Watchmaker's Lathe Oil

Discussion in 'Horological Tools' started by feadog, Apr 18, 2002.

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  1. feadog

    feadog Guest

    On another thread there were some suggestions on which oil to use for the lathe headstock bearings, e.g., synthetic(Castrol Syntalube) 5W-50 automotive motor oil or Mobil 1® synthetic motor oil.

    Can the same oil be used for the electric motor bearings?

    Bill
     
  2. feadog

    feadog Guest

    On another thread there were some suggestions on which oil to use for the lathe headstock bearings, e.g., synthetic(Castrol Syntalube) 5W-50 automotive motor oil or Mobil 1® synthetic motor oil.

    Can the same oil be used for the electric motor bearings?

    Bill
     
  3. Steve Maddox

    Steve Maddox Guest

    Yes, but I use a much thinner oil, both for motors and lathe bearings. I use Mobil 1(R) 5W-30, but I know other people who use synthetic clock oils, and seem to have equally good results.

    ------------------
    Steve Maddox
    President, NAWCC Chapter #62
    North Little Rock, Arkansas
     
  4. feadog

    feadog Guest

    Steve,

    Thanks. I'm glad the same oil can be used for both.

    I decided to try to find a small oil can to transfer the oil from the quart container, to make it easier to use. I found some cute little Singer oil cans on eBay. Only problem is, they are considered collectables, and more expensive than they should be.

    Bill
     
  5. Steve Maddox

    Steve Maddox Guest

    Chuck,

    Thanks for the additional info and excellent explanation about oil viscosity! I have a friend who's a petroleum engineer, and he's tried to explain the nomenclature of oil weights to me before, but never with much success. He starts talking about molecules being like ball bearings of different sizes, etc., and I just glaze over and pleasantly nod in agreement, while having no idea in the world what he's talking about. I think I understand the subject better now than I ever have before!

    As for electric motors, I have another friend who collects antique electric fans. The manufacturers of many large fans, such as shop fans, roll-abouts, etc., with motors of about 1/4 horse or more and blades in excess of 16", recommended using 30 weight motor oil as lubrication. For smaller fans with motors more similar to those typically used on watchmakers' lathes, however, "machine oil" is typically recommended. It's my understanding that "machine oil" is typically much thinner than motor oil, though I wouldn't begin to make a guess about it's viscosity rating. In any event, I use the same motor oil in my lathe and lathe motor that I use in my Ford 4.6L, and none have ever given any trouble. On the other hand, I'm not sure they'd be any the worse for wear if a slightly thicker oil was used.

    The object of any lubricant is to "float" moving parts so that they don't actually physically wear against each other. Film strength is an important consideration, but for most applications, I'm sure a fairly wide range of viscosities would be equally effective.

    For what it's worth, I typically run my lathe at fairly high RPMs when polishing pivots, and when I do that for extended periods, the bearings do heat up a bit. I don't mean they start smoking, or anything like that, but they get warm enough that it's easily detectable to the touch. This is probably due to the fact that I keep the bearings set fairly tight so as to get the most highly accurate results from the lathe. My guess would be that the hottest I've ever had them would be about 130 degrees Fahrenheit; I've certainly never had them hot enough that they were significantly uncomfortable to the touch.

    Bill -- As for oil delivery devices, I prefer a glass hypodermic syringe. Old glass syringes can be commonly found on eBay and other similar venues, and they're not adversely affected by oils and solvents the way modern plastic and rubber syringes are. You should be able to buy a nice small glass syringe for less than $5.00, including shipping!

    SM
     
  6. feadog

    feadog Guest

    Steve,

    There are indeed a load of glass syringes on eBay, and they look neat. Pardon my lack of knowledge on the subject, but do I also need to get a needle to go with the syringe? Also, do you store the oil in the syringe?

    Bill

    [This message has been edited by feadog (edited 04-19-2002).]
     
