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New member in need of advice on used Southbend Lathe

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  • New member in need of advice on used Southbend Lathe

    Last edited by Machine; 01-15-2018, 05:37 PM.

  • #2
    From the pics it appears to be in fair condition, so a lot depends on your needs and budget.

    I did not see a quick change gear box, so I'll have to assume it has change gears. Make sure you have a full set.

    Does it come with any work holding devices in addition to the 3 jaw chuck? How about a steady rest and/or follower rest?

    You also need to consider you'll need accessories such as a drill chuck, drill bits, cutting tools, boring bars, live center, etc.

    Last but not least is the power requirements. Most, but not all SB's are single phase either 110 or 220. However, once in awhile you'll run across one that is 3 phase. In general its easy to change out a three phase motor and replace it with a single phase, but that would be an additional expense.

    BTW, I own 2 SB lathes, a 9" and a 14 1/2". The 9" has had a minor overhaul (less bed work). Once I get my planner running I plan to regrind the bed on my 14 1/2 and do a complete ground up overhaul.


    • #3
      My first lathe was an SB 11" and its a real nice machine, it appears that like mine, the one you are looking at has the quick change gearbox and clutched powerfeed on the cross-slide and carriage.

      I believe these machines we're meant to be a tool room quality lathe, for the time (typically early 30's) they had really nice features.

      There are 2 rubs on these machines, which doesn't mean don't buy it, just keep it in mind.

      There aren't as many out there as other SB's and they are so old that SB doesn't have any info or parts for them. If there is additional tooling you need, like a steady rest, finding one would take a long time.

      Also, at least on my machine, the spindle nose had an oddball 1-5/8"-8 thread. That's a very rare spindle thread, it might have been only used on this machine. I only ever ran across one 3 jaw chuck that had that spindle thread, I had to make my own backplate to get a 4 jaw chuck onto the machine. But if it comes with most the tooling you need than you should be ok, my machine came pretty bare.

      Good luck-

      Paul T.


      • #4
        Is that a Babbitt bearing headstock?


        • #5

          Generally, roller/ball type bearings can run faster than the plain bearing type. This may matter if you wish to primarily work with plastics or aluminum since you need run faster. Carbide tooling and small diameter work can also be problematic.

          Otherwise, there isn't any real reason to necessarily exclude a plain bearing head lathe.

          If you think you understand what is going on, you haven't been paying attention.


          • #6
            There is nothing wrong with babbit bearings, if they are oiled regularly. Give the spindle a good shake, look for any looseness/motion. Then run it and listen if possible.

            Antiquated? Depends on your definition of antiquated. Those lathes will do a ton of work if theyre in decent shape and are fun to run. Ive run signficantly larger machines with babbit in the headstock without issue many times. IMHO its a much better buy than an import machine if the price is right, but that will depend largely upon your location. Post your location and you will get a better idea of value. In the northeast, this is a $700-1000 machine, condition and tooling dependent. Down south or out west, it may be double that.

            Buy it right, clean/pretty it up, take care of any major issues, and you will likely make money off of owning this lathe.
            Last edited by justanengineer; 12-10-2011, 09:35 PM.
            "I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer -- born under the second law of thermodynamics, steeped in the steam tables, in love with free-body diagrams, transformed by Laplace, and propelled by compressible flow."


            • #7
              Originally posted by Machine
              I don't know if it's a Babbitt bearing or not. I'm guessing that's undesirable compared to a roller bearing? I'm getting the impression this thing is really antiquated. Am I better off waiting for a more modern machine to come along? I'm anxious to get a lathe but I don't want to buy something I'll regret later. I'm willing to pay more for quality.
              You're better off waiting until you understand the issues raised. Roller bearings are usually less maintenance. Plain bearings with proper lubrication are capable of higher speeds. You need to know what you are going to do with the machine and how to maintain it.


              • #8
                As others have said, make sure it has a full set of gears if you dont have the quick change gearbox. To check for wear take a dial indicator with magnetic base, you can mount on the compound, put the tip of the indicator on the flat ways as close as you can get to both ends were it is not worn and traverse the carraige back and forth. Measure as far as you can from the carraige so its not riding on the same low spot as the carraige.

