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Grand Rapids #28 Grinder-Questions


Sep 19, 2009
Columbus, IN USA
Greetings Gentlemen.
I have recently saved from scrapping a Grand Rapids (Gallmeyer and Livingston) model #28 surface grinder. A cursory inspection has found no real deficiencies, other than a ghastly paint finish, and anything made of rubber dissolving. I speculate it is an early post-WW2 machine due to construction details. The price was scrap value, so if something is terribly awry with the pump or regulator/valving, I can get my money out of it. The thing that impressed me was that there isn't any discernible wear anywhere. I have seen many grinders over the years wherein the crank handles and associated shafting is loose and floppy, and linkages are worn. There isn't any of that with this machine.

The story is that it was purchased from a working shop perhaps 15 to 20 years ago by a gentleman who was setting up a garage shop, and the grinder operated well at that time. Unfortunately, the old gent took the big dirt nap before he could use his machines. The son sold what his father had collected, along with this grinder to a close friend of mine around six years ago. My friend decided in the past couple of weeks to scrap it, and me, being the sucker for old iron I am, has now bought it.

I was able to secure the operation manual and other data from Vintage Machinery.org, As for operation, I am relatively well versed in Grand Rapids grinders, as they had a couple of them at a shop I work at some 25 years ago. Personally, I loved those two machines. They were heavy, smooth, and very accurate.

The one question I have for those here on the forum, is what is recommended for the hydraulic oil. The original instructions call for oils that I have yet to find an equivalent for, such as "Solnus Light", "Stan Oil #15", and "Rubilene Extra Light". The only one I had ever even heard of (and I have been in the trade for over 40 years and will be 65 at my next birthday) is "Stan Oil" from Standard oil Company.

I strongly suspect the grinder is OK. I have already purchased 2 new spindle belts, and have checked the Bijur lube system, which seems to function properly. I do however, want to drain out the old hydraulic oil and put in fresh before I start the pump.

In addition to the question about the oil, I am also soliciting any and all comments from those who are familiar with Grand Rapids grinders. As stated previously, I found the two I used to run to be dandy, well built machines, but would like to know the impressions of others.

Thanks folks.


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I had one just like that.It was in very good shape, especially the ways. The table lug for the hyd cyl was broken off. And the complete hyd system was gone. I kind of think that when the lug broke the previous owners (UASF at one time) quit using it and robbed the hyd unit. So maybe that is why it was in such good shape. Any how I made a new tank put a new pump and relief valve on and replaced the telescoping hyd tube with hose, rebuilt the cyl.

G&L was in business at that time so I got all the paper work for it. I came across a G&L 460 so I sold it to my company for 2,500 in '95.

Earlier this year one of our guys was retiring and was opening up a shop at home and since the die room wasn't using it I told him I would put a word for him and see if I get it for him. Well ,they gave it to him with 10new wheels. He was a happy camper!
I think mine was a #25, 6"x"18. Yours looks identical but may have longer travels. They were top of the line in their day.

Don from Surburban Tool has a video of a shop that rebuilds them and they really like them.

Re: Hydraulic Oil and lubes for old machines:

Any large industrial lubricants dealer will have tables of equivalency or near-equivalency between current lubricants and "legacies".

Call around. If you don't find it in the nearest city, call farther afield. You have to find the right person, as really old brands sometimes require research in a series of tables. ( old table says A=B, newer table says B has been replaced by C ) Gotta find the right person.

Most industrial dealers won't have anything smaller than five gallons. Try to order everything you need from one vendor all at the same time, so your order is big enough to get their full attention. ( You knew this already! )

On the plus side, some of the local dealers sell "over the counter". Picking it up avoids hazmat shipping charges .
depending on how cold your shop is,Id get a ISO 46 grade oil..........this grade is commonlly used in lathe gearheads and mills too............does the grinding spindle have plain bearings?......a thinner oil will be needed there .............Id also recommend you drain and clean out the tank too,there is usually a lot of crud settled over the years......and if possible change filters.
I think the Grand Rapids is a world-class machine and one would be hard-pressed to find a past or present surface grinder better, *Likey none made today are as good.
I would be sure the spindle is taking oil likely20 wt, or what the manual says.
Hand spin the spindle a good number of times before firing up, then warm it up with a few jog starts.
Good to always start a cold spindle with a jog start or a couple of jogs (Up to half speed or less then let slow.)

