South Bend 9A with an aligned tail stock, rewired motor, new tool post and cleaned up from 80 years of use.
South Bend 9A with an aligned tail stock, rewired motor, new tool post and cleaned up from 80 years of use.

It was been sometime since I updated the latest of my little South Bend 9A Lathe. This lack of updating is due to the holiday season and that I have spent quite a bit of time working in the garage / shop. Here is a list of my progress and my current thought process at this point in time. I reserve my right to change my mind for any reason whatsoever…

Research and learning

Primarily, I am doing research online and learning what others are doing. Working with vintage machinery is a new interested and there are many great resources online to help you along. At some point in time, I will post my favorites. The bottom line is that I value to opinion of others and appreciate that they took the time to help someone like me.

Rewire the Power

The eighty years of existence and use caused the power cord to the motor to become worn and it contained bare copper. I have opted to replace the worn power cable with a new cable and wiring. In addition, I have used flexible conduit between the power switch and the motor to help keep oil off of the power code.

Cleaning and Degreasing

When I brought the South Bend to my garage shop, I wanted to spend a little bit of time cleaning off 80 years of grime, grease and dirt. After using about half a gallon of simple green and a box of latex gloves, I am pleased to announce that my lathe is now a greyish color rather that the brown color it wore when it arrived. There is still much to de-grime, but a big step forward is made.

Lining up the tail stock

After working on a little project, it became apparent to me that the tail stock was not correctly inline with the headstock spindle. After doing a little bit of research, I opted to turn a calibration bar. This allows me to practice my craft and improve my skillset. With the help of my calibration bar, I am within 0.002 inches of alignment 16 inches from the head stock. I am hoping the get this dead one at some point in the near future.


The biggest difference to the lathe setup if the addition of some lighting. My grandfather was a dentist in Ontario, California and my dad had some of his old dental lights lying around. He is using two of them in his shop to quite some success.

I took possession of one of these lamps, rewired the lamp and used a garage style LED to brighten up my work space. The results are dramatic.

Rubber or Spare Drive Belts

When I took possession of the South Bend, the leather belt was in rough shape. I did a quick replacement with a synthetic reproduction. The new belt seems to work great, but it has a minor annoying drawback. The frequent clicks caused by the metal staples coming in contract with the drive pulley. Sometime soon, I would like to replace this belt with a sepantine belt, which will be glued together. I think this will solve the click issue and hopefully over improved grib.

Motor / VFD

The biggest improvement I would like to make is to the motor. The original motor is 1/4 HP and requires oil on the bearings. The biggest issue for me, is that the oil ports leak oil onto the lathe table. I am considering updating the 3/4 HP and perhaps a Variable Frequency Drive. I really like the idea of a VFD and its flexibility. As I am still unsure this is something I need I am opting to use the South Bend 9A and make decisions from my experience.