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4/22/2019 5:32:20 PM
Posted: 1/21/2013 9:35:15 AM EDT
The recent panic has given me the bright idea to buy AR receiver castings, finish them to 80% on a small mill, then sell them online.

I ran the numbers, and I realize this is not a long-term business plan. It *is* a way to pay for a small mill, though, and I've been looking around.

Any advice from those of you who have taught themselves metalworking? I'm a huge nerd, and will probably get (or make) a CNC eventually, but I want to learn to do things manually first. Learning by doing doesn't scare me.
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 9:38:20 AM EDT
Have you looked into how much it will cost you in time and money apart from the machinery? It's not like knitting scarves and selling them on eBay.

Posted Via AR15.Com Mobile
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 9:43:56 AM EDT
The basic tooling to start using the mill will easily cost more than the mill. There's a lot of work in machining raw lower forgings. Lots of different set ups involved and very time consuming on a manual mill. I've got a pile of forgings that I picked up pretty cheap. There was no point in machining them when lowers were $50-$75. I bought mine to reprofile into retro lowers.
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 9:49:38 AM EDT
CNC is what you want

Link Posted: 1/21/2013 9:50:26 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/21/2013 9:50:38 AM EDT by whiskerz]
Another poster has stated some of the forgings sold are soft
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 9:51:46 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/21/2013 9:52:56 AM EDT by Fat_McNasty]
You will need an FFL 07 and Itar tax paid.. Then a nice liability insurance paid up as well.. Add these in to your total before you start..

never mind.. now seee finish to 80%..

you will need a broach for the mag wells. and lots of fixtures.
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 9:53:55 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/21/2013 9:54:19 AM EDT by Loe_307]
delete
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 9:59:43 AM EDT
You actually think you can find forgings?
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:00:03 AM EDT
Originally Posted By nick89302:
Have you looked into how much it will cost you in time and money apart from the machinery? It's not like knitting scarves and selling them on eBay.

Posted Via AR15.Com Mobile


Obviously I don't have a complete accounting yet, but I think I've got about two options.

I can go with a very cheap, sub-$1k Grizzly table-top mill, and spend hours and hours on each lower. It's much less money to pay back, so it would work - but I'd end up with a cheap, half worn-out mill with limited ability.

I could also go buy a used Bridgeport, and end up having about $3k in it. With look, it'll come with some tooling, but plan on $2k for tooling ot be safe.

Either way, I figure $50 to $80 per lower, depending on the market when I got up and running. If I could get to the point I had 4 hours of my work in each one, I could do 6 per week without too much stress while holding my job. That's $300 - $480 / week. I could pay off the little Grizzly in a month or so, and a Bridgeport in 3 months.

Like I said - I don't have firm numbers yet, and I'm not trying to quit my day job. Instead, I'm looking for an economical way to get into a practical hobby, which would likely in turn lead to me putting out small runs of unique and oddball firearms accessories.
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:00:59 AM EDT
Originally Posted By Mr_Harry:
CNC is what you want



CNC is expensive. My research shows $10k minimum, for low-end, used, hobby level equipment.

It would be cheaper and more rewarding for me to build a CNC around a traditional mill. I have the technical and programming skills to do it.
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:01:12 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/21/2013 10:09:51 AM EDT by jdb3]
Originally Posted By whiskerz:
Another poster has stated some of the forgings sold are soft


Do you have a link to the thread? Aluminum is fairly soft and easily scratched and dinged. Every lower forging I've seen has a blemish of some sort. I guess they weren't nice enough to machine into a product to sell and are sold as raw forgings.

Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:01:15 AM EDT
The issue is you would be manufacturing firearms for sale, which means you would need a FFL. That's your issue.
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:01:50 AM EDT
Originally Posted By jeep450:
You actually think you can find forgings?


I know I can. I've already priced them out at current market rates, and can get far more than I can ever finish to 80%.
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:02:49 AM EDT
Originally Posted By zen911:
The issue is you would be manufacturing firearms for sale, which means you would need a FFL. That's your issue.


80% receivers aren't legally firearms. That's the break in his favor.
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:04:26 AM EDT
Originally Posted By zen911:
The issue is you would be manufacturing firearms for sale, which means you would need a FFL. That's your issue.


80% lowers are not firearms. No FFL is needed, period.

ITAR is almost certainly not an issue either, but the argument could be made. That's $2,500 or so. If I did that, I'd be tooling up to do far more production than I'm talking about, and would set my sights on being the next Kel-Tec, instead of the next "guy on a forum to offer a small piece of metal that mounts to the rear tang on an AK and gives you a nice rail to mount a BUIS on."

