was the case of the rifle as it stood near completion a month or two ago. Hence my decision to change up a few things now, while I am still working on the rifle and the major components have not gone off for heat treatment and hardening. Some of the parts that were rebuilt will not see heat treatment, but will be blued or duracoated. Some of the parts outlined in this entry have been coated in PermaBlue cold blue to give me an idea as to their final appearance and to outline any areas where grinding and sanding have been done that still have etching marks standing out. Similar to the black spray paint system I used on the trigger assembly, I apply a coating and then look carefully for any traces of sanding marks, welding pits, or any thing else that might keep the surface from appearing 100%.

As mentioned before, I made a new bolt head from 4140 steel, 1.5" diameter, 3" long overall. I turned down the first .75" to a 1" outer diameter, then cut the lugs on the opposite end on the milling machine before turning down the .75" long 1" diameter shaft directly behind the bolt lugs. After everything was milled and turned down, I cut threads on the rear part that was turned down to 1". Then I took the 2024 T3 aluminum round stock, 1.5" diameter and center bored it to .5". I then bored one end out to .90", .75" deep and cut threads inside it, 12 teeth per inch, to match the 1" threaded part on the bolt head. Once this was done, I threaded the assembly together until the shoulders locked together tightly. With the bolt together in one piece, I chucked the whole thing up in the lathe and took a very light facing cut to true the outer edges of the 4140 and the aluminum stock, to a total outer diameter of 1.475". This made sure that they were as one piece. Next up, I cut the threads 12 teeth per inch for a length of 1.25" from the edge back. I then cut identical threads on the rear of the bolt shaft. The area between the two threaded sections on the aluminum bolt body was turned down to 1.370" With the bolt threaded and ready, I took two pieces of 2" OD DOM tubing, .3125" wall thickness, with an inner diameter of 1.375" and an overall length of 2" each. I threaded both pieces 12 teeth per inch to a thread depth of .05 and length of thread depth of 1.25". One piece was then cut to 1.3" long, the other left at 2" length. I took a .002" facing cut to ensure they would still fit snugly inside the receiver, but would turn smoothly with no binding or scraping. After facing, the DOM pieces were sanded and smoothed, then a bit of cold blue was applied and some Remington gun oil.
 With everything in line, the bolt sleeves were threaded onto the bolt and the bolt was set aside.

Anyway, here's the bolt assembly.

I still need to drill and tap some retaining screws that will serve to keep the sleeves perfectly in place on the bolt assembly.

Next up, I had some 1" 1018 cold roll square stock laying around I wanted to use. I liked the scope mount on the Serbu BFG 50, and though I think those are merely drilled and bent sheet metal, I figured using drilled solid stock would not hurt anything. I also wanted a decent bipod mount, and since I haven't found a bipod for sale on the market at a reasonable price that looked worth half a damn, I figured building my own would be the way to go. The bipods I have seen that look worthwhile have all been in the 200-300 dollar range, which is almost more than I have invested in this rifle so far. I have not yet build the bipod, but it will be very heavy duty and will mount to the front piece of bar stock, and when collapsed will fold up and bolt to the rear piece of bar stock.
There wasn't a whole lot to making these pieces. I did not have anything that would cut a 1.125" radius for the square stock to fit on the 2.25" tube, so I improvised. I did have a 1" two flute endmill that could be chucked up in the lathe, and the 1" bar stock fit in the tool holder on my new lathe, so I sat down with a calculator and tried to figure out roughly what angle I could turn the bar stock to in order to make the round end of the endmill cut a conic section on the bottom of the bar stock. Doing this correctly would yield a good 'nuff fit for these pieces. Once these pieces were cut, rough sanded flat on the top and sides, I drilled .5" holes on 1" centers. I then welded these three pieces in place on the receiver, then tightened the receiver assembly in the milling machine vise and milled the tops of the square stock (or bottoms, as the case may be) flat and perfectly parallel to the receiver. This was really only important on the top piece of stock, as this is where the scope will mount when I machine a weaver rail that will bolt to it. I milled the bottom ones flat because I already had the mill set and figured it wouldn't hurt. As it stands, I only had to mill about .05 off each piece to get it perfectly parallel.
Everything had been MIG welded together, so there was a lot of cleanup to do. (Plans are in the works to purchase a TIG welder, and using the oxy-acetylene torch would've generated too much heat. So, MIG had to do the job.), so I put a 100 grit sanding disk on my angle grinder and sat about sanding down all the welds. Then the arduous task of hand sanding the whole thing and removing the last bit of the grinding marks began. The smoother the welded areas transitioned into the receiver tube, the better the whole thing would look. Thankfully, it went fairly well........
Although my arms now look like Popeye's after all that sanding.

