replace bearings in Levin lathe

Chris Mamere

Registered User
Dec 27, 2010
14
0
0
Hey all......among lots of other vintage tools i bought some time ago is a levin watchmakers lathe. I took it out the other day to see if I could use it to polish pivots.....the headstock, altough it moves smoothly, is hard to turn and i suspect it needs bearings. I did get it to work, but it didn't work very well, and one side got hot. What i need to know is if the bearings can be replaced, where to get them, and how to do it. Anyone:???: Chris
 

shutterbug

Moderator
Staff member
NAWCC Member
Oct 19, 2005
46,149
1,764
113
North Carolina
Country
Region
The non bearing kind need oil when you use them. I'm pretty sure that the bearings can be replaced, but seem to recall that they are designed particularly to the machine they are in. David LaBounty has a great video that discusses tearing down and working on the Levin. I'd recommend getting it.
 

Chris Mamere

Registered User
Dec 27, 2010
14
0
0
I do not see where this could possibly be oiled....it appears to be a closed system. As far as what type of bearings are in it, I do not know the difference. I will research the video, thanks. I wonder if a user manual can be found, although i don't see any model #'s anywhere. All in all, this lathe is in good shape, if i could get the headstock to move freer.....it should spin by hand very easily right? thanks for the help. chris
 

Dean Williams

Registered User
Jun 5, 2011
365
0
0
Idaho, USA
www.deansphotographica.com
Country
Yes, it should spin by hand, and as you say, very easy. I mean, you can spin it between two fingers without hardly trying.
If you are not very familiar with watch lathes, it could be that you just are not seeing the oilers. On some, they are covered
by oil caps on the front and back end of the headstock. They look kind of like a wedding ring and fit on the ends where the
spindle sticks out of each end of the headstock. They generally just pull off, and you will see a teardrop shaped hole for oil.

Other lathes have regular roller bearings. Some types have wick oilers that are not always easy to notice. If you can put
up a few good pictures of your lathe headstock, maybe someone can help you.
 

Chris Mamere

Registered User
Dec 27, 2010
14
0
0
Dean!!!! So THAT'S what thoses are for!!!!! 10-4 on the wedding rings....so what kind of oil? will a light household oil be ok? Chris
 

StephanG

Registered User
Jun 24, 2007
916
2
16
67
Australia
Country
If it has been out of use for a long time I would recommend taking it down and giving everything a good clean before putting it into service.
Then you can reassemble, oil, and adjust it correctly.
If you try and adjust anything as it stands you may find that things that are supposed to move won't.
A bit of effort at the start and it should last for years.
 

Chris Mamere

Registered User
Dec 27, 2010
14
0
0
Hey all, the oil worked great! wonder of wonders......ok, so can i assume that the '8' underneath the 'Levin' stamp on the headstock means it takes 8 mm collets? This lathe looks like it will clean up nice, and be very useful....in the same lot i also have a very tiny drill press as well.... Chris
 

Neuron

Registered User
Nov 4, 2010
557
4
0
SF East Bay
Country
Region
Chris,

Could you post a photo of your headstock? Levin made cone-bearing and ball-bearing headstocks/ the cone-bearing HS's were either bronze (designated with the letter "B") or "hard" cone bearings. these are easy to take appart and service, and they had oil ports for adding lubrication. The ball-bearing headstocks were quite different. they used pressure seated beafrings and were not meant to be lubricated (they were "sealed" and "lubricated for life" allegedly.

Levin doesn't offer replacement cone bearings. They do offer replacement BB's, which cost about $1000 per set of two (front and rear bearings).
 

MShaw

Registered User
Sep 20, 2000
247
1
0
80
York, Pa.
Country
Region
Try to avoid using 3 in 1 oil. I knew a fellow that repaired small motors for sewing machines and mixers years ago. Whenever the bearings were caked with hard deposits and worn they were usually oiled faithfully with 3 in 1.

A good light spindle oil is best but a #5 or #10 motor oil woild be a better choice than 3 in 1.

Just my observation.

Malkin Shaw
York, Pa.
 