(That's already been done, though it is a cool idea!)
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:06:16 AM EDT
Originally Posted By SimonPhoto:
Originally Posted By zen911:
The issue is you would be manufacturing firearms for sale, which means you would need a FFL. That's your issue.


80% lowers are not firearms. No FFL is needed, period.

ITAR is almost certainly not an issue either, but the argument could be made. That's $2,500 or so. If I did that, I'd be tooling up to do far more production than I'm talking about, and would set my sights on being the next Kel-Tec, instead of the next "guy on a forum to offer a small piece of metal that mounts to the rear tang on an AK and gives you a nice rail to mount a BUIS on."

(That's already been done, though it is a cool idea!)


Doesn't ATF have to sign off on your "design" to determine what percentage of completion it is?
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:08:11 AM EDT
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:08:39 AM EDT
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:09:29 AM EDT
have you ever machined before? Production is a bit different than a one off.. And your going to have more time than just 4hrs per unit..

Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:10:26 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/21/2013 10:15:24 AM EDT by tweeter]
Originally Posted By nick89302:
Have you looked into how much it will cost you in time and money apart from the machinery? It's not like knitting scarves and selling them on eBay.

Posted Via AR15.Com Mobile


Manufacturing license fee and pay excise tax.

The quality of the finished product needs to be a selling point.
If you haven't used a mill before I would become very familiar with it's operations before you tried turning it into a business.

I also think that you've under-estimated the costs of tooling, space needed, maintenance and construction.
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:14:00 AM EDT
Originally Posted By NaturalManure:
Originally Posted By SimonPhoto:
Originally Posted By zen911:
The issue is you would be manufacturing firearms for sale, which means you would need a FFL. That's your issue.


80% lowers are not firearms. No FFL is needed, period.

ITAR is almost certainly not an issue either, but the argument could be made. That's $2,500 or so. If I did that, I'd be tooling up to do far more production than I'm talking about, and would set my sights on being the next Kel-Tec, instead of the next "guy on a forum to offer a small piece of metal that mounts to the rear tang on an AK and gives you a nice rail to mount a BUIS on."

(That's already been done, though it is a cool idea!)


Doesn't ATF have to sign off on your "design" to determine what percentage of completion it is?


Well... first of all, let me say "Fuck the ATF".

From a practical standpoint, the AR-15 lower isn't exactly a trade secret. I already have a model in DXF format, and am midway through writing a translator for DXF to Gcode, which would allow me to send it through something like Grbl to a CNC.

I have a couple of friends who own "Shapeoko"s, which are kind of like small, table-top CNC mills that only work on plastics. I eventually plan to make a full, working* AR out of prototyping plastic.

* "working" meaning you can carefully cycle snap caps through it. You would not under any circumstances of which I am aware be able to fire a projectile from a plastic chamber while maintaining vision in both eyes.
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:14:30 AM EDT


I read that. This isn't about CNC, though I am interested in that. My budget doesn't allow it at this point.
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:14:57 AM EDT
Originally Posted By AeroE:
Just go buy a mill. A Bridgeport, Sharp, or Lagun. Maybe a Rong Fu 45.

Then vices, parallels, milling cutters, training, experience, and some good files. A big air compressor and a blast cabinet.



That's what I'm thinking at this point. Surely I can make enough stuff on the weekends to pay for the mill, even if it isn't lowers.
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:16:14 AM EDT
Originally Posted By Fat_McNasty:
have you ever machined before? Production is a bit different than a one off.. And your going to have more time than just 4hrs per unit..



Not metal, no. I'm a nerd, though.

I bought a vinyl cutter a few years ago, wrote my own custom software for it, and have been making computer-cur vinyl decals for a while. I understand the basics of what I'm asking, though not the trade terms.
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:16:43 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/21/2013 10:18:50 AM EDT by SimonPhoto]
Originally Posted By tweeter:
Originally Posted By nick89302:
Have you looked into how much it will cost you in time and money apart from the machinery? It's not like knitting scarves and selling them on eBay.

Posted Via AR15.Com Mobile


Manufacturing license fee and pay excise tax.

The quality of the finished product needs to be a selling point.
If you haven't used a mill before I would become very familiar with it's operations before you tried turning it into a business.

I also think that you've under-estimated the costs of tooling, space needed, maintenance and construction.


I do not intend to turn it into a business. I intend to sell a few things to offset the cost of equipment. Big difference :)

ETA: Not a firearm, so no excise tac and no license (FFL 07) needed. I'm not sure on the design itself in terms of IP, but basically it's just an interface with another part. I might get all fancy and design a monolithic lower of some sort that doesn't use a standard FCG, just for shits and giggles.
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:17:12 AM EDT
Originally Posted By SimonPhoto:
Originally Posted By AeroE:
Just go buy a mill. A Bridgeport, Sharp, or Lagun. Maybe a Rong Fu 45.

