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  • Putnam Machine Co line shaft metal lathe

    I've been trying to find a good metal lathe for quite a while. A smaller Sheldon bench top lathe and Wells Index milling machine remain within reach & are in the works, but that simply hasn't happened. I have little lathe experience and want something to get started without spending $1500-$2k just to make some simple things on an overpriced little or really hammered bigger lathe. I also like old equipment with details like interesting cast iron. Here in poor-rural SC, such things aren't as common as in more industrial-oriented regions of the country,

    On Friday, this apparently pre-1893 (based upon lack of the common 1892 patent date included on the nameplate) Putnam Machine Co. line shaft metal lathe was posted on Craigslist for $450 about 10 min from here. 220 single phase motor but I've got a couple of similar brand new 3 phase motors that might be swapped in when there's a vfd to go with it. Seems to be in pretty decent shape and quite complete with a big stack of gears in one toolbox plus more tooling, equipment and chucks in the other. Ways are pretty good, its at least 12" swing and at least 36" if not 40" of usable bed.

    Called as soon as I saw the ad. Brought it home Sat morning, along with another truck and trailer load of free stuff from a cleanout that should pay for it. We took it off the truck this afternoon so I can work on cleaning it up and reworking the wonky top pulley & motor mount. It's nice and greasy so there's little rust. No plans to restore it, just clean it very well with kerosene and get it in the shop. It should fit right in around here in my behind-the-times kinda world.

    Thought some here might enjoy seeing my new old machine, destined to make some tooling for my Metalshaping work. Only have one pic right now, probably will have more later.

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    A modern lathe might have been more "practical" and may come later when I can justify one. until then I'm thrilled to have a very cool basic lathe that should basically be free after cashing in the free lawn & gardening equipment and a few antiques I got later the same afternoon. It's been a good weekend.
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Love seeing the older stuff given new life! Congrats!!

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    • #3
      Right on. If it spins and holds a tool, it will make round stuff.
      Pugsy

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      • #4
        Well done Cliffy!

        I bought a new milling machine from Melbourne (Taiwan) for $3500 and I have just spent about 8 hours filing and scraping the gibb-keys flat and finishing the machining of the table slots, that the poor slave who made it forgot to do.

        Nice machine but I would rather have something like a Bridgeport,

        Cheers Charlie

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        • #5
          Thanks, guys. I thought some here might enjoy it, I'm still sort of smitten. This is probably the oldest machine I've ever owned. I've got a wine press & grinder to restore that we've dated as approx 1895, but not much older. Me and Elsmore will be making wine from my grapes with it at some point.

          Spent some time today cleaning and scraping today while waiting for a silicone mold to cure. Finding some damage, mostly on the cross slide that the po said he had never used, but so far nothing fatal. No idea what color it was originally. It's wearing lots of really old black paint, so it's going to be black. It will live on a trailer for a while, probably until I get my big jiggly machine moved into the shop. Otherwise, it will probably be in the way when we can get the crane truck here. Once it's cleaned up, I need to pattern and fabricate a better looking tower for the pulley jack shaft and motor. That will be easier to do that before I stick it back in the corner.

          I hope your milling machine comes together well, Charlie. Someday I'll have one. One of my oldest friends likes some of the import machines, once he finishes them like the factory didn't. No matter, I need to get this giant old Ford Galaxie out of my shop and and replace it with my TR3. Then I should have lots of room.

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          • #6
            Yeah! TR3 now you're talking Cliffy!

            Cheers Charlie

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            • #7
              After some effort this week cleaning everything with kerosene & brush, I brought the remaining old paint back to a shine with boiled linseed oil. Looks like it's always been black. No rust and no more damage found. Today I winched into place in my metal shop without any problems. Should have taken more pics out in the open, but I was trying to beat the rain. Still had to tarp it while winching it off the trailer and into my shop. I'll shim the legs and finish setting it up soon.

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              Best part is that I've sold enough stuff from the cleanout to recover $350 of the $450 purchase price with more left to sell. Hard to believe I first saw the ad for this lathe a week ago tonight. It's been a good week.
              Last edited by cliffrod; 05-09-2020, 01:21 AM.

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              • #8
                Guess I did take a couple of pics while I was cleaning it-

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                The legs are hollow to serve as stowage / toolboxes. The nameplate swings on the top screw to serve as the door.

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                Putnam was awarded patents in 1892 and 1899, which they also included on their nameplates like these dates. Not much accurate info about these old lathes. One way to estimate date of production is based upon the lack of subsequent patent dates.
                Attached Files
                Last edited by cliffrod; 05-09-2020, 01:17 AM.

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                • #9
                  Nice looking machine!

                  I am impressed that it has a lead-screw and the gears as well; you should be able to cut threads with it if all goes well. The best thing is that it is so simple to work on; my Chinese lathe is nice to use, but one of the quick-change levers for the lead-screw has decided not to work and it looks as if the entire headstock has to be dismantled, to find out what the problem might be!

