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I Forge Iron

Ways and means


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So I have a Boice & Crane I'd estimate is 80-100 years old that had been adapted as a small metal spinning lathe. I finally have the Wonder Hut (my metalworking studio---studio because I am a pretentious artiste) close to done and ready for projects and this lathe may be in the top five of first set of projects.

I say top five because I have fabricating to do, but I'd really like to get this lathe operational. Maybe. Which is why I'm posting this. I think I could probably clean everything off and just get it working but I think I'd like to try re-habbing it and perhaps replacing the ways.

The headstock is quite beefy cast iron with ball bearings that are working just fine based on appearances, but I'll pull out the headstock spindle assembly to be sure. The tailstock is also quite beefy, though there's a chunk out of the back of the casting near the handwheel you turn to tighten the quill. I don't think it's repairable but it may not need to be as the quill tightens when the wheel turns and I don't see any other cracks...yet.

The toolslide appears to have been fabricated for metal spinning as it's big and heavier than what you'd expect for a lathe like this, and the t-rest was obviously fabbed for this use. I made a t-rest that's heavier than the one made for this lathe and I'll either swap them or make another.

The ways, however, are not heavy. It may not matter, really, but they are also way too long for my use. I'm wondering if I should replace or cut down the ways.

The ways are steel and in two pieces that are bolted together. There's a cast iron foot for the end opposite the headstock and a cast iron insert that I think is supposed to go on the end closest to the headstock---I'm going to take it apart and I'll move it to see if it fits.

I haven't found any manuals specifically for this lathe but the manuals and drawings I can find for similar Boice & Crane wood lathes have the piece at the headstock end.

I'm wondering how difficult it would be to replace the ways with heavier and shorter materials. I'm also wondering how difficult it would be to cut the ways without deforming them too much by heat.

I also have to get a new motor. I saw a youtube video showing where a guy used a treadmill motor to run what looked like the same lathe. I like the variable speed but I was struck at how much vibration there was. That could be because he hadn't bolted anything down or the bench wasn't heavy enough, but perhaps it was the ways are too light for this use. I know the old guy who owned all this stuff before me used it frequently to spin lighter projects, so I know it works. But I'd like a lot less vibration, so I'm thinking maybe I should make heavier ways.

But maybe not. So I'm going to brave the shark-infested waters of old lathe rehab to get opinions from you all.

I'll try to get some pictures to show you what I mean.

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All that and NO PICS?:o Have you paid no attention to our reaction to folks who ask specific questions without providing necessary information? And here, one of the gang, hasn't provided any, zippo! :wacko: I hope you're readying yourself for a right proper curmudgeonly drubbing!

Seriously you're sounding really confused here, longer, shorter, heavier. . . :huh: huh? 

About the piece you think bolts to the chuck end. Where? Is it the section you remove to open the gap? 

Does the broken part of the tail stock interfere with the take up wheel? 

No, don't mess with converting a treadmill motor, sure they can be MADE to work but it's a hassle. What do you need a variable speed for, step pullies give you positive speed control without the mushyness of a variable speed. And NO changing speed while you're spinning is NOT A GOOD IDEA!

Yeah, it needs to be tightly mounted, bolt it all the way to the floor if you can. You can't mount a spinning lathe too solidly. The tool rest needs to be as solid as possible too, especially if you're stick spinning. The angle of pressure you apply with hand tools is largely lateral to the center of rotation so wants to bend the bed outwards. Scissor tools apply significantly more force but a lot is longitudinally so it's trying to bend the lathe lengthwise. don't get me wrong scissor tools apply a lot of lateral force but it's a different nature, more planar. Anyway, make the tool rest as solid as practical.

Frosty The Lucky.


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No pictures was strategic: your rage means you don't need to buy TP. I was thinking of your welfare, Frost.

So here we go...


First, Wonder Hut interior southeast corner. The scaffolding is destined to be chopped up into a worktable, the Greenlee wireholder thing will be turned into a beehive stand because I don't need a wire reel holder like this. Ways are on the bench on their side.



This is the light made from a foundry mold I hung over the door. It's neato.



Headstock with tooling and some of the molds in background, Deep Creep can for scale. This is a single cast piece. At the foot, near where the can is, there is a section painted yellow. That's where the ways attach.


