Need a belt-drive mill to complement my old LeBlond
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    Default Need a belt-drive mill to complement my old LeBlond

    I just purchased an old lineshaft LeBlond. The seller was not a machinist, engineer, or electrician (he did not know the model, age, serial number, swing, and if the retrofitted motor was 3 phase or single, but the photos look great and the price was right. It has a 14" chuck and looks to be 30-40" to the tailstock. It should have enough swing to face the flywheels from my old flathead hot-rods, and enough bed to throw a V-8 crank or cam between centers (my purchasing criteria).
    I will bring it home next week, determine what I have, and start posting updates on its recovery...

    With this acquisition I decided to take my tiny shop to lineshaft drive so now I need a mill and drill-press. Does anyone know of available mills in the Midwest? Preferably no more than 3,000 lb. as my truck is not new.

    For background, I have worked in CNC for decades but this is my first vintage lathe. I have a lot to learn from forum members and thank you in advance for your patience with my foolish questions.

    Greg

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Hillbilly View Post
    I just purchased an old lineshaft LeBlond. The seller was not a machinist, engineer, or electrician (he did not know the model, age, serial number, swing, and if the retrofitted motor was 3 phase or single, but the photos look great and the price was right. It has a 14" chuck and looks to be 30-40" to the tailstock. It should have enough swing to face the flywheels from my old flathead hot-rods, and enough bed to throw a V-8 crank or cam between centers (my purchasing criteria).
    I will bring it home next week, determine what I have, and start posting updates on its recovery...

    With this acquisition I decided to take my tiny shop to lineshaft drive so now I need a mill and drill-press. Does anyone know of available mills in the Midwest? Preferably no more than 3,000 lb. as my truck is not new.

    For background, I have worked in CNC for decades but this is my first vintage lathe. I have a lot to learn from forum members and thank you in advance for your patience with my foolish questions.

    Greg
    Not sure where you will FIND either of these, but the first two mills - both Horizantals, as "real" mills were, tail-end of the 1950's - were War One - or thereabouts - and had scores of years earlier been CONVERTED FROM lineshaft drive.

    Those conversions are reversible if you can find, adapt, or make the usually by-now missing intermediate jackshaft and pulleys of 3 or 4 steps that worked between the master lineshaft and the spindle's step pulleys.

    The ones we had were:

    - a B&S number "0" universal, horizontal mill, where "universal" of that era referred to a swiveling table, not to an auxiliary vertical head.

    - a larger, but not by much, K&T prominently marked "Milwaukee".

    And so it was called as "the Milwaukee" by all-hands.

    We just USED machine-tools in those days. Worker-bees didn't pay much attention to makers or their history, as it wasn't up to us what any given employer chose to put in our face. Prolly had to be 20 years on the job before the foreman even asked yer opinion?

    These two makes have endured. The conversions show up now and then.

    UNconverted are seriously rare, given lineshafts ceased to make much sense vs independent motoring, around 1880. That was partly off the back of more flexible positioning and less dependency on overhead structure to carry the shaft and all its goods, and-then-also provide even HALF-WAY safe drops for the belts and such.

    Your shop, your nostalgia, but it is similar to tearing out all the plumbing in a residence and going back to carry-bucket, boiling water on the woodstove or gas range for the Saturday night bath - whether yah actually NEEDED a weekly bath or not - and using thundermug, and privy, all-weather, path not bath., and "luxury" getting TWO copies a year of Sears Roebuck and Monkey-Wards big catalogs with the nice soft PAPER. Otherwise, the expression "rough as a cob" applied.



    BTDTGTTS, Electricity came in around 1954, we were "good with that", so the "good Old Days" generally were anything BUT! Rudely inconvenient at best, and more nuisance than "warm fuzzy feeling".

    That said, yer gonna doo what yer gonna do, so:

    - Check out your overhead structure, plan out your lineshaft.

    - Have a look at what others have done - there are a couple of members WITH "working" lineshaft shops already here on PM, for-real, not just for pictures.. Plus more-yet as working, not foto-op - museums.

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    Turn of the (1900ish) century Cincinnati mills have a cool arrangement for power feeds - involving pairs of bevel gears in "Ball" shaped housings
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails ball-joint-01.jpg  

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    Let me know if you find one of those Cincinnati's with the ball-encased drive gears!!!

    And yes, I am also struggling with the compromises I am making for nostalgia, because everything must work, not just for show.

    There is a nice Cincinnati #2MI down the street from me, for a very reasonable price. It is more powerful, rigid, and accurate than most any line-shaft mill will be. So It would seem the logical choice. However it is much more complex with a lot more to break, and a lot heavier and more difficult to move. I am leaning towards machines simple (so even I can fix them) light (so I can move them without help) and large
    (to address the car parts I routinely need to modify). That means I need machines designed before Mr. McKenna (of Kennametal fame) invented the carbide grades to cut steel in 1938. With the previous HSS tools the metal removal rates were limited so there was no need for the tons of iron which had to be added to the post-carbide machines.

    Please forward links if there are any line-shaft design guides online...

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    The fun mills all weigh a lot besides lineshaft considerations more modern mills are likely to have a more convenient spindle taper eg cat or nmtb- the old machines were often a B&S taper which can be a bit of a bother to find tooling for. If you want to drop a light & easy to handle machine on the floor and get busy a plain old Bridgeport works fine.

    lineshafts are nostalgic and all but a vfd speed control on a motor powered mill avoids a lot of drama- the newer machine may be larger but if if avoids the complication of lineshaft equipment the setup may be a lot simpler.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Menke View Post
    The fun mills all weigh a lot besides lineshaft considerations more modern mills are likely to have a more convenient spindle taper eg cat or nmtb- the old machines were often a B&S taper which can be a bit of a bother to find tooling for. If you want to drop a light & easy to handle machine on the floor and get busy a plain old Bridgeport works fine.

    lineshafts are nostalgic and all but a vfd speed control on a motor powered mill avoids a lot of drama- the newer machine may be larger but if if avoids the complication of lineshaft equipment the setup may be a lot simpler.
    Yes, I had assumed that one of my first lathe projects would be turning collets and adaptors for my mill.

    And I planned to purchase the mill with an electric retrofit (which my lathe has) so that I could defer installation of the line shaft to a more convenient time.

    I was not going to drive the line shaft with a proper steam engine, but with an electric motor, so I planned to use a VFD in either case to reduce frequency of belt changes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Hillbilly View Post
    Yes, I had assumed that one of my first lathe projects would be turning collets and adaptors for my mill.

    And I planned to purchase the mill with an electric retrofit (which my lathe has) so that I could defer installation of the line shaft to a more convenient time.

    I was not going to drive the line shaft with a proper steam engine, but with an electric motor, so I planned to use a VFD in either case to reduce frequency of belt changes.
    Independent-electric motoring started to displace line-shaft around 1880, so I still have to say.. if it ain't broke? Why break that?

    Even if... one had a bitchin' good WATER WHEEL, reliably fed off the meltwater of an Alpine glacier and snow field, high above?

    The wise thing to do - as HAS BEEN DONE - would be to hook it to an electric generator.

    Not to shafting and belts. Solar, nuke, geothermal, fossil fuels, wind, tides?

    Same answer.

    If nothing else? Wire manages variable distances and variable bends better than shafting!


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    An electric prime mover makes a lot of sense, and works well but its important to factor in the losses. The win is the lineshaft rpm is rather low so you can step down with pulleys etc. Opening with a 5-10hp motor is reasonable, particularly if you intend to end up with substantial machines on the lineshaft- if its only ever going to be a drill press and smallish lathe or lineshaft hacksaw etc then maybe less.

    A flat belt horizontal can soak up a lot of horsepower so if you're inclined to eventually get something interesting along those lines then starting on the powerful end will be helpful. A friend of mine has a nice Rockford horizontal which I'm secretly in love with, that thing could use all the HP No need for 3-phase, a single phase 220v motor will do fine but considerations of soft starting the lineshaft with some kind of clutch rather than slamming 10hp onto it arise. A vfd drive on a 3-phase motor would be fine for that if you're suitably equipped. There isn't much need for varying the lineshaft speed, but a soft-start helps avoid throwing belts off- and definitely set up some kind of emergency-stop system you can reach from anywhere. Stuff can go really wrong really quickly with a lineshaft- up to and including ripping the lineshaft off the ceiling and having it crash down onto the shop floor.


    When you lay out the lineshaft, be sure each machine has a provision some kind of clutch; a fast & loose system or similar. If its on the machine eg like some of the belt drive drill presses, thats OK. The upshot is its a win if you can avoid the lineshaft driving a belt on a machine thats not in use.

    The pro move is to put an engine piston ring over lengths of shaft between supports, it will walk up and down the shaft and it looking nice...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Menke View Post
    An electric prime mover makes a lot of sense, and works well but its important to factor in the losses. The win is the lineshaft rpm is rather low so you can step down with pulleys etc. Opening with a 5-10hp motor is reasonable, particularly if you intend to end up with substantial machines on the lineshaft- if its only ever going to be a drill press and smallish lathe or lineshaft hacksaw etc then maybe less.
    Well there's part of the challenge. Factories of any size that relied on lineshafts might have begun with coal-fired steam as prime-mover. The first change may have been to convert the steam boiler to oil-fired. This had a parallel that lasted - for mobility reasons - into my own youth, late 1940's, early 1950's. Perhaps later-yet, elsewhere in America?

    Steam driven road-rollers. steam driven "traction" engines that came by at harvest time to flat-belt power the cider mill G'Dad used to turn the output of 5,000 cider-apple trees into something cheaper and easier to get to market at a reasonable return - gallon glass jugs of cider - than the apples themselves.

    Cider apples are not all that "pretty" nor necessarily varieties one would want for munching or making pies, after all.

    The need there?

    A power cord to a roller working a backwoods country lane is impractical. Our little valley didn't HAVE utility-mains electricity even to residences anyway. Diesel, new, still cost more than steam, old, that was not as hard to repair. Even if it needed MORE labour to KEEP in repair, the steam-era skills were still widely available in a town (Weston, Lewis County, West Virginia) that was blessed with the B&O railroad maintenance roundhouse .. where, as with most "subsistence" farmers (or orchardmen), of that era and prior, G'Dad had a "town job" - to wit as the foreman of said steam-railroad roundhouse.

    So the small-town lineshaft shops switched to a single, large, electric motor, once a power utility arrived FOR a town. Some had even BEEN the town's source of power for "street lamps", then publc buildings or residences and such off the surplus or evening output of their steam plant.

    Either the motor "type" was soft-startable (DC, repulsion-induction) ELSE fed through a big old cone clutch the "operating Engineer" could slip for a soft-start of all the rotating mass of shafts, pulleys, and at least "some" of the belts as well.

    If "no one has yet done this" applied, I could see some virtue in your project for educational & historical purposes. But many HAVE DONE it. Some "static", some actually working.

    That - and photos, even videos - serves the "societal" need.

    Beyond that? It isn't just needless extra work.

    It is a LIVING and ongoing engraved invitation to a potential NIGHTMARE as to safety hazards no longer taken in stride by a general society that had fewer options in their day.

    Not to mention an inherently more fatalistic attitude toward risk and responsibility than we have - or Lawsters tolerate, NOWADAYS.

    You'd love to show the kids how it used to be? But yah dare NOT even run their klewless "wonder what happens if.. blood and screams follow..) PARENTS though the place whilst shaft is in motion?

    There's a "third party" or societal expectation w/r to safety hazards yah just cannot expect to unwind.

    Probably should not even TRY to do - if you expect any sort of "comfort" left in you ass-ettes toward enjoying a solvent retirement.

    "Chickening out, am I?" Betcherazz, I am! "Owls are fowls" as well.

    And yah don't see a lot of them ending their lives early in the local rotisserie chicken display for $4.99 a bird, do yah?

    Life get tedious? Suicidal Owl at least gets to make a head-on gun-run at a BMW's grille ...and go out in style rather than as warmed-over leftovers!




    A flat belt horizontal can soak up a lot of horsepower so if you're inclined to eventually get something interesting along those lines then starting on the powerful end will be helpful.
    The tiny Burke #4 - "born" (or copied..) around 1903 as a plain-bearing flat-belt design .. can use as much as 2HP worth of "input". A "proper" flat-belt drive horizontal 10 HP or so.

    But few do. 2 or 3 HP is plenty for most. "Native" electrified used more. And worked faster.

    Even the lightweight 5205 lb Avoir USMT "Quartet" wants 5 HP for its horizontal spindle motor, another 3/4 HP for the knee's traverse gearbox, and a third HP or so for the juice pump.

    Use of the #9 B&S vertical is sub -2 HP, seperate motor, much the same as an average BirdPort or clone - and still the 3/4 HP knee power motor and the juice pump.

    All this "stuff" is nicely electrically interlocked and such. No fine way you would be able to operate all that off line shafting in the same floorspace footprint and remain remotely situationally aware.

    You'd have to have separate horizontal and Vertical mills - which I actually recommend, and HIGHLY so.

    The combo is a nasty pain in the arse if I actually had serious or frequent work for it. I have neither, so it suits MY limited-space needs just fine.

    Your shop, your life, your time, your money, but....

    Kitting it out with vintage. "rescued" line-shaft CONVERSIONS?

    Now .. .that could work.

    They were lower-powered, HCS tooled before HSS tooled, worked waaaay slower. They were highly prized and better cared-for by the craftsmen of the era who loved them over the previous choices of blacksmith's hammer, chisel, saw, and file. Subsequent owners were more often infrequent users. Think not so much "factory" as repair, side-needs to fab, garage, farm, or hobby, no longer run a whole shift - not necessarily even once a week.