Then vices, parallels, milling cutters, training, experience, and some good files. A big air compressor and a blast cabinet.



That's what I'm thinking at this point. Surely I can make enough stuff on the weekends to pay for the mill, even if it isn't lowers.


The mill is a great investment. My mill and lathe are the best money I've spent on tools.

Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:17:54 AM EDT
Originally Posted By Mr_Harry:
CNC is what you want



My family has been in the CNC industry for 30+ years; sell, design, build, retrofit, and repair. Shoot me a msg if you get real serious about it and I can send you a million different ways, depending on what you're looking for. We've currently got a few .mil contractors on hand with a few local guys interested in new CNCs so there's always a chance you can pick up a smaller (used) mill system and build a control from there. Depending on your budget you cal build one hell of a FANUC control even from 2nd gen systems.
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:20:01 AM EDT
Originally Posted By Moosen:
Originally Posted By Mr_Harry:
CNC is what you want



My family has been in the CNC industry for 30+ years; sell, design, build, retrofit, and repair. Shoot me a msg if you get real serious about it and I can send you a million different ways, depending on what you're looking for. We've currently got a few .mil contractors on hand with a few local guys interested in new CNCs so there's always a chance you can pick up a smaller (used) mill system and build a control from there. Depending on your budget you cal build one hell of a FANUC control even from 2nd gen systems.


I'm as serious as I can be without the cash in my hand at the moment :)

I have friends and family in Oregon - Eugene and Roseberg. Where are you located?
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:25:39 AM EDT
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:28:50 AM EDT
Originally Posted By SimonPhoto:
Originally Posted By Moosen:
Originally Posted By Mr_Harry:
CNC is what you want



My family has been in the CNC industry for 30+ years; sell, design, build, retrofit, and repair. Shoot me a msg if you get real serious about it and I can send you a million different ways, depending on what you're looking for. We've currently got a few .mil contractors on hand with a few local guys interested in new CNCs so there's always a chance you can pick up a smaller (used) mill system and build a control from there. Depending on your budget you cal build one hell of a FANUC control even from 2nd gen systems.


I'm as serious as I can be without the cash in my hand at the moment :)

I have friends and family in Oregon - Eugene and Roseberg. Where are you located?


Id go CNC and do billet 80% lowers.. Trust me on this one.. 4 setups per unit and if you have a big enough table you could run all 4 with one program.. Time is money friend!
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:29:35 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/21/2013 10:30:49 AM EDT by hanau]
Originally Posted By SimonPhoto:
Originally Posted By NaturalManure:
Originally Posted By SimonPhoto:
Originally Posted By zen911:
The issue is you would be manufacturing firearms for sale, which means you would need a FFL. That's your issue.


80% lowers are not firearms. No FFL is needed, period.

ITAR is almost certainly not an issue either, but the argument could be made. That's $2,500 or so. If I did that, I'd be tooling up to do far more production than I'm talking about, and would set my sights on being the next Kel-Tec, instead of the next "guy on a forum to offer a small piece of metal that mounts to the rear tang on an AK and gives you a nice rail to mount a BUIS on."

(That's already been done, though it is a cool idea!)


Doesn't ATF have to sign off on your "design" to determine what percentage of completion it is?


Well... first of all, let me say "Fuck the ATF".

From a practical standpoint, the AR-15 lower isn't exactly a trade secret. I already have a model in DXF format, and am midway through writing a translator for DXF to Gcode, which would allow me to send it through something like Grbl to a CNC.

I have a couple of friends who own "Shapeoko"s, which are kind of like small, table-top CNC mills that only work on plastics. I eventually plan to make a full, working* AR out of prototyping plastic.

* "working" meaning you can carefully cycle snap caps through it. You would not under any circumstances of which I am aware be able to fire a projectile from a plastic chamber while maintaining vision in both eyes.


Thanks for the Shapeoko name,
That looks very interesting, I am trying to do some carvings in wood that my carvewright is a little to big to do aand that might work.
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 10:45:57 AM EDT
Originally Posted By SimonPhoto:
Originally Posted By Mr_Harry:
CNC is what you want



CNC is expensive. My research shows $10k minimum, for low-end, used, hobby level equipment.

It would be cheaper and more rewarding for me to build a CNC around a traditional mill. I have the technical and programming skills to do it.


Your research is flawed. You can buy a CNC Bridgeport usually cheaper than a manual one. I see dead CNC's for sale that I could put back into service for under $400 - sometimes even free, just the cost of moving them.

I have about $100K worth of CNC equipment but even with all the additions I bought new at full retail I have paid less than 25% of that.

I'm adding a new lathe, its on order and should be here 1st week of FEB.

I also question your production estimates of what you think you can put out (in your spare time) per week on manual equipment.