Dean Williams

Registered User
Jun 5, 2011
365
0
0
Idaho, USA
www.deansphotographica.com
Country
I don't agree about the 3 in 1 oil problem. I don't doubt that the bearings your friend serviced were in need of attention, but
it wasn't because of the 3 in 1 oil. I worked for an oil company for a few years some time back. We had tables that crossed
every oil known. 3 in 1 is mainly a high grade turbine oil, which is what many companies sell as spindle oil for lathes of all sorts.
In other words, 3 in 1 basically IS a spindle oil. So is another product called "Zoom" oil, which comes in a bottle with along spout.
Either will do well in these small spindles, along with a slew of other light machine oils.
 

bjr72

Registered User
Dec 12, 2010
20
0
0
Chris,

Could you post a photo of your headstock? Levin made cone-bearing and ball-bearing headstocks/ the cone-bearing HS's were either bronze (designated with the letter "B") or "hard" cone bearings. these are easy to take appart and service, and they had oil ports for adding lubrication. The ball-bearing headstocks were quite different. they used pressure seated beafrings and were not meant to be lubricated (they were "sealed" and "lubricated for life" allegedly.

Levin doesn't offer replacement cone bearings. They do offer replacement BB's, which cost about $1000 per set of two (front and rear bearings).
My Levin 8mm headstock is stamped:
Levin
B

There is radial movement in the spindle - if I grab the chuck, the spindle assembly will jiggle about 1/64" to 1/32" radially.

Do you know if this type of problem is serviceable? I'm guessing I have the cone bearing headstock since the headstock has the locking lever on the side to secure it to the lathe base.
 

Dean Williams

Registered User
Jun 5, 2011
365
0
0
Idaho, USA
www.deansphotographica.com
Country
My Levin 8mm headstock is stamped:
Levin
B

There is radial movement in the spindle - if I grab the chuck, the spindle assembly will jiggle about 1/64" to 1/32" radially.

Do you know if this type of problem is serviceable? I'm guessing I have the cone bearing headstock since the headstock has the locking lever on the side to secure it to the lathe base.
That sounds like the bearings are not adjusted up right, IF this is a cone bearing lathe. Is this lathe new to you?
Will you post a picture so someone can give you usable advice, please?

Dean
 

moe1942

Registered User
Oct 25, 2010
1,648
18
38
Alexandria, La
Country
Region
Cone bearings are very forgiving but must be properly preloaded. If you have gitz oilers front and rear you need to make sure the wicking is getting the oil to the bearings.

I agree with the poster who said it need a tear down and good cleaning first. Make sure you keep the parts separated. Don't get the bearings switched.

If doing a lot of turning or loading the bearings axially the head stock should be set up a little tighter to prevent oblong wear in the front bearing.


A good sewing machine oil or very light synthetic will work as lube.


There are numerous places on the web that describe preloading and adjusting your bearings.
 

bjr72

Registered User
Dec 12, 2010
20
0
0
Thanks for taking the time to help me with this. While I'm not new to operating a lathe, I don't know much about bearings or how to overhaul them.
Removing the knurled ring, I don't know what tool I would need to begin the overhaul.

So is this a regular bearing or cone bearing HS? Can you tell from the pictures of the headstock?

thanks
Brian
 

Attachments

bjr72

Registered User
Dec 12, 2010
20
0
0
Just reading about bearings online. I've overhauled my bicycle over 20 times in 20 years. The cone bearing in the Levin works the same as the bearing in my bicycle wheel:???:? I never even knew it was called a cone bearing on my bicycle. I remember if I screw in the cone too much, I could feel the bearings grinding.... too loose and there was play in the wheel.... took a lot of fiddling to get it just right....

Am I correct on this?
 

Dean Williams

Registered User
Jun 5, 2011
365
0
0
Idaho, USA
www.deansphotographica.com
Country
I don't know about your bicycle, but your lathe is a cone bearing type. The knurled ring is just the oil/dust cap. Where that cap is should
be your split ring for adjusting the end play on the bearings. You can tighten it carefully until the end play is taken up. Do it slowly,
and rotate the spindle as you tighten it feeling for tight spots in the spindle. When you feel it get just slightly tight while turning the
spindle by hand, back off the nut until the spindle rotates smoothly, with no tight spots.
(The little "teardrop" shape at the top of the cone is for oil.)
You mentioned "overhaul" a couple times. I don't know if there is a reason to do that from what you've said. You may just need
to get familiar with the adjustments it periodically needs. If it has been a while since it's last service, the spindle may need cleaning, too.

