How to Build a Turret Lathe at Home

What You'll Need
Machining tool
Cold rolled steel
Dust rings
Bronze Nut
Screw Driver
Wood (for cement form)

A turret lathe is a tool that allows you to produce large quantities of the same piece repeatedly. A homemade lathe can save you money and get your projects done faster.

Step 1 – The Spindle

Bore the spindle out of steel with a 3% carbon content. Then re-center it and finish the outside. Taper the nose to take the collets and threaded 8 threads per square inch. The ball bearings used should be a good fit on the flat threads on the rear of the spindle and on the outside of the spindle at the front.

Step 2 – The Bearings

Fit the bearing retaining rings at the rear. Fit with felt dust rings. Pack with a good grade of lubricant.

Step 3 – The Collets

The drawbar for the collets is a tube and the outer diameter must fit the bore of the spindle. Thread it at the front to fit the collets and fit with a handwheel at the rear. Add a tie bar at the top to keep the two arms stiff and rigid.

Step 4 – The Headstock

Fasten the cone spindle to the pulley with a setscrew. Press it into position with cap screws so that they compress the slotted headstock arms. Fasten the headstock to the bed with two bolts running up through 2 pieces of pipe cast into the bed.

Step 5 – The Shears

To make the shears take a piece of ½” by 4” cold-rolled steel that is 30’ long. Drill and tap for a number of 3/16” bolts of varying lengths. Anchor the shears to the cement bed.

Step 6 – The Anchors 

Screw on the shear anchor bolts. Place the pipe, leg and rear lead screw bearing bolts in place. Make a wooden form to fit around the shears and legs to pour the cement. Pour the cement, tamp it down. When it is set remove the boards.

Step 7 - The Carriage

Make the carriage from a piece of cold rolled steel ½“x 5”x5 ¼”.  Fasten a piece of 2”x¼” x 7” long cold rolled steel to the top of the main member with screws.

Step 8 - The Cross Slide

Make the cross slide of steel and fit with a turret tool post. Mount the four tools in the turret. Place the spring and clamping handle on the turret.

Step 9 – The Apron

Make the apron for the carriage out of 2” steel and fasten it to the main carriage with flat head screws.

Step 10 – The Gears

Set the brass shims into the ends of the shears. Behind the apron fit a bronze nut which rotates in a bearing fastened to the apron and screwed into one of the miter gears, which are then screwed into the spur gears. Pin the larger gear to the hand wheel.

Step 11 – Final Steps

Assemble the indexing mechanism and then bore the holes for the tools.