Introduction and questions about mini lathes

Hi im tom im completely new to lathes and this forum......
I have been wanting a lathe for some time now but others things more
important have popped up and nicked my money :) I am hoping to get a lathe soon....it will mainly be used for making replacement parts for my air rifle i have and anything friends want me to make them :D
The maximum length of metal that will be used it 12" but more like 10" and the width will be 1.5" and these will be for the silencers......I would like the lathe to have thread cutting abilities in imperial if possible...
I will only be using aluminium, steel and brass on the lathe...
I have been looking at a chester conquest lathe and wanted you opinions on this lathe and are there any other lathes around the price of the conquest?
If you dont recommend this lathe can you point me in the right direction for a benchtop lathe new or secondhand but fairly cheap as i am skint at the moment :(
thanks all and i'm sure i will enjoy it here.....tomgriffin
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<snip>
Chaps, I directed Tom over this way from the US Practical Machinist forum in the hope that he would get a bit more help from closer to home, so feel free to chime in.
Tom another good place to look is here: http://www.homeworkshop.org.uk / This is run by a couple of the illustrious members of the newsgroup and is a good place to spot lathes for sale. There was also a Ward 2A capstan lathe up for grabs that was posted on here a few days ago, and this site here http://www.lathes.co.uk/ has a veritable mine of information about lathes, though not the newer import types.
Peter
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Bad form to reply to my own post but... Before anyone jumps in and says the Ward or others listed on the Lathes.co.uk site are not a Chester Conquest or equivalent, Tom mentioned on the other site that he has a limited budget and was looking for something cheap but capable to learn and do the job on. Btw Tom, the Sieg lathes from Arc Euro (and the company itself) seem to have garnered a good reputation on here.
Peter
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Bear in mind that the between centres distance of these lathes is the longest piece of metal you can get in. If you plan on drilling through the centre of your workpiece, which sounds like what you need for a silencer, then you have to allow for the length of the drill chuck and the whole of the drill bit protruding from the tailstock at the start. On a 12" lathe, even with a compact chuck you'll be lucky to be able to drill more than about 4" or so deep using a tailstock mounted drill chuck.
Other than that, they seem to be nice lathes for the money, though Arc Euro and Warco generally seem to get better comments than Clarke or Chester as suppliers. The tailstock is clamped to the ways with a bolt and needs a spanner to adjust it which is a royal pain - most people seem to modify it fairly quickly.
Have fun - you'll find lots of friendly help here. There are also several mini lathe web sites with lots of info. Try http://www.mini-lathe.com/ or http://www.mini-lathe.org.uk/index.shtml for starters.
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So i will need a bigger lathe than say a conquest.....
Can you give me some ideas on what would be best suited baring in mind i have limited funds and space.
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tomgriffin wrote:

It depends a bit. Check the specs for the spindle bore. You can stick parts (maybe around 20mm diameter) through the chuck and the spindle and thus make bores in longer parts. Also be aware, that length between centers is with a dead center in the tailstock. A live center is longer, so you lose a bit. Also a three jaw chuck is longer than a center, you also lose a bit.
"Length between centers" is a value that is guaranteed to be never achieved under any practical circumstance.
Nick
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The branded versions are all a bit overpriced especially when you compare the equivalent models in the US. If you take a look at eBay, there's one or two regular sellers who have got the price right. The machines appear identical and must come from the same factory as the branded ones. If you're a bit unsure about buying on eBay you could always ask the seller if you can view before buying - if you can't - beware. Here's an example: http://tinyurl.com/2b5ebt I know he's going to get the slightly bigger 7x14 lathe in, and there's another seller of the Sieg range: http://tinyurl.com/35zzza this has 350mm (14 inch) distance between centres)might be worth bidding for - he's a regular, so I'm sure reliable. I wouldn't pay more than about 300 for that model One seller is up north, and the other one down south.
I do quite a bit of buying and selling lathes and milling machines, and my advice is to find someone who will offer a guarantee and after-sales service. Also, don't pay for a name - you won't get a superior product by getting a branded version. And you should buy new, not a second-hand imported lathe (that's my view anyway) unless it's really cheap and you know what you're doing. Good luck in finding the right machine and if you get stuck, then get in touch.
Hugh
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Which is hardly a good comparison seeing as the US has a larger market sales and so can ship in greater quantities. There are differences in currency and try importing one from the US to see where the true costs lie. We have a totally different tax and import regime in this country.
See the recent thread by Tony Jeffree on importing a small shaft encoder from the US.