Yes, there is a touch of rust in the holes. I should've cleaned the holes and oiled them before taking pics. So sue me. I threw some cold blue on the receiver and had to wash it off with water, thus the light rust.
Somewhere along the way I also cut the old trigger housing I made off of the old receiver, ground it flat where it would weld to the receiver, and welded it to the new receiver.

Next up was the muzzle brake. I had some small sections of 4140 2" round left over, and a 1.25" long piece of 2024 T3 aluminum left over.  I figured I could come up with something workable from all these scraps, and so I did.
I found a 5" long piece of 4140 2" diameter, faced off both ends, turned it to 1.5" outer diameter, and then center bored it to .5625. I then bored out one end 1" deep to a 1" bore and cut .05" deep threads, 12 threads per inch. This would enable it to screw directly on to the threads I had cut on the end of the barrel oh so many months ago.
I then clamped the assembly in the mill vise and, using a .5" cobalt end mill, milled .5" holes all the way through the sides of the brakes. I then rotated the brake about 15 degrees and took another plunge cut all the way through. I then rotated the brake 30 degrees back the opposite direction and took yet another plunge cut all the way through to the other side. This gave me a decent set of ports on the brake that should be sufficient in capturing and redirecting enough of the pressure blast leaving the barrel when fired. I then chucked the brake in the lathe and with a piece of 100 grit sandpaper, smoothed out the brake and then after cleaning it I applied some cold blue. A couple of the pictures I will post over the next post or two will probably show the brake "in the white", as in it will be machined but not sanded.
The small section of aluminum I had was center bored to 1.1", threaded to 12 teeth per inch, and knurled. It makes for a decent lock nut to keep the brake from rotating.

It's hard to tell, but in the last picture, you can see a dimpled area on the barrel retaining nut on the end of the receiver. This dimple allows me to tighten the barrel nut using a special build spanner wrench.

That's about all I have to post about for today. I start classes again tomorrow and will be likely too busy to work on this rifle every day, but I should have at least two days a week to dedicate to working on it. However, not much remains. I have to build the striker assembly as the old one will not work with the new bolt, a bipod, and finalize a buttstock assembly of some sort.
I did a little creative manipulation of the old buttstock, and liked it a little bit more than I once did, but was still unhappy with the overall look. I will cover that later. However, here is what it looked like with the old buttstock.....

Yes, that bolt handle is actually, well, a bolt. I drilled and tapped the rear piece of DOM tubing to .375"x16 tpi (yes, I actually cut some threads that weren't 12 tpi. Of course, that's because the tap was already 16 tpi.) I had to have something to rotate the bolt with and check clearances with, so until I can machine a bolt handle, the bolt works. No way in hell is it permanent, though.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Update on the .50 BMG

Well, a couple weeks ago, I was working on the .50 BMG and I was actually ready to assemble the rifle and do the final test fitting on everything before sending the bolt, chamber, and a couple other parts out for hardening. I had put the receiver in my milling machine and was making some cuts for clearance and a few adjustments, and after a couple hours of machining, I realized that I had made a HUGE mistake. Originally, Holmes outlines in his manual that when you cut the slot for the bolt handle, you cut it all the way to the end of the receiver and actually cut through the end of the receiver. I did not want to do this, as it looked sloppy as hell and the receiver would actually separate a little bit, keeping the bolt from having a close fit inside the receiver. Well, when I was milling away on the receiver, I managed to cut clean through to the end of the receiver and did not realize it until I was done.


So, scratch one receiver.
A quick jaunt over to Aircraft Spruce&Specialty's website procured me some more 4130 round tubing to build anew receiver out of. It was at this point I realized that I really didn't like a few things about the old receiver I had built. To be a bit picky, I did not like how out of proportion the whole thing was. The receiver was fairly long while there was only a small amount of barrel protruding from the receiver. I also found I was not fond of the holes I had drilled in the end, between them being a tad off kilter and also a bit overdone, drawing a bit too much attention to it. The old receiver started out as a 36" long piece that I cut down to a little over 28". This left about 12" of barrel protruding. I decided to simply buy a 24" piece of 4130 tubing instead, and make the rifle the same overall length as it had been before. To do this, I had to machine the barrel about 5.5" further down than the threads already were and cut new threads for the barrel nut to thread on to.

I did this on my old lathe before I got rid of it, obviously.

Shortly after I got done with this, the new receiver tube came in. I went into my CAD system and drew up the modified receiver and printed it out. I changed up a few things, including drawing the slot for the bolt handle so it could be milled out beforehand. I did not want to screw up another tube, so I made sure this was outlined first and foremost. I also wanted to cut a set of 1.5" diameter arcs at either end of the cartridge slot. These pics are of the new tube and the old design I had printed out. The new design was close to the same thing but with the revisions to the cartridge slot.

