View Full Version : Considering rust when looking/buying an old machine

Bill Pace
05-28-2011, 07:33 PM
The current thread about the Patrick lathe and the many posters expressing concern at the rust it has prompts me to start a thread on rust, and other revival bits - since I have had a wee bit experience in rusted machines having revived 2 lathes and a small mill from the ravages of Katrina, I thought I would share some photos of my latest project.


So, dont get all excited about rust - even if you get some pitting, its not even close to how wear will affect a a tool.

I bought 3 machines, a SB heavy 10, an Induma mill, and a medium sized shaper (the one Lane is also 'reviving') These had been sitting in an open air building, gathering dust piled on top of the usual grime, which attracted and held any moisture adding rust to the mix. This is the SB 10L when I had unloaded it at the shop (chuck and tail stock had been removed for hauling)

This is where I am at at the moment - the stand finished, with the UMD all ready to accept a new motor - wanted to get the stand completed and then add the components as I finished each.

Now, some shots of rust before and after. These are probably much worse than the Patrick lathe shown, and I would not have much more than a passing thought about it if I was interested in the lathe. This is the spindle assy in its untouched state and the UMD (under motor drive) pulleys when I re-assembled it - they were alike in condition.


I didnt get a before pic of the lathes bed, but this is what it looks like after some elbow grease. Where the tail stock and carriage had been parked for umpteen years there wasnt the red rust seen in the first pic, but a blackened area - sorta like blackening a barrel - and it was stubborn! A thorough soaking in Purple-Power and a wash down got a good bit of the dust and grime off. Scotch-Brite hand and rotary pads removed the red rust easily, but the blackened areas was still hanging on. Later I was cleaning some areas with a 3"brass wire wheel on a air die grinder and decided to try it on the black spots - whoa! started coming off! sure nuff, a few minutes later the bed looked like this --

05-28-2011, 07:50 PM
Nice work...

I also brought an rusted Emco back to perfect life - several hundred hours of work... It has been partially submerged at one point.

It was a lot worse than the pics indicate, but the price was right and apart from being stored in a wet basement for 35 years, was basically "unused".

My attitude on a heavily rusted/neglected machine is "the price has to be right...";way way less than "market". The Patrick machine is top end of market and need a lot of work.

All pics (76):



Precision hardened spindle...

The motor, as received. Even this came back to life, with a "tide line" about half way up the rotor.




Bill Pace
05-28-2011, 08:39 PM

The Patrick machine is top end of market and need a lot of work
I agree, I think its overpriced too, but the rust wouldnt be a deal breaker.

VERY interesting to see some one else do an underwater tool! Especially another Emco! - and looks damn nice too. Looks like your paint came through in pretty good shape - while mine didnt come off too badly, that witches brew of Katrinas liquid bleached it out terribly.

As to price, I got the Emco and a little Barker mill thrown in with the SB - which was somewhat less than the Patrick...

Did your lathes bed pit - mine did pretty badly, but aside from looking rather ugly, the lathe cuts beautifully and precisely

05-29-2011, 01:22 AM
Good post,never judge a book by it's cover.

05-29-2011, 01:54 AM
Did your lathes bed pit - mine did pretty badly, but aside from looking rather ugly, the lathe cuts beautifully and precisely

No, I was very lucky - the "tide line" was a couple of inches lower then the bed (but in the motor and QC gearbox), and the fine ground finish only let light surface rust form. Fresh water helped I guess. The leadscrew was derusted by electrolysis. The spindle was my main concern, but it came out decent with the lathe turned on end, filled with evaporust and some light work with white scotchbrite. This picture is before I detailed the threads.


I've had much worse with water based coolant getting under cross slides and corroding the heck out of the carriage, lead screws etc. Nasty stuff when trapped in a manual lathe with limited drainage.

Doc Nickel
05-29-2011, 04:17 AM
Wholeheartedly agree. Well, with a few reservations, anyway. You probably can't expect original accuracy after derusting, say, a surface grinder with a Scotchbrite wheel, but lathe ways and the like aren't by any means "destroyed" by typical rust.