What you do have to be careful of though is buying from named dealers against unknowns.
It works this way, once you are established at a factory you can call some shots. Not all the mini lathes sold by all the various dealers around the world are the same, different specs, different colour's etc. Mainly these machines are sold to a price, the more features or unique spec command higher prices, the run of the mill machines are the lowest. Because the named dealers can call shots it goes that they do get a better spec machine and the rest filter down.
I know for a fact that if I was to contact Seig as an unknown as ask for their best price, I'd get their best shit. It's been done by people wanting cheap machines to convert to CNC. Doesn't work, buy the best and throw the unwanted bits away.
One last scenario, two UK importers have bought a new lathe into the country recently. No names but as I do some work for Arc Euro and could be accused of being biast [ who Moi ?? ] neither of them was Arc. One importer checked the 40 odd machines over he'd bought and they were crap, in fact they were worse than crap they were absolute crap. Knowing he'd have a service problem the whole 40 machines were on the next boat back. The other importer is still selling his to get his money back.
-- Regards,
John Stevenson Nottingham, England.
Visit the new Model Engineering adverts page at:- http://www.homeworkshop.org.uk /
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Some people are saying buy new and some are saying buy second hand? What are the pro's and con's about buying second hand.......I have around a month or so to decide which lathe i fancy and i really want to make the right choice.
Can somebody recommend some tools and other items that would make a new or second hand lathe work even better and possibly more acuratly?
I was also looking at a second hand HobbyMat MD65 and wondered what peoples views are of this particular lathe?
cheers.....tom griffin
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Tom, The way I see it is that the choice is either a brand new imported lathe or second-hand Myford or similar. As an example I know of one experienced engineer who told me he had to take back a mini-lathe 4 times to one of the leading UK suppliers before he got a decent one - lo and behold, I find he was selling it some time after. So even the big boys can sell duff machines and sometimes big organisations aren't the best at putting things right. One thing, I've heard nothing but praise for Arc Euro and the service they give. By buying brand new, you get the protection of the Consumer Act - at least a year of use to find out if it's any good. Dismiss the posting above rubbishing the chinese imports, I can assure you that the dealers I know have sold many, and to experienced engineers, and they are of the best quality.Even an engineer working on Airbus A380 parts is delighted with his and how accurate it is - although I hasten to add that he's not using the mini-lathe for making those parts!! So basically, (I think I said it before) find the right seller who will give you a good price, someone who you can trust, and offers a good after-sales service, and don't kid yourself that by paying more you're getting something better. On eBay at this very moment is a Sieg lathe at around 300 and someone selling the same one at over 600, milling machines go for over double what you can pay for an identical model.
Hope it helps, Hugh
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Tom Hi,
STOP; do not pass go, return to the start!!
Sorry Tom just my sense of humour (warped?) but your questions reveal a little bit of understandable confusion given the widely ranging advice you have received on this and other boards. This post also strikes fear into me as you have set yourself a time limit to buy a lathe. Not a good idea in my own costly experience.
Unless you just want a lathe to "play with" you must decide what size and type of work is essential for it to do. From some of your earlier posts (not on this forum) I got the impression that you wanted it to bore or drill out 10-12" lengths of 1.5" diameter material, none of the machines I've seen mentioned will get anywhere near that task. Some of the machines would turn the outside diameter (just) but do not have the room or spindle bore to do anything internal. There are two ways to accommodate the task, either with a long enough bed to allow the tooling (drill/boring bar) to be inserted from the tailstock end or by having a large enough spindle bore to allow 1.5" to be inserted through the chuck and go down the spindle center. Machines with 1.5" spindle clearance tend to be large industrial types and will take up a fair bit of room. If you have decided that this is not an essential criteria after all then fine but buying a lathe without regard to the jobs you want to do with it is a certain recipe for disaster. Don't ask how I know this - it hurts too much.
The second point that perturbs me is your "Can somebody recommend some tools and other items that would make a new or second hand lathe work even better and possibly more accurately". The short answer here is there aren't any, like baldness cures when one is found that actually works there will be another very rich man (or women) in the world. This DOESN'T mean that old or sometimes fairly worn machines cannot be used to produce excellent work - it happens every day. However, it is not something that is bought but something that is learnt. With experience and some knowledge of how a worn machine turns there are many techniques that will help to improve the situation and allow first class work to be produced.
Tom, the seemingly simple question of "what lathe" is the most difficult to answer and always leads to long and polarized arguments. We quickly get into the old/new, Chinese/European type arguments that go on forever. There are many on this list and if you search the archive you will have hours and hours of reading, have a look at this one to start
http://groups.google.com/group/uk.rec.models.engineering/browse_thread/thread/aeca82d28b03890c/48f285780d3d37a9
Apologies if you have already done that but many new starters don't find the search facility and it really is an excellent resource.
Tom, if you can let us know what the essential criteria are for the lathe you will buy and what the budget is then we can try to be a bit more specific with our advice. I always find that a "will not compromise on this" and an "I'd like to have this" list is a good place to start. Hope I'm not trying to "teach granny" but the more information you can give the better the advice will be.
Best regards
Keith
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On 21 Feb, 11:53, jontom snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

