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Build your own lathe from scratch!

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  • Build your own lathe from scratch!

    Just read some of the comments ...

  • #2
    I have planned to make my own lathe from 3 mini blocks, one each end and one cut in half that will move up and down the bed. I will add a cheapo x y cross slide thing and a basic clamp to the long round bits type of tail stock in the photo the tail stock is mounted where the cross slide will be.

    Instead of having three bearings with 2 "floating" I will machine the bottoms of the cylinders bigger so my bearing races will seat on them this should eliminate the need for a 3rd thrust bearing..

    I am just thinking out loud at this stage

    Last edited by michael3fingers; 07-20-2009, 08:40 AM.


    • #3
      He should have used Jatoba for the bed. And a truck wheel bearing. Or two.
      Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


      • #4
        I have to defend the people who build their machine tools from Gingrich plans and simlar. It's a lengthy and often hearbreaking process yielding mixed results at best. A home shop owner simply doesn't have the skills, access to processes, funding, resources you name it. I usually pour a cold water on the more enthusiastic but those who set about building machine tools from scratch cold sober and with full knowledge of just what they are undertaking I assist with informations and advise where I can while hoping for their success.

        The enemy of such projects as home built machine tools is over-enthusiasm and people who poo-poo the difficulties. Making a home-built machine tool from scratch is at least as difficult as making a home build airplane - the difference being accidents with machine tools are seldom fatal.

        With my educatioion and practical background I could make a machine tool from scratch if I was a younger man, For that matter if I had knowledge of the language I could assist (if I was younger) in founding a machine tool infrastrucure in some third world country - welllll maybe. I'm not too diplomatic. I'd probably be stood against a wall and shot. Thing is making something that looks like a machine tool and makes chips is a long way from an actual machine tool that holds tolerances, turns and bores round parts, is convenient to operate etc. The most miserable Asian cheapo lathe or mill is so far in advance of the Gingery product it would be laughable if it wasn't so tragic given the time and effort expended on the home built.

        That said there's been more than a few isolated farmers whip up something like a lathe from junk and wood that was actually capable of keeping their farm equipment running. My hat's off to them. Have fun but look before you leap.
        Last edited by Forrest Addy; 07-20-2009, 07:02 AM.


        • #5
          That site is a waste of time. The Gingery books are enough in themselves that the cutesy-poo narrative is uneeded.

          Gingery wrote the books as a learning tool as well as a means of making a lathe from scratch. He proved it can be done. But, more importantly, he taught both the process of casting and the process of thinking. Anyone considering getting into metal casting will get a good start from the Gingery series.

          They were written before the influx of the Asian machines, when cheap, more or less useable machines were not as available as today. Granted that it was limited, but you could build a workable lathe from his books. Popular Mechanics and Pop Science as well as the Model Engineering books had many plans for building lathes and other machines from auto parts, pipe fittings and such for many years. While, not precision machines, they too were workable and better than nothing, which, in many cases was the alternate.

          Fast forward to today, and with the availability of such components as Thompson slides, ball screws and computer controls to replace gear trains, the home shop machinist is very capable of building an accurate, useful machine. Many examples have been presented here and many more on the CNC sites.
          Jim H.


          • #6
            Its doubtful that any of the many fans of the Gingery series of books would - if honest! - would proclaim the lathe,-- and mill and shaper, etc, a thing of precision and beauty. But my experience following the series, and I think most of others, is just the honest to goodness FUN of the whole process!

            Thankfully Gingery was my introduction to this hobby in the late 80's when there was no internet and precious little printed matter. His method of presenting the process of building these "tools" was (and still is) simplicity itself, - anyone wanting to make up a set of plans could benefit from his approach...

            I had found an old clapped out South Bend 9A when I started the books and didnt attempt the lathe, but I went on to tackle the shaper, mill, accessories, the 2 differential engines - and probably a couple more I cant remember. I look at them now and think how really inadequate they really are, -- however, when I think of the amount of pure JOY I got out of that 3-4 year period --- priceless!

