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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Lathe of Heaven

This was a totally unexpected find: a South Bend Lathe Co. lathe on Freecycle! It needs a lot of work to make it usable again, but it is not in nearly as bad a shape as I imagined it might be.

This is the full view, including the metal and plywood stand it came on. It's very heavy, proably over 300 pounds, and I can barely drag it around to move it, even with a furniture dolly. There is also a small box of wood-carving tools to use with it, and there is one metalworking bit still in the toolholder, but none of the other gears are with it, or the covers to the gear section. It's also missing a couple of other covers and bits, but none are essential to make it operate (just convenient to have). The other gears are necessary if I want to do different threaded-type items, like worm gears or screws, which I might actually need to do eventually. At the moment, I think I'm ok without them.

Some stuff that came with it:

It does have the larger chuck with it, and another chuck plate, and the dried-out flat drive belt, which I'll have to work out a replacement for. It does have plenty of the belt-clips to "suture" the belt ends together (the way this lathe is made, it doesn't use a continuous-loop belt--the belt must be threaded thru the pulleys and *then* sutured into the closed loop).

The rusted-solid pipe wrenches didn't come with it, I just have them on there since I was oiling up the lathe and thought I'd better do those too (they were in the alley one day, and probably aren't salvageable, but I'll try).

Various images of the lathe itself:

As you can see, it is pretty thoroughly rusted, but I've applied first WD-40, then light 3-in-1 oil, then heavier gear oil to various places that really needed it, and freed up most of the moving parts. I still need to polish up some of the flat surfaces that are used for sliding moving parts across and such, so they'll operate smoothly and easily, but they do work even now. One crank handle (the bottom one on the tool holder, used for moving the tool directly perpendicularly in and out from the axis of the workpiece) looks like it's been broken off for as long as the unit's been in the weather, as it's rusted broken ends appear the same as the rest of the surface. Fortunatley the actual crankshaft still works, and it can be turned if held like a knob.

I don't know enough yet about the unit to tell from the South Bend Lathe site which actual model it is, but I've submitted a request to them for more info about it, including parts catalogs, so I can replace the missing and broken pieces as I come to need them.

I don't think the motor is original, but looks like it might be from the 70's or 80's instead:

It's a GE motor, 3/4 HP, with "10 year lubrication" on it's ball bearings. The wiring from the forward/off/reverse switch to the motor is very old and cracking apart, but the motor does work in forward, though not reverse. That could be a wire or switch fault, as I haven't checked those yet (I only checked for shorts before powering it on).

The only thing *required* to make the lathe work right now is a flat belt to go from the motor drive pulleys (which has a v-belt from the motor itself to drive those, and works) to the actual lathe pulleys. That's the "sutured" type flat belt, and I'm thinking one of my old thin leather pants belts might work. Gotta dig 'em out and see. :-)

Now I can make some of those metal parts I was wishing for months ago (though many I no longer need, some I can definitely still use). And I will have definite use for this thing going forward on various projects.

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