Cast iron, in my experience, just doesn't get the nasty, flaky rust like steel and structural iron does- at least, from simple weather, not counting seaside salt spray and the like.

A couple summers back, I picked up this old camelback:


Which had been sitting in the guy's yard since 1994 or '95. While it'd originally been blue-tarped, the tarp had long since rotted away, and the thing was wide open to the Alaskan weather for at least a decade.

Here's a somewhat more recent pic, after I'd reassembled the spindle:


The Morse taper is still clean and bright, the quill still fits with minimal- virtually no- slop to the casting, and considering the spindle rides in a bare iron bore in the quill, both mating surfaces were smooth and clean.

The babbitt bearings are all in very good shape, that counterweight chain was easily made clean and flexible again, the teeth of the rack are clear and sharp, etc. Even the 100-year-old wood handle on the elevating screw, while sun-bleached almost white, still turns freely, there's little rust beneath it, and it's not even cracked.

The screw itself cleaned up surprisingly well with electrolysis:


Now, that's not to say you should buy an old rusty beater, even if better similar models are available, or that the old rusty junker out in the back of the farmer's pig yard is therefore worth as much as a clean running example, but it does mean you shouldn't automatically discount a machine simply due to rust.


05-29-2011, 05:02 AM
There is potentially a big difference between a flood damaged lathe and one that has been neglected and abused for 30 or 40 years. Any old piece of scrap can be rebuilt, the question is, do you have the will to do so.


05-29-2011, 09:12 AM
Good on you Bill, Lakeside and Doc. Many machines can be returned to serviceable condition with a bit of effort. It takes a bit of knowledge and a sharp eye to determine the viability of a project, but the results speak for themselves.

There is a difference between neglect and abuse. A machine that has been neglected, and allowed to stand unattended for several years can often be cleaned up with a bit of work. Abuse, damaged, broken and missing parts are another thing entirely. This is where a close inspection comes in. The Patrick lathe could fall somewhere in between. Lacking actual inspection, an inventory of what is included in the deal and an idea of how willing the seller is to negotiate, it is difficult to say whether it is a good deal or not.

The defense of purchasing Chicom machines that is often presented here is that if they were not available, we would not be able to afford the hobby. The defense of resurrecting machines is just the same, and in my experience, the results are much better machines usually at a much lower cost.

Bill Pace
05-29-2011, 09:34 AM
There is a difference between neglect and abuse. A machine that has been neglected, and allowed to stand unattended for several years can often be cleaned up with a bit of work. Abuse and damaged, broken and missing parts are another thing entirely. This is where a close inspection comes in

Excellent J C, - I shouldve put this as the first sentence of my post!

The finding of one of this type machines will naturally mean that the grime, grease, oil, dust, rust, etc is gonna tend to hide/cover abuse, but you can put - (generally) - the rust low on the list of considerations. As J C says, these are best considered after a hands on look-see. A fuzzy, dark craig list/ebay picture or two can hide the abuse/wear all too easily. But, on the other side, those fuzzy pics can sometimes hide a real jewel --

05-29-2011, 09:41 AM
The point was very nicely shown gentlemen, thank you. I too have no problem dealing with rust. A few hours simplly spent scrubbing a machine can easily triple its value or more, and when you consider the predominance of hardened bedways and replaceable bearings in the last 50 or so years there is very little reason to buy new machines for the home shop. Yes, some do get abused or worn out, but I think they typically find their way to scrap pretty quickly. My favorite hobby for the last several years has been restoring/improving upon machine tools. Its relatively quick compared to some things (restoring cars), a ton of fun, and nothing makes me feel more proud than when I can take a lump of iron that makes her question my sanity, and restoring it to the point that even she wants to learn to use it.

My father once told me that a man's tools speak to the type of person he is...so be proud to take care of yours.