View Full Version : building a lathe for woodturning

19th Jan 2013, 07:48 AM
I have signed up on a few different wood turning forums. I have asked a few questions and made a few statements here and there. I have grown up in woodworking, especially wood turning. bigger items. I also grew up knowing that I could usually build something much cheaper than buying and in some cases more versatile or of better quality. I am in the process of building a lathe and I would like some input as to what some of you novice to professional think is important, or just nice to have available. on another site I have started a thread "building the lathe of your dreams". This thread has garnered little response. I thought I would try it here and see where it goes. This site seems to stay a little more on task instead of going pushing for most responses. I do have a couple guidelines. I am not interested in going CNC. I would have built one by now. I have my own welding and machining equipment so I can make just about anything. I am familiar with woodwork and turning especially from a production stand point. I am not a purist. if the wood is spinning and the cutting tool removes wood it is wood turning. If you wish feel free to interject a need that you may have. IE flip away tail stocks, chucks, speed conversions for existing lathes. I have a couple drawings that hopefully will turn into reality soon, But for the moment I would like your input. here is one to start.

Willy Nelson
19th Jan 2013, 09:29 AM
Good Morning mate
Not a lot of responses thus far, so I thought I would have a crack
MY Perfect lathe
Must be big and heavy and high ( I am tall), with possibly a 3 ph motor, although 2 HP might suffice
Must have infinite speed control
Must have at least 50cm swing.
Never done outboard turning, but would like to have that as well.
A bracket fitted to the lathe to accomodate the dust extractor intake. The assembly must be able to allow the extractor to be quickly and easily moved to the best position
The tail stock must have at 150mm of movement.
All spindles to accept a No2 morse
The outboard shaft should came with a Chromed stop wheel
I am not sure where I want the controls, but not really happy where mine are now, maybe the the full knee bar like a Vicmarc
I want external feet with large holes to allow me to bolt the lathe down to the floor
A tool rack, fitted to the front of the lathe, at the far right.
A shelf with doors to keep the shavings out.

I will also need
- A big shed to accomodate my new large lathe
-Additional time for turning

When can you have it built for me?

I hope this elecits more responses

19th Jan 2013, 09:55 AM
this is what I would base my lathe on long bed, big swing. I used this lathe during my apprenticeship the bed is laminated tallowwood with 50 mm angle iron on the inside of the ways. it also had a pull cord on/off switch which could be used anywhere along the lathe, handy on long turning! and a 500mm swing

19th Jan 2013, 10:02 AM
then when money was available I would build a bowl lathe it would be basically a headstock with a pedestal tool rest!

19th Jan 2013, 11:21 AM
Here are some ideas:



Nice Bowl Lathe: Homemade Lathe (http://www.fredwilliamson.com/Pages-Main/My-Lathe.htm)

Look at all the lathes you can in show rooms. There are turning organizations that have demonstrations. The demonstrators are willing to answer questions, and you can see how the lathes work, and find things you like and dislike.

I have been accumulating stuff for THE BIG BOWL LATHE for years, around 36 inch swing. I have a 13 3/4 inch swing Hegner and a 20 inch swing Woodfast shortbed with DC variable speed drive. I do 95% bowls and platters.

I recently bought a 28 inch swing home made lathe. The spindle is only a 1 inch X 8 tpi. I do have a 2 3/8 shaft and two pillow blocks that will find its way on that. See photo below.

Variable speed via VFD & 3 phase motor is wonderful. You want the constant torque VFD that keeps the speed under variable load.

If you plan to use wood turning chucks, the most common is 1 X 8, large common is 1 1/4 X 8. My Hegner is 33mm X 3.5 mm thread pitch.

On this page are chuck adapters from Oneway. Chuck Adaptors (http://oneway.ca/chucks/adaptors.htm)

Vicmarc also has a good selection. Oneway and Vicmarc are very good chucks.

Do you want to turn spindles or bowls, pens or porch posts, bowls as big as wash tubs or the size of tea cups?

If you are going to make huge things, the South Bend Heavy 10 metal lathe uses a 2 1/4 X 8 spindle nose and those face plates are pretty common. That size is also used by Logan and several other lathe manufacturers. You might find a headstock from a metal lathe that the bed is worn or or the carriage has been crashed. That would save having to make a headstock, and one from a SB Heavy10 or a 11 to13 inch belt drive metal lathe would get you started. Those head stocks are quite stout but do not like to run over 1700 rpm.

