the Carpentry Way: One Shot for Glory                                                          

One Shot for Glory

An alternate title for this post might have involved the word 'nipple' however I thought better of it. No telling what sort of traffic that might attract.

Both of my German-made woodworking machines use a lubrication system to keep certain parts oiled. You're supposed to oil things regularly, and if you're going to do something with regularity it should be as painless a process as possible, yes? If it is a hassle, you may grow disinclined to do it, and that is bad for the machine in the long run. How many things out there have a shortened lifespan due to neglected maintenance? How much does that cost?

These lubrication systems use a 4mm O.D., 2mm I.D. hose which attaches to one or more oil nipples, or ports, tapped into the side of the machine table.

Here's the set on the shaper:

These are fitted even before the paint goes on the machine. They are not located especially conveniently, as the sliding table occupies the same side of the machine and slides right past them, or, at times, might sit right in front of them:

I feel they are in a slightly inconveneint position on the machine.

And here's the lone port on the jointer:

The way you lubricate these oil ports is by way of a spring-operated oil gun:

The oil is contained inside the handle by a plastic plug  - - which is on the other end of the chain you see in the picture. The red plastic caps fit over each end, and the chain tucks inside.

I'm not sure if Martin makes these oil guns or not, but they do not impress. The oil tends to leak out just when the tool is sitting around, which can make a mess. The large plastic cap will fall off if you look at it the wrong way. And when you use the tool, if you do not keep it perfectly perpendicular to the oil nipple, then most of the oil does not make its way into the nipple but just runs off the front and drips on the floor or other parts of the machine as the case may be. That is a tad frustrating, messy, and wastes oil.

I asked the machine dealer if there was a better option in terms of oil pump guns and he seemed to think that there wasn't, at least not from Martin. He'd tried a couple of other brands but they offered no real improvement.

Martin did have one option available though: a centralized lubrication system. This is how that looks:

All you have to do is keep the glass cylinder filled with enough oil, and give the handle a pump whenever you want to lubricate the machine, and it will lubricate all connected points.

Martin makes the centralized, 'one-shot' lubrication pumps in house. I asked Martin USA for a price on the unit and learned that it was an astonishing $936.00, and a 3~5 week wait.

I decided to look at what other options there might be. One shot central lube systems are common on a lot of metalworking equipment, like milling machines. Manual lubricators contain spring-actuated piston pumps. as the lubricator spring is compressed by actuating the handle, a measured quantity of oil is drawn into the piston chamber. Release of the handle forces the inlet check valve to close and the oil “shot” is forced into the distribution system under pressure of the compressed spring. Fancier lubrication pumps are operated at a push of a button or even automatically.

I was hoping to find something make in the US, but to no avail.

I then came across this unit, made in Taiwan, the CLA-8:

It was all metal (aluminum housing), and cost $49.00.  For the price of one Martin unit, I could buy 19 of these.

Now, if the price of OEM was at most double, or something like that, or the function of the part especially critical in terms of how fastidiously it was made, I would tend to go towards the OEM item. But in this case, the price difference between the two options was just too extreme, and the function somewhat non-critical besides. And I thought the Taiwanese unit looked well made with quality materials. I have found most things made in Taiwan to be fairly decent - maybe not at first, when they started exporting in a larger scale, but they got better quickly. The same thing happened with Japanese export products after WWII.

Taiwanese quality is there - or rather, can be there- with bicycles and bicycle components, in my experience. I don't have the same negative feelings towards Taiwanese workers displacing hundreds of thousands of jobs as I do for China, but maybe that's an irrationality on my part. Taiwan is a much smaller country with a much smaller footprint, and they seem to be trying to make decent stuff.

Still, I kept looking to see what other options there might be.

I came across used pumps which had been pulled off of old Bridgeport milling machines, like this Bijur unit:

It looked like it was on its last legs, missing some parts even, and they wanted $120 for it. No thanks.

The modern version of the above unit looks like this, the Bijur Delimon L5P, retailing for around $200:

Where's it made? China

Next in line was another brand new Bijur model of pump and was pretty nice looking, but I wasn't sure exactly how I might mount it cleanly on either machine. The price? $575:

I found another Taiwanese made pump, the CKE-8, which went for about the same price as the other one and was a clone of the Bijur:

This one was less compact than the other and the handle kind of stuck out a bit, like the Chinese-made Bijur. Now, how to explain the 4-fold price difference between the Bijur and the CKE-8? Hmmm, here one suspects that the price difference is purely mark-up unrelated to manufacture.

