Boxford 500 VSL - Worth Fixing Up? (vid and pics)
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    Default Boxford 500 VSL - Worth Fixing Up? (vid and pics)

    Been doing a lot of lurking here and elsewhere on the interwebs for the past few months while looking to add a lathe to my shop. For the past 15 years, I've used an old SA Potter lathe that was my grandfathers. Was really only up to cutting aluminum (at least with my very limited skills), and while I'll miss it's very vintage charm, I passed it along via Craigslist to someone that was specifically looking for something from that era.

    My goal was to pickup something in the 8-10" swing range, with at least 16" between centers. After searching for a month or two on Craigslist, nothing seemed to be coming up that fit the bill The stuff that was 'interesting' was either in very poor condition, or super expensive. I eventually settled on just picking up a new import 10x22 from Precision Matthews for ~$2400. More than I really wanted to spend, but the reviews here and elsewhere seemed to be pretty good, and they come well-equipped.

    Literally the night before I planned to drive out there (they are western PA, and I'm in eastern PA), I hit craigslist one more time and saw a Boxford 10x20 listed with a pic that looked like it had been taken with a potato. Was only 15 mins from my house, so I headed out the next morning and we settled on $550. I faced a piece of scrap cold-rolled on it, tested the feeds, both the low and high speed ranges and everything seemed ok. That said, it was DIRTY AS ALL HECK, and I am NOT qualified to assess the real condition. It looked a bit beat on in places, but wasn't really rusty anywhere on the lathe itself, and included an old QC tool post, bunch of holders, another older toolpost with some vintage tooling, and 2 additional 8" chucks that DID NOT fit, he was just throwing them in. Chuck on the machine was a Yuasa 3-jaw, and is the only chuck I have for it that fits (L00). I felt at that price, I could probably recoup what I was spending if I decided not to keep it.

    So that was a week ago, and I'm feeling like my next steps are to clean this thing all up, fix the issues I'm seeing with it, and maybe even paint it. Is it worth it?

    Shot a quick vid showing the machine and stepping through some of what I see as pros and cons:

    YouTube

    Also posted a bunch of pics in as-is (albeit now partly disassembled condition) here:

    As Purchased

    What do you guys think? I don't mind putting in the work to restore it. I just don't want to put a bunch of time/money into something that will never make good parts. My definition of "good parts" is accurate parts for the type of repair and project work one would do in their home shop, not parts for NASA with a 1/10th of a thou accuracy over 4' :P

    It's 3-phase 1.5hp, so I'd be running it from a VFD on 240v split-phase.

    Thanks in advance for reading this far, and hopefully checking out the vid.

    -Rich H.

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    Hi Rich,

    I think you got a great deal, if the spindle is OK. You'll need to adjust the bearings and check that they turn smoothly. But provided they do, that's a nice lathe to make parts and learn. The tapered nose and size of the spindle bore are both a plus.

    On the quick-change gearbox, you do NOT shift while the lathe is running. Just spray lots of penetrating oil into the gear cluster and get it freed up.

    If the tailstock bore is a bit chewed up, you can probably clean it up with a Morse taper reamer. Be very gentle, your goal is just to remove burrs and raised material.

    You can live with the slop in the cross feed screw. In fact learning to make good parts with it is a useful exercise because you'll learn to always preload the screw correctly.

    Slop in the cross feed screw might be easy to fix. It might be that the bearing/bushing on the handwheel/screw are loose or sloppy. Those can be adjusted/replaced/fixed. Or it might be that the cross feed screw and nut are loose or sloppy. Sometimes the nuts can be adjusted to take up the play. Or in the worst case you can replace them.

    The four-jaw chuck is not only for holding odd-shaped stuff. It's also for holding cylindrical things that you want to get precisely centered. So if you can sort out a mount and it fits reasonably, you should keep it.

    The chipping on the ways is unfortunate but won't have any bad effect. Just make sure that there are no burrs projecting above the ways which will wear the carriage or tailstock. If necessary use a fine flat stone to remove any burrs, but be sure not to take other metal off the ways.

    Definitely worth lubricating and fixing to the point where everything works. But don't do an all-out restoration, ie strip, scrape geometry, repaint, polish. Just get everything working and USE IT. Then at some point in the future, when you have gotten to know the machine and its pluses and minuses, you can decide if you want to do an all-out restoration.

    To me the ways look in good shape, or good enough that with some practice you can make very precise parts. Again, learning to work around the limitations of the lathe is a worthwhile exercise. If you want to get some idea of how good/bad the ways are, first level the lathe to get rid of any twist. Then attach a dial test indicator on a magnetic base to the tailstock, with the probe bearing on the carriage ways. Slide the tailstock back and forth and see how much variation there is to the carriage ways. This is a good test because on most lathes the tailstock ways are worn much less than the carriage ways. So the tailstock ways provide a good reference.

    There are lots of Boxford lathes kicking around the UK (look at www.ebay.co.uk) and so if you need parts and accessories you can always get them from there.

    Cheers,
    Bruce

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    Short answer, yes.

    It is basically an upgraded 10" South Bend. SB steadies, change gears, and other tooling can easily be adapted or used without change, and are cheap where you live.

    Clean it, oil it, use it.

    Pretty close to a "you suck" deal ;-)


    L7

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    Had a quick look over at lathes.uk.co a bit ago and that looks to be the MK 1 version with the motor brake. Ya did good on that buy. L spindle with the big bore is nice .

