homemade wood lathe?

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Forum topic by EricW posted 01-06-2009 12:09 AM 131070 views 2 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View EricW's profile


86 posts in 3788 days

01-06-2009 12:09 AM

Topic tags/keywords: lathe bowls plates turning

has anyone ever made a lathe or know how to make one? Im interesting in turning mostly bowls, and small plates, but i dont really have any money to buy one.
i was thinking i could use a router, because i have two, and mount some sort of lathe chuck thingy to it.. but thats all i got.

whats interesting is that while trying to find cheap lathes to buy, i found a few for about $150.. but they only do a diameter of like 7” and 20” long…
what i really need is a lathe that can turn something like 12” wide and like 7” long.

do they not sell those?
because thats what id probably make, if i ca figure out how.


13 replies so far

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 4158 days

#1 posted 01-06-2009 12:15 AM

They sell the BIG ones but I’d buy a “small cheap one” and see how I liked turning first. Then if you love it buy the lathe you want, sell the first one to recoup your investment.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View cassy's profile


29 posts in 4304 days

#2 posted 01-06-2009 12:26 AM

Eric dont know if this is big enough but maybe you can try – free download how to make a lathe.

-- dave montreal

View ericblazek's profile


6 posts in 3700 days

#3 posted 01-06-2009 12:37 AM

Take a look at for an electric lathe if the treadle one does not suite your taste.

I am in the middle of building one like this, but specifically for bowls. Got a couple of pillow block bearings off eBay for $10 and had a local machine shop thread the end of a 3/4” shaft for like $30 (parts and labor). If you have a motor and some solid lumber laying around, plus a cone pulley also from eBay for another $10, you should have a pretty solid machine for $50 or so.

Anyone made one along these lines ?

-- Eric in Oklahoma

View SteveKorz's profile


2139 posts in 3986 days

#4 posted 01-06-2009 12:57 AM

I started to make a lathe a couple years ago, from a plan in Shopnotes. I got the base done, but didn’t get the rest finished (it’s on my list of stuff to do, I swear). You may want to search the back issues of Shopnotes to find it. If you can’t find it, shoot me a personal message and I’ll look up my issue for you.


-- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) †

View jeffthewoodwacker's profile


603 posts in 4076 days

#5 posted 01-06-2009 01:51 AM

If you are looking for an expensive lathe go to Craigslist or Ebay. Many “new” turners put their lathes up for sale after they get frustrated. Some turners upgrade and list lathes as well. Find a local turning club in your area and see if they have members who are interested in selling a used lathe. I picked up a Jet 1442 that had hardly ever been used for $100.00 One other option is to talk to the folks at Woodcraft or Rockler (if there are any near your) and see when they sell their lathes that are used for lessons or demos. Good luck with your search and/or have fun building a lathe.

-- Those that say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4397 days

#6 posted 01-06-2009 02:00 AM

I’d also suggest getting the first and second books in Dave Gingery's Metalworking Shop From Scratch series. Yeah, you can probably build most of your lathe out of wood, but something about reading that series opened up a whole new world for me in how I think about shop made tools and jigs, even though I haven’t built a blast furnace… yet.

I think the router as a motor will make things spin waaaay too fast (remember, you dial back a router for a 3” bit…), but maybe the motor from an old washing machine or dryer? There’s probably some good suggestions in the Gingery book for that, too.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3920 days

#7 posted 01-06-2009 05:18 AM

You might want a bowl lathe. There is a plan for one in an old
FWW book about making your own machines.

You can find bowl lathes at auctions too occasionally. Now if
you meant a seven foot! lathe instead of 7” you’ll look long
and hard for a lathe that big.

Many smaller lathes can turn faceplates on the back of the headstock.
Plant a steel pipe in an old wheel filled with wet concete and you
have a base for a tool-rest.

I’ve read about guys turning massive burls screwed to the wheel
of a model-T Ford.

The lathe is a very simple machine. It could be fun to make one but
you’ll invest a lot of time in it.

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4235 days

#8 posted 01-06-2009 06:39 AM

Of course you can make a lathe. There are treadle lathes and great wheel lathes and spring pole lathes. all human powered and made by the user. Look up a guy named Brian Boggs. He lives in Kentucky. Try Popular Woodworking Magazine.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View EricW's profile


86 posts in 3788 days

#9 posted 01-07-2009 12:43 AM

im still not sure if im gonna buy an old used one on craigslist, or make one (and then have to decide on treadle vs. motor).

thanks for all the suggestions!

View anvil's profile


9 posts in 3313 days

#10 posted 01-28-2010 08:56 AM

I built one ,

i used a 4 foot long 15/16 shaft 4 bearings and oneway threads with a pully on the end. its got a belt that goes to a 2 horse motor and a varible speed control ,freq drive and a phase converter, so it has full power at any speed. it can turn a 200lb block easily. =)

-- anvil

View JarodMorris's profile


167 posts in 2648 days

#11 posted 11-24-2011 04:59 PM

I realize this is an old thread, but I’m also planning to start a lathe build in the next few weeks. I purchased one from harbor freight and while it did great for turning pins, a top, etc, when I went to put a Woodriver chuck on it, the threading was so messed up 3/4”-10 instead of 3/4”-16. I bought an adapter for $15 from Amazon and it was poor quality, so I just decided to build my own. Here is the plan for anyone interested:

~2 HP DC motor from treadmill off ebay for about $40 (I’ll wire my own power supply, and speed control, etc.)
25pk 3/4”-16 nuts ($7.45 from grainger)
3/4” ID bearings (3 x $1.89)
3/4”-16 threaded rod (24” long) ($12.19 from grainger)

As for the base, I have solid red and white oak with dimensions of 3” x 2”. A local oil pipe supplier here in oklahoma sells these at $2 a stick because they are trash for them as they are between the pipe during shipment. They’re rough cut but amazing when planned down and a great deal at $2 for an 8 foot stick.

There will be other things that I have to address like the v-belt, lathe bed, tail stock.

When I get started with the build, I’ll post pictures and hopefully take some videos. I’ll likely start a new thread for it.

-- Dad: Someone was supposed to pick up his toys! Son: My name isn't "Someone".

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3243 days

#12 posted 11-24-2011 06:39 PM

Of course a person can build his/her own lathe.
The first one certainly did not come from a store.

Here is a picture of a really big bowl, 13’-5”, being turned on a homemade lathe.

View Shawn Masterson's profile

Shawn Masterson

1325 posts in 2221 days

#13 posted 07-24-2013 01:41 AM

I know this is old but that is a crazy huge cereal bowl

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