How to Add a Variable Speed Motor to a Lathe

What You'll Need
Variable speed motor
Wire cutter
Wire stripper
Soldering gun

A variable speed motor in a wood lathe gives the tool the ability to change speeds as needed. The speed change can be orchestrated through a pedal, like a sewing machine. The variable speed motor can also be adjusted by the lathe as you use it, depending on how hard you press the material. This is beneficial to you, because with it you can create different depths and textures. You will also be able to use harder and softer woods, that you may not have been able to use previously. With the improper speed, soft woods can become damaged and hard woods can cause a motor to overheat and possibly burn out. It is not all that difficult to replace your single speed motor with a variable speed motor, and the following article will show you how.

Step 1 – Access the Motor

The motor on the lathe is positioned next to the belt that drives the lathe. The motor pin can usually be seen protruding from the lathe. Some will have a gear system, while others will not. Loosen the belt, by unscrewing the tension screws or bolts. Unscrew them to the left. Once loose, remove the belt and place it to the side. Inspect the motor area. Sometimes the motor is not enclosed but sometimes it is. Use the screwdriver to remove the cover if there is one.

Step 2 – Remove the Motor

Once you can see the motor, remove it by removing the screws which connect it to the motor mount. There will be at least 2 wires connecting it to the lathe. Make note of which color is positioned where. The motor itself will usually have "+" and "–" signs, to depict the negative and positive. The wire colors are typically white and black, with the white being the positive and the black the negative. Use the soldering iron to melt the solder and remove the wires.

Step 3 – Prepare the Wires

You want to start with a clean wire. Use the wire cutters to trim the top of the current wires. Then, use the wire strippers to remove ¼-inch of the casing from each wire. Twist the ends together to create a tight wire.

Step 4 – Attach the Wires

Make sure the soldering gun is turned on and warm. Soldering the wires to the variable speed motor can be tricky. Identify the negative and positive markings on the variable speed motor and then place the correct wire over the contact. Hold a piece of solder over the wire and then use the soldering iron to melt a small amount to the wire. Repeat with the second wire.

Step 5 – Place the Variable Speed Motor

With the wires attached, you can now install the motor. Place the motor on the mount and replace the screws. Replace the motor cover and then the belt. Tighten the tensioner, to bring the belt tight.