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Thread: Shop tips

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    Bret4207's Avatar
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    Shop tips

    I've been meaning to re-start this conversation for some time. We had some real long and very good threads on the old boards with lotsa good reading and tips. I'm going to list a few and hopefully youse guys will add your favorites.

    One of the first acquisitions any gun owner/manly type man should make is a decent set of screwdrivers. Even Wally world sell the multi-tip type kits these days and while the quality isn't up to what you'd get from Brownells (www.brownells.com) it'll do for 80% of what you need. Find the tip that fits the screw driver slot, file or grind it to fit if needed. The sloppy fitting bit is the one that will booger up the screws on that nice hunk o'metal you payed good dollars for.

    On a tight screw- get a close fitting screw driver and whack it a couple times with your plastic mallet. It helps loosen the screw. What? You don't have a plastic mallet? How about a rawhide mallet? Come on, you must at least have a brass hammer for your gun work? Better get one of the above because they plain work better for gun work. Plus you need one to knock your sprue plate aside. If that screw still won't loosen apply a bit of heat. This can be from a soldering gun, (make sure the tip has a wet appearance or the heat transfer is very slow), a very tiny flame from one of those mini torches, ( about 12 bucks at Wally world, runs on Butane), or by heating a metal object like a bolt that is close in size to the screw head in a flame and holding it to the screwhead, with PLIERS dummy, after it's nice and hot. Penetrating oils and solvents help too. Just don't do like I do and try excessive force first.

    Speaking of pliers- Get 4 or5 pair. Different types and shapes are handy. Farm type stores, TSC for example, have nifty assortments made in far off china of dubious quality that are perfect. When you paid .99 cents for the pliers you don't mind grinding them or bending them into the shape you need. I'm talking needle nose type pliers in addition to the regular slip-joint style. Then there are Vise-grips. Gotta have 2 or 3 of them. For gun work you need the smaller needle nose type mostly. They're what you hold that hot bolt to the stuck screw with. This is one area where brand name products pay for themselves. I have never found any other brand other than Vise-grip to be worth a snot.

    A vise of some sort is real handy. I see there are some plastic woodworking vises these days that work good for anything not involving heat. I've got one and it's handy. It will never replace a real bench vise though. Even a small clamp on vise will serve you if it's solid enough.

    Files. Ah, files. There are 348,000 gazillion types, shapes and grades out there. Get a 8" mill bastard, a 6" triangle, and a set of needle files. Stop there until you figure out what you need next. Keep your files stored so they don't touch each other, that dulls them. Don't drag your file backwards across the work, lift it up for the return, dragging dulls your file. It's not a saw. Put a handle on the file, any handle is better than none. Spray the file with WD-40 occasionally, keeps rust off and helps when you go to clean the file. Either get a file card, (a brush looking thing with steel teeth that you push across the file teeth to scrape out the bits of metal stuck there that leave tose lines in your work), or sharpen a nail to remove the metal stuck in the file teeth. Prolongs the files life and makes it cut better. If you develop the habit of cleaning the file right after your done with it small children and beautiful women will adore you, or so I'm told.

    Storage- Peg borad is wonderfull becasue you can see all your tools, except that it's expensive and everyone can see all your tools and try and steal them. Plus those little hooks always fall out on me. I like tool cabinets, but to start with a sturdy cardboard box will do, providing theres a safe dry location for it. I also have one of those lazy-susan tool holders that real handy, only I don't see them for sale anymore. Yard sales maybe. Whatever you do, organization helps make for better work.

    Big storage- 5 gallon buckets reign supreme, at least on my farm. At a dollar a piece or free they makes great storage for wheel weights, hammers, prybars, shovels, axes, rope, lead cords, sawdust, odd wood scraps, cats, rags, wax, traps, your mother in laws ashes, car parts, old oil, chainsaws (bar down), nuts and bolts till you get something better, kitty litter (oil soak), really big runs of boolits, for quenching said boolits, dis-membered bodies (minus torso, don't ask why I know this), old inner tubes for making scope covers and sling shots, salt for the driveway and walk (those who don't know why you need salt for the driveway- consider yourselves blessed), nifty rocks and fungus you find while hunting, your wheat penney collection- you get the idea. Plus, as an added benefit they work great for drowning yourself when you find out your unemployed brother in law, his drunk wife and their 7 brats are coming "for a visit".

