Modified Atlas QC54 Lathe

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AlanS

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West Kootenay BC Canada
One of the sections which drew me to this site was the section on Machine Modifications. That’s a particular interest of mine (in addition to building working models), making and modifying tools.

This picture might be of interest to those who can't leave machines stock..

This is my main lathe, I’ve another smaller lathe which doesn’t get a lot of use. This one is a 1950s era Atlas QC54 which I’ve owned for almost 40 years. I’ve been replacing parts and upgrading pieces over the years, mainly die cast Zamac parts with steel, very few Zamac pieces survive.

This isn’t a posed picture, no clean up beforehand, just snapped this morning while I was making a batch of brass pipe connections for the cooling system for my Seal Major engine.

Obvious changes are the reworked tailstock with rack feed and lever bed lock, the T slotted cross slide and billet steel compound slide with a geared leadscrew to get the handle away from the tailstock. Larger index dials including one on the tailstock.

Not so obvious are the presence of a clutch on the countershaft, a lever operated cross feed and a lever operated spindle lock (the bull gear has been modified to change the drillings from indexing to locking).

What doesn’t show are the change gears and apron cross-feed gears which are now steel. Probably the most major and time-consuming upgrade of all - the bed has been re-scraped three times over the time I’ve owned the lathe. Each time I scraped the bed to remove .0015” hollow at the chuck end.
Oh yeah, ball handles everywhere.
 

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I would love to see more pictures of your Lathe.

Steve
Steve,

As requested here are a few more images of my Atlas lathe. I’ve been modifying this lathe for the last 40 years, making it less of a hassle to use. Almost all of the zinc alloy castings have gone, replaced by steel or bronze where appropriate.

Clutch: This mod was coupled with replacing the countershaft, the bearings and the sheaves. The clutch was modelled loosely on the ones found on Myford ML7s, the size increased and calculated as per Machinery’s Handbook. I’d never go back to a lathe without a clutch, I have similar clutches on another lathe and a shaping machine in my shop.

Spindle lock: Much criticized by Atlas enthusiasts, the bull gear has been modified from indexing to positive locking by the lever in front of the headstock.

Saddle and slides: T slotted cross slide with increased travel and a 2X length nut. Extended compound slide with a dropped floor to accommodate a BX QC tool post. The compound slide is geared to avoid interference with the tailstock and the gib screws are also removed from tailstock contact. It also has an extended contact nut. Both have larger index dials.

Apron: Lever actuation of cross feed and saddle lock. All steel gears, longer contact bronze half nuts.

Tailstock: Rack feed for better sensitive feel and ease of peck drilling. It doubles the contact length of the tailstock ram and incorporates a dial for depth of travel. Lever lock to the bed.

Bed: One of the reasons I like the Atlas lathe is the flat bed for ease of re-scraping. I have re-scraped mine three times now, each time to remove .0015” hollow near the chuck. The leadscrew is replaced, I bought a length of Acme threaded rod and milled the keyway myself.
 

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Thank you for taking the time to respond and to add pictures. I love it that you have been running your Atlas for over 40 years.

Makes me wonder what you have been using for a Mill? Got any picture of that?

Steve
 
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Thank you for taking the time to respond and to add pictures. I love it that you have been running your Atlas for over 40 years.

Makes me wonder what you have been using for a Mill? Got any picture of that?

Steve
Steve, it’s just a Taiwanese round column mill, I’ve breathed on it a little same as the lathe. Here’s a fairly recent photo drilling 1/16” dowel holes in a 3/16” rod.
Better handles all round, much longer table feed screw nuts, several changes of spindle bearings, budget digital readouts. The mill vise end stop lives at the end of the table.
Forgot the long axis power feed.
 

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I have basically the same Mill-drill. Basically a short pile drill with x-y table.
Is it a decent improvement with new bearings?
Mine sound quiet at 2500rpm.
But quill and lead screws on table are worn.
K2
 
Good stuff. I have an RF-30 with a Shooting Star DRO as well. It is a shame that the company folded on the owner's death.

Your 3-knob 'wheels' are pretty cool and I see you use round balls on many such items. If you don't mind, do you have a ball-turning jig that you could share?

Also, are you using something to keep the bright finish on the handles you make?

Thanks for letting us voyeurs have a peek!

Craig
 
Good stuff. I have an RF-30 with a Shooting Star DRO as well. It is a shame that the company folded on the owner's death.

Your 3-knob 'wheels' are pretty cool and I see you use round balls on many such items. If you don't mind, do you have a ball-turning jig that you could share?

Also, are you using something to keep the bright finish on the handles you make?

Thanks for letting us voyeurs have a peek!

Craig

Good stuff. I have an RF-30 with a Shooting Star DRO as well. It is a shame that the company folded on the owner's death.

Your 3-knob 'wheels' are pretty cool and I see you use round balls on many such items. If you don't mind, do you have a ball-turning jig that you could share?

Also, are you using something to keep the bright finish on the handles you make?

Thanks for letting us voyeurs have a peek!

Craig
Craig:
The bright finish on handwheels comes from regular use with oily or dirty hands.
I have a home made ball turner based on the “up and over” design by George Thomas. It has an integral dovetail mount to match the BX tool post
I dislike uncomfortable and ugly handles on tools, I’ve got almost 80 turned balls on machines and hand tools.
The ball turner also gets used for model ball valve bodies. Picture attached as requested.
Alan
 

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I noticed that you have installed quite a few Zerk fittings on your machine. I assume you are using them to inject oil for lubrication. Do you have a photo of your oil gun? I have been thinking about this upgrade for a while. I really like the tailstock modifications as well. That is something else that I have thought about doing to my current lathes. Thank you for sharing!

Doug
 
I noticed that you have installed quite a few Zerk fittings on your machine. I assume you are using them to inject oil for lubrication. Do you have a photo of your oil gun? I have been thinking about this upgrade for a while. I really like the tailstock modifications as well. That is something else that I have thought about doing to my current lathes. Thank you for sharing!

Doug
Doug:
The whole lathe is grease lubricated with the exception of the bed and an occasional squirt of gear oil on the change gears. Greasing is seldom and always done while the lathe is running, the Timkens on the spindle get listened to while being greased.
 

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