    The tease from the "older guys" when I started under the tutelage of a genuine master, War One Germany vintage?

    "Herr Pelz must have flagged you as a fast learner. We only got to use a MACHINE once a day in our apprenticeships!"

    So even when quite old? Those turn of the century to crash of '29 machines tend to have less abusive damage and WEAR than...

    .. 1930's onward "modern" machine tools run into the very ground on war work, then run UNDER the ground by cheap-arse marginal firms until they were beat beyond reasonable work-around for way wear.

    The actual line shaft, OTOH?

    Get you some old photos blown up and sepia-tone printed.

    Hang 'em on the wall,,, instead of hanging the REAL lineshaft from the overhead.

    In the fullness of time, the Executor of your estate will bless you for that wise compromise.

    And probably, later, rather than sooner, what with the "gotchas" all that belting can surprise a body with. Or damage it.

    CNC career, enclosed cabinets, modern safety interlocks is damned-poor preparation for "life, back in the day"... an era of machinery that took no prisoners.

    Some among us who grew up in the midst of it? Sixth senses. Eyes in the SIDES of yer head as well as the back. Attentive hearing. Skin sensitive to the slight draft off a moving belt you were too close to.

    A whole package of that 'awareness' is not put into place overnight. Yah had to sorta "grow it", one scare at a time.

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    People look at a line shaft and see danger, but when you spend time running one, you'll find that those flat belts actually are safety features.

    Machines are dangerous because they have a certain amount of power going into them, but the belts aren't dangerous. It's the opposite. When a machine is overloaded (the saw pinches; you get something wound up in the lathe or whatever) a flat belt jumps off, leaving the machine without any power whatsoever. It saves the machine and maybe saves you too. A motor driven machine isn't like that--it keeps on driving until you manage to throw the switch, assuming you can throw the switch and aren't the one caught up in the machine. By that time something usually is broken. A flat belt can save the day; they have lots of times for me.

    The belts don't reach out and grab you, even if you do happen to touch one. The danger point is where the belt reaches the pulley, where something like a long coat can get wrapped between them. Don't allow any long dresses or coats in your shop--or babies with Binkies--and you should be just fine. I doubt your workplace is going to be open to the public anyway.

    There is a lot of value to making your environment so you're happy in it, especially if you work alone. No matter how much you love what you do, there'll be days when you won't want to go to work, so anything to get you there and work happily pays. If you really enjoy old machinery and line shafting, you'll find that it has a lot of value by increasing your productivity. I could never make a living in an ugly, modern, motor-driven shop with those boxy machines painted pea-green or tan. I simply wouldn't want to be there. I would not be inspired by a modern shop any more than I would be by living in a city, driving a car or wearing tennis shoes. That's me though. Do what inspires you.

    Joel

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    Lineshafts are safe until they are dangerous. At Tuckahoe one of our volunteers got the end of a belt shifting hook caught between a belt and pulley, it was yanked out of his hand, and caught up such that it stalled the lineshaft which tossed the approx 2' wide main drive belt off its pulley. The lineshaft whipped enough to damage a couple of the lineshaft supports for the 40+ foot run of the IIRC 2 1/4" lineshaft which runs down the center of the building. Thats with only a 10hp prime mover which is substantially underpowered for some of the machines on the lineshaft. The looseness of the 2' drive belt may have saved us- if it gripped we could easily have had the lineshaft right down on our heads. As we got it back in service we talked a bunch about running some loops of wire rope around the lineshaft at each support, up to the ceiling but couldn't talk ourselves into that adding much more strength than the existing supports if things went really wrong.

    In the old millwork books there are accounts of a factory floor's worth of lineshaft and equipment crashing down on the floor. It is definitely not safe compared to a dedicated motor with e-stop etc- those unguarded belts are capable of grabbing and pulling big-time. Sure, a little drill press or hacksaw doesn't present a lot of drama, but the stuff you can get away with on the small stuff may be a problem on larger equipment. John O has an old Leblond tech manual showing a lineshaft horizontal mill with 25hp in the cut- can't do that with any slop or give in the system, and that unguarded belt will be there running a couple feet from the operator.

    I absolutely agree a motor drive lathe is equally capable of turning you into hamburger if you get dragged around the workpiece.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Menke View Post
    I absolutely agree a motor drive lathe is equally capable of turning you into hamburger if you get dragged around the workpiece.
    Too true. The SAME risk zone as a belt-drive has - right where the work goes on - is "there" in either case.

    But "at least".. the independent motor-drive doesn't ALSO add the hazards of line shaft, drive to it and from it OUTSIDE of that "common" high-risk zone.