    Grinders- You need something to grind with. Either a bench grinder- a cheap 6" $30.00 grinder is fine, or at least one of those holders for a drill motor or a Dremel. A Dremel, or a cheap knock off copy, is almost a neccessity. Just wear safety glasses waht ever you get. I can show you some nifty x-rays if you really don't know why you need glasses. Remember that grinding creates heat which softens metal and burns the fingers holding the metal. Go slow and easy. You can't put the metal you ground off back, not with out a lot of work anyway. With a good hacksaw, a grinder and a file you can make an astounding number of gadgets, geegaws, and whatsits for your castng/gun/reloading hobby.
    Last edited by Bret4207; 07-03-2008 at 09:04 AM.

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    Craft stores- Honeybunch probably goes to craft stores on occasion. I accidentally wandered into one with her one day and lo and behold I was temporarily hooked! They have oodles of pipe cleaners, really tiny and very sharp scissors, all sorts of wax, wood burning kits, little beads and shiny things that make great fishing lures, about 46 dozen different types of foam and poly-fill, granulated poly-type filler and wax, odd little tools and a bunch of other hard to find stuff. Try to look extremely bored while hunting the place otherwise your testosterone level may come into question.

    Training the wife/girlfriend/mother/whatever- It all started back when we had the first custon 6 banger Lee mould run. I was so excited when the box came I showed SWMBO the mould and explained how incredibly fortunate I was. She said,"Uh-huh." and went back to Murder She Wrote. Obviously she was as enthralled as I was. Anyhoo, after seeing the sucessision of custom 6 bangers and various Ebay treasures that arrived in the BBT, she got the idea. We were at a yard sale one day and she said, " Hey, there's a couple Lymans and an RCBS with handles over by that pile of kids clothes." True love gentlemen, true love. She even spotted a set of new in the box Weaver rings in the Wally world parking lot for me. I'll add in here that it tooks years of training but my diabolical plan has borne more fruit. She brought home a mess of baskets intended for shoe storage from a dollar type store. Didn't work for snot for shoe storage but they hold die boxes and cartridge boxes just great. The key to "The Plan" is roses on birthdays and anniverseries, syrupy sweet cards on those days, and pretending that you really take an interest in the realtionships she shares with her ditzy friends. Saying things like, "Gee your hair looks nice" and "No kidding, you got those shoes for only $30.00?" help immensley. The whole thing goes much smoother if you happen to see your old girl friend as she waddles down the isle at the Price Chopper towing her 4 kids and pushing the cart full of beer and Freezer Queen dinners. Then you'll realize how lucky you really are. Sincerity is always more convincing when it's real

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    Boolit Master wills's Avatar
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    Craft stores are great but there are a lot of closet wimps afraid to be seen in one!

    I saw a gadget I want to put under my drop tube to collect spilled powder.
    Have mercy.
    A haw, haw, haw, haw, a haw.
    A haw, haw, haw

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    Talking Craft stores

    I like going to CS's with the little woman, I find all kinds of stuff to use in this boolet casting, shooten, reloading hobby, like them little metal slip top boxes, there great for storing sized and lubed boolets in, then stick a lable on the end for what's in it.

    It's when the little woman handes me her purse and says "hold this so I can look at that" that make me nervus, it always clashes with MY wardrobe!!!
    Calamity Jake

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    Shoot straight, keepem in the ten ring.

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    Post Craft Stores

    All the items listed above are good choices for a well stocked Caster/Shooter. I'll add a set of dental picks, foreceps in different sizes and an absolute must have is a good set of honing stones in various sizes. A good source of light is an I gotta have item too.

    NRA Life Member Since 1981



    "The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference - they deserve a place of honor with all that's good"-- George Washington

    II Corinthians 4:8-9. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed."

    Psalms 25:2 O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.


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    Boolit Master wills's Avatar
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    Hemostats are great for pulling little tiny scraps of paper out of a computer printer when it jams.
    Have mercy.
    A haw, haw, haw, haw, a haw.
    A haw, haw, haw

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by wills
    Hemostats are great for pulling little tiny scraps of paper out of a computer printer when it jams.
    They are also great for removing and reinstalling Marlin 336 ejectors when its time to clean, I don't lock em down, I just use em like a big pair of tweezers.

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    Polish the face of your steel hammers mirror bright. Use a file, sandpaper and then crocus cloth. This will help you keep from putting really nasty marks where they don't belong......

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    Boolit Man
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    A pair of inch and a half pieces of half inch tubing slit lengthwise makes a good pliers soft cushion for turning aluminum lock nuts.

