help with newly acquired lathe

It's a Seneca Falls lathe. Quite old, but well known.
Whack it gently with a wooden block until you can feel the threads starting to engage by gently turning the handle. Then, keep the threads loose as you whack it back some more. Don't try to retract the ram as soon as the threads engage, keep whacking it back and keeping the threads from binding for a full turn of the handle. This will prevent ripping out the threads. You probably need some real penetrating oil, not WD-40. Lube the ram liberally as you work it back in, and it should carry the penetrating oil into the casting. If there is a keyway in the ram (pretty much has to be) make sure that is not what is causing the bind-up. In fact, you might remove the key if possible (often a screw with a narrow cylinder point) you might be able to improvise a strap wrench and twist the ram to loosen it.
Worthless? On the commercial market, maybe. On the hobby market, it is worth exactly whatever you PAID for it!
Reply to
Jon Elson
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i have a few questions if anyone out there would mind taking the time to
answer. (question number 3. below is most important) i finally acquired a
lathe (been wishing i had one since metal shop in high school, '74/'77)
1. wondering if there might possibly be somewhere on the web where i
could download a owner/operator manual.
2. if any of you guys know what kind of lathe it is (wondering if it was
specifically designed/manufactured for cutting screw threads, based on the
cryptic numbers on the bronze tag in picture "lathe7") all i can find on it
as to an indication to who manufactured it and/or a "brand" name are the
bronze tag on the headstock, says "The Seneca Falls Mfg. Co. Makers Seneca
Falls, N.Y." (same words cast into the legs) and in the casting on the bed
"Star" (and there's some patent numbers and dates). you can just barely see
the word "Star" in pic "lathe2".
it was kinda rusted tight, i sprayed it all over with WD-40 and worked
the various levers and handles. the tailstock ram handle was so tight i
could hardly turn it. i kept spraying it and working it. i figured if i
turned it far enough the ram would come off the screw and out of the
tailstock. it finally came off the end of the screw but then i couldn't get
it out and couldn't get it threaded back on either! i'm afraid to damage it
by forcing it, so...
3. my main, most important question, wondering if anyone knows how to
either get it out/off completely or get it screwed back on to the turn screw
handle (photo "lathe4") there's a blind hole on the underside of the
decorative turning on the end of the tailstock (photo "lathe5"), i'm
wondering if maybe that's a hole for a spanner wrench to turn off that end
(like a threaded nut). i can't tell if that decorative turning is a
removable threaded "nut" or if it's an integral part of the casting.
(i tried to get the ram back on the thread by first, tapping gently the
tip of the live dead center (with a chunk of lead) while turning the handle,
that didn't work, then i put a long pipe clamp on it (forcing the live dead
center (and ram) back in towards the crank turn handle) and tightened it
while turning the handle and that didn't work either.)
4. it has three flat belt step pulleys. i'd like to see if i can
improve upon the system the previous owner put together to transmit power to
the lathe. the motor unit hangs off the back of the lathe and is so heavy
it almost wants to tip the lathe over backwards. i'm hoping i could maybe
put together a simpler, much lighter motor mount/step pulley arrangement,
*and* hang a newer more powerful motor on it, and maybe have the whole
shebang directly over the headstock instead of hanging off the back. i'm
wondering, what are the most common "speeds" (at the chuck) for those three
step pulleys. i'm hoping from there i could calculate the size the "v" belt
pulleys i'll need from the motor to the step pulleys (large aluminum pulley
in picture "lathe6") to end up with the correct speeds at the chuck.
5. too many questions all at once? if you're still with me, how about
one more? the chart of numbers on the bronze tag, is that for cutting screw
threads? the lathe came with several gears, i'm wondering if that chart
tells which gear to use to get how ever many threads per inch, but, the
gears don't have any corresponding numbers from the chart, they have a code
number cast in them and a number saying how many teeth are on the gear but
as far as i can tell no number that matches up to any numbers on the chart.
the guys i got the lathe from said, kind of under their breath, that this
lathe is next-to-worthless, wondering if anyone here could confirm that
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Reply to
William Wixon
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lathe is the easy part, but whats all that white stuff in the background of the pictures ? gary
Reply to
Gary Owens
Check with this forum
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Also, search on Seneca in this forum and you will see some discussions.
Just what the tag says.
