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Saving a Springfield


Jan 8, 2005
Southcentral, AK
Last fall, I saw on the local CL, an ad for a '16" Metal Lave, Spring Sealed". Apart from a phone number, that was the entirety of the description. :D I called, and it turned out to be a 16" Springfield gearhead lathe. There was apparently some confusion between the seller and the person who actually posted the ad. :)

It was only about 30 miles away, so I drove out to have a look.


It had supposedly been sitting there for a year and a half, possibly two, but the deterioration of the tarp that had been covering- among other signs- suggested it'd been there somewhat longer than that.

There was some damage, in the form of four broken handles, plus some wear, along with evidence of past repairs and crashes. The compound was not stock, the tailstock handwheel had been broken and badly rebrazed, the clutch handles had been broken and rebrazed, and one setting in the QCGB was marked, in hand-lettered paint, "oil only, do not use".


On the other hand, the castings all looked fairly sound, bed wear appeared minor- given it's clear prior abuse- and once I'd opened up the headstock, the gears and bearings looked just fine.


The price was fair (not much above scrap) and I thought that most of the problems could be fixed, so I decided to buy it.


I got it home with minimal trouble, though the scale at the truck depot up the street wasn't working that day, so I wasn't able to get an actual weight. :D To unload, my neighbor brought over his 966 with some forks, and set it on the apron of the shop. Heavy equipment makes that kind of thing easy. :)

Now it was time to properly evaluate the machine. Obviously I wasn't able to run it under power where it'd been stored, so I was taking a chance of buying a pig in a poke. So before I spent too much time or treasure on the thing, I wanted to get it under power, to at least evaluate the headstock and gearing- if something was missing a tooth in there, chances are it'd be time to just scrap the whole works...

So I cleaned some of the old chips out of the QCGB...


Drained, filtered and replaced the headstock oil...


Fixed two of the broken levers...





Hooked up a temporary static phase converter...


And fired it up!


The gearbox proved to be in fine shape, with no real noises beyond the usual straight-cut spur gear whirrs. The repaired shifters worked smoothly and firmly, the oil pump worked just fine and with plenty of apparent volume, and the clutch was quite positive. Most any other damage I figured I could repair, as long as the headstock was okay, and no major castings had significant damage.

Unfortunately, winter was closing in fast, and both the mechanical issues and the dirty/rusty condition meant I couldn't just hose it down, give it a coat of porch paint and call it good. :D In the next installment, we'll start pulling it apart and doing a more detailed evaluation of the overall condition.



Cast Iron
Dec 28, 2005
Torrance, CA
Nice job on the handles. Looks like you have a good start on restoration of a good machine. Looking forward to seeing your progress on this project!
Feb 4, 2004
Metuchen, NJ, USA
Got a laugh out of that school bus with the clerestory roof added to it. Perhaps it had become a mobile chicken coop that makes house calls? Their motto could be "STRICTLY Fresh Eggs delivered right to your door!"

Getting back on topic, please describe your broken-handle welding process including any preheats, stress reliefs, etc. Documenting this may assist others with similar challenges.

John Ruth


Jan 8, 2005
Southcentral, AK
Since this post has the dual purpose of archiving some Springfield info for other potential owners, I'll be adding a little extra info at times.

The repair started out with removing the linkage of the broken lever. I opened up the headstock in order to remove this tapered pin, which would release the shift fork and let the shaft slide out.



And, as I was checking it over to see how it comes apart, I noticed something interesting...


The entire outer lug, which holds the lever in place and mounts it to the rod...


... is solid cast brass. Or possibly bronze. Removed from the shaft, it weighs over two pounds all by itself. They knew how to make 'em back then. :D I have a hard time seeing something like this on a modern lathe even made from aluminum- chances are the best you get is die-cast zinc, if not just straight-up plastic. :)

There's a reason some of this seventy-year-old stuff is still being used today.

Anyway, here it is partly disassembled.


And my patented Sherlockian powers noted that sometime in the past, the original detent springs broke, and rather than dismantle the mechanism as I did, to replace it, somebody stuffed a couple of more or less workable replacements up there.

The one ring at the lower edge of the photo is a fragment of the original spring. It was an inch or so long, and fit down into a recess in the cast-iron lever. The replacement was just wedged up into the gap and left there.

I also found out how the assembly comes apart- turns out I didn't need to remove the whole shaft, the taper pin on the brass block was hidden under multiple layers of paint.

Anyway, with the parts loose, it was a simple matter of a quick trip through the bead blaster...



You can even still see the core wire from when the handle was cast. :D


The actual welding was simple: I started out by grinding a deepish vee on the backside...


And laying in a quick bead of the Muggyweld rod. I then just laid a piece of fiberglass insulation over it and went and did something else for five or ten minutes. Then I veed out the front and welded it, let it cool, veed out one side, welded it and let it cool, etc. until it was done.


I don't have any in-progress ones of the forked shifter, but the idea was much the same- the broken ears fit back in place rather cleanly, so I tacked 'em while I had a good mesh, ground a vee, welded a seam, let it cool under the fiberglass bat, ground the next seam, and so on 'til it was done.

Now, for a larger or more important casting, you'll want to be more careful- Muggy suggests that pre and post heat is not as crucial as it is with other welding processes, but iron is iron, and heat is heat. I did eventually reweld a previously-repaired crack in the headstock base foot, which worked out fine, but I paid a lot more attention to heat and cold.

Anyway, that got me a functioning headstock again, and I was able to test it as noted above. However, later, as I was dismantling the thing to move it inside, I got a strap in the wrong place on the headstock, and rebroke the forked shifter. The ears broke outside of the welds, showing, if nothing else, the welds are at least as strong as the parent metal. :D

So later, I had to repair the shifter by milling a steel yoke and grafting it on, but we'll get to that shortly. :)



Jan 8, 2005
Southcentral, AK
I've posted some of this before, so my apologies if some of it gets to be kind of a rehash. :D As I said, I'm basically just trying to get it all in one post, both to document some of what I've found about Springfields, and as a "wreck rebuild" series.

At this point, we have a (thankfully) known-good headstock and clutch (YouTube video of the test) but the condition of the rest of the machine makes it difficult or impossible to do any other practical testing prior to disassembly.

The 3-jaw chuck, for example, is really badly bellmouthed:


I did actually try a few basic cuts in some scrap, but the workpiece wobbled around so badly I was afraid I'd snap off the cutter, or something might jam and further damage the jaws. I don't know if the condition is due to wear (the lathe has had a lot of use) or if the chuck body has been "sprung". Once it's up and running, I'll try ID grinding the jaws to see if I can't salvage it. If it's too badly sprung, I suppose I could always mill down the jaws and drill & tap them for soft jaws, then just use it for specific short-run production work...

The QCGB was also so badly clogged with chips...


That I didn't want to try a feed or thread, lest I damage the gears even further. On top of that, the bed was rusty and I didn't want to move the carriage around on it too much, and basically everything was filthy enough I wanted to minimize any further damage I might be doing by moving stuff around.

So it was time to start breaking it down.

Pull the geartrain off...


... the single-tooth dog clutch for the leadscrew reverse is a little rounded at the corners, but seems to be holding up...


... Though it looks like somebody had a crash or other issue at some point, and the original linkage rod for the LSR had been replaced by a rough but serviceable steel weldment.


Got the headstock, tailstock and what's left of the taper attachment off...


And got the apron and carriage separated.


One interesting thing on the apron:


There's a provision for a miter gear to drive the crown gear from either side. A lever on the front of the apron of course selects left or right feed. Curiously, though, despite the selector spool in the center having dog teeth on both ends (both sets of which show some wear and damage) one gear is entirely missing (the boss has been bushed with bronze like the other) and on the front of the apron, where the selector lever would engage that side's gear, the hole into which the lever's locking pin would, er, lock, has been plugged with a small metal slug.

Curiously, on Tony's Lathes.co.uk site, an illustration of an older model apron also omits the second bevel gear- Tony suggests it's an error on the part of the illustrator, in the image's caption.

However, I'm all but convinced that's a factory arrangement. With a lead screw reverse setup built into the gearbox/headstock, there's no reason to have a reverse on the apron- actually, I suspect it'd be a safety issue. Some operator could either inadvertently shift it into reverse, or forget he'd done so, and then start threading to a shoulder expecting the already-reversed lead screw, to engage at a shoulder and stop the tool.

I'd imagine the apron is set up so it could be used on either an "engine" lathe (without LSR) or, with the omission of the second gear and disabling that position on the selector, used on a "toolroom" version (with LSR.)

In either case, I was relieved to find all the gears and bushings on the apron were in good to excellent shape, and even the oil pump still worked. The babbitted-tooth half nuts are in bad shape, with barely 30% of the threads remaining, but that should get the machine up and running, 'til they can be repoured (or brazed, or Moglice'd, or whatever) at a later date. The nuts are huge- almost 4" long and fitted to a 1" diameter leadscrew.