That time frame (limit) is wrong sorry about that.......I dont mind when i get a lathe...I meant to say it has to be after a month as i am currently unemployed but have an interview in a few weeks and hopefully get the job (fingers crossed).
The lathe will be more for my own pleasure than producing items to sell......I would ideally want the lathe to be able to bore out......and i have just measured the silencer i have at the moment and ti is 7"long so that would be the maximum length i would needto bore....(sorry for any confusion).
I shall be using 1.5" maximum diameter aluminium and it will be turned down to around 30mm.
Right my budget will be around 300 - 350 just for the lathe
I would like it to be able to be/do:
Bore out a 30mm rod at 7" in length. Must be a benchtop type lathe. (lack of space) Must be capable of cutting imperial threads. Must be capable of turning down 1.5" rods and tubes of aluminium. Must be capable of turning brass and aluminium. (possibly plastic?) Must be fairly easy to navigate as i'm beginner. Must be able to run on variable speeds. Must be albe to cut brass. (parting) at 1mm thickness. (baffles for the silencer) Must be able to taper metal. (aluminium for air stripper) Must be sturdy/heavy enough to stop tools chattering the metal. Must be suitable for knurling pices of aluminium and brass. (end caps)
I cant think of anythng else at the moment :)
I hadnt seen the search function until you said about it......(blind as a bat) I shall have a good search through the posts that are about mini lathes......
What tooling would i need to knurl, part (cut metal), taper, threading, cut and boring the metals?
Cheers jontom.....tom griffin
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tomgriffin wrote:

First warning bells...
"Just the lathe". Is that "Just a basic bare lathe" or "a lathe with chucks, work holding, tool posts, drill chucks, etc". Its quite a big difference, as a rule of thumb is "double the price for all the bits to get yourself started".
350 is very cheap for a lathe, even without all the bits and pieces.

To what level of accuracy ? Fundamentally that's what will dictate what you need to do the job. If its "hole about 25mm dia, +/- 0.5mm over its length", then its one set of machinery. If its "hole 25.00mm +/-0.005mm over entire length", then that's a different matter.

So, add "changewheels" to your "accessories" list.

