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1934 South Bend Model 405Z- 9 inch Workshop Lathe
May 02-2006
So I now have a mill with a working Digital Read Out.  I'm thinking that it is time to get back to working on the tilt and pan mount for the security camera, but at the same time, I am also looking for a lathe.  This time I am not after a far eastern import.  I want some older American iron.  I have been doing a lot of reading on what has become my favorite site for day-dreaming... lathes.co.uk. The author of the site, Tony Griffith, has done a great job of assembling pictures and descriptions of some of the worlds best known (and relatively unknown) lathes, millers, and other metal-working machinery. 

There's something that I love about the older design of machinery.  I think it's the round corners and flowing lines that give it the "modern" appearance that was so common in almost all products from the 1920's on through the late 40s early 50s.  Streamlined or Art Deco, from radios to automobiles, they all looked like they were in motion when standing still.  If one came my way, the Monarch 10EE lathe, or for that matter any of the Monarch lathes would be my choice of lathe based on nothing more than its appearance.  That's not to say that it isn't an accurate lathe, because it is. But there's something about the way it looks that grabs me.  What a beautiful couple ton piece of
machinery.  Another on the style wish list would be a Hardinge HLV series.  This is another gorgeous lathe that just happens to be accurate as can be.  However, it's back to reality.  Due to their weight, I have been looking for lathes close to home and will consider whatever I can find that has the right features; be it South Bend, Shelton, LeBlond, Logan, or other lathes from the 1930's to present.  As for features,  I've been looking for one with a nice sized hole through the spindle (1-3/8"+ would be great), a taper turning attachment, quick change gearbox, powered feeds on both both longitudinal and cross directions, a usable cabinet with chip pan, and most importantly, one that has a bed in good enough shape that it doesn't need to be re-done.  I figure that I can take care of pretty much anything but the bed and ways by myself.  I am getting closer to being able to do a little scraping on the ways, but am not even close to having the equipment or knowledge necessary to recondition a lathe bed. 

So I have been watching Ebay, Craigslist, and the local papers. Nothing that I wanted was coming my way.  I decided to place a want ad in Craigslist and I actually got a couple responses.  The last one from a guy in Maryland that bought a Bridgeport mill that I had been also looking at.  He said he had an older South Bend and asked if I was interested.  The South Bend 9 inch was a little smaller than I was after, but I decided to take a look at it anyway.  It turned out that he had purchased the lathe as a part of a "pair" with another Bridgeport mill that the wife of the deceased owner wouldn't split up.  He got a good enough deal on the BP that the $500 cost of the lathe didn't matter.  He just parked the lathe under a bench in his woodworking shop and there it sat.  When I arrived, he pulled it out in all its sawdust-covered glory.

The first thing that caught my eye was a packet of papers in the homebuilt accessory box.  That and the original South Bend milling attachment (a nice addition).  I started looking through the paperwork and smiled.  What a great collection.  The 1934 "bulletin 5 b-d" showing pictures of all of the different lathes South Bend had for sale, a parts booklet, mechanical drawings showing the wiring, lubrication, change gear information, parts ordering slips.  Neat stuff!  I then looked over the lathe.  It had been painted at some point, but hadn't been prepped very well and the paint was coming off all over.  The original paint underneath looked better than the re-paint.  The motor wasn't the original one that South Bend supplied, but looked to be from the same time period and was 1/2 horsepower instead of the standard 1/4 hp.  I then noticed what I think was the "why" of the 1/2 hp motor.  The counter shaft was a 2 speed model instead of the single speed that came standard.  The 2 speeds coupled with the 3 step flat belt pulleys and back gear gave 12 speeds (from 41 to 1100 RPM) rather than six (41 to 650).  The extra power was needed to run the higher pulley ratios.