And finally, we got the bed off...


... which exposed the oil sumps in the headstock base...


... which in turn proved to be surprisingly clean.


Of course, I have no idea how often the machine had been serviced. The oil could have been changed as recently as about ten years ago (around when the PO bought it himself) or it could have been in there forty years or more. However, the headstock gearing shows surprisingly minimal wear, and no visible damage- or even rust. What gunk was in the sumps, was minimal, didn't feel gritty, and was nonmagnetic.

With the large parts pretty well broken down into the more or less bare major castings, it was time to get rid of the three or four layers of various shades of grey paint with a needle scaler.


Looking under the dataplates and other spots that suggested original, stock paint, the color was apparently a somewhat darkish grey, with just a hint of blue. I already had a darkish selection of an alkyd enamel I'd been using on other machines (called "Noble Grey") which was a surprisingly close match, so that's what I'll be using during the rebuild.


SAG 180

Sep 17, 2007
Cairns, Qld, Australia
I was wondering how you were going with that lathe, it looks like there's years of low level abuse and lack of maintenance to undo on it. In one of that photo with the bed slung from straps, is there a piece of the ways missing or is it machined that way?.

Ray Behner

Mar 27, 2009
Brunswick Oh USA
To me, this is a major part of what Practical Machinist is all about. Plus Doc sure seems to know his onions. Keep us posted on your progress of that
'16" Metal Lave, Spring Sealed". Thanks for the nice pics.


Cast Iron
Jul 30, 2010
redlands, CA
This is awesome, I get to sit here in the comfort of my own home sipping coffee and watching the restoration progress without getting my hands dirty. (So this is what it feels like to be a boss):D


Jan 8, 2005
Southcentral, AK
In one of that photo with the bed slung from straps, is there a piece of the ways missing or is it machined that way?

-Ground, actually. At some point in it's long and storied history (made in '43, near as we can tell) somebody ground a semi-rough notch in the tailstock way, right at the spindle, presumably in order to run either an ever so slightly larger faceplate, or for that last little bit of clearance for the chuck jaws around some oversized part.

Wasn't too horribly done- at least they didn't torch out a notch like I've seen on some lathes this vintage- and it does, in fact, open the effective swing from about 18-1/2" to right at 19", if not a touch more. I was going to try to dress up the grinding marks a bit, try to make it look a little more kinda-sorta factoryish.

Plus Doc sure seems to know his onions.

-If I know 'em, it's in large part thanks to you guys. The collective knowledge here still amazes me at times. :D


SAG 180

Sep 17, 2007
Cairns, Qld, Australia
Hey I've got a great idea! :skep:: in addition to your other commitments, you could do a second webcomic covering your rebuild complete with detailed drawings of the inside of the headstock, apron etc.


Jan 8, 2005
Southcentral, AK
When last we left our intrepid heroes, winter was rapidly closing in, limiting what work could be done to or with the large castings. Fortunately, there had been just enough time to needle-scale and pressure-wash the bed and both bases, allowing at least the foundation of the machine to be assembled indoors.


With the snow coming down outside, there was one issue to fix before we could start reassembly- the headstock base had a crack at the front left "foot", one that had been repaired before. I suspect with plain 6011.


I again used the Muggyweld rod. It's fantastically expensive- somewhere near $10 per rod in small quantities- but "butters" onto clean cast surprisingly well. In this case, I was getting a lot of outgassing and porosity, which I don't know if that was a symptom of the composition of this particular cast (Lathes.co.uk says they had some steel and nickel in the alloy) or if it was just a reaction to the old weld.


In either case, I patiently made short welds, peened with the needle-scaler, let it cool, ground out the small patches of porosity, and then made another small weld. All while dreading the possibility of hearing a loud "PING!" or having the foot fall off on the floor.


Fortunately neither happened, and once I was satisfied, I ground down the outside and dressed it as best I could. After that, there was little else to do but start slapping on some paint.


If I'd had more time outdoors, I might have gone with a few coats of primer and a minor bit of filling, to smooth things up a tad, but the difference would have been minor and really, I'm not building this thing as a showpiece. :D

Now, with the bases drying, I started cleaning up the feet. Each base has four large 1" diameter hollow levelling screws.


Which were, of course, rusty and kind of abused, but a wire wheel, some hand brushing, some Scotchbrite and a thread file cleaned them up nicely.


I believe it was John O that noted in another thread, that the hollow adjusters were NOT to allow the lathe to be bolted down. I believe he said a LeBlond document specifically said not to bolt the thing down- the hollow bolts were simply to allow the machine to be bolted to a shipping pallet.

Despite that, there's still some debate- perhaps some makers did in fact say to bolt theirs down. Regardless, I won't be doing so on this monster, as it's six thousand pounds of road-hugging weight should be sufficient to keep it from floating away if I happen to forget to secure a mooring line. :D

Besides, if I have a workpiece in there that's vibrating this thing badly enough it wants to go out for a walk, I have way bigger problems on my hands than keeping the bed level. :D

So, that said, I had some 4" square rubber pads I'd gotten at a garage sale of machinist junk last summer, so I had a buddy with a CNC plasma cutter blast eight 4" squares out of a chunk of 1/2" plate steel.


On each of these, I counterbored a shallow recess in the middle of each one...


And painted them light grey with some leftover POR-15.


Now, when I got the machine, at some point somebody had put short 5/8" bolts into each of the hollow levelling screws, I assume as a sort of "swivel foot", so the adjuster wouldn't dig into the floor as it was turned.

They were all rusty and beat up, so I picked up some fresh grade-8's with a short unthreaded shank, cut the threads off, and lightly rounded the hex so they'd fit into the plates I'd just made.


Then it was a simple matter of giving each one a smear of antiseize...


And assembling all the pieces in place.


And finally, now that they were roughly in place and vaguely aligned, I was able to bring in the bed (you can see the rust starting to form from the snow) and slap a coat of primer on it.


I'm setting it up in one of the garage bays, since I didn't have time to clear a spot in the actual machine room. I'll have to shift a couple machines already in there, and I'd like to etch and epoxy the floor while I'm at it. So I'm working on it in the car bay, but later this summer I'll be redismantling it in order to move it into the machine shop.

I also met up with another PM'er who is looking into taking his lathe bed to the States to have it ground. I'm hoping to get in on that, in which case, if all goes well, I'll be able to dismantle it again, hand him the bed, and start moving the rest into the other shop. But that's some time in the future, and we're still looking at what I did several months ago. :)



May 13, 2007
Central Texas
Doc, Thank You for all of your pictures with explanations- this is a real treat! Your workmanship and care in this project does honor to everyone who loves these manual machines from a previous era. I love the fact that these machines can indeed be rejuvenated to such a high degree. They sur did make them good in the old days for sure. Keep up sending out your progress on this.


Jun 16, 2006
Eunice, MO
What an awesome restoration! I happen to have it's little brother, and yours are the first pics that I've seen online of a similar lathe (http://www.practicalmachinist.com/v...springfield-machine-tool-turret-lathe-232322/).

Your thread (and craftsmanship) is a fantastic resource, in an area of very limited info. If I could help you (pics, measurements, etc.) in any way, just let me know. I'm looking forward to further updates!




Jan 8, 2005
Southcentral, AK
Glad to help. That's part of why I'm doing this, since Springers, as well built as they are, seem to be surprisingly rare. I've scoured the internet a couple of times, and there's very little information to be found. Even Tony's site really only covers earlier models (up to the late 30s, I think) and much later models (mid-50s and up.)

Another PM'er sent me a nice copy of a '49 catalog (more of a sales brochure, but which I think should also be forwarded to Tony for inclusion in the article) which was very helpful, despite also not quite covering my particular model. (The catalog shows 16 speed models, mine's a 12 speed, theirs have different levers and slight changes to the tailstock - four equal length bolts, mine has three and one shorter one- and other minor differences.)

In all my looking on the 'net, I've found no other small-shop or home-shop type that has one (admittedly even the "liittle" 14-inchers are pretty large for that kind of application) no one that's rebuilt/refurbished one, and damn few references to anyone who's even used one.

Some of what I've found has been fairly empirical (I wondered about the oil capacity, so I just measured the volume of the sump- right at six gallons to the top of the dividing wall) some has been educated guesswork (such as the reason for the "missing" second gear on the apron drive) and some of it is going to be "make it up as I go". :D (My original compound is missing so I'll be adapting one from another machine, my oil pump has been replaced, so there's been some mods to the oiling, I'm missing parts of the taper attachment so I'll have to invent workable replacements for those, too, and so on. :) )

And, if it helps some of the other owners come crawling out of the woodwork so we have more notes to compare, so much the better. :D