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Thread: south bend 9B for gunsmithing

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy
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    south bend 9B for gunsmithing

    Ok you guys that have more machining experience than I, what do you know about this lathe. I am somewhat mechanically inclined and would like to teach my-self some basic machinist / gunsmithing skills. OK, would this lathe be capable of barrel chamber work and threading.

  2. #2
    Boolit Grand Master

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    A lathe used for barrel work needs spindle bore of 1 3/8" or larger or a longer bed of 36-40". A to small spindle bore means your working between centers or a steady rest. A spindle that is easy to attach a spider to on back end is a plus also. A quick change gear box is a plus for adjusting feeds and thread pitches. I also prefer a d series chuck mounting over the threaded on chucks. A collet chuck faceplate and dead center are good accessories to have with the lathe.

    If there is a school near you that offers the apprenticeship coarsest ( night school) take a couple of the machining classes. This will get you started and give you the basics getting started. Instructed classes go a lot farther than figuring it out on your own

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    When I went to CST they had about 10 9" South Bends and taught barrel fitting and chambering on them. They were setting up their first Heavy 10 just before I left. The 9 inch lathes will work but will be slower than using a lathe that will take the barrel through the headstock.

    If you find a great deal on a 9 inch lathe don't turn it down. It is much easier to find a lathe for sale if you already have one.
    Spell check doesn't work in Chrome, so if something is spelled wrong, it's just a typo that I missed.

  4. #4
    Boolit Buddy
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    Make sure you get all the change gears with it. Those can get expensive in hurry.

  5. #5
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    The old Kreuz Gun Shop in Austin, Texas was equipped with South Bend 9" lathes and an Atlas horizontal mill. He operated right down the street from the capitol and did all the work for many old time Texas Rangers, like Frank Hamer and Lone Wolf Gonzaullas, using those machines. Good craftsmanlike work can be done on them. Harry Pope had nothing better to work with. You'd be well equipped if running a small personal shop.

  6. #6
    Boolit Buddy
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    I'd want at least 30" between centers and I'd feel comfortable with it. The SB stuff tends to be better build materials and rigidity than the Atlases from what I understand. Tooling is probably more valuable than the lathe truthfully or at least equally so. For what you're doing I'd want the face plate/dog, a 3 jaw chuck (4 is better if time isn't a concern,) a steady rest and a follow rest plus anything else you can get is a bonus.

  7. #7
    Boolit Buddy
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    I've got a 9" SB A model with a 4 1/2 ft bed with the complete set of metric change gears. I did some barrel work on it using the steady rest. It is doable but not as accurate centering the barrel as a 4 jaw chuck on a lathe with a larger spindle hole. I've got a Logan 11" with the 1 3/8" spindle hole that I do my barrel work on now. I use the 9" SB the most making screws, firing pins and miscellaneous things because it is so easy to use. If it is all you've got, make the best of it but a lathe with a larger spindle hole is best for barrel work.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    I know of more then one gunsmith that use a 9 inch southbend for barrel work. I use a steady rest that way you are away from the wear spot right at the chuck. this have to stick it in the chuck bunch shows they do not think at all. you do need a 4 foot bed at least a 4 1/2 foot would be better.

  9. #9
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    I have a Logan 9B, and it would be light for barrel chambering. it only allows 3/4" thru the spindle, so only the muzzle of a light barrel can be put thru the spindle.
    I believe that ALL the 9B's are quick change gearbox, but then it still hampers you on bore size.
    It is a good lathe within it's own size, though.

  10. #10
    Boolit Buddy
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    Quote Originally Posted by bob208 View Post
    I know of more then one gunsmith that use a 9 inch southbend for barrel work. I use a steady rest that way you are away from the wear spot right at the chuck. this have to stick it in the chuck bunch shows they do not think at all. you do need a 4 foot bed at least a 4 1/2 foot would be better.
    You have the right idea. My Atlas is severely clapped out but if I did something like you're talking about it would be serviceable for the work you're mentioning. It's one of the reasons I'm not too concerned about the 3/4 through hole. If anything using that would put me in a place in the bed I'd really like to avoid for a precision operation.

  11. #11
    Boolit Buddy
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    All the Southbend 9B's use change gears with no quick change gear boxes. The 9A has the quick change gear box.


    Quote Originally Posted by kens View Post
    I have a Logan 9B, and it would be light for barrel chambering. it only allows 3/4" thru the spindle, so only the muzzle of a light barrel can be put thru the spindle.
    I believe that ALL the 9B's are quick change gearbox, but then it still hampers you on bore size.
    It is a good lathe within it's own size, though.

