Intro: The Bare Minimum DIY Lathe
I was cleaning up my work area, and found a project that I had left in a half-finished state: a super-simple lathe. Well, I finished it up, and got my lovely wife to take some photos, and video, in case anyone else needs something like this. This also doubles as a wheel grinder or wire-brush buffer!
Step 1: Find an Old Hand Drill, in Good Working Order, and Disassemble It.
I found this solid metal-cased old drill at my local thrift store, with a damaged power cord. When i took it apart, I found several great mounting points I could use to attach the drill solidly onto mounting brackets.
I built the brackets for strength and rigidity, hence the 90-degree bends wherever possible, to stiffen the mounting. They are carefully measured to mount the drill level, pointed straight down the center of the 2x6. The height at the center of the chuck is exactly 6" from the base.
I attached the electrical cords to a good appliance cord with wire nuts designed for use in home wiring, the yellow ones with the "wings" on them, that you would get at a home improvement store. Since this project uses the 120V A/C from your wall outlets, electrocution/fire prevention are high priorities. I drilled a hole for the chuck key to be stored in, and secured the electrical cord to the 2x6 with a construction staple.
Step 2: Build the Active Center Point, and Sliding Block.
The sliding block is just another piece of the 2x6, with aluminum guides along the bottom, and the aluminum mounting brackets screwed down to it. This slides along the base 2x6, but with significant friction, which is as designed.
Those who've seen my DIY router guide will note that I obviously re-used the rotating 1/4"-20 bolt and bearings assembly that previously housed the Dremel router bit. Since that's true, please reference the instructions from step 3 of www.instructables.com/id/Cheap-DIY-dremel-compatible-router/step3/Prepare-the-rod/. (In the text edit boxes on Instructibles, copy/paste does not work.)
Instead of mounting a router bit to the end of the rod, mount a smooth point to it. I used one of those chrome-coated brass spikes that you can attach to clothing for that "punk rock" look, since I had some around. I bought mine around 10 years ago, at Evangeline's in Sacramento, CA (You don't *know* me! lol). They were about $5 for a twelve-pack, as far as I remember.
The mounting brackets here are designed, again, for maximal strength and rigidity from the aluminum that they're cut from. Also, the height at the center of the shaft is the exact same height as the center of the drill's shaft, 6", when the block is mounted flush against the longer 2x6.
It would be best to use a C-Clamp to hold the block to the longer 2x6, when doing heavier-duty work.
Step 3: Fin.
Assuming that each assembly is working well, you're done now. Feel free to try out your new lathe. Wear eye protection, because pirate eye patches aren't as sexy as people make them out to be, in real life.
The next few add-on modifications you should think of would be adding a solid rest for your lathe tools, as you'll find the tools bounce a lot without something solid to work from, and also, a chuck that can fit spin up pieces, that mounts into the chuck on the drill. Something with a big hex input should work best.