                You can clamp a sustantial bar in the chuck and lift on the bar and measure deviation with indicator. Do the same on the tailstock with the lever snugged just a little to make sure its not sloppy. Feel the inside o tailstock bore for roughness.

                Value depends on a lot of variables. Start at say 5-700 for a lathe in decent shape and add for all the accessories.
                taper attachemnt + 1-300
                steady reast +150
                follow rest+100
                Collets and closer +200

                those are balparks but you get the idea.

                For the record my SB has about .008 of wear at the lowest as best as I can measure and about .040 of backlash. Works just fine the way it is.

                ALSO 2 points of advise.
                1. If you get any lathe from a school take the felts off and clean with laquer thinner or other or replace them. You'd be supprised how much sanding grit they will hold and it just grinds away on your lathe while you use it.

                Also on a threaded chick when you are done working if you get the chuck warm at all, break it loose a 1/4 turn before it cools to avoid a heat shrink fit aka; " stuck chuck"


                • #9
                  The pictures make me wonder what type of treatment the machine has been given. The first item is the placement of the tool holder, it has a long overhang from the edge of the cross-slide. Second is what appears to be gravel like material on the ways and in the tray adjacent to the lathe. These things sure are not the best and support the need to check it out as stated in the other posts.


                  • #10
                    How much do you want to fix up a lathe, and how much do you want to make stuff? Some people seem to enjoy the former as much as the latter.

                    If you don't want have to repair/restore the lathe then I recommend you buy a new ChiCom lathe or be prepared to wait a while for a really good 'Olde American Iron' lathe and have cash-in-hand.


                    • #11
                      As far as I know, all S-B of that general type and age have "plain" bearings, either in bronze or in cast iron (I don't think any babbitt, could be wrong), and none have "rolling element" bearings (ball or roller).

                      If you really MUST have a "plug and play" machine, with NO maintenance needed to get going.....

                      THEN DO NOT BUY USED. Not Southbend, Not Logan. Not any brand.

                      BUY NEW Grizzly, Busy Bee, Jet, or whatever is available in your (unspecified) location.

                      I have NEVER seen a used machine that was completely ready-to-go. ALL need some work, and once some is done, more will be found to be required. It is a law of nature.... If the machine was still good, they would be using it. It is rare for a machine to 'really" be surplused in perfect condition. It does, however, sometimes happen.

                      If I were looking for a lathe, I would not be too afraid of that one from what I see....subject to inspection in person*. Looks like it has power feed NOT by the halfnuts, which is good. Change gears are not a killer, just dirty to work with.

                      With no overall pic, just details, it's hard to get an impression.

                      Don't be afraid of a machine with some wear.... any used machine will have it.... and a perfect bed with no lockup on a "carriage lock test" is not required.... it makes it easier to turn a new piston rod for your locomotive, but isn't so required for most work done closer to the headstock.

                      BUT.... now that I have said that, you need to know that I have no problem tearing a lathe down to individual parts and re-scraping, etc, etc..... I am doing that now to a Rivett 608. So anything I say has to be assumed to be potentially inapplicable to you.....

                      That said, even I would NOT take on a Southbend that needed totally re-scraped..... I have no wish to scrape double V-ways..... too much like work. I'd bag on it, or have it ground.

                      * inspection in person might be assisted by another person who is familiar with lathes and buying machines. The only drawback to that is that any person who is advising you will likely be ultra-conservative.... on the side of "don't buy that"..... I myself would probably say that about some machines I'd happily buy for me, and expect to use right away...... just because I'd not want to stick the person I was advising with a lemon.
                      Last edited by J Tiers; 12-11-2011, 01:00 AM.

                      Keep eye on ball.
                      Hashim Khan


                      • #12
                        Another option is to chisel the Rivett off of JTiers when he's done fixing it up

                        So, to have this lathe working immediately...

                        1. The bearings must not be shot. They can be worn, but they have to be 'good enough for now.'
                        2. There must not be broken parts. No bent screws, no busted parts in the apron, etc.
                        3. The ways must be 'good enough.'