Scraped in and then be sure that you don't over-tighten the chuck hold downs.
*Overtightening can actually bend/bow the long direction of the table (out ends go up).
I swing arm twist from the elbow with a standard wrench to tighten a chuck (not a long wrench), not a pull with my shoulder and body weight. Someday I should measure this with a torque wrench.
I checked at the grocery store scale taday and found that my off-elbow push is about 12 to15 lbs so OK.

Here is the Walker instruction:
Rectangular Chucks Clamps provided with rectangular type chucks should initially be tightened only enough to prevent the chuck from moving. Then the chucks should be aligned with the table and the clamp bolts gradually tightened in an alternating sequence to a torque of 10 foot pounds. Then only the bolts on one end of the chucks should be tightened to 15 foot pounds. This will allow for expansion without distortion along the chuck length as the chuck and machine reach their normal operating temperature.

My add: and be sure the hold-down bars/clamps are not pushing at the out edge of the chuck
Clamps angled a little downward at the chuck or put a .020 x 3/8 shim near the chuck body.

Grind chuck wet with a 46 or courser grit. The surface finish is not as important as flatness.
Over travel at the ends to allow more time to cool.
Pause a time then come back to tickel, if you see sparks at the out ends when coming back over then you are heat-swelling the chuck, so leading to burning the chuck. Heat swelling starts with takiing a tenth more off the chuck middile area ,and is often not even noticed by the guy at the handles.
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Thank you all for your replies.

The spindle of this machine is comprised of at least two, and possibly four, pre-loaded ball bearings (will have to dig around and see if I can find the parts section again). I am thinking the models 25 and 28 were lubed for the life of the bearings. I certainly have not located any lubrication points for the spindle.

The Bijur pump lubricates all shafts, the fine feed gears, height screw, vertical ways, and the table/saddle ways. The hydraulic system just propels the table cylinder and cross feed.

I am not sure what the capacity of the grinder is, but speculate it is a 20" or 22" machine. I already have a surface grinder, but it has often proven to be a bit too small. A real museum piece, it is a Reid #2A with all mechanical powered table and step-over. Uses bronze spindle bearings and a very long, serpentine flat belt. Neat old machine to run, but as already stated, a bit small and needs restored. I figure it was built sometime in the mid to late 1930's.

My friend just dropped by so I could give him the cash for the machine. We are moving it to the Shop on Friday. He weighed it and it came in at almost exactly 3,200 lbs. What a tank.

Will take the advice and call around to some of the local petroleum supply houses. Since Columbus, IN is home to Cummins Engine, we still have sources relatively close who can provide industrial chemicals and lubricants.

Thank you again gentlemen, you are appreciated. It was good to hear that everyone thought highly of Gallmeyer and Livingston, and confirms my impression of their machines from so many years ago. I am quite excited to now own one.
QT Op: (The spindle of this machine is comprised of at least two, and possibly four, pre-loaded ball bearings / that were lubed for the life of the bearings.)
Yes, likely lubed for the life, my 20Wt or what was for a plane bearing spindle.

They can still dry out or get a sug of hard grease..so the easy start is much desirable..
and can save the bearings from a sliding ball. and damage.
Hand turning and jog start are desirable, at least before the first start..I jog stat even on a new machine.

Lock the table long travel for transport
Have cross close to far in
Have the wheel dropped on a piece of wood so the verticle nut is free.
Don't long travel until you look under to see the ways are not rusted.
Getting home, inspect to see the Oil pots are full of way Oil.
Not a bad idea to wrap it to keep road grit out.
Wheel may be out of balance from setting for a long time so if it feels wobbly, toss the wheel.
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The spindle of this machine is comprised of at least two, and possibly four, pre-loaded ball bearings / that were lubed for the life of the bearings.
Yes, likely lubed for the life,

They can still dry out or get a sug of hard grease..so the easy start is much desirable..
and can save the bearings from a sliding ball. and damage.
Hand turning and jog start are desirable.at least before the first start..I jog stat even on a new machine.
Absolutely buck.
I have spun the wheel a bit already, and it feels good. I am definitely easy when starting machines that have sat for any length of time. In my Shop, everything is ancient, with several machines well over 100 years. They work good because I, my father, and grandfather before me, were keen to well lubricate them, and start/run them relatively easy. This year marks 76 years that The Shop has been in business. Last April marked my owning it for 30 years. Those old lathes, mills, shapers, and drill presses have never let me down because I pay very close attention to their needs and maintenance.

