Wood lathes can be a lot of fun to use, and creating your own pens, chess pieces, wooden ornaments or homemade bowls can give you a sense of great pride and achievement. The problem is, with the price of even many entry-level lathes being so high, it can be an expensive hobby to take up.
However, one solution – if you have the necessary skills – is to build your own. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t shy away from a DIY challenge, it’s possible to construct your own lathe at home for a fraction of the price. If you’re interested in having a go, we’ve had a look online to bring you plans for 9 homemade wood lathes you can DIY easily.
1. History of lathes and a plan for making one
If you’re looking for a plan to make your own DIY wood lath at home, this is a great place to start. The owner of this page doesn’t jump straight in with the diagrams and instructions – first, he takes time to introduce the concept of the lathe and gives you an outline of its history down the years.
Once that’s out of the way and you’re ready to get to work, you’ll find detailed instructions on how to construct your lathe, a list of the materials you’ll need and information about where to buy them. You’ll also find lots of clear photographs and diagrams showing exactly what you should be doing at each step.
2. Wooden lathe made of wood
Here’s another great project that one DIYer wanted to share. His premise was to build a wood lathe using wood as the main material. For the experiment, he even used wood for the bearings, although he explains that they can be swapped out for ball bearings if you prefer.
As he explains in the introduction to the project, one of the problems with making a wooden wood lathe is that it vibrates much more than a heavy cast iron version. However, as he suggests, you can reduce this to some extent by fixing it to a firm workbench.
There are several sections where you can read about how to build the lathe, how the site owner improved his over time and also some examples of the kind of objects he used his lathe to make.
Everything is very clearly explained with plenty of images to demonstrate what he did – and what you’ll need to do if you want to try to copy it. An impressive DIY construction and a very useful resource.
3. Mini lathe from a power drill
Here’s an ingenious idea from a very creative DIYer. There’s no need for complicated machinery if you want to make a simple mini wood lathe at home – all you need is a regular power drill.
This is not going to give you a tool you can use to turn large bowls or to produce household furniture. However, if you are interested in trying your hand at woodturning and don’t have the cash to spend on an expensive ready-made lathe, this could be a solution that will allow you to try it without burning a hole in your wallet.
The instructions are all from a YouTube video – there’s no text to go with it. As the guy in the video explains, he doesn’t have a lathe and has never even owned one, but he just decided he wanted to try making one anyway.
The idea is so simple, and for anyone who considers themselves even a little handy, the design should be easy to replicate. This is another smart way to make a small lathe from materials and equipment you probably already have at home.
4. Homemade lathe by a high school student
Here’s one that will put many a DIY aficionado to shame. This is a large, heavy-duty wood lathe made by a high school student from pieces of scrap and other junk lying around his home.
As he explains in his introduction, once you’ve bought the different pieces of equipment you need – like wood lathe chucks, and wood lathe tool rests and so on – many DIY lathes don’t work out much cheaper than some of the lathes you can buy. Instead, the author of this post decided to make a lathe that would require no milling or casting and wouldn’t require him to buy any expensive components.
As he goes on to explain, this plan is more an explanation of his thought processes rather than a step by step guide. His hope is that if anyone else wants to use his ideas, that way, it will be easier to adapt them to individual circumstances and available materials.
All in all, this is clearly a very impressive individual and one that has a long DIY career ahead of him. Good job!
5. Wooden lathe instructional video
Here’s another video we found on YouTube that will show you everything you need to know to make a high-quality lathe from wood. We love the way the video is filmed – everything is expertly explained and clearly demonstrated. The pace of the video is also just about right to keep you interested and focused.
What’s especially clever about this plan is that after measuring the boards for cutting, you don’t need to measure again because everything fits together. It’s just like building flatpack furniture, except that you’ve made it all yourself.
When you get further into the video, you will see that this is another drill powered lathe, making it inexpensive to build since you won’t need to buy an expensive motor to run it. He also then goes on to explain how he improved the design, giving you useful tips to take on board – even if you don’t follow his design exactly.
An excellent video and a well-made lathe. We enjoyed this one.
6. Pro-level DIY lathe with plans
Here’s another YouTube video demonstrating how to build a lathe in your workshop. As you can see, this lathe does need a certain amount of specialist equipment to cut the wood into shape, but the results are exceptional.
There’s not talking in the video – there’s just somebody demonstrating everything you need to do (slightly speeded up so you don’t get bored watching!). However, the plans for this lathe are also available to download, so with the plans and the video together, it all should be easy to follow.
If you have access to the necessary wood cutting equipment and have the required expertise to carry out the work, this is a plan that will give you a high-quality wood lathe for a fraction of the price it would cost to buy one in a store.
7. Simple mini lathe
Here’s another video we found that should give you a few more ideas and a bit of inspiration for how to make a wood lathe at home. For this one, you will have to buy a few of the pieces – the motor, for example. But none of it should cost too much in comparison with what you would need to pay for a store-bought lathe.
It’s another video without any words, but everything is very clearly demonstrated so it should be easy enough to follow if you know your way around a workshop. The only other thing we might say about this video is that we’re not so sure about the choice of music…
8. Video and plans for a wooden wood lathe
In this video, you get to see how to cut up the pieces to construct your own lathe from plywood. Again, everything is clearly demonstrated and easy to follow – and the plans are available from the website below.
This is another video we enjoyed, and we like the results too. This video demonstrates how, with the proper equipment and a little DIY know-how, you can build a high-quality and effective wood lathe without needing to spend a fortune.
9. Experimental lathe from scraps
While some of the videos above might go against the spirit of true DIY in that the projects are too professional, this video is quite the opposite. Here, we have a video demonstrating how somebody made an experimental lathe purely from scraps they found lying around their workshop.
Ok, so these might not be pieces you have lying around readily at home, but practically everything used in the video is salvaged junk. Of course, it depends on how you view DIY and what it really means, but many people will approve of the way these guys rescue a lot of old scrap and recycle them into something completely new.
And more than this, the result is a highly impressive lathe that looks capable of doing a great job. Check out the video to see for yourself.
Inspirational plans, videos and ideas
What we discovered when we went online to see what other people are doing is that there are a lot of people out there with a lot of creativity and some serious skills. You might decide to copy one of these lathes step by step, or you might try to combine the ideas into something new. However, whatever you do, there are plenty of options that will work out a lot cheaper than buying an expensive lathe in a shop.
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