I have my Dad's old, old lathe. Gawd it's heavy!!! My question is it has
Babbitt bearings (I think that's what they're called) so do I use oil in the
reservoir or do I use grease? It has about a 1/4" fill hole that gets
covered with a machine screw if that provides a hint. My Dad is long gone
and of course there's no manual or any info on it. Is it typical that one
or the other gets used or does it vary among machines?.
I guess the second question is I put oil in it to get it going and because I
didn't even think of using grease until my wife's Uncle suggested I should
have used grease. Any great suggestions for getting the oil out without
tearing the thing apart or do I need to worry about it and just pump it full
of grease (if grease is the right choice and not oil)?
Any help any of you can provide would be appreciated as I'm out of my
I have an old 1960's craftsman-atlas metal lathe. I've always (and my dad
before me) used regular 30w motor oil to fill the bearing reservoirs, and no
Instead of machine screws, mine has a spring loaded cap.
Unless the thread is the same for a grease nipple, I'd say use oil.
On Sun, 23 Nov 2003 16:36:48 GMT, "Larry C in Auburn, WA"
The best thing to do is follow the Babbitt recomendations for
maintenance. Actually, that goes for every piece of equipment. I use
a combination of lubricants. When grease is recommended, it is
usually lithium grease. Oil is very short term unless it is enclosed
in some kind of housing. For cleaning off old crud, I use kerosene
and the Mother-in-law's toothbrush.
Oil for sintered bearings. The recommendation for 30 weight is probably
enough, but you will want a non-detergent oil for best lubrication. That
may kick you up to a bit heavier stuff like 50 gear.
Does it have wicks?
Oil it is. Non-detergent at least 30 Wt.
I wouldn't be a bit surprised if there were not a few BABBITT sites
out there. FWW may have an article or two on Babbit Bearings either in
a back issue or one of the books on restoring/rebuilding woodworking
machinery. AND as 'keeter' mentioned the OWWM web site is a font of
knowledge on 'old arhn'.
Tales of a Boatbuilder Apprentice
Thanks for the help guys! As always you've given me good info. I did DAGS
and looked at OWWM before posting, but couldn't find an answer. It might be
out there, but after about an hour of very interesting reading I still
hadn't found the answer.
The shaft is enclosed in a housing, but I'm not sure how the oil gets up to
the shaft which is at the top of the housing. It's 5 inches from the bottom
of the housing to the bottom of the shaft. How does the oil get to the top
or do I have to ensure it's always completely full of oil?
Typically Babbit bearings like these are 'Oil Ring' lubricated. A ring
(usually Brass or Bronze, maybe Iron) about 2 to 2.5 times the shaft dia
sits on the shaft, the bottom of the ring dips into the oil several inches
below. As the shaft turns, there is enough friction to let the ring spin
with it; then it picks up the oil and drops it on the shaft, where it
spreads out into the bearing.
If this is an oil ring bearing and the ring is missing - it won't last very
long. Also, if the oil level is to high it will fail. The oil level needs
to _just_ cover the inside surface of the ring at the lowest point, any more
and the oil will cause more resistance to rotation than the shaft friction
creates, then the ring doesn't turn. Another issue, it's been a long time
since I last worked on Babbit bearings, so I can't remember the oil
viscosity numbers, but if the oil is too thick is puts to much drag on the
ring as well.
It's possible that the bearings are lubricated some other way, but if the
level is so far below the shaft it sounds like oil ring lube to me. If
there is an access hole (plugged or with a spring loaded cap) directly above
the bearing, you may be able to see the ring in there sitting on the shaft.
If you can, it should run very smooth, any bucking from side to side or
skipping indicates to high an oil level or to thick oil. If it's bone dry,
then the oil level is to low.
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