19th Jan 2013, 11:32 AM

Welcome aboard. :2tsup:

If you do a search of this forum there are a couple of threads about building your own bowl lathe.


I had a look at your image on Facebook not a lot to go on so I wont comment till you get a bit more up there.

19th Jan 2013, 02:01 PM
Willy if you like it when I am done I can always build another. I am no stranger to big turnings. this one should finish out at 6 feet between centers and at least 2' diameter capable. It should have no trouble with smaller turnings either. hughie I have mor but I will wait till I get some done in steel. I have a bed designed but I am not totaly satisfied with it.

20th Jan 2013, 11:01 AM
this is a photo of the long bed lathe I used as a apprentice, 10 metres long the bed was tallowood with 50 mm angle iron, dont know where the tail stock came from and wood fast camlocks for the toolrests. I only ever turned 8 m long boat staves for the navy. hope there is an idea there you can use?!

22nd Jan 2013, 12:32 PM
hey folks I had some time yesterday to work on the headstock. I got the fabed metal parts together and machined to fit other peices here are some pictures. not painted yet.
the outboard end250847
the front of the headstock end250848
the bottom of the motor mount plate and the jack shaft mount tubes250849
The inboard or working end of the headstock.250850

Tim the Timber Turner
22nd Jan 2013, 01:04 PM
Interesting lathe design.

I never thought of turning vertically.

Might start a whole new trend in lathe design.

In jest of course.



22nd Jan 2013, 02:17 PM

I rotated your photos in Picasa, available free from Google. Nice program for adjusting, emailing, uploading, and storing. Picasa (http://picasa.google.com/)

Your lathe looks wonderful!!! Any idea how heavy it will be?

If you are not going to bolt it down, and maybe if you are, it is good to have legs or feet front to back about 1/3 to 1/2 as wide as the lathe is tall so when you are swinging a 100 pound out of balance stump it does not flip the lathe over into your lap.

They can be in the shape of an A or as an upside down T. One gets in the way, the other you trip over.

A way to get around that is to make the front leg of the A shorter so it is more upright, likewise the front of the T can be shorter so it doesn't stick out so far. If you do that the lathe should be bolted down because if it flips over it will want to come toward you.

Again, what I see so far looks wonderful.

I envy your skill and availability of a machine shop. I have a South Bend Heavy 10 lathe and Miller 120 volt wire welder. Only good for small thin stuff.

23rd Jan 2013, 03:08 AM
thanks Paul! This is just the headstock section it will go on a bed. I started with this because it is the most costly section and I wanted to make it as versatile as possible. I have material for the bed but I think the next piece after getting the headstock painted and assembled will be the tail stock.

26th Jan 2013, 02:34 PM
251484251483251485Well I have made a little progress! I still have to make the adapter for the 60 tooth roller chain sprocket on the spindle i want to be able to remove it when its not being used and I don't need it flying around when I am running higher RPM's. the spindle nose is 1 1/2" 8. I plan to use the exposed edge of the piloted bearing as an index for the fixed pulley of an oval turning set up. the first pic is where the belt is in back drive and the last is when it is in direct drive. you can just make out the 40 pitch sprocket behind the 60 tooth pulley on the jackshaft.

26th Jan 2013, 02:42 PM
Interesting lathe design.

I never thought of turning vertically.

Might start a whole new trend in lathe design.

In jest of course.



Nah, thats for the bedridden turners. They can wheel this over the top of them and keep working.

26th Jan 2013, 02:46 PM
not so far off the mark. not this lathe but the next one is specifically designed for a fellow in a wheel chair! We hope to get together this spring for design criteria. he has actually used the sit down lathes of the other manufacturers but they have some pretty huge drawbacks.