It appears that 1934 was the first year of production for the very popular "Workshop" series of 9 inch lathes.   The model 405  had some differences between it and later models.  The threads on the spindle are 1-3/8" X 10 threads per inch, rather than the later and more widespread 1-1/2" X 8 tpi.  The change gears, of which there was an almost complete set from 24 teeth to 80 teeth were of 20DP (
Diametral Pitch) rather than the later, coarser (stronger) 18 DP gears.  (I have now picked up a100 tooth gear and am looking for a 127 tooth gear for metric threading conversion.)  The reverse gear is on a shaft that must be "popped in" next to a single straight "banjo" rather than the later "tumble reverse" and "V" shaped banjo.  The cross slide has a short tail section that doesn't cover the cross-feed screw all of the way. There are no "way wipers" included on the carriage.  This is a shame and is about the only thing I might consider modifying to the later style, but in all likelihood, I will just purchase a later style carriage with wipers to use and keep the original in its unmodified state. (Which I later ended up doing and effectively turned the lathe into a model "B")  The cross slide that sits atop the carriage has only a single bolt to lock the compound slide (rather than a pair - one to each side) which may be a concern if one tries to take a very deep cut.  Another difference on my 1934 405 were the two spindle lubrication points located on top of the spindle journals.  Later models had the spindle journal oilers located on the front of the lathe.  This actually started a couple years later, after the model 415. with the A - B - C designations.  The last difference I can think of is that the original 405 hand wheels were all painted except for the handle, which was polished.  Lather versions were painted on the 3 spokes and inner diameter of the hand wheel while the outside and torpedo shaped handle where polished.  Most of the remainder of the lathe is the same as the "C" version of the Workshop series that was manufactured up into the 1970's.  Yes, that's right, this lathe had about a 40 year production run and it remained very similar to the original. 

I was getting more than a little interested in the lathe.  No, it wasn't what I had in mind as my ideal lathe, but it was a nice little lathe in outstanding mechanical condition.  At the most basic level, it was a lathe and that's a lot better than no lathe and by having it, I could take my time finding a larger lathe that met more or all of my criteria for functionality and style.  When the owner told me that he'd drop the price by a hundred, down to $400, I couldn't resist.  I still hadn't really checked it over carefully and it wasn't possible to run it, so the condition of the plain, cast iron bearings in the head stock were an unknown, but the rest of the lathe showed a pretty good amount of care.  The ways were in remarkable shape for a 70+ year old lathe.  There were a few dings where tools and a chuck or three had been dropped on them, but there was little wear.  No ridge at all on the crowns of the three "V" shaped ways.  There were still even faint lines showing where the ways had been scraped.  More so on the inner ways where the tail and headstock attach, but the outer ways still showed some scraping lines in the area by the headstock that usually sees the most wear.  Outstanding!  The only thing I found that would need some attention before I could run it was that the back gear's (the South Bend parts list calls it the quill) smaller gear was missing two consecutive teeth.  This isn't that unusual of a malady.  It can happen by the back gear being engaged while the bull gear is locked and the machine is running. However, I would think that I would see evidence of a few chipped teeth as well as the two that were sheared off, if the gears were ground together as the operator moved the stationary back gear into the spinning bull and smaller spindle gear.  It is also possible and maybe more likely that the chuck was stuck on the spindle threads and couldn't be removed (also pretty common), so someone  locked up the back and bull gears and applied a lot of force to break loose the chuck.  Maybe they used a bit too much force and got a couple of teeth in the deal.  I have seen a couple of stories similar to this on newsgroup/bulletin board discussions. However, all was not lost, as I had seen back gears for sale on Ebay, so I figured that I could get this taken care of without much trouble.

Without much more talk, the gentleman was paid and this little lathe had a new owner.  By the time we got the lathe home, I had decided that it was coming all the way apart before it was run.   I was worried about the spindle bearings and since I needed to get the back gear taken care of, I might as well give it a complete once-over. Once the lathe started coming apart, I decided that I might as well paint it.  I got the paint color code from the lathes.co.uk site and this medium green-gray is somewhat close to the original color I found under the newer lighter gray, but I have since been advised that the 1934 may have had a bluish gray paint instead of the greenish gray I am using.  The gent who advised me of this restores old lathes and has a slew of South Bends, so I'm a bit torn between what I see and what I'm being told.  However, the green-gray looks good and even if it isn't the correct shade, it fits the machine better than the peeling light gray paint.

