Lathe Attachment for Drill Press





Introduction: Lathe Attachment for Drill Press

About: I'm an environmentally conscious experimenter who loves to bring people together, build things, and when possible...blow things up! See us on YouTube too!

A drill press is a great power source for all kinds of things. Here we offer a lathe attachment for a drill press that can be used to turn wood, plastic and even metals.

Step 1: Collecting Up Parts

Here's where it starts. Take an old junk drill. This one died after only 6 months. Just out of warranty. I was glad to destroy it! It had Torx head screws, but came apart easily enough. All that was worth saving was the gearhead, the motor and the rheostat speed control. First, disassemble the transmission.
Next remove the chuck and the clutch. There's a left hand thread set screw inside the chuck, then the chuck unscrews off the spindle.
For this project, all we need is the bushing, spindle, thrust bearing, set screw and the chuck. Toss the rest.

Step 2: Build a Base

Next we're going to mount the spindle bearing assembly into a sturdy base. This block of aluminum should work fine.
Mark and center-punch your holes. Two to secure the block to the table and one to hold the bearing assembly.
Start with a pilot hole.
Then drill the pilot holes out to the size of your clamping bolts. In this case 3/8".
Install the bolts permanently into the block with nuts. Use fender washers and wing nuts to clamp it down to the drill press table from beneath.

Step 3: Align Block and Drill for Spindle.

We didn't drill the pilot hole for the bearing assembly until the clamping bolts were in place. This insures that the block is in the exact place it will be when the live center is installed. That's the technical term for this thing. A "Live Center"
Enlarge the hole progressively.
This bushing is 5/8" for 1/3 of its length then 11/16" for the rest. So we drill 5/8" all the way through, then 11/16" just deep enough to accomodate the wide part of the bushing plus the ball bearings and races. Be sure to measure yours as each drill may be different, even if you have two from the same manufacture.
Notice the stepped nature of the bushing.

Step 4: Install the Bushing

Next, press the bushing into the block. A vice works well if you drilled your holes the right size. I learned the hard way that bushing is made of something soft (like babbet) and my vice jaws marred the edge.
Next, drop the race (nothing more than a hardened steel washer) into the hole and fill it up with bearings.
Here it is complete. I cut a groove into the end of the spindle by spinning it in my drillpress while cutting with a hacksaw and installed a snap ring to hold it all together

Step 5: Try It Out!

Finally, install a tapered reamer into the chuck and clamp it to the drill press table.
Install another in the drillpress chuck and you're ready to roll...or turn. When you reduce the size of something or shape it in a lathe, that's called "Turning."
Mark the ends of your workpiece and countersink them slightly.
Install the workpiece in between the centers and make sure the reamers gouge the wood deeply so they grab instead of cutting tapers in the ends.
Make sure to spin the workpiece by hand before turning on the drillpress, then if everything looks good...let'er rip! There's no tool rest so you'll have to be satisfied with rasps and files, but it will work! Even on metal!



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    18 Discussions

    Great stuff, Marsh. I've been itching for a little metal-work lathe and recently acquired a nice, old and reassuringly heavy drill press. Finding a dona drill chuck is a simple matter of a quick rummage in the shed. Thanks again.

    Very good instructable!! Today I bought a small 24" wood lathe with a 1/2 HP motor for 25.00 at a second hand store (Goodwill), but I have been wanting, and needing a lathe.
    I build Choppers as a hobby, and custom one-off parts are very expensive. Now I can turn aluminum for foot pegs, and spin sheet metal for custom headlamps!!

    But it is a great idea to use discarded parts. I have a couple of dead drills.
    I am going to try to make it today!!

    Thank you for your post!!

    Jesse M.
    Mr. Lunna XIII

    Thanks for this! I am very excited to try it

    Good simple idea. I use my lathe frequently and some times need to turn something while a part is in the lathe. Putting the live center on the drill press table will work better than other methods I use. Dick Hotaling

    sweet! i've always wanted (needed? probably not) a lathe...and my grandpa has this old drill press with a bum motor (flooded in the last hurricane) if i can find a motor to work with it...i can have a nice drill press/lathe!

    2 replies

    Good work! I use the handheld grinder as roughing tool. It is a little dangerous, but it is fast.


    Great instructable!

    Can't afford a lathe (not enough space sadly) but I do have a full-size vert. drill press!

    Heading out to the garage to whip one up now!

    my dad told me to throw out that old drill pieces.. well im glad i didnt now I made one like this but horizontally using a cordless drill as the drill press Im now building a vertical one

    Not bad at all. Such a set up is usually used for light work, by taking only light cuts there's less strain. A tool rest is simple enough, just be sure it's plumb to the work.I have seen similar set ups for wood working and ,I believe, there is even a kit out there for sale. By the way, for the person concerned about Morse tapers, pick up a copy of the "Mechanics Vest Pocket Reference". It has all the tables for tapers and anything else you might want to shape.

    Pretty interesting idea. Don't let the others get you down. People have a way of asserting their "expertise" in a way that comes across as rude. They all had valid concerns, but I think the real point here is your ingenuity. If people would provide positive comments, instead of telling you all the negatives, maybe you'd be incentivized to further develop the concept (for example, develop a safe tool rest to go along with your nifty idea).

    Lots of people come up with less-than-safe concepts before they perfect them. Kudos on an interesting idea, and thanks for sharing it with the community!

    Tyler Youngblood

    Nice idea but this is DANGEROUS as all Heck. Where's the tool rest? Tools should be used for the purpose they are intended for. In this case Drilling holes. Sorry.

    1 reply

    Plenty of room for debate on that issue. Filing directly on a spinning workpiece in a lathe is perectly acceptable.

    FWIW a live center is available from harbor freight for under $20. That way you wouldn't have to trash a drill, or go looking for a dead one.

    1 reply

    The only problem with that idea is that live center is designed to be mounted in a #2 Morse Taper hole. How do you propose to cut one of those? This project cost me $9.00 for the two reamers. Everything else was scrap.

    Drill press bearings are not built for any kind of side load. This will kill them and render your drill press useless. The taper in your spindle isnt built for any side load. It could loosed and release, sending parts flying. Thats why mills use a drawbar. Drill chucks are not built for any kind of side load. They can loosen up and throw themselves or whatever your spinning across the room. Thats what lathe chucks, collerts, actual live and dead centers, etc are for. Reamers aren't built for any side load and can snap, sending shards of metal flying. Thats why you use live and dead centers when turning between centres on a lathe. Vertical lathes in general are dangerous. if anything goes flying its pretty much guaranteed to hit the operator. I wouldnt recomend anyone using this setup for anything besides maybe light sanding.