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South Bend 9 x 36 lathe project

Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 249
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I bought this lathe at an auction a few years for less than $200. It had no tailstock with it. It had been special ordered from South Bend with a thread winding apparatus custom made for it by them. It had another special order specification. A rare for this model hardened bed covered in very light rust and crud. Only a 3 foot bed but I already had a 4 foot South Bend 9 model A at home. And I had been wanting another lathe to squeeze into my small shop. Perfect.

The cone pulley in the headstock had a sprocket and chain drive adapted to the middle step. That step was machined flat to accept the adapter. It was also locked in back gear. It had no drive unit or motor. Oddly the babbit had never been poured into the lead screw hanger on the right side. The lathe came with a quick change gearbox but did not have a model A apron. It had a model C apron with no feed clutch or cross feed gearing. Only half nuts. No compound slide because that's where the thread winding apparatus resided. The chucks in the headstock and tailstock did not come with it.

After I won the bid for the lathe I walked around the auction looking at several piles of South Bend lathe parts that had been auctioned earlier in the day. You know how buyers make piles on the benches as the auction winds down. I saw several used tailstocks and one in particular caught my eye. I knew it had little use because the bottom surface still showed the original hand scraping. So I tracked down the owner of the pile and asked if he would sell it. He gave a price and I countered. He budged a little but I wanted more. Well, he had enough of me and said, "Forget it." Then turned to walk away. So, I quickly agreed to his last offer and pulled out the cash. It was mine. Then I suddenly realized that I have the original tailstock to this very low use lathe. I almost let it get away! Somehow it had gotten separated from the lathe on the trip to the auction. I think I paid $95 for it which really is a very good price for it. I still needed a drive unit for the lathe and there was a very filthy one with a giant 2 phase (yes, 2 phase does exist like 2 or 3 blocks in old Philadelphia)motor on it. The auction was winding down and I had to wait. Finally it came up and the auctioneer dropped the bid the whole way down to $5 for that filthy pig that was a diamond in the rough to me. So I got it for a fiver! Now I'm leaving for home with a very low use South Bend 9 lathe project for under $300. Not my first rodeo I have refurbished quite a few nice vintage machines for my shop. Feeling really good because you just can't hardly find a lathe like this anymore. Mostly all beat senseless by now.

Here is a picture after I disassembled it some. And the ways cleaned up beautifully. Wait til you see inside the quick change gearbox. No  cruddy grease or metal chips anywhere in it. This lathe has never cut metal in it's life!  More to follow  Karl

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Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 249
Topic starter  

A few pictures of disassembled parts

The ways cleaned up very nicely. No monkey head boo boos! That's a major score on it's own. 😀 

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The scraping on the underside of the saddle. Not scraped all the way across. Only the ends touch the ways originally. So only at four corners. I never new this. And you won't see another one with the scraping visible here unless you get lucky like I did. It's normally all worn away long ago.

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The cross slide dovetails and scraping. All remaining intact. Only .004 backlash on the cross slide feedscrew

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Inside the quickchange gearbox. Normally full of hardened gunk and chips

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 The back side of the apron. No dirt. No chips. Doesn't really matter I replaced the apron with a good used model A apron with power cross feed and power feed clutch in addition to the half nuts that are only for threading on a model A or B. Perfectly good half nuts. I sold the model C apron on eBag.

You can see the saddle is laying behind the apron. Notice the 1 inch diameter gear. That is for the power cross feed that this apron does not facilitate. Not normally included in a model C carriage. Lucky. I would have had to acquire a model A or B feedscrew. Most all are shot and you have to rebuild with a repair kit. $$ Very pleased to see that gear when it came apart. Very strange that this strange lathe came with a model C apron.

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The scraping on the bottom of the tailstock. Really rare for this to still be intact. Looks nearly new. And I almost didn't end up with it. Dumb.... Well, Smart! Here it is. The original one to the lathe. Lucky too.

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I also sold off the optional swivel carriage handwheel and swivel cross feed ballcrank. They're considered upgrades but I actually prefer the non swivel controls.

                      Thanks for following. More to come, Karl



Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 249
Topic starter  

Scary! Look at the wick coming up from the oil well. It's not installed correctly. Must have been a Friday afternoon at South Bend. That could have been catastrophic! I got a good used cone pulley on eBag. So I had to pull the spindle out. And get rid of the chain drive modification. I would have anyway. Allowed me to do a real nice paint job on the headstock. I'm picky like that about my machines. I cleaned out the felts and reused them. This is all that keeps a South Bend 9 spindle lubricated. And the spindle runs in the iron casting. No bushing or bearing. Kept lubricated and maintained they last a remarkably long time.

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I found a really nice compound slide on eBag. Pictured. It has very little wear on the dovetails and feedscrew. It's hard enough to find one that wasn't fed to the chuck. I didn't want one like that. I don't ever crash my lathes. Just had to be patient and one came along. I also found a good model A apron as shown. You have to be picky about a used apron because practically every one has a worn out worm and wormwheel that drives the clutch for the power feeds. They're buried in a little sump in the bottom of the apron that's always full of sludge and swarf. Often operators neglect to add oil there. And good maintenance practice for a lathe is to occasionally clean out that sump. Sellers see the other gears that hardly ever wear anyway and say " Looks good" Finding a good used wormwheel is very difficult. But guess what I have a NOS wormwheel I horded! So I'm set for this life! Both are good in my two South Bend 9's.


