View Full Version : Latest project with long boring story

Mark Hockett
05-23-2007, 02:44 AM
A neighbor friend of mine called me a while back and asked if I would be interested in helping with a machining project. I'm always interested in machining projects. He is a master ornamental wood turner using what is called a Rose Engine (RE) lathe. He makes some very amazing stuff. Here are some examples of ornamental wood turning with an RE lathe,



As you can see the ornamental wood lathes are capable of making some interesting shapes and even capable of turning an almost square box.

RE wood lathes are fairly rare and usually very expensive. My neighbor who is an engineer decided he wanted to try to make an affordable way for people to get into ornamental turning. He has a friend in England who had been working on a way to make an RE lathe out of MDF wood. With the approval from the friend in England my neighbor ran with the project. He redesigned much of the original design to use many off the shelf parts from the local hardware store and MSC. The parts that he couldn't buy I made for him. When he was done with two prototypes we were all amazed at the quality of the work that could be produced with this thing. It would do things that his $36K RE lathe wouldn't do. Both of the previous pictures were of parts that were made on this machine. Here is a picture of the finished lathe,


My neighbor was then asked to write an article on how to use an RE lathe for the American Woodturner Journal. This article described RE turning, showed many projects and had an overview on how to build the lathe. In the article he gave a link where the complete instruction manual and all of the CAD drawings could be downloaded for free. Also at the link there is a video of the lathe in operation. The information and video is towards the bottom of the page listed under the heading "additional downloadable content for the spring AW issue:Ē Here is the link,

One of the reasons I posted this is there are some members here who are into wood working also, and this is a fairly simple project for someone with wood working skills and a metal lathe and mill. Here is a picture of the parts,


But there's more to the story. My neighbor thought that most wood workers wouldn't have access to a mill or metal lathe so the project would be out of reach for many, so he decided to put together kits and sell them. He had me machine enough parts to make 60 kits. I thought his wife was going to kill him for investing that much time and money into this project. When the AW article came out the response for kits was crazy, he sold over 30 kits in the first two weeks. He and I also started touring and doing demos for different wood turning clubs and in June will be doing 4 demos at the wood turners symposium in Portland OR (http://www.woodturner.org/sym/sym2007/). He is almost sold out of kits and just asked me for another 60 to be completed before the Portland show.

This idea could even be built in metal and used for light metal cutting. I know of one person who did this. Take a look at some of the work this guy does on metal and wood with a home made RE lathe,

My friend and I worked very hard on this project and we hope some of you will download the free plans and instructions, give it a try and have some fun with it,

I will post some more pics in another post,

Mark Hockett
05-23-2007, 02:55 AM




All of these items were made on the MDF Rose Engine lathe.

05-23-2007, 03:32 AM
Well!! - what more can I say - its all there.

Back to the fundamental cam-driven profile lathe (no CNC - just cams) and sheer genius.

And to top it off, it is available to try.

A true "Users helping users" situation.

Point very well taken re. wood machinists being Home Shop Machinists as well!!

I guess us (well, me anyway) just assumed, wrongly, that HMS was all about and only about metal machinists.

Well, I confess to being wrong and myopic as well as having been corrected and taught a very good lesson - in many ways.

Again, "thank you".

05-23-2007, 03:51 AM
WOW...thanks for sharing that. Very nice.

Alan Smith
05-23-2007, 04:06 AM
Fantastic work! I'm quite interested in ornamental turning and have made accesories for my small metal turning lathe, never considered starting from scratch as it were. Is the England connection strong enough that we are likely to see kits over here?

Well done to both of you.


Your Old Dog
05-23-2007, 05:27 AM
Nothing long and boring about this post! I could easily go a few hours and look for more. Great post and I'm grateful for you posting it. The work is fantastic. A lot of highend custom gun makers and engravers like to case their work usually with custom screw drivers and cleaning kits. This work would look beautiful with these guns.

I'm not too interested in trying to build the model engines guys are building for projects although I find them interesting to look at. This Rose Engine is something I'd like to take a run at. Before someone else does it and now that the cat is out of the bag, your neighbor might consider offering up CD's with this info on ebay as those guys with dial-up will have a tough time with it.

05-23-2007, 08:00 AM
WOW! What YOD said with loud and long applause! I am going to save those plans. I have looked at the Legacy Ornamental wood working machine with interest but not enough to spend that much money for 1.
Thanks! I love being part of this group/forum/website!


