Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe
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  1. #1
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    Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    In honor of the farmersammm lathe thread, I've decided to start chronicling my own potential nightmare of a lathe project.

    In my search for a lathe, I came across a deal on an adult sized South Bend lathe. I believe it is likely from the 40's, with a roughly 7' bed and 16ish" swing. Of course, its a 3 phase, but the current owner has a rotary converter that he will include. I don't really *need* the lathe, but its kind of a package deal with a milling machine....plus, price isn't too bad. Worst case, I could always part it out and at least break even.

    The two biggest problems are one, its going to be a PITA to move. I would assume the weight is probably 2-3k lbs, and overall length is 11'. I actually have a place I can put it, but its not one of those things you want to move more than once. Problem #2, I have no idea where to even start with this machine as far as checking it over. I know it doesn't take much to make a machine nothing more than a large paperweight, and the last thing I want to do is get involved in something that requires tons of time, money, and parts. I don't mind the time aspect, but throwing money and parts at it (to an extent) could quickly become a deal killer.

    I've seen the lathe run, and didn't hear any bearing noises. The lead screw works correctly, and doesn't seem to have too much backlash in the compound. It has a solid tailstock, steady rest, but I am not sure if he still has the 4 jaw chuck.

    What else should I be looking at, at least what would make or break the deal?



  2. #2
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    If you read back on my thread...………...CHECK THOSE WAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Don't pour your heart into a machine to discover the ways are F'd.

    You may need the milling machine to make parts for the lathe. Is what it is.

    Sight along the leadscrew, and see if it has some droop in it near the apron. If the ways are worn, or the saddle is worn, the carriage will lower...…..and put a bend in the leadscrew. You can fix this if the bed ways aren't too bad, or the saddle ways too bad, by removing any shims that were factory installed on the apron....or building up the saddle ways to original. Friggin' nightmare.

    Check spindle runout. If it has runout, check the spindle journals first. Put the spindle on v blocks, and see if the journals are F'd. If you're lucky, it might just be bad bearings, and they haven't walked on the journals.

    Gawd………...the list goes on.

    First thing I guess, is to see if the saddle rocks on the ways when you put pressure on it. If the saddle rocks...…...be ready to shell out some bucks. Any rocking will occur up near the headstock usually.

  3. #3
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    I started on the headstock...…...DON'T BE STUPID LIKE ME...…...CHECK THE WAYS

  4. #4
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    In a day, or so, I gotta address another issue with the lathe. The gap bed appears to be mis-aligned. I need to do a test on it to verify.

    Thing cuts perfect until you get to the bed gap line, then it will taper. About .0005 or so. I'm thinking it's the gap.

    I'm mondo hesitant about trying correct it. It would require removing the location studs, and if what I hear is true...……..the gap might spring, or the surface under the gap won'[t be machined very well, making it almost impossible to re-align the gap.

    Gimme a mill any day...…….lathes are a PITA.

    Anyways, the test will show you how to do a preliminary check on the ways. I believe I showed it in 'idacal's' thread.
    Last edited by farmersammm; 04-24-2019 at 12:05 AM. Reason: added last sentence

  5. #5
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    that would be a nice starter machine that can actually do some work doing some basic threading, turning pins, hydraulic work but if your goal fitting bearings to shafts or threading gun barrels make sure you have a good set of files and sand paper to fit everything manually that actually needs to be accurate.
    that looks like its still a flat bet drive I didn't know they did that in the 40s my first lathe is a 1918 with plain bearings I just do not try to make anything that needs tighter than about .005 but I have done all kinds of stuff with it more than paid for itself
    Last edited by idacal; 04-24-2019 at 08:26 PM.
    Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

  6. #6
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    Even a worn out machine can do great work. I worked on a huge 30 inch lathe with a bed well over ten feet long and it was fine for general stuff. I even machine new bronze bushings for our forklift trunions. Automatic feed but selection was limited. It had in big painted letters NFG on the headstock. The boss said that the shipping was more than what they paid for it at auction.
    The ways had gouges in that were a sixteenth deep.
    Don't pay top dollar and since it is a Southbend you can always part it out and make like a bandit.

  7. #7
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    Quote Originally Posted by lotechman View Post
    Even a worn out machine can do great work. I worked on a huge 30 inch lathe with a bed well over ten feet long and it was fine for general stuff. I even machine new bronze bushings for our forklift trunions. Automatic feed but selection was limited. It had in big painted letters NFG on the headstock. The boss said that the shipping was more than what they paid for it at auction.
    The ways had gouges in that were a sixteenth deep.
    Don't pay top dollar and since it is a Southbend you can always part it out and make like a bandit.
    Well said!!! Most people don't seem to understand how a lathe works.... It's a two dimensional machine so issues in the third dimension don't have much effect on 99 percent of what guys use a big lathe for anyways!!!!

    Here is one of my bigger lathes right now I have the 32 inch 4 jaw on her... don't use it too much but the last job it did was turning some large mixing cones for a worldwide baking company that has some operations around here... This one lives outside for now as I don't have enough room in the shops for it

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    The beauty of a 4 jaw chuck... you can use offset spacers for things like mixing cones that have offset bores in them and there is a reason for the spacers

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  8. #8
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    I may end up passing on the South Bend, found a LeBlond Regal 17" that's in much better shape.