                  Happy turning,

                  Cheers Charlie

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                  • #10
                    I'll have to do some practicing before i do much threading. My trusted machinist/neighbor did the machining on the stainless bracket for the peach leaf. He showed me how beneficial it is to have a lathe with three phase power so you can start and stop the work at will. That's why I'm thinking about converting power to a vfd and one of these spare three phase motors at some point. The way this cross slide has been crashed into the chuck makes me think about bad noisies and broken parts... And I still haven't cleaned or done a full inventory of the loose gears I have, either. If there's any gears missing, those will be the ones I actually need.

                    no matter- now that you've upped the game and gotten a milling machine, guess I've got to get a milling machine to keep up with the status quo. I'll have to get my best friend's machine that I've been chasing for years or just buy one. Then maybe I can relax and just make parts for my cars and bikes..? I'm already imagining making a slip roll and maybe a bead roller..

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by cliffrod View Post
                      ... Then maybe I can relax and just make parts for my cars and bikes..? I'm already imagining making a slip roll and maybe a bead roller..
                      Know the feeling; I think of making a small jiggly machine.

                      What I really need to do, is make some panels for the Alpine and start chasing the rest of you,

                      Cheers C

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Chazza View Post

                        Know the feeling; I think of making a small jiggly machine.

                        What I really need to do, is make some panels for the Alpine and start chasing the rest of you,

                        Cheers C
                        Yup, I keep thinking the actual metalshaping projects I'm supposed to be addressing. Now I'm figuring I should just make a milling machine happen NOW so I can simply work in my shop. Then there will be nothing else to chase except the time to do the work and money to pay for materials. I'm already eliminating all kind of "what if" bits and pieces I've saved forever to build many of the workaround low-buck solutions. With this lathe for nothing$$, it makes spending regular $2k-$3k price on a milling machine more viable.

                        Still, I imagine what I could have done with the $$ being spent on the HandBuilt English Wheel, Gairu & CP planishing equipment and for a mill. I couldn't have expensed it, but it would have wrapped up a lot of Guzzi and Ford parts... After all these years of waiting and planning and going without, it's very incredible to have my shops equipped so well. Very cool stuff. Life has been a lot worse.

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                        • #13
                          A minor lathe update..

                          While cleaning the overall lathe, I made a deliberate effort to avoid working the crud-filled oiling holes with the kerosene. After moving it into place in the shop, all of these holes were gently disturbed with copper wire before being blown clean with with compressed air. After soaking/flushing these with pentrating oil until it flowed clean & followed by regular oil, everything now turns very well and easily.

                          after thinking and studying about threading, I started to wonder about the gears that came with the lathe and how unlikely it will be to find correct gears to easily replace any that are missing. I've yet to start counting teeth on each gear, but did count the number of different gears on the original brass plate to compare to the number of gears in the pile. Looks like I have most if not all of them.

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                          • #14
                            Great news about the gears, or change-wheels as I know them!

                            When you get the machine running, you can take a very light cut on a blued shaft – maybe use a scriber – and make note of the pitch-length and the gear combination used. You should be able to tabulate the results and start to make sense of the gear arrangements for cutting a known pitch.

                            Does the machine have a chasing-dial on the saddle? If so that makes it easier to use. If there is no dial, then after each cut when making a thread, the lead screw must be run in reverse to get the tool back to the start point.

                            Keep in touch; I have some Hercus lathe notes on thread-cutting, which should be helpful, even though your machine is different,

                            Cheers Charlie

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Chazza View Post
                              Great news about the gears, or change-wheels as I know them!

                              When you get the machine running, you can take a very light cut on a blued shaft – maybe use a scriber – and make note of the pitch-length and the gear combination used. You should be able to tabulate the results and start to make sense of the gear arrangements for cutting a known pitch.

                              Does the machine have a chasing-dial on the saddle? If so that makes it easier to use. If there is no dial, then after each cut when making a thread, the lead screw must be run in reverse to get the tool back to the start point.

                              Keep in touch; I have some Hercus lathe notes on thread-cutting, which should be helpful, even though your machine is different,

                              Cheers Charlie
                              at this point, I'm still trying to learn what things are called. The lead screw is on the back side of this lathe. There's a dial to indicate travel that can be operated by that back lead screw. All it does is spin as the gear moves along that lead screw. There's another shaft on the front that can be engaged to move/operate the saddle. What I don't see is any mechanism to stop movement of the saddle once either of those shafts are engaged. This may be a reason for the significant gouges in the cross slide created by the Chuck.

                              The original brass tag showing a list of tpi numbers (beginning at 4 and going into the 20's if not higher, can't remember right now) with the appropriate combinations of change wheels/gears by tooth count is still on the headstock. That should help some. I need to start counting teeth, but haven't cleaned any of those loose pieces yet.

                              The cross slide does have some play along the screw, maybe 1/8" along the screw but none along the dovetail. The acme thread is still very square, not burred or worn to sharp tips. I'll have to get it apart and see if there's a nut or ? that can be fixed. Not sure if this play would make the cutting tool chatter, but don't think it will help with maintaining accuracy.

                              The lathe was the only new distraction on the horizon until a couple of days ago. Then this bead roller happened all of a sudden. After all these years, it's a lot of fast progress. A master machinist friend has his machine shop just across the field from here. I'll buy him some beer and get him to come over and give me the quick lesson. Pretty sure he'll ask me where the lathe is when he gets here because "all I see is this thing you only see in a museum....."

                              I'll be asking more about what you know too, Charlie. Right now I've got to start on my next stone job, spend the next several weeks in studio and quit playing as much for a while.
                              Last edited by cliffrod; 05-18-2020, 01:38 AM. Reason: typo

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