I was already a member of the Yahoo SouthBendLathe group, so I made my first post introducing myself and asking for some assistance in which back gears would fit my 405.  As luck would have it, a heck of a nice guy gave me some info and suggested that I contact him off-list.  It turned out that another member of the group manufactured individual gears for the back gear assembly.  The old gear could be machined off (by lathe) and the new gear fit and pinned in place.  He said that he would be happy to do the work for me if I sent the back gear and some cash to cover the new gear.  Since I would need a running lathe to do this procedure, I gratefully accepted.  In about a week, I had a beautiful back gear assembly.  It was very fortunate that the gear was able to be replaced as the gear on the other end of my back gear assembly was in perfect condition - as were all the other gears on this little lathe.  This may or may not have been the case if I had to purchase another back gear off of Ebay.

Over the course of a week or so, I sent email back and forth with Dennis discussing the back gear and South Bend lathes in general. He sent  me quite a few shots of the various South Bend lathes that he had restored and was in process of restoring.  I tried not to wear out my welcome, but asked enough questions to keep him busy replying.  Having a mentor to help with things like "how best to remove the surface rust and patina from the ways without doing damage to them" - "what's a good way to strip the old paint and gunk from the bed" - "how do I remove, or at least minimize the dings in the surface of the ways" - and many more that escape me at the moment.  I got answers and they helped immensely with bringing this lathe back to (at least some of) its former glory.

Yeah, I'll share his wisdom.

To remove the patina and surface rust on the ways, he suggested "Brasso" metal polish and quad zero steel wool (0000).  This stuff is only mildly abrasive and it takes a lot of rubbing to get the metal to turn silver again.  However a more abrasive polish like Simichrome might take off too much metal.

His recommendation for a stripper was Mr Muscle oven cleaner. This is an industrial strength cleaner and it did do the trick without too bad of fumes.  I used it cold as our oven isn't big enough for the 3.5 foot bed.  Even if it were, I think my wife would have had some words to say about the lathe bed being in the oven!

As for the dings and scrapes, he recommended using a small 6 inch file (a brand new one) to start and end with a fine honing/sharpening stone and only remove the high spots.  DO NOT go below the surface of the ways. I had read this in many places in my searches for information on restoring lathes.  I used a new file and then an Arkansas hard fine stone that was brand new from McMaster-Carr for this occasion.  I also used plenty of cutting (honing) oil and checked my progress often to make sure that just the portion of the ding that rose above the surface of the ways was knocked down.  It doesn't do a whole lot for the cosmetic appearance of the ways, but does ensure that you have a flat and smooth surface for the saddle to ride on.  I spent about 3 evenings stoning, stripping, and polishing the bed before I taped it off and shot the first coat of primer.  It turned out very nice and having Dennis to give me some tips saved me from making mistakes.

Here were his comments on the ways of my 405 after I sent him some high resolution shots of the ways and bed.

"Jim, from what I can see of from your pictures, you have a very fine bed.  No wear that I can see and the polishing should work just great.  During the depression SB did not scrape the ways like so many before and after were.  Your bed ways show most all of the original surfaces.  I can see the very faint tool marks they put on the bed ways.  They used a plainer to shape the ways. This is a stationary tool with the vee way profile on it.  The bed was mounted to the plainer table and it then passed the bed by the cutting head.  This type of machine work would leave a very accurate bed but with tool marks that were linear to the bed. What SB did was use a strait faced scraper rather than a curved face scraper to just dust off the plainer marks.  If you look very carefully you will see some vertical lines on the vee ways and the  flat ways.  If you look down in the valley between the Vee ways or between the Vee and flat way, you will see some little scratches running length wise - right close to the vee ways.  This was caused by the edge or corner of the scraping tool riding along this axis.  Very common with all SB beds of this time frame.  The fact that you can see these speaks to the lack of wear."

After a few coats of primer, I brushed on a couple of coats of paint to fill in any voids in the bed's surface, then wet sanded with 600 paper to smooth it out.  I then used my air brush to lay an additional 6 coats of color.  The casting's roughness still shows, but that's as it should be and I have enough paint on it that it should wear pretty well.  By this time, about 30 days had passed since I started work on the lathe.  I'd never make any money as a lathe refinisher, it takes too much time to polish each of the parts, but every part on this lathe has been cleaned up to its best. Assembling it was going to be a real treat.

The assembly process only took about a week of evenings and a full weekend of work.  All screws were run through the proper size die to clean up any dinged threads and the same was done with a tap in all of the screw holes.  Everything got a light coat of oil or anti-seize so that if it ever needs to come apart, it will.

