View Full Version : Info on an OLD lathe

09-11-2005, 06:27 PM
I know many of you have been in the metal trades for a very long time, and some of you are possibly somewhat of historians on older equipment, but I dunno if this may be an oddball for even you guys.
I have (well I'll have it once I have a place to put it, it's at my dad's place now) a VERY old machine lathe that I'm trying to find out a little more about, the best that I can figure out is that it is probably from somewhere between 1917 - say the mid '20s... the (what we assume to be) patent dates on the casting of the bed run anywhere from varying months of 96 - 16 (presumably 1896 & 1916) The name on the casting is Seneca Falls Mfg Co, Seneca Falls NY.
The really odd piece is the chuck, made by a "Wescott Co." in 1917. It's what is apparently called a "combination chuck", it's a 3-jaw chuck, where each jaw adjusts independently, and there's also a screw to adjust all 3 in unison, like a normal 3-jaw...

Oh, yeah, and it also apparently predates the modern electric motor, as it seems to have been set up to run off some sort of a shaft system, fed to a jackshaft of sorts, that's also used to adjust it between it's 3 speed settings. It has been since set up to run off a 1/3hp electric motor.

It also was apparently fitted with 2-way power feed, though neither apparently works properly any more, due in part to the lead screw having been broken, and the 1/2 nut missing... There was an attempt made to fix these, and while now the conventional power feed works, apparently it won't feed in such a manner that it will cut threads to standard, though it does run true to itself... It also has a "taper-jig" (I don't know what else to call it) that hangs off the back side of the bed.

Another thing that struck me as somewhat odd, is that there are no graduations/markings on the lateral adjustement, only on what I would call the "depth" adjustment.

Unfortunatley I don't have any pics, and am unfortunatley fairly unfamiliar with many of the conventional terms and general machine knowledge. I would however greatly appreciate any info that anyone could give me regarding this piece. It does still need some things fixed, asn the toolholder isn't right, but at this point it actually is operational, if not to it's full capacity.

Thanks alot guys

Ernie Ferrucci
09-11-2005, 07:01 PM
Hi Steve

Does your lathe look something like this?


This is a Seneca Falls Star lathe circa 1920 or 1930's. I got it in early spring, did some work to it but had to park it for now. It also had a badly jury rigged 1/3 HP motor that had to go. Have a 1HP motor for it that can be reversed and figured out the spindle speeds etc. I have everything figured out but just need the time to fabricate a large bracket to hold the motor, step pulley, drive belt, etc.
I searched the web and found out a little info but for the most part I had to figure it out for my self. Once I get it running I need to carefully teach myself how to run it. I bought a "How to run a lathe book" with a lot of good info that applies to lathe work in genneral. I also ordered an operators manual from http://www.lathes.co.uk/senecafalls/ but it really wasn't about my lathe, interesting but a waste of money.
I'm no machinist but if I can help you with something I'll try.

Ernie F.

Kerry Pinkerton
09-11-2005, 07:37 PM

This is a great site for just about any lathe made, anywhere. They have photos of the seneca falls lathes. Is this yours?

09-12-2005, 02:51 PM
Thanks Ernie, and Kerry, that's almost exactly the one I have Ernie, though mine has the post behind the drive head, for the drive belt... And my younger brother managed to find the same link that you guys posted, I had just gotten home last night, and figured I'd throw a quick post up to see if anyone knew anything...

Mine also has a rather old looking 1/3hp motor, but at least to make it turn, it seems to work for now, the way whoever set it up though, switching motors for mine will be VERY easy, as they did it by attaching a hinged plate, supported by a turnbuckle...
The biggest issue with the mine is the toolholder, someone, somewhere along the line, apparently didn't know what needed to be done to fix it properly, and swivel between the upper part of the tool-holder (the one with the fine adjsutment for tool depth/position) and the lower one, used to adjust cut depth, has been brased, rendering it unadjustable, and in a VERY ackward positition, the mand adjuster screw actually hits on the upper slide if things are just so.
So all in all, I'm sure it's not the greatest thng, but it should serve me well for learning, and be a serviceable tool for a good long time...

