Monday, July 30, 2012

It's Alive!

Sunday was beautiful compared to the rain filled misery of moving day. The first task of the day was to re-install my fence. Surprisingly I think it's leaning less than when we took it apart. I'm pretty sure a stiff breeze could have brought it toppling over.

I started looking over the lathe and getting familiar with all the levers, dials, screws, etc. I had seen it run before but I didn't have the knowledge or the time to test out every little thing. So my first order of business was to get the motor running so I could test everything out.

A little background first. The motor on the 4914 is a 1 horsepower, three phase, 220 volt model. Three phase is the type of current that industrial sites receive, not your typical DC residential apartment which has single phase power. There are several ways you can drive a three phase motor on single phase power but I will only be discussing the path I chose, using a Variable Frequency Drive, or VFD for short.

After doing a lot of online research on various brands and types, I purchased a Teco Westinghouse FM50-101-C. It is probably the cheapest most robust VFD I could find that met the requirements I need. Essentially it takes 110V single phase power, and converts it into 220v three phase, and it's rated for 1 HP. That's important, you have to make sure the VFD is rated for your motors HP. It seems that in the early days of VFD's you had to choose a VFD that was rated for MORE than your motors HP but I've found that is not the case anymore. Also, I've found a lot of other home machinists have used this same model to hook up their three phase machines, so there is a lot of 3rd party advice on how to connect one.

I'll be getting into the really cool functions of the VFD and exactly how to hook one up in a later post. For now, I just wanted to get the motor running. Call me ghetto if you like, but I live in an apartment, and my shed doesn't have power, so I run any electrical devices off a heavy duty 12ga extension cord. Crazy you say? Well maybe. My friend Grant who helped me unload it told me I should hire an electrician! ha!

The lathe has a heavy duty three phase fused disconnect switch on the rear of the machine. I opened this up and started disconnecting both the motor leads and all the wires coming out of the drum switch, which is used to put the machine into forward or reverse. All I needed was the 3 leads from the motor plus it's grounding wire. I hooked these up to the VFD and plugged it in. I made sure the lathe was in direct drive (not in back gears) and that the feed control lever for the lead screw was in neutral. I hit the start button and the motor purrs to life. It's alive!

The motor's "native" frequency is 60hz, so by lowering that frequency the motor runs slower. I slowly ramped the speed up to 60hz and everything sounded good. No crunching noises, relatively quiet. The belt drive was set somewhere in the middle of it's speed range. I ramped down to half speed, 30hz, and stopped the motor. I wanted to try out the feed control and since the tumbler bracket for the quick change gear box is broken I wanted to keep it in relatively low speed for testing. I set the QCGB to a relatively fine feed rate and had to wedge a wrench under the broken bracket to keep it in gear. I started up the motor again. The lead screw was slowly turning! All the levers on the apron were pretty tight, but I was able to engage the half nut lever and see the carriage move on it's own. I then tried the longitudinal feed lever and again, the power feed worked. Finally I tried the cross feed and that too worked! So far so good.

The feed control was set in the lower position so it was feeding away from the headstock. I stopped the motor and put it into the upper position to test feeding towards the headstock. This is when I got some nasty grinding noise and immediately stopped the motor. What I found was that when the feed control lever is in it's upper notch, it's not quite engaging the gear train. I pulled it out and pushed it PAST the notch and re-tried. No grinding, everything works. I'm hoping something may just be misaligned and can be fixed. Overall not a huge problem.

At this point I moved the belt over to the highest speed position of 1700 RPMs and let her rip up to 60hz. Whoa, no bad noises but this thing can scream at these high speeds.  I'm hoping the restoration will quiet a few things down a bit.

I had not attempted back gears because I couldn't seem to get the back gear pin to pull out. I was spraying it liberally with PB blaster when finally I gently pried it loos with a screwdriver. Then I was able to engage the back gears and try it out at low speed. As before everything functioned properly.

Now that I know everything works for the most part, I decided to start tearing into the machine to clean it up... But that's for another post.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


An open letter to Mother Nature...

Dear Mother Nature,
Go F$%* yourself!

Weeks have gone by with relatively little rain, a thunderstorm here or there. But on the one day I am scheduled to transport a 915 lb. precision piece of cast iron it pours, all day long.

The miserable day went as follows. Wake up early on Saturday morning, drive up to the U-Haul in Hyattsville MD to pick up the trailer, in the rain. Luckily there were no issues getting the trailer, I was in and out in less than 30 minutes. Drove up to my mom's house in PA to pick up misc. tools including the bulk of my mechanics tools, chain hoist, extra lifting strap, air compressor, etc. This stuff alone fills the entire bed of my truck. Oh, and water skis, you gotta have water skis.

The weather was pleasant and dry in PA. Drove to Chester to pick up the lathe. Paul and his brother are really great guys, they had the lathe ready to go. They lowered it onto my 4x4 skids with the forklift, and bolted down the lathe for me. Then showed me a thing or two about the proper way to use ratcheting tie downs. With the forklift the lathe went on the trailer so easily.

I start driving home and 5 minutes onto I-95 it starts to drizzle. I Pull over on the side of the road to put the tarp on. Yeah, I probably should have done this in Chester instead of on the shoulder of I-95. I'm pretty sure I will never tow more than what this lathe weighs. It took some getting used to the bouncing but despite the 55 MPH sticker on the trailer it felt comfortable at 65. Every now and then I could feel the trailer pushing the truck a bit which made me nervous. However my friend Grant who had agreed to help me unload was worried that the schedule kept getting pushed later and later so I was trying to make good time. Oh and shortly after I got the tarp on and for the remainder of the 3 hour drive, it was pouring rain.

