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Machine Maintenance: How To Clean And Lubricate Your Lathe Machine

March 6, 2020

Machine Maintenance: How To Clean And Lubricate Your Lathe Machine

When it comes to machine tool maintenance, it is important to implement the right conditions for achieving high-quality cuts. It’s improper to think of it in terms of say a 1000km oil change or a 10,000km tuneup. Machine tool maintenance requires a lot more attention than that.

Machine tool maintenance should be incorporated into your schedule in a manner that combines routine machine adjustments with proper working habits on a daily basis.

Maintain a safe and clean work environment

The first step in preventing machine parts damage is to operate the machine safely and in a clean work environment.

This is especially true for the ‘ways’ of the metal lathe. If the ways endure any damage to the surface, it prevents the carriage from seating properly.

Use a lathe board

To avoid accidental damage, make sure that you use a lathe board when changing the chucks or loading heavy workpieces.

If the chuck accidentally slips out of the hand, the lathe board keeps it from falling on the machine ways.

Keep tools off the lathe ways

Do not use the ways as a shelf for tools. Place them on another table. Or use a shelf below the lathe for this purpose.

Don’t keep the tools on a shelf above the machine. When the machine is running, its vibration may knock them off the shelf and onto the lathe.

Clean metal chips

As you progress with your workpiece, clean away the metal chips. This promotes a safe work environment. It also keeps the fine chips from scouring the surface of the lathe ways.

Vacuum the chips off the lathe. Some people use a compressed air hose for blowing the chips away. Not only is this dangerous for your personal safety, but you also end up forcing the chips deeper into the bearings of the machine.

Take care of dust

Use precaution when working with dusty material like plastic, cast iron or wood. The dust of cast iron is quite abrasive. Dust also tends to cling to the machine’s lubrication.

When working with cast iron, it helps to clean the dust off the ways. Also, detach and clean the way wipes.

Replace the way wipes as soon as they wear out.

The fine metal chips may also end up in the lathe chucks. The chucks will be damaged if the chips aren’t removed. Detach the jaws and clean the chucks regularly.

Clean spindle tapers

It is also important to inspect the spindle tapers. Consider cleaning the spindle sockets using a soft cotton cloth when changing tools.


Lubricating the ways, the bearings and the feed screws is important for keeping your lathe machine running smoothly. Despite this fact, this step is often overlooked.

Make oiling as routine as powering the motor on and off. Make sure that it’s the first thing you do when starting your shift and the last step you perform after cleaning up at the end of your shift.

This is an important step for achieving the conditions required to yield high-quality cuts.

For the exact oiling procedure, look up the manufacturer’s instructions in the machine’s user manual. Lubricate all the oil buttons, the lead screw and the ways.

Find some good quality oil and adhere to the oiling routine.

Protect the machine from rust

Rust protection is an important consideration to make when working with any kind of machine tool. Owing to the increased humidity, work stations near the coast are at greatest risk of enduring damages from rust and corrosion.

Keeping the machine clean and coated in oil is one of the best ways of dealing with rust. Look for an oil that is specially formulated to inhibit corrosion.

Cover the machine when it isn’t in use. If you plan on storing it for a long time, consider ventilating the cover.

Protect your workers

Keep in mind that worker protection is the legal responsibility of a shop owner. Always keep your worker’s safety and your personal safety in mind when working with machines. Don’t forget to wear eye protection when working with a lathe machine.

Quality Millwright is a locally owned millwright shop in Edmonton. We have 2+ decades of experience in preventive maintenance and shutdowns, construction and project management, fabrication, machining, electrical and rig servicing. Contact Quality Millwright today.