            As Forrest pointed out, a 9x20 Chinese lathe is like a Monarch when compared to the "charcoal lathe", but the fun of getting it to peel off a little shaving the first time can be a real ego booster for a newbie!
            If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something........


            • #7
              Bill has it.
              I think most homebuilders do it to learn new skills and fill time, then move on to bigger and better things. Learning is a task most of the Gingery projects are good for.
              Nothing beats the feeling of something you built doing the job it was intended for.

              Last year I looked at a little lathe at a garage sale for a while trying to figure out what kind it was before I realized it was a homebuilt. Nicely executed little thing. Only reason I didn't buy it was because I was on a bicycle 18 miles from home and still had 32 miles to go.

              I've spent tons of cash, and time trying to figure out how something was done, often enough that I could have bought three or four of the things I was trying to duplicate. I don't feel it was wasted, I still have the experience and skills to use. If I'd have been aware of gingery at the time, I'd have happily purchased every book they had.

              Have to say that many of the techniques I figured out to get around not having some required equipment, have been so refined over the years that the 'right' equipment wouldn't save much (if any) time or many steps for me today.



              • #8
                I have only the geatest respect for anyone with skill and resources enough to build their own lathe or mill. I freely admit that it's far beyond my capabilities and inclinations.

                Having said that, I suspect that after building said machines those builders would have a lot more respect for those machines that are frequently called "Cheap Chinese Junk".

                That shouldn't discourage anyone from proceeding to build their own machine, however. The very process could be invigorating and a lot of fun.

                For myself, I'm going to stick to becoming a better machinist in my little home shop. That will suffice for me.


                • #9
                  Oh don't get me wrong. What the builder accomplished was pretty impressive, but it was pretty clear he knew nothing about machine tools before endeavoring to build the machine.

                  Seems like a much more economical way is to buy a used lathe and clean it up. Then you can learn the basics and apply what you know to building your own lathe, like Evan did. I'm not saying it can't be done, but claiming a beer-can lathe is a precision tool is ridiculous!

                  But still an impressive feat.


                  • #10
                    I have a Gingery lathe that I was helping my friend build. My friend passed away during construction and now I am trying to sell it for his widow. He used my foundry to pour the castings an my machines to machine them. The lathe is fairly complete and I will sell it for much less than the hardware it comes with cost. It would be a good project for someone who wants to try to build a lathe. The head stock still needs to be bored but all bearings and mounts for that are included. The tail stock needs the base machined and the bore machined.
                    Here is a picture of the parts,
                    Mark Hockett


                    • #11
                      I built the lathe in 1983. It's accurate to .001. It was my first metalworking project and I learned a lot and had lots of fun.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by gregl
                        I built the lathe in 1983. It's accurate to .001. It was my first metalworking project and I learned a lot and had lots of fun.

                        wow, nice job. thats something to be proud of.


                        • #13
                          Very nice, Gregl! An impressive piece, to be sure. What does "accurate to .001" mean?


                          • #14
                            The back edge of the CRS top way is scraped such that it will cut a piece held between centers and hold to .001 along it's length.


                            • #15
                              Take a read of this page.


                              These were available here as kits in the late 1960's thru to the early 1990's.

                              The kits were in 7 parts and you bought them as you could afford them and had need of the next module.

                              Everything that couldn't be machined on a Myford 7" swing lathe and a drill press was done for you, everything else was supplied as material and hardware.

                              These got many people going before the advent of the Taiwanese imports in the late 1990's.

                              More to the point they taught you valuable skills so that when the machine was built you didn't feel as intimidated doing your next project on the machine.

                              Missing from the description is the fact they were built my Model Engineering Services, a company run by Ivan Law of Gears and Gearcutting fame.
                              They also did 3 rotary table kits, a small vise that could open to 6", a boring head, with auto feed, that was all lathe work, no milling needed and a variation of the Dore miller that was a vertical wheel surface grinder, a tool unheard off at that time in the home workshop.


                              Sir John , Earl of Bligeport & Sudspumpwater. MBE [ Motor Bike Engineer ] Nottingham England.