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Bar & Chain Oil as Bearing Lube

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  • Bar & Chain Oil as Bearing Lube

    Working with an old Putnam sliding bed wood lathe. They also used this same basic machine as a metal lathe. The headstock bearings are bronze and there don't seem to be any wipers to keep the oil in and the oil runs out freely. Wondering about using something sticky like bar and chain oil as a lubricant? Or maybe way oil?
    Peter
    Grantham, New Hampshire

  • #2
    I am not a lubricant or bearing expert by any stretch so take this with the appropriate sized grain (or bag) of salt, but something sticky like B&C oil or way lube just seems to me the wrong tool for the job. I think the idea is that for a spindle you want a lighter oil that flushes through and that builds a thin film that the spindle essentially rides on as it rotates. I suspect that viscous sticky oils are not ideal for that and will just tend to run hot. Plain bearings like that I think are intended to be lubed with a ""total loss" lubrication system where the oil lubes the bearing and then just runs out.

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    • #3
      If this is a wood lathe, I'd wonder about "sticky" in proximity to wood dust/chips. (But no, I don't have any better ideas either...)
      "A machinist's (WHAP!) best friend (WHAP! WHAP!) is his hammer. (WHAP!)" - Fred Tanner, foreman, Lunenburg Foundry and Engineering machine shop, circa 1979

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      • #4
        Not much to work with there.... how does the oil get in, what do labels or manual (if there ever was one) say about oil, are the bronzes solid or oilite type, etc?

        Any oil is likely better than just dust and no oil.

        The 'right' oil is way better than most, which is why it is the right oil.

        If nobody ever oils it, maybe oil that stays in is best. If it gets oiled, then maybe regular 30 wt is better.

        Also depends on how it gets oiled..... OK it runs out, but is there a wick feed or other continuous supply to put it IN? If so, and it gets oiled, then mebbe at least 30 wt is better. Maybe lighter. Wood lathes are speedy in many cases, faster surface speed on the bearing means lighter oil in general.

        Best of all would be the oil the maker suggested, and the right feed means as it came from the factory....
        1601

        Keep eye on ball.
        Hashim Khan

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        • #5
          Given the relatively cheap price for chain lube around here, I'd wonder about the purity of it. That is, how clean and free of debris is it? Maybe not what you want for bearings. I'd use vactra type machine oil, or hydraulic oil such as DTE 30. Others more knowledgeable than I will doubtless chime in. Some applications use a "total loss system" oil in, oil out. As on the ground. Or the floor, or chip tray. Messy yet effective. Tends to flush contaminents out. I used DTE hydraulic oil in my old Babbitt bearing atlas. Worked great, I ran a close clearance on the bearings, had no trouble, and didn't have to worry about rust below the bearings!
          I cut it off twice; it's still too short
          Oregon, USA

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          • #6
            I've used some bar and chain oils that had a strong smell of sulphur. Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't sulphur react with the copper in the bronze bearings and cause problems?

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            • #7
              What is on top of the bearing block to contain the oil supply and what's the oil flow regulation?

              My ancient Hamilton had adjustable rate oilers that supposedly shut off when the machine wasn't in use. Eventually that system pissed me off and I put together a gravity siphon system from a trapjar from a patient vacuum pump. That shuts OFF when I tell it to.

              Old bronze and wood bearings are generally total loss. Ideally you can minimize or at least direct the runoff by drilling a small hole from the bottom of the bearing to a collector. Many tuna cans found a second life collecting drips under line shafts, and a few shop helpers may have died for allowing the can to overflow, but that's part of learning the trade.

              Chain & Bar is loaded with dissolved parefin, great when the saw is hot and miserable when the saw is cold. Vegetable oils are replacing dino oils in that job. My new Chinkwaukee battery saw gets only Canola on the chain. Lubes well and it's nature friendly and all that crap. It's also a lot cheaper in the supermarket than at the saw shop.

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              • #8
                Having been a Stihl certified tech.. past life... canola oil is great for cutting in/near water (and required here) but if you don't flush it out and replace with "dino" oil, it will react with the wood resins and turn rock hard. Sold a lot of oil pumps and service to guys that forgot. SOB to get out/ off when it turns to resin.