I think the previous owner changed the configuration to get more of the ways on the headstock cast. I think he also added the piece below with the two holes so he could bolt either the ways or the toolslide to the headstock.


Bottom of the ways where it attaches to the headstock



The ways, turned to show the bottom. It's about 4' long---way too long for my use.


Cast foot on the tailstock end of the ways. There's a block of cast iron that is bolted to the feet inside the ways. Also, you can see where the end of the ways were ground down to about half the width of the original material. This is also on the headstock side. I think this is part of the original design.


I think this block is supposed to be on the headstock end. You can also see where the ways are dented on the top.


Tailstock showing the crack on the backside near the wheel.


Closer on the crack and what looks like a repair to the wheel and spindle. This may be a heavier wheel attached as a repair or replacement because I think the originals may not have been solid metal but had spokes like a wheel.


Toolslside and t-rest. Definitely not original. Heavier than the tailstock.


Boice and Crane mark and a really neato decal that reads something about a new ballbearing design in the headstock. I'd love to find the design of the decal because after I clean this up and re-paint, I'd put it back on there.


Another view of the headstock. The headstock spindle moves freely and smoothly. Some of the molds and tooling---when I say some molds, I mean some. There are three, maybe four, more large boxes in my other shop that I have to bring out. There are also some of the stick tools that I'll clean and re-handle, though I have sets of stick tools.

Everything needs a good, thorough cleaning, and those bits that need it need lubrication. Some of the molds seem too big for such a small lathe, so they may get sold, but I have to figure out what everything is and how it fits together first.


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Thanks, IF&C. It is coming along. I have shelves to put in and then I can haul in tools and start getting them bolted into place. I also have to build the forge area, but I'm re-thinking my design.

I think I know what I'm going to do with the lathe. Fell on me like the house on the Wicked Witch of the East in The Wizard of Oz. Still looking for any suggestions/opinions, though.

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The Wonder Hut's looking good alright, I LOVE the biplane rides sign. 

What you're calling molds, we called "dies" and a lot of the more recent guys like Terry Tynan call "chucks." Polish them before you use them the shinier the better. It makes a difference, big time. 

I see a couple live centers on the cardboard in the last pic and a couple something elses I don't recognize, I think these are mostly tail stock tools. "centers"

I think you're right about the take up wheel on the tail stock, somebody probably ran it into the casting too many times to knock a piece out like that. I don't know how I'd repair that without a machine shop. If it's a problem maybe ask a machinist what they'd charge. Might be easier to make a whole new tail stock, they're a lot less complicated than they seem. 

The tool rest and carrier need to be heavier than the tail stock, they have a LOT more forces bending and twisting on them. The tail stock just sits there and holds the blank to the die. It withstands the least force of the main components. The headstock takes the most of course and why they're solid cast and heavy thrust bearings. 

I wish I could check your lathe out in person it's hard to tell what you really have from pictures. 

I have trouble calling the rails ways but I suppose that's what they are so I'll pull my head out. The "dents" or wear marks in the ways indicate the head stock end. They're probably the result of repeated impacts from tools getting away from the spinner OR, less likely, he needed another 1/2" to clear a large die/blank and made a modification.:blink:

Thinking about a solid mount I'm thinking a 4" x 12" laid flat would be perfect though a glue lam would be smoother and you can get more sizes. A solid as a stump set of legs of course. (this is after I submitted the above because that's when I think of the obvious.)

Can't really say more now except. I HIGHLY recommend you NOT shorten the bed on that lathe. Find room for it, it's what 6' long total?  You have room in the Wonder Hut for a multi tasker like that. It isn't just a spinning lathe, it's a wood lathe and opens a world of wonders for the Hut. 

More later. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Thx, Frosty.

I have a wood lathe and keep the woodworking in the woodworking shop and the metal in the metalworking shop, so shortening it makes sense to me. (I started spinning using my wood lathe and realized I would need to replace the bearings on my Rikon if I kept metal spinning with it.)

The two lengths of steel that make up the ways/rails are bolted together and there appears to be more room for bolts and feet, like the cast piece at the tailstock end. I'm thinking if I shorten the ways with a plasma cutter and add some steel angle iron as feet and use more bolts thru the ways, I can bolt the feet to the workbench to help stiffen the assembly.

