View Full Version : Makin' a Steady

01-15-2009, 02:31 AM
I didn't get a steady rest with my lathe. Just been getting by without one. But when I think of all the time I've lost nursing some wobbly thing down to size that should have been on a steady, I could probably have built one.

So I've started. Got a base, clamp, and ring so far.


I'm thinking plungers through the ring on threaded rods with bearings on the ends for fingers. Mig welded construction. But I'd sure like to see and explore whatever else might be out there. Any pics or suggestions?

Thanx in advance,


dan s
01-15-2009, 02:44 AM
I don't have any pics or suggestions, but that thing looks heavy-duty. how wide and how thick is the ring?

tony ennis
01-15-2009, 02:47 AM
What keeps chips from getting between the fingers and the work and leaving scratches?

01-15-2009, 02:54 AM
how wide and how thick is the ring?

The ring is 6" OD and 1"x1" on the cross section so the ID is 4". It's a piece of pre-hard 4140 I turned into scrap on a previous project.


01-15-2009, 02:56 AM
What keeps chips from getting between the fingers and the work and leaving scratches?

Your guess is as good as mine Macona! :D Are bearings a bad idea? Wouldn't be my first ....


dan s
01-15-2009, 02:56 AM
The ring is 6" OD and 1"x1" on the cross section so the ID is 4". It's a piece of pre-hard 4140 I turned into scrap on a previous project.

:eek: That wasn't a cheap mistake.

01-15-2009, 03:04 AM
:eek: That wasn't a cheap mistake.

You wouldn't believe it, but I was actually attempting a backplate out of the 4140. :o I didn't know cast iron was better. Luckily my bro works at McMaster so I don't remember it setting me back too hard.


dan s
01-15-2009, 03:25 AM
a 1" thick by 6" dia chunk of 4140 prehard will run you $30-$50 depending on retailer.

If you could find a big cheap bearing you could make a cathead style rest, then you wouldn't have to worry about chips. I don't think chips will be a problem on a steady though.

j king
01-15-2009, 06:50 AM
I built one that looks alot like what you are starting with.I will be home in a couple of days and take a pic.I made some finger rollers with bearings.It works good. jim

Your Old Dog
01-15-2009, 06:57 AM
Go to Google, click on Images and search "steady rest" Got pages of good ideas.

Ed Tipton
01-15-2009, 07:02 AM
Sometime back I made a steady for my lathe. You may be too far along to use this idea, or maybe not. I was lucky enough to have a large (1 3/8") pillow block bearing from our local Scrappy. I made a base for it of the proper dimensions for my lathe, and mounted the bearing on the base. Originally, I used drill bushings that fit the bearing perfectly. and since I have several hundred of them in assorted sizes, this opened up many possibilities. Eventually, I turned down a piece of schedule 80 pipe to fit the bearing, and drilled/tapped three holes for 3/8" bolts. Now, I simply use the pipe in the pillow block with the bolts tightened down on the workpiece. No marring of the workpiece occurs because the pipe, workpiece et al turn freely in the bearing. This set up has worked well for me. Admittedly, I am limited to workpieces that are small enough to use with what I've described, but the basic idea would work for any size once you have acquired the correct bearing. I rarely ever work with anything over 1" OD, so the size limitations don't hinder me very often. The total cost for everything was probably less than $20.00...and a little shop time which I don't count as "cost". Just another idea you or someone might make use of.

01-15-2009, 07:03 AM
You Old Dog:D , you're just one step ahead of me.

Did the same as you and yeah, a bunch of ideas here (http://images.google.ca/images?gbv=2&ndsp=20&hl=en&newwindow=1&safe=off&q=steady+rest&start=0&sa=N).

01-15-2009, 07:03 AM
I tape a Piece of Paper to Side of Steady (With Hole in Center)

I use mostly Brass Pads as I turn A lot of Blued Barrels (which are Tapered, and Hardened Roller Bearings Dig in and Pound Chips/Marks into Work.. ) Brass shoves them to side...

Usually with a Drop of STP, no Marks on Bluing...

Charles Lessig
01-15-2009, 07:30 AM
Make it so you can open it up to get your workpiece on
and off the lathe. Weld ears for hinges at the back and
make a latch at the front.

