Instructables
Although I know other people have built lathes themselves, after an enormous amount of looking on Google, I saw most homemade lathes involve casting and milling, as well as using off the shelf components like chucks and tapers. Being only a high school student, I wanted to experiment with a lathe without having to spend hundreds of dollars that I don't have. I ended up using almost all scrap materials from my basement, so there is no need to follow my materials choices. Because your design choices will vary, this article is more of a record of how I built this one, rather than a manual for building yours.

I managed to build this lathe in about a week, with not much more than a cordless drill, a drill press, a jigsaw, and assorted hand tools. I hope that I have documented my project here in an understandable way.

Warning: This is a powerful device designed to spin stuff quickly. I take no responsibility for anything you do. Don't try this unless you have at least a little bit of experience with tools. And wear safety glasses when using it because particles fly around.
 
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Step 1: Decisions

So, if you are reading this, you must be interested in building a homemade lathe. First, I would advise you to look at the diagram in the [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lathe_(tool) Wikipedia article] to learn the basic parts of a lathe.

The first thing you have to decide is what kind of lathe you want. Either to work with metal or wood. A wood lathe requires a less powerful motor and not as close tolerances. Also a wood lathe does not need the complicated tool rest that a metal lathe has. For the first version of my lathe, I decided to just stick with wood and see if I could come up with something that actually worked.

The next thing to decide is size. I would highly recommend not going too overboard... tree size logs on a wood lathe and 50 pound steel bars on a metal lathe are best left to professionals I think. I decided to try to make a wood lathe for pieces up to 4 inches in diameter and about 30 inches long, although I will not be trying something that big until I get more practice with small items, like tops, chess pieces, other little toys. But I figured that I had a pretty powerful motor sitting around, so I might as well make it big enough to handle large salt shakers and chair legs so in the future I could do large things.
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You did all this, and your still in high school? You give me hope for the future. Well done!
This is one of the best instructibles i've seen so far, and it's very impressive that you made all your own parts/tools from scratch as well. being in high school on top of that shows that you really paid a great deal of attention in school. way to go!!! i love the lathe and the items you made with it and i plan to build one myself soon using something very close to your design.

Thanks for the great details and pics you provided with this!
Well, as this shows, it's secondary school pupils who cana create some of the coolest projects...
I don't think this kid's ability to build this has anything to do with him paying attention in school. No American school teaches kids how to be creative and capable of building something like this. This kid has this ability regardless of school.
catwood (author)  NightCrawler6264 years ago
No problem. I am glad that I could provide some inspiration for you!
Ahmedsudan2 months ago

Did you tight the tailstock with a nut and washer in the bottom like you did with the headstock basics??

how do you turn if you don't have a tool rest?
zcorten7 months ago

This here might actually account for some of the instability, if the 2x4s were never bolted down. This would cause the whole assembly to rock slightly while it's spinning. And, honestly, the plastic joint holding it together might contribute as well, though I'm not sure about that.

zcorten7 months ago

Here, I'll probably use something a bit longer at the feet, two bolts each foot, and at least a third set of feet. Possibly even a fourth.

zcorten7 months ago

I'd actually suggest keeping the aluminum frames, and bolting them down to a 2x2 board will provide increase stability.

wdanielbern8 months ago

wonder how a bench grinder would work as the motor?maybe too much

catwood (author)  wdanielbern7 months ago

Should be okay, not a lot of power, but you could use pulleys to reduce the speed.

smoak1 year ago
I recently decided to make room for a new tool and I thought it best to be taken up by a lathe. I looked at prices and damn near hit the floor. So, I decided to come to the trusty instructables to see if any geniuses had built a decent one. And you Sir, have done just that. I appreciate the amazing work you put into the 'ible and the great job you did building the lathe. I will definitely be using your 'ible and design for ideas and methods when building mine.
catwood (author)  smoak7 months ago

I am glad i could provide inspiration for you! Did you ever get one working? I would be interested to see it!

