Tools The Kitchen Table Gunsmith
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Most kitchen table gunsmiths damage good firearms beyond repair often because they don't have the right tools.  Here is a basic list of tools I use to work on my own guns.  This list is by no means complete, and I didn't purchase them all at once.  I purchased them as I needed them for a particular project.  Let's face it, tools can be expensive, but they're a lot cheaper than paying someone else to do the work.  I pay for a tool once, then I have it for future projects.

Polishing Stones
I use polishing stones of different shapes and sizes depending on the part I'm working on.  I really can't have enough of these very important tools.  You can get them from Brownells, Midway USA, and a company called Boride Abrasives as shown in the photo.

Hollow-Ground Screwdrivers
- Nothing will ruin screws quicker than taper-ground, hardware store screwdrivers.  These blades have a tendency to jump out of the screw slot and mar the heads.  Hollow-ground screwdrivers are ground with parallel sides so they fit the screw head properly.  Used correctly they do not slip out of the screw slot.  Here is a nice set available from Midway USA.

Files - Files are the second most important tools I own for working on firearms.  I can purchase them at any hardware store or home improvement center.  I've also needed some specialty files like 60 and 65 degree sight dovetail files or others as the job requires.  I always make sure I have some chalk and a wire brush.  I rub chalk into the file, which keeps the teeth from getting full with metal chips.  I use the wire brush to clean the file, then re-chalk.  Most files are designed to be used in one direction only.  I have broken the teeth off of files by moving them back and forth.

Jeweler's Files
- Sometimes called needle files, these are great for doing fine work in small places where I don't need to remove a lot of material.  I purchased mine at my local home improvement store.  I have also found them in electrical supply stores and hobby stores. 

- I have a number of different punch sets; steel, brass, and roll-pin.  I use steel for regular pins, and brass for when I don't want to mar the object such as when I'm installing sights.  A roll-pin punch has a raised dimple in the middle of the face of the punch.  This dimple fits into the hole in the center of the roll-pin, which keeps it from slipping off.  Lyman sells a punch set that comes with a mallet.  The mallet has three types of heads; steel, brass, and nylon.

Vise - I discovered early on that I needed a good 4-inch vise to hold my work.  Here you can see my vise with bronze vise jaws available from Brownells.  I have also padded my jaws with leather to protect the finish of any firearm on which I'm working.  Before I had a permanent place to work I mounted the vise to a block of wood and used C-clamps to mount it to my kitchen table.

Bench Block
- A bench block is a soft disk made of wood or nylon used for removing pins.  It has holes and grooves for holding parts, or I can drill my own holes if necessary.  The bench block at left is make by Wheeler Engineering available from Midway USA.

Dial or Digital Calipers - When working on firearms there are some procedures that require precise measurements.  A good dial or digital calipers is the correct tool to have.  I have also needed other measuring tools for different projects, but as stated before, I purchased them when I needed them.  Dial and digital calipers are available at hardware and home improvement stores, Midway USA and Brownells.

High Speed Rotary Tool with Flexible Shaft - I have found a high-speed rotary tool is invaluable for working on firearms.  However, many professional gunsmiths call the rotary tool their best friend for bringing them business.  These tools rotate at speeds of 25,000 RPM or more and can easily damage a firearm beyond the capabilities of the kitchen table gunsmith.  I always use my tool with caution and respect.  I also purchased a flexible shaft for my rotary tool, which allows me to have more control.

Trigger Pull Gauge
- A trigger pull gauge measures the weight of trigger pull.  This tool helps me to determine how effective my trigger work is.  I measure the pull weight both before and after I perform action work.  This simple gauge shown on the right is available from Midway USA and is very inexpensive.

Headspace Gauges - When I purchase a used pistol or rifle I usually purchase headspace gauges for safety reasons.  Headspace gauges come in three sizes; Go, No-Go, and Field.  If the go gauge chambers properly the chamber is long enough.  If not, I know the chamber is too short and needs to be reamed.  If the no-go gauge won't chamber then the chamber is ok.  If the no-go gauge chambers, the chamber is too long and unsafe, probably stretched, so I'll have to shorten the chamber by removing metal off the rear of the barrel. The use of the field gauge is debated by professional gunsmiths.  Some say if the bolt closes on a field gauge, don't use the rifle.  Some say use the rifle.  I don't use field gauges at all.  If the chamber is between the go and no-go gauges, for me the chamber is safe.  When using these gauges, especially on a semi-automatic firearm, I remove all springs and extractors.  I always test with light finger pressure only.  Using springs or excessive pressure can damage the gauges. 

Wet/Dry Sand Paper, Various Grits
- For polishing small parts I use black wet/dry sand paper in various grits.  I normally keep 320/400 and 600 grit handy at all times.  

Tap and Die Set - A good quality tap and die set is another tool that is good to have.  Taps allow me to thread holes to receive screws, and dies allow me to thread rod to make my own screws.  I also purchased firearm-specific taps from Brownells which have finer threads for use with gunsmith screws.

Air Compressor
- I use a small air compressor to clean off parts after I have performed filing or grinding.  The forced air helps to get grit and particles out of hard to reach places.  I also use my air compressor with an air brush to coat firearms with paint-on finishes.



Cold Blue
- I use cold bluing solution to protect small areas of parts I have worked on, or to completely refinish parts.  I use Oxpho-Blue from Brownells for coating exposed metal on parts on which I have worked, and I use Van's Instant Gun Blue to totally refinish parts.


Parts Bins/Organizers
- I use plastic multi-drawer organizers for parts and tools.  Being somewhat of a pack-rat, I keep everything, even if it is damaged.  You'd be surprised how many times I've used a leftover part or spring to fix something else.

My wife and I love Chinese food; in fact we eat at our local Chinese restaurant at least once a week.  When we order take out my restaurant has started to use plastic tubs, which work great for holding chemicals and parts.  And because they come with a lid, I don't have to worry about spilling the chemicals or losing the parts.

Library - My gunsmithing books are just as important as my other tools.  I refer to them regularly for disassembly instructions.  They also provide me with tips for performing general gunsmith work, and how to work on specific firearms.  My most valuable books in my library are The Official NRA Guide to Firearms Assembly Two Volume Set.  These books provide exploded diagrams and step-by-step disassembly instructions for many firearms.  

Advanced Tools - I have a number of what I call advanced tools for working on firearms.  The tool that took me from performing amateur work to semi-professional work was my mill/drill.  I purchased mine from Harbor Freight Tools, but if I had to do it over, I would purchase the Grizzly G8689 Mini Milling Machine.  This tool has a tilting head which makes angle cuts very easy. 


   © Copyright 2008 Roy Seifert.