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!

13 Replies to “One Shot for Glory”

  1. That's a really nice conversion. It doesn't seem simple to me!

    Speaking of the price of lubricants, the price of Husqvarna bar chain oil for chainsaws is about half that of Stihl. I want my Stihl chainsaw to last as long as possible but can the oil quality be that much better?

  2. tico,

    good to hear from you.

    I am not savvy about the differences, if any, between those two brands of bar oil. I do know that bar oil has tackifiers in it which help the oil stick to the bar instead of being flung off, and that in a pinch, gear oil is an acceptable substitute.

    Another way of looking at it is that if you use the Husky oil and it turns out, for some reason, to be slightly inferior to the Stihl oil, what is going to be the difference in real world outcomes? The bar and chain are wearing parts on a chainsaw, and cost 'x' to replace. It might be the case that using the Husky oil mean that the bar could wear out slightly sooner than otherwise, but you saved so much money buying it – talking gallons and gallons presumably – perhaps the price difference obtained by oil cost savings is that of a new bar?

    I can't imagine Stihl oil and Husky oil being radically different in quality and both are made specifically for the application.


  3. Tico, I have used Husky oil on a Husky saw for hundreds of hours with no problems. I can't imagine that there is any fundamental difference in how a chain runs on a bar between the Husky and Stihl.


  4. Very nice upgrade!
    Just a note about prices, much of the difference is due to the relative strength/weakness of the foreign currencies to the USD and wages. Germany has a much higher wage structure then China or Taiwan. It's been interesting to watch the manufacturing swing from West to East over the past three decades.

  5. Edward,

    thanks for your comment, and safe to say, the difference in wage structure is rather obvious, to the point where it need not be mentioned – and such was noted in a post from a few days ago in regards to tool boxes so no need to repeat.

    However wages does not fully explain the price difference. I've recently been looking in Aigner prices, for instance, and the US distributor tacks on 30% to Aigner prices, and contributes very little labor to the product indeed. And in the post above, the price difference I was musing about is that between a Chinese made pump oiler and a Taiwanese pump oiler of very similar, if not identical design. There the wages are probably a fair bit closer – and one would expect the Chinese wages, if anything to be slightly lower – and yet the Chinese product was 4 times the price.

    Wages also do not explain all when it comes to mass-produced machinery and tooling, where a certain portion of the work is done by CNC equipment – those machines are available worldwide, so the cost of running one in China is not hugely different than in another country, and the machine does the bulk of the actual labor, so though there is a human involved to load/unload, and program, and a difference in labor cost, the portion of that human involvement in regards to total labor expense is a smaller amount.

    It's not as if the Martin central lubrication pump is handmade from start to finish, nor is it likely the total time to manufacture the part exceeds a couple of hours, so the near 20-fold difference in price is due to more factors than labor. Taxes, tariffs, shipping, warehousing and distribution all add additional costs. I probably could have sourced the Martin product from Germany directly for around $600 or so, but I still probably would have opted for the Taiwanese unit in this case, given the minor importance of the function of the part. It doesn't need to be a masterpiece of metal-smithing to be an effective oiler.


  6. Hello

    What I see is that all the oil tubes are linked parallel each other. If You push the lever,oil will be spreaded to the different points. But quantity,what goes into each point,can vary significantly depending resistance of the end point.Mix of oil and dust can stick in one place and some of them can therefore be dry. If You use maschine regularily it will not happen, but I have such experience.

  7. Priit,

    thanks for your comment and that is a good point. I can see that the hose entering at the side of the spindle would have *possibly* more resistance than the hose set up to drip at the side of the threaded rod. However I do not know exactly what the inside of the spindle looks like in terms of the detailing where the oil is delivered, whether there is a groove in there or not, so I can't be totally sure what the difference in resistance might be at the end of the that line compared to the other one.

    It's worth further thought though. The pump itself has an outlet on both sides, so perhaps feeding one line to each side of the pump separately might be an improvement – I'll look into that. That said, these types of central lubrication pumps are used on machines with many more lubrication points than my shaper, and therefore there would always be some use of tees or manifolds to split the oil supply, so it would seem this issue would happen with any machine where there might be varied resistance to the oil coming out at the end of the tube.

    I'm thinking also that the oil pump allows for much easier lubrication, with greater pressure, than the hand-operated oil gun could ever manage. So, even if relatively more oil comes out on the line on my shaper which oils the threaded rod, some oil will be delivered to the line feeding the side of the spindle, and that is sealed from dust. Only the threaded outlet is possibly vulnerable to dust. So, provided I periodically clean the dust from the threaded rod of the raise/lower mechanism around where the oil tube delivers its oil, at worst in using the pump I will over-oil that location and yet still put enough oil to the spindle. Should be good I think. See any problems with that?


  8. Hello

    Its OK,I think, this lubrication is not so critical to the machine.
    In my Bäuerle, they recommend to use grease not oil, so if You use oil it is probably better.
    But this original gun(with red cap) is crap, just use normal two hand grease/oil gun for other nipples.


  9. Priit,

    and the good news with the grease fittings on the machines is that they require lubrication only every 500 hours of operation, so I certainly won't need to be doing that terribly often.

    Good to hear from you!


  10. I just wanted to say thank you for this specific post! I was looking for an alternative to my current oiling pump. I like the design for the same reasons as you but couldn't find a size description for the unit from the seller and the 100mmx110mm measurement really helped make my decision easier! I'm buying 2 of these for my cnc lathe and Bridgeport mill! The information, insight, and pictures were exactly what I needed. Kudos!


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