By the way, when I asked if the lathe was new to you, I meant had you acquired it recently, not that you were new to lathe work. :)

Dean
 

bjr72

Registered User
Dec 12, 2010
20
0
0
I don't know about your bicycle, but your lathe is a cone bearing type. The knurled ring is just the oil/dust cap. Where that cap is should
be your split ring for adjusting the end play on the bearings. You can tighten it carefully until the end play is taken up. Do it slowly,
and rotate the spindle as you tighten it feeling for tight spots in the spindle. When you feel it get just slightly tight while turning the
spindle by hand, back off the nut until the spindle rotates smoothly, with no tight spots.
(The little "teardrop" shape at the top of the cone is for oil.)
You mentioned "overhaul" a couple times. I don't know if there is a reason to do that from what you've said. You may just need
to get familiar with the adjustments it periodically needs. If it has been a while since it's last service, the spindle may need cleaning, too.

By the way, when I asked if the lathe was new to you, I meant had you acquired it recently, not that you were new to lathe work. :)

Dean
The lathe is new to me, yes. It sat idle for a year until I was able to pick up a chuck for it.

What you just described is exactly the procedure I go through when overhauling the bearings on my bicycle wheel.

Any idea what tool I need to adjust or remove the split ring?

Are the bearings inside loose or contained like in a tapered roller bearing?

Thanks for your advice...
 

cazboy

Registered User
Apr 27, 2006
1,106
5
0
68
Prescott Valley, Arizona
dougsclocks.hpage.com
Country
Region
Hey all, the oil worked great! wonder of wonders......ok, so can i assume that the '8' underneath the 'Levin' stamp on the headstock means it takes 8 mm collets? This lathe looks like it will clean up nice, and be very useful....in the same lot i also have a very tiny drill press as well.... Chris
Hey Chris, you mentioned a "very tiny drill press" that you also acquired. What brand? Do you use it much?
 

glenhead

NAWCC Member
Nov 15, 2009
1,195
213
63
63
Williamson County, Texas
Country
Region
This turned out to be a long post. I hope you find it worthwhile.

I overhauled my Peerless lathe for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and it was very straightforward following the instructions in Archie Perkins' book (expensive, but worth it). Start by taking off the chuck and pulling out the drawbar.

Under the dust cap on the outer housing (left end of the pictures, where the drawbar goes in) there should be another nut with a slot in it (the split nut). That slot is where you insert the tip of a screwdriver and spread the nut a bit so you can unscrew it by turning the pulley. It seemed to me like that would be danged near the last thing you'd want to do, but it works.

Once the nut is off, completely remove the Allen screw holding the pulley on. You want to remove it completely so you can see the screw's divot in the spindle on reassembly. Use a mallet (plastic or wood or rawhide, or protect the threaded end of the spindle with a block of wood) and tap the spindle loose. Hang on to the pulley, and pull the spindle out of the housing and pulley. Catch the sleeve bearing when it comes out of the outer housing, or remove it. The bearings pressed into the housing will stay where they are.

There should also be dust caps on the inside of the housing bearings, on either side of the pulley when it's installed. I didn't see them at first, and had to re-clean the headstock to get the inner surfaces clean. The areas under those caps were pretty filthy.

That's all you need to take apart for a basic overhaul. Look at the bearing surfaces on the spindle, sleeve bearing, and housing bearings. There are two bearing surfaces on each bearing. The outer one is the 45-degree taper; it controls endshake. The three-degree taper behind it controls sideshake. If they're severely chewed up, I'd strongly recommend Perkins' book for how to repair them. Mine has hard housing bearings. The outer taper on the chuck bearing showed a bit of pitting at the bottom, but the surfaces all lapped nicely and the pits don't interfere.

I also removed the mechanism that locks the headstock to the bed. That way I didn't have to worry about moisture staying behind when I cleaned the headstock. It comes apart with some fiddling.

