004: cheap, rolling lathe stand #1: box frames, wheels, and a height change

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Blog entry by Gary Fixler posted 01-20-2010 02:08 PM 19345 reads 3 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of 004: cheap, rolling lathe stand series Part 2: the drawer carcass »

In early December, a little more than a week before I flew home, I decided to make mom a cutting board. However, the garage was a mess. I spent some time figuring out what I could attack, cleaning off the back table to use for flattening the board after the glue-up, building the router sled and rails to perform the flattening, and as a slipped-in, totally unrelated side project, I built a quickie rolling lathe stand on the cheap, as I’m still looking for work. When I say “on the cheap,” I mean free. Well, that’s not entirely true. I used about 2 scrap 2×4s I had in my storage shed, which add up to about $4 total from Home Depot if bought new. I also had a box of 4 very nice locking, swivel casters from Rockler, which I bought months prior (on sale, IIRC), well before I found myself out of work. I didn’t spend any new money, though. This was all stuff sitting around in the inventory, as most/all things for awhile shall be. Here are those wheels:

swivel casters box

swivel casters from Rockler

I built two simple box frames:

2x4 pieces for box frames

I decided to go with all wood joints so the pocket hole screws from the legs and caster wheel bolts would have free reign. Being in a hurry I just went with large pegs, which I at first cut and rounded from a dowel I’d had laying around for years:

cutting pegs

cut and rounded pegs

I laid things out cleanly for flush joints (as flush as it gets with rounded 2×4s), did several tests with my 1/64” increment brad point bits (also from a Rockler sale (on sale again as I post this from $40 down to $30)) for tightest fit, and I glued up the frames:

peg test fits

gluing up 2x4s

As an aside, I cleaned my saw table – home for months now to disassembled planer parts, wood, turnings, dust collection fittings, and the lathe for which I was building the stand – and brought it from this (it actually IS under there):

messy saw table this (even scrubbing away rust brought about by green shavings from the lathe):

clean saw table

So much nicer! I can use it again :)

An example glue up, with clamps on either side of the exposed pegs, which will be flushed up later:

glued up 2x4 box frame

I did that thing everyone warned me about last time again, making some extra, needed pegs on my lathe instead of with a nice dowel plate. Here’s how it looked this time:

Sherline CNC mini mill turning pegs

The following shot tells me I can probably make dreidels pretty easily :)

half turned pegs

I turned the first halves, then flipped them over and let the same CNC code turn the other half. It was all done in about 20 minutes or so:

turning the other half of the pegs


finished peg

finished pegs

Using the pegs to glue up the second box:

glue up of second box

I designed the stand in SketchUp. I doubt anyone wants it, but if so, I can upload the file. Anyway, this helped me figure out leg length and angles. It turned out I needed a 5° angle on each side, which was easy enough with my miter saw. Here’s how they fit:

legs fitted to top frame

I glued and screwed the legs to the bottom frame first:

legs glued to bottom

Then the top:

legs glued to top frame

Then the casters (I had drilled the holes in the base on my drill press before I attached the legs):

casters screwed in

And that was the basics. This is the longest post for the simplest, cheapest build ever :)

finished stand

With the lathe screwed on top. It looks narrow and top-heavy, but it’s quite stable, I’ve found. Too, I’m going to be adding a lot of weight in the bottom. More on that later. Note that the wheels all have a step lock that locks both rolling and swiveling, so it becomes rather like a stand with rubber feet when you lock the wheels, and it rolls like butter when they’re unlocked. I’m happy with them.

lathe on new stand

Unfortunately, it was too tall. I had miscalculated the height the wheels would add.

me with lathe

That was where I had to finish up before the holidays. I decided to figure out how to shorten it over the break and then come back refreshed and make the change. My original plan was to cut a chunk out of the middle of the legs, then build a drawer box that was shorter than what I’d removed, and screw the top and bottom remaining sections of the legs to that box. After designing that 2x in SketchUp, I realized I didn’t like anything about that plan.

I opted to simply fix the legs. I had glued them in, but it was easy enough to flush cut them back off with a pull saw after removing the pocket screws. I moved the top down by 6” in my original design in SketchUp and figured out the leg angles again. They went from 5° to 6.2°. Amazingly, after eyeballing this value in between the tick marks on my miter saw, I used a precision angle finder with every 10th of a degree marked on it to measure my cuts, and they were dead on the 6.2 mark!

Here’s how it came out after shortening it after I got back from the holidays:

rebuilt lathe stand legs

Now it’s a great height for me. It still seemed like it might be too tall, but I’ve only used it on my saw table (behind me in the shot), and the top of the stand now is actually a little shorter than that by an inch or two.

me with new lathe stand height

That’s all for now. I’ve made more, as the stand is going to be a lot more involved than just legs and box frames, but that’ll be for future posts, which should come along very soon.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

7 comments so far

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 4446 days

#1 posted 01-20-2010 02:26 PM

nice design, like the inward angles which help keep the machine centered without making it a tip hazard. Thanks for the detailed breakdown.

Looks Good!


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View PurpLev's profile


8653 posts in 4985 days

#2 posted 01-20-2010 04:32 PM

that looks great Gary! I like that mobile base, has lots of options for additions for storage/tools/etc. looking forward to see what it’ll hold. and the height looks good.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View lew's profile


13488 posts in 5092 days

#3 posted 01-20-2010 05:39 PM

Great post. I realize the height,of a lathe. is somewhat a personal thing but I agree with Sharon- looks good to me.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View king's profile


71 posts in 5284 days

#4 posted 01-20-2010 08:35 PM

Nice stand,add a shelf for tools .I might make one myself thanks.

-- [email protected]

View JamesVavra's profile


308 posts in 4653 days

#5 posted 01-20-2010 08:59 PM

You could grab a couple of those foam rubber cushion pads that they sell to ease foot fatigue and set those in front of your new setup. When standing on them you will be up an inch or so, effectively lowering the height of the stand closer to where you were comfortable with it before.

(I bought some cheap ones at HF a couple of months ago, but I noticed the height difference on the lathe and still don’t use them there.)


View SheilaJ's profile


1 post in 3868 days

#6 posted 06-22-2011 04:34 AM

This looks great! Thank you for sharing all of your details. This is a bit ambitious for me, but I really would like to give it a whirl. I always have to stand on a stool, so a customized height would be really nice. Thank you!

View Springerlover's profile


15 posts in 670 days

#7 posted 03-23-2020 06:25 PM

I just finished a workbench and included casters. I wondered if they would adversely affect it’s stability. They didn’t. Your inclusion of casters and positive comments are good to hear. I’m planning a lathe stand and mobility fits my situation. Thanks for your design.

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