I decided awhile ago that metalworking would be a good set of skills to pick up. A couple friends have some metalworking skills and one has been doing some CNC work. We're planning to build some AR15 lowers from aluminum bar stock (perfectly legal for our own use, we're not planning on selling them).
The last time I did any metalworking was back in junior high school shop class in the early 80s, when we did some sand casting, forging, and soldering. I looked into taking some classes at my local community college but they are not offered on a schedule that works for me, so I'm going to take the same approach that allowed me to change careers from law to IT, and teach myself.
Aside from books and just trying things out, there are a lot of instructional videos that are available online for free. For example, I've been watching a series of videos from MIT Tech TV.
I downloaded them to my iPad and have been watching them during my commute on the train. Along with this I read through Audel's Machine Shop Basics.
After doing a lot of reading and subscribing to the Yahoo 7x12 lathe group, I ordered a Grizzly G8688 last week from Amazon (at the time it was $30 cheaper through them vs. ordering direct). It won't handle big stuff like a friend's lathe that weighs in at 1800 lbs., but this will actually fit in my shed and I can cause less damage with it.
I also got a copy of the book Metal Lathe for Home Machinists which has a bunch of exercises to do to learn manual lathe operations, some which are tools to improve the lathe itself.
Once I have some practical experience with a lathe under my belt I eventually may build a .22 rimfire suppressor on a Form 1.
I got my order today from Grizzly Industrial. However, somebody up in Muncy, PA got confused because they sent me the G8689 Mini Milling Machine instead of the G8688 Mini Lathe that I actually ordered. This was not evident until after I opened the shipping crate and the delivery truck had already left.
After I opened the shipping crate I called Grizzly to inform them of their error but that I would keep it. The CSR I spoke with told me that he'd have to talk to a supervisor and then call me back so I could pay the extra $30, but it's been several hours and they haven't called back.
I'm actually not really upset. When I first got interested in taking up machining my first inclination was to buy a mill. After some online research I changed my mind to getting a lathe first, but thinking I'd get the mill later. No big deal if I do it in reverse.
I do need to get a milling vise and end mills now. A friend has some end mills that he's offered to me to get started.
Here's a pic of the mill sitting on the new bench I built this weekend to hold the lathe and my drill press:
I cleaned off the packing grease with kerosene, but it still has to be shimmed level and bolted down. It weighs 101 pounds, and getting up on the bench was a cast iron bitch (pardon the pun).
Naturally, I'll be doing different kinds of project on the mill vs. a lathe. An HDPE AR-15 lower receiver comes to mind. I’m also interested in doing some kind of a single shot rifle, perhaps in a caliber like .38 Special or .32 S&W Long, either of which would easy and cheap to load for, and be good for small game.
The mill and a lathe should be complementary. It remains to be see, however, if the mill will render my benchtop drill press redundant.