Re: wide 9 spindle felts and thrust bearing upgrade question

Steve Wells

it's easy to get off track when we are talking old South Bends...:)
and it's easy to misunderstand the models and upgrades.
I think Allen knows exactly what I'm saying. I can give you some exact facts,
but at times South Bend Built exactly what a customer wanted also.
Let me give you and example.
Your lathe is in fact an R series, Why? because it has a catalog(important) number of 409YN
The exact same lathe with a hardened spindle and a tapered gibb is a T series, but it has a
catalog number of 409Y assigned 7/18/1939, they dropped the N for Bench lathe. the older R series number was assigned 5/22/1936
does your lathe have tapered gibbs? Some of the late R series did in fact have them. I have seen them.
I have made feed nuts for them, and they are different. The R series are much better lathes than the O series, the apron is far better.
An R series 409YN like yours in fact has a hardened headstock spindle and was called a "Toolmaker" in Bulletin 9M and 9R.
They dropped this name within the year I believe. it wasn't a ToolRoom lathe, maybe that caused confusion.

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, June 10, 2015 3:55 AM
Subject: Re: [SOUTHBENDLATHE] Re: wide 9 spindle felts and thrust bearing upgrade question


Gosh, great history, but I really feel left out with my 409YN.  NO MENTION IN ANY OF THE POSTS that it ever existed.  I think it was shipped late 1936 or early 37, but not positive.  It is a top oiler widebed.



On Jun 9, 2015, at 8:42 PM, 'Steve Wells' wswells@... [SOUTHBENDLATHE] <SOUTHBENDLATHE@...> wrote:


Hi Jim,
The O series lathes were slowly improved through the years on all features. Generation 1 or Group 1 as SBL called them
were 1906 to somewhere between 1915 and 1920. these had ph bronze boxes for the bearings and were very simple small drip cups with felt wicks.
The Group 2 headstocks from lets say 1920 to 1927 had small improvements in the bearings with oil retaining slots cut length wise
but not all the way to the end of the boxes and progressively got shallower towards the end. these had drip cups that had small round felts that
touched the spindle, and capillaries oil being forced out the grooves in the boxes as the spindle ran. A new headstock design was introduced in 1927-28
which had a longer spindle, improved steel, improved covers, bed feet for alignment, other features also. Hardened thrust washer. On the bearings,
the phb boxes were changed to have a groove circular to the oil cup with gits type cups with round felt. This generation 3 headstock was improved in the
early 30's and later offered a hardened spindle optional and had felt pads in the sides of the bronze boxes. The N series(same headstock)  came standard with the improved hardened spindle and had an optional for cast iron bearings at no charge.
The phb box bearings on the later G3 O series and the N, R, and T were finished line bored and lapped in. the earlier ones were hand scraped in.
Any of the older O series can be improved by adding the felt pads(cut the slots in the boxes) and making sure the oil cups have a round felt wick that fits the
cup well and touches the spindle. the missing felt wicks, I imagine, scored a great number of spindles.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, June 09, 2015 1:16 PM
Subject: RE: [SOUTHBENDLATHE] Re: wide 9 spindle felts and thrust bearing upgrade question


As allan notes there were several SB Revisions or Models.

The earliest was the “O” Model, Steve Wells believes the “O” stands for original

The there was an “N” Model (Perhaps N=New)

Later models were “R”, “S” and “T”

Here are some comments from Dennis Turk on the “N” Model

“I will tell you that the N was a breed of cat all its own.  The saddles will not interchange with a bed for an O R S and T lathes.  The apron from an N will not bolt onto any of the other series saddles.  The quick change gear box is different as the lead screw exits the box in a different place as required buy the apron gears.  Also the end bracket for the lead screw is different and will not interchange.   “

Here are some comments from Steve Wells.

Jim- the first mention we see of Series O and N in catalogs seems to be early 1931, at which point they began to retroactively refer to the older lathes as 'O'. I have always assumed that series 'O' was short for 'Old' and was necessitated by the introduction of the Series N, for 'New'.