The bench is made up of two layers of 1 1/2" exterior OSB sheathing, sitting on a pallet rack shelf that has a horizontal steel member every 16" or so. There are two other shelves below the bench also with pallet rack shelving, but my blacksmith buddy has literally tons of stone he scavenged from stone masons and I just have to go get whatever I want and cut it on his wet saw. Sounds a lot easier than it is because that stuff is heavy. I plan on adding some of that material to at least one if not both of the lower two shelves for additional mass.  

Each pallet rack is strapped to the frame of the steel building as well because earthquakes, with blocking to keep the uprights of the pallet rack a specific distance from the wall and the surface-mount electrical. After I installed the strapping and blocks, I swung on the uprights to see if anything would move---nothing did.

Good point on the tailstock. It may be easier to make. There are two metal spinning quill things---not live centers, but like them in that they spin freely but I can't remember what they're called. They're better when working with follower blocks, but I've done the follower blocks with these neat little live centers I got from Nova. These tools, though, move freely but they need to be taken apart and cleaned and re-lubed thoroughly, but should work better.

Yes on shining up those forms/molds/chucks/dies. I"m actually looking forward to that. I just spent some time cleaning up some of the wood ones (kinda gross) and oof, some of those really need to be smoothed. The forms I made had a layer of Bondo I polished to a shine so there was no grain to telegraph through the spun material. Regardless, it'll be a good day when I'm polishing those steel and aluminum dies up. I'll  re-hab the spinning tools that came with this lathe then, as well. 

I'm getting kind of excited about this. Is that wrong? Nah.

Got any opinions on motors? My Rikon has either 1/2 or 3/4HP 110v motor that I don't think I've ever stalled, but I'm a freak when it comes to using sharp tools when woodturning. I mean, really, why work up a sweat trying to shove a dull tool through the material when you can sharpen it up and finesse it?

Oh, also, how about lubricants? The two tailstock tools have zerks, plus I'm going to have the hjole thing open so I might as well put the right lubricants to work. 


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Ayup, for the most part wood lathes are not up to the lateral forces of metal spinning, it'll just kill their bearings.

If the bed is intended to be shortened then you're golden. I'd still REALLY hesitate to cut the Don't know what to call thems but it's not my lathe.

You have 1 1/2" OSB sheathing?! I've never even heard of OSB that thick, then again I live in a forest in Alaska, I've been told the local Home Depot doesn't have everything. :rolleyes:

IIRC you've run through how you plan on making the pallet racks rigid and they should be plenty strong. I like it.

Okay the "spinning quills" HUH? Do they have the morse taper to engage the tail stock or maybe a component of one that does?  If some of the following blocks have a matching hole then they're what IIRC we called "dead" centers. That's from a limited description and no specific pic!  :o  The dead center's pins should also fit some of the dies for spinning parts that can have center holes. This type is a much safer way to learn to spin, the blanks can't come out of the lathe and do an extremely convincing impersonation of a meat slicer. Bad memories those and how I learned to stop severe bleeding as a youngster. How many 10 yr know all the pressure points in the arms how to apply a tourniquet  butterfly bandages and wrap for transport? Blood doesn't much bother me either. 

Sorry I had a couple flash backs there. :( 

Polish up the dies on the lathe, faster easier and lets you make the lathe's acquaintance before putting it to work. All the wooden dies in the shop were maple ply blocks polished and shellacked and polished again. Dad thinned the first couple coats of shellack so it's penetrate deeply. I'm thinking a good modern equivalent would be a vacuum chamber and Cactus juice same as stabilizing knife handles. 

Do NOT wax or otherwise lube the dies!

My Craftsman wood lathe has a 1 HP motor and was easy to stall. To be fair I'd never done any stick spinning except to trim and roll beads so I was almost surely doing it wrong. I'd want at least 1 or 1 1/2 HP, minimum larger would be better, just don't get crazy, it won't help.

It was made in the days of old school axle grease for most everything so a good quality automotive wheel bearing grease should be caviar goodness. Don't get exotic lubing things I'll bet it worked on 30 wt. or 3 in 1 for the light points. 