I cleaned mine up by soaking everything in hot Simple Green, scrubbing it all down with a toothbrush, rinsing well, swishing in denatured alcohol, and drying with a hair dryer.

I use sewing machine oil on this kind of thing. A 4-oz bottle of Zoom oil was a whole $4.

Reassembly is essentially a reverse of the above. Put the dust caps back on the pulley ends of the housing bearings. Remember to put the belt in place before inserting the spindle, so you don't have to take the @#$% thing apart again. (Voice of experience? Moi?) Put a thin film of oil on all bearing surfaces before reassembly. Slide the spindle into the inner housing bearing, through the pulley and outer housing bearing. Use a flashlight to look into the set-screw hole in the pulley, and line it up over the divot in the spindle. Reinstall the Allen screw and tighten.

Note that the sleeve bearing has a keyway that has to line up with the key on the spindle. Slide the sleeve bearing back on the spindle (after oiling). Stand the chuck end of the spindle on a block of wood, and use another piece of wood to get past the threads and gently tap the sleeve bearing onto the spindle. Snug it up until there's a bit of resistance when you turn the pulley by hand. Thread the split nut on and hand-tighten it. Tap the threaded end of the spindle gently with a mallet, and check endshake and freedom. The pulley should turn freely, and there should be no noticeable endshake. You may have to loosen the split nut a smidgen to get the correct balance.

Load up the oil holes with oil and hand-spin the spindle to distribute. Run the lathe at its slowest speed, and add another couple of drops while it's running. Wipe off any excess oil, and replace the dust covers.

Congratulations, you've overhauled your headstock.

For periodic oiling, wipe any surface dirt from the dust covers and surrounding areas, remove the dust covers, and put a few good drops of oil in the oil holes while running at the lowest speed. More oil is not bad - it'll flush the bearing surfaces, and that's a Very Good Thing. Wipe down any excess, and replace the dust covers.

Whew! Hope this helps.

Glen
 
Last edited:

cazboy

Registered User
Apr 27, 2006
1,106
5
0
68
Prescott Valley, Arizona
dougsclocks.hpage.com
Country
Region
Glenhead, interesting post. I'm intrigued by your cleaning of your headstock parts with hot Simple Green. I use Coleman fuel per advice from a friend, and it works well, but the Simple Green may be a bit more eco-friendly. Dang, I like that stuff for everything else, I never thought of cleaning my lathe with it too!

Because of a recent thread on spindle oil (in which I got taken to the woodshed for calling Mobil-1 a "spindle oil") I recently gave up oiling my Rivett lathe with Mobil-1 zero-20 oil, and switched to Mobil Velocite. I think it's Velocite #6, but I forget just now.

To anyone who's interested, there's an excellent article on adjusting the bearings on a watchmaker's lathe on my website - it's on my "DOWNLOADS" page. It's a reprint of a BHI article by John Losch & Leon LaVasseur (spelling?).
 

glenhead

NAWCC Member
Nov 15, 2009
1,195
213
63
63
Williamson County, Texas
Country
Region
Simple Green has become my go-to cleaner for all sorts of stuff. I don't really care about the eco-friendly part - the stuff is cheap, and shoo-mama, does it work! Heat it in the microwave until it's uncomfortably hot, and soak all sorts of parts in it to cut grease and oil super-quick. Put some in a container in the ultrasonic cleaner, and drop in that watch bracelet you just polished to get every last speck of rouge out of every cranny. Put some in a bigger container in the ultrasonic and stick that filthy alarm clock movement (you know, the one that flat won't come apart) in it for a couple of minutes, and you could eat oatmeal off the movement. The more I use it, the more uses I find for it.
 

bjr72

Registered User
Dec 12, 2010
20
0
0
I want to thank you for taking the time to explain the entire procedure... I really appreciate it.... the screwdriver trick and turning the spindle is brilliant. No special tool required.
thanks
Brian
 

Forum statistics

Threads
164,793
Messages
1,433,853
Members
85,803
Latest member
Chas99
Encyclopedia Pages
1,101
Total wiki contributions
2,863
Last edit
Rockford's early high grade movements by Greg Frauenhoff