09-12-2005, 04:32 PM
Maybe I can give a little very basic starting advise. Determine if your dials read in actual amount taken off the total circumference or just the depth the tool moves toward the work. Remember if you move the tool into the work .005 inches your going to remove twice this amount from the diameter of the work this is a fairly common mistake for the person starting from no knowledge, they say I want to remove .010 from the diameter so they dial in .010 and make their cut and now their undersize by .010, I have actually seen a person do this mulrtiple times before giving up in frustration.
A lathe that size should have at least a 1 HP motor if single phase, 1/3 HP isn't going to do much but annoy the metal and frustrate the operator because he's going to have to make such small cuts.
The thingy on the back is called a "Taper Attachment" you were pretty close there. If you can't cut threads on it you might make a "die holder for the tail stock this can be used with simple dies to thread shaft ends, not much use for longer threads but most of the threading will be small end end of shaft types anyway.
I'm not sure exactly what part of the cross slide or tool post is brazed but it's amazing what files and patience can repair. Many years ago I cut out a set of sprockets for my motorcycle with nothing more than a hand drill and a file sure it took a long time but I was back on the bike in a couple of days (taking time out for breakfast and dinner) I once cut a half moon key slot into a shaft using just a chisel and a hammer.
As I have always been fond of saying "Necessity is a Mother"
There is almost no limit to what a lathe can make

09-12-2005, 04:45 PM
Thanks for the advise, I know you're exactly right on the movement thing, I should check that, hadn't thought about it much either way.... I do have a guy that I work with that has done tool repair/machine work for years, and he has already told me that he will help me set it up, and teach me the basics of proper and safe operation...
As to which part is brased, perhaps I can explain it better... starting from the top down. at the very top is the tool post, which clamps onto the cutting tool, the 1/2moon (or oversize woodruff key, whatever it's supposed to be called) and then there's supposed to be a large washer of sorts (which is missing) this all calmps into a slot on top of a small carriage that slides in and out, I'm told for fine adjustments, when cutting threads, etc. that piece is normally attached to the main, graduated, cross-slide by a clamping swivel plate... That "clamping swivel plate" is what has been brazed together...
Once I have a place whre I can astually store and use the machine, I'll get it down here (I live 4+ hrs from whre it's at right now) and I can work on getting that brazing out of there... Somehow I see lots of dremel work in my future...

Ernie Ferrucci
09-12-2005, 08:52 PM
Hi Steve

If you can post a picture of your lathe I would like to see it. Not that I'm a collector of old Seneca Falls but I'm curious to see how the motor and drive belts were set up. I have a plan for mine that sounds like what you described, with a hinged bracket that should work. The leather belt will have to be angled just right to miss the casting on the head stock base. The original belt drive was overhead but that is not practical now. Fortunately my lathe is in pretty good condition and should do the simple things I intend to use it for, I'll see.
The lathe has change gears (which I understand are a pain in the a**) and I'm missing two: a 52 tooth and a 60 tooth. If you know where I can find these let me know.
I'll post more pictures when I get the motor/belts set up. When I start using it I'm sure to have questions for the machine pros.

Ernie F.

09-13-2005, 03:35 AM
Since this topic of fabricating a drive system for old line shaft lathes interests more than on person I'll offer my observations. When designing a system for the old lathesone thing to keep in mind is that slow is good, your likely going to use HSS (high speed steel) tooling, using an old Southbend 9" as a reference as they were benchtop type lathes the rear mount drive system starts with a 1750 rpm motor driving a 2" pulley this drives a 9 or 10 inch pulley which has a multiple three stage flat belt drive pulley of 5 1/2", 4 1/2", 3 1/2" diameters these in turn drive the three pilleys on the lathe headstock. the system is usually setup with the motor on the bottom driving up to the large pulley and shaft with the three flat pulleys, this whole arrangement is made to pivot on a hinge from the bottom so that the whole drive system moves towards the lathe and away from it for belt adjustment. The sizes of the pulleys on your lathe headstock are likely different sizes if you make the flat drive pulley yourself make the three pulleys the exact same size as the ones on your headstock and place them so that the small pulley on the drive system drives the large pulley on the headstock so that when you slide the belt down the pulleys to change the speed to a higher one the distance that the drive system is from the lathe doesn't change. In this type of an arrangement a positive lock belt adjuster can be used and won't have to be adjusted for belt tension every time you change speeds. Normally the adjuster is a bar with a turnbuckle in the middle to lenghten or shorten it. As for the drive belt use a readily available automotive style flat belt, the new kind with the multiple grooves on the drive side, I have seen them used on the backside because it's flat but I prefer to use the grooved side it has a different texture and my tests proved that running it on the grooved side against the flat pulleys has a better grip than the other way and it is less noisy. Good luck and if I can help further let me know.
Here is a link to a page showing a number of drive systems the first being the one I described.

