Instructables
Picture of Mini Metal Lathe

Hack a power drill into a mini metal lathe with precision speed control.

I used a couple of broken power tools for the drive components in this mini lathe.

It features a powerful motor and small size.

The speed control hack is shown in step 5.

The video shows a functional speed test of the lathe. There is a vibration from the motor coupling which is quite evident as the speed increases.


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I have added another video in the more tweaks step.

I am starting to think that I need a laser etcher to make a micrometer tool holder for the next round of tweaks.
 

 
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Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
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There are some specialized items needed for this Instructable.

The base materials are from Bosch Rexroth. The extruded aluminum base, t-nuts, inside brackets, end caps are all Bosch Rexroth. The extruded member is 45X90 and 14 inches long.

The support blocks are from VXB.COM Part number WH12A

The Skate bearings are form VXB.COM Part Number 608ZZ. Yes I know that these are not taper bearings (ideal choice) but they do work for this application.

The flex motor couplings and rubber spider are from PrincessAuto.com

I used a 12V DC motor from a Black and Decker cordless weed trimmer

I used a variable speed switch from a Milwaukee 18V Li-Ion cordless drill

The rest of the materials are presented as needed in the instructions.
en2oh5 days ago

very clever! Proud to be Canadian! :)

tiggeeer1 month ago

fantastic instructions. im a 54 year old woman, with a brain and i could follow and make this, really good

SparkyOR10 months ago
Awesome work! I like the speed controller rig. Have been thinking of how to add drill attachment to my Taig lathe, you've inspired me!
Looks like you have a very useful tool there.
htbeef2 years ago
Don't want to sound like a commercial, but a company called Misumi (full disclosure, I work there) sells a ton of mechanical components (shafts, bushings, bearings, bearings in housings, metal plates, brackets, etc.). They have a catalog that specializes in parts used for assembly automation. But, what makes them probably most useful for the Makers out there is that there are no minimum order quantities (you can order one of anything in the catalog, including springs washers, screws, bolts, and nuts) and you can order everything online with a credit card (they deal directly with the end customer). I only mention this because I saw many components that can be purchased directly from the catalog (bearings in housings, motor mounting bracket, extrusions, hardware for the extrusions). Plus many of the components are "configurable" (with the extrusions, for example, you purchase them in 0.5mm increments in length anywhere from 50mm to 4000mm), which means that you don't have to modify them when you receive them (the motor mounting bracket, for example, would come with all of the holes in the correct locations already).

Again, I didn't want this to sound like an ad, but I think that this catalog would be very useful for many of the Makers our there.
rgeelen htbeef2 years ago
i like the way he says that he doesnt want to look like a advertisor but stil advertiser neverless its still very useful, i mean im 16 yrs old and even i understand it all. so thx for the nice non- advertisement.
i have to disagree on that, I see advertisers all the time and i can tell for sure when i spot one, he never mentions prices or why they're product is better not even a single link to a webpage or email, i really think he did it on good faith, actually i didn't knew about misumi and it help me cause i always struggling to find parts like those... just my two cents...
also McMastercarr has a huge variety of parts. I was going to order from there, but then I cancled my 10W Laser cutter. At 16 i can't get to well of a paying job to satisfy the projected cost of $1500.
I always wonder why no one ever mentions Grainger (grainger.com). They sell all sort of odds and ends. If you're lucky enough to live near an outlet, they almost all have a "will call" window where you can pickup your order and avoid shipping charges.

For extrusions, I also prefer the Bosch-Rexroth brand. Especially the heavy duty styles (45h, for example).
I use grainger as well, but mainly for larger orders. My father works at a factory and can do the order through them and get two discounts in the process.
Nowadays, if you're 16 and can get any job at all, it's a miracle!
Not quite... I'm trying to get a job in the Information Technology and other outdoor labor forces (landscapeing, Excavating - which i did last summer, and anything else). And my dignity refuses to work in a large chain store or fast food area.
Ahh, dignity! I have forgotten what that felt like! :)
Nothing even slightly wrong with presenting this information, given your disclosure, and the perfect topicality for this project - more so given your specific examples.

For my part, I'm very glad that you did, as I can see that, at some future date, i may well have use for what they sell.
eBandit htbeef2 years ago
Cool, I was thinking of making one of these mini lathes using a linear guide from Misumi. I was checking their site and the linear guide (not sure if need heavy duty or not) "may" make a decent lathe bed and also the carriage part both???
doxsys htbeef2 years ago
Misumi makes very nice parts, and they're accommodative to hobbyists. I've ordered from them a number of times and haven't been disappointed yet.
Thank you, just signed up at MiSumi.
We use Misumi parts at work in our designs. Very High Quality parts.
Thanks, looks very useful!
jdkchem2 years ago
What are the limits to what you can work on with your lathe? Aside from the obvious size limits of course.
Random_Canadian (author)  jdkchem2 years ago
I have machined aluminum and copper. I have not tried steel as of yet.
Have you tried steel yet?
Thanks.
This is seriously cool.

