SHADE TREE ENGINEER
(article written in 2000)
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This lathe was built in 1987-1988 and everything on it was shop-made, except for motor, bearings, belts, switches. This includes the lathe itself, the spindle, tail stock, pulleys, variable speed mechanism, and everything else. It weighs approximately 1500 lbs., but is portable by bolting on an axle (with springs) to the headstock, and installing a tongue to the end of the lathe. It then tows like a trailer. I have approximately 5000 miles on my lathe.
Variable speed grinder powered by treadmill motor. The grinding wheels turn backward; the two wheels on the left are rubber impregnated with grit and put a polish on the tools. But because they are rubber, you may not turn toward the edge, but have to turn away from the edge, therefore the backward rotation.
My boring bars are barely visible, just behind the slow-speed grinder, and to the left and right of the wooden shelf. These bars are made from 2x2x1/4” tube steel, and are about 8’ long. They are carried on the back (near) side of the lathe so that they are easily put in place for use. A broad (8”x24”) tool rest is substituted for the normal tool rest, and an auxiliary tool rest to hold up the back of the tools is inserted into a holder which is located at the end of the lathe (not visible). This tool rest is made from 1 1/2” angle, and is about 4’ wide, to allow a broad swing of the tool.
On the left is a shower curtain mounted on curtain rails. Closing the curtains contains the shavings (well, most of them) to the area just around the lathe. This does make clean up easier.
My tool rack is visible behind the end of the lathe. It holds almost all my turning tools, revolves, and can be rolled to a different location. Caution is the watchword when reaching for another tool, since the points are up. But if I put them in point down, I have to memorize which tool goes with which handle, so I am just careful. So far, no injuries.
With the belt guard open, the plywood pulleys are revealed. The darker pulleys are the idle pulleys and are engaged by the black upward pointing handle to the right of the belt. This is an over-center mechanism which simply snaps into position. To change speed ranges, the handle is pulled, the belt moved to the other pulleys, and the handle is pushed forward. Directly behind this handle is the auxiliary switch, mounted on a magnet. This switch has a 6 foot cord attached so it may be placed anywhere on the lathe. In front of the black handle is the faceplate wrench, which will fit any faceplate I use.
To the right of the idler pulley handle is my air blower, which is nothing more than an old vacuum cleaner motor rigged up to blow thru the hose and handle. The handle has the switch mounted on it so it only takes one hand to turn it on. The vacuum motor is suspended underneath the bed of the lathe. To the right of the blower handle is the normal switch.
On top of the lathe headstock is the handle for the brake. The brake is a wooden sleeve epoxied to the shaft. The brake band is a piece of tin faced with leather and tightened with the handle. In over 10 years of use, neither the brake band or the sleeve has had to be replaced. It is effective enough that caution is advised whenever a large piece of wood is being stopped, otherwise the spindle will stop and unscrew the faceplate/wood.\
The round object visible just over the belt guard is a 36” mdf jam chuck mounted on my faceplate lathe. This lathe is capable of turning objects 6’ 4” in diameter, although the largest I have turned was 48” (finished diameter).
I am opening the drawer, which is pivoted on its right front corner on 1 1/2” ball bearings. This is the handiest thing on the lathe, and as such ends up with all the little things that you think you need. The black handle is a rail road spike, and to open the drawer, just push it to the right. The drawer is spring loaded, and pops open. To close, just push it shut. The handle snaps into a hole in the edge, and it is shut.
Left background: My dust collector is visible over the headstock. This is used only for sanding, and is on a roll-around support. When sanding, it is moved to the back side of the lathe, just off the turning, and is very effective. End Dust sprayed on the inside of the furnace filters makes them very ‘sticky’, and much more efficient.
The open door under the headstock shows the variable speed mechanism. This is a ‘compound variable,’ using a double sheave and two belts. It has a 7 to 1 speed ratio. The black pipe handle pointing up to the left behind the air blower is the speed change lever. In two ranges, the speeds are 60-420 rpm and 300-2100 rpm.
The black knob just above and to the left of the door is a weight on my center knock-out rod which is kept in a pipe affixed to the lathe.
The cog gear on the end of the spindle is used to attach the plywood pulleys and also is used as a spindle lock utilizing the yolk , the near end of which is visible. The lock is simply pulled over and engaged with the cog gear, then when pulled away is held by a spring catch (not visible in photo).