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    Wrap the jaws of channel lock pliers with electricians tape and use em to remove stuck magazine caps on shotguns. Small pieces of either brass or bronze brazing rod can be turned down (don't have a lathe? use electric drill) to make small punches. Old medicine bottles, the plastic ones with the 1" or so caps can be cleaned out and used to store small parts, screws, pins and stuff like that. Frank

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slowpoke
    They are also great for removing and reinstalling Marlin 336 ejectors when its time to clean, I don't lock em down, I just use em like a big pair of tweezers.
    Hrmmmm,..........roachclips, er... I mean..... Small parts holders!! Pulling out that stupid dirty patch hiding in the chamber, & hitting the edges were the barrel hits the reciever!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank46
    Wrap the jaws of channel lock pliers with electricians tape and use em to remove stuck magazine caps on shotguns. Small pieces of either brass or bronze brazing rod can be turned down (don't have a lathe? use electric drill) to make small punches. Old medicine bottles, the plastic ones with the 1" or so caps can be cleaned out and used to store small parts, screws, pins and stuff like that. Frank
    So THAT'S why I never through away any pill bottles! I have about 10 years worth of them around here!

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    Thick soft plastic pipe, schedule 80 or better makes a great vice pad and will hold without slipping or scratching. Gianni.
    [The Montana Gianni] Front sight and squeeze

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    fiberoptik, yep I have a whole bunch of them. What with all the pills I'm taking saving them up is no big deal. I try to save the amber ones with the screw on caps. At last check must have at least two shopping bags full. Heck I paid for the pills and they probably charged me for the bottles anyway. Just wash em out to remove any residue and you should be good to go. Frank

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    We're rolling along now. A couple more come to mind-

    One of my kids got a 4" magnifying glass with a magazine subscription. It also has a smaller inset area with probably 10x. I snatched that sucker up right off. I also have one of theose lamps with the built in magnifying glass in the shop, but it's not the answer I was hoping for. By the time I get far enough back to really enlarge the item I'm running out of arm to adjust the focus. Yeah, I know. Been to the eye doc yet Bret? I used to have one of those head band magnifiers and that worked good. Lost it or broke it.

    Hacksaw blades- Far as I'n concerned having too many hacksaw frames is like having to many guns. Could happen, but ain't likely. I'm running about 6 now and I'm still on the lookout for some deeper ones. I have different blades on pretty much all of them. The real general use type gets a 10" Lennox Bi-Metal 18t, one has a Remington carbide rod type blade from about 1975 thats still going strong. Don't know if they're still made. You really can cut glass with it. One light frame has a 24T Starret for light pipe and such. Two have 12" ( I think) 18t regular type cheapys for PVC, copper, grade 3 or under bolts, nails, construction work. I have one jewlers type hacksaw frame I use for gun work mostly. I also have the "required if you call yourself any kind of man" sawzall with a bunch o'blades. Works great on anything not requiring any kind of accurate cut. Get the Bi-Metal blades, the regular ones don't last worth a ****. The reason I have so many frames is because they are cheap at yard sales and when you have the right one ready to use you don't try and make the wrong one work. I admit I broke down a couple years ago when I was building a shopeing stock for my draft horses and bougt one of those chinwanese power hacksaws. Great time saver for $175.00, not terribly accurate.

    Yard sales. Some guys refuse to stop at yard, garage, rummage, flea market sales. Your choice. I like them, not as much as I used to because people figure every piece of junk Walmart screwdriver is worth at least a quarter now. Still you can pick up a lot of handy tools and such for cheap. Use your best judgement. I find rather than looking around for 10 minutes it's easier to walk up and ask if there are any tools, gun, reloading, fishing, trapping or car parts in the sale. Sometimes that triggers the seller to recall that old rifle in the broom closet. The chances of it turning out to be Uncle Ernies star-gauge National Match Springfield in mint condition for $50.00 are slim, but it's worth a shot.

    Watch the neighborhood for construction projects. Just because Erma down the road is tearing out those god awfull avacado kitchen cabinets she put in back in '75 doesn't mean they wouldn't look swell in your shop. And the pink countertop Earl and Marlene are replacing will reflect a lot more light than that grease stained hunk of 1/2" plywood you use for a bench top. Medicine cabinets get replaced almost as fast as womens shoes. Grab at least 2. One you'll break the mirror in, so at least you'll have the spare right there in the shop when you go hunting for that gob of metal in yer eye.

    Q-tips. Get the generic Wallyworld big box and be happy. Add in a big package of paper towels and at lest one package of toilet paper. These are shop supplies only, so quality isn't as much of an issue. TP thats not cottony soft on yer 'roids still works fine fer blowing yer nose and applying cold blue, RIG, etc. If you stumble onto a box of those brown paper towels grab 'em. Some times places changing over to air dryers in the restrooms throw them away. Maybe you can get the dispenser too. Handy, handy, handy.