  7. Steve Maddox

    Steve Maddox Guest

    Bill,

    Having a needle with the syringe is quite helpful, though probably not absolutely essential. I used to know a little about needle "gauges," but I've forgotten it all. I just use a really big needle (such as a veterinary type or one intended for inserting an IV tube), and blunt the point of it with a whetstone so as to make it less likely to stick myself by accident! Oil doesn't seem to seriously affect the plastic fitting on needles, but if possible, it would probably be best to get some of the really old ones, which have metal fittings on the ends.

    I have a "tuberculin" syringe that I really like, but these are hard to find. It's about five inches long, with a plunger that's little more than 1/8" in diameter. The capacity is just 1cc, and I use this when refilling the Bergeon automatic oilers I use, which I really like. I also have a couple of 3cc syringes that work well too, and it's one of these that I use for oiling my lathe. These are only about 2 1/2" long, and about 1/2" in diameter. I usually don't fill any of them more than about 1/4 way at a time, but I leave the oil in them until it's used up, and I never have any problem with it leaking out. To help facilitate cleanliness, I keep the syringes in a Zip-Loc ® bag, but as long as they're stored in a horizontal position, the oil stays in them very well.

    Of course, it goes without saying that you should make certain the syringe is very clean and dry before filling it. I'd recommend a good cleaning with ammonia, or a strongly ammoniated cleaner such as "Fantastic®," "Formula 409®," or any similar cleaner with a spray bottle, which can inject the cleaner into the barrel of the syringe with some authority. Just rinse well with warm water, using the plunger to expel the water through the point, and make certain everything is completely dry before filling with oil.

    To fill, don't attempt to "pour" the oil into the open end of the syringe, just use the plunger to draw the oil in through the needle with vacuum. Inevitably, a little air will be drawn in as well, and once the desired quantity of oil has been received, the syringe should be held vertically with the needle at the top, and the plunger should be depressed enough to expel all the trapped air. Of course, a little oil will be expelled as well, but it won't be a significant amount. If the air is left inside the syringe, changing environmental conditions (temperature and barometric pressure) will cause the air to expand and contract, thereby expelling oil when you don't want it to!

    Again, I hope this helps!

    SM
     
  8. feadog

    feadog Guest

    I got a glass syringe yesterday. Watching through a 4x loupe, I was amazed at how much control, and accuracy there was. I "applied" a single drop of oil, and saw it go where and only where it was supposed to go. This applies to oiling the lathe bearings.

    What is the proper way to oil the motor, i.e., how do you deal with those ball bearings?

    Bill
     
  9. Steve Maddox

    Steve Maddox Guest

    Bill,

    My lathe motor does not have ball bearings; it has bushings, and oil cups on top to occasionally oil. I usually put a drop or two of oil in each oil cup once or twice a year.

    As for ball bearings, some have dust shields on them which prevent them from being lubricated externally. Others will allow a little oil to be worked in, but I'm not sure that I'd really recommend that. Most ball bearings are intended to run with light grease, not oil.

    Perhaps someone here with experience with ball bearing motors could comment additionally, as I really don't know what to recommend.

    SM
     
  10. feadog

    feadog Guest

    My lathe motor has 2 steel balls (ball bearings??) on top, like the one on the following eBay auction.
    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=863550669

    I thought the idea was to push them down with the tip of the oil can and apply a few drops of oil.

    Does this help clarify my motor oiling question?

    Bill
     
  11. Steve Maddox

    Steve Maddox Guest

    Ah, these are not ball bearings -- they're just oil cups with spring loaded ball-type covers. The steel balls in these serve no purpose except to keep particles out of the oil reservoirs.

    In this case, you should use your needle (or a small screwdriver or any similar object) to depress the spring loaded ball, and inject a couple of drops of oil. If your motor is REALLY dry, and makes an abnormal noise when running, you should inject a little oil (a drop or less) around the motor shaft where it exits the motor housing. That will work directly into the bushing, while oil applied in the reservoirs will take some time to work it's way through.

    SM
     

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