Gorgeous Mini-Lathe Makes The Most Out Of Wood And Metal

It’s a cliche that the only machine tool that can make copies of itself is the lathe. It’s not exactly true, but it’s a useful adage in that it points out that the ability to make big round things into smaller round things, and to make unround things into round things, is a critical process in so many precision operations. That said, making a lathe primarily out of wood presents some unique challenges in the precision department

This isn’t [Uri Tuchman]’s first foray into lathe-building. Readers may recall the quirky creator’s hybrid treadle-powered and electric lathe, also primarily an exercise in woodworking. That lathe has seen plenty of use in [Uri]’s projects, turning both wood and metal stock into parts for his builds. It wasn’t really optimal for traditional metal turning, though, so Mini-Lathe 2 was undertaken. While the bed, headstock, and tailstock “castings” are wood — gorgeously hand-detailed and finished, of course — the important bits, like the linear slides for the carriage and the bearings in the headstock, are all metal. There’s a cross-slide, a quick-change tool post, and a manual lead screw for the carriage. We love the finely detailed brass handcranks, which were made on the old lathe, and all of the lovely details [Uri] always builds into his projects.

Sadly, at the end of the video below we see that the lathe suffers from a fair amount of chatter when turning brass. That’s probably not unexpected — there’s not much substitute for sheer mass whenit comes to dampening vibration. We expect that [Uri] will be making improvements to the lathe in the coming months — he’s not exactly one to leave a job unfinished.

[DainBramage] sent this tip in. Thanks!

32 thoughts on “Gorgeous Mini-Lathe Makes The Most Out Of Wood And Metal

    1. In one of his prior videos he decides that his logo is pigeon and that he will make a belt buckle of it. Accidentally he makes it upside down. He decides that the best solution is to change his logo to an upside-down pigeon. He has a nice sense of humour.

  1. His builds are entertaining and the designs seem more of function-follows-form, ie. are more art-like than industrial.
    Grinding and sharpening (on an oilstone) that HSS bit would reduce the chatter somewhat.- There would be numerous instructions how to do this on the interwebs (brass needs a fairly shallow rake). Also the toolbit overhang is excessive.
    Nice finished result but not as useable as it could be. Or should be, for the amount of work put into it.

  2. I think a lot of the chatter came from not grinding and aligning his tool correctly. The tool was cutting across the edge behind the corner like a form tool. Form tools always chatter. It should be fine for light cuts so long as he does a better job with his tools.

    1. There are so many reasons for the chatter, wrong kind of bearings for the spindle, the slop in the ways, the use of wood in construction, and as you said, the HSS bit is not sharpened.

      Form tools dont chatter if you have a rigid lathe.

          1. One of my favorite ways to make circles / cylinders in wood is to cut a true square, bisect the sides to get an octagon, and then just kinda eyeball it from there, knocking each facet in half until you can’t see them anymore. Or until you decide to break out the sandpaper.

            This works shockingly well.

            Then you build your wooden lathe, and it’s all lathes from there on out.

          2. If you want to build a lathe, it doesn’t need to be perfectly round to begin with. It becomes round when you work it.

            But to make a wheel, you don’t need a lathe. A compass will do to scribe the outline. For a compass, all you need is a stick.

  3. That was a fun video to watch, as all of [Uri Tuchman’s] seem to be. I will admit that he uses more wood than I am comfortable seeing used structurally in a lathe, but I have to admit that he makes it work!
    I look forward to seeing the improvements he makes over time.

    [Dan], thank you for crediting me for the suggestion despite you rightfully having already seen it. Very kind of you, sir.

  4. I subscibe to his Youtube channel, and I enjoy watching him work. Every person will see a different flaw or something they would do differently, and that’s the fun of it. Ive been trying to find a good way to install a saddle break for facing cuts using the same type of rails he used. Now that I’ve seen him do it, I have an idea that will work better for me.

  5. Round rails are crud for stuff like this, which he found out at the end. Rectangular linear ways are really needed for this. Had a feeling the tailstock was not going to stay in place too. It’s pretty, but it’s just a poor lathe.

  6. I enjoy the way he works with the tools and common materials he has to hand. And he is quite familiar with 19th century practices which is a valuable skill.

    Most of the problems were likely inexperience with a fixed tool post but the problems with the build are easy to fix:

    The cross slide needs a heavier plate and 2 more bearings to maintain alignment and clearance requirements.

    The headstock mounting is too narrow and should be 15-20 cm in the spindle axis direction made of a solid block of wood with a hole in it. Good dry oak would be excellent.

    A channel whether bolted, welded, cast or bent would provide a much stiffer bed than the flat sheet on a wooden board. As an alternative light square steel tubing would provide a lot more stiffness very cheaply. It could be inlet under the steel plate as a retrofit without much trouble.

    with those changes I think it can do as good a work as the operator can manage. Really skilled people can do the job without fancy tools.

    FWIW Square steel tubing is typically straight to 0.001″/3 ft and comes in very thick walled sections. There are people who build custom CNC machines using square tubing and concrete for the ways. Once it sets, they “scrape” the ways using an angle grinder. If the ways were set carefully that is almost no grinding at all.

    I’d love to know if Uri has seen the David Gingery series.

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