Ernie Ferrucci
09-13-2005, 08:21 AM
Hi Kirk

Thanks for the tips. I thought about using the automotive timing belt to drive the step pulleys but didn't know if it would work. Now that I know it does I like the rubber belt idea better than the leather belt I was going to buy. I have to remove the spindle shaft to get the belt in but that's not a big deal. I removed it once already to clean, check and shim the bearings, (plain bearings).
The only reference to spindle speeds were on a stamped aluminum plate attached to the gear housing. This plate looks like it was installed by the machine shop that had it originally. I calculated the spindle speeds and pulleys I'm using as close as possible to what was on the plate. They will be as follows: Direct - 635, 368, 222, 131 Rpm's, and with the back gear: 72, 42, 25, 15 Rpm's. Since I don't have any experience running a lathe, do these speeds sound right? I thought if the speeds worked for the shop that attached the plate they will work for me, but I am guessing. I don't know what the lathe was used for back in it's day.

Ernie F.

09-13-2005, 03:35 PM
Ernie F.
I'll see if I can possibly get a pic or 2 for ya of the drive system, but I can't promise much, the lathe is 4 hrs from my house, but I may be able to get my brother to take a pic of it, if he can get ahold of a digital camera...
As for that brass plate, I think it's origional, as there is one on the gear case cover of mine as well. And for the gears, well, do you have a number as to how many there are supposed to be total? All I know is that there's an old tobacco can, full of gears that came with the thing, I might actually have an extra in the ones you need, if I do, you're welcome to it...

Ernie Ferrucci
09-13-2005, 05:58 PM
Hi Steve

Thanks but no need to go out of your way for a picture. I'm just curious and I won't be working on mine for a while. You are correct about the brass plate on the housing, it lists the various gear combinations for cutting threads. I edited my previous post to fix that. The plate I was referring to is a shop made plate to show the operator what speeds with the 4 different pulley steps both direct and through the back gear.
You can see it in the photo mounted above the brass plate.

I know I'm missing a 52 tooth gear and a 60 tooth gear according to the gears listed on the brass plate. This will only be an issue when cutting threads and in some cases I might be able to use other gears to get the right speed ratios. What was confusing when figuring out the ratios is that on this lathe there is a 1.5 to 1 ratio from the stud gear to the spindle gear. (may have those terms mangled, been a few months since I messed with this thing http://www.metalmeet.com/forum/images/icons/icon11.gif)
Here is a picture of the gears stored in the housing:

All the change gears have a 1.060" bore with a .125" through key way and are .875" thick. Not sure about the pitch but the caliper measured .283" from one tooth to the next. If you have an extra 52 and 60 great, but make sure you have a complete set for your lathe.

Ernie F.

09-14-2005, 04:40 PM
I'll see what I can do Ernie, if my brother can get ahold of a camera it's no big deal, he's still in college, and goes home for the weekend fairly often... Actually I know that the lead screw and 1/2-nut on mine had to be re-made, as the origional screw was broken, and the 1/2nut was missing... I'm told that it will now cut threads true to itself, but not true to standard... If that is inded the case, and it's not someone not having the right gears in it, I might give up the gears you need anyhow, because for most of what I intend to do with it, I can just use dies... And for anything where I would just want power feed, I just need a set of gears that go together...
We'll have to see, but I'm looking at a good 8-10 minths before I have it down here at my place, I need to find a house and get moved, so I have a shop to keep it in...

09-14-2005, 04:41 PM
Those speeds sound good for such a lathe the key is to have the exact same pulley diameters on the drive as the spindle so you don't have to always adjust the belt tension. What is most needed is the slower speeds when doing threading because it allows you to retract the tool at the end without crashing into something (not a good thing trust me on this one)
Most cutting will likely be done around 250 to 450 rpm for a good finish on most materials.
Note: when shimming the headstock plain bearings they must have about .001 total play in order for the oil to lubricate the spindle, this is an average figure used on South Bend lathes when using their oil blend. The space is actually taken up by the oil when it is running and then it in fact has almost no play at all. If it's to tight your will gall the bearings if it's to loose it will show up as chatter when cutting sort of looks like a herring bone pattern in the work if memory serves me well.
Note: carbide tooling will work especially when using harder metals and a must for cast iron, but for the best finish on most metals at those speeds it is High Speed Steel that is the most forgiving (IMHO).

