Wednesday, February 2, 2011

30 Days of Creativity - #28-#30

Rebuilding an Old Craftsman Lathe

Continuing on the theme of "machinery rebuilding" that I started with the minor overhaul of a vise yesterday, I decided it was high time to do something with an old (1940's or 50's maybe?) Craftsman model 109 lathe. I purchased it along with two wood lathes from a guy somewhere in Colorado Springs about 10 years ago. I knew it wasn't the greatest of metal working machines, but I hoped it would be good enough for small hobby jobs that did not require the ultimate in precision.

Just like the vise I rebuilt yesterday, this machine tool had been in storage in a musty shed for years and was covered with a thin but damaging coat of fine rust. I decided to take apart everything but the spindle, remove the rust, hone the mating surfaces, lubricate it and put it back together. I spent several hours a day on it for three days (again with the help of less than thrilled offspring).

Figure 1. Craftsman Model 109 lathe, cleaned up and ready for action
Unfortunately, I neglected to take a picture of it before the overhaul operation, but figure 1 shows what it looked like after I was done. Not bad. It works. It has proven impossible to get a good adjustment on the gibs because both the bed and cross-slide ways are worn unevenly. But, I can get it to work pretty well over any limited range of a few inches.

Using the 4-jaw chuck that it came with I was able to machine a brass test button to within about .005 inches of an arbitrary target diameter. I assume I could do a little better with practice.

I even used the lathe to turn a body blank for a scratch built rocket made out of a willow branch. I still don't have a good way to make large enough, accurately centered holes in the ends of the body for creating spaces for motor mounting and to pack a parachute, so that project is on hold until I invent some appropriate method or get access to a different machine.

I have entertained the idea of buying a 3-jaw self-centering chuck for this lathe, but I think I might just sell it and use the money to buy a Sherline or something.

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30 Days of Creativity - #27

Rebuilding  a Vise

Again, maybe it's a stretch but today I rebuilt a vice that I have owned for many years. It was originally purchased from Harbor Freight Tools. A lot of their stuff is not very good, but this is an excellent vise. It had fallen into a state of disrepair after being stored in a damp shed for a long time. It was rusted to the point where it could not be operated. What a waste to have such a handy tool doing nothing!

Figure 1. Refurbished heavy duty vise
So, I took it apart and sanded off the rust and cleaned the lead screw. Actually I had my daughters help do certain parts of it. They have at times expressed some interest in studying science or engineering so I figured any kind of mechanical training and experience can't hurt.

After reassembling it with the addition of copious amounts of lubricant, it seemed to work pretty well. Several cycles of its full range with the addition of more lubricant (I am fond of Slick 50) seemed to do the trick and I have used this tool to great advantage many times since (see Figure 1).

A few days later I needed to hold some material firmly but gently, so I fashioned some soft jaws out of pine scraps I had laying around. They aren't pretty but they get the job done.

It's good to have this vise back mounted on the workbench instead of sitting on a dusty, damp floor in an outdoor shed.

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