Turning A Waterjet Cutter Into A Wood Lathe, For No Reason

On the shortlist of dream tools for most metalworkers is a waterjet cutter, a CNC tool that uses insanely high-pressure water mixed with abrasive grit to blast sheet metal into intricate shapes. On exactly nobody’s list is this attachment that turns a waterjet cutter into a lathe, and with good reason, as we’ll see.

This one comes to us by way of the Waterjet Channel, because of course there’s a channel dedicated to waterjet cutting. The idea is a riff on fixtures that allow a waterjet cutter (or a plasma cutter) to be used on tubes and other round stock. This fixture was thrown together from scrap and uses an electric drill to rotate a wood blank between centers on the bed of the waterjet, with the goal of carving a baseball bat by rotating the blank while the waterjet carves out the profile.

The first attempt, using an entirely inappropriate but easily cut blank of cedar, wasn’t great. The force of the water hitting the wood was enough to stall the drill; the remedy was to hog out as much material as possible from the blank before spinning up for the finish cut. That worked well enough to commit to an ash bat blank, which was much harder to cut but still worked well enough to make a decent bat.

Of course it makes zero sense to use a machine tool costing multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars to machine baseball bats, but it was a fun exercise. And it only shows how far we’ve come with lathes since the 18th-century frontier’s foot-powered version of the Queen of the Machine Shop.

30 thoughts on “Turning A Waterjet Cutter Into A Wood Lathe, For No Reason

    1. The difference between those 2 things and how they actually work is so large that I hope that was a joke, because unless you understand how pressure intensifiers work, alumina nozzles, grit feed, and focus, along with physical build quality to withstand a hell of a lot more pressure than a pressure washer, that isn’t happening.

      That said, the waterjet channel guys are nuts in a good way- I wish I could get paid to screw around with a 5 axis waterjet

        1. I actually learned something from you (unlike another commenter below)- so thanks.

          The one I worked alongside used intensifiers, and several others I’d seen in person had too. Didn’t know there were some using another style of pump.

    1. Lol, no way! I’ve seen these guys cut a moose (maybe elk?) Spine/backbone down it’s length no problem. People bits are like little more than bits of warm butter to a waterjet.

      1. I used to work directly next to a waterjet. They are way more deafening in person than the camera can record- way louder than you think they are. I have permanent hearing damage from not wearing ear protection frequently enough, before I realized how often I’d be running a Toyoda mill the size of a small house right next to it.

        The sound made when piercing 6″ thick steel plate is beyond deafening- even earmuffs don’t stop it fully.

        And the water? Infected with organisms that don’t live anywhere but a waterjet trough, so I was told- they have special waste trucks pump it out once a year for treatment, because its more hazardous than raw sewage in bacterium content. Never stick your hand with a cut into that trough water- unless you want one hell of an infection.

        Other than that- yeah, they’re pretty cool. There are some things they can’t cut though, certain armor ceramics from what I remember, and tempered glass.

        Flesh is nothing to a waterjet.

          1. Waterjet channel mentions it as well. 5here was a special truck that pumped our tanks out at least once a year. Think of the unique environment of metal slurry and minerals from mostly alumina, and it’s eventually not good stuff. We filled from normal city water, filtered to use I think, but tank was verboten to dump into the sewers- so think about how nasty that water gets- it follows that some nasty stuff grows in it

    1. If youre referring to me- I already know about that project and I know that people have made rudimentary ones.

      Call me when it’ll go through at least quarter inch plate steel, not 1/8″ aluminum.

      If it doesn’t cut basic steel other than sheet metal- it’s really not even comparable to the real deal in my book.

      1. Besides- I’d love to eat my own words on it- I want one myself, I’d like to see someone actually make one comparable to a full size one. Theres a small one called the Wazer- but it’s 8 grand

        Still cheaper than 500k, which was the price tag of the one I worked next to..

        I *want* to see someone pull it off, but if it doesnt do steel, it ain’t real

        1. I hope you realize that at its core, the Wazer IS an electric pressure washer based waterjet. That’s why it’s so slow and uses so much material.

          They call for a 1 GPM water inlet flow rate, and have a 120 V 12.5 Amp pump on it. The $300 Ryobi pressure washer from Home Depot is 1.2 GPM, 120 V 13 Amp, and it’s only good to 2300 PSI.

          Ben’s waterjet from that youtube video cuts 1/16″ aluminum at about 2 IPM, while the wazer cuts 1/32 aluminum at a stated 4.92 IPM and 1/4″ aluminum at 0.9 IPM. Straight line between those two points is pretty damn close to it being pretty much exactly what Applied Science built. Same abrasive usage too, the Wazer runs about 0.3 lbs/min while Ben was using 0.4 lb/min. The only thing I could find on the Wazer’s pressure was someone on CNCzone claiming to have measured it at “about 3850 PSI” and Ben’s pressure washer was turned up to 3200 PSI for that DIY waterjet video.

          Unless Wazer decides to release proof to the contrary, everything about it, including its high abrasive usage and slow cutting speeds, point to it being a very expensive pressure washer hooked up to an X-Y gantry.

          How can you say a pressure washer based one is a joke but also tout the Wazer’s ability?

  1. ” because unless you understand how pressure intensifiers work, alumina nozzles, grit feed, and focus, along with physical build quality to withstand a hell of a lot more pressure than a pressure washer, that isn’t happening.”

    this guy does, that’s what happened. Moving the goal posts now doesn’t make your comment look less stupid.

    1. Didn’t know there were even goalposts to begin with? Apparently cutting anything counts as a waterjet to you then?

      Like how impressive it was with foam, and bread.
      Because you’re going to need something like this to cut either of those?

      Waterjets exist because it was difficult if not impossible to cut many materials in any practical way, so something acting as an actual waterjet ought to do something beyond the most pathetic bare minimums of foam, bread, and 1/8 aluminum.

      The 118 degree drill point exists for a reason- same reason I expect something called a waterjet to cut basic steel- steel is the base material of use most tools are designed around. If it can’t cut steel- it’s use is questionable to making anything of serious use.

  2. I think you should be able to get the piece spinning just by the water pressure if you have properly installed (ceramic?) bearings shielded from the abrasive media in the water… No need to soak your drill.

    On the other hand… You might need to introduce some kind of brake into the system, so you can control the speed and prevent baseball bat from flying into your face:

  3. I’d say it has some uses.
    for starters you’ll get roughly the same finish because the “bit” doesnt wear out.
    No overheating because the cutting is done by the actual coolant.

    Able to do radial grooves fairly quickly

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