Van Norman #12 in a Fire- Is it worth trying to restore?
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  1. #1
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    Unhappy Van Norman #12 in a Fire- Is it worth trying to restore?

    Not much experience in the big machines, but after a long battle to get my old VN12 running again, was working fine for 2 years in the blacksmith shop where it lived, giving good experience to young folk interested in milling as well as blacksmithing.

    Unfortunately, on July 4th 2019, the smithy burned down and old VN12 got crispy.

    While all the aluminium parts melted off, everything still moves, even the motor armature turns.

    The popular opinion seems to be to scrap, but I hesitate to call the scrap yard if it can be salvaged.

    I have to move the mill for the building to be rebuilt, but have no place to move to or store while trying to restore.

    Any knowledgeable machinists have an opinion on whether to try to restore a mill that has been in a fire?

    It will help influence my decision as to what to do next.

    Thanks for any assistance.

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    At least make sure to give it a good bath in oil to slow rusting while you decide what to do. Diesel in a garden sprayer works well, but wont last to long.
    My immediate thought would be keep it, IF you can find another to share parts with.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by hlavacre View Post
    Any knowledgeable machinists have an opinion on whether to try to restore a mill that has been in a fire?

    It will help influence my decision as to what to do next.

    Thanks for any assistance.
    Motor bearings - or entire motors - are easy. even cheap. Re-wiring more tedium than cash. Spindle bearings, less-so.

    Doesn't sound as if you have a full enough picture just yet to make the decision. PLUS you have more to worry about as is more immediate.

    Suggest you chip-brush, then "Fluid Film" the carcass (buys you 12 months..) and tarp it with ventilation, not water-vapour trap.

    It is probably rebuildable, but is it WORTH it, vs some other mill not yet "roasted" as might also have less wear?
    Last edited by thermite; 08-04-2019 at 06:13 AM.

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    I think the first consideration is about an unbiased evaluation of the wear of the ways, etc. and availability of other machines in gair shape.
    Given that the gearbox and spindle are in oil bath which should have provided some thermal buffering, are the least of your concerns. I don't think the fire has warped the casting either, given that cast iron is rather stable even at high temperatures (in Moore's book Foundations of Mechanical Accuracy they mentioned that they had to rebuild a jig borer that was on a fire, with all aluminum melted away and they didn't have to touch the geometry of any of the castings).

    But bushings, bearings, etc., are all another story...

    If you decide to rebuild it, likely the cheapest solution will be to get a parts donor machine. I suggest holding off any involved repair till you get such machine, so that you could make the decision which of the two is the donor and which the survivor.

    Paolo

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    Depends on how hot for how long. This little 1903 Cincinnati - column was outside while knee, saddle and table got thoroughly fried in the burning building
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails cinc-potter-johnston.jpg  

  6. #6
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    We had a fire this summer and lost five machines. They were similarly toasted, with controls turned to slag and most of the paint baked off. What the fire didn’t get was summarily destroyed by the sprinklers then the fire department. I decided to take one of the mills home and try to save it for use at home. Here’s what I found:

    Everything was full of shit. I would scrub and clean and as soon as I took something else off a ton of gritty nastiness would rain down on everything. It made an enormous, unbelievably foul smelling mess in my shop. Not just a burned smell, but something I can only describe as clinging despair. The smell got in my cars, my house and most importantly, on my wife’s last nerve.

    The electrical system was shot. What initially looked passable turned out to be extremely brittle with wires and connectors breaking with just a little force and wiggling. Triple check anywhere wires may have been in contact with the case.

    Between the heat, water and resultant rust almost every fastener was seized. I ended up using an induction heater to free things up and drilling out a lot of the screws on inspection covers. As others have noted, the bearings and bushings were all complete losses.

    The spindle was ok, as were the gears, but the table was warped. We assume the warping was due to the heatsink action of the knee which was nowhere near enough to move heat away from the ends.

    I ended up giving it to a recently divorced friend since he can’t get in trouble for the smell nor for sleeping with the machine. I say sleeping with because that’s the only way to find enough time to fix it all.

    That said! It was all fixable. If your situation allows you to spend the time and you want that kind of project then go for it. Just be forewarned that it’ll be a bigger job than you expect, cost way more than you’d ever think and you’re going to be spending time restoring the machine instead of using it. But if that sounds attractive go for it! You’ll have a cool story to tell once it’s all done.

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  8. #7
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    If your #12 had 5V tooling, you can sell the tooling on fleabay and get the cash to purchase a good mill.


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