Sunday, October 24, 2010

My boy Sheldon

Got this lathe last winter from my good bud Mike Goni's shop. It's a bitchin old Sheldon from around the mid 40's. I've been slowly getting everything working perfectly over the year. Fuck man, you think a bike motor is complicated? Jebus - this beast has more gears, shafts, bearings, pins, shims, set screws, cotters, keyways, grease fittings, thrust washers, clutches, springs & every other goddamn mechancial thing you could think of. All in the name of making round metal things. When I got it, the quickchange gearbox was missing most of its parts so all the autofeed stuff was non-functional. I didnt think it was a big deal until I started making some more complex & larger parts with it. It was also missing some teeth from the bull gear.

I spent a long time trying to find some parts for it but unfortunately the old Sheldon's are one of the more rare American machines. South Bend & Atlas parts are everywhere; not the case with a Sheldon. I ended up finding a Yahoo group dedicated to the Sheldon Lathes & Mills & got some really great info from those guys. I got a service and parts manual, along with a users manual. I also found a guy who was willing to repair my bull gear. Amazingly enough, I also found a guy who had a complete quick change gearbox from a '57. He sold it to me for a great price & it bolted right up. You can see the different color of the gearbox in the pics. I'm not really sweating the asthetics as I really dig the old reliable workhorse look. Old machines with chipped and peeling paint that are covered in grease are pretty in their own way. As for the bull gear, I sent it out and the guy actually 're-ringed' it. Where they shave all the existing teeth off the gear and press on a new ring. It came back good as new.

Now changing out the gearbox was not too crazy of a job but goddamn, getting that bull gear off and back on was a chore. Had to pull the spindle out of the headstock which involved a lot of 2 x 4s, a B.F.H. and a lot of sweating and swearing. While the headstock was all apart, I pulled all the end gears off, cleaned & rebuilt them all, along with the remaining parts of the headstock. Once that was all done, I rebuilt the apron. Man, I thought the headstock was tricky - the apron was pretty intense in comparison. The autofeed knob has a clutch not unlike a motorcycle with all the plates and springs.

Once all the work was done and I got to run the machine, it was surely worth it. Its really rewarding to get your mind around something new, dig in elbows deep & come out with something insanely useful, not to mention a machine that can easily pay for itself by making some parts for folks. I'm looking forward to getting a mill attachment for it so I can also machine some flats when needed. Super stoked on the beast. I use it almost every time I go in my shop so it has surely been a worthy investment of time & effort.


  1. Youre insane brother. And I man love you for it. I get pissed when I have to jiggle to key to the front door or even flush twice. Let alone fixing it or caring to know how the knob or pot even works. Some peoples heads just work differently and I'm glad for me and my bike that your is. Stoked to have Sheldon in our crew.

  2. Agree with Clarkey, insane! A true man of the machine!