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    there is quite a good boxford lathes owners forum on yahoo and groups.io a few vsl owners on there - ive always had a super help from those guys on my AUD III. They can help with spares etc.
    The Boxford lathes have a good reputation here in the uk. A vsl would clear twice what you paid for it.
    good luck
    Mat

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    Quote Originally Posted by ballen View Post
    Hi Rich,

    I think you got a great deal, if the spindle is OK. You'll need to adjust the bearings and check that they turn smoothly. But provided they do, that's a nice lathe to make parts and learn. The tapered nose and size of the spindle bore are both a plus.

    On the quick-change gearbox, you do NOT shift while the lathe is running. Just spray lots of penetrating oil into the gear cluster and get it freed up.

    If the tailstock bore is a bit chewed up, you can probably clean it up with a Morse taper reamer. Be very gentle, your goal is just to remove burrs and raised material.

    You can live with the slop in the cross feed screw. In fact learning to make good parts with it is a useful exercise because you'll learn to always preload the screw correctly.

    Slop in the cross feed screw might be easy to fix. It might be that the bearing/bushing on the handwheel/screw are loose or sloppy. Those can be adjusted/replaced/fixed. Or it might be that the cross feed screw and nut are loose or sloppy. Sometimes the nuts can be adjusted to take up the play. Or in the worst case you can replace them.

    The four-jaw chuck is not only for holding odd-shaped stuff. It's also for holding cylindrical things that you want to get precisely centered. So if you can sort out a mount and it fits reasonably, you should keep it.

    The chipping on the ways is unfortunate but won't have any bad effect. Just make sure that there are no burrs projecting above the ways which will wear the carriage or tailstock. If necessary use a fine flat stone to remove any burrs, but be sure not to take other metal off the ways.

    Definitely worth lubricating and fixing to the point where everything works. But don't do an all-out restoration, ie strip, scrape geometry, repaint, polish. Just get everything working and USE IT. Then at some point in the future, when you have gotten to know the machine and its pluses and minuses, you can decide if you want to do an all-out restoration.

    To me the ways look in good shape, or good enough that with some practice you can make very precise parts. Again, learning to work around the limitations of the lathe is a worthwhile exercise. If you want to get some idea of how good/bad the ways are, first level the lathe to get rid of any twist. Then attach a dial test indicator on a magnetic base to the tailstock, with the probe bearing on the carriage ways. Slide the tailstock back and forth and see how much variation there is to the carriage ways. This is a good test because on most lathes the tailstock ways are worn much less than the carriage ways. So the tailstock ways provide a good reference.

    There are lots of Boxford lathes kicking around the UK (look at www.ebay.co.uk) and so if you need parts and accessories you can always get them from there.

    Cheers,
    Bruce
    Thanks for your reply. I definitely won't go as far as scraping the ways, but I may at least go as far as pulling off the apron, saddle, and associated parts, and cleaning/de-greasing them while I clean up the burrs on the ways. If I do pull the apron/saddle off, might paint them while they're all cleaned up, assuming I don't find anything alarming I've missed thus far.

    I'm familiar with the flexibility of the four-jaw chuck. It's the only chuck I had on my old sa potter lathe, and got decent getting parts dialed in, but looking forward to using the 3-jaw most of the time. I do really want a functional 4-jaw though for it's obvious benefits. I see L00 backing plates with the taper and keyway already cut in for sale on eBay for less than $100. Anyone hear try one of those? Kind of curious how accurate/quality the tapers are. It's not clear if they're made from cast iron or steel, but I'm guessing for my work, steel is probably fine. I remember "this old tony" (one of my fav youtube creators) making one out of just plain steel. I considered doing the same, but not sure how I'd cut the keyway. For <$100, the eBay ones are very tempting

    Took your advice and looked a bit on eBay UK. Lots of good stuff. I'd really like to get one of the spindle locks if I can find one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lucky7 View Post
    Short answer, yes.

    It is basically an upgraded 10" South Bend. SB steadies, change gears, and other tooling can easily be adapted or used without change, and are cheap where you live.

    Clean it, oil it, use it.

    Pretty close to a "you suck" deal ;-)


    L7
    Thanks. I saw that a lot of the SB stuff should fit. Any idea which SB steady-rest model or which SB lathe shares the same steady with this Boxford (since mine has a 5" center height)? Is it just called the SB10"? I notice some people refer to a SB 10" 'heavy' as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnEvans View Post
    Had a quick look over at lathes.uk.co a bit ago and that looks to be the MK 1 version with the motor brake. Ya did good on that buy. L spindle with the big bore is nice .
    I thought that at first as well, but I believe the Mk1's were all 4.5" center height. This one is definitely 5", and also has the much larger 1.5hp motor. I wonder if the motor brake remained an option, but was just fairly rare.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lurk View Post
    there is quite a good boxford lathes owners forum on yahoo and groups.io a few vsl owners on there - ive always had a super help from those guys on my AUD III. They can help with spares etc.
    The Boxford lathes have a good reputation here in the uk. A vsl would clear twice what you paid for it.
    good luck
    Mat
    Thanks, I did join over there, but haven't posted anything yet. Hoping maybe someone there can help me out with the spindle lock, or at least a good diagram/view of theirs to see if I can reproduce it.


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