What did you use the UMHW for before? Seems like a strange thing to find in your basement.....
catwood (author)  JoshsInstructables7 months ago

I used it for frames of my fighting robots (battlebots). You can use regular polyethelene (a lot of plastic cutting boards)

mattdenney1 year ago
where did you get the motor from?

you can get motors like this from a lot of old mschinery - air conditioner fans, but my favorite are washing machines - there (unless it's a direct drive) you get a variable speed motor (at least 2 speed) a belt and a couple of usable pulleys. Not the case of this 'ible but out of my own experience..

CementTruck10 months ago

Lathes have always fascinated me and I long to have a metal cutting lathe and have been scouring the internet for deals over the last month. I was in the process of looking for ways to convert a rudimentary wood lathe into a passable light duty metal lathe when I stumbled upon a picture of your lathe chuck (cool idea). Isn't it funny how we think we need the best of the best immediately while other people make do with the most rudimentary of things? Check out this Moroccan foot bow lathe.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnv0DAR_gWA

padbravo1 year ago
The whole design is a good point, but, for me, the most useful idea is to use two extruded alum angles to make the body... and all the flexibility that U can gain with a design like that...
Mucho respeto. This is an excellent Instructable.
mapanlawin1 year ago
This is great! When I grow up I really wanna be just like you. I'm 29yrsold. c:
shazni1 year ago
oh...and how do you do the captive ring? tutorial please :-D
shazni1 year ago
would a sewing machine motor be powerful enough?
or should i like try and fit my angle grinder with a circular plate?
spamsucks1 year ago
Good grief. I have been looking over lathe plans for a while, and it was way out of my league. This is an awsome project! Thank you so much for sharing it.
great job!! I Like it!
donmatos2 years ago
Parabéns pela construção do seu torno. Simples e de fácil compreensão. Acredito que muitas pessoas, assim como eu, tentarão construir um desses. Obrigado por compartilhar suas idéias. Boa sorte.
taluntain2 years ago
virtual high five for this gentleman
catwood (author)  taluntain2 years ago
Virtual high five back to you!
Xthinker2 years ago
Awesome, I just bought an electric scooter( it's really small) at a swap meet for $15. Decently powerful motor if it can move me and my fatness :P !
slylee2 years ago
Great simple design. Have you run into any speed bumps or problems thus far?
profpat2 years ago
awesome!
eric m2 years ago
He's using a treadmill motor with it's own powercontroller/speed controller.

Don't know why he doesn't mention this.
catwood (author)  eric m2 years ago
Its actually a motor that I had used in a fighting robot and I had the motor kind of sitting around afterwards. It doesnt appear to be listed on the NPC website anymore, but here's some information about it: http://mobile.robotmarketplace.com/NPC-1200.html
eric m2 years ago
treadmill motor comes with speed controller.
excellent job,you mono rail solved a problem for me i was having on another project,just goes to show the need to read all instructables ,even a small detail could be of importance to you
catwood (author)  bobby sissom3 years ago
glad i could help you! what project was it for?
sorry for the lag in reply instructables never let me know i had a response, i was making a chainsaw log slicer for making wooden boards from raw logs and was quite simply over thinking the problem of a fixed rail slide to guide the saw safely the length of the log and still have all my fingers and toes at the end
Paul King2 years ago
Way to GO. Looks like you've done a excellent Joy!!! I'm an Old Coal Miner & you have a lot of Talent. Don't let it go to waist.
I'm going to build a Lathe for Metal work. Where does one get a good Deal on UHMW? I might have to use different types of materials for metal working.
I appreciate your work and the way you presented it.

Thank You for Shearing your work with us .

PS: Where is the best place to get UHMW?

Paul King
catwood (author)  Paul King2 years ago
www.mcmaster.com has lots of various sizes of pieces including sheets and strips of specific widths.

I usually buy large sheets from interstateplastics.com though because I think it is cheaper per square foot and then I just cut up the pieces that I need.
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