Drill Press As Wood Lathe





Introduction: Drill Press As Wood Lathe

About: I've been working on construction since the age of 15 and as specialized glazier,aluminum structures,curtain walls. In the last 10 years I've been doing lot of residential renovation and restoration. I like ...

So you don't have a wood lathe? But you have a drill press. Well that's good news. Now all you need is few bucks, some basic handyman skills and about 45 minutes of your time.
This is an easy project that will make possible you having so much fun when you'll start lathing. Wood lathing is such a fun, it makes you feel like an artist. So let me show how easy you can make this:

WARNING: This is a homemade wood lathe for occasional use and not for everyday use and also for turning small pieces of wood. If you want to build something solid for turning larger and longer pieces of wood you'll need to use bigger materials like washing machine motor, bigger bearings etc.

For your safety wear eye/face protection and gloves

Materials you need:

  • A piece of hardwood preferably about 12" x 6" and about 1 1/2 thick
  • 1x threaded M8-M12 bolt, 1x nut and 1x wood 'three prong tee nut' of the same size
  • A bearing preferably extracted from a sliding door bearing wheel
  • A washer and two screws to hold the wheel bearing in the place/hole
  • A long thick bolt to make the toolrest (at least 6" long and thicker it's better)

Tools you'll need:

  • Drill Press
  • Forstner bits
  • Measuring tape or caliper micrometer
  • Hack saw
  • File
  • Screwdriver
  • Desk Grinder
  • Two clamps
  • Drill bits

Step 1: Make the Spindle (the Bottom Part)

The sliding door bearing wheel I found had two coupled wheels, so I had to detach on of the couple to get one wheel together with the shaft. For this I used a metal drill bit to drill one side of the shaft in order to release the wheels from each other. Of course I took the wheel which has the shaft still in it and I grind (in the desk grinder) the end of the shaft to make it sharp. After that I measured the diameter of the wheel and chose the forstner bit of a same diameter and made a hole somewhere in the middle of the piece of wood. I then inserted the wheel in the hole and followed by capping it with a washer of a same diameter to. Then I screwed two screws in the two opposite sides of the washer to keep it in place together with the wheel. REMEMBER: after you drill the hole the same size of the wheel, you MUST drill with a forstner bit (the size of the inner part of the bearing) about 1/8 profound at least, to avoid the friction of the shaft with the wood.
After this all you have to do is to drill a hole for the "toolrest" bolt and screw it in. Refer to photos for an aproximate distance of toolrest and spindle. With this done you have finished the spindle.

Step 2: Make the Drive Center (the Upper Part)

Using the hacksaw cut the head of the bolt. Put it in a vise and with the file make four points. Take the wood drive-in nut and ply or cut the pointed pins. Insert first the nut and then the wood drive nut in the bolt. Insert the drive-in nut in the chuck and tighten it. You can still adjust the length of the bolt and when you'll have the piece of wood in place and tightened than you can tighten the nut also.

Step 3: Align Them

To align the spindle and the quill I firstly put a drill bit in the chuck and align it togethe with the spindle and then I replace the drill bit with the quill. Make sure you tighten the base of the spindle with clamps.

Now you're ready to go and give a try to your homemade wood lathe. Put a piece of wood and tighten it by adjusting the bolt (the quill) and after this tighten the nut.

Step 4: Enjoy

When you start lathing remember not to apply too much force with your chisel and always keep the chisel backed on the right side of toolrest. Have fun and if you like this project don't forget to vote it if it's in a contest.

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    the only problem i can see is the drillpress running for long-time period, you should watch out for the motor, as it can easily overheat.
    great idea tho

    Great instructable! I never would have thought of modifying bolts and nuts in that way to make the parts. This will give me something to do with the spares I have knocking around. Thank you

    Thank you for your Instructable

    Nice job.


    Good work. There are countries where one HAS to improvise to make specialized tools such as a lathe. The drill press bearing problem is a non-issue, in my mind side load will not be great and much of the load will be taken at the bottom bearing.

