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Built from 1950 onwards, South Bend drill presses entered a crowded US market with other well-known makers including Delta Rockwell, Walker Turner and the long-lived and very extensive range from the Atlas Press Co. (later Clausing) Just two models of South Bend were offered, a type branded as the "Economy" and another as the rather better, heavier-duty "Precision". Some high-resolution pictures - may be slow to open
South Bend "Economy" Drill Press
First manufactured in 1950 and discontinued around 1955 after a relatively short run, the "Economy" was a simple but well-designed machine and offered in both bench and floor-standing Models. Smooth-running and easy to use, the drill had both its head and table locked to the 23/4" diameter column, not by a crude, split casting closed down by a cross-bolt, but a proper "split-barrel" assembly. Called "double-plug binder locks" by South Bend, the design used two opposing steel bars machined on their inner face to march the curvature of the column and drilled through for a compression bolt. The 10" x 10" table could be tilted through any angle and was braced by a wide underside strengthening rib, this being, together with the surrounding edges, machined flat to aid clamping duties. On the bench model the 7" x 10" base was machined, with two parallel slots, but that on the floor model (at just 8" x 12" and needing bolting down for stability) was left as cast, though the two slots were still provided.
Like many similar-sizes drills of the period, the "A" section drive belt was guarded only at the front (by a distinctive, onion-shaped casting), while the expensive switchgear and motor - the latter recommended by the makers to be either 1/3 or 1/2 h.p. running at 1725 r.p.m. - were not supplied as part of the regular equipment. When so equipped, spindle speeds were rather on the fast side and ranged from 740 to 4070 r.p.m., a set better suited for smaller work with the drill's recommended maximum capacity though steel being 1/2". The motor, instead of being held on a rear-mounted plate fitted with bars that socketed into the main casting - this arrangement requiring something of a struggle to slacken for changes of speed - was fastened instead to a hinged plate with a coil spring at one side that automatically maintained the correct belt tension and made changes of speed quick and easy.
Running in pair of high-precision, sealed-for-life ball races, the spindle could be had with an end formed with a No. 34 Jacobs short taper - in which case the model designations were CD401B for the bench version and CD401F for the floor model - or (more usefully and less expensive as well) with a No. 2 Morse taper socket, the models then becoming CD402B for the bench machine and CD402F for the floor type. Oddly, South Bend listed the former pair of models differently when supplied fitted with a Jacobs short taper chuck, these becoming, respectively, CD403B and CD403F.
Guaranteed to have a maximum run-out of 0.05", the 6-spline spindle had a travel of 4 inches and a maximum clearance, on the bench model, from the nose of its chuck to the table of 111/16" and to the base of 1611/16". Comparative figures for the floor model were, respectively, 405/16" and 465/16". A depth stop was fitted, this having the normal pair of knurled-edged round setting nuts and a ruler graduated in sixteenths of an inch.
In 1950 prices of the drill varied from a low of $69.50 for the bench model with a Jacobs taper (Model CD401B) to $86.50 for the floor model complete with a Jacobs 1/2" chuck (Model CD403F) - though a 1/2 h.p. motor together with a push-button starter at $52.35 would have added more than 75% to the price of the cheapest model. Less motor and chuck, the bench Economy weighed 124 lbs and the floor model 156 lbs.
Advice? If you want a cheap drill, don't buy the least expensive Chinese-built one you can find; instead, seek out a decent South Bend "Economy". With its all-metal construction and smooth-running spindle it's something to pass down to your great-grandchildren.
South Bend "Precision" Drill Press.
Made from 1950 into the 1960s, very early models of the "Precision" can be recognised by the oval-shaped, locking thumbscrew on the feed handle and a single screw securing the optional-extra belt guard. Later models used a circular, knurled-edge thumbscrew and three screws to hold the belt guard - this item becoming, in later years, a standard fitting.
Built as both bench model (CD400B with a Jacobs Chuck and CD414B with a No.2 Morse taper spindle) and a floor-standing model (CD400F with Jacobs chuck and CD414F with a 2-Morse Spindle) the "Precision" also shared several features and specifications with the "Economy" i.e. 1/3 and 1/2 h.p. electric motors; 4 inches of spindle travel; spindle speeds from 740 to 4070 r.p.m.; a 10-inch square table able to be tilted to any angle; a base of 7" x 10" on the bench model and 8" x 12" of the floor type; a 2.75-inch diameter main column and clearances all but the same between the chuck nose, table and bases of the two types. However, the drills were some 60 lbs heaver as a bench model and 68 lbs as a floor type - the increase in mass pointing to machines of considerably heaver build and improved drilling performance.
In addition to the increased weight and balanced pulleys fitted as standard, three minor improvements to help the operator were included: an adjustable, quick-action, cam-operated belt tensioning system (to replace the spring-loaded device on the "Economy" model), a plastic knobs at each end of the down-feed handle and the incorporation of a built-in light unit. Unlike the "Economy" that was supplied without any electrical equipment at all, the "Precision" was delivered with toggle switches - a motor, of course, being charged extra Accessories available were almost identical to the "Economy" and are listed below.
South Bend Drill Press Accessories.
South Bend offered a good range of accessories for both models, these including a multi-speed attachment that used an intermediate pulley between motor and spindle pulleys that gave twelve speeds from 380 to 7700 r.p.m.; complete enclose belt guards; a swivel-base machine vice with hardened jaws and a 4-inch holding capacity; spare Morse taper and Jacobs-taper spindles including what was described as a "utility" version with a plain 1/2" diameter by 15/8" deep parallel hole in its nose; 4-inch travel table and head elevating screws with worm-and-wheel gearing; table-support ring that allowed the table clamping screw to be released without the table dropping down; mortising attachment with chisel holder and a selection of chisel bits; tapping heads to fit the various spindles; a steel-framed, wooden-topped bench (for which a drawer was charged extra) and, for the "Economy" model only, balanced pulleys for smooth high-speed running (an extra recommended when the multi-speed attachment was fitted).