05-23-2007, 08:15 AM
Way to go! Great idea, and like YOD said you might get a head start on the ebay thieves befor e one of them downloads and starts selling the plans.:D Thanks

05-23-2007, 08:16 AM
Wow as well

Rob :)

A.K. Boomer
05-23-2007, 08:54 AM
The detail is just amazing --- I never would have thunk it, Not questioning it, but it blows me away at how the main spindle of that machine can be mounted in a wood base, never would have thunk that either --- Is it posible for that machine to hold up for years without getting loose and falling apart, would the stability of metal improve things? what about conversions for somebody to take a cheap metal lathe and turn it into something like that?
Thanks for posting.

Paul F
05-23-2007, 11:58 AM
You know, I have at times poked fun at woodworkers... as their idea of "precision" differs from mine... being different materials, Wood and Metal...

I take it all back..
I won't be poking fun at woodworkers any more...

That darn thing work on more axis' of motion than my brain does...

Paul F.

Mark Hockett
05-23-2007, 12:09 PM
There were a couple of reasons for making the lathe out of MDF. It is a very stable material with no grain structure to worry about. It is very easy to work with and obtain (low cost). It has very good vibration damping quality. It takes glue well and when sealed properly should last many years. One of the biggest surprises was the ability to drill and tap threads into it. You just drill and tap the threads, pour some thin Cyanoacrylate glue and then re-tap the hole. At first I thought that the tapped holes should have a heli coil but after seeing how many times the screws have been in and out for the demos I think tapping the MDF is just fine.

The link I gave for Randy Knapp's studio shows his RE lathe, which is very similar to this one only made out of metal, so it is very possible to do that.

Here is a link showing Randy Knapp's home made RE lathe cutting aluminum and it shows his process of making kaleidoscopes,

There are some design features built into the MDF RE lathe for future options. Right now we are working on a double rubber system for the rosettes (cams). This will allow you to rub two rosettes at the same time to create even more patterns. Another feature that we are working on, and the reason there are bushings on the main spindle instead of bearings, is a system to allow the spindle to pump back and forth using one of the rosettes. One rosette will rock the headstock and one will slide the spindle front to back. This can create some very cool effects. We are also working on a way to modify a Harbor Freight cross slide drill press vise to work in place of the Hardinge cross slide in the picture. This will help lower the cost to build and eliminate the need for the QCTP. We are even working on a way to adapt a milling machine power feed to the spindle so you don't have to hand crank.

Alan Smith,
My neighbor (who we will call Jon, because that’s his name) will ship the kits to England. He is also going to be over there (Sussex) in November and will have kits with him. I don't know if he will be doing any demos. The wood turners organization in the UK asked if they could print the article in their journal. There is some tension between the original designer (Paul Fletcher) and the UK group, so I'm not sure of the status on the article being printed in the UK.

Contact Jon at jon@magill.com. He can send you a CD with all of the info. The cost should be minimal, just the shipping and the cost of the CD.

Jon just sent me a link to the Ornamental Turners International web site (http://www.ornamentalturners.org/). His plans and video can also be downloaded there. There are some nice pictures in the gallery. The site is fairly new so there’s not a lot of content yet but hopefully some of the guys building this lathe will start posting some pictures of finished projects.

One thing I should mention that kind of amazes me is the finish that you see on the parts is the right off the lathe. Due to the complex shapes and fine detail it’s usually not possible to sand the parts after machining. They just get a coat of wax or stain and they are done.

Mark Hockett

05-23-2007, 01:00 PM
Mark, first class. thanks for sharing

05-23-2007, 02:10 PM
Outstanding post!! My neighbor is a wood worker and I have made several tools for him in the past. This will probably be the next when sees this article! Many, many thanks for sharing this!

A side note about woodworkers versus metal workers; my neighbor and I are always messing with each other as he obviously works with wood, and I metal. It is in good fun. I tell him that I make the tools that make his messes. :D However, I know that he is a genuine craftsman in the work he does, and that respect is present both ways (though I think he is far more proficient in wood than I in metal). I have tried wood working including turning, and had decent results I guess for an amateur. It is not my cup of tea, and certainly isn't as easy as it looks. For me, I will stick to the metal work. I know it (okay, I can spell metal :rolleyes:), and enjoy it. He is the same in regards to wood work.

Keep us up to date on how things are going for you! Best of luck!

Nick Carter
05-23-2007, 03:48 PM
Very cool! When I have the space (soon, I hope) a dedicated rose/OT engine/lathe is on my to-do list.

I did recently play around with emulating the rose engine with my Taig cnc mill, if you have a 4 axis mill, this is probably worth playing around with if you like rose engines. I did single point cutting, but using the spindle with flycutters is an obvious option...