Get some real penetrant - Kroil, PB Blaster. Even ATF is a good choice. Soak it down good before you try to force anything. I know it's hard to resist. And don't take apart more than one assembly at a time. Get the tailstock as nice as you can before dismantling the carriage.
I'd put it together the way it is. That assembly looks pretty factory to me. If you put it over the HS it will be more dangerous to work around IMHO. As for the weight hanging off the back, some lathes like this had a 5th leg to keep it from tipping back.
(Probably) First number is threads per inch 2nd number is the tooth count on the spur, or intermediate gear. 3rd number is tooth count for the lead screw gear.
Looks like an antique, but I've seen worse. I have two nice lathes already, but if this had been ffered to me I'd have it loaded pretty quick. I do hope you have it out of the snow by now.
Have fun with your new toy :)
Rex Burkheimer No snow in Fort Worth - 70 degrees tomorrow
Reply to
Rex B
The white stuff is a work-in-progress-indicator. When it switches to green, work will be done. If not, it will switch from green to red and then back to white. Can be repeatet several times.
Nice old-style lathe, BTW!
Reply to
Nick Müller
Hey William,
Well, first off, get it in out of the cold. There is a good chance that the casting has shrunk slightly and is therefore tight. When cold, everything is tougher to work on, and has greater risk of breaking if you force anything.
When you do move it into a warmer place, blow some dry heat over it, and keep it under constant air circulation for at least a day until it warms up to room temperature so it won't rust from the condensation formed when coming in from the cold. Be ready for that before bringing it in.
As to "#3", I think would remove the barrel lock/clamp from the tail-stock body and fill it with very light oil to soak for a while and get as much in as you can. Then after it is all warmed up and oil filled, I'd be tempted to put a clamp from the nose of the tail-stock barrel to the center of the handwheel and try to bring the barrel back into the thread. Make EVERY effort NOT to push/pull on that live center though, even if you have to make some sort of clamp arrangement to push only on the quill. And do what-ever it takes to be sure you are pulling "straight back" and no chance of pulling off-center on the quill to prevent it galling and possibly cracking the bore/casting.
Take care.
Good Luck. It's not a bad looking machine at all!!
Brian Lawson, Bothwell, Ontario. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Reply to
Brian Lawson
Just bringing it up to normal temp might fix the stuck parts. I bought a Botsford lathe once real nice copy of a SB. It was cold has hell and nothing moved, it had been sitting for years. I brought it in my shop let it worm up for a day and it moved ok them a good cleaning and some fresh oil it was fine. Some of that old oil will get real thick in the cold, and it sure has been a cold december. I am dreading picking up 2 Sheldon lathes next week, things just seem to break much faster in the cold.
Reply to
wayne mak
Make certain that the clamping screw is loose
Gerry :-)} London, Canada
Reply to
Gerald Miller
William Just a thing or two. Get off the WD-40 thing. Use mineral spirits. Buy a gallon of the stuff. Do as others mentioned-get it inside and warmed up. A stiff wire brush on a drill motor will do wonders for the tube where the tailstock plunger goes back in. Or better still a brass wire brush. Clean up the whole thing. It will give you a lot of familiarity with your lathe that few enjoy. And finally clean up the wiring mess. Bob AZ
Reply to
Bob AZ
Hello William,
I picked up a Seneca Star recently, very similar to, if not identical the one you have just acquired. I think you are going to need an arrangement to drop the motor speed, via a countershaft or some such. Mine came with an original speed reducer, which I believe drops the speed by about 10:1. This speed reducer hangs on the back of the lathe, has a cone head pulley to drive the lathe, and a driven pulley that takes the drive from the motor, with a gear box in between. I'll check the ratio over the next couple of days (today is going to be frantic), and post it.
I think you are looking for output speeds in the range from 20-1200 or so.
Adam Smith Midland, ON Canada
lots of that white stuff here, too
Reply to
Adam Smith
I didn't make myself clear in the earlier post: range from 20-1200, takes into consideration both the lathes back gear, and an additional countershaft and/or speed reducer. The countershaft will have a cone pulley just like the one on the lathe but backwards, so large drives small, medium drives medium, and small drives large. 20 rpm would be with speed reduction, belt on small driver large driven pulleys, and back gears engaged. 1200 would be without back gear engaged, and with large driving small.
I'll post a picture of the Seneca speed reducer, when I get a chance.