As a former Type 07 FFL holder that did the biz for 12 years and made lots of AR receivers from scratch I know where I'm coming from.

There maybe a boom marker now, but it will pass. I quit making receivers because I could bulk buy from other MFG finished receivers for less than my cost to make them. Most of my later builds were on other brand commercial receivers.

When the ITAR registration went through the roof it took all the fun and profit out of the game esp if you were going to add SOT - you have to sell a truck load just to pay the FED's before you can make any money for yourself.

Now doing a less than 80% receiver is only making a controversial conversation piece "paper weight". You don't need and FFL/ITAR for that - but you will need a biz/sales tax license from your city/county/state.

You could buy a Grizzly G0704 and buy a bolt on CNC conversion kit and that is good enough to make some sweet looking receivers and be up and running and tooled for about $4K
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 11:31:23 AM EDT
Originally Posted By ProfGAB101:
Originally Posted By SimonPhoto:
Originally Posted By Mr_Harry:
CNC is what you want



CNC is expensive. My research shows $10k minimum, for low-end, used, hobby level equipment.

It would be cheaper and more rewarding for me to build a CNC around a traditional mill. I have the technical and programming skills to do it.


Your research is flawed. You can buy a CNC Bridgeport usually cheaper than a manual one. I see dead CNC's for sale that I could put back into service for under $400 - sometimes even free, just the cost of moving them.

I have about $100K worth of CNC equipment but even with all the additions I bought new at full retail I have paid less than 25% of that.

I'm adding a new lathe, its on order and should be here 1st week of FEB.

I also question your production estimates of what you think you can put out (in your spare time) per week on manual equipment.

As a former Type 07 FFL holder that did the biz for 12 years and made lots of AR receivers from scratch I know where I'm coming from.

There maybe a boom marker now, but it will pass. I quit making receivers because I could bulk buy from other MFG finished receivers for less than my cost to make them. Most of my later builds were on other brand commercial receivers.

When the ITAR registration went through the roof it took all the fun and profit out of the game esp if you were going to add SOT - you have to sell a truck load just to pay the FED's before you can make any money for yourself.

Now doing a less than 80% receiver is only making a controversial conversation piece "paper weight". You don't need and FFL/ITAR for that - but you will need a biz/sales tax license from your city/county/state.

You could buy a Grizzly G0704 and buy a bolt on CNC conversion kit and that is good enough to make some sweet looking receivers and be up and running and tooled for about $4K


I am absolutely not holding myself up as any kind of authority. I have no experience, that's why I'm coming here for advice.

The idea of buying a dead Bridgeport CNC is a very good one, that I hadn't considered. That's a damn good idea, actually. While I'm no electrical engineer, I have the basic skills to repair electronics, assuming it doesn't require some sort of extremely precise soldering or something.

"Free if you can move it" is a dream. If you find one of those, tell me. I work for a shipping company, and will hire someone to go out and crate it up, and put it on a dock. My shipping cost is trivial because of my employee discouut.

As for money - well, I can't stress enough that I'm not seeing this as a business. It would be a hobby to start out. As you and others have pointed out, I don't have the knowledge necessary to properly budget a business doing this. Once I get the equipment and pay it off doing odds and ends, then I'll be in a position to decide if I wanted to make it into something bigger.

I do *have* a business though - I sell vinyl decals (via Gadsden Graphics) and my wife owns a children's boutique. I'm familiar with that side of things, and already have everything I need to do payment processing and collect tax as necessary. I also already incur the additional complexity and expense of having a separate legal entity for my business, so most of the costs associated with opening a small business are sunk costs for me. The current panic-driven market represents an opportunity for me to relatively quickly recoup the cost of equipment, not the foundation upon which to make a long-term business strategy.

I'm interested in any advice you have, at all. I'm probably not going to go take a class as has been suggested (not sure if that was in this thread), but I do have some friends that are serious gunsmiths and some that have been using a manual mill for decades. I plan to spend a lot of time at their houses and in their shops, learning what I can through them.
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 12:21:29 PM EDT
I own and operate a CNC production shop.
Maybe 20 lathes and a dozen horizontal and vertical mills.

I would not recommend anyone just getting in to this business.
It is the most cut-throat and unprofitable business to operate I've ever been part of.

Shop rates seem to be stuck around $60/hr.
That's for a $100 - 200k machine tool and a $30/hr setup man.

We are successful only because we make much of our own products and can be choosy who we sell contract time to.

There is no - none - no - customer loyalty in this and half a billion Chinese want my job.

Find something else to do.
Link Posted: 1/21/2013 12:24:23 PM EDT
Going to be hard to make a living, plus all the legal paperwork.

If you must, accept nothing less than a Bridgeport.
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