    Here's my number one money saver- Harbor Frieght, Northern Hydraulics, all those types of places sell a valve that fits onto your 20lb gas grill type propane tank. You attach it, turn the tank upside down and then screw on your empty regular 1lb propane bottle, the Bernzomatic/Coleman type you pay, I dunno, probably $3.50 for anyway. Open the valve and the liquid propane fills you small tank. It won't fill it all the way but it'll give you 1/2 to 2/3 of a fresh bottle for 1/4 what you'd pay at the store. They do work with the new OFPD type 20 pounders. I don't know what the little bottles of propane cost anymore because I haven't bought one in 12 or 15 years.

    One of the guys mentioned lighting. You simply can't have enough good light, good light being flourescent. Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart all sell cheap flourescent fixtures for around $14.00. Get the level one up from the cheapest. I don't know the exact term but you want the "cold start" type. Even if your idea of cold is 50 degrees and sunny in Arizona, these last longer than the bottom of the line type. Save the reciept and use them for a week at every chance, turn them on and off I mean. About 20% of them die in the first 30 starts or so. Package that sucker up and exchange it for another one.

    A good hi intensity desk lamp, or better, one of those jobs on the extending arm is a great help.

    Put a carpet remanent, short nap, down on your bench top when your taking that gun, chainsaw, carburetor, nuclear reactor apart. All the little parts that fall, jump, vault, spring, fly, drop out of the project will hopefully land or catch on the carpet. Spend 3 hours on your knees with a flashlight looking for the little spring you lost and you'll see what I mean.

  16. #16
    Boolit Master fourarmed's Avatar
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    One of those overgrown toothbrushes with steel, bronze, or brass bristles and a rectangular hole through the handle makes an essential part of your 1911 cleaning kit. Use the brush to clean the boltface, and cut the end off the handle, leaving one of the long sides of the hole intact. It makes the perfect tool for cleaning slide and frame grooves with a paper towel.

    One of the hinged metal boxes that some imported mints come in makes a great holder for toothpicks, which you need to apply Lubriplate grease to bolt lugs, etc.

    A Black & Decker Workmate can be used in all sorts of ways. Mount lubrisizers on plywood with a 2x4 screwed to the bottom. Clamp it in the WM. Ditto a shooting bench top for 'dog shooting. It can also be adapted easily to a guncleaning vise.

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    More-

    A cheap substitute for WD-40 is plain old diesel/kerosene 50/50 with any oil. You won't get the water displacing quality, but hey, it's cheap.

    ATF works great as a general lube and is reputed to be what Singer Sewing Machine Oil and more or less Marvel Mystery Oil is. Who knows what additives are in there. Singer oil was a favorite among many gunnysmith types in the 50's, but it was a "secret".

    Rubbing alcohol is a good cleaner on guns but will damage some finishes.

    Mineral Spirits is my prefered gun/general cleaning liquid. Cheap, dosen't evaporate that fast and smells manly. Hoppes does smell better and I've thought of getting ododrless mineral spirits and adding banana oil/extract/flavoring, whatever it's called. Thats what makes Hoppes smell SO good.

    Starting fluid (ether) will degrease stuff to the point it starts rusting real fast. Very flammable, (IT IS STARTING FLUID SO BE CAREFUL), and overspray on some finnishes is a problem. A little goes a long way.

    Any old manual that calls for "Naptha" or "Dry Cleaning Fluid"- usually acetone will answer. Evaporates real fast. BTW- tried the acetone in the gas tank- lowered my milage. Huh.

    Any recipe that calls for "white gas"- thats old style unleaded gas. Use Coleman fuel. It's a lot more potent and works better than modern gas blends.

    Cheap guy tip- When a philips head screwdriver finally gets to the useless point, don't toss it. Heat the end, hammer out to flat screwdriver shape, grind to final shape, heat to red, quench, temper to brown/very faint blue heat, quench.

    The spray bottle Fantastik comes in works a lot better than the pump type WD-40 spray bottle. Don't know why WD-40 folks can't get this idea.

  18. #18
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    Bret, your comments abount kero, ATF, mineral spirits, and acetone = Ed's Red. Keep it on hand all the time. Use alot of it. Mix it myself, and it's virtually 'free', because I have the ingredients on hand anyway. Couldn't imagine buying it even though it is available from Brownell's.