    If nothing else?

    It is easier to focus on what matters most, any given tasking.

    Tuckahoe is well run, by folks who give a damn, are more experienced and careful than the present-day average, and when active have one or more comparably experienced hands nearby to help prevent a faux pas turning into a major disaster.

    One guy, working alone, background in OSHA-heavy CNC?

    Far the riskier recipe.

    Yah just don't HAVE that survival-package of senses already hard-wired "into the bone" the old sojers grew, that "one scare at a time" nor one "scar" at a time over a period of years and tears.

    Nor even their slow and methodical PATIENCE of a era when "instant gratification" was nothing more complicated than being able to break after a long, slow, six-foot-plus HSS cut for an overdue PISS!

    Dice-roll - and loaded agin' yah - you can master all that.... before it masters YOU!

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    Yeah, that's exactly what I was saying about flat belts being a safety net, Greg. When your belt was overloaded, it came off and saved the day (or some of it). If I have my rolling mill set too close or if the iron is too cold, the belt comes off rather than break the mill. That and the saw are usually what get saved by a belt in my shop. So far I haven't thrown off the main. Yikes!

    I'm curious though: how are you shifting the belts with someone holding the shifter in their hand? Mine are all connected to levers, so I'd hope that couldn't happen, but you never know. When I have a belt come off, sometimes I use a stick to try to get it back on, but that's not exactly good practice, and I sure wouldn't let anyone else try it. Do you have pictures of how your hand-held shifters are used?

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    That 2' main belt only saved us because it was very slack, somewhat intentionally. If it was properly tensioned it would not have slipped- in the condition it was then we had some difficulties with the bigger machines causing it to start slipping- so we got lucky. A proper setup would have broken a lot of stuff.

    Most of the machines are set up with fast & loose clutches, but a couple of the big machines have clutches built-in (eg the Lucas HBM, Bullard) and we didn't want those belts running in general (they are also heavy large belts due to the HP requirements), so those are manually shipped on and off the lineshaft with a hook on the end of a long handle when the lineshaft is halted. I don't recall what the volunteer was doing with the hook- maybe one of the fast & loose belts had come off. No question it was a close call, and was an error on the volunteer's part. Thats my point- lineshafts are not particularly safe, there are many opportunities to make mistakes; lineshaft setups are big systems, lots more to go wrong the other side of the shop, all of a sudden all h3ll is breaking loose or your belt hops off right in the middle of a cut and you have to start the op over again- maddening.

    I love them because they are awesome... not efficient or preferable- I like machines to run and be convenient so I'm all about vfd's and speed adjustment- but the lineshafts are cool.

    I put a Universal cylindrical grinder on the lineshaft at Tuckahoe- it has 3 independently fast & loose belts for the different functions; it was a considerable PITA to get the drive pulleys sized right; coolant pump needed bigger, table feed needed smaller on and on until I found pulleys that got the rpms into plausible ranges. The gearbox and fast & loose assemblies amounted to probably 1000 lbs of stuff up on the ceiling to make all that go AND I had to customize a bunch of it because at Tuck the drive belts were coming in the opposite side from the previous installation. If I wanted a cylindrical grinder for myself I'd go for vfd every day, but that machine is a lot of fun to operate.

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    Thanks for all of the constructive criticism. I did not join the forum looking for yes-men or a mutual admiration society. I need the various viewpoints so that I can make well informed decisions.

    I will continue my search for a belt-drive mill, but will look for one with an electric conversion, and will do a couple of years of homework on the line shaft before any retrofit. I might just build a VFD driven line shaft... and otherwise revisit it in the interest of performance and safety rather than perfect historic accuracy.

    I routinely flirt with history this way. For example I am now building an electronic fuel injection system for one of my Flathead V-8s, using vacuum tubes and analog logic. All of the components were available to the hot-rodders of the period and it is not my fault if they failed to use them this way!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Hillbilly View Post
    Thanks for all of the constructive criticism. I did not join the forum looking for yes-men or a mutual admiration society. I need the various viewpoints so that I can make well informed decisions.

    I will continue my search for a belt-drive mill, but will look for one with an electric conversion, and will do a couple of years of homework on the line shaft before any retrofit. I might just build a VFD driven line shaft... and otherwise revisit it in the interest of performance and safety rather than perfect historic accuracy.

    I routinely flirt with history this way. For example I am now building an electronic fuel injection system for one of my Flathead V-8s, using vacuum tubes and analog logic. All of the components were available to the hot-rodders of the period and it is not my fault if they failed to use them this way!
    I'd like to see the vacuum tube efi setup - that'd be too cool!


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