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Machine Shop and Tool Talk

BIG LeBlond lathe

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Old 12-03-2015, 10:17:32 AM
Nebraska Kirk Nebraska Kirk is offline
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Default BIG LeBlond lathe

I have been wanting and looking for a bigger lathe and found this BIG LeBlond for sale. It is advertised as a having a 16" swing and 96" between centers. 5hp, 3 phase. It is about 12' long and weighs around 6,000 pounds. It comes with a a 4 jaw chuck and a tapering jig, but nothing else. The seller claims everything works as it should, but it has been unhooked and removed from the shop, so if I went to look at it, I would be unable to power it up to test it out. Which brings me to my question, is there anything I can do, other than removing covers and visually checking gears, to check out it's condition to verify that is in good condition and everything will work when I get it home and hook it up to power?
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Old 12-03-2015, 10:35:09 AM
beezerbill beezerbill is offline
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Default Re: BIG LeBlond lathe

Use a straight edge and some feeler gauges (or even cigarette paper) to check for wear in the ways, especially up near the headstock. Also, move the cross slide to either extreme and rock it, and see how much play there is. Then do the same thing in the middle of it's travel - this gives you a sense if there is any big wear on the cross slide ways. Visually check the lead screw for wear, again especially near the headstock. There are more advanced tests you could do even without power but they involve having a proper test bar for the spindle. A machine of this age could be anywhere between virtually no wear to completely worn out. It just depends on how hard it was used and how well it was taken care of. As a side note, if it is worn out, it is completely rebuildable but that is kind of a big undertaking.

Forgot to mention. Also check the tapers in both the spindle and tail stock quill to see if they are good or torn up. Just look in the tail stock quill or run your finger inside the quill to determine if it is smooth or has some galling in it.
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Old 12-03-2015, 10:43:21 AM
Pauls Welding Minnesota Pauls Welding Minnesota is offline
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Default Re: BIG LeBlond lathe

How about the oil puddle under the head stock?
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Old 12-03-2015, 11:58:23 AM
John Hanson John Hanson is offline
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Default Re: BIG LeBlond lathe

I'd put a lever of some sort under the chuck and see if there's noticeable wear on the bearings.... definitely check the lead screw for wear/chips/etc. You should also be able to get a peek at the half nut if you take an inspection mirror and light with you. Check the carriage blocks for cracks from some over zealous fan trying to tighten it up without doing any machining (like mine were).
I've got a big Monarch and it's a great machine. You just can't beat those old lathes in my opinion!
More pictures please!!
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Old 12-03-2015, 12:19:23 PM
wmusta wmusta is offline
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Default Re: BIG LeBlond lathe

Look for signs of the chuck hitting the compound rest area or saddle. Sometimes the t-slot for the tool post gets damaged in a crash.
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Old 12-03-2015, 12:58:18 PM
OrgWayne OrgWayne is offline
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Default Re: BIG LeBlond lathe

BIL bought a lot bigger then yours Air Force Surplus and it sits in his shop doing almost nothing !! , I would kind of like to play with it , but He's 125 miles away !!
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Old 12-03-2015, 02:22:06 PM
LCJudge LCJudge is offline
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Default Re: BIG LeBlond lathe

I recently purchased a LeBlond lathe that is the same model as the one you have pictured. I did a bit of research on them before I made the purchase and found the biggest issue with them is the gearing is a bit light and can give trouble. I had one gent that I conversed with say "what are you going to do with it? If you're trying to make a living with it, you might want to find something else. If you're just doing hobby jobs on it, you'll probably be OK".

Out of curiosity mostly, I was watching one on eBay. In an email to the owner he said it was a good machine and held very good tolerances. He had it listed on a Buy It Now for $900 and it stayed on eBay for a period of time before someone made him an offer on it and he let it go. I would bet the lathe could have been bought for $600. Here's the listing. Just thought I'd mention this to give you an idea of value:
Tommy Turner
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Old 12-03-2015, 02:41:12 PM
J.B. Castagnos J.B. Castagnos is offline
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Default Re: BIG LeBlond lathe

I had an older one about that size given to me, before I had a chance to install it I got a good deal on a newer Summit, gave the Leblond to a friend. Engage the half nuts and see if the carriage can be moved back and forth with the hand wheel, the one I had had wear in the screw and nuts.
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Old 12-03-2015, 10:24:26 PM
s100 s100 is offline
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Default Re: BIG LeBlond lathe

That looks very much like my 17x54 Regal,except that one has a longer bed. We figured mine at something like 2400 lbs. so I think the 6k is grossly exaggerated. At a guess I'd call it 3K and no more. I brought mine home from Toronto in the back of a lightly-sprung '72 GMC one ton and it wasn't much of a load at all, and I got hundreds of pounds of accessories and chucks with mine.