Depending on how the spindle runs/sounds/heats, I may pull it apart to clean and re-lubricate the bearing. Have been into grinder spindles before, so not a problem, other than the taking-apart thing. Pre-load data is pretty easy to find when re-assembled.
Yay!!! I found it. On another page in the data from Vintage Machinery there was a chart that stated that the Grand Rapids surface grinders (including the Model 28), used Gargoyle DTE Light. That oil was easy to locate, and is ISO VG 32. Common as grass. Will pick up 5 gallons sometime today.

Will continue to post on this grinder as time allows.

You, or anyone who garners useful "free" information from VintageMachinery.org should consider shooting them an appropriate small donation. They must have internet hosting expenses.

They have been a great resource to many.

John Ruth
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She is not only up and running, but have done my first job on the Grand Rapids #28 surface grinder.

Been a rather tortuous journey to get to this point. The move to my Shop was a bit of a pain. Actually not the move, as I and a friend got it to the Shop on his trailer quite easily. It was the getting it off the trailer and into the Shop that was a bear. The issue was that I had to employ the services of a neighbor and his backhoe. He obviously didn't know how to manipulate the backhoe, and we had several hair-raising episodes before we actually got the grinder into the building. Fortunately nothing was damaged, and none were hospitalized in that evolution.

Once in the Shop, I closely inspected the machine and found it to be in a very original state, with no modifications or hacked repairs. After changing the plug and powering up the spindle, it proved quiet and didn't heat, so that part was OK. The hydraulic pump however, would not build up pressure. I dismantled and inspected both the pump and the balanced-piston regulating valve. Both looked new internally. Ultimately I surmised that some small particle of dirt must have been plugging the main piston bleed orifice as when I cleaned all the components and reassembled, pump pressure was regained. After adjusting the pressure to the recommended 275 PSI, the table operated properly, along with the step-over.

At this juncture, I drained the hydraulic oil and filled with new of the correct viscosity (as stated in the literature I have), replaced the spindle belts, and over the several weeks of working with the machine, have ran copious amounts of automatic transmission fluid through the Bijur oil pump to flush out any dirt. The Bijur system now has 30wt. oil in it, and all the ways, shafts, etc. that are connected to the system are positively drenched with oil and running clear. Have made an ungodly mess around the machine, but the clean-up is a minor inconvenience since I have the peace of mind that the system is clean and clear, and working properly.

Over the past couple of weeks I have ran the grinder for extended periods of time to check operation. Nothing untoward has been noted: no unusual noises, odd table movements, heating, or leaks. It runs quietly and smoothly. During this period, and when the grinder was off, my wifey has been a big help by going after the built up grit, grease, and wrinkled paint with a putty knife. I would speculate at least 3-5 pounds of crap has been removed thus far.

There are still several deficiencies that need addressing, with one being quite serious. Obviously the appearance is pretty bad. That said, my goal has been to just get the machine working accurately and reliably in the short to medium term. Long term is to repaint. Given that I have yet to get to a point where I could repaint any of the other machines I own, it very likely will never happen. That said, I will continue to try to improve it's appearance by keeping it clean and well oiled, and in proper adjustment and repair. I have come to the conclusion that even with bad paint, a machine that is well taken care of still looks quite nice and presentable despite having a calico appearance.

The next item is the step-over linkage. The pivot points and links are exhibiting some wear, and is a bit noisy in operation. While it works well, I intend to dismantle the linkage and re-bush/fabricate new pins, as is necessary.

No coolant system. This kinda sucks. As it is now, I have to grind dry. On small parts, or with light grinding, dealing with heat is manageable, but the larger, heavier parts will prove to be problematic. In the interim, I will employ a Mr. Mister unit I have to help ameliorate the heating issue. In the long term, a coolant tank and pump system will have to be fabricated or acquired. Fortunately, all the wiring, switches, and plugs are there and in good condition for a coolant system. All I will need is the tank, hoses, and a 3-phase pump.