My first home made steady was plywood and didn't open.
It worked fine but it was not handy to use.
Since then I have made three steadies for different lathes
from 2" aluminum plate that did open and they were much
better because they would open. I was working with large
diameter tubing so my steadies would pass what would go
over the carriage.

Rollers make concentrated loads on the work and can emboss
chips in soft stuff. Bronze or cast iron slides spread out the
pressure and can clear chips better. They still can make

Best regards, Charlie

01-15-2009, 07:56 AM
How about using nylon, delrin or PTFE pads for a steady? Anybody tried that?

01-15-2009, 08:04 AM
Synthetics should work Fine, if Surface finish on Work is not too Rough..

I Have used Wood in an Emergency ,and it worked....

01-15-2009, 09:30 AM
Go to Google, click on Images and search "steady rest" Got pages of good ideas.

If you could find a big cheap bearing you could make a cathead style rest, then you wouldn't have to worry about chips. I don't think chips will be a problem on a steady though.

I did the search mentioned above and on the first page was this link:


Exactly what I've been thinking of making...Now where did I put that 5 inch bearing...:confused:


01-15-2009, 10:14 AM
I do just like Bguns said and use a piece of light cardboard with a hole the size of the workpiece cut through it. Slide it over the part and fasten it with rubber bands to the side of the steady and you won't have a problem with chips under the rollers or brass. After a while you get a variety of sizes made up. About the time you think you are doing fine with out a guard on the steady a nice chip bounces under one of the rollers and makes a nice mark to remind you to use one next time.

George Barnes
01-15-2009, 11:37 AM
You might be interested in this for some ideas.


01-15-2009, 02:26 PM
One of the more impressive steady rests/cat heads I have seen:


01-15-2009, 02:31 PM
You have a brother that works at McMaster!


01-16-2009, 10:40 AM
Thanx for the most illuminating thread guys. I've just finished going over it again and am currently having a female moment ... I can't seem to make up my mind!

Cathead style looks trick. No chip issues. Downside is locating a large enough bearing, loss of ID no matter what you do, and ya can't open it.

Even tho I haven't a clue whether it's a good idea or not, I'm having wild thoughts about a bronze sleeve to minimize ID loss. But locating a 4" piece of bronze looks to be right up there with a large dia bearing.

With a temporary shield to keep the chips out as suggested by Bguns and japcas, a traditional 3 finger seems to solve all issues. I may have made up my mind ...

So Thanx again. I'd be lost without ......


j king
01-18-2009, 08:24 PM
Here is a pic of my steady that I made.I needed a larger steady to do some parts so I built this larger one.



I bought the needle bearings off ebay.They are not a regular bearing.I cant remember what they are called to save my ars..It works great.

j king
01-18-2009, 08:35 PM
here is a live steady I made.




01-18-2009, 08:43 PM
Giant hunk of bronze = cut the spokes out of a model flywheel casting.

It so happens that I have done work on making a steady rest too.

Remember the "how to cut giant CI round without bandsaw thread"

Well, that was a piece of metal I got for my birthday, supposed to be 2 disks but my kind grandfather got one thick slice.

One disk is for a backplate to go on the rotable for the lathe chuck.

The other has been bored out to a bit more than 2 inches. It then will receive a base and clamp, and brass fingers. I may later make it openable.

01-18-2009, 09:25 PM
Exactly what I've been thinking of making...Now where did I put that 5 inch bearing...:confused:

Last summer while prices for scrap were up I took a couple hundred pounds of never been used but rusting from laying around bearings this genral size range to the junk yard. :)

If you use a screw in adjuster with inserts you can change inserts from brass, cast iron or nylon insert as needed.


01-18-2009, 09:27 PM
Nylon and other nonmetals of course should only be used for slow speeds. Ceramic of some type might be good, maybe graphaloy?

Mc Master sells some pretty huge "four point contact" bearings.

01-18-2009, 11:24 PM
Well I been makin' "steady" progress on mine. Pic so far.


I'm not sure how well my finger setup's going to work. No mill for making slots like most have done, so I'll be using round fingers that slide thru the holes and up into the welded on tubes via trapped threads. Hopefully a fully keyed 5/8" shaft guided by a setscrew from the side will keep the finger from rotating and also serve as a lock.