                Wood lathe: WAX the slideways, lube the bearings regularly with light oil.

                Btw, Most generic bar oil is "bottom of the barrel" with tremendous variability batch to batch. Somewhat better if you buy real name brand, but that is over-priced. All "ok" for a bar/chain oil. but I wouldn't put it anywhere near a machine.
                Last edited by lakeside53; 01-27-2020, 11:59 PM.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by lakeside53 View Post
                  Having been a Stihl certified tech.. past life... canola oil is great for cutting in/near water (and required here) but if you don't flush it out and replace with "dino" oil, it will react with the wood resins and turn rock hard. Sold a lot of oil pumps and service to guys that forgot. SOB to get out/ off when it turns to resin.

                  Wood lathe: WAX the slideways, lube the bearings regularly with light oil.

                  Btw, Most generic bar oil is "bottom of the barrel" with tremendous variability batch to batch. Somewhat better if you buy real name brand, but that is over-priced. All "ok" for a bar/chain oil. but I wouldn't put it anywhere near a machine.
                  Interesting, Canola and Castor both share a tendency to plasticize. Job for tomorrow will be emptying the oil tank. Thankee.

                  For years we used oil drained from engines and filtered thru an industrial paper towel for chain oil. 40 years and never wore a chain or bar out for want of oil. Had a lot of XSpertz walk away after I asked what was wrong with oil drained from a $10,000 engine that would ruin a chain.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Franz© View Post

                    Interesting, Canola and Castor both share a tendency to plasticize. Job for tomorrow will be emptying the oil tank. Thankee.

                    For years we used oil drained from engines and filtered thru an industrial paper towel for chain oil. 40 years and never wore a chain or bar out for want of oil. Had a lot of XSpertz walk away after I asked what was wrong with oil drained from a $10,000 engine that would ruin a chain.
                    canola oil is rapeseed oil, and caster oil might have rapeseed oil in it, but it deffinityl contains caster oil, which i'm alergic to.

                    we ran rapseed oil in my brother's car for 1200 miles and in that time the viscosity increased 4x at room temperature but only about 2x at operating temperature.

                    if you don't use the chainsaw enough that letting organic oil left on the blades causes it to gum up, then you've got problems of a different sort. just run the damn thing.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by lakeside53 View Post
                      Having been a Stihl certified tech.. past life... canola oil is great for cutting in/near water (and required here) but if you don't flush it out and replace with "dino" oil, it will react with the wood resins and turn rock hard. Sold a lot of oil pumps and service to guys that forgot. SOB to get out/ off when it turns to resin.

                      Wood lathe: WAX the slideways, lube the bearings regularly with light oil.

                      Btw, Most generic bar oil is "bottom of the barrel" with tremendous variability batch to batch. Somewhat better if you buy real name brand, but that is over-priced. All "ok" for a bar/chain oil. but I wouldn't put it anywhere near a machine.
                      This echos my experience as well.
                      I have several commercial clients whose chainsaws I maintain and rebuild as required. I can't begin to begin to describe the grief vegetable oil has caused both them and me in trying to clean up the aftermath.
                      Two of these contractors where relatively new to the game and while very skilled at their trade took the wrong direction in trying to stay"green" while also trying to save a buck on chain oil.

                      I told them both to do themselves a favor and use canola only in environmentally sensitive situations and to focus more on the "green" stuff in their back pockets at the end of the day.
                      Home, down in the valley behind the Red Angus
                      Bad Decisions Make Good Stories​

                      Location: British Columbia

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                      • #12
                        Back in the days of TQ Midget Racing we ran them inside the War Memorial on the basketball floor. Crosley engines on aircraft gas and Castor oil in the crankcase. Soon as the race was over and a car shut down, the socks got stuffed in the exhaust and the carb intake got plugged too to slow cooling of the blocks. Drain plug came out next and the Castor oil came out. When the oil cooled it was like thick Jello and stuck tight to the drain pan or jug. No amount of heat would return that oil to liquid state. It was the best lube of the time, but for that nasty habit.

