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Restoration Questions for an Atlas 9" Lathe

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  • Restoration Questions for an Atlas 9" Lathe

    I began disassembly of my 9" Atlas lathe tonight. I’m beginning to understand the attraction of restoring old machines . . .it’s a very interesting process! And a much more “civilized” process than the old tractors I’ve been doing lately. I have a couple questions I’d like to ask.

    I tried using a ScotchBrite pad (gray) to remove the surface rust, but while it removed some of the rust and smoothed the surface fairly well, apparently rust has also advanced into the surface because even though not visibly pitted the rusted areas are still very much visible. Can I use abrasives such as 240 or 400 wet/dry paper on machines such as a lathe to get a better cleaning bite ? That, or even something coarser is what I would use on sheet metal, but this is a new arena for me. Rex mentioned soaking parts in Evapo-Rust, but for something non-immersable like the frame or chuck, would wiping them down with it accomplish anything? I was hoping to clean all of the non-painted areas down to clean, bare metal.

    Speaking of the chuck, do you typically disassemble them to clean and lubricate? My three jaw is a little sluggish and feels pretty dry. Should I take it apart? Would oil be used for lubrication inside the chuck? Can you give me any suggestions for getting the chuck off of the spindle? I tried loosening the three screws thru the backing plate? but still couldn't get it to move.

    Also, after I removed the spindles, I tried to turn the lead screw by hand by turning the change gear that looks to be in line with it, but couldn’t get the lead screw to move. Should I be able to do so?

    And lastly, I’ve begun looking on ebay for some accessories that didn’t come with the lathe, such as a drill chuck. The manual you sent me states the tailstock is a MT#2. Will any MT#2 drill chuck fit?

    I know I’ve asked a lot of questions. I appreciate the help.

  • #2
    try this

    Hi Paul
    Yeah, it's fun, and you can do it indoors. Clothing optional, but watch that wire wheel brush!

    For the most part I recommend against abrasives. You are working with what are/were once precision surfaces. Often by removing only the rust, you can preserve the underlying accuracy. Granted, you'd have to rub long and hard to remove more than .001", but if you don't have to, it's best not to.
    Also, rust gets into pores. Abrasives remove what you can see, but it's more likely to return. Chemicals like Evaporust tend to kill the chemistry in the pores.
    I have found that I can get some pretty big objects submerged in a gallon of Evaporust. I get one of those long rectangular planters from the garden section of Lowes or HD. Any long plastic trough will work. One that your lathe bed (stripped) barely fits into is ideal. Invert the bed and lay it in the trough. Pour in the Evaporust. Then add additional parts to bring up the level. You can pack as much as you can in there, as long as bare metal is all covered. Leadscrew etc, even assemblies that are rustred up. It's all good.
    Then leave it for a day or two. When you take it out, you have a coating of black "soot" where the rust was. Wash with soap and water, hot if you have it, then immediately dry it.
    I then do any neccessary repairs, mask and paint. Then coat with oil. I work from the bed out. Get the bed clean, repainted and shiny. Then the headstock, tailstock, carriage. Countershaft is last.

    Chuck: Spray it with a good penetrating oil every day or so, in the front and back so it can wick into the threads. Heat helps - heat the chuc, not the spindle, then spray the penetrant, wait, repeat. If you have a big piece of hex stock you can chuck into the jaws, you can then hit it with an impact wrench. this is by far the best way. Do not lock the spindle, just use the inertia of the chuck.
    If not, alternatives include opening the jaws enough you can lay a big bar within them, at right angles to the bed, then use that as leverage. The problem is keeping the spindle from rotating. You do not want to lock the spindle using the back gears, as the potmetal gears can be damaged - and are scarce.
    Check the archives here and on the Practical Machinist board for other ideas.

    Once the chuck is off, disassemble it, clean it. I like to use a dry lube like the stuff Remington makes for guns. Graphite is also good. I have run into a few that were not happy unless they had oil or grease, but it does attract dirt and those need to be re-cleaned periodically.

    You should be able to spin the leadscrew, provided the apron levers do not have it locked. If there is a groove lengthwise on the leadscew, it may have crossfeed, which if engaged can keep it from turning.
    Otherwise, as you take it apart you will find the hard spot.
    That little gearbox on the left end of that leadscrew is a problem area. It could be corroded up and causing your problem. Use care and disassemble in place if possible. It's almost all potmetal.

    An MT2 is an MT2. That is the taper of the inside bore of the tailstock. The chuck mounts on an MT2 arbor. Usually you get a chuck mounted to an MT2 arbor. So yes, any MT2-mounted drill chuck will work.

    I think that covers it.
    Glad to help



    • #3
      some good advice there,Paul.Also, if you take the jaws out of the chuck,you need to mark them so they go back to the same place.I usually center punch 1 dot on the jaw and and 1 dot on the chuck for #1 jaw.2 for #2 and so may be able to find the #s under the rust,but I doubt long they are marked, you will get them back like they came out.good luck!


      • #4
        Good advice so far...