I haven't decided what to do for a bench for the lathe.  South Bend had some plans for a wooden bench with a 2 inch top, but I am thinking that a heavy metal bench would we less inclined to shift due to changes in weather and humidity.  For the time being, I decided to mount it on the end of my heavy 4 X 8 foot work bench.  The frame work for the bench is 4X4 lumber with a 1 inch plywood top that was faced with Formica.  I leveled it as best as I could with a carpenter's level and will make it more level when my newly purchased "Moore & Wright Precision Engineer's Level" arrives from England.  Yes, another Ebay purchase.

One of the last tasks I needed to accomplish before I could try out the lathe was to lace up a new leather belt.  While the lathe originally called for a 3/4" width belt to fit on the 1" wide flat (actually slightly crowned) pulleys, I had read that the ideal width of the belt was 90% of the width of the pulley.  With this in mind, I purchased a 1" belt and made a jig to split off 1/10" from the width of the belt. I don't know how much more power the extra 0.15" of belt width will actually transmit to the spindle, but it can't hurt to have the maximum amount of belt width that is allowable.  To make sure that the belt doesn't come apart on me, I laced and glued the belt after skiving (thinning) the two ends back to a length of 3inches.  I don't think it will come apart any time soon!  I had toyed with the idea of using a rubber belt, but using leather is(first) historically accurate and (second) safer - the leather belt will slip if the lathe bit digs into a piece that is being turned so you don't ruin a part or break a bit. (NOTE: After a year of running the leather belt, I decided to go with a micro "V" rubber serpentine belt.  What a difference!  The leather looks nice, but the industrial belt performs much better.)

After letting the belt dry for 24 hours, I finally got to try out the lathe.  I had purchased the proper lubricants from McMaster and had the original lube specifications and lube points on a poster sized sheet.  One of the members of the southbendlathe group had put together the McMaster part numbers for the 3 weights of machine oil,the way oil and the PTFE lube used inside the back gear and spindle.  This stuff isn't inexpensive when you're buying a gallon of 4 different oils and 3/4 of a pound of the synthetic lube, but automotive oil won't do the trick and I want the lathe to be around for another 70 years.  Funny, but I thought about the age of this lathe a lot while working on it.  It's a small piece of history and I get to take care of it for a while.  It is a different feeling from the Grizzly mill or even my Snap-On automotive tools.  There is quality and care that went into manufacturing this machine and it was built to last in an age where most everything was built to last. There aren't a lot of consumer products in today's market that are built this well.

So, it's Friday evening and it's time to crank up the lathe for its first run in many a year.  I flip the big Furnace brand reversing drum switch to forward and the lathe comes to life.  I stop it and try reverse.  Then the back gears in forward and reverse.  Then,lock up the split nuts and try the carriage feed.  I pop in the reverse gear and observe the lead screw now run the opposite direction of the spindle.  Everything is smooth and quiet - just as it should be.  I chuck up some aluminum and turn a couple pieces,then try some mild steel and turn a test bar.  The test bar has a taper of about a thousandth over 8 inches.  This is probably due to the lathe not being quite level and I will recheck it once I get my machinist's level.  Not bad for a little lathe that originally sold for about $177 with the extra tooling I got with it. As for the lathe's critical measurements, there is no lateral play in the spindle that I can measure with my Starrett indicator that is graduated in 5/10,000" increments.  Axial spindle play is about 5/10,000" and can be set to whatever you need.  I will add the needle roller bearings at some point when I know the lathe well enough to be able to observe if there is an improvement with their use. As for slop in the controls, there is only about 0.005" backlash in each of the feed screws.  That is very close to the original specifications for this lathe.  The main hand wheel can be moved about 10 to15 degrees back and forthwith the clasp nuts engaged.  I don't know what the new spec is on this, but it doesn't seem excessive.  The tail stock ram varies from no movement at all when locked to a few thousandths of lateral movement when unlocked and fully extended.  All in all, I'd say that the lathe is in pretty nice shape.

In the past few weeks, I have turned a few pieces; a couple chuck keys,an adapter for one of my dial indicators, a bushing for a motor, and I cut the commutator on a 540-sized motor - just to see how it would come out.  No problems with any of the little projects and the 540 motor comm came out as well as my miniature comm lathe that was designed for only cutting comms on that size motor.  As time goes on and I get to know this tool better, I'm sure I will learn more about its strengths and weaknesses, but for the time being, I'm just happy to have a lathe.

