Instructables
Picture of Micro-Sized Miniature Lathe
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This is a tiny lathe I made last weekend. The motor is from a small hand vacuum motor and is directly attached to the chuck. It won't work with wood, but foam composite from a sign making shop works great.

The power supply is from an old mini radio TV. I believe it's 12 volts and .85 amps. The case is made from scrap Plexiglas, which I get for free from the same shop I get the sign composite from. The fancy on-off switch was attached to the motor when I got it.

Everything is stuck together with JB weld and Loctite super glue ( I swear by this stuff).

This whole project cost me nothing but time, a bit of solder, JB weld, and Loctite. All-in-all about $1.00 worth of bought materials.

It turns very fast. Great for making small wine glass shapes, chess pieces, and barrel shapes from foam composite.

I hope you enjoy the video and slides!

Centering

Finishing up


EDIT This project was so easy, I've decided to make an 'ible for this... I will be using a tape player motor because those are easy to get and will work better than anything of the same size.
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Dumchicken3 years ago
i was just wondering is your screwdriver grinded up?
nepheron (author)  Dumchicken3 years ago
Nope, the screwdriver is fine :)
thats good to know
o and the other cup fell over :) :) :) :) :) :)
playmoboy3 years ago
Whens the 'ible comming?
nepheron (author)  playmoboy3 years ago
It already exists! :)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JK9iwXN-5AI
For a miniature lathe this is great. Very well done
omnibot4 years ago
That's pretty cool. I've been considering a similar idea but with a cordless drill-motor, the motorcontrol is promising and the gearing should give more torque.
 This is awesome, do you think a rc car motor would work
nepheron (author)  imthatguy11254 years ago
 It depends on the torque. Power it up, and see how much force it takes to stop the shaft from spinning. Try it!
 Tried it works ok but for some reason the foam wobbles really bad

nepheron (author)  imthatguy11254 years ago
Hmmm...

Sounds like the foam is not anchored on the shaft properly. If it wobbles, then the foam is able to move. Your foam may be too long or not secured to the motor shaft enough.
 Well it was hot glued on and I was using blue insulation foam, I tried florist foam but it was soft and rotting, thats probally because it was 2 years old, the insulation foam stops the motor so I need a stronger motor, I might just buy a cheap drill off ebay though 
nepheron (author)  imthatguy11254 years ago
Before you buy a drill, try using some new floral foam. Just to see if it works :)
 tried it, works better but the foam had tiny holes in it(they were there before I tested it) Ill post some pics later
lieuwe4 years ago
i built one, but i couldn't get it to stay on there, so i used hot glue, works like a charm, but how do you get your foam so smooth? when i stop turning it has holes all over the place, might be my foam tho...
nepheron (author)  lieuwe4 years ago
Ok, rough foam is cuased by using a sharp tool. Are you using some kind of knife or blade? Foams gets smooth when the material is ground away. The very best tool that I have found for making smooth foam is a tiny flathead screwdriver.

Cutting tools will only lead to a "pocked" surface.
Blunt headed tools result in a smooth surface!
lieuwe nepheron4 years ago
 i used the exact same flathead as you, could it be the turning direction? does it have to turn towards you or away from you? and getting the foam into a cylinder takes a long time... i might experiment with hot screwdrivers sometime soon...
nepheron (author)  lieuwe4 years ago
in  this particular model the spindle is turns away from me. That's also important for smooth foam becuase the screwdriver won't "bite" into the foam.
lieuwe nepheron4 years ago
 that's probably my problem :-) i'm gonna retry this soon... any ideas on how to prevent the scraps from dumping on the floor/table?
nepheron (author)  lieuwe4 years ago
No....... The fine particles are impossible to catch without a vacuum...
nepheron (author)  lieuwe4 years ago
Also, try cutting slowly. If I cut into the material too fast I get a rough, pocked surface.
what happens if you try to use wood? And also where do you get that foam.
nepheron (author)  shawntherobot4 years ago
I have not actually tried wood, but It would probably just spin off the chuck or bend it. The foam composite is from a sign/product display making shop. Find one in your area and you may have a great source of free foam and plexi scraps.

If you can't find that kind of foam, that green floral foam should work fine.

lieuwe4 years ago
wow, that's small, my hands aren't nearly steady enough for this, on question tho, how do you get your piece centered so nicely? every attempt I've made at a homemade lathe results in a piece off foam flying across the room :-/
Goodhart lieuwe4 years ago
I was thinking the same thing.....That an equal mechanism on the opposite end without a motor attached, might help. But I don't see one here.
lieuwe Goodhart4 years ago
exactly, my problem always is that when it starts a tiny bit off centre the whole thing flies apart...
Goodhart lieuwe4 years ago
I just took another look at the slide show......I still don't see how something could be held precisely in the center while spinning at those speeds, and while cutting. The lack of materials to build this with and such make me a bit suspicious of the whole thing. This would make a GREAT -ible, if they wanted to demonstrate how to build one.....but then, maybe they are afraid of duplication? Or that this really is not what is seems maybe?
nepheron (author)  Goodhart4 years ago
I have a video of how I center the block. Would you like to see it? Lathes are the simplest type of machine tools ever invented. The high accuracy is achieved by the spinning and not the eye-balling of a human being. I could make an 'ible, but I only had one motor and I wasn't sure it would even work when I started.
Yes, I would be interested in seeing the video, if you don't mind. :-) It bothers me that I am having difficulties in imagining a block of wood on a to prong fork whirling about at high speed and not flying off as soon as it is touched.
nepheron (author)  Goodhart4 years ago
I know what you mean. I couldn't see it until i was finished and actually used it. The video is uploaded. It's the the first video on this page now.
Thanks. Amazing. I am sorry if any of my posts sounded a bit harsh....I have been having a really horrible month so far (no excuse though).

And now, I also know what you mean by the motor is just from a hand vac (vacuum as in cleaner....pain meds do not help one think clearly....).

Very nice.....I will have to put this on my list of things to do :-) Thanks for being patient with an old codger ;-)
nepheron (author)  Goodhart4 years ago
Ok. the HQ video takes about 45 minutes to upload (!!) so check back in an hour or so.
nepheron (author)  Goodhart4 years ago
Here is a cross section. It's very basic.
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nepheron (author)  Goodhart4 years ago
It self centers. I start with a rectangular block and turn it into a cylinder.
nepheron (author)  Goodhart4 years ago
My piece of foam is less than 3 cm in length. I don't need a dead center for this, but that's just the way my lathe happens to work *shrug* .
nepheron (author)  lieuwe4 years ago
Do you have a 'dead center'? My lathe is so small, I don't need a dead center if my piece is no longer than 3 cm. Also, my chuck is simply a metal fork that sticks into the material. Proportionally it goes quite deep... that means high stability. Another reason this works so well is that the foam composite I carve has a very low density. It's light enough and flexible enough so that it doesn't have a lot of weight to "throw around" and break off. I hope you get your machine working :)
rimar20004 years ago
Very good! These small wine glass shapes they are beautiful!
nepheron (author)  rimar20004 years ago
Thanks!
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