Rockwell-Delta 46-499 Lathe

I’ve been wanting a wood working lathe for a while but had been putting it off because they’re pricey. During Christmas I received enough money to make getting a lathe possible! So, I researched and read reviews on floor standing lathes. I found out that the ones in my price range had deficiencies and that I couldn’t afford “a good one.” From there I went to looking at midi lathes. These are lathes that are bigger than mini lathes with some of the features of the bigger lathes. After even more research I decided on the Delta 46-460. This a highly recommended lathe that has a lot of nice features. On Jan 9 I ordered it from Amazon and eagerly waited for it to arrive.

On Jan 11 during my daily….ok ok….during one of the many times I check out Craigslist I came across a used Rockwell-Delta 46-499 floor standing lathe. It was cheaper than the one I’d ordered and came with a lot of accessories. But I’d already ordered mine so I passed it by. On Jan 12 my Delta 46-460 arrived via UPS and it looked like it made the journey without damage. So, I started to unpack it and set it on my bench. Wait a minute this plastic covering shouldn’t be loose and shattered! Take a look at this.

Apparently at some time during transport it had been dropped and shattered the plastic housing on the speed controller.  It also broke the on/off switch.  So, now I was faced with a dilemma.  Should I send this back for a refund and go after the Craigslist lathe or should I send it back and get a replacement.  Hmm…I emailed the guy to see if he still had the one in the ad and turned it over in my mind that night.   On the morning of Jan 13 he replied to call him so I did.  He still had the lathe!  Well that solves that problem .  I packed the Delta 46-460 back up and began plotting how to get the Craigslist lathe home.

A little perspective is needed here.  The lathe from Amazon is a bench top lathe that weighs in at 100 pounds.  No problem moving it around.  The Rockwell-Delta 46-499 was made in the late 1960s.  It is a large floor standing lathe and is pretty much a large piece of cast iron and steel.  Sure the bench top one was cast iron but not like the 46-499 .  I’m not sure but I believe the Rockwell-Delta 46-499 is around 400-500 lbs.  So, it’s not something you’re going to pick up easily even with some friends.

To prepare to pick up the lathe I bought a shop crane from Harbor Freight and called a friend.  The crane is something I’ve wanted for a while but now it was something I needed.  Luckily, it was on sale.  The conversation with Clarence went something like “Hey can you help me move a piece of machinery?”  “Sure.  How much does it weight?”  “Around 600 lbs I think”  Then there was a pause for a hand fill of seconds until I mentioned I had picked up the shop crane. He was relieved at that point.  Yes, I’m a mean person.

I disassembled the crane and put it in the back of my truck and met up with Clarence later that day.  Another friend, Tim, was with him and offered to help as well.  All three of us went over to see the lathe.  I checked the lathe out and it operated fine.  All three of us got to talking to the seller, Ralph, and learned of his interesting history.  It turns out that Ralph was a F-4 Phantom pilot for the Navy during Vietnam who was shot down and spent 7 years as a POW!  It was humbling to meet someone who has gone through so much to say the least.  He wrote a book about his experience called “With God in a POW Camp” if you are interested in finding out more about him.  He was very gracious to all three of us and also very talented at turning based on some of the bowls he showed us.

I decided I wanted the lathe and so we got to talking about how to load it into my truck.  I suggested that we use the crane I’d brought but Ralph had other plans.  He pointed to a large branch in the Oak tree above our heads and said that was his way of loading and unloading stuff.  He’d used it to unload the lathe before so we went with that.  He had a small leader line over the branch that we tied a larger rope to.  When pulling the larger rope up it came loose and both lines hit the ground.  Luckily, Clarance’s expert throwing abilities soon had the leader line back over the branch.  With the larger rope over the branch we attached a come a long to one end and wrapped the other around a fence post several times.  I really wasn’t too sure about the fence post so Clarence played human anchor and held the end of the rope.  Fortunately, he and friction were up to the task.  Tim and I played riggers and soon had the lathe suspended in mid air.  I backed up the truck and strapped it down.  Thanks guys!

See I told you it was a large lathe.  Once I got home I used the shop crane and made easy work of unloading it.

Here’s a better pic of it on the ground.

As with all the machine I buy I partially disassembled it and looked for anything troubling. Here’s what the inside of the housing with the motor looks like.  Ralph explained that during one of the hurricanes that frequent our area his shop had flooded and killed the stock motor. So he replaced it with a 1.5hp motor (a nice upgrade) on put it on the hinged board.  The belt on the left goes to the motor and the one on the right goes to a pulley up in the headstock.  The lathe is variable speed and the lever on the front of the machine moves the Reeves pulley setup in the picture.  The pulleys work the same way as the ones on my drill press but two of the pulley halves are one piece.  The belt on the right was badly worn but the one on the left was fine.  The motor seemed to rub the pulley right above it and was touching the outer housing causing some rattling.  So, I picked up some replacement belts from O’reilly’s including a longer one for the motor belt to fix the rubbing with the pulley.  I also removed the board and elongated the holes to slide the motor over a bit.  The switch is also not stock and I plan to replace it with something fitting sometime soon.  For now though it works fine.

I played with the Lathe some that night and even managed to turn a bowl from some Maple firewood Chris brought me 3 years ago!

I rigged up a tool holder to go into the recess on the front of the machine.  It is made of scrap wood and some 1″ PVC pipe.  It is held in by a tight fit and the sideboards.

So, even thought I wasn’t happy about my broken Delta 46-460 at the time it worked out better than I would have imagined and I got to met Ralph.  It was a good day indeed!

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5 Responses to Rockwell-Delta 46-499 Lathe

  1. Dale says:

    Nice. We seem to have some of the same tools. I picked one of these up at a school for $40 (!). I had to disassemble it to get it home as not one person on the janitorial staff would help even for a twenty or thirty dollar bill. The school loading dock had a truck parked in front of it and the only person allowed to operate it was off. Mine also had a three phase motor and I go back and forth on utilizing it with a VFD or just buying a single phase motor like yours, which I know I can wire up. Cheers!

    • davidjbod says:

      Nice. I paid a little over twice that for mine. That stinks that no one would lend a hand even when you offered them money. At least you were able to get it home. I’d like to get a VFD one of these days as I have a couple of three phase motors. But since I don’t use them on anything it isn’t a pressing issue. Thanks for reading!

  2. David says:

    Nice lathe. I think you made the right choice going vintage, I recently bought an 8″ Powermatic jointer (model 60) from the same era and it’s a great machine. Heavy though 🙂

  3. Jared Barnett says:

    Loved your story! Haha. I just picked up the same lathe you have last night and it was quite the adventure as well. Anyways I’m just wondering where I can buy parts for it. Have you bought any parts for it yet? It needs a new belt, some faceplates and maybe a chuck.

    • davidjbod says:

      Hey. Most parts will be hard to find; but if you mean accessories you’re in luck. A new belt will be pretty simple to replace. Take your old one to an auto parts store and tell them you need a new one. They can measure your old belt and provide a replacement. You can buy accessories (chuck, faceplate, etc) from pretty much any place that sells wood lathe stuff. The thread on the spindle of our lathes is the very common 1″ x 8 tpi. Double check yours though just to be sure. I’ve had good luck with stuff from Penn State Industries (www.pennstateind.com). Rocker and Woodcraft should also have accessories.

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