Alistair Hosie
05-23-2007, 03:57 PM
I have been fascinated and interested in ornamental turning with the rose engine and the ornamental lathe. This has been going on now for hundreds of years and the famous Holzapfel lathes change hands now for big bucks. I have a similar article to this rose engine in a woodworking magazine a few years back.A lot of lords and ladies were involved including kings and queens in this hobby Alistair

05-23-2007, 04:06 PM
Nice post.
Just one thing, get rid of the crank and get a geared DC stepper motor. :)

Mark Hockett
05-23-2007, 05:02 PM
Yes, thats in the works right now. We purchased a mill power feed from CDCO and are working on adapting it. The hand crank is not as bad as it seems. It is very low friction and slow speed. I have watched Jon demo the lathe for well over an hour, making one part after another and hand cranking it, while talking to the group. The reason for the hand crank is to keep the cost down.

Mark Hockett

05-23-2007, 05:37 PM
And the cams come from???????????????

Mark Hockett
05-23-2007, 05:55 PM
And the cams come from???????????????
My CNC mill. But a CNC is not necessary to make them. Randy Knapp uses manual machines to make his rosettes.

The plans show two rosettes (cams) which a person could spend a lifetime creating thousands of new patterns from. The cam action is different depending on which side of the spindle you are cutting from. If you watch the video Jon shows the four lobe rosette making a square shape on one side of the spindle and a clover shape on the other. There is also a fading stop that stops the headstock from moving at a set point, this will make even more shapes when used with a rosette. That is how the lines on the screw driver handle are made.

05-23-2007, 11:51 PM
This caught my interest like not much else has. What a fascinating tool. Is the Knapp studio here in Washington? I'd like to see the stuff in person :)

Mark Hockett
05-24-2007, 12:18 AM
Randy Knapp is in southern Oregon near the coast. If you want to come over to Whidbey Island Jon has some of Randys pieces, tops and kaleidoscopes. You could even try out the RE lathe.

Mark Hockett

Alan Smith
05-24-2007, 07:26 AM
Mark, thanks for the info. Pleased to hear that Jon will be coming to the UK. My home is in Sussex and I shall certainly make an effort to attend any demos that Jon might be planning to do. Perhaps the best thing to do would be to email Jon directly? Would that be OK?

05-24-2007, 08:53 AM
Now you've done it Mark. :D My wife thinks that looks really cool and wants me to build one. By any chance is the G-code for the cams available?

05-24-2007, 09:07 AM
Good call Evan, I'd be interested in that too.
Hmmm, got some acetal around here somewhere <mutter>

If not, I suspect it would not be too difficult to generate G-code mathematically.
Not too hard, that is, for someone whose maths is not as rusty as mine :D

05-24-2007, 10:31 AM
Yeah,.. OK.. My interest peaked when I saw other applications.. like sharpening end mills.. replacing the torch pantograph,

I have penciled out the "metal" version using a FWD hub off a car. It has a through hole, mounts with three bolts and a splined interior, to mount a faceplate or tool-mount (he he) use the 5 bolt car pattern. THE hand crank will be retained thou.

Right now, it looks like the torch pantograph I made last year will hit the scrap pile. I never bought a magnetic follower.

In my tiny shop, things that multi-purpose rule. AND, just why does this thing not use a "cheap" router as a power head? I can buy three routers for what one motor costs, and belt drive, that'd take about ten minutes to rig up..

I'm still sketching.

05-24-2007, 10:47 AM
Gcode for the cams? The cams are surprisingly simple. Sometimes as simple as just a few bumps on a round blank. Hardly worth trying to get somebody else's Gcode they're so simple to program. CNC isn't even needed.

The seeming complexity of the work comes from how the cams and cutting tools are applied to the workpiece. A few basic cams with a bit of cleverness and there's no end to the designs that can be made.

I've had an interest and been involved in OT type work for years. It's fascinating what can be done with simple machines like the lathe shown here.

05-24-2007, 10:48 AM
And the cams come from???????????????


Mark Hockett
05-24-2007, 01:12 PM
Alan Smith,
There is no problem emailing Jon directly, jon@magill.com

It would be very easy to adapt a router or dremel tool to work. Jon uses a ball end mill for some cuts and a fly cutter made from an 1/8" carbide 60* engraving tool for other cuts. That’s the nice thing about this is you can experiment with many kinds of cutting tools, there's nothing set in stone.
Here is another example of a simple RE lathe,


Along with the parts kits Jon also sells just the rosettes, don’t know what the price is but I think they are way cheaper then the ones on that link.

Jon read through this post and sent me an email with another reason for the hand crank. This was his comment, "lets you control the speed of the spindle vs. the cutter and stop if anything bad happens"

05-24-2007, 11:01 PM
Oh,great,another hobby I need to get into:D

Neat idea,hope you guys do well with it.

05-24-2007, 11:46 PM
Along with the parts kits Jon also sells just the rosettes, donít know what the price is but I think they are way cheaper then the ones on that link.

Did I miss it or does Jon not have a webpage, Mark? I'm on the brink of spending some money here! :) I need to get up to Oroville this weekend but think a trip north is in the cards the week after.

Mark Hockett
05-25-2007, 12:47 AM
Jon does not have a web page. Jon is out of town for a couple of weeks so the timing might be just right for the week after. Where would you be coming from?

05-25-2007, 12:53 AM
I'm in Bellevue, Mark. Likely I'll be rolling in on my Harley if the timing works out.

Dan Craig
05-27-2007, 02:58 AM
the story is certainly not boring. the video wasn't nearly long enough for me. I always sit staring open-mouthed in wonder at these sort of things. watching this is like watching a cnc machine make things, only better since a person is powering and adjusting it.

thanks for posting the pictures, story and links.

05-27-2007, 09:26 AM

Thanks for pictures and posting the links. Its very interesting to see how a Rose lathe work and some of what they can do.

Now the big question question, how much are the kits selling for?


05-27-2007, 01:56 PM
Why is there not a "tracing" outfit for a lathe? I mean I made a sheetmetal template for mine, but.. What a pain in the butt. I had blisters on my hands from cranking handles.

Example? making english wheel roller profiles.. Chuck a bought wheel on the left side of the through hole, cutter on the right side..

Enough passes and it matches left side. that pivot could be as simple.

Mark Hockett
05-28-2007, 01:34 AM
The kits are $299. The price of the components purchased individually would probably be more than that, but Jon buys the stuff in large quantities so he can sell them for that. The kit includes every thing to build the lathe except the 1/2 sheet of MDF, sealer and glue. It also doesn't include the cross slide, tool post, cutting frame and the parts for the pivot that the cross slide mounts to. These items are more of an individual preference. Used Hardinge cross slides can be purchased on ebay or many other cross slides can be used. The Harbor Freight drill press X slide can be used and the cutting frame can just be clamped in the vise so there is no need for a QCTP or a person could build an X slide with many other scrap pieces. We bought an old Delta lathe X slide at the scrap yard for $10. We are going to try that one on the lathe.
Mark Hockett

Mad Scientist
05-28-2007, 10:39 AM
The detailed Ornamental work that can be done with a Holzapfel or RE lathe has always fascinated me. Thus a couple years ago when I made a rather large storage and display cabinet for friend wife I wanted to add some decorative columns. Of course the thought of just going out and buying something was never considered. So I kludged together the following accessory for my lathe. It is not as pretty as Jonís machine but it got the job done.


The cutting tool is a small router mounted on the end of arm thatís movement is controlled by two cranks, the length of throw of each crank is adjustable.

Viewed from the other side, by changing chain sprockets I can change the speed of one crank in relation to the other. Like Jonís machine the whole thing is hand powered via the hand wheel. Turning the hand wheel cause the router to jump up and down and move while moving in and out at the same time the long rod on the other side, with a sliding keyway, drives the head stock spindle. This speed can be changed by using different size chain sprockets. The normal thread cutting gears and half nut are used to control feed.



This contraption is able to produce lots of interesting designs, however it is difficult to predict exactly what they will look like until you actually run a test piece. Then if you like what you got you need to be prepared to run all of the pieces that to want, because if you stop and change the setup you will find going back to what you had can be a challenge. But it is definitely fun to play with.

P.S. Hmmm. $299 sound reasonable, and we wouldnít talk about what mine would cost. :D

01-25-2013, 07:56 PM
As usual, Mark: first class work. The plans and instructions for free?
Downloaded and saved. Looks like a lot more fun than CNC, but both
are a world of fun if you are not trying to make a living from them.
Just what I need, another project. If I can get the rest on my stuff fixed
and up to speed I'll give the OT project a go.
See Nick Carter's info for some G-code starters for CNC.
Thanks again for a very interesting post.

Tony Ennis
01-26-2013, 12:42 PM
Excellent thread necromancy here. I'll have to forward it to a friend who likes such things.