Introduction: Making a Lathe Bench

Picture of Making a Lathe Bench

I had been looking for a bigger lathe for my tiny shop. I already have a smaller one but would like to work on bigger projects. So when I came across this one at a yard sale - a 20 year old 14" by 38" for a very reasonable price, I bought it. My current lathe is 8" by 13". For those who do not know, the first number (8" or 14") is the maximum diameter, while the second number (13" or 38") is the maximum length.

I quickly discovered that it took two people to lift and carry it to my truck. With my smaller lathe (see 2nd picture) at 45 lbs I simply have it mounted on a board and I clamp it to a workbench when I want to use it. NOT THIS ONE!

I've gotta build a lathe bench.

Step 1: Make a Plan & Materials and Tools

Picture of Make a Plan & Materials and Tools

Most of the benches I've seen have 4" x 4" legs and are incredibly heavy. The sketch in the first picture was my inspiration - Use lighter materials but construct them in a rigid configuration. I started sketching on paper so I'd know where I'm going and why. For instance, the legs are two 1x4s at right angles which provides a nice rigid structure - cheap and light but strong. Then I found this homemade bedside chest free at a yardsale and decided to incorporate it (sort of a MacGyver move there) as a strong useful part of the structure - drawers are always good.

Materials:

  • Chest
  • 1 x 4 lumber
  • 1 x 2 lumber
  • 1 x 12 leftover scraps
  • small pieces of 2 x 4s
  • Lots of screws
  • Locking casters
  • I planned on using the board the big lathe was mounted on for the top

Tools:

  • Circular Saw
  • Drill and various bits
  • Trim Router and round over bit
  • Measuring and Squaring tools

Step 2: A Word About Safety

When I was younger, way before OSHA, I apprenticed as a Tool & Die maker. The prevailing joke was, How can you tell a Toolmaker? He walks into a bar with three friends and raises his only two fingers and yells, "Four beers."

OSHA came and everybody complained but now when I go into a machine shop, accidents like that are rare. DON'T LET THEM HAPPEN TO YOU!

Safety glasses, ear protection, face masks, proper footwear are necessary items in a shop. As necessary as tools and materials. Get them and use them.

Please. I'm planning on publishing more I'bles and I want you to be around to read them and marvel at my cleverness.

Step 3: Build, Build, Build

Picture of Build, Build, Build

First I had to cut down the chest of drawers so the height would fit my plan. Luckily there was enough on the bottom to do this. You don't want a lathe too high because it will cause nasty catches. Then the end frames and tie them together with lateral strips of lumber.

The last picture shows one of my (old) countersink drill bits. Always pre-drill for your screws to avoid splitting the lumber. This type of bit is adjustable and drills the pilot hole, clearance hole and the countersink for flat-head screws in one operation. A great tool!

Step 4: Adding Mobility and Disaster

Picture of Adding Mobility and Disaster

Next I added the locking casters. I chose locking because there are a lot of forces when turning large pieces and I didn't want to go chasing this thing around the shop.

For some stupid reason, I simply screwed the casters into the end grain of the four legs. Then I tried moving it around the shop.

BOOM! The third picture shows that a simple nudge against the 2x4 footer had ripped the caster screws out of the end grain. At this time I also noticed that my crosspieces no longer were in alignment with the laterals. Why? Because the chest was essentially unsupported in the middle so the structure sagged.

The solution was to add 2x4 support for the casters and a fifth caster to support the inside edge of the chest. Problem solved!

Step 5: Add the Niceties and Start Using

Picture of Add the Niceties and Start Using

using the trim router, I rounded over the tops and sides of the legs. Not strictly necessary, but it helps make it look finished.

Then I cut and ripped some old 1 x 12 shelving for the shelves and started storing some of my power tools on them. By the way, the reason I started using it before mounting the lathe is because (remember?) I needed another person to help tote it inside.

I fits nicely into my tiny shop.

Step 6: Prepping the Top and Project Completion

Picture of Prepping the Top and Project Completion

After I got help bringing in the lathe, I disassembled it for cleaning and decided to paint the top. I used freezer paper to keep the paint from going where it wasn't wanted.

Finally, I remounted the lathe!

BONUS! The large lathe has an L-shaped footprint so I was able to mount the small lathe on the same top and I can simply turn the bench around to use it - two for the price of one!

Speaking of price, all the lumber was scrounged or lying about the shop so my total cost was for the casters and screws - about $18.

Now just a few hours of use and those drawers on the chest are too deep - not usable at all - lots of wasted volume......time for another I'ble!

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Bio: Just an old guy who likes to dabble in a lot of things.
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