  12. #12
    Boolit Grand Master

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    While not unusable these old south bends, atlas and other smaller machines are getting old and due to size weight restrictions finding needed tooling for them is getting harder. I watched a small logan 6 x 18 bench top sell at an auction for just over $2000.00 with little to no tooling. I had bid up to $600.00. For $2000 you are well on your way to a 12X40 with a 1 1/4" spindle bore and tooling in a used machine. Take your time search the machinery venders in your area, Craigs list, estates. I have a harbor freight ( central machinery) 5x10 mini lather and it will do the job but is under powered and light. What it will do in 5-6 passes the causing will do in 2-3 and the nardinni will do in 1. Working with the small spindle bore can take some imagination, again much easier on the clausing with 1 3/8" bore and even better on the Nardinni with its 2 1/2" spindle bore.

    Watch the used machine brokers venders a good solid machine can be found and purchased reasonably usually with the needed tooling also. On a lathe Ideally collets and closer, 3 jaw ( I could live with out the 3 jaw), 4 jaw chucks, a drill chuck 5/8"-3/4", live center, dead centers, tool post and holders, aloris is nice but a lot can be done with a lantern post and rocker. Then cutters turning boring facing threading and grooving. A lot more in tooling but it can also be made.

    Struggling with a to small machine on a job or the wrong tools makes it much harder to do.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master


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    I think the reason good older, but small, machine tools are bid so high is because few of us can manage to accommodate larger tools. Machines of industrial size often go for scrap value.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    you are dead on. I have moved a lot of machinery. try to get a lathe with a 13/4 through hole down the cellar steps. that 9 inch south bend or 12 inch atlas is easy. I know I have done it many times. I have a clausing 6x24 vertical mill it is a 8520 it breaks down into 3 major parts I moved it out of the cellar into my shop moved it from that shop to the farm. if I sold it I would get almost as much as I paid for my 8x42 vertical I bought new.

  15. #15
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Gee and here I got along with a South Bend 9a for 20 years and the lathe was used by a gunsmith since it was new in 1952! You work a little different but a SB9" will do whatever you need if it is long enough to work between centers.

  16. #16
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    I wish I had a 10 just for the bigger hole through the headstock, but need to start doing a lot more to really say it is an issue.

    Mine came with most everything one would need except lathe dogs (cheap) and thread dial NOT so cheap.
    Collet set with closer would be nice for somethings I would like to do also.
    Nothing is impossible for the person that does not have to do it.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    Brett, I do not know your circumstances: is someone dropping this in your lap or are you buying? If it is coming from a friend and/or family for free or cheap - yes it will work as many here can attest. If you are buying consider a bigger machine. For example I found a South Bend 13" under power in a working machine shop for $800 that was in good enough condition to be making them money. They were buying more CNC equipment and had run out of space. What's more is that once I became trained at searching I found even better deals once my money was spent so patience is a virtue.

    Nothing wrong with old iron or Chinese new if it works for you. Take some time and learn. Most new interest wants a machine in hand now (me too), but reading, learning and searching pays off!

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    If you don’t already have basic knowledge of how to run a lathe, I highly recommend taking a class (or 3 or 6) at your local Community College or Trade School. While gunsmithing has its own special set of quirks and tricks, basic machining is ... basic machining. “You must learn to walk before you run!”

    Another advantage of taking the classes is you get to see what the limits of various machines may be. Also, once you are connected with the machining community, finding deals on used tools and tooling becomes more likely.

    I inherited an old 11” Sheldon lathe with a 1 1/8” spindle opening (MT #4) and when I can get to it and the Atlas MFC Horizontal Mill I purchased, I might be able to do some good work... but I still need more coaching and practice... I can turn good metal stock into scrap more quickly than just about anyone you’ll ever meet!

    Froggie

    PS The best machinist gunsmith I ever knew had a large enough (11”) lathe for barrel work and not one but two 9” SB lathes for lighter work, along with obligatory Bridgeport Vertical Mill and assorted other tooling. As long as you have enough space, you can’t have too many tools!
    Last edited by Green Frog; 12-17-2019 at 08:36 AM.
    "It aint easy being green!"

  19. #19
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Green Frog. a second lathe is handy even a smaller one. It can save a lot of time when you have a job going and set up in the other and need a pin or bushing made to fit. When we sleeved bearing races we bored the journal out and measured it. ( usually .050-.100 on a side). Then went to a second lathe turned the bushing up for size to size or .0005 press. and the bore with in .050. This was cut to length and pushed in with light coat of red locktite with the face of the tail stock spindle on the original machine and bored to sized. The second machine saved a touchy set up and recentering. The second lathe can save a lot f time and energy

  20. #20
    Boolit Buddy
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    Wow thanks for all the replies. I have been deer hunting so have not been logged in for a while, I am just kind of thinking and looking now. This is a plan to occupy my time in retirement, along with maybe a bit of income supplement, about 8 years away. I have begun work on sporting a 1895 Lowe to learn some skills. I just got the receiver off the barrel and beginning to clean it up and remove the stripper clip boss, anyone know where a guy can get a receiver holding fixture for a 1895 all I seem to find is for the 98s.

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