        Tom & Paul, good advice. I just have to add re the chucks....the jaws for a 3 jaw self centring chuck have to go in a certain relationship since they are mating with a scroll, otherwise they won't self centre....
        They are numbered from the factory, but it's a good idea to witness-mark them.
        Also, yes to being cautious about removing chucks by locking the spindle with the back gears....(Atlas book recommends that). That would only be ok for a chuck you can remove by hand. I used an impact too, when I first got my little 618 last year. Now I do it with a chuck key, gently.
        The Zamak parts (gears, handles etc.) do OK for what they were designed to do. As said, be careful with disassembly etc. Depending on the lathe, some parts are available (see the Atlas yahoo group...) half nuts & the lead screw outer bearing are common & maybe still available from Clausing Svc. Centre.
        Back gears etc. would probably have to come from a parts machine. (Ebay etc.) Sometimes the gears/ dog clutch thing for the tumble reverse for the leadscrew gets mashed up....can be hard to get.
        If you are getting really anal about the restoration, some people on the yahoo Atlas groups (618 & general Atlas machines) have the paint codes & have scanned & reproduced the decals....
        I hope you have fun with it. For light work & as a second lathe they are fine.
        I like all the attachments you can find for them. I got a few with mine, eg. milling attachment, tool post grinder....
        Have fun;


        • #5
          I live in the UK and about 35 years ago I bought (unseen) an Atlas lathe when it arrived I was so dissappointed, so many diecast components, all gearwheels were diecast plus many other things. It was the most utility machine i'd ever seen and soon parted with it, were they all like this or was it just the ones exported ? David
          Last edited by David S Newman; 12-27-2006, 04:25 PM.


          • #6
            Yes, the Atlas lathes used many "Zamak" components. Zamak is a zinc die casting alloy made from zinc, aluminum, magnesium and copper. These parts were liable to break if the machine was abused, but work well under normal loads. My 1942 Atlas 10" is still going strong; I've had no difficulty with the Zamak components, but obviously an Atlas 10" is a far lighter duty machine than a South Bend or similar.

            - Bart <edited for incorrect wrapping>
            Bart Smaalders


            • #7
              Thanks for all of the ideas guys. Reading them made me realize that perhaps I could also use the same method I'm already using for cleaning up old rusty tractor parts. I built an electrolysis tank out of a 55 gal polyethylene drum with the top cut off with rebar electrodes and a DC power supply. I think I could submerge the entire lathe bed when the tank is full. After drying the metal with compressed air I usually spray the finished piece with a product called Picklex20, which is a phosphoric based solution, to prevent flash rust before painting. Then shoot epoxy primer, or brush a rust preventative paint called Zero Rust. I never would have considered doing that with lathe components, but now I suppose why not? Has any one else gone this route?

              Thanks for the information regarding the chuck . . . I had no knowledge about any of that. Don't know what I'd do without this forum.


              • #8
                I've been cleaning parts from my 1920's era 16" South Bend using
                electrolysis. Works well and w/ TSP removes the old paint easily.
                Keep in mind that the goo left over can contain things not suitable
                for disposal; best bet is to let the water evaporate mostly and then
                collect and dispose as one would w/ old paint.

                - Bart
                Bart Smaalders


                • #9
                  3M maroon and/or grey pads work great for the bed ways. It's best not to sand on the ways or any of the parts that contact them. (headstock, carriage and tailstock bases) The electrolysis method works good. So does phosphoric acid. The PA works faster and leaves a phosphate treatment. I used paint stripper on mine before getting into details. Scrubbing, polishing and fine wire wheeling works wonders.

                  I turned this 12" Atlas/Craftsman...

                  into a respectable and usable piece of machinery.


                  • #10
                    Watch out for double set screws also (one on top of the other). A couple of Atlas lathes I have cleaned up had double ones holding the pulleys to the spindle and if you try to force them off the spindle thinking that it was just a tight fit, you definitely will do a great deal of damage. I have no idea if this was a factory thing or if people just figured it was a good thing to do to positively lock the setscrew in, but the two lathes I saw had them.
                    Location: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada


                    • #11
                      Thanks for the information and suggestions.

                      Ken: wow, a picture is worth a thousand words! Beautiful job!! Did you have rust to deal with, or just old paint to strip? How did you PA treat, immersion, or surface scrubbing? Or did you use electrolysis on any of the parts?



                      • #12
                        I am fixing up a Clausing 4900 lathe, when I got it, there was a lot of surface rust, luckily there was no pitting.
                        I used maroon scotchbrite pads with kerosene to clean up the parts and it did a great job.

                        You can view picture here, I need to add more as I have the bed painted, the QC gearbox reassembled, and I am in the process of putting the headstock back together now.


                        • #13

                          I appreciated your reply and photos. Wow, you were able to clean it up just with a maroon scotchbrite and kerosene? It really looks good. I particularly noticed the change you made on the tool block from the photos because there were good before vs after views. I'll certainly give it a try - I had only used some gray pads so far. Are you brushing the paint? . . . what type of paint are you using? It's coming out terrific! I'd enjoy seeing later photos as you progress. . . I'll check back to your album.

                          Thanks again!



                          • #14
                            Thanks for the compliments. Yes, just K1 and a scotchbrite pad for the rust removal, and a whole lotta rubbing!

                            I am using the "Tractor & Implement" enamel from TSC (Tractor Supply Company). Ford Gray is the color. And yes, I am using a brush and the little mini rollers from Home Depot. If it was spring, I probably would have sprayed it (at least the large peices) with my HVLP turbine setup outside. I have had good luck with this paint before, that's why I chose to use it for this.

                            It's my pleasure to help any way I can...


                            • #15
                              Wow, I went back looking for the post of my restoration. I didn't realize it's been so long ago. (March, 06). Here's the link. I hope the pictures still show up. I guess time does fly when you're having fun.