How to Build a Lathe for $20

You might decide it's not worth buying one new, but if you knew how to build a lathe you ought to consider building one. The plans are right here.

| March/April 1980

  • 062 wood lathe - photo2
    The finished wood lathe will look something like this. 
  • 062-081-01_01_01
    Diagram indicates weld points and proportions. 
  • 062 wood lathe - diagram 1
    Diagram indicates parts and assembly procedure for wood lathe.

  • 062 wood lathe - photo2
  • 062-081-01_01_01
  • 062 wood lathe - diagram 1

Any aspiring woodworker who has unhappily eyed the monotonously round or square legs on his or her home-built furniture has at one time or another wanted to own a wood-turning tool. The trouble is, a lathe hardly rates first priority on the purchasing list for a growing shop . . . since the cost of such a device simply isn't justified by its versatility.

Consequently, MOTHER EARTH NEWS' fabricators figured that the assembly of a wood turner from scrounged materials would be a perfect project for the discerning but frugal wood fashioner. Our researchers dug deep into their heaps of scraps and spare parts, found most of the necessary pieces, and figured out how to build a lathe from what they pulled out of the pile . . . with the exception of a ball bearing mandrel and two spurs purchased from Sears, Roebuck and Company.

The finished lathe which will accommodate wood chunks up to three feet long and over a foot in diameter turns out handsomely carved legs and rungs ... while costing just a few cents over $20 to build. (Of course, unless your scrap pile has achieved the proportions of MOTHER EARTH NEWS', you're likely to spend a few dollars more for new materials . . . but this tool would be a bargain at five times our price.)

The Bed

Common angle iron, U-channel, and a piece of pine shelving make up the base upon which the tool's working parts ride. You'll find the components specified in the Materials List. The legs for the stand are bent to square up to the U-channel base . . . a task that's much easier if the bend points are first heated with an oxyacetylene torch. In addition, the angle iron used for the braces which span between each leg and the base should be bent and ground so no sharp edges protrude.

In order to avoid banging your shins on the 1 x 12 wooden support shelf, round the board on its "working side" and set its far edge against the opposite legs before drilling and bolting the shelf in place.

Furthermore, since washing machine motors have different mounting configurations, be sure to design the braces for the "power plant" (they're welded to the left rear leg) specifically to fit the bolt pattern on your unit. It's also a good idea to provide for a sliding mount . . . so belt tension can be adjusted.

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