How to Disassemble a South Bend Lathe for Moving

This wonderfully written instruction manual was put together by a couple of guys over at the Yahoo South Bend Lathe user’s group, Bill Czygan and Ed Kolt and is published on that site. Bill was good enough to allow its use here. It came about when these guys got tired of hearing the old story about how somebody tipped their new lathe over while moving it to it’s new home, and decided to give guys a fighting chance of getting their new toy home in one piece. Thanks to both these guys for the service to all those home shop machinists out there.

Download it here in PDF:
How To Disassemble a South Bend Lathe for Moving

I’m sure this will save a few people from having to replace broken compound handles and broken headstock castings.

Please have a look at the and let provide your special maintenance and tool needs..

2 replies
  1. Ralph
    Ralph says:

    I recently purchased a used SouthBend model A bench type lathe. It has a 4 jaw chuck on it and it also has a 3 jaw self-centering alongwith it. This lathe hasn’t been used for many years. The 4 jaw chuck I would like to remove seems to be very well stuck on the spindle. Are there any tips or suggestions that you can offer to unscrew this chuck? There doesn’t seem to be any way to hold the spindle from turning except by using the bull gears at the rear of the spindle. Any help would be appreciated.

  2. admin
    admin says:


    First lets understand whats going on here: The lathe has been sitting for idle for many years, so you’re probably looking at corrosion seizure. The joint (thread and shoulder) between the chuck and spindle is a precision fit, so DON’T HAMMER ON IT. First clean the joint with oil, a fine wire brush, Scotchbrite or steel wool. You want to clean any rust or junk out of the seam between the two parts so that you can get some penetrating oil into the threads. The old oil has turned to varnish, and needs to be loosened. There have been a few studies that suggest that a 50/50 mix of Acetone and Automatic Transmission Fluid work better than anything commercially available (I agree).
    Once you have it clean, heat the backing plate (near the spindle thread) with a small propane torch, not cherry red, just too hot to touch, and spray it with the penetrating oil and let it cool some. The oil should wick into the threads. You may find that lightly tapping the backing plate with a dead-blow hammer might break up some of the rust, but BY NO MEANS hit it with a metal hammer. Repeat the heating and dousing as many times as your patience allows for. A little heat works wonders.
    I like to stay away from locking the gears (they’re expensive when they break, and prefer to try to “shock” it off with a small piece of 2X4 (maybe 16″ long). Grab it in the chuck, and swing the chuck clockwise (belt tension off) against the rear bed way. Sometimes this alone will free the chuck. DO NOT DO THIS UNDER POWER. Also DO NOT use the chuck key to unscrew the chuck, something expensive will break, for sure.
    If after a few tries it doesn’t break free, then get yourself a four foot length of 2X4 and clamp it in the chuck so that it is about eye level on the front of the lathe. Lock the back gear, and slowly and evenly use your body weight to try and unscrew it. Do not bounce on the lever, you will either break the gears, or flip the lathe over.
    If you’ve gotten to this point and its still stuck, You might need to apply a little more heat to the threaded part of the backing plate while hanging on the lever. Still not cherry red, but good and hot this time. Get it hot enough to melt a candle, and keep it that hot while you rub the candle around the joint between the chuck and spindle. the treads will “pump” the paraffin up the threads and become a lubricant.
    With any luck at all (unless your lathe was used as a boat anchor), your chuck should be free by now. Clean all threads on both chucks and the spindle, and stone off any burrs, then oil them, and you should be good to go. Please let us know how you make out.


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