Best lubricant for old Milwaukee drill press

spambdamn_richJanuary 7, 2005

My shop has a big old Milwaukee drill press. I'm not sure of the exact age, but the motor has a 1913 patent date, so I figure the drill press is probably from the 1920's or earlier.

It has a floor mounted 220 volt 1.5 HP motor, which drives 2.5 inch wide leather belts on the drill press through a rubber-belted drive wheel.

It works fine, but I'm not sure what oil or grease to use in the lubrication cups. I have tried 20/50, 50w motor oils, but they seem to disappear. Most recently I tried 140 weight gear oil, and filled the cups with that, but it seemed to leak out through the bearing housing/shaft joins.

So I'm thinking maybe this thing needs some sort of grease, but I don't want to clog it up with something too thick.

Anybody have any idea what type of lubricant would be best for the cups? There are also smaller blind holes in various strategic locations, which I figure are ok with a few drops of oil now and then, but the oil/grease cups have me stymied.

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I found a web site that describes the type of drill press I have. I haven't yet got a photo of mine to post, so this may do until then:

Mine looks to be aabout the same size but with a more stout frame and larger post.

Still looking for a oil recommendation...

I will post a photo of mine as soon as I rev up the Olympus and it's daylight again.

Here is a link that might be useful: Camel Back Drill Press

    Bookmark   January 7, 2005 at 2:52AM
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When you say lub. cup, are you referring to the type with a cap that screws down to force grease thru it or the kind with a spring loaded cap to contain oil? If it's the former, I would try white "Lubriplate" grease. If the latter, any heavy oil would do. If it runs thru too fast I would guess the bearings have too much slack in them. Hope this helps.
Mike A

    Bookmark   January 7, 2005 at 10:33AM
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They are all of the type that have a spring loaded cap, so I guess they are supposed to have oil in them.

It sounds like I should open up a few bearings and observe/measure the condition and clearances. This should be easy enough as the bearing caps are exposed and easily accessed.

The 50 wt oil tended to run through with the machine off. The 140 wt gear oil ran through only when the machine was put into operation.

I will also check to see if perhaps there are old leather seals in the bearing housings that need renewal or reconditioning.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2005 at 1:37PM
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Thanks for the picture. My grandfather was a machinest in the '20s. My father talks about his father's deftly flipping leather belts from pulley to pulley to change speeds (while running of course). While his machines were mostly overhead driven as I understand, its nice to see a machine like he may well have operated.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2005 at 4:33PM
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One more thing, the link you provided mentions the felt plugs in the oil cups. If the felts were missing, oil would run out quickly.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2005 at 4:40PM
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Try a search for information on the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn MI. You might be able to find a contact with the maintenance people there who maintain all the old equipment.

I had a neighbor that worked there years ago who maintained the clock collection.


    Bookmark   January 7, 2005 at 5:04PM
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Well, there may be felt in some of the oil holes, but I can't see any in the oil cups.

I just went out to the shop and took some digital photos of the drill press and oil cups.

I can't imagine changing these belts while the thing is running. OSHA would have a cow :-). I just timed the press for the first time; the speeds are 100 rpm, 200 rpm, 300 rpm, and 400 rpm. I was going to test the power feed, but the leather belt was all dried out and broke before I could get it onto the pulleys.


I'll look for the Ford museum. Thanks.

Next up, some photos of my Milwaukee. It takes quite a whioe for my camera to transfer them to computer, but I think it will be worth it. :-)

    Bookmark   January 7, 2005 at 9:02PM
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Here's some photos of the old Milwaukee camelback Drill Press in my workshop:

    Bookmark   January 7, 2005 at 10:44PM
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Just a thought on the felt that may be needed in the oil cups, I wonder if the felt would be located close to the shaft by the bearing? Similar to what you find on some electric motors with sleeve bearings.

OSHA wouldn't like the open belts anymore than the exposed rack on the quill! OUCH!!! That old equipment never was much for providing a safe workplace. That might be another reason for wages going up, they just ran out of people from injuries with all the dangerous equipment.

About 20 years ago, at the Henry Ford Museum, there was a maintenance guy oiling and greasing a huge steam engine. I think the story goes that a tour group from a school was watching this guy working around this engine which was running, and somehow he got his head around the flywheel. End of story? End of guy!!!!

Now that I remembered this story, I just remembered when I was about 14 and my neighbor was using a radial arm saw with a shaper head without a guard. He was just running a short piece through there to get the cut set right when it kicked and threw the piece out and his hand went into it. He had two fingers removed at the hospital and was always in major pain after that. I don't want to see anything like that again. It makes you always remember to use guards and push sticks or whatever is needed to stay safe.


    Bookmark   January 8, 2005 at 12:07AM
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Well, if necessary, I could cut some felt (with a punch) and stuff the holes in the oil cups with it. But first I'll take off the bearing caps (which hold the oil cups) and see if there is any vestige of old felt, and also to check the condition of the bearings.

This drill press terrified me the first time I used it. For a long time I'd unplug it when it wasn't in use. I've gotten more comfortable around it, but it still demands a lot of respect.

It could probably use some degreasing and general cleaning.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2005 at 12:33AM
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The flat belt drive brings back a lot of memories. The blacksmith of my childhood had lots of tools with flatbelt drive. If he caught anyone under the age of 25 even looking at the triphammer with the motor shut off, we got whacked. I guess he saw too many fingertips missing when he was our age.
Mike A

    Bookmark   January 8, 2005 at 9:10AM
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You're supposed to oil those things, and yes it will run out. Total loss lubrication system. Straight 30W non-detergent is what I've usually heard recommended. There may or may not have been felts.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2005 at 1:19AM
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I asked around in the shop, and the best solution appears to be to cut some felt from a (new) blackboard eraser. I have a nice set of hole punches that should be able to cut some nice plugs. They suggested 20 weight machine oil, such as made by 3-1 in the blue can.

I will also open up some of the bearing caps (they have removable tops) to do a bearing inspection before proceding with any modifications.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2005 at 10:04PM
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I procured a small amount of Mobil Vac way oil - a machinist told me that it would be an excellent oil for this purpose. It appears to be about 20 weight.

I also saw 10 weight and 30 weight machine oil at KBC today. So I might try those, as well.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2005 at 1:01AM
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Vactra is more of a sticking/filmy oil. It's supposed to go on lathe ways that just get things slowly slid along them. Not for rotating parts. Mobile also makes Velocite for the lathe spindles and things, but that might be too thin for you (10wt, IIRC).

    Bookmark   February 11, 2005 at 10:54PM
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Hmm. The Vactra didn't seem that sticky to me, but I'll give detergent free 30 weight motor oil a try first.

Or 20 weight machine oil, when I can find it in quantity.

Still looking for a new blackboard eraser I can punch plugs out of.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2005 at 6:18PM
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Go to a piano repair shop and talk to one of the shop guys. They can probably give you a bag full of flet clippings of various thicknesses. Grainger also carries industrial felt types but it's expensive.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2005 at 5:28PM
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