I got a can of 3m spray glue and adhered the printout to the receiver tube, then mounted the whole thing in the mill and cut the bolt slot correctly this time. A 1.5" hole saw gave me the correct arc for the cartridge slots, then I finished the slot with a standard end mill.
At this point, I had an idea for a few changes to the rifle design, such as the bolt itself. The bolt I machined was really, really heavy and a bit ungainly, and I really wasn't happy with the overall look and design. I saw another Homes rifle variation that used 4340 sections for the rear of the bolt, the front of the bolt, and the bolt lugs, while the center section was made of 2024 T3 aluminum. The whole thing was threaded together. This kept the overall weight of the bolt down by a couple of pounds or so. Since my bolt was machined from 4140, I figured it sounded like a good idea to me as the rifle bolt was extremely heavy. I had a chunk of 4140 2.25" OD round left over, so I turned it down to a 2" minor OD and then bored it out to 1.40" inside to a depth of 1" and threaded it to 12 teeth per inch.

I then ordered a 12" section of 2024 T3 aluminum round bar and a 2" round section of 4130 in order to make a new tapered barrel sleeve for the new receiver.
I then parted off a 6" section of the aluminum round bar and bored it to .5", then cut threads on the aluminum bar stock to thread into the 4140 section.

I then center bored the whole 4140 assembly for a firing pin and when I went to cut the lugs out of the opposite end of the 4140, I wound up ruining the threads on the inside of the new bolt head.
Of course, I only got a bit pissed off until I came up with a better idea, and set about making it happen.
I had an apparently good section of 4140 still there that was long enough to use, so I turned down the outside of it to 1" and threaded it to 12 tpi, center bored it for a firing pin, and cut new lugs on the mill. This worked out pretty well this time. Now, instead of having the aluminum center shaft thread into the bolt head, the 1.5" aluminum shaft is bored out and threaded to 1" 12tpi so it can thread on to the threaded area protruding from the 4140. The outside of the aluminum shaft was still threaded from before, so I parted off this area, threaded it onto the bolt head, and then I chucked it up in the lathe and turned 12tpi threads across the joint between the two pieces. This worked out very well, as the two pieces are completely seamless where they are joined together and threaded inside and outside.
After this was done, I cut similar threads on the rear of the aluminum round rod on the outside only, then I turned the main shaft down to 1.375" between the two threaded sections. I took two pieces of DOM tubing I had, 2" OD .375" thick, bored them to 1.4" ID, and threaded them to 12 tpi. This allowed me to thread them on to the bolt assembly to use as bushings in between the bolt and the receiver. I did turn about .004" off of their overall outer diameter in order to get the bolt to reciprocate smoothly inside the receiver.
A quick pic of the new bolt inside the new receiver:

I know this sounds odd and may be hard to picture, but the camera on my iphone crapped out on me the other day, and I don't really have any other options for a digital camera at this point. As soon as I do I will post some pics of the new bolt assembly.

The hour grows late here, so I will have to finish this update at a later time.
I hope these updates are as entertaining for those who read my blog as they are for me when I actually do the building.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Lathe is up and running.

Some very crappy video of the new lathe machine cutting and threading.

Got it all wired up today and ready to cut stuff. This thing threads like a dream. Worth every penny.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New big kid toy

Well, I meant to post something the other day, but I wound up not able to as I have been pretty busy in preparation for the new school year.
On top of that, I have had a bit of a empty spot in my garage where my old lathe used to be, and felt a bit down in the dumps over it.
I had intended to drive down in a few weeks to pick up my new lathe, but I just couldn't stand the wait any longer. I have several firearm projects sitting around, just waiting to be worked on, some (like the big .50) just begging to be finished. I could have done a bit of milling work on a couple of my projects, but I just didn't have it in me. Every time I went out in the garage and fired up the mill, my eyes would wander over to the empty spot wherein there was no lathe.
Of course, something had to be done (for the children!!!!).
So, I called the previous owner of the lathe and inquired if I might be able to pick it up the next day(this Wednesday). He had no problem getting paid and cleaning out his garage, so I got the go-ahead. A quick call to a family member to see if I could borrow a trailer and a cherry picker, and I hopped in the truck and hit the road.

a 300 mile round trip netted me a trailer and cherry picker, and after picking them up, I headed back home to get a few hours of sleep before heading off to the anthill that is the DFW area.
The next day I hopped in the truck and took off for a 12 hour round trip, with about an hour break in the middle to load the lathe and all the extra accessories in the truck and trailer. I can now say that I've hauled a loaded trailer through some nasty traffic on I35 and loop 820 in the Fort Worth area, and I never want to do that again. That sucks.
I drove back home with the original intent of unloading the lathe from the trailer and setting it up, then heading back to drop off the cherry picker and trailer. I was about an hour from home when I finally realized that this was simply not possible. I was beat. I pulled into my driveway about 2300, got the cherry picker set up for the next morning, and went inside to crash. I don't even remember climbing in bed, to be honest.
(To all the truck drivers out there, I don't know how you do it, but you have my respect.)

