When I picked up the Project South Bend 9A lathe from its previous owner, it was in perfectly servable shape. But… it was dirty. There was no rust, the ways were clean but there was a layer of oil and grime on it which gave the lathe a dark greenish-brown color. My assumption at the time was the lathe was painted a green color due to the WW2 war efforts. Then one day after running some equatorial mount axles, I noticed a discoloration on top of the carriage. A grey splotched has formed from some cutting oil and removed 80 years of grime revealing the original grey color of the lathe.

A very dirty South Bend with a greenish color.
A very dirty South Bend with a greenish color

At first the grime did not bother me. In the summer of 2021 I moved the lathe to my garage shop and everything just started to wear on my. The olive green lathe table was badly chipped and rusted. When I start to organize the tooling, everything was just dirty. Not just oil, but everything had a real grime on it. So, I started off working on the problem before I got my lathe setup and ready to run. Mu goal is the help the old war horse run a bit better, return some of its glory and use the lathe. I do not want to perform a complete rebuild of the South Bend at this time.

Taking a stand

A lathe table, partially prepped for painting.
A lathe table, partially prepped for painting.

First thing was first and I went after the lathe table with a wire brush connected to my Dewalt power drill. Over the coarse of a few hours, I removed all of the big chucks of paint, rust and dirt. The table is leveled with some Grade 8 bolts which were replaced due to use and striping from long periods of use. A few welds were ground down to allow the nuts to easily rotate with a wrench. The hot summers in Vegas allowed for three coats of the best Rustoleum paint to quickly dry.

Soon, the newly black lathe table was situated in my shop and suddenly, it just looked better. Now the old south bend had a leg, or four the them, to stand on.

Cleaning up my act

For my next trick, a trip to Lowes found me a gallon bottle of Simple Green and some Brillo pads. First I went after the tail stock. I removed the live center and set screws and submerged it in a bath of Simple Green. A quick wipe down with the Brillo pads and the greenish brown color was gone, replaced by the original grey south bend paint.

Once the scrub was complete the tail stock was sprayed with an abundance of WD-40. Then everything soaked in the hot Las Vegas sun to get all of the water dried up and off the metal. Then the tail stock was returned to the garage and oil up and down and put back together.

This process was repeated on the three jaw chuck, the four jaw chuck, the head stock, stready rest. Each time, I was rewarded with the original grey paint or a part with much less tarnish.

Before and After - A partially cleaned four jaw chuck from Project South Bend 9A
Before and After – A partially cleaned four jaw chuck from Project South Bend 9A

Some Minor Repairs

After the cleaning, the lathe is retuned to its perch on the lathe table. Once there, it is roughly leveled and the parts are secure in place. I also performed a few minor repairs.

Motor Wiring – The original wiring was in fact original and I replace and rebuilt everything from the wall plug to the moter. The wiring from the switch to the motor is placed inside of conduit to help protect it from oil. The switch housing, motor and motors mounts are cleaned the once again South Bend Grey

Carriage Stop – The previous owner ( Great Uncle by marriage ) built a carriage stop to save the carriage from a spinning three jaw chuck. I cleaned the home made mount and surfaced it with some sand paper. A treatment of cold gun bluing is applied for protection.

Safety Guard Cover for the Bull Gear – The safety Guard Cover for the bull gear cover was found for my lathe, however it was unattached. The pin was broken and filed flat to the Bull Gear Cover. When I rewired the motor, I was able to pull the bold and replace the safety guard.

Tail Stock Bolts – One of the screws used to align the tail stock, so I fabricated a new one from a bolt.

Tooling Shelf – I made a quick little shelf to hold the tooling and some additional storage. In time, I will do something. For now a clean and organized shop, this was 10 minutes well spent. I will call the shelf good enough for now.

Project South Bend 9a Today

Today, the old South Bend is usable. Its repainted table is level and ready to go. There is some cleaning which needs to happen. The lathe bed and carriage still need some work with the scotch bright pads and simple green. I need to bring in some power near the table. I also have a list of ongoing improvements I would like to get done.