Introduction: DIY Pen/Mini Lathe

Picture of DIY Pen/Mini Lathe

I made a drill powered mini lathe that can also be used as a pen lathe. I used in line skate bearing and scrap plywood.

Step 1: Bearings and Face Plate Preperation

Picture of  Bearings and Face Plate Preperation

I went to a goodwill store and paid 2 dollars for a roller blade.
Once I got the roller blade back to the shop, I took the wheels off using two allen wrenches.

The specific part I was after was the small wheel bearings and spacers

Using ¾ in plywood I began cutting 4 pieces that would make up the face plates for the head stock and tail stock.

Ive been following izzy swans work for  a while and thanks to him sharing his knowledge, i had a good idea of how i was going to make this build happen. 

I drilled a pilot hole through all 4 pieces at once to ensure all holes for the bearings would line up. 

I used the one in belt sander to grind a spade bit to the excact size I needed.

Using the spade bit i drilled the holes for the bearrings. I drilled deep enough so that the bearing are flush to the plywwod. Then I drilled all the waythrough with a ⅝ drill bit.

Step 2: Lathe Base and Adjustable Tail Stock Preparation

Picture of Lathe Base and Adjustable Tail Stock Preparation

The base is a piece of plywood with two cut outs to receive the headstock side supports

I set my tablesaw to 45 degrees and cut several pieces that would make up a slide system for the adjustable tail stock. 

Step 3: Head Stock Assembly

Picture of Head Stock Assembly

I pressed the bearings in and dropped two spacers in between the two bearing.

I used a 5/16 bolt  and a couple of 5/16 nuts for the headstock. I cut a radius on the side supports for the headstock.
I glued and nailed the side supports and the headstock face in place, making sure everything was square.
I then went back and predilled and drove some 1 ¼ screws.

Using a tap and die set , I cut ¼ by 20 threads on the end of the 5/16 bolt. About ½ an inch of ¼ by 20 threads is all that is needed.

Step 4: Tail Stock Assembly

Picture of Tail Stock Assembly

I glued and nailed one rail with a single 45 degree bevel.  I wrapped a piece of paper around the piece with two opposing bevels. This is done for spacing and to ensure it slides freely.

Now I set the last piece with a single bevel and checked for clearence. Once I was happy with the fit, I used nails to hold everything temporarily. Then I went back and predrilled and drove a couple of  screws in.

I traced a quick radius on the tail stock support and cut the shape out on the bandsaw. I used that piece as a template and cut the second support. I glued the tailstock face plate to sliding base, making sure not to get any glue on the stationary rails. 

I glued and nailed the back supports and finished securing it together with a couple of screws.

The 5/16 bolt got the same treatment as the headstock bolt

Step 5: Tool Rest

Picture of Tool Rest

I started to cut pieces and plywood for the tool rest.

I should have used a router the slots but it seemed like a good idea to go caveman. I had  a lot of tearout but in the end they worked fine.

Step 6: Sub Base and Drill Base

Picture of Sub Base and Drill Base

I wanted to be able to secure the lathe to a work surface so I added an overized base to the underside.
This would allow surface area so I can screw the lathe to a table.

I needed to secure the drill to the lathe in a way that would allow easy removal.

I created this assembly and  made sure this whole assembly could be removed if I ever wanted to use a different drill. Of course I would need to make a different assembly but, that would not be hard to do. 

I couldn't find any dowels in the shop and yes,  I could not find my dowel making jig. I found a foam brush that had a 3/8 wood handle and that was a good alternative.

Step 7: Tool Rest Adjustments

Picture of Tool Rest Adjustments

I insterted a 1/4 by 2 inch carriage bolt through the base and tool rest.
I made a quick knob, using a t nut. 

I used a couple of carriage bolts and wing nuts to complete the adjustable the tool rest.

Step 8: Workpiece Preparation

Picture of Workpiece Preparation

The spur center is a ¼ t-nut with the tabs bent forward.

To prepare the work piece I drilled a 3/16 hole and used a hammer to set the spur center in place.

Now was ready to give it a test run.
screwed the work piece in place. I secured the tailstock and made all the neccesary adjustments.

I put my safety gear and flipped the switch. Soon I was calling myself a turner.

I don't have much experience with turning but im sure i will get alot of practice.

Step 9: Mandrel

Picture of Mandrel

I decided i was going to make my own mandrel. I started with a ⅜ steel rod. If I had a 5/16 steel rod to start with i would have less material to remove and it would have sped up the process but I made due with what I had.

I chucked the ⅜ rod onto my drill and used a 1 in belt sander to grind most of the material away. I made sure to keep the rod moving to keep an even thickness.

This took a long time but when I got fairly close, I used a 7mm bushing as a guide. I would slide the bushing onto  the mandrel and mark the area where it was binding.

Keeping the mandrel chucked to the drill, I used a piece of 220 sandpaper to slowly grind it down further. Once the bushing passed through the length of the mandrel, I knew it the perfect thickness.

I cut the mandrel to size and cut ¼ by 20 threads on both ends. I was eager to try this mandrel and I quickly found this mandrel worked perfectly.

Step 10: Pen Turning

Picture of Pen Turning

I was able to successfully turn several pens and the lathe and mandrel worked great.

Step 11: Further Information

If you would like further information regarding this build please check out my build video.


This is a great project! Definitly my favorite!

Yonatan24 (author)2016-08-11

Hi, I've added your project to "The Ultimate Collection of DIY Workshop Tools" Collection

Here is the link If you are interested:

guy90 (author)2016-03-23

Loving the idea of an adjustable tool rest! I've been scratching my head for while now, wondering how I can make a tool rest that can be lifted, lowered or pulled away from the stock; depending on what I'm working with.
Your idea ticks all those boxes, thank you for the upload!