Based on the questions, I have a feeling that Tom may benefit from a few workshop sessions, either from a local model engineering club, or a technical college. And do that BEFORE spending money on tools.
I've met a lot of people who have said they "need a lathe" for a project. In some cases its true. In others they have the spare cash to afford luxury tools (myself included). And in many cases, they don't need a lathe, they need someone who can perform a few operations for them, and then spend their time and money doing the other bits of the project.
Having analysed the project, it might be that one operation (boring this 7inch long cylinder for example) needs quite hefty special equipment, and should be farmed out somewhere, and all the other parts can all be made at home using a reasonably low-price machine.
- Nigel
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Webmaster at http://www.2mm.org.uk/
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Tom hi,
Apologies if this posts twice but I'm having trouble with google today, if it does I'll delete one of them.
Good luck with the job interview, hope all goes well and you can start saving for that first lathe.
Much better picture of what you want now but unfortunately still no easy answers. As you will see from some of the excellent advice already given your job is really too big for the (new) lathes available within that price range. With regard to the specifics of the mini-lathe I'll defer to Peter's excellent advice, actual hands on experience is much more accurate than pontificating over spec sheets etc.
So, in the cold light of day you need to make some compromises. Either the task has to be achieved in a different way, the budget stretched to accommodate a larger machine or the (sounds of scary music) secondhand market has to be risked.
As Peter says the job could be achieved by working from both ends in turn and accepting that the bore will not be perfect. This will require some specific tooling that will need to be modified by you, I'm thinking here of a large taper shank drill that you will need to shorten. You will need at least a bench grinder to do this. I also feel that a fixed steady would also be needed so we have already added to the basic cost of the machine and we haven't got any cutting tools etc yet. The other suggestion of using seamless tubing may well be a better solution if you can identify anything suitable.
Although I suspect not what you want to hear, waiting a while longer while you save to stretch the budget solves many of the issues. The cheapest new bench lathe that I can think of that will accommodate your task with relative ease is the 918/920 type. These are available from many of the importers and will set you back about 650 have a look at the Warco and Chester sites. While they appear a lot more money that the min-lathe they come with more equipment as standard and so the "real" difference is not so much. They meet all of your requirements bar variable speed, are capable of thread cutting (imperial or metric) as standard and are well equipped. You will need to select speed by changing the drive belt from pulley to pulley which is an easy task. The other advantage with these is there is a vast amount of help and support available on the internet, just google for 920 lathe and you will find plenty of reading.
More scary music; with the secondhand market if we stick to your 350 budget the choice is still very limited and to be honest fairly risky. Don't get me wrong you will find a lathe for that price but it is likely to be fairly worn and require some TLC as they say. I understand from your other posting that you may already have a start here with an older Myford ML2? If so why not get that working while you save for a better new machine? A lot of improvement can be achieved with some elbow grease and careful adjustment. Because of the physics involved even a machine with a worn bed can produce work more accurate than most people would believe, when you know what you are doing. Worn spindle bearings or leadscrew nuts are more difficult to deal with. You don't have to spend lots of money which would not be worthwhile anyway.
Of course all problems go out of the window if you can engineer being "in the right place at the right time". There are many stories of bargains for peanuts but in reality they are rare, I've spent 25 years trying and not yet succeeded. Others are more fortunate. To stand any chance in the secondhand market you must learn to identify a good sound machine or know someone who can. Without that ability the market is a real lottery, i.e. most of us spend a lot of money for no return the lucky few pick up riches for nothing. Machines to look for would be Myford, Boxford or even perhaps an old Atlas or Drummond. Let us know if you decide to investigate deeper into the secondhand option and I'm sure plenty of more specific advice will be forthcoming.
Tom, have you a model engineering club nearby? Even if you are not interested in "trains" they are worth a visit. Most are friendly and helpful and a superb source of local knowledge, where to go what to buy etc. Most will be keen to help as they know when you get addicted to engineering and finish "popping and banging" you might well end up making tools etc, and who knows even a steam engine. If you let us know what area of the country you are in you might find that there is someone on here who would be prepared to talk you though the basics.
Tom not sure if this has helped at all but I hope so. Keep asking the questions and things will become clearer.
Best regards
Keith
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On 22 Feb, 11:31, jontom snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