I keep looking, and mostly all I could find were other offshore porducts of one quality or another, and European pieces which cost many multiples more than the ones from the far east. In the end, weighing all the factors, I decided that the all-metal CLA-8 Taiwanese pump made the most sense for my needs. So I bought two. Do I cringe slightly at the thought of putting a Taiwanese oil pump on the side of the Martin? Yes, a little bit. Do I feel bad that I can't/won't support a US or European manufacturer? Yes, a little bit, however I'm also annoyed at the price on the Martin's part as the pump itself is nothing too complicated. I think it is a bit of a price gouge really, but, yah, it is what it is. They want to charge 'X' and I can decide to do something else, if the option exists and seems reasonable.

If I had my own milling machine I would probably have a go at making one of these things, but no milling machine graces my shop at this time.

Before I ordered the pumps I made sure that there was a place on each machine to mount the pumps. I also checked in with Martin in Germany and asked them where they would mount their pump on the shaper given the fitment of the sliding table. On the shaper, the ideal place to mount the pump was on the back of the machine, on a plate that forms part of the bracket carrying the fence support lift.

Here's a look down the back, and you can see the plate with the four holes I have drilled:

The spacing for the pump bolt mounting holes was 100mm across and 110mm up and down. I laid out the lines, center-punched the holes, drilled them out with a 13/64" bit, and then tapped them for 6mm x 1.0 threads:

I had to prep the oiler first, mounting the hose before installing the pump on the machine seemed the simplest way to proceed.

Here you can see how the 6mm hose attaches with a brass compression fitting:

I put a little teflon tape on the threads and tightened it up. Normally I would avoid using a Crescent wrench for tightening a fitting, however I didn't have the correct size of flare nut wrench on hand and the tightening forces are not very high so there was little danger of deforming the fitting:

Then I mounted the pump on the plate using stainless 6mm x 20mm button head cap screws with one split washer and one plate washer under each of the heads:

There is a port for the oil on each side of the machine - in the above photo you can see the one which is plugged on the unit.

Here's a look at the pump mounted in place:

The 6mm line snakes in under the table and works its way down and across the interior of the cabinet.

Here's the entry point, viewed inside the cabinet:

I leave the zip ties loose and untrimmed until everything is in position. The camera's flash makes the blue look green, by the way.

The hose travels down and across the bottom of the cabinet, tied onto the electrical and air hose lines in the area:

At the end, the 6mm hose needs to connect onto two 4mm hoses, and I had obtained a tee fitting and related parts to make that junction:

My supplier for the hose fittings was Air and Power Transmission in New York. Very pleasant to deal with and fast service. Note that only the brass coupler attaches by compression with the above assembly. The three ends (two on the T, and one on the adapter) are all slip fittings, where all you have to do it cut the tube to the correct length, make sure it is clean, and then push it into the fitting to complete the connection. What could be easier than that?

Here's the connection installed:

One of the 4mm lines lubricates the sliding sleeve for the spindle:

And the other lubricates the threaded raise/lower mechanism:

Right, with the hook up complete it was time to fill the pump reservoir:

The reservoir took almost all my oil on the initial fill. I won't have to refill this very often.

Once I was done filling, the cap goes back on the pump and it was time to actuate the handle and move some oil along:

It took several pumps to purge the air out of the system, and soon enough I had oil coming out at the point where the thread gets some lovin':

No leaks anywhere and it all worked just fine. What's wrong with this picture? Where's the drama? It was too easy!

As for the jointer, the pump was mounted to a 5mm thick plate at the back of the frame:

There is a single oil line to connect, and in this next picture you can see it clearly, strung along the underside of the machine table and exiting to the right:

I couldn't complete the line hook up though as I realized I was short an adapter fitting to reduce from 6mm at the pump to the 4mm hose. I ordered that part up and should have it in a couple of days. It'll take less than a minute to complete the connection.

I'll need to obtain some more oil as well of course. I bought the Martin product earlier, but it is a bit pricey and often out of stock (I had to order from Canada last time) so I will probably buy some Mobil Vactra 2 this time:

It's also available in a 5-gallon drum for $85, which makes it much, much cheaper than the Martin oil. It's the recommended lubricant for milling machine ways, so it should be fine. To quote from the manufacturer:

Mobil Vactra Oil No. 1 and No. 2 are recommended for horizontal slideways on small to medium size machine tools. They are also suitable for circulating application in large machines and as a moderate duty hydraulic fluid.

Well that's that. I hope you enjoyed this little account of my work to install centralized lubrication on a couple of machines. It is fairly simple job to do, it seemed to me, so it would be safe to say that any machine which requires a regular shot of oil lubrication would be a similar candidate for a conversion like this.

Thanks for your visit!