                        Spectators rarely understood why the racers all wore face masks. Lot of them in the lower level seats didn't understand having the Green Apple 2 step for a couple days either. S#!t happens, Castor oil makes it happen fast.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Franz© View Post
                          ….. My new Chinkwaukee battery saw gets only Canola on the chain. Lubes well and it's nature friendly and all that crap. …..
                          Franz, I'd steer away from the Canola oil. I used Canola on my black powder handguns for day use or for when I'm using the guns within a few days. But over longer periods it converts to a varnish like film. And well before that it gums up badly to where it would make a great fly and mosquito sticky catcher.

                          On the other hand if you're using your chainsaw at least once a week or nearly so then carry on. The fresh oil will flush away the old oil and things will be fine.

                          Oh,..... I see Johansen already posted the same thing. Consider this a "me too" reinforcement....

                          I can't recall why but at one point I put various oils including Canola on some raw steel and left it in the rain and elements for about 10 days. Well.. we had rain for two days and then it got sunny. I checked the progress daily and the motor oil, WD40 and a couple of other options were showing signs of some rust. The Canola was pristine though. At the end of it I thought the Canola looked a bit odd... Yep, it had cured with the sun and heat to a varnish like hardness in only 10 days.

                          Chilliwack BC, Canada

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Franz© View Post

                            Interesting, Canola and Castor both share a tendency to plasticize. Job for tomorrow will be emptying the oil tank. Thankee.

                            For years we used oil drained from engines and filtered thru an industrial paper towel for chain oil. 40 years and never wore a chain or bar out for want of oil. Had a lot of XSpertz walk away after I asked what was wrong with oil drained from a $10,000 engine that would ruin a chain.
                            Not just Canola and castor. Walnut and other nut oils do the same thing. And though longer to polymerize basic vegetable oil also goes gummy over time and finally cures to a varnish like film.

                            Anyway, back to the bar oil. Locally the Home Depot sells bar oil that is reddish in color and does not turn gummy with time. Back when I first got my Myford I needed a way oil and figured something tenacious as the bar oil was it should do well. I tried it straight from the jug and it was OK but tended to wear away in only a few pushes of the tail stock. I started mixing in a bit of STP oil treatment then the bar oil in about 1part STP to 10 parts bar oil. This mix keeps the tail stock gliding nicely for easily twice as long. Since it worked so well and I've still got the bar oil (gallon) and the STP (smaller bottle only so I'm needing another one now) I've kept on using it. My ways show hardly any wear markings at all and the tail stock glides very sweetly on the film of thick red goo for probably 30 passes. At that point it's still showing a trail of oil but it doesn't quite "float" into position.

                            But it's so sticky that for starters it's the last thing you would want on the bed of a wood lathe. Wax only for that. Or at most a 50-50 mix of wax and mineral oil or some other form of "dry lube".

                            On the spindle bearings the right choice of oil would depend on the spindle to bearing clearance and the speed you run at. If you turn a lot of bigger diameter bowls at low RPM and the bearings are not too tight then a somewhat thicker oil could work just fine. But higher speeds and tight clearance means a lot of viscous friction from a thicker oil and lots of heat in the bearings. If the bearings get more than mildly warm in use I'd suggest a thinner oil than what you used for that run. If it runs out and all over the place then perhaps just give it a drop ever 5 or 10 minutes. The surface tension will tend to hold it in the bearing. But in time it will creep out and along the outer finish just because it is oil.

                            Shop around and see if you can find drip style oilers. They have needle valves that can be decently good for setting up a very slow drip.
                            Last edited by BCRider; 01-28-2020, 01:57 AM.
                            Chilliwack BC, Canada

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                            • #15
                              Depends on the oiling system. Some lathes with Bronze bearings had drip oilers and some had cast in reservoirs with dipper rings running on the shaft. Either way if the oil is just running out in short order, you may have loose bearing tolerances(worn bearings). IIRC the recommended clearance was +.001*.0015" per inch of diameter for a running fit (general information on bronze journal bearings with static pressure lube).

                              You might put a dial indicator on the lathe spindle next to each bearing and use a pry bar to see how much it moves.

                              If it were me, I would try straight 50wt oil before I put bar and chain lube in it. B&C is just 20 wt oil with tacifier (paraffin) in it IIRC.
                              I just need one more tool,just one!

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