The last deficiency is the big one. When working the table, cross feed, and down feed, I noted that the grinding wheel could not be cranked down to the magnetic chuck, binding at about 2 1/2" above the chuck face. Whilst pondering this phenomena, I noticed a strange thing. At the top of the column, I perceived that the vertical lead screw appeared to be rather short. Looking at my elderly Reid grinder, it became obvious that the screw was indeed quite short. It also appeared a bit jagged. As can be guessed, the lead screw has been broken off at some point in the past. Most likely in the distant past as the break is quite dirty and rather rusty.

Fortunately, the screw is an Acme 3/4"-5, and is available from McMaster-Carr. Looking up the screw in the catalog, I have decided to get the 3' length, 4140 hardened precision version. Since the accuracy is .009" per foot, and most grinding will be on the order of a few thousandths depth, it will be more than accurate enough. The part I dread is removing that honking huge spindle motor. Will have to borrow an engine hoist or something equivalent to remove it so I can access the lead screw gearing. I will also need to turn and otherwise modify the new screw to mate up to the gear. The cost of the new screw at $77 is pretty reasonable as well, and the machine is certainly worth the expense.

The job I did this past Sunday was to grind 12 specialty washers for a local manufacturing company. They were about 1 3/4" in diameter, 1 3/16" bore, and .098" thick. To get around the inability of reaching the chuck face with the wheel, I put the small Brown and Sharpe chuck (from the Reid) on top of the existing magnet, dusted it in for flatness, and ran the washers 8, then 4 at a time (all I could get on that little chuck).

The finish was outstanding! And it went very fast. Whilst I love my ancient Reid grinder, and will never get rid of it, it has a mechanical table and step-over, with max stepping of only about .020". Grinding something in the Reid is akin to watching paint dry.

All in all, I am VERY pleased. I have increased my grinding capacity, and have a very high quality and rigid, stable machine. By the time I install the new screw, I figure I will have invested around $450 in the machine. Given the innate quality of the grinder (they don't build them like that anymore), I feel I have done well.


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My #25 had a telescoping tube to supply the table. Looked kind of problamatic so since I had to build a new complete hydraulic system I replaced it with a hose which has worked quite well. The parts book shows the factory coolant system and dust collector. I built my coolant tank like the oe one . It works really well does a good job of separating swarf. I havn't needed any additional filters. I did add a strong magnet at the return area of the tank.
Nobody has to grind dry. Roughly $30 will buy a small aquarium pump and a 5-gallon bucket, washing soda added o water makes an OK coolant.
Sill nothing is wrong with grinding dry, some shops do all their grinding dry.
I am looking into purchasing a 1936 era #28. I am having a hard time finding #28 specific info. Everything is for #25. They look different on the outside, how different are they on the inside? I checked vintagemachinery and there isn't anything there that I saw. Wood2Steel, do you have any #28 manuals?
I am looking into purchasing a 1936 era #28. I am having a hard time finding #28 specific info. Everything is for #25. They look different on the outside, how different are they on the inside? I checked vintagemachinery and there isn't anything there that I saw. Wood2Steel, do you have any #28 manuals?
If it looks different from the 28 jdleach is posting is the long feed handle angled or straight? I have seen some older ones with the handle straight in like the cross feed, if so It may have plain bearings. My ex #25 is just like jdeach's and I believe they are post wwII machines and stayed the same through the 70's at least.I have seen some of the last ones made that were more squared of looking and they had the feed handles straight in. Post a picture.
My ex #25 is now mine back again. The guy that retired decided he wouldn't need it so he offered it to me. It will better suit my home shop instead of my #460 8k machine. I close to retiring and won't need something that big. I'll probably see if the company will buy it from me.
These are the images.
The brass tag in the front says 1936. Old machine! The ways look very nice. Anyone replace those oil cups with an auto-lube system? They appear to be threaded, shouldn't take much effort.
It does look different than other #28 and for sure the #25.
The mag base is 8" x 24" and it can travel all that, and then some (I was told 28" but can't verify in documents or in person as it is not powered).
Any specs or manual kicking around? I only find #25 documents on various sites.


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