Bulking up a Lightweight Lathe with a Concrete Cart

When it comes to machine tools, a good rule of thumb is that heavier is better. A big South Bend lathe or Bridgeport mill might tip the scales at ludicrous weight, but all that mass goes to damping vibration and improving performance. So you’d figure a lathe made of soda cans could use all the help it could get; this cast concrete machine cart ought to fit the bill nicely

Perhaps you’ve caught our recent coverage of [Makercise]’s long and detailed vlog of his Gingery lathe build. If not, you might want to watch the 5-minute condensed video of the build, which shows the entire process from melting down scrap aluminum for castings to first chips. We love the build and the videos, but the lightweight lathe on that wooden bench never really worked for us, or for [Makercise], who notes that he was never able to crank the lathe up to full speed because of the vibrations. The cart attempts to fix that problem the old fashioned way – more mass.

There are a few “measure twice, cut once” moments in the video below, as well as a high pucker-factor slab lift that could have turned into a real disaster. We might have opted for a countertop-grade concrete mix that could be dyed and polished, but that would be just for looks. When all is said and done, the cart does exactly what it was built to do, and there’s even room on it for the shaper that’s next on the build list. We’re looking forward to that.

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Machine Tool Build is Anything But Boring

“So just like every other great story in history, ours is going to start at the lathe.” Truer words were never spoken, and thus begins the saga of turning a bar of chrome-moly steel into a shop-built boring head.

You may have a few questions regarding [ThisOldTony]’s effort. First, unless you’re familiar with machine tooling, you may wonder what exactly a boring head is. The video below makes it plain, but the short answer is that it’s a tool to make holes. A boring head spins a boring bar with a cutting tool, and the head can be offset to spin the bar through an adjustable diameter. They’re great for making large holes of precise diameters – skip to around 25:30 to see it in action.

The other question might be: why does he spend so much time and effort building something he can just buy off the shelf? If you have to ask that question, we think you may be missing the point. [Tony] seems mainly interested in building tools; using them to make non-tool things is merely a happy accident. We totally respect that, and besides, just look at the quality of the tool he makes. We find his videos very entertaining, too – he’s got a great sense of humor and the video production quality is top-notch. Just watch out for banana peels and space-time continuum issues.

We love tools, and we really love tools that are custom made with this level of craftsmanship. For more quality toolmaking, check out this guitar-fretting jig or this belt grinder.

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A New Old Lathe for your Hackerspace or Garage

3D printers, or even small CNC routers may seem like relatively easy machine tools to obtain for your hackerspace or garage. They are both very useful, but at some point you may want to start working with round parts (or convert square-ish items into round parts). For this, there is no better tool than a lathe. You can buy a small and relatively cheap lathe off of any number of distributors, but what if you were to get a good deal on a larger lathe? Where would you even start?

In my case, I was offered a lathe by a shop that no longer had a use for it. Weighing in at 800 pounds and using 3 phase power, this South Bend Lathe might have been obtained economically, but getting it running in my garage seemed like it would be a real challenge. It definitely was, but there are a few mistakes that I’ve made that hopefully you can avoid.

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A Nightmare on CNC Street

[James Dressman] emailed us about his two-year journey of getting a large CNC machine running in his home. He doesn’t currently have a webpage, however his story was so incredible that we just had to feature it.   [James] started by doing plenty of research online, and ordering a new CNC. The real fun started when he opened up a wall to fit the 2300 pound monster into his home. [James] found so much insect and water damage that he ended up rebuilding the entire rear half of his home.

Once the CNC was safely set up, the fun still wasn’t over. Not all family members are keen on having an industrial machine tool in the house. In [James’] case it was the smell of way oil that drove his wife nuts. This was all before spindle problems with the tool itself began to rear their ugly head. Illness and family tragedy put everything on hold for several months, however once [James] strength returned, he attacked the problems with renewed vigor. It was a long and winding road, but he now has a fully functional CNC.

But don’t just take our word for it. Continue after the break to see his photo album and to hear James tell the story in his own words.

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