If it has oil points, plain old oil is what it was designed for. If it had babbit bearings you'd want something a little stickier so it didn't get slung all over creation. I use chainsaw bar oil and a little super duper automotive friction proofing oil additive in my LG. It's sticky and slippery so I don't have to just pour it in. If it's slinging oil you're using too much oil. 

I think that's about all the usefulness I can think of right know.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Understood on lubricating the machine. The quills move, so I'm pretty sure they're not dead centers. I'll take one apart and get a pic to show you later, after I get the shelving onto the benches (salvaged some library bookcases that are perfect for the Hut).

Yeah, the older wood forms/dies/whasits are some type of ply, grain looks like maple, well made---the threads are still crisp, so maybe rock maple? The newer ones are delaminating (looks like a glue fail) and those are going into a special pile called, "Set on fire."

I think this is a Boice Crane 1701, so it is indeed for spindle turning and metal spinning. Explains the bearings. It is missing some bolts, though, from the pictures I've seen, but I can remedy that. The tailstock quills are MT---I'm going to have to take them apart to clean, grease, and make sure nothing is busted inside. They have inserts that fit different follower blocks, but I will need to figure out exactly how they should work. I think I know, but I'm going to have to study up to make sure.

I'm going to have to find another step pulley or a matching pair that will work for this application. another website mentioned that there are other lathes with similar step pulleys that will work for this machine, so that's a possibility. I'm taking your advice on the treadmill motor. I found a chart of speeds using the step-pulleys, so I'll do some math to figure out the safe RPMs. 1 1/2HP? Dude, I can't tell if that's genius or crazy. Probably a little from column A and a little from column B.

I found the decal that's faded to nothing:


And I think I know how I'm going to deal with the C-channel ways/rails. It's quite clever---if it works.

But cleaning it all up is the first step. I'm really looking forward to it. And I keep going back and forth on if I want to paint it close to the original color or if I want to go with something else. I'm leaning toward something else, but nothing too crazy as my brush skills are nonexistent. I'm definitely putting that decal back on, though.

Thanks again, Frosty. This is really helpful. I'll try to remember to get pics as I go along, especially when I mess stuff up because those pictures are the funniest.

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Figuring final rpm from pully diameter is WAY easier than the formulas. Just express the diameters as a fraction of motor speed. Eg. 2" drive pully (on the motor) to a 6" slave, the rpm on the slave shaft will be 2/6 reduces to 1/3 motor speed. 1728/3 = 576 rpm. If you go the other way: 6" drive pully to a 3" slave express it as 6/3 reduces to 2/1,  2/1728 = 3,450 rpm.

Is that an easy formula or what? 

The only thing I know about the maple Dad used was it was clear, fine grained and he used "marine grade Weld Wood" to glue them up. He didn't use steel for dies, they were made from "Nu Die V" and professionally heat treated, they looked like polished dark blue glass and lasted hundreds of thousands of parts. 

It sounds like those are a different kind of live center. A closer pic please? 

I'm going to have to see what I can find out about it on the intertubes. It's been so long since I've looked at one and heck most of Dad's spinning lathes were home made. A couple were commercial lathes but I never paid attention to the names. The way you changed speed on Dad's was with the 4 speed manual transmission. He favored pickup truck trannies, I'm sure he said why but I was to young to get what he was saying. I was never allowed to change speeds. 

Ahh the memories. Frosty The Lucky.

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I didn't find the 1701 model but found the 1700. I didn't hit any of the old tool or Boice Crane fora. The ones on sale linked to adds with decent descriptions.

You have a gap bed lathe so the breaks in the rails are to support the ways when you slide the back end away from the head stock. I most certainly STRONGLY advise you to NOT cut the ways!! If you don't have the room make it's bench fold up against the wall on end. That won't damage it. Please don't make this up as you go, talk to folks who use the things and do it right. Please. Below is the site I looked over. 

I hope it doesn't get deleted, it's a fore sale add not a commercial site. <Fingers crossed>

Frosty The Lucky.


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1701 is the same as the 1700 except the ways are 60" instead of 42".

In this picture from the catalog showing the 1700...