    Nice handle you made - oak?

    1 reply

    Yes. That would be oak. And by the look of the shavings in the action shot, it would be safe to assume it's red oak.

    Great "poor-man's-lathe"! I'm currently in the middle of making my own and I'm looking at different ideas for my drive center. I was thinking very much along the same lines as your except mine involved a cut-off bolt with two nuts that are tightened together when you get everything set. For the live-center I had initially used a ball bearing setup like yours but I had problems with it deflecting, so to make sure there is as little stress on the drill press as possible, I bought a MT2 live-center for $12 on sale at Woodcraft and have that set tight into a 2" base of hard maple which is bolted to the table.

    1 reply

    Here's what mine looks like. I need to start making instructables...


    I think the man was real clear about it at the beginning of this Instructable, It is for very light and every now and then work. It works great and it allows me to add an occasional turning to a project that I would not have since a lathe is just not in my budget at the moment. I just don't understand all these people with the negative comments if you have enough time to sit around and nit pick someone elses work you should use it to get off your butts and DO SOMETHING! ngadhno, Thank you for taking the time and the effort to share your knowledge with us.

    2 replies

    ruckus, you are my new hero for saying exactly what I was thinking! I have been thinking about giving up on this site lately because of all the negative nervous Nellie whiners who preach to us on every single 'ible that explains anything more "dangerous" than how to blink. It is getting ridiculously out of hand and it makes me wonder where these people come from. I can't imagine how they are able to make it out the door each day with the fear of everything they seem to live in. Do they walk around their neighborhood and place of work scolding everyone like they do on here? Very sad people.

    Anyway, thank you to ngadhno for the nice 'ible. I've been thinking about using my drill press as an expedient lathe but I hadn't come up with an easy way to improvise a tail stock. I'm going to give your method a try as soon as the weather breaks and I can get out into the garage.

    That's the thing, they don't leave the house. It's all part of the wussification of America. Can't play tag in schools, no dodge ball, or butts-up...and in sports, everyone gets a trophy.

    Can you imagine these same people if Earth gets nailed with a solar flare and we don't have power for a year or more. Within a months time they'll be eating each other. lol.

    In my last 20 years of professional work, I, not rarely, abused drills and believe me that it never happened to ruin a bearing except in two cases ( and it wasn't abused) when the bearing of a tiny Makita drill died. In both cases it was different drills of the same model what makes you doubt that this really can be an issue with the quality bearings.

    1 reply

    Great job bro, I'm very pleased to see this one.. I feel sad for those people who give negative comments without complete understanding and bestow rain of their dumbness here, I'm sure they must be doing the same with their girls too... LOL..

    Well thanks for this and let more coming.. all the best.


    I wonder if there is a way to use two opposing chisels to reduce side force...

    this is a great way to do it i always just chucked the piece of wood strightt into the drill press i never thought of doing it like this

    It's a brilliant idea.

    Of course, those who caution are right. Drill press bearings are not made to take sideways pressure, but honestly, if your drill press burns the bearing after turning a door knob or two, than it's time you get a better one. I've used my Metabo power drill for quite sophisticated woodturning projects, for years, and it was not the bearing that was the first part to go when it died after 20 years heavy use.

    For very very light use this it probably an acceptable solution but for anything more than that you'll just ruin the drill press, the bearings will go first probably. The tail stock (what you call the spindle) will help with that, and is a clever idea, but you still have significant sideways pressure on the drill press bearings.

    Please, make or get some tools designed for turning. You appear to be using a regular chisel as a scraper. The sharp edge of chisel will bunt quickly because it has no metal behind it for support and a blunt tool leads to accidents. Any old flat bar piece of steel can be turned into a scraper in a few minutes with a grinder. Gouges are probably better bought than made though.

    1 reply


    Would it be prudent to devise a waay to adjust the distance from the tool rest to the work "closer".?