Summer Project # 2: This Old Shaper

Summer Project # 2: This Old Shaper

Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

May 15th, 2018, 10:45 pm #1

The big lathe has been dismantled and the bed prepped for loading in the morning, and as noted, I decided I'd take this opportunity to do two of the other machines cluttering the shop as well.

One is the old Stockbridge Shaper:



This, I have to admit, is kind of a waste of time. The machine is largely in very good shape, considering it's age and history, but the wear to the ram and upper ways made it kind of not worth using- or in my case, kind of not worth bothering to clean and assemble. Shapers are basically obsolete- they're fun to watch, but slow, limited in capability, and tricky to use for anything more than basic operations.

The common phrase says that a shaper can make anything except money. Basically it's too slow and limited for a work-for-hire shop, and even moreso for anything like a production shop. Meaning I kind of really don't need it.

The thing is, I don't want to be the one to throw it away. It's something like 110 years old, and I have a soft spot in my head heart for machine tools in general. Whatever money I sink into it I will never be able to get back out. Even in top, fully-rebuilt and carefully polished and painted shape, I'd have a hard time selling it for even as little as $200.

So I'm kind of stuck with it. And if I'm going to be stuck with it, I might as well fix it up as best I can, damn the expense.

So I re-dismantled it, and got the top half of the casting ready to ship out:



One interesting thing, the bolts that held the top and bottom halves of the castings together, had octagonal heads. They were forged (upset) heads, not milled, so they're production pieces, but I've never seen an octagonal bolt head before. Not "eight point", octagonal like a stop sign.

Now that I think about it, I'll need to check- given their age, they might be 1/2"-12, too, rather than the more modern standard of 1/2"-13.

Doc.

(Reprinted from the original thread.)
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

May 15th, 2018, 10:47 pm #2

And they're off!



The fellow won't actually be leaving the state 'til the end of the month, but he was in the area on other business anyway, and swung by to pick the parts up. I sprayed 'em good with LPS-3 and a spray-on grease, and wrapped 'em with the Home Depot packing wrap. The driver says he'll likely throw a tarp on 'em as well, for the main trip, so hopefully they'll survive the trip.

If all goes well, I should have 'em back by the latter half of June. (crosses fingers )

Doc.
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

May 15th, 2018, 10:49 pm #3

Continuing my lunacy, as I've been painting parts for the bandsaw, I still had the base/foot casting for the shaper sitting here on a pallet. While I can't do much with the machine while the major bits are gone, I figured I could at least clean and paint a few of the parts while I'm cleaning and painting other parts.



I'd always assumed the green was a later color, but it was carefully applied, as there was no visible overspray, no places that were painted but weren't supposed to be, etc. Now I'm not so sure.



The green didn't "bubble" like most paints of today will when chemically stripped, and there were no other colors below the green- not even a primer. The black you see is almost a filler- it's "Japan Black", a very common industrial paint back in the day. (Ford used a variant of it on their cars- as it's primary components were asphalt and carbon black, it basically came in the one color, leading to the classic phrase in reference to the Model T, "you can have it any color you want, as long as it's black".)

As this machine came from a semi-local naval air station, it's possible the original japanning was at that point painted over with the green. Or since the machine was some forty years old at the point that air station was founded during WW2, it's possible the military obtained the machine from a machinery reseller, who repainted it during a refurbishment.

Unfortunately it's impossible to know and we don't have enough information to do more than guess.

However, the green came off easily enough, although the black was pretty resistant to the chemicals. Which was fine, really, it continued to act as a filler, smoothing the casting.



And, the first fresh coat of paint  in at least forty years.



After a couple coats, I'll set 'er aside to await the return of the column and the ram. As I have time- IF I have time- I'll see what else I can clean up, to speed up reassembly of the machine when the time comes.

