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Oil cups and wicks on old sheldon?

Ike Carlson

Jun 16, 2019
I have an old KS model Sheldon lathe from ~1940. Somewhere along the line someone installed glass shaft oilers. One of the globes is missing and the other sits tight against the casting, blocking my access to the bull pin. I want to replace them with what would have originally been on the lathe, which appears to be oil cups. My problem is I don't know if they were wick cups or just regular flow through cups. The only info I have says to fill the cups, nothing else. I also saw oil reservoirs in the bearings under the spindle, just a little cavity to hold oil. Is there supposed to be a wick or felt washer in there or does it just sit empty and hold oil for startup? The spindles are always wet when I have not used it for a few days. A spin by hand and it seems ready to run. I oil it anyway, but I want to know how much oil it actually needs, because the sheldon lathe book says roller bearings need frequent oiling, and that plain bearings are better because they don't need as frequent oiling.

Do these older Sheldon's have ANY wicks? I set the bearing clearance to .001" or less. Just so the spindle spun smoothly without binding. It runs with very little heat in the bearings and I am using 3-in-1 oil, which is supposed to be 20 wt.


Jan 25, 2005
Victoria, Texas, USA
The Sheldon Engineer, John Knox, is not active in the new Sheldon Lathe group since it moved from the Google group. Not too sure he is still alive. Last count from his son, he was recovering from a bad sickness and that was a year ago. Son said he was 91 or 92 years old.

Anyways, if it was me, I would replace the sight glass cups with Gitts style cups, large capacity, and add felt wicks to the opening down to the bearings. Fill it at every use, rather it is every day or once a month. That should give you sufficient lubrication for your spindle bearings. Sounds like you have your bearings adjusted correctly, at least to me they are. 3 in one oil is about a 10wt and is fine to use. I used to use that in the headstock bearings on my 9" SBL before changing over to mineral oil. (Find that at your local drug store) Now use ISO 46 oil, it does fine. AS long as the bearings don't get hot you are fine. Ken