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New here; Have a new [to me] Model A, and a couple questions


Oct 18, 2023
Hello from the People's Republic of Marylandistan!

I'm new around here, and come to metalworking as a hobby (started off learning TIG welding to build an HK Roller Lock project several years ago). I briefly learned how to use a lathe 20+ years ago, but after more than a couple concussions and simple passage of time... I know very little. I acquired a South Bend Model A (circa 1962 I believe) to take the next step a few other 2A projects. I have changed it to an AXA tool post, replaced the brass cross feed nuts (that took back lash to something workable, if not down right respectable), and broke down the apron to clean and replace wicks. Replaced the original 3 phase motor with a single phase 220 (but kept it, I may add VFD down the line - for right now, I don't need that much control and electrical wiring is the fastest way to make my head spin). Replaced what seemed to be overly thin conveyor belting with a purpose built proper belt off eBay (along with the rebuild "kit" and manual). I have some projects to do and would rather not spend inordinate time renovating when my goal is to use - but, after serving for 60 years, I also don't want to be the dummy that kills this lathe (it looks to have lived it's entire life in a mold making shop in New England).

My most immediate question is on the spindle.

I have seen a few other posts here while looking for my answer. Some have said, do it to inspect it and replace the felts; others have said "if it ain't broke don't touch it" (paraphrasing). The front bearing is at .002 when testing with a dial indicator. The rear spindle bearing is .0035. Oddly, when adding oil, the front bearing seems to soak it up and need refilling - but after 5 or so hours of running the lathe the rear spindle bearing does not seem to have gone through any oil. The felts I have replaced were dirty, but still seemed to be serving their function. No noticeable heat or noise is coming off the spindle. Should I break it down and replace the felts (which I have), or run with it? It also seems the runout is at a point where removing one of the shims would be appropriate (if only barely - the spindle bolts are tight though).

I have already managed to turn a couple of my immediate need parts (e.g. an aluminum heat sink pin for welding up a hole to spec - tried copper and quickly found it doesn't play as easily as steel), and fabricated a KISS spider for the back end of the spindle. I have a 3 jaw and face plate that came with it. I bought an import four jaw, but I am having a devil of a time machining the face plate - the "chips" come off as fine powder (whether using HSS, brazed carbide, or inserts). IIRC, this means it is cast iron? The backplate seems to be "universal" and as a result needs to be turned down quite a bit (1" + in radius).

The only item I've been "burned" on is a steady rest. I picked up one on Ebay that was labeled as 9" (and had SB markings) but upon receipt it appears to be off a larger model that someone 'cut' to fit the ways and sits about an inch too high.

Any insight that can be offered on addressing the spindle (or not) would be appreciated! Bonus points if anyone has suggestions for this backplate...

Curious as to what you are measuring for the front and rear bearing. Sounds like you are measuring the spindle lift. If so, if your lathe has cast iron bearings, the lift should be around .001" to .002", and for bronze bearings, .0007" to .001". From "A Guide to Renovating the South Bend Lathe..., by ILION, which is a highly recommended source.

My 1941 9a leaks spindle oil, most of it from the gear train end. Normal for the older lathes to leak oil. Not so sure about the newer ones like yours.

As to whether to change the felts, only you can determine that.
I will second Dan's recommendation for "A Guide to Renovating the South Bend Lathe, 9" Models A, B, & C". It's the best out there.

I have the guide to renovating, and agree it is fantastic! Tubalcain also has a veritable font of knowledge on this topic. The “how to” is well supplied - but what I can’t find is the “should I”… is .0015 extra on the gear side spindle (and that spindle appearing to NOT drink up oil A as fast as the tighter and in spec center side spindle bearing) reason to tear it apart? Or, if I’m not getting heat and/or noise from the spindle bearing is it better to leave well enough alone?
If it were me & I had the spindle wicks I would replace them . Even pulling the spindle to check them is a fairly simple process seein as how ya have the book . The adjusting procedure for the spindle is also in the book Ya don't want to be lookin for a new headstock casting & spindle cause ya didn't check the spindle wicks . There's a bunch of youtubes about don't this also .. Yea , most of the backplates folks buy today are cast iron , cast iron dust likes to destroy precision surfaces . Always clean up super good after machining cast iron & always cover as much of the lathe ya can . Cast iron ya have to get in past the crust & then it machines pretty ok , but it does make a mess . Theres a few post's here on folks fitting backplates to chucks , do a search for those . I'll see if I can find the procedure for when I did my backplates . Safety glasses & have fun .
Ok, rear spindle bore looks near mint; a bit of galling on the nose spindle bore (it is strange - you can see it, but you can’t feel it). Spindle itself is pristine. The wicks were still working, but damn near fell apart when removing. I’ll say glad to have them changed (well, new ones soaking currently). The oil passages drilled in to act as both a reservoir and a return are impressive. Biggest reason I’m glad I did this: the main bearing was completely fouled up with Teflon grease. Some brake clean and it is now spotless, oiled and ready for reassembly. I’m going to pop in the needle bearing “upgrade” when I put it back together tomorrow (still letting things soak overnight to get them squeaky clean).

Thank you to everyone for the input!31844A04-976E-47BC-B52A-2FB091DC6BB5.jpegDC1AFFBD-A79B-458A-9CFE-E72E6E6026B6.jpegAC52954F-E3BD-4A3E-A8F8-9E4B472A1485.jpeg
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While that front galling is literally imperceptible to the touch (looking at those pictures I am still struggling to understand how that is possible), I am wondering if that perhaps explains the difference in oil consumption vis-a-vis the front and rear gits oilers?