A simpler, cheaper lathe

A washing machine motor, 2x4, and a rusty pipe for my wood turning enjoyment

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Wanting to try wood turning, but not willing to invest big money in a proper lathe, I set out to build one with parts I had lying around. And I was successful.

I've been wanting to try wood turning for a long time, but a proper lathe costs several hundred dollars. That could be a huge loss if I ended up not liking the craft or was no good at it. So I decided to try building one. Actually, many moons ago I tried something much more complex with closed loop speed control and a fancy interface. That's a separate project here: .

That project never produced a useful tool, so this time I tried focusing not on the electronics and features, but rather on what's actually important for a wood turning lathe. And you can see the result here:

Of course this is not even comparable to a lathe you could buy, but I don't think I spent more than $5 on it and it lets me experience at least an approximation to wood turning.

I'll update once I find time to play with it more and make something.

  • 1 × washing machine motor, belt and pulley
  • 1 × 8mm threaded rod
  • 1 × pile of 8mm nuts and washers
  • 1 × 2x4 and 1x4 lumber
  • 1 × electrical cord and switch

View all 7 components

  • Conclusion

    shlonkin08/31/2015 at 06:22 0 comments

    Well that was a fun experiment. I played around with the lathe a bit more and turned that log into a fairly smooth, round cylinder. Then I tried out some other tool ideas like a dollar store file ground into a skew chisel. The best results actually came from a rasp and course file that I just rubbed along the wood like normal while it was spinning.

    But not all was safe and pretty. I got lots of chatter and catches due to the wobbly, thin axle. I'm glad that it wasn't spinning faster than about 500rpm. I doubt I could ever make anything nice like a cup or box. So I've accepted the fact that if I really want to try wood turning I'll have to invest the money in proper tools. Unfortunately that puts it outside of the foreseeable future.

    On the plus side, now I have a nice motor for my scroll saw which works well except for an under-powered motor. I should post that project here sometime too.

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puhpuhpaul wrote 08/31/2015 at 08:55 point

Please please please - CLAMP IT ALL DOWN to a solid work bench. I am all for doing things from scratch, but ask any of the physics geeks how much potential energy is in your lathe set up. A wood lath is typically set at an elevation that you can work on it standing, but soild, no vibration. Your gear is bouncing all over the place mate, so get it stable. Other than that, and please, clamps are cheap, kudos and keep on with the DIY ethic. 

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neilg1vps wrote 08/31/2015 at 01:59 point

please shorten your tool rest so the tool contacts the work closer to the centerline.

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shlonkin wrote 08/31/2015 at 06:24 point

That's a good point. An adjustable tool rest would really be a good idea.

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