Next on the list of projects is a back plate for my new 3-jaw chuck and a turret post tool holder to take the place of the lantern type that the lathe came with and then it is *hopefully* back to the tilt and pan camera mount that has been gathering dust on my dirty work bench. Oh, yeah... I almost forgot.  And... I need to clean up the workshop.  A month of working on the lathe has made it pretty messy.

Well, the best  of plans often go astray.  With spring here,it is time for a little house work.  I guess it will be a while before the next update  :-(  Oh well, life happens!   Hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoyed this journey.




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Unstrapping the hold-downs for the new/old lathe.
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The home-made box of parts and papers.
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The headstock view.  Surface rust from Virginia's high humidity and bare untreated steel that has been covered with sawdust.
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The carriage and tail stock.  I hope my paint sticks better than the stuff he used.  It is coming off in sheets.
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A two-speed v-belt and 3 speed flat belt counter shaft.
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The first parts to be stripped down.  This is the original paint darkened by age.  I roughed up the paint with 600 paper,cleaned it with the paint cleaner, taped the parts that didn't need paint, then shot the new paint over it.
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Pulling down the head stock.
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The lathe's one problem.  Two teeth sheared from the back gear.
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Amazingly,the inside of the apron looks great.  No wear on the gears and very little on the clasp/half nuts.
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The lead screw is out and I get to use a tool I haven't used in decades.  The fifth tool from the right on the bottom is a hand impact.  Hit it with a hammer to tighten or loosen screws.  This allowed me to get all of the screws out without damaging a single slot.  Pretty cool!
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First painted parts.  Looking good.
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The head stock and both bed feet get taped and ready for their new coat of paint.
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The gear cover joins the parts in paint land.
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The left side has been about half way cleaned, the right side is untouched.  Big difference.
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The faint diagonal lines are the hand scraping lines that were a result of cleaning up the machining of the ways.
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More scraping lines.
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The bed gets a few coats of primer.
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Parts on the shelf assembled and ready to go back together.
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More of the same.  No, the MSI motherboard doesn't go with this project!
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Cleaning up the parts from the apron.
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And another coat of primer for the bed.
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The counter shaft parts get the paint treatment.
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Notice the balancing holes on the left.  I don't know if these are original or not.  There is no vibration when running it.
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Assembly starts.
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Tapping out all of the threads to make sure that nothing binds when it is being assembled.
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Getting the lathe as level as possible with a carpenter's level.  Not the right tool for the job, but it will have to do until the new level arrives.
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Chasing the threads on the rack.
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Using the hand impact to reinstall the rack.
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Everything gets a coat of one kind of lubricant or another.
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These are not South Bend parts.  The needle bearings will be used to set the end play of the spindle, but I decided to build it up stock first so I would be able to determine how much of an improvement adding the needle bearings makes.  This mod comes from the southbendlathe group.
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The lead screw is installed.
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Then the saddle and apron.
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The gears and banjo are installed.
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The gear cover goes on and it's beginning to look like a lathe..
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Everything looks so nice and clean!
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You can even see some signs of scraping on the saddle.
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I threw this story in because it shows how you can make your own luck on Ebay.  Most used 5" chucks that fit on the South Bend 9" lathes sell for from around $65 to 4 times that.  I got this for $26 because the seller said that the adapter hole and threads were 3/4".  I thought it looked larger and 1.5" is usual.  I imported the image of the chuck into Photoshop and since I knew that i twas 5" across the chuck's face from the model #, I counted the pixels for 5" and divided by 5 to get a 1" length.  I used that to measure the hole. 1.5"!  I ended up winning the chuck and when I received it, I verified that I was right, it was 1.5 inches - though how he came up with 3/4" is beyond me.
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So what did $26 + $10 shipping get me?  An old Horton 5" chuck with a1.5" X 8tpi adapter which I will replace with a 1-3/8" -10 tpi adapter.  This chuck is virtually unused.  It just needed to be soaked and disassembled, polished and lubed.  There's no wear on the gears, jaws or the scroll.  The only damage are the 3 dings on the center of the right housing.  These won't have an effect on the operation or even be seen once reassembled.
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All back together with a home made chuck key.  It would cost quite a bit more than $35 to replace it.