28th Jan 2013, 08:53 AM
Hey! taking a few moments museing. I wrote up another thread a while back about tying the cross feed to the headstock for rope or barley twists. I was looking for a way to “phase” the turning on the fly. I have figured out a way to do this. some of you may have read about or seen videos on oval turning. Some may or may not understand the way a belt drive adapter works for this type of turning. Oval turning off sets the center of the turning through an eccentric chuck system 2 times per revolution of the spindle so it has a 2 to 1 internal ratio. the whole thing starts out with a fixed pulley or sprocket on the spindle housing. I wont get into that any further at this time. I want to be able to do length wise OT (ornamental turning) without rocking the head and tailstock back and forth. I plan to use a push pull cable coupled to a secondary slide on the crossfeed. This way i can turn to a pattern and then follow the same pattern with the OT set up for additional detail. Spindle milling machines like the legacy mill use routers and several bit set ups to get the final result. This locks you into buying special tooling or altering a design to make do with what you have. With typical OT lathes one cutter shape is used and the rosette sets the pattern. They typically cannot make long pieces(over 12”)and without an additional expensive piece of hardware cannot do a spiral. What I needed to figure out was a way to “phase on the fly” I can do this by keeping the ratio 1-1 in the oval turning setup. Set up at the center so there is no offset and lastly make the usually fixed pulley rotate in a manner that is controlled by the movement of the crossfeed. Certainly this must present an amusing challenge to some. some day I am going to figure out a passable capstan table mechanism that doesn’t cost 50,000 dollars but for a while I will stick to this lathe build.

30th Jan 2013, 06:59 PM
I thought it this topic would do well here but would it be better in the wood working tools area?

30th Jan 2013, 08:30 PM
'tis in the right place.:D

31st Jan 2013, 08:54 AM
I thought it this topic would do well here but would it be better in the wood working tools area?

Only a few of us crazies make our own lathes and tools. Myself, Hughie, and , that I know of.

There is a gentleman who exqusitely rebuilds Woodfasts also.

I am eagerly awaiting more photos. I am most impressed.

31st Jan 2013, 12:03 PM
I would have hoped that you would have been all over this thread then! On those that you have built what do you wish that you had included/ left out? What capability do you wish you could have included?

I am working on an oval turning attatchment for the lathe. almost done with the design. There is a little work to center-center distances for two belt drives that have to be adjustable against each other and maintaining a balance. it has been a little challenge. I will post the block drawings when I get finished with it and then the finished part when it is....finished.

if there is something that you find an interest in duplicating i have no trouble providing tech/spec drawings for them.

31st Jan 2013, 01:01 PM

I have not yet built the big bowl lathe. I have assembled a 2 3/8 inch shaft with two pillow blocks, a bunch of I beam and C channel, a new Baldor 3 HP, 3 phase motor, a tailstock with #2 Morse taper, an Isuzu 5 speed pick up transmission, a bunch of V-belt pulleys, and a swing arm with bearings and shaft from a sawmill cut off saw. All of this at scrap price or a bit above.

The motor was a find, sitting in the scrap yard in the crate. I got it and a lightly used 1 HP, 3 phase for less than $50.00.

My general thoughts are: Enough weight and mass so that it does not vibrate or ring like a bell. Wide enough footprint or bolted down so that out of balance does not make it walk.

Constant torque Variable Frequency Drive With a pulley / transmission set up so that the spindle can be slowed to 25 - 50 rpm with the VFD at 1/2 speed and 2000 rpm with VFD running at 125%. The VFD takes single phase and converts it to 3 phase and varies the frequency. AC motor speed is controlled by the frequency, 60 Hz in the US.

If a motor with shaft driven fan is run too slowly too long they overheat and the magic smoke will come out. An extra fan running at full rpm blowing through or over the motor will keep it cool.

Tailstock to help hold unbalanced big blanks. Tailstock to slide off the bed so as to be out of the way for hollowing and finishing the inside.

Tool rest to be connected to bed and a leg running to the floor to take up force when roughing and hollowing.

As much as I admire Ornamental Turning and the lathes, and oval turnings, I have enough to occupy me with interesting wood made round.

Here is info on an old oval turning lathe:

Turning Ovals at the Old Schwamb Mill « Rainford Restorations (http://rainfordrestorations.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/turning-ovals-at-the-old-schwamb-mill/)

Old Schwamb Mill (http://www.oldschwambmill.org/main.html)

Lathes and Turning Techniques - Fine Woodworking - Google Books (http://books.google.com/books?id=eI30loPhRdcC&pg=PA52&lpg=PA52&dq=fine+woodworking+old+schwamb+mill&source=bl&ots=RytCEOlxs6&sig=28a2whhEssK9wQR9-C41EJPO_t0&hl=en&sa=X&ei=kMcJUaWoFM3p0QHfloCIAw&sqi=2&ved=0CFkQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=fine%20woodworking%20old%20schwamb%20mill&f=false)

The magazine article had nice clear diagrams on how it worked. I have a copy buried somewhere, which may only come to light after I croak.