Reply to
Adam Smith
Phtttt!!! It doesn't get COLD in your neck of the woods! Cool maybe. :)
Cold is when 30 weight oil congels and turns white. (About -20F) Cold is when mild steel shatters rather than breaking (Around -40F) Cold is when you can drive a semi truck across the temproary highway on 3' ice on the lake (just don't follow another truck or the wave action will set up on the lake underneath)
wayne mak wrote:
Reply to
Well when its at 0 F thats cold enough to make things stick. I have NO desire to subject myself to any colder than it gets here.
Reply to
wayne mak
1: Get the lathe in a warm place and give it a day to thoroughly warm up
2: Give the WD-40 to someone you don't like. Try Kroil or ATF on the tailstock, give it a day or two to wick in.
3: If it's still stuck, pull the whole tailstock, immerse it in a bucket of kerosene with some ATF mixed in, let it soak for a few days.
The thing with the blind hole is not an integral part of the casting. It's probably threaded, but it might have had threadlocker applied to it. Apply gentle heat , say up to about spit-sizzle temp and see if that helps.
Reply to
Don Foreman
According to Adam Smith :
It looks to me as though he already has it -- shown in the photo referenced below.
Enjoy, DoN.
Reply to
DoN. Nichols
Whoops. Missed that one. Well that is a countershaft all right, though it doen't look anything like the Seneca speed reducer that came with my Seneca lathe. Looks like the driver pulley will do the job, though.
Reply to
Adam Smith
lengthy responses below...
thanks for everyone's help.
Jon, i think perhaps the cold and the old dried up (whale) (i'm kidding) oil was what was making the tailstock ram SO hard to turn. after soaking for a day with WD-40 (right now i don't have any ready sources for Kroil) it started to loosen up. i'm embarrassed to admit, the problem was, i was turning the screw the WRONG way, it's a left hand thread, that's why i couldn't get it threaded back on. (eventually i figured it out)
Gerald, thanks, yeah, the clamping screw was loose. actually i was afraid the clamping screw was seized but turns out that wasn't what the problem was.
Gary, thanks, that was an AWESOME link. i was very surprised to be getting info from England!! I laughed out loud at your comment, "...the white stuff". we haven't had a LOT here in southern n.y. state but it's been on the ground for weeks and, i, for one, am SICK of it.
Nick, thanks for the comments. wait till you see the photos after i'm done cleaning it up! hey, and, btw, i was completely and totally blown away with the pics of your engines.
Rex, thanks for the link, haven't gotten a chance to check it out yet though. thanks for the suggestions. I'd have to drive 50 miles (RT) to get some Kroil so for now it's WD-40. i cleaned up the headstock, scraped the paint off, oiled moving parts, wirebrushed paint and moving parts. it has some pretty bronze bearings, steel wooled them. i'm scraping the (peeling, flaking) paint off the bed and legs. not sure if i'll paint it dark blue (original color) or leave it bare iron. the reduction pulleys are not factory, they're very homebrew, and very ugly (to my tastes), they've got to go. i have a small shop and i'm going to need to get this thing as close to the wall as possible, so i really do want to redesign the drive mechanism. as i'm cleaning it up it is growing on me. it wasn't really in the snow. actually i trundled this 350 pound thing out of my shop and onto my driveway so i could get a clear picture for you guys. i wanted to get a contrasting background for a clear picture (w/o all the jumble inside the shop) and then i trundled it back into the barn by myself.
Brian, i think what was holding up the tailstock ram was just that it had old dried gummy oil on/in it. (and couldn't get the ram to go back in because i was turning the screw handle the wrong way ) there seems to be (probably for what you guys are used to) a considerable amount of slop in all the moving parts, i don't think anything was seized by the cold. it was already covered with rust from condensation from being stored in a trailer for the past 2 or 3 years. i stood the tailstock on end (both ends) and kept spraying WD-40 so it would seep down into the mechanism. thanks for the reminder to not push the tailstock barrel back in at an angle. my next question to you (guys) was "how in the heck do i get the live dead center morse taper out?!?!" i assumed the rust would've locked that sucker in. another lathe i've used had an arrangement where you turned the ram all the way in and at the bottom of it's travel it would push the taper out automatically. this lathe wasn't doing that. bummer! i got a piece of scrap steel and used it to tap on the back of the live dead center with a hammer. was SO glad when the taper popped out without very much tapping.
Wayne, thanks for the tips. i think it was just gummed up with old oil.
