Introduction: How to Make a Foot Powered Lathe

A lathe made from scrap, based on old lathe designs.




Wood screws

Leather leash/belt

Ball bearings

(3x) 5/16 bolts

5/16 washers

5/16 wrench

2” pvc pipe


Tap/ die set.

Step 1: Make the Frame

By taking 2 3x4ft.. Boards, separate by a distance of 2ft, and add a 3x2 ft top.

Step 2: Add the Pedal and Flywheel

I used a 2ft. Diameter bike wheel because the internal thread was 5/16, but adapting the whole system can be done. Using a 1x1 1/2 ft. Board, attach a 3ft. Segment of a 2x4 positioned in the center of the board. This will be the pedal. At the far left top of the pedal, drill another pilot hole, and drill another pilot hole at the bottom And top

of a 2x13 1/2x1in. board. Then attach the two pieces together with a wood screw with a washer in between the two pieces. Now drill two small pilot holes 3 1/2 inches off the ground and 9 1/2 inches from the back on either side of the frame, and attach the now complete pedal to the frame with wood screws. Now for the flywheel itself. Drill a pilot hole 11” off the ground and 16” from the back. This will be the axle for the flywheel. Now cut a 2 1/2x2 1/2x1 wooden square, careful to mark the center. Drill a hole through the center, and another 2 inches from either side, converging at one corner. Now attach the The flywheel is done.

Step 3: Finishing the Pulleys

Using a 2 ft. Diameter bike wheel, put a 5/16 threaded bolt through the center, and finish drilling a 5/16 sized hole through the pilot hole drilled earlier on the left side of the frame, then putting a bearing and a washer in between the wheel and frame, put the axle through the hole and put another bearing and washer through the other side of the bolt. At this point one side of the wheel is supported, so we need to make a support on the opposite side. Take a board 16in. Long and at least 2 in. Wide, then attach 2 3 1/2 inch squares on either side of the board by drilling through the side of the squares, then fastening with wood screws. Then drill another 5/16 hole through the top of the board 15 1/2” off the ground, and put on the other side of the pulley’s axle to support it, then putting a washer and nut to secure it in place. Now attach the flywheel center to the axle using wood locking nuts, and tighten. At this point the pedal should turn the wheel.

Step 4: Making the Headpiece of the Pulley

Cut a 2” diameter wooden disc and cut a deep groove in the edge. Then drill a hole through the center of the wheel. The headpiece is done, but it doesn’t have anything to hold it. Cut 4 2x2 squares, and drill 5/16 holes through the center of all of them. Then thread a 5/16 bolt through the headpiece and put bearings and washers through the bolt, and putting it through 2 of the 4 pieces.Space the stock pieces 3 in. Apart. The headpiece is now done.

Step 5: Making the Belt

I used a rolled leather leash as my belt, but any thin leather strap will work. Pull the belt around the area you want to put it, and mark where to cut it. Once cut, you can either sew the two pieces together, or staple them together like I did. Whatever you do, make sure to attach the belt inside both of the pulleys.

Step 6: Making the Tail Stock

Using the other two stock pieces from the previous step, put a 5/16 bolt through with bearings and washers. It is ideal to sharpen the tip, but this can also be accomplished by using progressively smaller taps to thread until sharp.

Step 7: Making the Chuck

The chuck is something that anyone who has tried to make a lathe understands how expensive it is. The obvious alternative is to make your own chuck, with 2” pvc pipe. Cut off a 5” segment and drill four holes in the side, each being equidistant and adjacent to one another. Then use a die to thread them, so bolts can be put through. To finish, take a 2” pvc cap and glue it on the end, making sure to drill through the center and thread it to 5/16. Once done, use a 5/16 nut to hold the chuck on the axle for the headpiece.

Step 8: Making the Pegs

With the tail stock completed, we need a way to adjust the size of the piece we turn on the lathe, so creating a peg system is key. I’d doesn’t matter how far apart the are, as long as they are consistent and equidistant. I cut out a rectangular hole and drilled holes on either side of the hole for the pegs to go into when the tail stock is rigged up. Do add pegs to the tail stock, I put a 8x3” Board under the tail stock and put pegs in holes on either end.

Step 9: Adding the Tool Rest

The tool rest serves the sole purpose of doing what it’s name implies. So utilizing the peg system. I took a 1 1/2x1/2” board and drilled holes on either side, then put pegs in.

Step 10: Testing the Lathe

For me there was some practice involved to testing and using the lathe, but once you have the hang of it it’s pretty easy. One thing I recommend is putting both of your feet on the petal, one on top and one on bottom.

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