Any Sota Sapphire experts out there?

I've recently purchased a used Sota Sapphire series 3 on which I installed an SME series V arm. I have to say, this 'table almost blows my VPI Scoutmaster with many improvements (including 10.5 arm and periphery ring) out of the water. Deep, tight, effortless bass. Tracks anything. Extremely musical.
However, I can't seem to find any basic maintenance information for the table. Specifically, spindle bearing lubrication, what kind, and how. And motor bearing lubrication, same, what kind and how? I need some tips on these assemblies; how do I disassemble to access for cleaning, oiling, etc?
Surely, some of you Audiogoners can lead me in the right direction... (The Sota folks are nice, but seem that they would much rather me send them the table for inspection and upgrades; I just want to know how to maintain the gear I own.)
I owned 3 different SOTA tables and they do not need any lubrication. the weak link is the springs the table hangs on them and can be stretched if you are using the clamp screw the feet as close to the base as possible and enjoy a fine turntable.
I had a Sota and unfortunately I too had a SME V on it. The arm is just too heavy for that turntable...the springs/lead shot, just won't accommodate it. You might get in touch with SOTA and see if they have upgraded their springs since I had mine, but you're fighting a loosing battle with that combination.
That's surprising, Stringreen. If memory serves, the SOTA Star Sapphire/SME combo was a "classic" one back in the days of both products. But I am sure not arguing with your real world experience to the contrary.
I imported, distributed and owned Sota's back in the 80's and had no problems mounting SME V's. Balanced fine with the lead shot and no sagging.

Lubrication for the sapphire thrust pad was white lithium grease from memory.

You must always use the transit screws to lift the platter when moving. I have seen chips in the sapphire thrust pad when the table has been moved without using transit screws. The resulting sound is very grainy. You should check the thrustpad for damage, it is easy to replace in the field.

You can always bypass the suspension by removing the springs if you prefer. This can improve speed stability.
I had Sota turntables for over 20 yrs and never had a problem with thei SMEV that I used on a series 3 Star a few years back. The combined weight of the arm+armboard+lead shot in well had to come to a certain weight(can't remember exactly how much but for a heavier arm you just removd some of the lead). I suspect if anyone had problems with balancing a SOTA with SMEV that either the springs have sagged or the armboard was too heavy(non standard). The SOTA was designed to be pretty much plug & play as far as suspended turntables go. I recall when they first came out ease of set up vs the then ruling Linn was a major selling point. The springs were not set up for tweaking as I recall there was no mention in the users manual of adjusting them but if the springs have sagged you can take up some of the slack by tightening the screws on the underside . I would NOT recommend dismantling the springs as they are a right pain to reconnect . The platter bearing was not
designed to be user serviceable but if you want to lubricate it you need to undo the bolts under the bearing and remove the platter/bearing as a unit ( do up the screws that raise the platter off the bearing before you do this) . You can then remove a circlip and lift the platter off the bearing being careful not to lose the ball.
I have the SME 309 tonearm on my Sota Sapphire. Specs say it weighs 717g. It works just fine. I even have some lead for additional weight on the sub-chassis for perfect balance. The specs for the SME V tonearm says it weighs 720g. 3 grams is not an issue. Consider that the lead is needed to counterbalance the sub-chassis with the weight of the tonearm in the back corner. Also consider that the springs must be adjusted for the final, overall weight on the sub chassis. Don't try that unless you have patience and really know what you are doing.

Now, about lubrication. I bought my Sota new many years ago and I have done all of my own maintenance work on my tt. It really needs very little maintenance. I lubricate the platter bearing every 3-4 years. I used to use a lithium based grease but switched to a synthetic lube last time. The synthetic is stickier and made the bearing stiffer; but with the mass of the platter added to the bearing it made little difference.