Add: Modern oval turning chuck:

Untitled Document (http://www.coolweldstudios.com/page6.htm)

31st Jan 2013, 01:18 PM
be sure to make a way to keep the truck trans in gear. Intermittent cuts will knock it out of gear. don't use a bungee chord either the constant pressure on the shift forks will make them wear faster than you might expect, especially at higher speeds. With 3 hp you should really be able to do some monster sized stuff.

I am familiar with the typical arrangement for oval turnings. one set up for one size. I want to make a variable set up, and one for some pretty big things too. thanks for the links! it was fun to go through them.

1st Feb 2013, 10:16 PM
I would have hoped that you would have been all over this thread then! On those that you have built what do you wish that you had included/ left out? What capability do you wish you could have included?

i dont really have list of shouldna dones or shouldna do's I look on the lathe as a work in progress. I build mine for specific purposes and as that tends to change from time to time then the lathe has to change as well.

2nd Feb 2013, 03:32 AM
Hughie what types of things have you set up to do? those could be welcome additions.

2nd Feb 2013, 07:39 AM
Well I started out making bowls and largish ones at that. So the lathes have big swings ie 27" and 36". This was to do away with a swivel head, I had one and have determined I dont like them, just a complicated add on for a small lathe.

So they were dedicated bowl lathes, now I find that there isnt much interest in huge bowls either for my friends or family, well one or two maybe and they gobble up wood at a alarming rate to boot. :o

So my most recent mod is inter changeable indexing discs. This allows me move them back and forth at will, very handy :2tsup:

3rd Feb 2013, 12:13 AM
interchangeable discs for mounting bowls or platters? I have thought about a keyhole type arangement put the large hole over the top of a disc and let ti drop to the center then tighten two take up screws no the disc and one through a key to lock it in place. this would be for big stuff. finding the thread on the bigger stuff even with a hoist can leave you open to damaging the threads.

3rd Feb 2013, 10:21 AM
interchangeable discs for mounting bowls or platters?

No I use them for indexing for when I cut spirals etc see the the pic below

3rd Feb 2013, 03:31 PM
Are those hand cut and hand worked or are they machine cut? way cool in either case!

3rd Feb 2013, 06:04 PM
Are those hand cut and hand worked or are they machine cut? way cool in either case!

Hand cut and hand worked. The index discs are for the layout and the number of spirals etc

3rd Feb 2013, 06:47 PM
Hand cut and hand worked. The index discs are for the layout and the number of spirals etcMasochist!:D

4th Feb 2013, 11:13 AM
http://www.woodworkforums.com/images/misc/quote_icon.png Originally Posted by hughie http://www.woodworkforums.com/images/buttons/viewpost-right.png (http://www.woodworkforums.com/f8/building-lathe-woodturning-164947/index2.html#post1606763)

Hand cut and hand worked. The index discs are for the layout and the number of spirals etc

: Masochist!:D

Agreed, but it sure is beautiful. I do not aspire to that kind of work in this lifetime.

9th Feb 2013, 04:32 PM
It has been a while. I have been working on the oval turning set up for the lathe. I had a hard time deciding how I wanted to adjust the belt tension on the timing belts. I went back and forth about six times. Finally I decided to include one eccentric on the spindle mount and one on the final bearing assembly. I enjoy challenges! here are some jpg’s of the solid model. I have made some of the parts. The total displacement is about 11 inches. The second ring of holes on the shift bar is for counterbalancing. I could completely counterbalance the assembly for turning each piece but I think I will do more milling instead at speeds of less than 60 RPM. with the swing arm set for large turnings I am sure it will still be pretty unnerving. so here is an update.
the large plate with the rounded ends is fixed directly to the spindle. this drives the idler shaft around the fixed sprocket. the ratio is one to one. since the idler is driven by the fixed sprocket this sections “synchronous” with the rotation of the spindle. the idler is attached to the final with another timing belt. This section of the drive is two to one. As the spindle goes through two full rotations the final drive only makes one full revolution. since the final drive is off center it moves in and away in its trip around the center but the work only makes one half a revolution. So it makes one side of the oval on one revolution of the spindle and then cuts the other side the next time around.
the sprocket to the left is an index ring it can either be locked in place or rotated while the turning is being made it carries the fixed drive sprocket….just thought I would throw it in.

