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FlyingIllini
01-19-2007, 02:58 PM
I have a new WT square column gearhead mill/drill. It has a hole on top of the head which I guess is to lube the spline drive. The manual recommends a "non-hardening grease such as Lubriplate". What sort of grease should I use in there... white lithium or something else ? Do I just pack the entire cavity ? Any other alternatives or suggestions ?

Thanks

John Garner
01-19-2007, 09:06 PM
FlyingIllini --

That quote from the manual makes me cringe. Lubriplate is a brand name, not a specific type of lubricant. Fiske Brothers Refining, the owners of the Lubriplate name, no doubt make several greases that would work perfectly well for your application, but they make dozens of Lubriplate-brand products that wouldn't be very good.

Ok, that's out of my system. On to your question.

"Spline lube" is a hot topic with the automotive and motorcycle folks, but those splines are heavily-enough loaded that they probably warrant the specialty products. The splines on your mill/drill won't see nearly the loads, and will survive just fine if kept lubed with any of a number of different types of lubricant.

If you don't mind the black mess, any local auto supply store, most hardware stores, and most "major discount stores" will have a moly-disulphide-bearing automotive chassis and wheel bearing grease that will meet your need. I'll suggest that you hold out for a lithium-soap-thickened grease with a National Lubricating Grease Institute (NLGI) rating of "GC/LB".

If you do mind the black mess of a moly grease, a no-moly-disulphide-added grease meeting the NLGI GC/LB rating will do. Again, I suggest choosing a lithium-soap-thickened grease.

Why lithium-soap-thickened? Well, because greases can be thickened with a number of different metallic soaps, and not all of them are compatible. (Mixing incompatible greases can lead to lubrication failure.) Greases thickened with lithium soaps have been the mainstay of the automotive grease industry for probably thirty years now, and they will probably still be very common twenty years from now, when you've finished your first tub of mill/drill grease.

What's more, the name Lubriplate is often mis-used as a generic name for a "white grease", which is widely assumed to be a lithium-soap grease with zinc oxide added. My best guess is that the factory manual uses the name Lubriplate in that way. If so, the factory grease will almost certainly be compatible with a lithium-soap-thickened grease.

No need to pack the whole cavity. The only effective grease is that between the external and internal splines. When it comes time to relubricate, and assuming that you can get to it, wipe off as much of the old grease (and whatever contamination it has collected) as you can with a dry rag. Then follow the wiping with a solvent-dampened rag or brush. Once the solvent evaporated, apply a layer of fresh grease to the spline shaft. Work the quill down and up a couple of times to spread the grease more uniformly, visually inspect to be sure that the whole length of the spline is greased, clean up the mess, and call it good.

Two final points:

1. Keep your container of grease covered when you're not actually taking grease out of it. An open grease container seemingly collects chips, dust, dirt, and grit from blocks around, turning the grease into a grease-mixed lapping compound.

2. A small metal spatula, perhaps intended for frosting cakes, is a great tool for digging grease out of its container and spreading it onto spline shafts. If you need to get more grease out of the container, clean the spatula well enough to spread frosting on a cake that you'll eat before dipping it back into the grease can. Grease is cheap, and any grease that is still clinging to the spatula will be happy to carry contaminants into the grease container.

John