I picked up Grant on the way home. By then I was already stressed out. Just backing up the trailer was a challenge as I'd never done that before. Everything is the opposite of what you think.

The first challenge, how do we get the lathe off the trailer. It was soon quite obvious that the shop crane could not straddle the trailer tire enough to raise the lathe. Even if it could, we would have had to drive over the one leg of the crane. We realized we had to move the lathe to the back of the trailer so we could get the cranes boom over the lathes center of gravity. We attempted this first by hooking up a come along from the front of the trailer around a post at the rear of the trailer and onto the lathe. We were able to get the lathe to slowly inch towards the rear. Until we ran out of purchase. Then it dawned on me we could simply put my steel pipe rollers I had intended to use for the final part of the move here as well. So we lifted up one end of the lathe with the crane and put rollers underneath. Then the other end. Once it was on rollers we just pushed the lathe to the end of the trailer. In this position we were able to get the crane in the proper position. Then I drove the trailer out from underneath. Oh, it's still a steady rain at this point and we are both soaked as well as the lathe.

The rest of the move got pretty tense. Things were not going as planned. Moving the lathe up to the platform outside my shed was quite ridiculous. At one point we the head stock side of the lathe on the platform and the tail stock side supported on the alley pavement with cribbing and a jack. It was very unstable and our next move almost tipped the lathe over. We found we had to solve each little problem one at a time to make sure we didn't do something stupid and have the lathe fall on us.

At one point we were stumped, standing in the rain scratching our heads. Grant suggested we get a beer. I was skeptical, I know it was only one beer but I had not eaten anything all day and I didn't want to risk being  buzzed while moving heavy machinery. It actually calmed me down quite a bit and shortly afterward we got it figured out and into position to roll right into the shed. It turns out the best way to move it was to simply use rollers and a pinch bar and move it a little at a time.

Done! What a relief. It fits, barely. I'ts going to be cozy in that shed! I can't thank Grant enough. I was planning on doing this on my own if I couldn't get help. That would have been a very bad idea. There would have been no way I would have gotten it done. I was absolutely exhausted by the end of the day.

It's still up on the skids and rollers, but I need to maneuver around it to start working on it. So there it will stay until the next step.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

So it begins...

I've wanted a metal lathe for a very long tome. Not so much because I have a ton of metal parts to turn, but more because I've always wanted to learn how to machine. I've had a little stash saved up for the sole purpose of buying one, but a few factors had always kept me from taking the plunge.

Space requirements: Simply put where the heck am I going to put a metal lathe when I am in a 1 bedroom apartment in the city?

Power requirements: Many older lathes that I've been looking at run on 3 phase 220 or 1 phase 220. I simply don't have that in my apartment.

The power requirement was the easy one. Since I first started looking into lathes, the use of VFD's (Variable Frequency Drive) has increased, they have become more accessible and more affordable to the hobbiest.

The space was still an issue. There was no way I could put a heavy lathe in my apartment. It had to go in the shed. The fact that I've been running my planer and jointer for woodworking in the shed made me think I might just be able to do this. I took some measurements. Yeah it would be tight, but you know what, this might just work.

After almost picking up a Rockwell/Delta 11" lathe about 10 years ago I had always kept my eye on the 10" or 11" model. I've read some good things about them. Recently my coworker mentioned the Clausing brand lathe as a solid machine. I started looking into the 4900 (10") and 5900 (12") series and was impressed with both their rigidity (read: weight for their size) and their features.

As luck would have it I came across a 4914 on eBay for a very low price, less than half of what I had saved up. Which made me ask the question, what's wrong with this thing for it to be so cheap. It wasn't far, so last weekend when I was visiting my family in PA, I stopped by the sellers shop to take a look. I told myself if the bed ways, and the headstock are in good shape, its a winner. Everything else can be fixed. Luckily in my amateur machinists opinion, the bed ways are in excellent shape, and the headstock seems to run quite well. There are a few minor issues. The Quick Change Gear Box handle is broken. It's missing the tailstock lock down handle, as well as some oiler cups. I worked all the handles, wheels and levers and everything seemed good.

The biggest what if, comes from evidence that the compound rest had been welded. This could indicate a severe crash, where the compound came in contact with a spinning chuck and it broke the thing in half. Seeing no evidence of a gouge where this would have caused that, I can't explain why it had been welded. Maybe someone had it off the lathe and dropped it. Who knows. It may remain a mystery.

The other draw back is that this machine comes with absolutely no tooling, no chuck, no tool post, not even a dead center. But at the price, I'll have money left over to get exactly the tooling I want.

So I bought it. Finally. I have a metal lathe. Now I need to figure out how to get this thing home.

The 4914 model number indicates that this is a 10" swing, 36" between centers, has a 3 phase 1 HP motor, and weighs 915 lbs. That was the advertised shipping weight in the 60's era brochure. It may actually be less than that since it won't be crated, but its really all I have to go on.

An email to Clausing Industrial (yes the are still in business) got me a reply quite quickly. My lathe was sold new on July 12 1967. It's 13 years older than I am! Plus they sent me a PDF of the applicable manual and parts list. Some parts are still available! Depending on their price I may buy some of the broken pieces, but if they are too much, I might make them. Isn't that what having a lathe is for?