14th Feb 2013, 05:13 PM
I worked on the bed some today. It’s al welded and bolted together. I still need to add the cross feed rail. It is a piece of heavy angle the will go in the front. I will keep the old atlas for two ok threereasons. one I can put it on the 8” I beam and use the VFD to drive it. Two I can use the same familiar setups for some production runs. OH! and three I can use it as an extension letting me turn up to 14’ between centers by turning half at a time.

2nd Mar 2013, 10:18 AM
just warming it up for the weekend! hope to hear from ya soon!

2nd Mar 2013, 06:17 PM
I love beasts, and this sure seems to fit that description!!!

Very good looking build!!!:2tsup::2tsup::2tsup:

2nd Mar 2013, 08:24 PM
I have been following this thread with interest.

Just a few observations if I may. Bear in mind that these are my personal opinions for what they are worth.

I think that the headstock will need further bracing to avoid torsional twisting around the centre point. There is a lot of hardware hanging off it, e.g. motor and headstock extension in relation to the mounting footprint.

The next problem could be the amount of "leverage" it has off the headstock end of the bed. The pictures don't show whether there is bracing supporting it.

I would be very wary of putting something big and unbalanced on it.

3rd Mar 2013, 04:39 AM
I guess we will have to see. I have room for reinforcements if I need to. here is a shot of the tailstock and one of the underside of the headstock. the baseplate on the headstock is 1/2" and the base that it all rests on is 3/4". there is a central bolt to hold it in place when I turn it and four 1/2" bolts to lock it in place when I get there. the gussets are 1/2" as well 7018 rod for most of it and I had a couple 11018 for root passes.256260256261 The main I beam is o the right of this picture and as you can see in the top the gusset runs to the bottom of the beam. the gussets are both attached to the web of the I beams for the most attatchment area. I am very happy with the outcome. I have .003 runout across the mount plate and the column base was machined perpendicular after welding so it is pretty true.

3rd Mar 2013, 09:02 AM
Now that I have seen the whole lathe there are a few more points.

The tail stock base needs to cover the whole of the bed or at least extend past the webs of the "I" beam or it will definitely flex under load and twist the flanges.

It also needs to be extended in length to counteract the leverage when you tighten it against the timber.

The legs also need to be braced in all directions to stop any movement.

3rd Mar 2013, 10:18 AM
Thanks Robo. if the need arises I can extend a pad behind the main box of the tailstock stand. The lathe I have used for long turnings in the past used the headstock off a 10" atlas lathe. It was fastned to a much larger machine bed. the headstock riser wa a peice of 6" "I" beam with a 3/16 flange notched and filed to match the piramedal way. it was held in place with a single piece of 1/2" all thread. the flange on the large I beam is 1/2" inch and the flange on the small one is 3/8". I will check test it by putting a short piece between the centers and pushing in the spur and center. If I lay a straight edge against the base vertically I should see the flex way before I hurt the ways. As the end lifts off the bed. I can always make the extension shoe and the draw pad wider. Thanks for the points to ponder! Did the attachment of the headstock platform set your mind at ease? there is a shelf under the lathe bed that splits the leg length in half. it is made of 4" channel and also welded to the legs to stiffen them up. I have four spare 2 hp motors and several other heavy peices of tooling stored here to hold it steady to the floor! :U:U there is a drawer for tooling just under the bed also full of tool holders, centers, small templates, etc.

15th Mar 2013, 04:43 PM
Had a great day in the shop today working on the lathe! I got the VFD mounted wired and programed! I also built a remote station for speed control, start and stop and four preset speeds. I worked on the longitudinal feed too. Works great! I still have to guide the back end of the cross feed and mount a tool but hopefully I can get something off it over the weekend. I'll post some pictures.

18th Mar 2013, 07:21 AM
home made lathe for large unique wood turnings - YouTube (http://youtu.be/3GBvyQd4sb8)

Maybe this will get your juices flowing!

18th Mar 2013, 09:57 AM
A seriously good beast there,oreos!!!!:2tsup::2tsup::2tsup: