Inside the Nichols vertical head:
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    Default Inside the Nichols vertical head:

    Going along with the thread on rebuilding the Nichols Horizontal Mill, one of the fun accessories for that machine was a vertical head.



    After I got the machine up and running, I started keeping my eyes open for one, mainly on eBay. I had a chance for one, complete with the factory drive adapter (more on that in a moment) and the factory collet kit and drawbar, and a full set of 4NS collets, for just $700, but I missed it, being, at the time, about $689 short.

    I eventually found one- back in 2013- for something like $225, and at some point after that- a year?- I found the drive adapter for like $200. Wasn't too worried about the collet kit- 4NS is pretty rare, and only went up to I think 5/8". Using an ER collet holder isn't as big an issue for the vertical head as it is on the horizontal spindle- it eats up a lot of very limited room horizontally, but you have a lot more knee travel so it's not as big a thing.

    A few years later, I picked up a set of rare Lindberg NMTB-40 collets, which at least my set goes up to 3/4", so that's a better route anyway.

    Now, what happened was, I picked this up during the latter half of 2013, which was about the same time I initially picked up my big Springfield lathe. It was late in the summer, and I wanted to get what I could, done outdoors (paint stripping and the like) and start moving the lathe (or parts thereof) indoors before the snow flew. AND... I still wasn't fully happy with the Nichols thanks to its badly worn table. I thought putting a vertical head on it was almost a waste of time, at least until I could get it all properly repaired.

    So all I did was dismantle the head, and clean and inspect it, then set it aside to focus on the Springfield. These pics, therefore, are from 2013.

    The Nichols vertical head has essentially the same spindle as the horizontal, an NMTB-40, with four spots for "drive screws", or Allen bolts which act as driving lugs for the toolholder.



    To mount it, the machine has to have a "T-slot ring", which mine just happened to have. Four bolts with nuts, and the thing can rotate to basically any position.



    There's degree markings around the outside of the mounting flange, so you can set the angle.



    To start on the disassembly, there's this top... dust cap/spindle guard thingy held on by three countersunk screws:



    Remove those, and the cap comes off, but it's not obvious where to go from here.



    So for the moment we switch back to the front cover, which is just a metal disc (brass, I think?) retained by this wire snap ring.



    The cover, incidentally, had originally been nickel-plated, and had the company name, lube specs and other info silkscreened on it. All of that had been wiped off of mine somehow, but somewhere around here, I have an image taken off a helpfully-straight-shot photograph of another Nichols head from eBay years ago, where I redrew the artwork.

    I may have the plate replated, or maybe mill one from aluminum, not sure. It's not much more than a dust cover, so there's options.

    Anyway, once I had that snap ring off, I opened up the main gear case- I'm not sure what I'd been expecting, but it wasn't this:



    No wonder it was so cheap.

    Turns out the grease did, actually, kind of look fibrous- that is, that was kind of how it was supposed to look. When I posted about this head here, a couple regulars traced the originally-specced "Andok C" through a couple of iterations to a still-available Mobilgrease flavor. But it was mentioned that one of those early ones was "about the consistency of shoe polish".

    Presumably they want a grease that holds together while the vertical gear picks it up and flings it at the upper horizontal gear, and doesn't ooze out any significant oil in the meantime.

    Anyway, worse than the grease itself, were the bits floating in it:



    This was the... most intact, I guess, bit... Probably a shim for the upper bearing.



    After scooping some of that gunk out, I saw that the top 'cap' is just pressed in, so I popped that off with a hammer and an aluminum drift.



    That revealed a threaded adjustment collar at the top, locked in place with a setscrew.



    Popping that off revealed a... kind of crusty and burnt bearing.



    I think that grease zerk feeds that bearing- and probably the upper gear- and somebody probably wasn't Johnny-on-the-spot with the grease gun. The original front plate also says not to run the head at top speed- it actually runs faster than the horizontal spindle, something like 4:3, which is what, about 30% faster? And some previous user may have tried running it wide open- or on a high-speed spindle- for too long, and it scorched the bearing.

    Anyway, whatever the cause, after that, the whole spindle assembly pops out with a little persuasion from a soft hammer.