                        Another question would be how much is this lathe you're looking at? If you get it for a song, you can use it and re-sell it when you find the Right Lathe (assuming this isn't the Right Lathe.) If you pay top dollar you might take a loss, though you could consider it tuition.

                        My Atlas (which is about 1/10th the lathe of that SB) has some dubiously worn Babbitt bearings and I like it well enough and enjoy using it.


                        • #13
                          The "accessories" seem to be........

                          The chuck on the machine, with lantern post and toolholder

                          quite a few change gears........I do not know what constitutes a full set.*

                          A 4 jaw chuck, big looking,

                          A steady rest

                          Faceplate/dog driver, large

                          Dog driver , smaller

                          probable cutters in boxes (can't see them) and maybe more at top right. Plus wrenches for chucks seem to be by the 4 jaw

                          The"frame" appears to be one countershaft holder.... if for this machine, you'd need two. But it may have motor connected up now, in which case that is extra.

                          If this is a true list, it is "average" not special..... the only good thing is the steady. the rest is "expected"..... And teh steady is not often used in my experience... but good tohave, no doubt.

                          make sure it all FITS the machine.... especially the steady and 4 jaw.

                          * To check the list of gears, look at the threading table..... note all teh gears listed, and see if any are used 2 at a time. Make sure you have gears to cover at least all teh common thread sizes.

                          Remember that 2 or 3 are probably on the machine, under the cover at headstock end.

                          Keep eye on ball.
                          Hashim Khan


                          • #14
                            There was, and perhaps still is, a school of thought that says journal bearings are better on a lathe than ball bearings. That thinking may be a holdover from the 1920s and 1930s when ball bearings probably were not up to today's quality. In any case, don't be afraid of a lathe with journal bearings. Assuming they are in good shape and properly lubricated with the proper viscosity oil (my SB 10K takes #6 spindle oil in the headstock bearings), journal bearings do just fine. If they are loose on that lathe, they can almost certainly be adjusted by removing some shims.

                            Your test for bed wear might give you some indication. What you really need to know is whether or not the lathe can turn a parallel shaft with no taper. That will depend both on bed wear and how the lathe is set up. If there is a twist in the bed because the lathe is sitting unevenly, it will turn a taper...unless the twist happens to cancel out some or all of the bed wear.

                            That lathe is not going to be a turnkey package. You'll need to understand its idiosyncracies and how it works. That is not necessarily a bad thing; you would need to do that with a new lathe. This one will just have more oddities about it that you'll need to understand than a new one might.

                            If it's a reasonable price and it doesn't look flogged, you could certainly do a lot worse. If you want the least amount of work though, get a new Jet or Grizzly or similar.
                            Try to make a living, not a killing. -- Utah Phillips
                            Don't believe everything you know. -- Bumper sticker
                            Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects. -- Will Rogers
                            There are lots of people who mistake their imagination for their memory. - Josh Billings
                            Law of Logical Argument - Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about.
                            Don't own anything you have to feed or paint. - Hood River Blackie


                            • #15
                              You've already gotten some good info here - I'll try to comment on a couple things. You mentioned age of the lathe, and it almost certainly is late 1930's or early 40's, with that cast iron stand and no chip pan (My SB 10L is a 1944 and has that exact stand) And, being some 60yrs old youre gonna have to expect some areas that will need attention - they can be relatively minor, some clean up, adjustments type, or can turn into a nightmare. The 10L I just mentioned turned into a nightmare, but I was prepared for that and it didnt really bother me - I enjoy repairing these old machines.

                              Even knowing as much about a lathe as I did, there was no way to determine the extent of problems on mine until I started to disassemble it.

                              Even so, a SB in half decent condition is still a fine home shop lathe - its gonna come down to the price you pay and your feelings on the amount of work to put in it.

                              As mentioned, one of the Chinese lathes can be good way to go for a newbie, they have improved greatly over the last few years, they are "plug & play" and the cost is still fairly reasonable (tho has been steadily increasing)
                              If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something........