Clever Re-purposing of a Power Drill Results in a Mini Wood Lathe

Power Drill Wood Lathe

Ever use a lathe? No? Neither had [Jack Hauweling], but that didn’t stop him from building his own and learning how!

Lathes are a lot of fun, especially for small wood working projects. Using mostly wood and a few small pieces of hardware, [Jack] was able to build one in an afternoon that works quite well!

He’s using a cheap corded power drill to drive the work piece, but what we really like is how he made the spur center and spur live center out of a few pieces of threaded rod and a standoff. It’s a simple system that lets him secure the work piece fairly easily simply by tightening the threaded shaft of the live center.

In the video after the break he goes through the entire build process and even shows off his first attempts at using the lathe — he actually was able to make a very nice tool grip on his third try!

Too much work? Well, you could always print it… Personally we prefer this giant treadle powered wood lathe though, if your going to go to that much effort.

[Thanks Jeremy!]

Comments

  1. Great project. I’m curious if the stationary tail stock rubs against the wood causing much heat. It sure doesn’t look like a problem in the video but could that eventually burn the wood or cause any difficulties?

    • Tony says:

      Nah, all wood lathes do that. A bit of a grease in the hole is a good idea (if you could be bothered).

      You can get centers that have bearings (rolling centers) but they’re mainly for metal lathes, and usually only found one wood ones if you have excess cash (and like to show off). (Ok, they’re becoming more common as they’re pretty cheap these days.)

      • Pete says:

        Definitely not all wood lathes! Most modern wood lathes (including mine) come with a live (rotating) center for the tail stock. But its safe to say the first several thousand years worth of wood lathes were all equipped with dead centers, and they work well enough.

        • Tony says:

          As I said, becoming more common…

          • John says:

            Well.. more became common decades ago.

            For a treadle lathe or a pole lathe a dead centre is essentially just a point to stick in the wood. They donlt revolve the wood very fast. But outside demonstrations and heavy duty traditionalists. It’s gonna have a motor attached.

            For anything with a motor, which can be used to spin wood a few thousand RPM, a live centre is needed to stop the wood burning.

            Price.. £20 up to silly money for models with heavy duty bearings and interchangeable points.

      • John says:

        A live center is one with a bearing. A dead center is one like in the video that is stationary. And even the $120 harbor freight wood lathe comes with a live center, so the idea that it’s some showy accessory is ridiculous. They aren’t becoming common, dead centers are ancient history.

  2. Nick says:

    This is awesome! Props to the guy for having a need and fulfilling it in such a neat cheap and easy way!

  3. Galane says:

    A Fonly lathe, from “If only I had a lathe”.

  4. boiv says:

    not a live center

  5. Roel says:

    Nice job, nice video!

  6. shlonkin says:

    What a coincidence. This is just what I’ve been working on this week, except with a 12V motor instead of a drill and a rotating center. Anyway, excellent timing.

  7. pcf11 says:

    Personally I prefer the lathe I made

    It is somewhat more involved though I suppose.

    • Scott_Tx says:

      somewhat! looks like you built a lathe using a older lathe.

      • pcf11 says:

        Well, in a way I did. This is the older lathe I took apart, which I also built out of scrap structural steel

        So I did, but probably not how you thought I did. I needed the machinery I’d made that head out of on my first build as a dedicated grinder, that prompted the rebuild. No, for real, I made the whole machine, twice in fact.

  8. vonskippy says:

    Wonder how long the drill motor will last, since they’re not really designed for always on operation.

    • Scott_Tx says:

      It’ll probably be ok. They have good air flow for cooling. I’ve got a cheapo black and decker I bought when I was a kid that I now use for full time wire brush use and it hasnt died yet. If not, they’re cheap to replace.

    • Megol says:

      A very long time assuming the drill is of reasonable quality. The reason: all but the worst crap have an integrated fan – even the simplest type of fan will produce good air flow to the motor. A plastic impeller on the motor axis is almost free too.

      BTW I use a drill modified for better stability as a poor mans metal lathe. Works great with brass, steel and copper at least. The most obvious limit except the obvious precision problems is the chuck size, it’s almost impossible to find a replacement chuck that can take pieces larger than 13mm.

      • pcf11 says:

        Hand drills typically use universal brush type motors. Universal style motors just seem more delicate to me than induction motors. Although I suppose I’ve seen both types fail by about the same frequency.

  9. Whatnot says:

    I sometimes think about making one, but then I realize I have no idea why I’d need it and what to sue it for.
    I like the video though, it’s always interesting to see how people rig things up.

    • Whatnot says:

      Use* I meant to say.

      • pcf11 says:

        There’s the catch. Until you have some idea what you’d use a lathe for they are useless items. For producing some kinds of work lathes are the best machines for the tasks though. Think round. If you want to make something that is round a lathe is likely your best bet. Well, perhaps cylindrical?

        I need to take the time to make myself some more file handles on my lathe. I’ve one I made and it is like my favorite handle.

        • Whatnot says:

          The thing is that the cylindrical things I use are already cylindrical, pipes and rods and tubes and such. But sometimes you do need a groove around it that is straight and not wobbly though. So in rare cases I could use one for a few seconds.

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