Using lignum vitae for bushing

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Forum topic by Mip posted 06-09-2013 06:09 PM 1129 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Mip's profile


446 posts in 1502 days

06-09-2013 06:09 PM

Topic tags/keywords: wood bearings router milling machine shopnotes

Hello everybody, I have been reading and rereading the shopnotes issue 115 with the ultimate router milling machine on the cover and am planning to build it one of these days. I have been looking over the parts list and figured that I could make all the knobs myself just to keep the cost down. I was thinking of using lignum vitae instead of bronze bearings that are in the parts list. Will that be okay? I read in an older issue of Wood magazine that the wood was used in navy subs to hold the drive shaft in place because of the lubrication that was inherent in the wood, and I figured that if it could withstand the hardships of a submarine drive shaft, it should hold up to my little milling machine. I got a piece 1” square by about a foot long from Woodcraft awhile back. I might have to cut it up and glue it back together to get the inch and a quarter size that I need. Should I orient the long grain to run parallel to the shaft or the end grain? In the shopnotes magazine, it said to put a finish on the MDF, where the bearing will be installed, so that the lubrication from the bearing won’t leach into the MDF. Should I do the same if I was using lignum vitae? Any and all information will be appreciated. Thanks.

5 replies so far

View MrRon's profile


3898 posts in 2667 days

#1 posted 06-09-2013 06:35 PM

Lignum Vitae as used for ship’s propellor shafts runs in water, not dry. If dry, they would burn up. They have been replaced by rubber bearings, also water cooled. Bronze bushings cost less than a buck. You can find them at a local Fastenal dealer.

View bondogaposis's profile


3972 posts in 1775 days

#2 posted 06-09-2013 07:09 PM

I second MrRon, Why dork around w/ something that will be time consuming and less satisfactory for something that is not expensive to begin with. Look for other areas to save money.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View shipwright's profile


7095 posts in 2222 days

#3 posted 06-09-2013 07:24 PM

Lignum Vitae will work out of the water. I had LV bearings on my 36” bandsaw in my shipyard for years. They got a bit of grease when installed and were never touched again. It ran smoother and quieter than with the old metal bearings.

That said, you are asking for a lot of work to save very little. Bearings are one of those things where it’s hard to understand how they can be so cheap. Also gluing is not one of LV’s strong points.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

7732 posts in 1804 days

#4 posted 06-10-2013 08:05 AM

You may not save much money but the coolness factor is off the charts.


View Mip's profile


446 posts in 1502 days

#5 posted 06-10-2013 04:43 PM

Thanks for the replies, everybody. MrRon, I did not know that the wood works better underwater and that they might burn up if used dry. I just checked out some of the suppliers for the bushings, and everybody’s right, that the bushings are not that expensive to begin with. So trying to save a couple of pennies with all that extra work, with unsatisfactory results, is just not worth it. Besides, what shipwright said, gluing the wood in is not a strong point with lignum vitae, as I kinda figured. I’ll go ahead and use the bearings and see if I can find them locally instead of shipping them; save on shipping. This website is great! There is so much knowledge out there, and it saved me from a potential disaster. Thanks again, everybody.

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