The next morning (Thursday), I got up about 0900 and drug myself out of bed. I have a daily coffee ritual/routine, and today was no different. The world does not begin rotating about its' axis until I can haz coffee. After a couple cups of coffee, I headed out to the garage to unload the new lathe. This was fun. It only weighs in at about 1500 pounds all told, and when setting one up by yourself, you find a whole new vocabulary of cuss words you never knew that you had. Finally, I got the lathe set up, and aside from wiring it in, it is all but ready to run. I cannot wait for my next weekend off of work, as I have three different muzzle brakes to build.

 It took a lot of shoving, pushing, and pulling, but I finally got it all bolted up.

It doesn't look too big in these pics, but I'm no small guy, either.
The lathe is about six feet long, a bit over four feet tall and a couple feet deep. In that last pic, the bottom pipe looking object is actually the spindle bore (great for running barrels through to make them easier to chamber) and the bore of that hole is 1.5", just for reference.
It's no production shop lathe, but I will never need (or be able to fit in my garage) anything larger.
With that said, it's back to work and hopefully some of my projects will get caught up now.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ringing in the new year.

First off.....
Happy new year to all my readers and followers!

Today was a good day and also kind of a sad day.
I was happy to start off the new year by being alive and I am blessed in many ways.
However, today brought about a new development; today I sold my lathe.
I had a lot of sentimental attachment to my old Logan lathe, it was my first lathe and I have built countless projects with it, had my fingers smashed and cut countless times on it as well. I ran a lathe quite a bit several years ago back in high school, but this was my first lathe and I did a lot of learning and re-learning on it.
However, I sold it because I have a new lathe lined up, one that is quite a bit bigger and capable of doing production-style work. The Logan lathe I just sold was limited to a 24" distance between turning centers, and doing any barrel work on it was a real chore; chambering a barrel on a rifle was all but impossible, and I was pretty much limited to chambering pistol barrels. I could turn down rifle barrels and contour/taper barrels to a degree, but it was slow going as the lathe was a bit underpowered. In order to thread anything, I had to manually change the spur gears on the side of the machine and even before that I had to calculate what gears would give a certain feed rate.
The new lathe that I am picking up  in a few weeks is almost twice the size in swing and center distance, and chambering a 36" barrel should be absolutely no problem. The motor is 4 times more powerful and gear changes are made by just moving a set of levers. This will be much closer to the lathes I used in high school and there is not near as high of a learning curve in using them as opposed to an old Logan from 1953. The good thing is, I learned a lot using my old lathe, and the person who bought my old lathe is buying it to teach his son how to use a lathe, so I am encouraged by that. I'm glad that someone bought it who will use it and make sure it stays functional for another 50 years.

I hope to have the new lathe within a couple weeks, as my classes start back within a couple weeks. I am taking 16 hours of classes this spring on top of working full time, so if I don't pick the new lathe up before classes start, it will be pretty hard to find time to pick it up. The new lathe is located in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, which is a good six hour drive for me. I am not looking forward to this, as it means driving to Fort Worth, hooking a crane up to the lathe, loading it onto my trailer, and then immediately driving back to west Texas where I live. 12 hours of driving, with about 10 hours of that being a drive through very desolate (but pretty) Texas country. Living in a state where a 2 hour drive is considered "right down the way" is interesting. A quick jog to a buddies' ranch is a 3 hour drive, and is not considered abnormal out here in the boonies. In fact, if you need anything special or out-of-the-ordinary, you can pretty much prepare for a trip to DFW, San Antonio, Houston, or Austin. I guess I can't complain, I have some relatives that live in the Big Bend region, and if they need anything from Wal Mart, they have a ~ 1 hour one-way drive ahead of them and a ~1 hour drive back home.

Anyway, I am taking a small break from doing any real building( about a week or two) while I wait for the chance to go pick up my new lathe. I still have some updates to blog about and some other projects to show off, so blogging will still happen. What's gonna suck is trying to find time to build my projects in between going to school. I've done it before, and I guess I'll do it again. My hobbies keep me sane and keep me from losing my mind when I get really stressed out about my classes, so I have little choice but to keep building.

Here's to hoping 2011 is even better to us than 2010, and hopefully we will see an increase in the concern and beneficial deeds for our great Republic during that time.