Why a lathe? You can use it to make beautiful birthday and Christmas pressies for family and friends and to craft all manner of things to help in other projects. To make yourself a load of wooden kitchen bowls, plates, utensils, etc. To make arrows, door and draw knobs, staffs, axles, beautiful ornaments, flower pots, light shades... The list is endless.
Making a lathe is fun! Designing one yourself and using free or cheap materials is even better.
This instructable shows how I did it. I got ideas from lots of places on the internet (including other instructables - do a search for 'lathe') and formulated my design as I collected materials.
This lathe is made almost exclusively from stuff other people threw away or didn't have use for anymore, and a big part of the challenge is creatively using these readily available materials. You will probably want to vary your own design from mine, as you will inevitably find you can get your hands on different bits. Don't worry though I will try my best to offer techniques and advice (including where the best places are to get stuff), anyway it is much more exciting when you have a hand in the design process. I would love to hear what you guys use to make your designs.
A more complete and up to date set of instructions for this project and videos of the lathe, and other bits and bobs can be found on our blog at: http://www.floweringelbow.co.uk
I use some basic power tools in making this, and I meddled (carefully!) with mains voltage, so the usual safety precautions must apply. Always wear eye and ear protection when using power tools and lung protection when making dust. Be very careful and get qualified help (if you need it) with main voltage etc.
The lathe itself can be very dangerous, following good practice, and designing in safety, is the best method of staying out of harms way. I will hopefully cover some of these points, but ultimately you're doing this at your own risk, so please take care!
Step 1: Acquiring the motor
If you do get a washing machine motor try and grab the whole machine - then in the comfort of your own home you can take your time to work out how the wiring went. If like me you were on a time budget to get it away from your parents sub-Arctic outside shed just cut it out and get as much of the electronics as possible.
To extract the motor, turn the machine upside-down and you should be able to see the motor. It is now simply a case of unbolting it from its mountings.
These motors can be run off both DC and AC making them quite versatile little beasties.
In the picture I am testing the motor with a DC bench supply, made from an old computer PSU (power supply unit - check out Sitnalta's instructable). DO NOT CONNECT THE MOTOR TO MAINS VOLTAGE without any load attached. Series wound motors have no theoretical limit to their speed and the centrifugal forces can fling the motor armature apart! Even with a modest load a direct connection to 240V mains is a bad idea, as the speeds are likely to strain the bearings, brushes and frame - all of which are not designed for unlimited power without a hefty mechanical load.
Another way to test a motor of this sort without a bench-top supply is to attach a 1000W electric heater wire between the brushes. The current passing through the resistance wire should be enough to limit the speed of the motor.