The series letters and the model numbers can be a bit confusing at times, I know.

I’ll attempt a simple approach to the “basic” ID of some of the models for all.

First, what is an O series lathe? This is the “Original O’Brien designed lathe”.

Remember it by the O for O’Brien or O for original, in 1931 SB stated they had

been making this series since 1906, and now they had developed a “New” series

that had a new apron and several other improvements, they called this New series

the “N” design, it had the “New double wall friction clutch apron” and other “New”

improvements. It had a push-pull knob for the power feeds, very easy to tell the difference

between  the “(O)ld” star feed knob and the “(N)ew” apron.

Now do you see a pattern in the way they advertized? Yes, they did use the words like that.

So when the New series that was more expensive maybe didn’t do so well in the early 30’s

They introduced another series in 1934, called…the “R” we can tag it as “Revised apron”

As it had the more modern feed shifter and other changes, I won’t go into all the improvements,

just remember the “revised shifter apron” for “R”. For a few years these three series were all made at the same time

so you can see an O, N and R series in the mid 30’s.

During the same early thirties they also were trying to capture the lower price market and cope with the loss of sales

in the depression era, we see them develop the 8 inch Junior, the 9 inch Toolmaker, and the “Workshop series.

They also still had the “Junior” lathes, which were just a basic change gear lathe with lead screw feed only, they had

this type of lathe for many years prior, in the O type lathes, in about 1926 the coined the “Junior” advertising to describe

them, there were “Juniors” in 9, 11, 13, and 15. Junior series sounds so much better than “Cheaper Model”.

They carried the Junior description to at least 1940-41 and even the heavy tens had a Junior partner. Where

allot of the confusion comes in, is not realizing that the models are very similar, as far as beds, headstocks, tailstocks and

saddles, the Juniors have the same beds and other sundries as the regular letter series lathes, they just have the simple aprons

and maybe a couple of years behind on the improvement features, they were designed to be cost effective.

The 8 inch junior and the 9 inch Toolmaker lost the sales war to the “Workshop lathe and they were phased out.

These were smaller lathes than the letter series, just compare the workshop to the Heavy Ten, that’s basically the size difference

we are comparing between the letter series and Juniors which we call “wide-beds” and the smaller lathes.

For differences in the development of the Workshop see this link:

To close here and stop rambling, I’ll say that the next series after the “R” was the T series for “Tool room”, this was still a top oiling

headstock with higher spindle speeds, it replaced the N and R series, so now it is easy to tell the difference between the last letter series “S”,

which was the “Speed series”, “Super Finished Spindle” “Side oiling Headstock” “Spindle Speeds increased for carbide tooling”…

see how many S’s you can find in the advertizing…J

Steve Wells   

So this is as much as I know or can remember.

I can querry Steve and ask when the changes in the headstock occued

Jim B. 

Sent: Tuesday, June 09, 2015 9:55 AM
Subject: Re: [SOUTHBENDLATHE] Re: wide 9 spindle felts and thrust bearing upgrade question


i've looked at a few of the older 9" machines. There was a headstock redesign around 1929 or so. The ones before that seem to have little or no place for felt in the bearing, but generally have a felt plug in the bottom of the oil cup. The ones after that seem to have a more defined slot in the top bearing, and more clearance along the parting line. In most cases, those have had some evidence of felt in those areas.


On Tue, Jun 9, 2015 at 8:53 AM, hotrodjap@... [SOUTHBENDLATHE] <SOUTHBENDLATHE@...> wrote:


No knowledge here either but I see no place for felts. Apparently that large washer shown is the thrust bearing as it wears against the end of the spindle bearing. Just curious if the takeup nut has a shallow hole in it that holds the fiber washer and keeps it stationary like the ones on 10L version.I bought a used takeup nut and it had a steel washer with it to use in conjunction with the takeup nut rather than a fiber washer and was probably meant to be used on a 10L with a brass spindle bearing rather than on mine which is all cast iron.

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