Hendey Lathe

I hope you’re ready for another large project because I have one.  I responded to a blurry picture of a metal lathe on Craigslist.  Eventually, I was finally able to meet the seller to pick it up.  I’d found out that the seller had a way to load it which resulted in me not bringing anything (a mistake on my part).  His supposed method was to load the 1700 lb lathe by pure muscle alone.  He quickly discovered that wasn’t going to work so well.  This left me scrambling to find a way to load it.  Luckily there was a tool rental place close by and I was able to procure an engine crane.  After a bit of work we were able to get the lathe loaded up into a trailer.  I threw a tar over it to keep it dry as it was drizzling.  L1

Here it is!  Yes, it’s old…and dirty.  Specifically, it is a Hendey 12 x 5 (12 inch max diameter work item with a bed length of 5 feet) cone head or tie-bar metal lathe.  I believe this lathe was made sometime between 1905 and 1920.  It runs via a large flat belt and is powered by a 120V motor.  Back when they started making this lathe, large machine tools were powered via a rotating shaft that hung from the ceiling.  The shaft on the ceiling was connected to the tools via flat belts.  Speed was varied by changing where the belt was located on the stepped cone pulley.  Later on when smaller/cheaper electric motors came into being tools like this were retrofitted to run off them.  I believe this is a mostly factory setup on my machine but other companies made retrofit kits as well.


Currently, the electric motor has a V belt pulley that turns the large V belt pulley on the upper cone pulley shaft.  Originally, the motor was connected to this large rectangular thing you see in the picture below.  This rectangular item is a chain drive.  It’s a hollow box and there would have been a gear on the motor and another on the end of the pulley shaft connected with a chain.  The gears and chain ran in a bath of oil.  From what I’ve read the chain drive was better than the V belts of the time.  For some reason, it was bypassed.  L3

We were unloading it when tragedy struck.  It struck soon after stupidity struck actually.  See, I’d loaded it with a 2″ strap and used the same strap to unload it.  When I was unloading it the strap broke.  The lathe fell a short distance and ended up resting on its back side.  There was a sharp edge on the bottom of the lathe and I think it sliced through the strap because the strap was rated to a much higher limit than the weight of the lathe.  This was very dumb on my part.  I should have been using a chain.  With the help of Chris from One Tool at a Time we were able to get the lathe upright again.  This was a slow process.  Moving something heavy is one thing but rotating it is another.  You can’t just pick it up and turn it over in the air easily.

To right the lathe we first moved it into the garage on its side.  We lowered it down onto jack stands and the pan.  We had pieces of wood between everything to keep from scratching or damaging anything else.  With the lathe supported this way we were able to remove the legs.  From here we were able to roll the lathe upright by hand.   I wasn’t to keen about just lifting the lathe into the air and getting under it to reattach the legs.  So, we slowly raised the lathe up on a couple pillars of cross stacked wooden blocks.  Once the lathe was high enough the legs were reattached.  Here’s some better, non-cell phone pics of the lathe.  Everything looks pretty good.  Everything that is supposed to move does so smoothly and all of the gears have all their teeth.


This is the carriage (on top) and apron (side facing the camera) which moves the cutting tool around the work.  The large screw running the length of the lathe is called the lead screw.  The lead screws is rotated by the motor and can be used to automatically move the carriage and apron.  L5

This is the gear box that changes the speed that the lead screw.  It changes how fast the tool moves and is useful when cutting threads.  The levers are moved around to make adjustments.  The brass table tells where each lever needs to be positioned to get a desired number of threads per inch.L6

This is the tail stock which can be used to support the other end of the work.  It has some kind of attachment in it but I’m not sure what it is called at the moment.L7

I did get a bit of extra tooling with the purchase. I also got a steady rest (big thing on the right) and a tool for creating knurling.  The T shaped tool is used to tighten the chuck but this one is to small for the chuck that came with it.L8

When the lathe fell it unfortunately, but not unsurprisingly, broke a few things.  The most obvious one was the arm that the motor sat on.  It broke it into three large pieces and one small piece.  L9

Another result of the fall, that I didn’t realize at the time, was this crack in the large arm that holds the upper cone pulley and motor up. The crack runs through one of the flanges and partially though the web of the C-channel shaped arm.  Both the arm and motor support will need to be fixed.  I’ll probably find a pro to do the repairs.  Well, I hope to.  If I get sticker shock when I start asking around I may be learning how to braze or weld cast iron.  There were a few other smaller things that broke or bent in the fall but I should be able to fix them with less trouble.


I took the top off of the chain drive reservoir to discover that there was only a gear on the upper pulley shaft which just free-wheels.  I’m still not sure why someone chose to bypass this.  I’m not sure if I’ll try to go back to the chain drive or stay with the V pulley setup.L11

Here’s a pic showing the layers of gunk on this thing.  The blue things are bits of my tarp that I covered it with on the trailer.  Beneath that is a thick layer of grease, dust, and gunk.  Next up is a fairly thick layer of cracking paint.  Finally, there’s the base metal layer.  On the bright side, the thick layer of gunk has kept rust away!L12

So, there’s my current big project.  I’m going to tear it completely down, clean it up, and put it back together.  That’ll be covered in future posts.

If you want to see a lot more pics of the lathe, head over to my photobucket page:http://s963.photobucket.com/user/DavidBMSU/library/Hendey%20Lathe

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