    On my cleaning bench are plastic cosmetics bottles for Hoppee's, ER, etc., that don't seem to be affected by the acetone (ER in one for a long time with no detrimental affect). They have a twist top and work great for dispensing drops on a patch or otherwise. Got'em at Wally World. sundog

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    Boolit Master
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    For those of you who have lathes. Spray paint the chuck key some real visiblle color, the brighter the better. This makes it easier to spot, especially if yoou left it in the chuck and ready to start up. One tip in one of the home shop machinists magazines, suggested was to connect a long bungee cord to the ceiling of your shop and the other to the key. Leave the cord short so that if you remove the key it will be pulled up and out of the way. Bungee diving for chuck keys. Frank

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    Good suggestion on the chuck key. My Dad had his attached to the lathe with surgical tubing. Dad loved surgical tubing, the 6.5x55 and vodka, but thats another story.

    Was up in the gun shop, (attic), yesterday watching SWMBO clean out her assortment of clutter. She is a collector of magazines, thousands of useless decorating magazines. This is opposed to my collection of valuble "reference material" which somewhat resembles a bunch of magazines, but is mine, not hers, therefore much more valuble. At any rate, she had me cart off several hundred mags to the burn barrel. Being the asstute scrounger I am, I sez, " Whatcha gonna do with all those magazine holders?" (She stores her magazines in HOLDERS, not boxes! Sheez) "You can have them moron" she sez. So that led to my sorting throuogh 189,000 gazillion back issues of probably 45 different mags on 189 subjects. Take my advice- Cardboard boxes work fine. Magazines holders don't stack for ****.

    Dremel tools- Didja know Dremel changed their tool design a few years back? No? Neither did I until my ancient single speed Dremel bit the dust in shower of flame and sparks last year. So SWMBO gets me the top of the line variable sped super whiz bang kit, God love her, and thats when I got the bad news. I have most every accessory for the old style Dremels. Not one of them fits the new style with the threaded nose. I emailed Dremel and asked if there was an adaptor, but never got an answer. Just beware when you buy the accessory attachments at yard sales, tool sales. The very front of the old style had sort of a ribbed surface, the new ones have a screw on flared nose piece that you unscrew to fit the attachments to.

    Every discount tool supply- Grizzly, Harbor Frieght, Northern, Penn Tool, TSC stores- sells the big fraction/number/letter size drill kits for around $39.00. The quality is not high, but if you plunk down the $$ yoou'll at least have the right size drill bit when you need it. I find the temper to be a bit brittle and some times a bit of sharpening helps along with lots of cutting fluid. No, they won't drill the case hardened reciever of Uncle Lous Springfield, but niether will the best Cleveland. You'll need carbide/acid/spot grinding for that. I have 2 sets of the chiwanese drills and replace the broken, burnt ones with good Clevelands as I go. It may be a waste to some guys, but I can't bring myself to spend $280.00 on a decent set of this size.

    Chisels- I'm talking metal working "cold" chisels here. In the days of yore, the local "gone smythe" made parts with a forge, a chislel and a file. You too can do the same! There's about 56 dozen different types of chisels out there. You need maybe 4 of them for gun work. A good old fairly heavy job about 8" long with a 1/2' wide face for knocking the big peices off, a much smaller diamond shape, kept very sharp for corners, a 1/4" or 3/16" wide caping chisel for narrow slots, and a half round job maybe 1/8" wide. That last one isn't easy to find, but can be made up from a good quality pin punch. How do you use them? Take an appropriate weight hammer, say 4-8 oz for the smaller ones, and tap the chisel in where you want the metal removed. It's tap, tap, tap until things start going where you want. I can't explain it more than that. You cut gently and alter the angle of attack so you get a good bite, but not too deep. Play with some scrap and you get the hang of it. It's lots quicker than filing/grinding, even with a Dremel, and there's no heat to speak of. You cna make curves, indents, slots, key ways, corners, cut offs- anything. It just takes time. Try it somedays and see if it isn't a handy thing to know.

    Chisels bring us to punches, drifts, pin punches, etc. Find a nice set of small punches or pin punches. Pin punches tend to be longer. Many discount places have sets for cheap. Make sure the ends are flat and square. Never, ever, ever use a pnch thats too big or way too small for the pin in question. Idealy the punch should fit the pin almost exactly erring to the small side so the punch will fit the pin hole. Tap the punch gently but firmly to "start" the pin moving. Then tap it out. Most pins allegedly go in right to left. Your mileage may vary on that. Find a brass drift, (a drift has a tapered form to the punch end) for knocking sights out of dovetails. Copper, some plastics and polished steel also work for that. Aluminum tends to mark the steel with a stain I find hard to remove. For aligning parts and drift is handy. Yes a nail will work. They also bend in the holes sometimesmaking a job removing them. Just remember that when you hit the punch you can deform the pin or the metal around it if you miss. Don't miss if you don't want a marked up gun.
    Last edited by Bret4207; 09-17-2007 at 07:38 AM.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check