Scratch Building A Lathe From Pieces Of Granite

As hackers, we’re well accustomed to working with what we have on hand. That’s the name of the game, really. A large majority of the projects that have graced these pages are the direct result of trying to coerce a piece of hardware or software into doing something it was never designed to do, for better or for worse.

But even still, attempting to build a functional lathe using scrap pieces from granite countertops is a new one for us. [Nonsense Creativity] has spent the last several months working on this build, and as of his latest video, it’s finally getting to the point at which the casual observer might recognise where he’s going with it.

We won’t even hazard a guess as to the suitability of thick pieces of granite for building tools, but we’re willing to bet that it will be plenty heavy enough. Then again, his choice of building material might not be completely without precedent. After all, we once saw a lathe built out of concrete.

Building a lathe out of what you’ve got laying around the shop is of course something of a tradition at this point., but if you’re not quite up to the challenge of cutting your own metal (or granite, as the case may be), [Quinn Dunki] has put together a lathe buying guide that you may find useful.

[Thanks to Cooper for the tip.]

12 thoughts on “Scratch Building A Lathe From Pieces Of Granite

  1. Part of my work is modernizing old CNC mills, and in the PCB milling world I’ve seen several using granite slabs as the Y axis. It works surprisingly well. I guess a lot of work goes into initially making the parts.

      1. It’s actually struck me recently that a lot of my work would be of interrest to people, but unfortunately I haven’t been documenting any of it. I might change that soon, I have a youtube channel ( ) where most of that would go I think. I also have a website ( ) but we don’t advertise the modernizing work as we already have too much work just from word of mouth …

      1. The best “existing” description. “Yeah, I’ve used VERY precise blocks and bought some VERY precise bearings and just cobbled it together” is IMHO not very good description. Yeah, I didn’t produce better description (yet), but I’m not Dan Gelbart. As for lathe, effortlessly turning chuck with light tap of finger shows how low friction those bearings have and displays just how precise that lathe is. Looks like magic and that’s how you know it’s advanced enough technology.

    1. I hadn’t seen that before, thanks. Very cool, and I want one, but I wouldn’t want that as my only lathe… air bearings are precise but can’t handle a lot of force. If you notice all of his cuts are small and light. I almost think that a cylindrical grinder would be a better choice.

      1. High speed machining: lots of very fast, light cuts, may remove more material per unit time than one heavy cut. That’s why he put a grinding head on it as well, I assume: it’s inherently set up for that sort of use.

  2. If you like lathes and milling machines and you’re visiting Vermont, USA, drop by Windsor and check out The American Precision Museum, which has Bridgeport Milling Machine #0000001, the first mill capable of coordinated three-axis moves, and a poorly documented (because they don’t know much about it) lathe with about a 5 meter bed, made of giant pieces of granite with the bed ways bolted to the granite. I didn’t realize what I was looking at when I first saw it. In the early 1800’s, apparently massive castings were very difficult and very expensive, so they used granite.

  3. I get why you would use granite for the ways and (part of the) headstock. But why in the world would you cobble together the cross slides, tool post and tail stock out of granite? I doubt this thing will cut anything well, and I suspect the cross slide will shatter in short order when any sort of shock load is encountered (interrupted cut or sharp increase in cut depth due to a change in part diameter for instance)

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