Making a Portable Homemade Lathe Making a Portable Homemade Lathe

What You'll Need
1 foot long 12mm rod
Metal square piece
2 bearing mounts
Block of wood to cut
Electric drill

If you are interested in small wood cutting for fun or for building projects, you may save some money by designing your very own homemade lathe. With the right tools and a little work, you can have a small portable lathe that will work just as well as one you can purchase. Here is how to get started.

Step 1 – Create Your Faceplate

The first thing you will need to begin with is the basic faceplate. It is best to use a metal square. You may be able to find one at a scrap yard or you can cut one yourself. It should be no bigger than 5" by 5" by ¼" and within a mm of a perfect square for best results.


Once you have the piece you are going to use, sand the rough edges and corners down for safety. The next step requires that you drill a hole exactly in the middle of the plate. To make sure the location of the hole is centered, draw an "X" on the square to indicate the center point to drill. For ease of drilling the hole, it is recommended that you use a drill press.


Step 2 – Attach the Rod, Bearings, and Drill


Once the face plate is complete you will need to attach it to the 12mm rod. Weld the rod into the hole you created in the center of the face plate. The rod can then be positioned into the bearings to hold it in place while it spins. At the opposite end of the faceplate you can attach the drill to the 12mm rod. This will provide a makeshift motor to cause the rod to spin while you work with it.

Step 3 – Start Cutting

In order to hold your piece of wood against the faceplate, you will need to drill four more holes into the faceplate. You can then screw the wood piece in to each of the holes making sure it is solid against the faceplate. It will be spinning at a high speed while you are cutting so making sure it is firmly connected is very important.


From here you will need to position the lathe where you want to work and secure the bearings. As you activate the drill your wood piece will begin to spin and you can begin cutting. If you are using a square piece of wood that you want to round, it is best to cut the corners off before you begin to save time.


It can take some practice deciding how you want to power the drill. You can do it with one hand while you cut with the other or you can rig it up to go on its own. You can also arrange the cutter to stay in position while the wood spins or handle it manually.

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