Repairing a Seed Cleaner Shaft without a Lathe

This homesteader didn't have the tool he needed to repair an old seed cleaner he picked up secondhand, so he improvised a way around the problem.

| July/August 1983

  • Shade-Tree Lathe Figure 1
    A bearing had turned on the main fan shaft of the old seed cleaner, wearing a neat groove deep into the steel rod. 
    JOSEPH R. BROWN
  • Shade-Tree Lathe Figure 2
    To start, a solid base was made by laying a 10-foot section of 14"×14" railroad lumber on top of, and at right angles to, a 2×12 plank.
    JOSEPH R. BROWN
  • Shade-Tree Lathe Figure 5
    Without a lathe, the author turns to the odds and ends at hand to get the job done.
    PHOTO: JOSEPH R. BROWN
  • Shade-Tree Lathe Figure 6
    The final product: neat as any shopwork. 
    JOSEPH R. BROWN
  • Shade-Tree Lathe Figure 4
    The most convenient cutting tool was a worn-out 10" file, modified by grinding its end into a sharp, round-nosed tip and fed very slowly into the built-up fill to keep it from grabbing on the rough spots.
    JOSEPH R. BROWN
  • Shade-Tree Lathe Figure 3
    The scored-out groove is filled with enough brass rod to more than pack the worn channel. 
    JOSEPH R. BROWN

  • Shade-Tree Lathe Figure 1
  • Shade-Tree Lathe Figure 2
  • Shade-Tree Lathe Figure 5
  • Shade-Tree Lathe Figure 6
  • Shade-Tree Lathe Figure 4
  • Shade-Tree Lathe Figure 3

I'm all for a bargain, so when I spotted an old seed cleaner that looked to be in pretty good shape, I couldn't resist picking it up for a song. But when I got it home, I began whistling a different tune. A bearing had turned on the main fan shaft, wearing a neat—but unwanted—groove deep into the steel rod.  

Replacing the cold-rolled shaft would have cost as much as the implement itself, though, and I was determined to make a repair with the tools and materials I had on hand: an oxyacetylene torch, some brazing rod, and the contents of an impressive pile of wood and metal scraps I'd collected over the years. 

What I lacked, however, was a lathe to turn down and smooth out the brass fill that I'd be using to build up the score. I decided to use the shaft itself—with the bearings and pulleys attached to it—as a crude setup that, I hoped, would spin "true" enough to permit me to do an accurate finishing job. 

To start, I made a solid base by laying a 10-foot section of 14"×14" railroad lumber on top of, and at right angles to, a 2×12 plank. Then, using the position of the shaft's bearings as a guide, I nailed in a couple of 16"-long 2×6 uprights—one to the side of the timber, and the other along the far end of the plank—to serve as mounts for the bearing flanges. (I had to add some wood scraps as spacers between the "outside" upright and the railroad beam, for extra strength.) 



It took me only a few minutes to brace the "freestanding" upright with a couple of 1×4 stringers set at 45° angles. Then I constructed a motor mount by nailing 2-foot hunks of 2×6 across the top of the large timber, parallel to the shaft and about a foot or so from it. They also had to be "proud" by 10 or 12 inches on one side so the motor's pulley could line up with the shaft's. 

The rest was simple: I bolted the shaft's bearing flanges to the ends of the uprights (the bearings on this machine were the self-aligning type, so everything didn't have to be perfectly lined up), dug a 1/3-horsepower electric motor out of my scrap pile, and borrowed one of the V-belts from the seed cleaner's drive system. Next, I bolted the motor on its 2×6 platform, with the belt stretched in position. 





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