You've gotten a lot of sound advice for things to check, wear in the ways, wear in the leadscrew and half nuts, etc.(DO the "engage halfnuts and see if the carriage can be moved" test in several places, especially close to the chuck.) I'd also check for backlash in all the feed screws. Being unable to power the machine, it's tough to get a feel for how the thing will run, are the gears quiet, etc. One thing you can do is shift the lathe into each gear and run through a complete revolution or two of the spindle, using the handwheel on the input shaft. This isn't a tell-all but should alert you to really horrible deficiencies such as stripped gears. Look at the rack gear on the bed. Sometimes teeth get messed up. Check the tailstock ram for wobble.

I realize this a very individual proposition, given the condition of the specific machine you are looking at, your uses for it and your expectations for a lathe. That said, I can't say enough GOOD things about these lathes. For a situation like mine, occasional use for large-ish projects in a home shop, this machine's light weight and low power demands (mine has a 2HP motor and it is plenty) coupled with its capacity make it an ideal choice. The fact that they typically sell for cheap is just icing on the cake.

This does come with costs and shortcomings, though. The lathes have only 8 spindle speeds not the 18 or 24 you might expect from a lathe weighing thousands of pounds more. Top speed is 650 or so RPM so don't get in a hurry or expect to do ultra precise, tiny jobs. As stated already, the innards are built a big more lightly than stouter machines. But if you use the lathe properly and carefully, this should not be a problem. Yours has a 5HP motor, but these lathes are not hoggers. Don't over-do it. Oh, they are hoggers when compared to 10" South Bends, Logans or the horrible imports, but that's a whole 'nuther thing.

On the plus side, these lathes have the widest range quick change threading box of any lathe I have seen. It will cut 1 1/4 TPI and maybe even less. This has been a lifesaver for me more than once. These lathes are quiet, smooth running and simply but well built. They were in production for many years (mine is a 1953, I think the last year they made 'em) and they built gazillions of the things, in the various sizes. This tells me they were popular and must have been good for their intended purpose. The fact that I still see a lot of them, still working today, tells me that they are durable. For these reasons I say, if you need a light lathe with a large-ish capacity, you will be well satisfied with a Regal. Will you, as I do, get serious lathe envy every time you walk past a big American Pacemaker or a Lodge and Shipley Model X or Powerturn? Maybe. But one has to make sacrifices in the interest of practicality.

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Old 12-03-2015, 11:50:24 PM
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Reeves13hp Reeves13hp is offline
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Default Re: BIG LeBlond lathe

Looks like a smaller version of mine.
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8-1/2x10 Frick
13hp Reeves
50hp Case
22hp Wood Brothers
18hp Advance
20-75 Nichols & Shepard
20hp Corner Bracket Advance
16hp Minneapolis
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Old 12-05-2015, 03:36:15 PM
Richard W. Richard W. is offline
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Default Re: BIG LeBlond lathe

You can remove the belt guard and spin the pulley to see if the feed moves the carriage and cross slide. Also see if the half nut works as it should.
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Old 12-29-2015, 09:47:02 PM
prybar prybar is offline
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Default Re: BIG LeBlond lathe

A lot of times these lathes are belt driven to the transmission. You might be able to somewhat ckeck a few things. Don't get your fingers pinched.. I love LeBlonde lathes, in 1979 I worked at hydraulic cylinder factory. Ran a Leblond 24 feet between centers.
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Old 12-31-2015, 01:56:00 PM
dkamp dkamp is offline
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Default Re: BIG LeBlond lathe

Geez, Kirk... 16" isn't BIG... that's on the smallish side of average...

All measurements aside, if you don't HAVE a lathe, or don't have one large enough to handle what you need to handle, if you can manage the price, you won't lose on it. Even a well-worn lathe will cut metal, and if you're willing to invest a little sweat-equity, you can learn it well, make it better, and compensate for that which you cannot easily fix.

Most of the time, a lathe's bed wear will be up towards the chuck... and the leadscrews will be worn more there... mostly because that's where all the 'work' is predominantly done, but also because that's where most of the debris will be swept to. As long as there's nothing hideously awry, put it to work.

As others noted- the largest lathe in a shop often sits more than it works, but when a large lathe is needed, only a large lathe can do the job... so frequently they're much better than they appear.

Oil on the floor means... there's oil in it!
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Old 12-31-2015, 03:24:14 PM
Nebraska Kirk Nebraska Kirk is offline
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Default Re: BIG LeBlond lathe

Thank you for all your comments and advice! I decided to pass on the lathe because of a number of factors. One being that it was not hooked up to power and I could not test it out. Another factor is that it is MUCH longer than I can ever see a need for. I already have a 12x36 Atlas lathe, but it is pretty light-duty and not very accurate and I am looking for something a little bigger and heavier duty. A 14x40 lathe would be more to my liking.
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