McMaster happens to have brass tipped setscrews and the 3/8" flavor happens to have a 3/16 dia x 3/32 long tip, which is exactly what the slot is in the fully keyed 5/8" shaft. :)

It might work. :rolleyes: Opinions are always welcome.


j king
01-19-2009, 07:19 AM

Are you going to split the steady in half? If so the ring is going to spring.Dont know how much tho.I turned od and ruff bored it ,saw cut,then milled the split line and then finished bored it.Tru cut really.Then added ears and finished up.

It wouldnt matter that much for fixed fingers but bearing fingers need to be dead on straight or it will track off and dig in to part.

Jim Hubbell
01-19-2009, 08:22 PM
Andrew D
There are four pics at my site. I will share construction details if desired.



01-20-2009, 08:25 AM
j king, please check your PM's.

01-20-2009, 08:41 AM
Bearings are Nice, (Sometimes), If you have them.

Old School Soft Tipped Fingers Still Work.

A Shield To Keep Chips Out, should cost ~ .05 Cents.

You can be as Fancy or Simple as you Want.

I built my 1'st Steady with a 1/4 inch Drill, and a Hacksaw... All I Had then...

01-20-2009, 09:22 AM
I'm thinking plungers through the ring on threaded rods with bearings on the ends for fingers. Mig welded construction. But I'd sure like to see and explore whatever else might be out there. Any pics or suggestions?

I haven't used a roller bearing steady, all the ones Ive used were brass or bronze pads.....I think Id go that route as a chip, dirt, grit, will get rolled between a roller bearing and work and pressed into the work as it softer than the bearing race whereas a brass pad will act like a wiper. As was mentioned, there is also a larger area of contact.

Don't but put off by plain bearings which the pad idea is, from your car engine to machine tools, they're successfully used all over the place. They work very well and are cheap/easy/durable - before i moved from that, I'd be asking myself is it an improvement over how most of the quality engine lathe makers seem to go?

01-20-2009, 11:42 AM
pntrbl. Are you going to split the steady in half? If so the ring is going to spring..

It's gonna go "boing" when I split it? :eek: That idea wasn't even on my radar ....

Plan A is still bearings but if that doesn't work out I'll implement Plan Bronze. I've obviously never used either type but as Mcgyver just kindly pointed out, soft tips have been around forever.


01-20-2009, 12:52 PM
Hmmmmmm I came in on this one late. I have never made a steady but I made a follow rest some time ago. It had adjustable fingers with brass tips. There might be some ideas in it that would help you. The link to the post is as follows:


j king
01-20-2009, 03:11 PM
Tipped fingers are fine but the bearings will do much better at high speeds for carbide.You set the bearing fingers and you are pretty much done.Fingers that are tipped are always wearing plus if you run them a little loose you will get chatter. Let the mud fly....

The fear of chips going thru a roller is slim if you make a guard out of cardboard.Simple.

01-20-2009, 06:43 PM
I've not had to deal with this but I would seriously wonder about the wisdom of brass pads on brass. Lube would become *very* critical as brass will friction weld very easily.

I see Mcgyver's point about roll-stamping the work with swarf, but I think that on softer metals, you could imbed brass in the work. In the sort of work where you have the liberty of later turning down the section where the steady sat to some final dimension, this is a non-issue.

The other issue with the brass tips on my cheap import lathe is that they are pretty soft and quickly wear to the shape of the current project...which will most certainly not be correct for the next one. On the other hand, the tips are threaded in place and I can make more.

I'll tell you what I really want is for John Stevenson to start selling just the two laser-cut forms he has showed us here before, as a "starter kit". Shipping a bunch of steel around is not cost effective, but just the two outer forms would be the only hard part for most of us...with the rest of the stuff coming from the scrap box. Those are so well laid out and neatly cut that they should make for a good project starter and a good end result.


01-20-2009, 07:48 PM
How about soft brass/bronze "tires" for your bearings? Combined with a chip guard, seems a good option. Then add "wipers" based on way wipers. Then a cover based on way covers. And an automatic tensioner to handle temperature expansion. And, and... :D

01-20-2009, 10:24 PM
There is one drawback to rollers that hasn't been mentioned yet. If they are set too tight, they can roll a groove into the workpiece, a fact that I discovered the first time I used a steady with rollers.