It is not difficult to lube the main bearing; but it takes some mechanical ability. The platter has a shaft with a ball bearing on the end. That ball sits on the sapphire bearing. The shaft fits snugly in a bushing to support the platter horizontally. To disassemble the table follow these steps:
1. Reach under the turntable with the small allen wrench and crank up the two small allen screws that are used for shipping the turntable. These two screws take the load off of the sapphire bearing.
2. Remove the motor cover and belt.
3. At this point, I put my Sota clamp on the platter to help separate it from the sub chassis. I also put the turntable on its side to get to the bolts easier. (Remove your tonearm if you like before tipping the tt on its side.) (my lead shot is in a plastic bag.) I leave the tonearm on and have my wife or sons help hold the table secure.
4. Remove the 3 larger allen head screws and 1/2" bolt from the bottom. Remove the metal plate. Be sure to support the platter as you remove the bolt and screws because these bolts are holding it together.
5. Now remove the platter. Careful! it is heavy. The bearing assembly is what is bolted to the sub chassis. It comes out with the platter.
6. Set the platter down upside down. Now see the three allen head screws in the bearing assembly? Remove those. That allows you to slide out the keeper plate. That plate holds the bearing assembly together.
7. Remove the bearing assembly from the platter shaft.
8. Clean the shaft, ball and the bushing. Relube the ball and shaft. Re-assemble in reverse order.

A new belt is needed too every so often depending on how much you play records.

One last thing. Reference my system page. I added bushings to the sub chassis to constrain it in the horizontal direction. This stabilizes the platter speed as the drag changes at the needle. That drag changes the belt tension which can pull or push the sub chassis in the horizontal direction. That results in a micro speed change. The result was clearer highs.
Thanks, guys. I had no problem balancing the SME. This table really sounds great. Right now I've got a Lyra Delos mounted, but may put my Benz LP on it. I appreciate the maintenance tips.
Sean, I'm about to embark on replacing the arm on my series III star sapphire with an SME IV and was wondering if you found a step-by-step guide to balancing the suspended chassis. Any advice? I've never replaced an arm before on the turntable and wanted to know whT I'm in for!
I had a Star Saphire then Nova then Cosmos IV since 1988 and had the SME V on all 3 with no balancing/spring issues. Still have my Cosmos but with a still heavier Graham Phantom II with no sagging issue at the rear right side and that with a stiff Stealth Hyperphono cable attached to it.

Great sounding TT. You would have to spend quite a bit more on a German made TT to get better sonic performances… my opinion.
Hi - could you elaborate on why you preferred the Phantom to the SMEV? I am curious of the sonic differences, or is it also ease of use? Many thanks.
By the way, excuse my lack of knowledge, but was the Graham a direct fit for the Cosmos (SME adapted?) armboard, or you had to use a different armboard?
@derekw14 You have to get a new armboard from Sota to fit the Phantom.  Totally different mount from the SME.  Also, you need a right-angle DIN IC for the Phantom to get everything to fit without interference.  

As far as SME V versus Phantom performance, the Phantom has one feature the SME can't match:  VTA on-the-fly.  IMO, that's the single most essential feature for extracting maximum performance out of any vinyl playback system.

Good luck & happy listening!
Thank you so much for your answers. I agree Graham VTA on the fly is pretty nifty! Otherwise, how would you say the two arms differ sonically?
thanks to all the posters past. I am w SOTA factory help resurrecting an older Sapphire and am wading thru some potential upgrade options. The table is for my “ Vintage “ system, so let’s not get to carried away, but assist w prudent while at factory upgrades. ( vintage system is MX-110Z, Croft RIAA-RS, MC-240, Quad ESL-63 )
Probably start off using the Sumiko FT3 and my trusty Nakagoka, but may adopt the REGA OEM300 I also have...

Mag-Lev bearing, $ 140 additional over sapphire
Platter damping $175
subchassis mod $175

probably just do all three....

thoughts, help, opinions glady accepted
@tomic601 I went with the Series V platter (includes damping), a replacement sapphire bearing (the original in mine was worn out), the subchassis mod and Series V suspension.  Worth every penny!  Mine was done by Kirk (RIP), and he said my Series III motor was in perfect shape; dead steady on speed and not a sound to be heard.  That was about 6 or 7 years ago now, and I remain totally satisfied.  SOTA is a great company to work with, too.  Good luck with your project & happy listening!
 @effischer  my sense and confirmation bias is that the Sapphire remains one of the best decks in history, certainly judged on value. appreciate your specific inputs and will roll those into my decision - thanks

enjoy the music !

