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  • Writer's pictureChuck Hess just another sponge in the sea of knowledge

Oliver Model #66 Pattern Maker's Lathe Restoration

Updated: Sep 3, 2023

1943 Oliver Model #66 Pattern Maker's Lathe And 1990 Dodge W250

 2-3-2020 Oliver Model #66 Pattern Maker’s Lathe Restoration.

            Hey this is Chuck Hess with another, in my humble opinion, great Oliver machine story.  From the title this is an Oliver #66 Pattern Maker’s Lathe from 1943, a WWII veteran.  So our part of the story opens in 2008 when Tom Reiley who is a dear friend, and a machinery mentor of ours gave us this lathe.  If it was a motorcycle you would call it a basket job; the lathe was already entirely disassembled.  The main casting had been outside since the mid 90's when Tom had acquired it from a dealer, is the story we got.  This is a fairly large lathe weighing in at about 6600 pounds, according to the book, which means this was/is a large and daunting restoration project. 

            In 2010 we already had a couple of really fine Oliver lathes in our shop, and I really did not see myself having time to do a big restoration considering everything else that was coming at me right then.   So, we had a chance to pass this along to Bill, another friend who was going to restore this with his son.  Fast forward to late 2019 he reached out and informed us he had not ever had the time to restore and use this lathe and wanted to downsize a little, so he offered the lathe back to us in the same condition as when it left our place, along with a sweet South Bend metal lathe that my son had been searching for quite a while.  I will admit I was a little hesitant to sign up for a big restoration project, but after some soul searching my son and I decided that this lathe was meant to be ours, and we wanted it back.  After 10 years we went and picked her up early this spring and brought her home again.  Wow that was surreal!  Bill had gotten a birth certificate from Rich which was a real blessing for us.  From that we learned that this lathe was sold to the navy and crated for export, destination LION Base #5 I think that was Pearl Harbor but we have not verified that.  Please let me know if anyone has the history on that base.  That would be super cool for us, since we came to North Carolina from living in Hawaii for 11 years.  This was the first model #66 we ever got our hands on, although we have had a few go through our hands since then.

This is a very different approach to machine restoration for me, because usually I am in a hurry to get a machine done and on the production floor. But this time since we are still very busy in the cabinet shop I have started working from the smallest parts to the biggest.  This approach also lets me work a little each day and still concentrate on my paying jobs, that’s one of the necessary pitfalls of being poor.  There is of course a plandemic going on now too, but that hasn't really affected my family or business much. I didn’t know how this smallest to biggest system was going to work out but it has been a really cool and laid back way to approach things, and I am really enjoying it. Because of that I thought I would share the story so let’s get started. Here are the obligatory pick up and trailer shots;

We had about about a 4 ½ hour trip one way so this was an easy one day trip up and back. My son and I had a great time talking about everything under the sun, including our numerous machinery trips from back in the day, including the epic trip we made when picking this machine up in New Jersey the first time. This trip was smooth sailing all day long. I’ll post a few more pics of arrival back at the shop.

Like I said before, my strategy this time was to start cleaning hardware and small parts first. Here's what that looks like;

3-13-2020 Now for some fun stuff, the compound! I loved finding that navy anchor stamped in the top of the compound, it had been hidden for a long time by a thick layer of rust. This lathe also has two anchors just like that stamped in the "brass chicken" badge, we think that is super cool. I do wonder if those were stamped by the navy or the boys at Oliver? Another surprise was the solid bronze locking screw at the bottom, most likely fabbed by some naval machinist along the way.

Moving up the food chain a little bit here are some more components, the gap bed clamp;

Here is the tailstock spindle;

Tail stock crank;

Headstock Door:

Misc. Parts; banjo from a #20-B

So we have been remodeling the mezzanine in our shop and one of the things I have really wanted to do was build some nice storage for Oliver and machinery parts. Now that I have been cleaning and restoring all these parts we really needed a place to organize them. Here's what that looks like;

Here is the original push button station which is incredible! It is a Cutler Hammer that has a cast iron box and cast aluminum front; talk about heavy duty. Also the silver contacts were shockingly like new inside. This is the most awesome switch I have ever worked on!

Motor Badge is in rough shape; Hard to read amps and RPMs but I have a pretty close guess on those and got some info from the "birth certificate".

So its now 11-15-202o. Seems like we have been working on everything else besides this lathe. But here is a very cool dividing plate Tom had made for for his 20D lathe. The ring attaches to the 12" outboard hub and there are 60 divisions around the outside. I can't wait to mount this on our lathe when it is ready!!!!

February 3, 2021 So I scored a 9" faceplate for the 66! That's an unusual size but I am going to like it!

Feb 7, 2021 I am trying hard to keep this project moving forward, but we are so busy it's not easy! I started cleaning these parts a while back and have finally gotten around to finish them. So here is one counter shaft pulley that was off the lathe when we got it and lower compound piece.

3-15-2021 We have a major league table project coming that will have a large turned pedestal. To do this we need a large lathe, so it's battle stations on the restoration project! We started by getting the headstock out of the barn.

March 17, 2021 This is the first time we have tested the fit on the faceplates we have. The spindle threads on these big lathes can be a little different so I just wanted to make sure. Everything fits just fine!

3-18-2021 Headstock disassembly. For as long as this was in storage, everything came apart amazingly well!!! Easy Pezy! So Oliver part numbers start with the model numbers of the machines that the part was originally cast for. Then there is a dash (or two) and then the part number. From this we can see that the headstock casting is the same one used on the Model # 18 Lathe. The boys at Oliver were good at repurposing castings to reduce labor of a master pattern and machining jigs by using ones they already had.