Introduction: Micro Wood-Lathe: How to Make It With a SEWING MACHINE MOTOR

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A How-to-make video I made showing the process of building a micro wood-lathe with a sewing machine motor. It uses the foot treadle that came with the sewing machine as the on/off/speed adjustment.

This lathe is direct drive, so it's very precise.

Happy making!

Oh, the epoxy I used is JB WELD


DIYwithLaura (author)2015-12-14

Thank you! This is great. I've already purchased a micro lathe on eBay, and it's spinning backwards. There's no reverse switch as far as I can see. Someone suggested it's the polarity of the engine. Can I flip my engine over?

lsimonalle (author)2014-09-29

Spent $40 for a machine [in a table]. Next day it's a mini lathe! I ground off 2 welds holding the iron body & base plate together [Dremel - pink grinding stone]. Self-tapping screws hold the lathe parts on the iron base plate. JB Weld worked perfectly as shown in video. Aligning the motor/spindle with the Dead Center bolt assembly was the hardest part - probably because my motor was a cylinder with 2 small flattened sides instead of an easy to clamp/align brick shape. I used a tiny magnetic laser level [cost ~$10] on the iron base plate & turned the 3/8" square drive of the socket-mandrel so the diagonal of the square made a vertical line. This gave me a reference line for installing the Dead Center assembly.

The lathe works great but now I need to make a hood to catch some of the flying sawdust & chips!

Will try to remember to post pics later...

lsimonalle (author)2014-09-27

WOW! Amazing & amazingly simple construction. Looks perfect for dollhouse scale [1" = 12"] lathe work. Great job on the video...

changorey (author)2013-02-04

I make wands for my friends and i have different sizes for there ages so i was wondering if you could make it adjustable?

WerdnaN (author)2010-08-08

What kind of wood did you use?

nepheron (author)WerdnaN2010-08-08

The lighter colored wood I lathed was Cherry. The darker colored wood was Brazilian Bloodwood. The Bloodwood lathed much better than the cherry, it's a lot denser.

cookie51 (author)nepheron2012-04-14

Do you have a pdf tutorial on how to build your Micro-Wood Lathe besides the video? I'm missing what part you installed in the end piece you installed the "Dead Center" Bolt. Also what did you use to grind the bolt into a cone shape? How many nuts you used to install the "Dead Center" in your up-right end that the bolt is sticking through?
I would really love to build one of these for myself for turning wooden bobbins for myself or even Whorls for making my own Hand Spindles. I'm a Spinner and Weaver and it will be fun to create my own turned spinning and weaving tools. I don't have $ 400 to afford a small lathe, but making one would be fun. Thank you for sharing your video!

nepheron (author)cookie512012-04-15

The dead center is ground to a point, and there are 2 nuts holding it in place. See the attached PDF I made for you.


cookie51 (author)nepheron2012-04-16

Thank you, Nepheron! I have a couple of more questions. What size you cut the upright (part the "Dead Center" goes through)?

Also what lenth and width the base you glue the Sewing Machine Motor to?

I want to make a lathe with a capacity to turn pieces no larger than 4" in diameter and no longer than 12" in lengh.. I like spinning my own yarn and it will be fun to turn my own "Whorls" and "Shafts" for hand spindles.

I also would like to turn small bowls for support spindles, bobbins for my "Boat Shuttles" , Spinning Wheel or bobbin lace making. My other interests are textile crafts like weaving, knitting and crocheting.

I would also like to build the lathe adjustable.

nepheron (author)cookie512012-04-16

No problem!
I don't have the lathe anymore, so i don't know the exact dimensions. However, its easy to figure them out.

The dead center needs to be pretty much at a height that allows it to be inline with the motor's shaft, and the socket.

The length of the base is really not critical. Make it long enough that when you put your motor on it, and your dead center, there is enough space for the thing to want to turn.

If you will be turning things as large as 4", you will need a more powerful and perhaps larger electric motor. Go to a pawn shop or a thrift store and get an electric hand-drill. Those have more torque than a sewing machine motor.

Good luck!

Golftester (author)2011-02-17

Made this project this weekend.
I think I had the same sewing machine - for 20 yrs in the bottom of the utility room :)

nepheron (author)Golftester2011-02-18

Sweet! I'm really glad my ible helped you with your project!

whisperonthewind (author)2011-02-09

Better late than never, I guess, but even a NEW (plain vanilla) sewing machine should be cheaper than a lathe, and you could try salvation army type places where they also sell furniture. Yard sales, too. Craig's List, maybe.

I was wondering if you could use it to make bowl shaped things, or round boxes. And I saw an Instructable on using the Dremel tool in a similar manner. So this same question applies to that.

HeyMimi (author)2010-10-16

Wow. That's really cool. A very do-able project.

Atrophius (author)2010-07-14

Great Idea. i think one improvement you could do is place the bolt on a section that can slide and be locked into place. that way you can just slide it in and out to load and unload pieces.

josh333 (author)2010-07-02

Chess pieces??

Mindhunt3r (author)2010-06-21

awsome 'ible, you've inspired me to create fishing lures :) A couple questions if you don't mind. Do you have any idea what the rpm is for the motor you are using? Did you make your own cutting tools or did you buy them?

nepheron (author)Mindhunt3r2010-06-21

Thanks! I made the cutting tool. It's a piece of hard steel ground into a sharp angle. As for rpm's, my educated guess is that it's around 20,000 to 25,000rpm. Here's a sketch of the tool:

zipzapper859 (author)2010-06-09

what would be awesome is you make it so you could put different sized pits on it

nepheron (author)zipzapper8592010-06-10

Pits? I don't understand...

Goodhart (author)nepheron2010-06-10

Maybe the person meant "bits" ?

zipzapper859 (author)Goodhart2010-06-11

yep sorry i ment bits

Goodhart (author)zipzapper8592010-06-11

If one attached a "chuck" instead of the socket, one could use it to grab a fairly wide variety of wood stock, I'd guess.

nepheron (author)Goodhart2010-06-11

Yes, a chuck would work great. All the chucks I could find for the motor I have were too large and waaaayyyy too much monies!!!

Goodhart (author)nepheron2010-06-11

Hmmmm, yeah, I can see where the size may become a problem....

zipzapper859 (author)Goodhart2010-06-12


rimar2000 (author)2010-06-11

Very good done! You can use also a dremel or "dremel like" as cutting tool. Thanks for the captions on video, too.

masterochicken (author)2010-06-10

5 stars!

nepheron (author)masterochicken2010-06-10

Thanks ^-^

Bill. (author)2010-06-09

this would be great for making some homemade chess pieces. hopefully I'll be able to find an old sewing machine and be able to make one of these

nepheron (author)Bill.2010-06-10

Any motor that size will work. It's not that important that it's a sewing machine motor, it just has to have a larger diameter than the wood you intend to lathe.

Culturespy (author)2010-06-09

Great job! That would make a great step by step Instructable with still images too.

About This Instructable




Bio: Travelling since 2013. I'm currently in Australia for some reason. --- I’m Calvin Drews, and I love to learn, experiment, invent, create, repair, and ... More »
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