First of all, any kind of lubricant on the ways is not usually desireable, since the tailstock and toolpost will not have as great a grip as on a dry surface.
In fact, a slightly rusted bed would be better than a slick, oiled or waxed bed. To minimize the rust, try to keep the environment dry. If the lathe is in a shop, garage orbasement that gets cool and danp, you’ll fight rust until the cows come home.
If this is the case, find a source of heat with a thermostat control, and use it full time.
One other source of rust can be you. Some folks tend to have differing pH level in the moisture their body release through the skin pores and sweat glands. In some cases, just handling bare metal will cause slowly evolving rust to appear wherever it was touched. If this is the case, you can tell because it would be in places you handle it, not in a more uniform way that moist air would cause. If it is you, don’t touch! Short of wearing gloves, I’m not sure how to neutralize one’s body chemistry
If it is the climate, dry out the room, especially if you live near either coast where the moisture contains salt, and keep it that way, else learn to live with rust.
I don’t know any better but I use WD40 most of the time.
I find that when I turn fresh wet sappy maple, oak and the like I really gum up my ways and if I am not so smart to clean up right away, and I leave the residue from turning on the bed, I get RUST…. I just call myself some names and go to work.
I will spray the bed wet with wd40, then I let it sit a bit and wipe it up with a paper towel. Then I spray a 2nd coat and let it dry a bit, then I take out 150 grit sanding disk and have a go with my power sander. I didn’t know I was supposed to keep WD40 away from my bearings but I don’t think I am close to getting it on them.
If the surface of my bed is clean and the banjo or tail stock are a little bit grabby I put silicone spray on the bed and let it dry. I am unaware of any damage this is doing.
Go to an automotive paint supply store and ask for a quart of a conversion coating (not phosphoric acid) – it will react with the iron and turn it grey – it won’t rust unless you wear the coating off – then just recoat.
I’ve used atomobile paint wax (Turtlewax) on the bed before and it really helped a lot. Any paste wax will work, even the tub of Briwax you’ve got on the shelf.
The key will be to make sure you wipe it off thoroughly, just like using it on the wood. The wax stays where it needs to be, removed where it isn’t needed.
I’ve experienced that same strong-arming needed on the Oneway on a friend’s machine. If it didn’t knock the alignment out a whack from headstock to tailstock, I’d be tempted to try the teflon tape on the bottom of the tailstock, then that 1/2 ton of cast iron, I mean tailstock, would slide really nice. I suppose the headstock could always be shimmed the same amount, but you would probably notice some goofiness in the performance, somehow.
Just a quick caution on automotive waxes.
Some of them (I don’t know specific brands) contain silicone, which will cause problems with finishing if it gets onto wood. Waxes that are made for furniture, like Butcher’s, Minwax, and Johnson’s, are silicone free. (Some furniture polishes, including Pledge, are loaded with the stuff).
During World War II, replacement airplane motors were soaked in tung oil before being shipped to Europe in order to help protect them from the salt water.
I have had good luck in coating various tools, motorcycle parts, etc. with tung oil over the years to help protect them from rust.
If it takes more than one hand to move the tailstock, I wax, then buff it with a rag.
My tail stock weighs over 50 lbs, but I move it one-handed, because the ways are slick. Wax, WD-40, any kind of lubricant actually prevents the ways from being worn, which is why metal lathe bed ways are oiled at least on a daily basis.
What I use in hot humid Hawaii with great success is a cold blue used on gun barrels and actions, available at sporting goods and gun shops, in either a paste or liqiud form.
I apply it to the bare metal surfaces as per instructions on the package, then I’ll give it a couple coats of paste wax to top it off.