01-26-2009, 01:06 AM
Still making progress on my steady, but now that I got 'er spinning we're definitely seeing a stripe. Louder than I expected too.


I can't fingernail anything tho and the workpiece is 6061 Alu. You can just about rub the black stripe off with your finger and I'll bet a piece of emery would make it go away completely. Over time tho ... I dunno .....

The threads were already there BTW. It's my spindle test piece.


01-26-2009, 02:43 AM
If you're doing a lot of the same size piece, make yourself a steel sleeve that just fits over the part, and has some split tapered threads at the end (like a small tap wrench does)... Fit a round nut w/ some holes for tightening
and you're set; the wheels will run on steel and there will be no sliding on the Al piece.

John Stevenson
01-26-2009, 05:24 AM
Only just noticed this thread.

My TOS has hardened steel running pads, when I first got it I thought that was a stupid idea and would change over to bronze later but in fact they run very well and mark less than the bronze ones on the other steadies.

I have about 6 or 7 steadies between three lathes as a lot of my work is steady work.
I'll get photo's and post later tonight.

02-26-2009, 06:42 PM
I been challenged by this latest project. Sometimes i just forget stuff. Must be getting Old. LOL anyhow things arent going too vbadly. nEW SHOP STILL NO HEAT . aNYWAYS IM WAITING FOR sIR jOHNS pICTURES. i STILL RECALL A POST OF SOMEONE WHO MADE A STEADY WITH CNC EQUIPMENT OR GOT THE PPARTS LASER CUT AND THEN MACHINED THEM UP. mY LATHE ONLY WILL HOLD A 5 INCH DIA IN THE STEADY IT HAS AND I WANT TO MAKE A NEW MODEL. tHE LATHE IS A tOOLROOM cINCUINATTI lATHE WITH A 15 INCH SWING AND 36 B(oops caplock on LOL) between centers. I need to hols a 8 inch dia min imumn dia or even up to the lathe limits?? if possible thanx to all for youre valuable time and great ideas and tips. Mike

John Stevenson
02-26-2009, 07:46 PM
Will post some pics tomorrow, late here and the workshop is haunted.

Got a fair selection between the 3 lathes.

02-26-2009, 08:24 PM
My SB came without a steady, made this one out of 1" 6061 platehttp://i273.photobucket.com/albums/jj232/brockley1_bucket/th_CIMG0538-1.jpg (http://s273.photobucket.com/albums/jj232/brockley1_bucket/?action=view&current=CIMG0538-1.jpg)
http://i273.photobucket.com/albums/jj232/brockley1_bucket/th_CIMG0539-1.jpg (http://s273.photobucket.com/albums/jj232/brockley1_bucket/?action=view&current=CIMG0539-1.jpg)
The pads are bronze and I have no problems with marking up the work.Peter

02-26-2009, 10:31 PM
Aluminumn? Wouldnt it be better out of steel ?? Resonance harmonics Humming noises affecting surface finish>? I must admit aluminumn would be nice i got a big chunk layin around. I just made a few neat gadgets for my bridgeport mill. I like aluminumn projects a lot always seem to be machining stainless crap. LOL Perhaps a aluminumn steady would be OK ?? Thanx Nice Job on it

02-27-2009, 12:41 AM
The material being supported doesn't care what the steady is made of. Have used it many times since I made it and it works just as well as a cast iron one. A friend had the 1" plate and it works just like factory. Peter

02-27-2009, 01:35 AM
A question about the cats-head (big bearing) type...

For rigidity and/or TIR... wouldn't you need a pair of preloaded bearings, like ground or shimmed angular thrust bearings back-to-back? I see pairs of 2MM212's and 14's on ebay all the time at decent prices. Overkill? I can see you get to adjust the part anywhere you like, but surely the adjusted part should rotate as accurately as the spindle end? Standard C3 fit radial bearings are quite sloppy in comparison to the spindle. So.. what am I missing?

02-27-2009, 07:12 AM
Hi pntrbl
Here is what I made a while ago. It was made from 1" length of 6" steel pipe. It works well.



02-27-2009, 10:08 AM
Nice effort and great idea.