The first thing I thought as soon as I saw it though was this :

Hmmm... so theres something I can do with that old tile cutter I got from the local dump for $5 - I was thinking of dismantling it to use parts on bicycles / art projects... and it just so happens I have an old drill laying about - now, just to make the time to do it... maybe next winter (southern hemisphere).

Seriously - look at a tile cutter, then look at the lathe... ready made?

This picture is from the first result on google image search and is a Husqvarna TC470 - credit where it's due and all
TC470.jpg
Wow - no kidding. What an imaginative hack! Make sure you take pictures so you can post an instructable.
TT01Fanatic2 years ago
Hey, just found this instructable, lemme first say this is some GREAT stuff! I've always wanted a mini lathe, never realized how easy it really was. Anyways, I'm wondering how the finish on the part is after taking it out of the chuck, it looks as it the allen screws would scratch the surface, and with even my little amount of experience in this field, they have done the same for my pieces. Do you have an alternative that might correct this?
You could use shims to prevent marking. (Very thin pieces of metal, like paper thin, or up to 1mm thick), which would absorb the scratching, but still provide enough clamping so as to not allow the work to spin in the chuck, which produces terrible marks.

If you use aluminum shims, they can be a bit thicker, but provide good grip. Try any machine shop for some scrap to use as shims, or buy a small sheet of very thin steel or aluminum to cut up and use. One tip for using shims though, is to have one shim per chuck jaw, don't try to use one piece and wrap it all the way around. It can make it sit unevenly in the chuck, and not spin true, and use the same thickness at each chuck jaw.

I hope this helps.
Very innovative.


haven't read all of the comments except for the one that mentioned plastic screws.

Why not just use brass screws?

I had an occasion where steel screws were riding in a groove in a mild steel shaft and creating an slight burr on the groove edge. This burr created havoc with the aluminum component that slid over the groove. I simply replaced the steel screws with brass ones and problem solved. I have seen very little wear on the replacement brass screws and even if I did the replacement of two crews was much cheaper than the replacement of the piece of steel.

This situation, I might add, was a component of a $27,000 power chair that my wife requires to make her life less restrictive.


Again, a nice piece of work!
Rockil mwhite162 years ago
i use brass shims for just about anything that i do not what marked up or try useing a brass button on the end of the screws
Random_Canadian (author)  TT01Fanatic2 years ago
Thanks. I am working on a new design that should give better clamping without the marking.
as long as your pieces will hold up to it...
try brazing tiny ball bearings to the dimple in the end of your set-screws ;-)

Another thought...
Since this is a TINY lathe, and parts don't need a ton of clamping force, even at high speed, epoxy/glue nylon puck onto the end of the set-screw. or even use plastic screws!

Or, pay-to-play, using y ideas... that I now see aren't nearly as novel as I first thought.
http://www.lexingtonsetscrews.com/
Bill2802 years ago
I know I'm a little late to the party, but why not "decouple" the motor entirely, set it on it's own stand behind the lathe and run the lathe with a belt ( I know that's how a lot of factory lathe are made -- probably for a reason). Keeps all the motor vibration away from the lathe and eliminates having to align the motor shaft with the lathe center.
jeffrey42832 years ago
This is great! A well executed project. I plan to build one of these as soon as I'm done with my 3D printer.
halfmumi2 years ago
1 word: Flawless................
This is brilliant! I love the way you have used nuts and bolts to make a cross slide - shows how you can use cheap and widely available parts to make something fairly sophisticated without precision tooling. shame my blowlamp isn't powerful enough to braze anything that big, since it's only a normal plumbers one. This is extra interesting to me because I've just been designing a wooden cross slide for my own mini-lathe project, so it's nice to compare methods (mine has a turntable to cut angles, but I don't know if it will be solid enough until I get round to actually making it).
bulent1232 years ago
good work.
pietzeekoe2 years ago
How much was that aluminium profile?
Random_Canadian (author)  pietzeekoe2 years ago
i think i paid $90 for a 10 foot length. but that was about 7 years ago... check eBay for scrap pricing, if you are local to Calgary i have some small sections that I could give you.
Please extend that output shaft and put a second bearing on it. Dont abuse your couplers like that, they will wear faster and the forces will prematurely wear your motor bearings as well.

[motor]=@=#==#=c

@...coupler
#...bearing
c...chuck
=...shaft
Random_Canadian (author)  Hessian Nerd2 years ago
Yes I agree, that is an excellent suggestion.

I have been experimenting with this as a way to further reduce the vibrations with some success.

When I get the edit function corrected I will be adding what I have done to the tweaks section.
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