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Lignum Vitae Bearings

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Forum topic by ckorkyrun89 posted 04-10-2014 01:28 PM 1373 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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ckorkyrun89

60 posts in 1487 days


04-10-2014 01:28 PM

On another forum, I saw that Lignum Vitae bearings have been used for over 100 years on things such as hydro turbines and ship propeller shafts. Has anyone had any experience using lignum vitae as a bearing?

It is supposed to be a self lubricating wood. Since most of the uses I have seen tend to deal with parts in water, I wonder if it must be submerged in water to work? I also wonder what the practical limit is in terms of RPM to a certain diameter?


14 replies so far

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Craftsman on the lake

2523 posts in 2902 days


#1 posted 04-10-2014 01:42 PM

My brother worked at the portsmouth naval shipyard for 30 years and we had some pieces of lignum vitae around the house that he had brought home. It was tremendously hard stuff. I remember him saying that they used it on the driveshafts of subs. It had the quality of being hard, would swell a little when wet so that it would hug the propeller shaft, and that it was an oily wood. I don’t think that they relied on it being self lubricating. It was the water that helped to lubricate. I don’t think they used it in any dry situations.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

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kaerlighedsbamsen

1177 posts in 1178 days


#2 posted 04-10-2014 01:43 PM

Interesting subject. Cant help with any clewer answers but would love to hear what you find.
Have you asked here: http://vintagemachinery.org/

-- "Do or Do not. There is no try." - Yoda

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shipwright

7172 posts in 2262 days


#3 posted 04-10-2014 02:14 PM

When the babbit bearings in my 36” Crescent bandsaw had a meltdown years ago I had a local machinist make me some Lignum Vitae ones to replace them. As I remember we greased them on installation and then they were on their own. I owned the bandsaw for another twelve years and then sold it to a friend who still uses it. The bearings are still going strong. They’ve been in use since about 1979.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees. http://thecanadianschooloffrenchmarquetry.com/

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ckorkyrun89

60 posts in 1487 days


#4 posted 04-10-2014 02:47 PM

Thats interesting to hear. I figure that they are not the right material to work on a wood lathe considering the speed that they would need to run.

Since they are still working on your bandsaw though, they might be worth considering. I imagine for a 36” bandsaw, the RPM would be relatively low though.

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Rick M

7921 posts in 1844 days


#5 posted 04-10-2014 04:00 PM

Motorized lathes tend to run at fairly high rpms so I’m skeptical of wood bearings. I have an old lathe that uses bronze bushings that require frequent oiling but it gets warm and noisy if I run it fast. It might take it just fine but I don’t like doing it as it was originally designed as a treadle lathe. LV is harder than bronze, should be quieter, and self lubricating. As the wood bearing heats up, oil weeps out and lubricates the shaft. There is a company that makes self lubricating maple bearings, the wood is hyper-saturated with lubricant in a vacuum chamber and then works on the same principle as LV. What are you planning?

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

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ckorkyrun89

60 posts in 1487 days


#6 posted 04-17-2014 05:52 PM

Just saw that you responded.

I am planning on building a lathe. Its a ways off from actually being built and I am still making the plans for it. I figured that lignum vitae would be a stretch and really not ideal for what I want but I thought I would see what others thought too.

I have several decent ball bearings that I will probably end up using.

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Rick M

7921 posts in 1844 days


#7 posted 04-17-2014 07:55 PM

It would be an interesting experiment to test the durability of LV.

Better lathes use taper bearings, others use radial bearings; my suspicion is that either of those would be less friction.

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

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SCOTSMAN

5839 posts in 3049 days


#8 posted 04-17-2014 08:18 PM

The very modern top of the range V B 36 uses bronze bearings which heat up and it is a very expensive beautifully made lathe designed by Nigel Voisey .He swears by them as being the best and is very knowledgable on woodturning and lathes .Before then lignum vitae was widely used for bearings very hard dense wood which if I remember correctly does not float.I could be wrong maybe I am mixing this up with iron wood for the floating argument but for bearings it is a fantastic medium but of course not really used any more.It is famous for making Grass bowling balls now superceded by modern plastic.If you come accross older ones they are probably lignum, so snap them up, they could be worth a few bucks as it is expensive wood even for little bits. So as always Have safe fun .Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

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Dallas

3599 posts in 1951 days


#9 posted 04-17-2014 08:50 PM

Bronze are probably not bearings but bushings. The same with the Lignum Vitae. If it doesn’t move, it’s a bushing, if it moves it’s a bearing. If it moves and shouldn’t, > Duct Tape. If it doesn’t move and should, > WD40.

In the old days, there were babbet bearings, you either shimmed them or poured lead to tighten them. The name was a misnomer, Rod and main bearings in and engine are actually bushings.

Or so an old German machinist fellow explained to me many years ago. He was old enough that he worked on the Graf Zeppelin, if that means anything to you.

He was also the one who helped me rebuild an engine from the ground up that powered a 1935 ACF-Brill passenger bus, including forging and machining pistons, rings, rods and a cam shaft.
He was a pretty Fart Smeller!, oops.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

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bigblockyeti

3668 posts in 1185 days


#10 posted 04-18-2014 12:00 AM

I think the folks at Clevite might disagree with you about the bearing definition and futher more be able to explain to you why what they make are in fact bearings.

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bigblockyeti

3668 posts in 1185 days


#11 posted 04-18-2014 12:09 AM

Forgot to mention, LV is limited to a certain surface speed, heat is generated exponentially as that speed is increased up to the maximum the bearing can handle. This is far from a cut and dry situation as there are far too many variables to simply state a maximum speed. The load would be the single largest consideration, followed by lubrication, tolerances, cooling and being a wood product there will be at least slight inconsistencies as with many natural things.

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shipwright

7172 posts in 2262 days


#12 posted 04-18-2014 12:16 AM

I can back Alistair up on the sinking thing.
Years ago I was drying some LV deadeyes (dipped in BLO) on the float beside my boat when the wake of a passing boat caused the float to rock. They tumbled, two of them into the water and they floated like a couple of wrenches.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees. http://thecanadianschooloffrenchmarquetry.com/

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Dallas

3599 posts in 1951 days


#13 posted 04-18-2014 12:41 AM

bigblockyeti, please show me where Clevite, Cummins, Detroit Diesel, GM, Mopar, (all the same provider), or any of the others make a differentiation.

On the behalf of my argument, here is a simple explanation at Wikipedia… which we all know to take with a grain of salt.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushing_%28bearing%29#Bushing

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

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Rick M

7921 posts in 1844 days


#14 posted 04-18-2014 02:27 AM

Technically a bushing is a type of bearing.

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

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