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Saving a Stockbridge Shaper


Jan 8, 2005
Southcentral, AK
There's an idea. Have somebody 3D-print me some letters I can glue onto the old door. Come up with some suitably-Steampunkish term, like Doctor Phlogiston's Infernal Automatic Shaping Engines of Mechanicsburg, Europa. :D

Glue 'em on, do a little bodywork to blend 'em in, paint.

I'll get to that in my spare time. :D



Hot Rolled
Aug 8, 2004
that would really booger up some poor fool in 2094 trying to find parts for it on the practical machinist 10.0 website wouldn't it...


Jan 8, 2005
Southcentral, AK
Only thing I managed to do today is sift the parts out of the vinegar bath and get them scrubbed up and oiled down.

I did do one other thing over the weekend, but didn't post just for continuity reasons: I finally hung the door.

As noted earlier, some previous nutball had ground all the lettering off the original door for some reason. I can't even guess why they might have done that, unless it was a case of their childhood bully was named "Stockbridge" or something.

Anyway, as also noted, I was lucky enough to acquire a replacement, off a later and larger model. The door itself was the same size, but the column of that machine had a much bigger cutout in order to be able to install the bullgear.

I'd originally thought the doors were identical, but upon closer look....


There's an extra line of text at the bottom. The "Stockbridge Machine CO. Worcester, Mass. USA" is the same, but the intact one says "pat'd Dec. 12, 1905" and "patents pending" below that. The original door, I believe, just said "patents pending", which would date it to prior to December of 1905.

In any case, the "new" door had slightly differently shaped "hinge knobs", and accepted smaller size pins. I had to drill them out to fit the old hinge pins.


The pins themselves also needed a bit of attention. The lower one had already been drilled and tapped for a 1/4-20 bolt, which I have no idea whether that was factory or done later. The upper one had been simply peened into place- the end hammered over slightly to lock it into the hole.

It didn't lock well, and was wobbly, and upon removal, it was evident somebody had used a center punch to "knurl" the shank so it'd fit into the hole in the column casting better.

Again, no idea if that was original or not.

Anyway, I drilled and tapped the peened one, and drilled the already-tapped one a little deeper.



And with those bolted into place, it was a simple matter to hang the door.


All is not well, though. The lower hinge does not 'rest' on the hinge pin block. All the weight is supported by the upper pin. Not sure I like that.

Also note how the door doesn't seem to cover the entire opening. I may need to make all-new pin blocks in order to move the door over just a tad, and to make sure both pins carry roughly equal weight.

After all that, I was going to throw a knob on, and see how that worked. The "new" door came with the knob loose and separate from the door, so I just grabbed that and gave 'er a try. First thing I noticed was the iron knob casting had cracked when the shaft was pressed into place.


Just one of many little things that strongly suggest the manufacturer wasn't necessarily "top of the line", and that there was undoubtedly some "cost cutting" here and there.

And finally, using the "new" inner catch parts, the door doesn't even remotely "latch".


Neither of those are a big deal. The "old" catch parts are different, and should work better (it's just that they were all in the vinegar bath when I did all this ) and the original knob is uncracked. (But also machined somewhat more poorly.)

If I have to, I can make a new catch- or even a new knob, if need be. I need to look at the hinges a little closer first, though.

Anyway, as usual, more to come as time permits.



Jan 8, 2005
Southcentral, AK
Most of this took place over a couple of days, sneaking in a few minutes here and there, but through the magic of the internet, it looks like I did it all in about ten minutes. :D

The clapper mounting plate had by this point been derusted and set aside, but now it needed a sort of "de-smut" job. The vinegar tends to leave behind a little gunk, depending on how well you scrub it, and once you rinse it off and dry it, it "flash rusts" virtually instantly.

So what I do is dry it, hose it in WD-40, and then scuff it clean with Scotchbrite. Yeah, there's some argument about using abrasives, but in cases like this, the parts had already been attacked by rust. Stripping the rust already removes metal, and Scotchbrite is so fine, you'll wear out your elbow before you remove as much as a full thousandth of an inch.

So I got 'er out and gave it a good scuff, then rinsed the gunk off with solvent.


I dug out the aforementioned slightly-bent T-slot bolts and slightly unbent them so I could attach the mounting plate.


Now, the first of a couple tricky operations was required to put the downfeed drive in place. The shaft has to go in, then the two gears- the lower one into it's boss, the rear one dropped into the back, then the shaft pressed back in to mate up with the gear.


Then the gear on the inside of the ram is slipped on and pinned in place.


It's worth noting at this point that that shaft had no less than three through-holes drilled in it, only the one of which lined up with the gear. Was it a leftover from other machines? Who knows.

Also note another little issue: That lower-left hole for one of the four screws that bolts the downfeed mechanism to the ram? That was misdrilled at the factory, and never threaded. I've been trying to figure out how to fix that...

Then, above the gears, this bronze threaded collar is slipped in and retained by a setscrew.


Note how this collar, too, was drilled in at least two different places for that locking screw.

After that, I scuffed up and rinsed the actual slide and clapper box, just as I did the backing plate...


And with the rust finally gone, another interesting little whatsis appeared:


For some reason, one side of the clapper box had this... insert, of some kind, in it, extending the length of that side.


Doesn't appear to be any reason for this, that I can see, anyway. My best guess is somebody at the factory mis-machined that rail, and so they fitted it with that insert in an effort to save the casting.

Which, if true, suggests that early on, the company was likely struggling with production and/or cash flow. Parts that were kind of questionable- like the porous yoke in the ram- had to be used regardless, because they couldn't afford to have more poured.

All speculation, of course, but it's still at least kind of an educated guess.

Speaking of educated, I now strongly suspect that that broken dovetail came that way from the factory. The gib for that side had been shortened to match, despite the slide having been machined for four gib screws.


And the cut end looks like the same as the opposite end- suggesting it was either done at the factory, or a very, very long time ago, regardless.

Either way, before that goes on, the screw has to go in.:


It's worth noting, here, that there is no way to re-lube or grease any of this assembly, short of re-disassembling the entire workhead. Or just dribbling it down the screw from the backside. I don't imagine I'm going to be using the downfeed a lot, but in the interests of longevity, I should probably sit down and put some thought into possible future modifications.

Anyway, the slide, er, slides on, the gib slipped in, and some screws installed to retain it.


I'd mentioned earlier how I thought the screws would be long and have external locknuts? Turns out that's not the case- note how a screw that sticks out would interfere with the big nut. So, I found some 3/8" allen setscrews and used those, then used the 1/4" ones I pulled out, run in behind as a "lock".


And finally, the clapper-flapper and it's pin are installed, the toolpost and it's now-too-short bolt, and the side locking screw, which keeps the clapper from flapping if necessary, are all installed.


You want to lock the clapper for certain cuts, like internal keyways, or other cases where the tool geometry would cause the cutting forces to push the tool out of the work.

But that's about it for the workhead. I'll still need to replace that bolt, and of course I'll need some toolholders- I have not a single one for a shaper- and I have to admit I'm not entirely sure what's going on with the downfeed dial. I think it acts like it's "zero settable", but that's strange, since it has no numbers whatsover. I'll have to dig back into that, later. Progress is steady, but there's still a LOT to do.

Speaking of, one last thing: I swapped out the door latch hardware for the ones that came with the machine:


And now the door closes and latches perfectly.


It still doesn't quite fit the hole perfectly, but the fact is, to move it over any amount at all means making all-new hinge-pin assemblies. As such, it's fine for now. :D



Jan 8, 2005
Southcentral, AK
One bit I've been meaning to mention since I got the ram on, is this interesting feature: You can actually pass a workpiece through the body of the shaper itself.


The reason for this, as I understand it- and clarifications welcomed- is that cutting a keyway in a shaft, for example, is better done "away" from the shaft. That is, you start at the "inner" end of the keyway (at a drilled relief) and cut towards the end.

And in cases like that, if you have an eight foot shaft, you can slide it through from the back and cut the keyway on the end. I'm sure there's other uses for it, and I have no idea how common that kind of feature might be on other machines, but I thought I'd mention it.

Anyway, the last of the heavy stuff to add is of course the table. So I dusted off the... knee, I guess, and rolled 'er out into the sun.


Then spent a pleasant hour or so scrubbing it with hot water, Purple Power, several scrapers, a razor blade, some Scotchbrite and a pressure washer. Who needs a relaxing day at the beach when you have a big machine tool to rebuild? :D


Then I brought 'er in, dried 'er off, cleaned out the bolt holes, and over the course of a couple of days, gave 'er two coats of paint.


Now we turn the clock back about two weeks ago, when I bought some new 1/2" bolts, and turned the heads round.


As before, I needed more "cheeseheads" for the knee way plates, but interestingly enough, the counterbores on those were machined shallower, so the thinner turned head was just about exactly the right thickness.

And it was easier than rethreading the old bolts... :D

Those got slotted in the mill...


And in less than an hour I had enough to finish the job.


Lacking any local help at 11 PM, I manhandled that monster into place myself, blocked it up and bolted both plates on.


And in retrospect, I probably should have finished the elevating screw first. :)



Jan 8, 2005
Southcentral, AK
While I don't have all the parts I need for the downfeed mechanism, I wanted to reassemble what I could, at least just to keep it all in one place.

The main body plate had of course been derusted and scrubbed a week or two ago...


And was ready for a couple of coats of paint.


A quick test fit using a couple random screws: presumably the ones for this plate, too, are slotted cheesehead or fillister, but of course no one locally carries those even in 1/4"-20, either.


So I grabbed a pack of ten from eBay.

I was thinking of painting the face of the ... ratchet-head thing, and still might, but figured for the time being I'd just toss it together. There's still work to be done, of course.

But I happened to notice yet another interesting little bit. The piece had been drilled and tapped, and then fitted with a close-fitting threaded plug, which was then filed off flush.


Again, no reason for this- the hole has no connection or use on the other side. I suspect it may be another case of a mis-machined part being "saved". Somebody started to drill it for the engagement shaft, realized it was in the wrong place, and they saved it by screwing in an iron plug and filing it off.


I'm not sure how these things were painted, but most of the old promotional photos suggest a dark paint- given the era, most likely japanning. So this piece may have been painted, and the repair hidden.

I'm finding a lot of little things like that on this machine. Since there's not a single serial number, part number, lot number or any other identifying markings anywhere on this machine- either cast in or stamped on (save for the stroke-length markings on the one way bar, and of course the door legend) it's likely impossible to definitively date this unit.

We know that Stockbridge apparently opened for business in 1900, and from the change in the wording on the door, this particular machine most likely dates to prior to late 1905. But I'm starting to think it's even earlier; like a first-year production, maybe.

That'd explain some of the little issues. Not-quite-perfect parts, mismachined pieces, signs of what are very probably factory repairs of mismachined parts, the lack of oiling options to certain important parts, etc.

If that's the case, that leads to further speculation: Remember the original door that had the name and other data ground off? I'd assumed that some previous owner had done that, but what if the factory had done it?

Assembled a machine using several rejected parts, and made a salable unit, but maybe not entirely up to company standards. So they chip, chisel and grind the name off the door- the only identifying marks on the entire machine- and sell it basically as a sort of "factory second".

Or even assemble it for use in the factory itself, which is then sold off years later when the factory closes. Might explain why the internals are basically cherry while the ram had considerable wear- the factory crew kept it well-oiled, but still put a lot of miles on it. And old-factory dust and grit found it's way into the ram easier than the guts.

Wish there was some way we could find out.

Anyway, all that aside, the ratchet tooth, detent, spring and knob fell right back into place, and work just fine.


Then the idler gear shaft installed and snugged...


And the freshly-cleaned gear lightly oiled and slid into place. (One of those features that's impossible to oil without disassembly.)


That gear, of course, engages the workhead drive gear...


As seen from underneath (badly) like so:


-Yes, I think the two shafts actually touch. Which is interesting, as I lightly faced the brass gear axle, to clean up some dings. I may have to remove it and shave a bit more- again, that's a factory error. (That is, unless a great deal more of this machine has been rebuilt or reconstructed over the years, than I suspect- although that doesn't explain things like the obvious factory error of the fourth bolt on the downfeed cover plate.)

And speaking of errors, with the assembly back in place, I can see exactly where the ratchet lever is going to land, and as I suspected, it'll pass right over the front oil cup.


Two possible fixes: As noted before, move the oil cup to the outboard hole, and mill a channel to the inboard. Two problems with that: One, even outboard, the cup will probably interfere with the pawl mechanism (which I still have to make) and two, a channel on the underside will dump oil at the vertical side of the ram, and less so at the top. I'd have to drill a channel (not impossible, of course.)

The other possible fix is to seat a flush plug in place of the cup, and drill and counterbore it for a flush ball-oiler. This one's my preferred option.

And finally, a couple of leftover details: First, I found the original ram gib adjuster screw, cleaned it up, and... just screwed it in place. It's really no longer needed, but no reason to toss it. It can be 'stored' there just as well as anywhere.


And second, while I had the paint out for the knee, I cleaned up and painted the knee elevating screw "nut":


And finally, the latest beauty shot!


Still more to come!



Jan 8, 2005
Southcentral, AK
Not much other progress. Other projects getting in the way, and I've finally come up against something that will need a somewhat nontrivial repair.

I finally pulled the elevating screw apart and cleaned off the smattering of copper never-seize some idiot used as a grease.


The two pieces "telescope", because a one-piece screw would be too long- it'd stick down below the base when the knee is lowered. The inner screw has a pin at the base, so it can't totally unscrew from the outer.

And here's the problem: The threads for the inner screw are basically destroyed.


There's really only about 1-1/2 full turns of thread at the very bottom, and several partial threads on the side, but considering the sheer weight on the screw, it needs a lot more than that.

Now, here's the trick- the inner threads are cast iron, and part of the outer screw. Finding a replacement part of course is going to be nigh impossible, and making one from scratch is going to be a major task.

So what I need to do is make a new "nut" to match the inner screw, and then machine the outer to fit the nut. Iron would be correct and cheap, but bearing bronze would be better. Either way I'll need to order it, and I'm kind of at a stopping point 'til that comes in and I have a chance to make it.

In the meantime, I dunked the parts, plus a couple others, in the vinegar bath for a day or two...


And got 'em nicely scrubbed and cleaned up.


One of the other parts that I cleaned up was the "nut" that goes to the table cross-feed. And, once cleaned of all the gunk and never-seize, it turns out to have been cracked.


I toyed with the idea of fixing it with a quick "Muggy" weld bead, but for the moment I left it alone. If it ever does break, it's easy to access without major disassembly.

So I went ahead and painted it and a pivot mount off the table. (It's part of the feed mechanism.)


And finally, I slipped one of the other parts I cleaned up, into place: the elevating screw drive rod.


It's really just there as storage for the moment, I can't put the gears on 'til the screw is in place, and, it appears the rod is really only retained by a friction-fit key on the gear. So I'm planning to order a shaft collar to help lock it in place- probably unnecessary, but it'll make me feel better.



Jan 8, 2005
Southcentral, AK
Now for a bit of fun.











Beltsanded and burnished, drilled and tapped!


Welded! (Badly, this stuff is pretty thick for my little TIG.)


Aaaand... cranked!


I'm still somewhat at a loss for how I'm going to power this thing. All too many of my clock cycles have been occupied elsewhere, and I honestly haven't given it much more than a vague thought. So in the meantime, I figured a quick and dirty crank would at least let me cycle it and make sure things like the feeds and whatnot are working.

I cranked it through a couple of strokes, and there came a spot where it felt like the gear skipped a tooth. The drag on the crank would suddenly let up and something would go "clunk".

After a couple of those, oh, of course...


I still don't have the yoke actually bolted to the ram. The ram motion was only due to the yoke adjusting screw, which has some slop in it. When the ram is supposed to reverse direction, there's a spot where the gear is taking up that slack, and so there's no real effort to the crank.

The factory has a "shoe" that goes on top there, and what's basically a bolt with a handle on it that clamps the two together. That's what takes the thrust, of course, not the adjuster screw.

All I had when I got the machine was a rough shopmade bolt with a chunk of bar stock stick-welded to it, almost certainly a replacement by the fellow with the endless supply of never-seize.

I'll have to see if I can't make something better.



Jan 8, 2005
Southcentral, AK
No, both screws are nice and straight. Only problems are the outer screw has a chip in the outer threads (not big enough to be a concern) and of course the nearly completely ruined inner threads.

I'll be ordering a chunk of either iron or bronze from McMaster this evening.



Jan 8, 2005
Southcentral, AK
It was such a nice day out, I wanted to do something outside rather than slave away in front of my lathe all day. Again. One thing I could do was strip the rust off the shaper table.


-I'm not sure if I hadn't already done this. I seem to recall it being pretty rusty- morseso than the rest of the machine, because the seller's kid had used it as ballast in a circle-tracker, or something.

It's oxidized, but not flaky, so it's entirely possible I ran it through the deruster back in the day, and set it aside. Or I might have just scrubbed it with some Scotchbrite or a hand wire brush. I can't remember.

Either way, it was rusty enough- or at least tarnished enough- I decided I'd set up the electrolytic system again.

But first up, there was this thing. It's been in there since I got it, and I haven't the faintest clue what it might have been for.


And it was just wedged in there. No screws, no T-flanges... just two pins as a sort of standoff. Part of somebody's long-forgotten fixture, I assume. But, a chunk of aluminum as a drift and a small hammer and she came right out.


Then, empty out the trash can again, fill it with water, dump in about that much baking soda, run a chunk of old baling wire to the block as an electrical connection, and sink 'er right on in there.


I found a couple nice clean chunks of expanded metal grating and carefully hung one on either side, making sure, of course, that they didn't touch the workpiece...


And hook up the power. I have a small trickle charger that has only two settings, 2 amp and 10 amp. That's a lot of surface area, so I used the 10 amp. I found, years ago, that using a lower amperage for a longer time tended to clean better- the black smut that's generated just hoses off, whereas the "fast cook" smut has to be brushed and scrubbed off.

I kind of thought 2 amp wouldn't have been enough even for a slow cook, so I set it at 10. Within about an hour, there was a nice crust of ugly gunk floating on the water.


After about six hours, I started threatening to rain, and I didn't want to leave the charger out to get wet. So I unhooked it and pulled the sacrificial plates out. These were clean and new six hours ago.


I've heard of people using sheets or pieces of graphite- something conductive, but that doesn't itself oxidize. You don't want to use stainless steel, as the process liberates hexavalent chromium into the water. Look up "Erin Brockovich" for more info on that one.

If you just use iron or steel, the muck-water, while ugly, is perfectly fine to dump down the drain, the sewer or on the lawn. There's nothing in it except water, baking soda and dissolved iron.

Anyway, after some scrubbing with a Scotchbrite pad and some soap and water, it came out looking pretty good.


I dabbed a bit of WD-40 on the outside, else it'd immediately start to rust again, and before I install it, I might try brightening it a bit more with a quick scuff of fine sandpaper. I know that's not what one is supposed to do with machined surfaces, but chances are, everything I do with this machine will likely just be held in the vise anyway.



Hot Rolled
Oct 17, 2006
Norfolk, UK
Nice old shaper-made in a small shop,hence the minor flaws in castings. The only time I have seen Whitworths quick return built into a pillar-shaper


Jan 8, 2005
Southcentral, AK
How much do you worry about hydrogen embrittlement?

-Not in the least. That's generally only an issue with highly-stressed steel components, like springs. Cast iron tends to be "porous" enough that any potential hydrogen bubble dissipates quickly and harmlessly.

Anyway, since I had the tub of water already set up, today I dunked the... table... mount... plate.... thingy.


This is the part that sits on the "knee" casting, holds the table casting, and lets it slide back and forth as needed. Like the table itself, it wasn't too terribly oxidized, and I also can't recall if I'd already soaked it, wire brushed it, or what.


Either way, it was a little on the grungy side, so I wired it up and dunked it.

And, also like yesterday, it was bright and sunny when I started, and after a few hours, again threatened to rain. This time with some pretty impressive thunder, which in my area is a rarity.

So I yanked 'er out after only about four hours, and was mildly surprised to see it was quite clean already.


The 10 amp setting was probably a bit 'hot', especially considering this part had a lot less surface area than the table itself, but it worked just fine. Scuffed it off with some Scotchbrite, dried it off, brought it in and wiped it down with a dab of WD-40 to stave off the flash rust.

And, last night (and again today) I gave the table a quick coat of paint on the unmachined faces of the casting.


So now if I can just find a few minutes to turn up that new 'nut' for the elevating screw, I can hang these on the knee. Which would only leave both the cross-feed and downfeed mechanisms to be refurbished or repaired, and then I'll need to figure out how and where to mount a motor. (Unless I want to keep hand-cranking it. :D )



Jan 8, 2005
Southcentral, AK
Unlikely. I have a large vise that will go in it, which if it's out appreciably, I'll likely shim back into true, rather than plane into true.

Keeping in mind I don't actually have plans to use this much, and probably only for relatively small parts.