Doc.
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Joined: September 19th, 2014, 6:28 am

May 16th, 2018, 4:23 am #4

DocsMachine wrote:The green didn't "bubble" like most paints of today will when chemically stripped, and there were no other colors below the green- not even a primer. The black you see is almost a filler- it's "Japan Black", a very common industrial paint back in the day. (Ford used a variant of it on their cars- as it's primary components were asphalt and carbon black, it basically came in the one color, leading to the classic phrase in reference to the Model T, "you can have it any color you want, as long as it's black".)
Singer made very heavy use of Japan black on their sewing machines. Because heat was needed to cure the Japanning and keep it smooth, I understand they had kilns set up near the foundries to do that.
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

May 16th, 2018, 6:05 am #5

Puffie40 wrote:Singer made very heavy use of Japan black on their sewing machines.
-Lots of manufacturers used Japan Black. It was inexpensive, made a nice glossy finish if applied correctly, dried quickly (compared to other paints of the day) was durable and long lasting, etc.
Virtually all machine tools used it 'til the 20s or so, and it was still in use as of WW2. (My Rockford drill press, circa 1909, had it, although it was almost entirely weathered away by the time I got it.)

Machine tools, industrial food processors, bicycles, sewing machines, auto sheetmetal... almost anything that was made of cast iron, but not subjected to high heat (like a cookstove, wood stove or cookware) at one time or another came in a "Japan Black" finish.

I saw an unpainted near-sister to my Rockford drill press a few years ago, and the black finish was still there- albeit worn, scuffed, chipped rusty, etc. I toyed with the idea of painting my drill gloss black, which would have been kinda period-correct (although likely glossier than original) but I opted instead for a darkish grey.
Doc.
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Joined: June 28th, 2017, 11:03 pm

May 16th, 2018, 10:04 am #6

...even electric meters produced before 1933 were generally produced with a japanned finish. :)

When I repainted a 1910s meter for someone, I wound up using a can of rattlecan satin black and which was a reasonable approximation.
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Joined: July 10th, 2016, 2:02 pm

May 16th, 2018, 6:49 pm #7

Singer sewing machines were done in a way that I thought was actually pretty amazing. They applied a couple of coats of japanning, then stencils for their logos and detailing, then several more coats of japanning, then pulled off the stencils, then applied several coats of gold paint until the paint was thick enough to be higher than the surface of the japanning, then sanded down to the surface of the japanning so that the gold and black were absolutely smooth, and hand polished it with rouge.

I can't imagine modern production taking that amount of time and care.
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Joined: October 8th, 2014, 2:05 pm

May 16th, 2018, 7:23 pm #8

My mother-in-law had an old Singer, and from your description I think it was japanned. It had a few dings from being knocked around in the family for decades but the areas where the finish was still intact looked really nice. It had a gold logo like you describe.
If it ain't broke, I'll fix it!
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

May 16th, 2018, 7:54 pm #9

Thinkertoys wrote:I can't imagine modern production taking that amount of time and care.
-You have to remember that back in those days, manufacturing was roughly backward to what it is now. Today, materials are cheap, and labor is expensive. Back then, materials were expensive and labor was cheap.

Your gizmo takes a lot of handwork? Hand painting? Hand assembly? No problem. Hire a roomful of people and tell 'em to get at it.

There's tons of old videos showing people making chains by hand forging each link. After WW2, there were rooms full of women that were hand rolling electrolytic capacitors. Ever seen one of those old-timey machine shops where there's a huge room full of lineshaft machine tools? Not all of those operators were "machinists"- most were just hired as what we'd call "button pushers" today, using that machine to make a single cut, using a fixture. And at what would probably be the equivalent of about $3 an hour today.

It's also worth noting that certain things were done that way (whatever way you might consider) because that's all they had back then. Paints of course existed back in 1905, but they weren't as quality and sophisticated as they are today. Ford used Japan Black because with heat it could be cured in 48 hours. Most other paints of the day took one to two weeks to completely dry. (Or were too expensive to use in production, or didn't wear well, or weren't as shiny, etc.)

Doc.
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Joined: March 31st, 2018, 6:57 am

May 17th, 2018, 5:20 am #10

I have at least two old black Singers.
I must look at them more closely next time I'm in my storage.
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