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Lathe bench project

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  • Lathe bench project

    I’m refinishing a Craftsman 12x36 and have reached a point where I needed to get the bench together so I have someplace to reassemble the lathe as I finish it. Obviously a sturdy bench is important, but I don’t have welding equipment so I took another approach and thought I would share it to brainstorm for tips or warnings before going any further.

    I have a couple of cast iron legs salvaged from a scrap yard. I built an internally cross braced box out of plywood to fit between the legs. The legs will carry the weight, and the wooden box is intended to make everything rigid. I'm thinking of squeezing the box between the legs with threaded rod and turnbuckles between the legs, then drilling the legs and box and bolting them together.

    Here are some mockup pictures. The table top is steel (another scrounger find), fits beautifully and will get bolted through to the legs. I would like to have used the space between the legs for storage but I don’t think I can get the lateral rigidity I need without the cross bracing. Any thoughts, suggestions or warnings before I go any further?

  • #2
    That ought to be quite stout with the boxed construction. I wonder what those legs are from? They seem to say "Walker-Turner" which might point to a bandsaw??

    Nicely done and nice use of the old, stout, cast iron legs. It looks the part so to speak.
    Paul Carpenter
    Mapleton, IL


    • #3
      RE: Walker-Turner

      Paul...Those look as though they were from a planner or jointer. Walker turner used to make some really top notch wood working equipment. One of my buddies scored a W-T contractors table saw at an auction. What a beautiful old machine it is.

      That looks like a first rate base for his lathe.
      Jim (KB4IVH)

      Only fools abuse their tools.


      • #4
        Thanks for the comments gents. The legs are Walker-Turner castings, but I think it was a small gang-drilling bench in its former life. It had a cast table surface when I got it. That table had a coolant trap cast in around it with a drain in the back, and the surface was tapped in a repeating pattern that looked like it held 3-4 drills or other tools of the same kind in a row. The table was badly cracked so it went to the recycling yard and I kept the legs for this project.


        • #5

          I think your general plan of attack is nicely thought out, but I see one thing that you may want to think about.

          The most glaring thing is the bench top itself... How thick is it? I'm guessing from what I can see in the pictures that it's about 10 ga. 1/8" thick. If so I would highly suggest you consider a more sturdy top, simply because these smaller lathes are so very sensitive to and rely heavily on mounting for much of their stiffness and accuracy. double or triple stack and glue some of that plywood you have and get that under that nice metal top and you'll never regret it. Otherwise the setup looks really nice.

          I made the mistake of not going with a very sturdy top for my original bench (for a 9 inch SB) and after I switched to a 2 inch butcher block style hardwood top it was like using a totally different machine!

          my original setup with 2x10's bolted down across 4x4's wasn't worth a p*ss...

          the new top however is solid, erm, far more stable =)


          • #6
            Originally posted by Walter
            *** these smaller lathes are so very sensitive to and rely heavily on mounting for much of their stiffness and accuracy. Double or triple stack and glue some of that plywood you have and get that under that nice metal top and you'll never regret it.
            Walter that's a real beauty of a SB you have! Thanks for sharing the pictures and giving me some much needed motivation for my own restoration. Nice work!

            You're right on the money about my steel top being thin, and thanks for the suggestion about stacking some ply under it. The surface has rolled edges and two support beams spot welded under it, but even those beams are thin sheet stampings:

            I'll take your advice and slip a plywood slab in the space between those beams. I may even epoxy that ply to the table, which will add strength and should help muffle some of the "ting" when placing tools on that surface. Here's a closeup:

            I must be living right because those beams line up perfectly with the widest part of the cast legs in each of the corners. That will give it a really nice bearing surface and a bolt through here should tighten things up nicely without crushing the surface:

            This bench should add a nice amount of mass to the whole setup, and will probably weigh around 250-300lbs itself without the lathe mounted. I'm not sure how well paint will hold up on this table surface. I've thought about having it powder coated or sprayed with a pickup bedliner like RhinoLiner, both which should hold up well. Any thoughts about that? Is anyone aware of a durable spray-on bed liner style product that isn't overly textured for a work surface like this?

            Thanks, Bob


            • #7

              Your welcome for the thoughts, as to bed liner, rhino is tough as can be, but... hot chips I would expect to end up making a mess of it fast. I can't otherwise speak to powder coat or paint, I would think a quality job of either would/should stand up well. Otherwise you could just keep a very light coat of oil on the surface to help prevent rust, and be left with a top thats very easy to keep clean. Thats the only part I hate about the wooden bench, it's a pain to keep clean. I've resorted to clearing the big stuff by hand and using a shop vac to clear all the small stuff.

              Either way, I think you have an outstanding base to work from! Keep us posted on your progress


              • #8
                Go to an autoparts store and get a drip pan to put down before you mount the lathe. Or live on the edge and weld some 1" x 1/8" strapping around the lathe location so it becomes a built-in tray. I've already purchased a second of the autoparts trays because the first one was not large enough for the lathe to sit in completely. It makes a huge difference to have a tray for chips and cooling liquids. The original cookie tray I used was just not adequate for even my little Asian lathe.


                • #9
                  Here's a little update. I finished the box section, stripped and repainted the cast legs, and now the lower section is all bolted together. It turned out to be very steady, even without the table top bolted on yet. I still have to reinforce, strip and repaint the table surface (it will be black), but I'm getting excited to see things coming together again!

                  Please ignore the flamable stuff under the mill. It will be moved before any hot chips fly