Again great advice about visiting a model engineers club.........I am in didcot in oxfordshire....so if anyone knows where a club is locally then please tell.....:-) I'm not really interested in modern trains but i find steam trains fascinating (how they work and engineering side of things).
I personally dont mind buying a second hand lathe.....as my dads friend (a machinist) said he would check everything over and make sure it is all as it should be......I have heard nothing but praise for myford ml10, 7 and super7 lathes but no nothing much about the other brands and models....
The current owner has not got back to me about when i can pick up the lathe so i'm wondering if he has changed his mind?
I dont mind saving for longer to get a better machine but im scared that if i dont like machining i would have spent an excessive amount of money on a whim......I had looked at the larger lathes with 500mm between centres and thought they were better value for money than mini lathes.... I had been looking at the "Axminster bv20" and the "Warco bv20" and wondered what the real difference between them was?
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Tom have a look here http://www.cosme.org.uk/ they are just up the road and as far as I know a very active and friendly club.

A standard ML 10 is only 13 inches between centres and so would be too short for you the Speed 10 is 18 inches and would be fine. I had one for nearly 20 years and they are a simple but very fine lathe

How many times does "second thoughts" get in the way, pity if they have as it would be a good introduction

Tom this is really a good argument to look at a Myford, the best value by far is the ML7 and you should find a sound servicable machine for about 450 and could well come with a few accessories as well. If you don't take to the hobby then it will hold its value better than any of the newer machines. The depreciaton on those will equal the cost of the ML7. If the hobby is for you then the ML 7 will provide the funds for an upgrade to a new machine later.
I had looked at the larger lathes with 500mm

Many of these machines come from the same factory or are built to the same generic design. Your fathers friend will be able to identify the sometimes important differences in detail. Quite often they are so similar you need to include the potential support from the seller, both you mention are well established but Warco has a reputation for excellent customer support. They are a good company to visit and are not that far from you. They have all their machines on view there is no sales pressure and in my experience they answer your questions openly and honestly. I have no connection other than I have bought from them in the past.
Best regards
Keith
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tomgriffin wrote:

It will probably be stronger than a tube cut from solid stock, the work done in drawing the tube will strengthen it.

yes, in effect, especially for long pieces when you are working away from the chuck.

Great! Especially the second part. Try and get him to show you how to grind HSS lathe tools by hand too - a cheap ginder for about 15 will do small tools okay, though a set of diamond stones (about 5) to put a final polish the edges helps.

It's possible - but the parting cut will use up about 4mm of brass as well. Expensive! as well as inaccurate.
I assume you want a number of brass disks 1mm thick and say 25 mm dia with an accurately sized accurately centred 6mm hole - one way of doing it would be like this. Cut some blanks from 1mm sheet to slightly over size, drill and ream the centre holes making sure the holes are vertical, then stack them on a home-made mandrel - get a bit of 20 mm round scrap, fit tightly in the three-jaw and turn down a fraction so it's runing true. Then turn the end down so the holes are a tight but movable fit, leaving a square or slightly concave shoulder. Add a slightly loose washer or two, the inside corner of the square shoulder will not and need not be accurate.
If you don't take this mandrel out of the three-jaw after turning it, it and the holes should then be perfectly centered and aligned. Tap the end of the mandrel and hold the disks tightly in place with a nut and washer. Then turn the outside of the stack of disks to size - voila, perfectly centered holes in accurate round disks.
|____ 2 3 2 | | |||||| __ | ||______|_| | | _________ 4 | 1 || | |__| |____| ||||||
1 mandrel 2 washers 3 disks 4 nut
Other possible methods might involve things like gluing the brass blanks together with hot-melt glue, machining them, then melting them apart.
--
Peter Fairbrother


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tomgriffin wrote:

That's the one job in your list that a Conquest/C3/minilathe won't be able to do out-of-the-box with a few extra tools.
At least in standard mode. Actually, I just measured my Conquest 7x14 with a 16 mm jacobs chuck in the tailpost, and it's about 9 1/2 inches from the front face of the three-jaw to the chuck - it's about 12 3/4 inches to the tailpost if you use a MT2 shanked drill.
You still won't get 7" travel though, unless you drill from both ends*, which _will not_ meet exactly - though you could undersize drill from both ends then use a hand reamer, or better two one after the other, to final hole size, especially in aluminium.
*or get a few MT2 drills of exactly the right lengths and shorten the stubs - not easy or convenient to use, but possible
I do not know whether extra-long bed versions of the minilathe are available, you might try and look for one - I have a vague memory of hearing about one which was 7x18 and even a 7x24 one, but they may have been home-modified rather than bought.
The standard minilathe was 7x12 at one time, but most, including mine, are now 7x14. The latter figure is the length between centres, but you won't be able to turn, never mind drill, much work that long.
Could you use eg seamless Al tube instead? It's available in lots of sizes, grades, and wall thicknesses, and almost certainly will be cheaper than boring from solid stock.

This plus your price range means that you will probably be limited to a minilathe, or perhaps something similar. You might get a slightly ropy used ex-school Boxford etc for that money or a little more, but it ain't a benchtop lathe.

Minilathes come in both metric and imperial versions. With a few extra changewheels you may be able to cut imperial threads on a metric lathe, though I don't know where or if you might find them or a thread chart.

okay so far ...

Do you want to part off brass discs 1mm thick? No-one in their right mind would do that, you make them from 1mm sheet. You can do that on a minilathe - you could even part a roughly 1mm thick disk on one if you were insane enough to want to try, but you would need lots of experience to get any kind of accuracy.

yep
I turn stainless and more exotic allays like inconel and hastelloy quite frequently and get reasonable to good finishes - I have modified my lathe to include locks on the carriage and both slides though. Not hard to do, but it's not straight-out-of-the-box. Turning Al would probably be okay sootb, maybe brass too, but fitting carriage/slide locks is the best way to go about it.

You will need a knurler. They start at about 15.

get some experience first. Get someone to show you how it all works. Also get someone to show you how to grind lathe tools, and threading tools. Invaluable. To grind a tool properly you have to know how it works, and when you know that, all the rest is pleasure (Hah!).

Knurler; parting tool; ordinary lathe tool pref. with a slightly rounded tip; threading lathe tool set (internal and external) or taps and dies*; ?** ; drills and reamers, maybe a boring tool or a small cylinder hone.
Perhaps a fixed steady if you want to externally tap the ends of long holes, though a pipe centre will do, or in a pinch even a dead centre if the bore is small enough.
* I tend to use taps for larger internal threads, and cut the external threads, it's easier and big taps are much cheaper than big dies.
**Cut? A bandsaw is good for that.
--
Peter Fairbrother


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Cheers for your replies..........again very helpful.......
To be honest i didnt think about using a seamless aluminium tube as i thought it may not be strong enough....
My dad has metric and imperial dies and taps so that isnt a problem....
What does a fixed and travelling steady do exactly? do they help center your work?.........I know a machinist who has a lot of spare tools he said i can have and he is going to teach me how to use a lathe properly.......
I was planning on parting off a 1mm brass disc but it sounds like its almost impossible.
"Given walking out in the street with a peashooter and a bag of pigeon peas will cause a SWAT squad to appear within seconds, setting up to machine gun barrels and silencers sounds like asking to be placed in a deep dungeon! A .22 air rifle barrel is a gun barrel when it comes off the machine! "
I dont mean to be rude but what are you going on about? I f you are having a go about me owning a few air rifles then dont as i am responsible and have a few places where i have the landowners to shoot vermin........Why would a silencer get me inprisoned? You are allowed them on air rifles in england........I know a few people who make air rifle silencers air strippers for a living and they havent been in prison.
cheers.....tom griffin
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Not having a go at all - merely suggesting that if you start making firearm components just check where you stand!
Steve
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