View Full Version : Making a wood lathe into a metal lathe?

12-27-2004, 09:57 PM
Hope everyone had a good christmas, I for one will be starting back on my morning walking and sit up program tomorrow, now that we're back home and I 've added a few, (Only a few mind you,) candy, cookies, and ham and turkey dinners lbs. from the hollidays.
What I am wondering is, has anyone here ever heard of,or personally taken an old heavy duty cast iron wood lathe and expended the energy to make it into a useable metal turning lathe,without the screwcutting ability of course. While at moms this xmas I took a look at my dads old wood lathe that he had for the last 50 yrs. It is an old Walker Turner,(the emblem on the side actually says wood and metal lathe) that very closely resembles an early under motor south bend style engine lathe. I know it wouldn't be worth the energy and time to try to convert it a real thread turning engine lathe, but it really looks like there could be the potential to make it into an outside turning and maybe light boreing lathe. As it sits, its current speeds range from 290 to 3750 rpm. As heavy duty as it is, it just seems with a lot of thought and elbow grease a guy could mount a gear reduced lead screw to maybe an old used carriage and apron assembly and come up with a pretty formatable light duty metal lathe.It has an 11" swing and about a 38" faceplate to tailstock measurement. I am going to eventually get a new 12x36 grizzly but in the meantime Seems like it could be a fun project. Again I would emphasize it would only be for light duty turning of aluminum and mild steel. I could probably find an old used carrage and crossfeed through ebay maybe. What do you think. Thanks WeldnFab..........

J Tiers
12-27-2004, 11:42 PM
Could be a fun project. Wouldn't be precision, but......take a look at GA Ewen's "EXE" lathe in another post.

But, to do it probably requires having the tools (a lathe, maybe a mill) that would indicate you no longer would need to do the conversion in order to have a lathe!

If it is a patternmaker's lathe, many of the parts are already in place.

How 'bout a pic?

12-28-2004, 06:41 AM
Soon as I get my dig. picts unloaded from xmas I'll post a pict, Thanks

12-28-2004, 09:39 AM
I have an old Craftsman wood lathe that has flat ways and was designed to be capable of turning metal. The Sears parts and service website shows the optional pieces needed. Of course, they're not available, but the lathe is beefy anough. Nice thing is the spindle is 1 1/2"x8, same as my SB 9". The outboard end of the spindle has a 32 tooth gear on it to drive the optional change gear drivetrain.


12-28-2004, 11:47 AM
Wood to metal lathe
Back in the fifties I used a HD Delta wood lathe with a cross slide similar to a Hardenge
It worked ok on doing bushings and short pieces, but it was no metal lathe. All manual feeds and a dog to line up parallel with the spindle because there is no accurate way guide that is parallel to the spindle on a wood lathe. However an easy way out would be to start with a cheap asian 2 axis drill press vice and convert it to tool post.


Paul Gauthier
12-28-2004, 02:03 PM
I have done just the opposite, turned my old Rockwell metal lathe into a wood lathe. With the varialble speed it worked quite well. Going wood to metal I think would be most difficult, not to mention the lack of rigidity.

Paul G.

12-28-2004, 05:32 PM
Shame on you Paul... That was a 10 inch wasn't it? Got any parts left?
Just wanted to add that I've seen deals on ebay made for converting Delta and Craftsman wood lathes into metal lathes. Seem to always go for a bunch of $$ though.

Hoffman in Warner Robins Ga

[This message has been edited by hoffman (edited 12-28-2004).]

Paul Gauthier
01-01-2005, 05:54 PM
sorry Hoff, nothing left now, and yes it was a 10" and I had just replaced the spindle bearings. It was quite worn out and made a better wood lathe than metal.

Paul G.

01-01-2005, 08:28 PM
weldnfab, If I remember correctly these lathes were set up to do wood and metal "spinning" making bowls and lamp bases and such. There isn't enough rigidity in the frame to do actual cutting of metal.
But keep it as it will do wonderful work.

01-02-2005, 02:55 PM
Check out this web site, (For old woodworking machines) in particular the 1935 Walker Turner publication. It deals with metal turning on a wood lathe. (Starting on page 23) The file is a pdf so you’ll need adobe acrobat installed to view or print it. The web site has tons of info on the Walker Turner product line, very nicely done, covering bandsaws, drill presses, etc! You can even view all 21 Patents for Walker-Turner Co., Inc.


The Lathe: Its use and applicaiton. 36 Pages,15.1 MB. Publication Date: 1935. Submitted by: Valentine Prest


02-14-2005, 11:51 PM
I know this is late post. However, I read with interest the conversion of lathes. I have a Delta lathe which was old when bought in 1978. It came with a 4 jaw chuck face plate, dogs and compound rest with tool post. I played with it and turned some bronze bushings. I then obtained a Craftsman/Dunlop which was in bad shape. I converted it to a small wood lathe for pen turning, problem was no. 0 morse tapers. At that time the wood lathe was better for metal than the metal lathe was. Now graduted to a SouthBend.

Spin Doctor
02-15-2005, 05:30 AM
One of the projects I am going to tackle is transforming a Ryobi Variable Speed Wood Lathe into something like a Unimat. I plan on the spindle being set up with collets. I was able to locate some thin cross section bearings that would allow all the wat up to 5C or ER16/32. Just the thing for cribbage board pins

02-15-2005, 08:15 AM
Ed -- the Walker-Turner site is awesome! Do you know of a site like that for South Bend?

Barry Milton

02-15-2005, 01:50 PM
I've seen that OWMM site before but just downloaded the 1940 Walker Turner catalog to see the disk/belt sander that I have. I did find my model on page 22 but have a question for the group.

It says that with the floor model's shelf, you can do "stroke surfacing" on large panels up to 12" in width and 4' to 5' in length. It shows a picture of a guy with his hand on a block of wood inside the belt - this can't be while the machine is running is it? What is stroke surfacing and what have I been missing out on all these years?