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Wicking felt for lathe headstock bearings

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YouraT28/02/2021 10:51:21
48 forum posts
14 photos

Hi all.

I'm about to strip down my "large" Lorch headstock to track down a potential lubrication problem, and one of the things I'm girding my loins to potentially have to deal with it replacing the wicking oilers.

Theses are shown as the cross-hatches parts dipping into the oil reservoirs (1) in the drawing:

headstock section.jpg

I've seen in other threads that felt is available from McMaster Carr in the US (expensive!) and from Hardy & Hanson in the UK, but I have no clue about what grade I should be asking for. H&H may be able to offer advice (I'll call them this coming week) but any pointers/experience would be appreciated.

It's a different approach from the more usual felt dripping oilers, in that the felt needs to wick the oil upwards, and I've not been able to find any specific guidance.

Also, my headstock differs slightly from the one in the drawing in that there are no oil sight glasses on mine, so I'm unsure how far to fill the oil reservoirs - is it enough to be sure that the bottom of the felt is covered, or should I be going up as far as I can without the oil leaking out simply because there is too much....?

Any pointers gratefully received !


John Baron28/02/2021 12:09:21
445 forum posts
180 photos

Almost any felt material will wick oil as long as it is capable of absorbing the oil. Some felts are water/liquid repellent and wont work. I've use cotton in the past to wick oil up and over and down a central tube. My Myford S7 uses a wick to lubricate the main spindle bearing.

noel shelley28/02/2021 12:31:20
486 forum posts
14 photos

John is right ! You may be able to get the myford ones if they are the right size or bigger. They work by capilliary action so will lift the oil due to surface tension. If the felt will absorb water I would say it will work. Cutting up a felt hat may provide the raw material ? A good wad punch will cut it. The railways used worsted to lift oil from the oil reservoir over the side and into, onto the axle journal, one of the signalmans jobs was to lookout for a hot box on a wagon. Noel.

PS NEVER use grease, it will just clog the felt and stop the feed !

Edited By noel shelley on 28/02/2021 12:33:54

old mart28/02/2021 15:45:56
2850 forum posts
181 photos

I would also look to a felt hat for material, felt fabric is available, but seems to be less dense. It's a shame that the charity shops are shut at the moment as a supply of felt. Oil should still permeate a felt treated to be water resistant.

Edited By old mart on 28/02/2021 15:48:24

Howard Lewis28/02/2021 16:25:53
4683 forum posts
10 photos

The operation is for the surface tension of the oil to initiate capillary action, so a dense felt would seem to be less suitable, calling for a fairly open "weave"so that a reasonable quantity of oil can move upwards into the bearing.

The worsted trimmings used on locomotives were often made up of several strands, so that the end result was an open weave, encouraging the oil to flow.


YouraT28/02/2021 16:58:37
48 forum posts
14 photos

Thanks - I was unaware that Myford 7s used a wick - looking at it on the Myford website, I think it's too thin for my application, but I'll have the dimensions I need shortly when I get the spindle out.

old mart28/02/2021 17:38:59
2850 forum posts
181 photos

When we took the headstock of the Smart & Brown model A apart, which also has felt wicks, I was able to wash them and use them again. They were in good condition, and I would advise you to evasluate your existing ones before making a decision.

Steve Neighbour28/02/2021 18:11:14
102 forum posts
1 photos

Try searching for 'wool felt fabric 100% wool on the well known auction site

There is a company based in Germany which I bought some from to make new lathe carriage bedway wipers, mine is 4mm thick and it is easily cut with a sharp hobby knife.

Or, if you wish, pm me your details and I'll post some to you as I have way more than I need

John Baron28/02/2021 19:28:29
445 forum posts
180 photos

Just to add, I had forgotten that I used 6 mm thick felt carpet to line the inside walls of my camper when I built it. You can buy it by the yard or if you have a camper place anywhere near they might give you some off cuts.

Where about's are you located, I'm near York, I've a few spare pieces left.

YouraT01/03/2021 21:09:11
48 forum posts
14 photos

Hi all.

Thanks for the info and the generous offers of some felt - I'll have the spindle out by the end of the week I hope, at which point I'll know what the wick dimensions are. From the x-section drawing my guess is that the length is something around 25 to 30mm, but I don't know the area at this point.

I'll also look at cleaning what's currently there - after all, unless it's damaged in some way, I'm pretty certain it's the original part from the factory.



duncan webster01/03/2021 21:51:11
3141 forum posts
52 photos

The traditional material for wick feed oilers is worsted thread. The big boys who rebuild full size steam locos use felt in axleboxes. A phone call followed by sae and a small donation might produce the necessary

YouraT04/03/2021 14:40:23
48 forum posts
14 photos

So - spindle out, and the oiling felts are oval in section, 10mm x 15mm and have a thickness of ~25mm

The other felts were in the oiler ports where the oil goes in - maybe to act as something of a filter to swarf and other rubbish in use.

They look in good condition, so I'm just going to rinse them (white spirit?) and re-use, same with the very coarse stuff that was in the oiler ports, although I'm not sure that's actually needed at all.


Howard Lewis04/03/2021 14:49:46
4683 forum posts
10 photos

Glad that you look to have things sorted.

One word of caution. The world may be going Metric, but working to Metric dimensions on an older machine, made to Imperial dimensions, can lead to errors.

A newly made 25 mm shaft will be a very loose fit in a 1" bush!

Nor will a 1 mm pitch thread match a 26 tpi nut!

If it was Imperial, measure in in Imperial units, unless you intend to modify both parts to Metric dimensions.


Edited By Howard Lewis on 04/03/2021 14:50:41

YouraT04/03/2021 16:08:27
48 forum posts
14 photos

Point taken Howard

In this case it's a German lathe from the mid 50's and *everything* I've every measured on it is nice round mm numbers....

My Viceroy 250 on the other hand.... what a mix!

Howard Lewis04/03/2021 16:44:05
4683 forum posts
10 photos

Being German, that's what I would expect.

I falsely made the assumption that it was an elderly English or American machine.(If all else fails, read the heading )

The fun begins when some designer decides to mix either threads or dimensions (GUILTY as charged on all citations - but only for personal use.)

Three studs 3/8 BSF on one end and 3/8 UNF (The other 9 were 3/8 BSF bolts! ) were on a vehicle where the chassis used Unified standards, but the engine was still Whit form fasteners. Possibly, this also explained the 5/16 BSF bolts with 5/8 A/F heads securing the Clutch to the Flywheel!

We've just had a thread where it looks as if Myford used 3/8" material to cut a metric thread (instead of the normal Imperial ) on a feedscrew for a "Metric" machine, so it does happen, if only for convenience.


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