Roy, lol your comments. (i don't want to offend or insult you but i can't figure out why people live in canada (or russia) i used to think it was to get away from predators but that was a long time ago.) ;-) (just joking) (i'm sure it's a great place to live.)
Bob, thanks for the suggestions. so far the WD-40 is doing ok. i was here during a lengthy discussion about WD-40, Kroil, etc. i dreaded even mentioning that i was using WD-40 for fear of incurring the wrath of the group. i'll get some Kroil and then i'll feel like i'm a real metalworker (used to know a machinist, he had Kroil, i wanted some but he wouldn't let me know where he got it, i figured it was some secret machinist's Kroil society). my workshop has intermittent heat, wood stove, only when i'm out there, so that lathe is going to have to learn to live with it. was using a knotted cup brush on my makita angle grinder, works pretty good, scary though when i find wires in my jacket and stuck in my forearms etc. this will be the second time i took this particular lathe apart. was donated (by the widow) to (my) an eaa chapter i used to belong to, i dismantled it and carried it up a rickety set of cellar stairs then reassembled it in the club's clubhouse, so i'm gaining (a lot of) familiarity with it. i'm actually starting to like it a lot. when i loaded it off my truck this time i was like "why did i get this thing?!" but now i'm becoming attached to it. as for the wiring, i want to do away with the drive unit (except the flat belt step pulleys) entirely.
Adam, thanks for taking the time to respond. good luck to you with your new acquisition. yeah, back gears, i'm just wondering what the speed step pulleys should be turning at without the complication of the back gears (need to know how big the large "v" belt pulley should be.) would LOVE to see your pictures of your original Seneca speed reducer.
Don, yeah, it has a speed reducer, but it's not stock, it's cobbed together with 2 x 4's, etc. ugly. Don, why do you have your name written "DoN" in your sig line?
Adam, i'm going to take the step pulley off the ugly heavy drive unit and put together something lighter and prettier, but keeping/using the step pulley. want to get a real "v" belt sheave (is that the correct terminology?) to go on the shaft with the step pulleys. the large (aluminum) sheave i have now doesn't have a "v" groove, it's a narrow *flat* belt sheave.
Don, thanks for the tips. i don't like having a fire in my wood stove unattended, so i can't do the warm it up for a day thing. i'm going to get some Kroil someday! i liked the soak-in-a-bucket-of-kerosene idea but luckily it turned out i didn't have to. i'd like to someday see if i can get that decorative turning off the end of the tailstock so i can clean up the rusty sludge inside, but for now it's working and i have to focus on designing/building a new power transmission set up.
thanks everybody!
i'm hoping to post some pics after i'm done cleaning it up. it's starting to look pretty nice. glad i got it. well.... i hope that after spending hours and hours cleaning/fixing it up when i go to use it i won't discover it has some horrible fatal flaw.
Reply to
William Wixon
OK, you have inherited a Seneca Falls Star lathe. Those are nice machines but there are a few things you should be aware of:
1) I don't think the crossfeed screw on that machine has a micrometer dial on it, the kind with divisions. Check to see.
2) Be very careful about one particular issue with it:
Most modern machines have a lockout to prevent this, but this machine is old enough to allow that to happen. If you are driving the leadscrew and you do that, it will blow up something in the geartrain because it basically locks the leadscrew solid.
The first issue (if the machine has no micrometer dial) is tolerably easy to fix, you can simply replace the existing leadscrew and nut on the slide, with a modern type with a dial. You could also simply install a dial indicator on the cross slide.
They are not bad machines, mostly they were designed to be foot-treadle powered and are found in place converted over to electric motor drive. The bearings in the headstock are typically bronze and often need a bit of TLC and shimming to get them to run nicely, but they do. The spindle nose is a bit of an odd thread so be sure to keep any tooling that came with the machine, no matter how crusty.
More photos of seneca falls star lathes:
The oilers on the heastock spindle are of course non-original, I put those there. You can see there are a bunch of similarities between yours and my lathes, and some differences too.
The biggest difference is, yours has a compound on top of the cross slide. Mine was delivered without that. The overall carriage layout is however pretty similar though, with some stylistic differences between them. I suspect yours is a more modern version, the serial number is stamped on the bed, right near the leadscrew bracket on the tailstock end.
Reply to
jim rozen
What part of NY are you from? I live just over the line in CT
Reply to
wayne mak
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Reply to
Don Foreman

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