Building a lathe from scratch


If I had a penny for every
time somebody suggested that I should build a lathe,
by now I’m pretty sure I’d have like a dollar. I’ve
had the idea to build of building one and for the
bearings, I was just gonna have a steel shaft that rotates and wooden blocks, like this,
and I figure that should work. So, I drew the lathe
up in SketchUp, and I printed out the end profile,
one to one, using my Big Print program.
And, I’m gonna use some used plywood to
try this experiment. The bed of the lathe is gonna be
these two pieces of hardwood, and then the head stock is gonna
be these pieces, like this. And the shaft is gonna mount
on wooden bearings on top, and then the tail stock
is gonna go together almost the same way, For gluing
the head stock together, I scraped off any varnish
off this used plywood where I’m gonna glue it, and
I also made some spacers to hold the middle part
at the right height. And, I almost forgot to
drill a hole, right here. I’m squaring up the hole
for a carriage bolt, which will be for holding
the head stock on. And, now to make the
bearing blocks, first I drill the screw holes
for mounting it, then I cut the block in half, and then I clamp it
back together, and then I drill a hole through it. I round the corners a
bit on the belt sander, just to save my
knuckles on it later. This is transferring the
pilot hole locations. So, I wanna put this on here as a pulley, but I really should
have a bit more thickness so I thought, why not just add
another step-pulley here. I drilled the hole
slightly under-sized but to make sure these
won’t spin on the shaft, I’m gonna cut a
key-way, right here. I’m using a nail as a key,
to keep the pulley from slipping on the shaft. I just realized I forgot to put
glue between those two disks, so I pried them apart again and now just putting
the glue in there. And, I almost forgot
to put the V-belt on. OK, got a clamp down
on the work bench and I’ve got a spacer here to
keep the motor at the right distance. Listen to all those
bearings now. I need a little bit
more belt tension. Now, with the groove turning
the large pulley, I can put the V-belt in that and
work on the smaller one. That’s a much better point.
Now I need a way to spin a work piece that’s up
against this point here, and the easiest would
probably be to just weld a couple of nails
to the side of the shaft but you got to have
a welder for that. Next thought was to
cut a thread on here and then grind some
points onto a couple nut that screws onto here. But,
again you need to have special tools for that,
so my thinking is to put a wooden sleeve on there and
some screws in on the edges to have some prongs here. So, these two washers
here are gonna act as a thrust bearing, and I have
to put those on now, because this part is not gonna come off. I’ve got the hole lined up close
enough, I can see through it, so I should be able to just
drive this nail in there. For the tail stock of this lathe
I’m just gonna have a shaft that’s clamped on here, and I’ll
need to grind a point on here that’s perfectly conical
smooth and centered. And, the way I did that for
the head stock worked out really well, so I rigged up a
temporary pulley on the shaft that’s actually for the
tail stock, so I can grind and smooth that point. Now, I just need to make
it a little bit smoother. Well, that came out nice. So, now I can bring
those points together really precisely. I
drilled the hole in the bearing block, it’s a
little large so I have some wiggle room, so I have
to sand the top block to tighten that up. Now, I just need some
kind of a tool rest. So, I’m figuring a board in here and then a block that
attaches here, and then this goes on here, and
a metal strip in here to protect it against
the chisels. Well, I’m actually ready to
do some wood turning on here.

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