Do any of you know what the thread size is for the feet. I want to put tip toes/conical feet on mine and need to know what the thread is from the table. I’ve owned a few SOTA’s in the past and dint remember. Btw, an SME V And a Sota table are a marriage made in heaven. The SME is not to heavy for the table. I sold SOTA’s for 13 years and just about everyone of them had an SME arm on it. Other than the occasional Premier, FT3, MMT. 
tomic, If you can afford it, and if you want to afford it, I cannot recommend more strongly that you consider the Eclipse motor and motor controller system.  The electronics are a revival of the Phoenix Engineering Eagle and Roadrunner.  Together, these provide dead on speed control with feedback between the Eclipse tachometer and the power supply.  In addition, you would receive their new 3-phase AC synchronous motor, which is required for correct operation of the electronics.  I owned a Star Sapphire III for more than 10 years, and only after selling it and moving on did I realize that it had real shortcomings with respect to speed constancy.  (I always wondered why piano notes wandered in pitch during decay, and I had come to think that was normal for recorded piano.)  The Eclipse upgrade should be a revelation on an otherwise excellent turntable.  I would add that option to your list, along with the maglev bearing.  (I added an Eagle + Roadrunner to my Lenco drive system around the time Phoenix went under, and I am extremely pleased.)
Seantock, I got my first SOTA, the original Sapphire in 1981. I have never done anything to it except dust it once in a while. It needs absolutely no maintenance otherwise unless it develops a problem. I still have that turntable and it still runs just like it did almost 40 years ago. Enjoy!

Lewm, The Sapphire came out long before the SME V. Back in 1981 the trick combo was the Sapphire with a Syrinx PU3 which arguably was the first real modern tonearm. Fat stepped arm tube totally adjustable everything including arm length! Separated horizontal and vertical masses. Beautiful precision bearings. The modern incarnation of this arm is the SAT arm. 
I have a Cosmos with a FR64FX tonearm and the B60 base.  This combo is too heavy by 6 ounces according to SOTA.  I used the adjustable VTA to compensate for a very long term and slow sinking of the armboard over many years.  I thought about getting a different tonearm but just cannot give up the FR.
I sent my Cosmos in (original model and it was upgraded to IV by Kirk).  I enjoy it immensely and it has quiet background that came close to my digital rig.  I had no urge to upgrade but in discussing the VI updates with Donna she stated the mag platter was killer good and from past experience I know she does not throw out hyperbole or strong arm tactics for an income stream.
I just had my Cosmos updated to VI specs with the condor/roadrunner, mag platter, and brand new springs.  By the time I have too worry about new springs I probably won't be able to hear.
Owned a Sapphire for a number of years. It was a fine fine deck.  
Great table, Great Company.


I used the adjustable VTA to compensate for a very long term and slow sinking of the armboard over many years.  
If your armboard is sinking then the platter and armboard would be out of level unless the other four corners are sinking at the same rate.

Changing the VTA does nothing because the armboard and platter are affixed to the same common floating base.

Sorry poor wording Dorkyguyrandy (love the moniker by the way)
It's not the armboard itself sinking it is the B60 base  weighing down the tonearm.
The armboard/table is level and I use ortofon bubble levels to check on occasion.
My weight is just a little over (6 oz) what the recommended max weight is for the springs.  They have held up well according to SOTA but I just got new ones in as the deck was there and figured might as well.
Happy Spinning
You can always level the table with the bottom feet, always loaded with record and record clamp. The issue is that you drop the resonance frequency of the suspension too low which might cause the suspension to over react with foot falls and such. The Older tables you could adjust the mass with lead shot. They used a lighter MDF sub chassis. The newer tables use a much heavier aluminum sub chassic so the mass of the tonearm is a far lower percentage of the total mass. Still, you can't put really massive arms like the Kuzma 4 point on. Won't fit under the dust cover anyway.