Ernie Ferrucci
09-14-2005, 10:16 PM
Thanks Steve, when the time comes let me know, I am in no rush. Sounds like you have a lot more on your plate to do than me before we get to these lathe projects http://www.metalmeet.com/forum/images/icons/icon7.gif.

Thanks Kirk for more good advice http://www.metalmeet.com/forum/images/icons/icon14.gif. I understand what you mean about the drive pulley diameters. The lathe came with a 4-step pulley that does not match the spindle pulley. I guess I was lucky to work out the speeds close to those indicated on the plate. I'll have to live with it for now but I can fabricate and machine a new pulley when I get the lathe running. (Which came first the chicken or the egg? http://www.metalmeet.com/forum/images/icons/icon7.gif) I thought about using the plastigauge stuff that the engine builders use to check the crank bearings to shim my spindle bearings. Now I know what the clearance should be http://www.metalmeet.com/forum/images/icons/icon12.gif. Your advise on cutting speeds and tooling are well received an I'm sure will save me a ton of trial and error, (what I call T&E Tech School http://www.metalmeet.com/forum/images/icons/icon7.gif).

Now for a good laugh-- Earlier this evening I had a motorcycle rear axle spacer that was too long by .290". I had to get this done and couldn't run over to the machine shop a 9PM. I chucked in the lathe, my buddy turned the spindle by hand, I worked the cutting tool, and we both hummed the theme song "Meet the Flintstones"!!!!http://www.metalmeet.com/forum/images/icons/icon7.gifhttp://www.metalmeet.com/forum/images/icons/icon7.gifhttp://www.metalmeet.com/forum/images/icons/icon7.gif Came out perfect.

Ernie F.

09-14-2005, 11:16 PM
Ernie, maybe all you need is a crank......http://www.metalmeet.com/forum/images/icons/icon10.gif.....john

09-15-2005, 04:05 PM
Sounds like a good idea with the plastigage should work just fine, especially if you don't have a dial indicator yet.
Good luck to you, I'm not much help with the sheet metal questions but I can help with machine tool questions all day long.

Ernie Ferrucci
10-15-2005, 10:27 PM
I finally got the old lathe running. Here are some (not so great) photos of the rig.

http://www.metalmeet.com/photopost/data/500/medium/lathedrive1.jpg http://www.metalmeet.com/photopost/data/500/medium/lathedrive2.jpg
I utilized a leather belt that came with the machine and joined it with a kit from McMaster Carr. In the last photo you can see it was a tight squeeze between the head stock base and the back gear shaft. I don't like the leather and plan on replacing it with a rubber timing belt. I still need to engineer a tensioning device to tighten the drive belt. I wanted to see if the weight of the assembly was enough for tension and it does work on a light cut but slips with a heavier cut. The temporary fix is a bungee cord to my 500lb welder http://www.metalmeet.com/forum/images/icons/icon11.gif.
The speeds seem to be pretty good and I can up them slightly by increasing the size of the motor pulley slightly. The motor is a 1HP single phase Dayton, it will suffice but I think 1.5HP would be better.
Everything seem to work http://www.metalmeet.com/forum/images/icons/icon14.gif. There is a lot of slop in the cross slide due to worn threads in the cross slide nut. The nut looks similar to a acme platform nut (bronze) in the McMaster book, (not cheap). The threads on the shaft are good. If I pull the cross slide out I can take a cut with the micrometer and reduce a diameter with some precision but I think this is going to be an annoyance. I only have one cutting tip and need to get a starter set, I need some advice on that.
Now that it's running I can start learning how to use it. When I can cut good threads inside and out, I will consider that a milestone.

Ernie F.

randy b
11-17-2014, 05:48 PM
I have a old star lathe, bought it about 16 years ago and use it in my shop to make parts for everybody but myself :) I thought some of you might want to see pics of what a complete one looks like, I have all the tool post and holders in a cabinet along with the following rest, steady rest and post grinder, and independent chuck in my tooling cabinet, to much to dig out right now, but could post more pics if asked.

randy b
11-17-2014, 06:44 PM
Steve, check out you tube for (Tubalcain)videos, he is super on instructing people on how to preform various operations on a lathe, he has more than a couple hundred vids,