Moy perez woodshop (author)guy902016-03-24

No problem and thanks for the comment. Im glad it helped you out

warriorethos2 (author)2016-03-06

Moy perez woodshop, great job in building your own DIY Pen/Mini Lathe. I added it to my collection of future projects to build. Your instructions, photos, and videos were easy to read and follow. Your system is simple and your suggests are very helpful. Good luck in the plywood contest.

Thank you for the great comment. It is a great feeling when someone thinks you project is worth duplicating.

No problem and good luck.

chris higgins (author)2016-01-31

this is by far the best insterable I have found on how to make a mini lathe thumbs up and great job

wow. thank you for the awesome comment! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Dawsie (author)2016-01-26

I love the design and yep I am a fan of Izzy Swan too :-) he's great with things to make around the shop too have a few of his plans he sells :-)

Anyway back to yours :-) it looks great but most of all are you going to draw up some plans like Izzy so that you can sell too :-) out of all the drill lathes, this one has been best so far and I have been checking them out for the past 6-8 months :-)

My Hubby did my me a 6-1 miniature lathe with other small sanding plate disk and other things it can do too :-) but umm well it all came with Chinese instructions and video, so it's taking longer for me to setup :-/ but I would love to build yours for my drill Dad gave me so I can use as a mini sanding lathe at the moment :-) and that way what hubby bought me I can use for their other miniature equipment :-)

My drill has a button on it to keep it running so I can use both hands :-) so it will work well in the lathe too :-) I already have the skateboard thingies :-) had to buy some for the windmill I have in the yard so I could fix it :-) so thems I have the rest well I can get a lot of it made for me at the plumbing company inour little town :-) and the rest I can make myself :-) all I need will be the plans to follow :-)

Thanks for sharing this with us :-) it's a great build :-)

Thank you for checking it out. it sound like you have the major part of materials to build this lathe. I'm sorry I've never made plans for any of my builds. I just make it up as a go along. I just started using sketch up, However it will be a while until I know what I doing. I'm sure I will make plans available in the future

Mike Rickenbacker (author)2016-01-26

Nice job! One thing... My band saw uses the same bearings for the blade guides- they're skateboard bearings! It's worth it to go to a good skate shop and buy some quality bearings along with some lube when the time comes to replace them. (Which is usually at least once a year for my saw... Gotta keep 'em clean, especially in the woodshop!)

Awesome! thanks for the tip, I will probably do that sometime soon

patricksworkshop (author)2016-01-26

great work Moy

Thanks buddy

BikuriousB (author)2016-01-26

Is the drill only secured with the screws into the end grain/laminations of the plywood clamps?

This seems like a weak point that could be better engineered.

yes only screws to secure it. it has not failed yet. I do agree with you, it can and probably will fail. I will probably come up with something.

mikejones (author)2016-01-26

This is rather well done. I recently acquired an old treadle sewing machine cabinet with the express purpose of making a few human "power tool" modules to mount on the top, and this lathe fits the bill quite nicely. A couple of years ago I bought a live center and spur center designed to be used with a drill press. I plan to make the base and supports from steel to be more ridged, otherwise this plan is good. I may also make the "powered" end portable-drill-ready for when electricity is not an issue.

kllr (author)mikejones2016-01-26

I look forward to seeing a write up on this project!

that sound like a terrific build. it sound like you have a great plan..

JohnBradshaw (author)2016-01-26

Way to go. I will try to build me lathe also.

that's great!.thank you for checking it out.

fran3co (author)2016-01-26


Question: Could a sewing machine motor be used? It's already wired and has a pedal for variable speed.


Thank you, and I'm sure it would work. that is a great idea!

throbscottle (author)2016-01-26

Great build - I have been wanting to this for a while, you have shown me the way to go!

But I have one question. When you cut the threads on the ends of the bolts, and the mandrel, how did you keep the die straight? Mine always go so they gradually dig more into one side of the bar, not straight at all!

Thanks for checking it out. when ever I cut threads I use the belt sander to put a small chamfer on the end about 1/8 on an inch or less...this will make it alot easier to cut the threads.

bassman1950 (author)2016-01-26

Looks like a great little project. But because of the speed of the drill it will limit what you can use as stock. The problem is most drills just do not turn fast enough.

However in this case adding a motor and some pulleys for different speeds would make this a great inexpensive lathe. And you would not have to alter it a whole lot.

Of course the motor you use would have to be rated for something like this

Below is a good example

Thank you and yes i agree.. that motor and pulleys would be nice to add on to this lathe..

trcky1 (author)2016-01-26

Great build! I always love instructables that do not require any CNC, laser cutters, 3D printers, etc.

Thank you .. Me too!

mikeyboy423 (author)2016-01-26

Great project Moy, I love the detail you have covered, very good indeed

Thank you, I appreciate you checking it out

adeimar (author)2016-01-24

Stupid do you keep the drill engaged while turning?

no problem there is no stupid questions. i see faue already answered the question.. that is exactly what I did plus I added a small power strip with a switch. I just keep the drill engaged and the switch on the power strip is my on and off switch.

a neat solution!!

faue (author)adeimar2016-01-24

most drills have a little knob on the left side. if you press it while drilling the drill wil stay engaged. if you press the button which makes the drill go (don't know the word, english isnt my first language) it will turn off again. if you dont have a knob like that, you could use a zip tie but be very careful because that could go wrong very easily.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm just a guy that likes to make things.
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