    And after that, the rear drive gear can be tapped out of it's support bearing, again with a light hammer and a soft drift.



    Once I had everything washed out with solvent, I found all this debris, which has to be at least two shims. I'll likely have to machine my own to replace them, unless I can find a supplier of the right size of shim washers.



    And that's it. That's all there is to it. I'll need to replace both the upper and lower bearings- the upper is obviously trashed, but the lower is well-used too, just like the original spindle bearings. Fortunately, it doesn't look like the bearing overheating seems to have affected the upper gear too much, but I may very well have to keep a close eye on it anyway, at least for a while. Fortunately it's easy to see by simply removing the front cover.



    Now, that's all back in 2013. At some point, I'll assume shortly thereafter, I painted the main housing and ordered the upper bearing and race, but never got the lower- likely because of cost. But I ordered one last week and it just came in today, so if I get a chance, I want to try and get this thing back together this weekend. The only tricky part is going to be that shim...

    Doc.

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    Found my artwork for the front cover plate, and finished it up:



    'Course, since I was going by a photo I'd pulled off eBay, like, six years ago, of some other head, the serial number didn't apply.

    It's worth noting that I have two different photos I'd swiped for this artwork- the other one specifies Mobilux #2, and to grease it every 72 hours, not just 8.

    Not sure what I'm going to do with the artwork, though. Actual silkscreening would take a lot of effort and materials, though I could probably have some vinyl guy print it on white or light grey vinyl and just stick it on. Still noodling that one.

    Anyway, I located my now-years-old box-o'-parts and took inventory.



    After dusting off the cobwebs...



    I found the original upper bearing, which had been very badly scorched.



    As I said, I'd ordered, back in the day, a replacement bearing and race, and those, too, were in the case. Still not sure why I didn't get the lower- I may have thought it'd be fine, or I simply might not have had the money. (Not that I really do now, but we're in 'damn the torpedoes' mode on this project. We passed the 'keep an eye on the budget' milepost a LONG ways back. )

    I had a new race for the lower in that big box o' bearings I bought, so I was able to get the roller cone for a moderate price off eBay.

    And fortunately, the drive collar thingy was still in there too.



    For those not familiar with the Nichols, you needed one of these to go in the horizontal spindle, to drive the splined input shaft of the vertical head. Heads are usually sold without them, 'cause somebody at some point in the last fifty years lost it, or didn't know what it was and scrapped it, etc.

    I was lucky enough to find one- again, five or six years ago- on eBay, but it cost me about $200, I think.

    Anyway, it was time to try and slap this thing together, so I dug out my old PDF of the Nichols manual (I forget who I got that from, here, but thank you! ) and printed out pages 40 and 41, which had the exploded view and list of parts of the head.



    The head isn't that complex, but I've slept since I pulled this thing apart, and since the bearings need to be lightly pressed in, I wanted to make sure I had all the parts in place the first time.

    To be continued, of course!

    Doc.

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    If you where to silkscreen the nameplate, what kind of paint?

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    If you where to silkscreen the nameplate, what kind of paint?
    -I suspect I'd wind up using the same alkyd enamel I painted the rest of the machine with. Though the smallest I can get is a quart, and that's a bit overkill for a single piece.

    If it winds up being a one-use screen, basically any relatively thick paint would work fine.

    Doc.

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    Now, I'm not presuming to be an expert at these vertical heads. This is the first and so far only such head I've assembled. This isn't meant to be instructions on the exact precise way to do it- I was, at this writing, still missing a couple of snap rings, and in any case, was trying to suss out how the bloody thing goes together, myself.

    But I think it came out well, any issues will be noted in the text.

    With my parts pretty well laid out, I gave the head casting itself a good scrub, including Scotchbriting off a little surface rust it'd gained in the last half-decade. I also made sure to rod out the grease zerk holes, and found that one of them had a... it was either pressed in, or stripped, zerk.

    So I knocked it out with a long punch, redrilled the hole, and tapped (or possibly retapped) it to 1/4"-28.



    The rear gear/input shaft goes in first. There's this spacer...



    Then this retaining collar.



    Three pointed setscrews hold this in place, and the groove around the outside mates up with one of the zerks. Grease pumped in follows that channel around, and those holes feed it to the bearing, so they have to face away from the gear.

    After that, the bearing itself can be pressed on.





    One thing to watch out for, don't let the collar get sideways while you're pressing it into the housing. When it gets close, use a scribe to make sure it's lined up, then press the rest of the way.



    With the collar's groove lined up, more or less, with the setscrew holes, run said screws in.



    At this point I put two new zerks in. This one, on the side, feeds the rear input bearing, the other, on the upper back, feeds the upper gear and bearing.



    That was as far as I could get with the input gear, as I was short two snap rings. I don't honestly recall if they were there when I took it apart, my old photos didn't show any being removed, but either way, they weren't in the box, and I don't have any the right size. So more are on order.

    But 'til then, I can still put together the spindle. TBC, 'course!

    Doc.

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    I know this is an old thread, but I just wanted to say this is really great, and a fantastic resource! Also very cool seeing the good work you're doing to this head.

    I've been searching for a vertical head for my Nichols for the last year, and the search continues. A google search is what led me to this thread.

    Great work! Did you ever get it finished?

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    Great work! Did you ever get it finished?
    -Not quite yet. Just a couple days after posting that last bit, I took delivery of a turret lathe, as documented in another thread here. That was supposed to be more or less a plug-and-play deal, needing only minor work to get it up and running- I have paying work for it- but it turned into yet another full-fledged rebuild project.

    Which, three months and counting later, still isn't done.

    Fear not, it'll get done at some point. I just have more irons in the fire than I have fire, at the moment.

    Doc.

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    [QUOTE=DocsMachine;3649626]-Not quite yet. Just a couple days after posting that last bit, I took delivery of a turret lathe, as documented in another thread here. That was supposed to be more or less a plug-and-play deal, needing only minor work to get it up and running- I have paying work for it- but it turned into yet another full-fledged rebuild project.

    Which, three months and counting later, still isn't done.

    Fear not, it'll get done at some point. I just have more irons in the fire than I have fire, at the moment.

    Doc. Things seem well until horrible off.

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    Everything was there for years. One week makes the difference?

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    You know about heavy milling equipment. We are both Virginians.

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    Default Nichols vertical head

    Quote Originally Posted by alum100k View Post
    You know about heavy milling equipment. We are both Virginians.
    What's that spline 22? Get around 2 it.

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    The miter gears were very nice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by alum100k View Post
    The miter gears were very nice.
    The grease was a hash. I guess that was the way.

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    The miter gears looked very well but the grease was the same hash.

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    Iíve got a tool room nichols I picked up at an auction for 100 bucks I want to restore thatís in killer shape Iíve used some. It had the vertical head but no drive adapter. 😩 been hunting for one to no avail/ Iíll get around to making one eventually. Contemplated an over arm m-head instead but not sure. Also need to make the x axis half nut that of course was missing as well.

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    . Hiding in the corner until I move it soon to itís final resting place.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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    That's an interesting motor. I haven't seen one of those on a Nichols... What's that arm? It's not DC, is it?

    Doc.

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    Looks sort of a pretty late example of the model- yeah that motor is interesting. Need stats!

    my Nichols is a toolroom, came with a Bridgeport R head on the overarm. It was a pretty good match wrt z axis- not great, but perfectly usable. I don't think the prev owner ever used the horizontal, but did have the x axis nut and left a couple mill marks in the table lol. I traded the R head for a 10hp vfd. A M head might be a bit tall for the machine.

    I have a 30 taper taiwanese mill-drill head mounted to a stub which fits into the overarm bore.. have the motor mount and drive pulley assy built, still have to make the frame... I guess it'll work but thats a lot of junk to haul on and off the machine..

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    Default half nut

    Quote Originally Posted by Esmith688 View Post
    Iíve got a tool room nichols I picked up at an auction for 100 bucks I want to restore thatís in killer shape Iíve used some. It had the vertical head but no drive adapter. 😩 been hunting for one to no avail/ Iíll get around to making one eventually. Contemplated an over arm m-head instead but not sure. Also need to make the x axis half nut that of course was missing as well.
    I might have a half nut. Would you give me some specifics about it? I also think I have a few Nichols arbors. Please contact me by email; [email protected] Rich


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