You can see the ways are two pieces of c-channel with four square bolts along the length and a block at the headstock end. Get aloud of the description:


Not just strong but Herculean. Use of the word alone has my money leaping from my wallet.

The lathe I have has already been modified---the block is at the tailstock end and some of the bolts are missing. Also, the ways around ground on each end so the tailstock center aligns with the headstock center. You know, like they're supposed to.

I think the previous owner modified the ways by adding some holes so he could pull the way back to make the gap bigger. He moved the block to the tail end possibly because he was using two bolts at the headstock end and/or he wanted to move the tailstock all the way up to the headstock end for shallow but large bowls, platters, or plates, or for forms that needed more material than what the lathe would otherwise allow. I have some forms that are pretty big but fit the gap, but I wonder if the material would fit. Moving the ways back to a different set of dowel pins and then re-bolting may have been how he accommodated. I'm not sure, though, and won't know until I get it all cleaned up.

Here is an image from James Riser's site showing what he calls spinning live centers in the tailstock:


(BTW, James is a nice man.) The very end of the tailstock live centers have an insert to fit different follower blocks.

Here's one with an automatic oiler or something attached:


Dang, dude, if you were standing in the Wonder Hut you'd pick one up and know immediately. I'll try to get more pictures once I finish putting in the Hut shelving. I had to cut stuff up and haul it in there and this girl is tired.

P.S. Thanks for the math.

P.P.S. A truck transmission? Yet more evidence that your insanity is genetic.

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Hurculean  has me convinced! Woo HOO lets take one for a test spin! Then again I have trouble thinking it's more rigid than the Prybil pictured.

I have no idea what that thing on the center is, IF they're actually connected.  On a closer look it appears to have a: switch, cooling fins and a jointed arm. I'm voting lamp. 

Do you recognize the tool rest? How would YOU use either a wood turning chisel or a spinning tool on the back pin holes? Hmmmm? Don't worry, I'll tell you if you don't know. ;)

Another thing the Prybil has is the rifle bolt type way to close the follower. The wheel was only for fine adjustment. This one is different than I remember on Dad's lathes but would be really easy to make. A lever turns the block on the quill to allow it to slide back and forth and lock in position. You can see the handle laying in back. 

If I were standing in the Wonder Hut I imagine you'd put me to work. Don't think I'm some kind of expert here, I remember a lot of this stuff and would have a better chance of figuring some of it out but I haven't touched a spinning lathe or tool in better than 50 years and at that time I was one of the low skilled guys in Dad's shop. Still. . . .

Yeah, you could get a truck tranny (Chevy of course) for a LOT less than heavy duty step pullies and if you're making your own spinning lathes you don't ice them with caviar. Not only were they cheaper they were faster and safer to change speed. He mounted them with the motor on the tail shaft and a shielded triple belt to the spindle We needed more speed not torque. The motors were IIRC 3 phase in the 4-5hp, range though they didn't turn fast, maybe 500 rpm. I spun 10" dia. 16ga. steel at approx 3,200 rpm and it moved like butter. I LOVED spinning steel, never had a blank shred itself on the tool or come out of the lathe. Probably why it's what Dad had me spin. If you put it in 1st it was probably turning the die in excess of 5,000 rpm. Talk about making the blank sing!

Frosty The Lucky.

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It's no where near as beefy as a Prybil. No where near. But I got me a plan, Frosty, don't you worry. It'll be locked down completely.

I fabricated a tool rest for my wood lathe for metal spinning. It's heavier than the one that came with this lathe, so I may see if it'll fit this Boice-Crane.

Interesting thing about the bolt way to close the follow block. Really interesting. I'll have to think about that modification. I don't put the blank in while the machine is running, but put it in, lightly close the follow block on it, then turn the lathe wheel by hand to get it lined up using the backstick. I ain't getting paid by the piece and right now, I can't get past the idea of spinning metal not locked in somehow.

Ok, I have to finish the Wonder Hut infrastructure---get the shelving in---and then start taking everything apart.

I should mention---I think I'm going to use a non-standard paint color. Hahahahaha. Got a long way to go before I get there and I may change my mind, but I may do something a little crazy. Just a little. Not Chevy-transmission-on-a-lathe crazy.

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