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DIY Mini Lathe

When I started experimenting with making my own wooden rings from laminated veneer, I had to use my drill press to spin the rings as I shaped, applied finish, and polished them. This wasn’t ideal as the drill press was large, not meant to run for extended periods of time, and it was annoying to change the speed on the spindle. I decided it would be a fun project to build a small lathe from a series of metal scraps left over from previous projects.

The initial design called for an old Singer Sewing machine as the spindle motor but I immediately realized that would not have enough power to handle any sort of resistance on the workpiece. I upgraded to a surplus brushless motor and controller from an electric mountainboard project I had deemed too dangerous to ride.

The motor fit the bill and I ran a few tests with it before replacing the toothed timing belt drive with a quieter vbelt drive. I machined the stepped pulleys on a manual lathe at the Penn State Great Valley shop, where I was able to use the waterjet and mill to cut and mill the rest of the parts.

I added rubber feet to the base, an er32 collet chuck, a small toolrest and a lightweight tailstock to round out the lathe. The tool immediately paid for itself and helped make 6 wood rings in the time it used to take me to make one.

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