  9. #9
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    Quote Originally Posted by Jason280 View Post
    I may end up passing on the South Bend, found a LeBlond Regal 17" that's in much better shape.
    Far better machines. South bend excelled at tool room type stuff much like Hardinge.
    The LeBlonds and Monarchs ruled the monster lathe fiasco. Clausing was always stuck in the middle somewhere but was more of a mechanics lathe than a zero edge machine tool

  10. #10
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    The lathe you get depends on you being honest about what you're going to do with it.

    With an 11' bed, you'll likely never use more than the first few feet of the thing. If it's running true in those first few feet, you're golden.

    My little 9x30 South Bend is great for what I do, but way too slow at cutting if you're interested in getting a job done fast and efficient. That's the downside of a belt-drive, though.

    Part of the reason I bought it rather than something newer is just that it looked great. If a gear-drive SB had been available, I'd much rather have gone that route.

    Little repairs are pretty easy. Scraping ways is a skill, but I doubt you'd need to learn it unless the ways are way worse than they look in the pictures.

    Is it worth the price? Hard to say, but I'd certainly think about it if I was doing work on larger stuff.

  11. #11
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    Quote Originally Posted by ronsii View Post
    This one lives outside for now as I don't have enough room in the shops for it
    I know nothing about lathes but... isn't the rust going to be a problem even in the shor term? Could you at least throw a tarp over it or build some sort of cover arround it?

  12. #12
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    Tarps don't stop rust on machines outdoors unfortunately, I keep things greased where it matters. This lathe was under power outdoors when I got it 20 years ago and probably had just as much rust... The rust on the Chuck actually helps grip the big aluminum pieces very well.

  13. #13
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    Quote Originally Posted by ronsii View Post
    Tarps don't stop rust on machines outdoors unfortunately, I keep things greased where it matters. This lathe was under power outdoors when I got it 20 years ago and probably had just as much rust... The rust on the Chuck actually helps grip the big aluminum pieces very well.
    Will that thing do 40 threads per inch?

  14. #14
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    I could put a stepper motor on the tool post and get 40tpi for a good 5 inches

  15. #15
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    That lathe weighs a far piece more than 2-3000 lbs I suspect it is in the area of 4500 . I have a 60 era 17" x 36" Cinninate and it weighs in at 3200. I had a small SB just like your big one. It was way over rated IMHO . Not very stout as far as I am concerned. I was glade I had it but I was also glade to get rid of it for my present lathe. It might be worth getting if you have a way to move it if not forget about it. I moved mine with a skid loader and it was right at the ragged edge of being able to handle it. Any heavier and I would have had to rent something to move it.
    Last edited by thegary; 05-01-2019 at 09:58 AM.

  16. #16
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    I'd be very surprised if it weighed over 3k lbs, but I honestly have no idea...most of the research suggests around 2600lbs or so. Regardless, I ended up working out a deal for the lathe. Now, its just a matter of getting it home and into the shop.

  17. #17
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    Might be heavier than you think Name:  t519276_scared-smiley-emoticon.gif
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    Check this out...…...fairly small lathe length wise.


  18. #18
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    The lathe is home....


  19. #19
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    Hurray!!!!


    I love the way old lathes look just simple and ready to work.

  20. #20
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    Somebody stole yer fenders

  21. #21
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    Quote Originally Posted by farmersammm View Post
    Somebody stole yer fenders
    Yeah... I wasn't gonna mention it cause he was in such a good mood with just getting his new baby home

  22. #22
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    Midgets...………..it's always midgets Take your eyes off your stuff, and they creep in and steal it

  23. #23
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe





  24. #24
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    Haven't had time to do much with the lathe (or milling machine), just now trying to get the rotary phase converter wired up...I've been shut down by not having 3x 6 AWG ring terminals. I hope to have it wired up first of next week, and start making chips. I've been looking into possibly converting over to a serpentine/wide rubber belt, but the belt on it now looks OK (the one on the chip tray is a backup that's actually too short). I picked up a rebuild felt/wicker kit and manual off eBay, and will likely convert it over to a wedge style tool post (not sure if I can get away with a BXA or will have to go with a CXA). After that, it will be time to pick out a color to repaint!

  25. #25
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    Re: Potential bad idea #87....large South Bend lathe

    Don't go by the catalogue recommendations for tool post size. It's mostly dependent on the height of your compound. Some compounds are higher/shorter than others.

    All toolposts can be shimmed if necessary, if you want to go with a BXA.

    Only disadvantage I'd maybe see...……...smaller toolholders. You need to see just how large of a boring bar you can hold in a BXA vs. CXA. For plain turning tools, kept to minimum overhang, you could be ok with a smaller toolpost. But boring bars are more sensitive to chatter.

    Paint it gray. AND DON'T USE A BRUSH OR A SPONGE THINGY (Looks like crapola) IMHO

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