You can see I'm getting some painting done here. I take a small knotted wire wheel in a drill to clean up castings for prep. If the paint comes off' fine. If not, it's primer. Change directions with your drill so the wire wheel digs in well and strips the loose paint. Works very well. I rarely use any stripper. Sometimes I file down rough castings a little bit to improve the finished look. I applyoil paint with a larger artist china bristle brush thinned with a little naptha to improve bushability and flow. Speeds drying a little too. You can use mineral spirits too. Sometimes I also use a cheap throw away harbor freight air brush. They come with several little bottles and just throw them away if you don't want to clean them. They work very well. You have to thin the paint! A dinky little compressor works if that's all you have. Absolutely blows away rattle cans.

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                        Stay tuned, I'll post more. Thank you, Karl

Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 249
Topic starter  

A useful modification. The South Bend 9 does not have a graduated dial on the tailstock feedscrew. I came across the necessary dial parts from a South Bend 10k whilst shopping on eBag again. Installing the dial requires a longer feedscrew and I wanted a new one so I made it. Using a hand ground Acme thread form bit.

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I cut the Acme thread to the depth I calculated and it turned right into the quill on the first try.

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Only had to debur and polish very lightly with 400 paper wrapped around a needle file. Beautiful.

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Here I am turning the diameter for the handwheel to a perfect snug by hand fit. It is only held on by a taper pin. Very nice finish?

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Set up in the very handy cross drilling vise on my 1939 Craftsman drill press. The cross drilling vise has a V slot and and an assortment of drill bushings. A very useful accessory I picked up on Craigslist for $20. With the original little wooden box and instruction sheet.

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Here everything is together ready to install into the tailstock after I paint the handwheel. As good or better than new. Only .002 backlash in the finished thread.

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You see it on the tailstock here as well as the apron and some other little parts are painted now. I don't worry about the errant paint you can see if you look close at the apron. I just scrape that off with a razor blade and get a nice clean edge. No need to tape or worry about a perfect brush line. That's a good way to do the handwheels too.

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                  Thanks for hanging out. I'll get more together to show you. More to this project as you will see........ Karl


Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 249
Topic starter  


I mounted the Quick change gearbox and something doesn't line up right. The carriage binds up when I move it towards the headstock. What? What's wrong? I can't understand what's wrong. I checked everything over and over. It's the leadscrew binding. That's not good. Why? Something seriously wrong here. Bed time. Let it rest.

   Next day I took measurements. Fortunately I have another South Bend 9 sitting right here in the shop. I measured from the bottom of the ways to the leadscrew. Hmmm, the leadscrew on the lathe I'm working on is mounted about .040 lower. How? Why? Head scratching.... Well, the gearbox casting has to have .040 machined off. Another Friday afternoon at South Bend? IDK.

Notice the original ID plate has no information stamped into it. Odd. No model #, no bed length.

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So now the dilemna. How do I clamp this thing on the milling machine? Like this. Using a chuck on my rotary table to clamp the boss for the input shaft where the banjo goes. Then support the other side with the tailstock.

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But first I have to make this little plug with a center drilled hole to fit into the output shaft hole in the casting. For the tailstock center to go into.

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Now I indicate it in with a parallel clamped to the mounting surface. X axis

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Y axis

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Took off .040

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That's better! A little adjustment and everything lines up.

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See the end gear cover on the left side? I had to source that on eBag too. As well as a few end gears. One or two I forget now. Wasn't much $. As stated before the babbit was never poured in the leadscrew support (right end of the leadscrew). If the babbit is poured now the bearing alignment is perfect. That's why they did it that way. Well, I don't have any babbit handy, and don't want to do it that way. So I turned a brass bushing and glued it into the bracket with epoxy putty. I came up with a way to inject the epoxy into the bracket while the whole thing was aligned on the lathe using a syringe made for administering medicine to a baby. So I injected the bracket full of quickset epoxy until it oozed out the ends a little. I gave this baby it's medicine. Then before it set up too hard I disassembled it and trimmed off the excess. After it hardened I drilled out the oiling hole, painted and reassembled it. Perfect alignment my way. 😀

            Starting to look like a nice little machine?   A few more things to do. Thank you, hope you're enjoying to see this, Karl


Joined: 3 years ago
Posts: 1220

You've circumvented the issue with modern tech, but for future reference...

Boolit casters hoard babbit for maximum velocity in rifles. If you know a rifle boolit caster, they'll always have some top shelf.

Unfortunately, they also hoarde babbit, and it's running $10/Lb starting min 4Lbs. Cheapest on ebay $30, no weight listed.

Then there is the sentimental/historilcal issue of destroying old stuff. Melting this would me me sad. 😥  RIP Mr. Hoyt.

Screenshot 2021 06 12 Vintage Hoyt Metal Company St louis Genuine  A Metal Signature Babbitt eBay

Babbit is a loose range of alloys, something close enough can be made from stuff we already have.

Taken from this fine site which you should go read!

Screenshot 2021 06 12 Babbit as bullet casting alloy   Tin based Babbitt, Lead based Babbit   Is copper good or bad

The following recipe details my own attempts at creating a good tin based babbit.

Melt lead-free solder OR pewter @87% of finished weight

Add 3% finest copper wire available, stir till dissolved, keep the temp up or it will get slushy

adding any of these @ 10% of finished weight, listed by favorability.

magnum birdshot (extra antimony) like turkey loads, and you might even get copper plating as a bonus

lino-type (known quantity)


Lead-based alloy additives

wheel weight (sometimes made of zinc, be sure to get lead-type whole WW, ingots are often contaminated w/zinc DISASTER)

Crosman dome pellets have something in them, nominally one grade above a cast bullet.

You'll kindly notice that I omitted 50/50 solder, and bullets. We NEED antimony for hardness, these don't have.


links to alloy vendors

 similar lead based


bf1956 and TomR_here thanked