Making A Lathe Powered 1 x 42 Belt Sander Homemade Machines & Jigs
Many woodworkers have a lathe, but it’s probably not a tool that gets a lot use in most shops. It’s handy to have when you need one, but if you are like me, that’s not going to be every day. Or every week, for that matter.
So, I thought it would be interesting to make a series of machines that are designed and built to run on the lathe. The first is this 1″ x 42″ belt sander that can be used for a number of things, like sanding and shaping wood, metal or plastic. It can also be used to sharpen chisels, plane irons or anything else that has an edge. With a diamond grit belt, it can even sharpen carbide bits and saw blades – a truly versatile machine.
Here are all of the parts cut out and ready for assembly:
This sander was designed based on a 12″ lathe, which I believe is the most common size for a typical hobby sized woodworking lathe. It also happens to be the size I have, so I made the plans to suit.
To adjust for a smaller lathe (as small as 9″), some of the parts (back panel, post, post side panel, side brace, end cap and front cover) need to be shortened by the correct amount. Measure the distance from the bed of the lathe up to the point of the spur centre (as shown in the video below) and subtract that amount from 6″. For example, if you have a 10″ lathe and the measure is 5-1/4″, you’ll need to shorten the parts by 3/4″ (6″- 5-1/4″ = 3/4″).
If you have a larger lathe, you can either just shim the sander up as built from the plans, or add the appropriate amount to the parts instead.
The upper wheel assembly is made up of three roller blade bearings stacked together. I used the bushings as well to make it work on a 1/4″ bolt, but if you don’t have these you can substitute a 5/16″ bolt of the same length. The stack of 1/4″ washers are used to space the bearings away from the upper arm and for alignment – just add more or less to move the bearings in or out.
If you are having a problem locating roller blade wheels (or skate board wheels) to extract the bearings from, the important size for this plan is the outer diameter should be 7/8″ (22mm):
As with all of my builds that are based on plans, I will concentrate on special details of the build in this article, since the parts and general assembly are covered in the plans themselves. I’ll also show some tips and methods for doing certain things, like cutting the “L” shaped upper arm. I did this with two stop cut and made a mark on my saw’s fence (red arrow) to show the leading edge of the blade so that I could stop at the right point:
After making the second cut from the other side, I finished it with the jigsaw.
My drive wheel is made from a piece of 3/4″ plywood scrap that I had. I cut the disk slightly larger than the final diameter with a jigsaw, then drew a 4″ diameter circle using the same centre point to help line up the faceplate. After the faceplate was screwed on, I glued on small wooden tabs to index it to the wheel. That way, when I need the faceplate for something else, I can easily line it up again to put it back on:
The front cover (picture below) is beveled on the top and as shown in the video, I reversed it to improve the dust collection. This picture shows the old way, while plans show the new way, with the bevel inwards:
I’ve found the easiest way to cut the bevel is on the miter saw.
I had two main priorities while designing this, with the first making it easy to build from commonly available parts. The second was an effective way to connect dust collection. That’s something that’s lacking on my belt / disk sander and it often stops me from using that machine for extended periods.
While the addition of a dust collection port does complicate the build slightly, I believe it’s essential if you are using this sander to shape wooden parts. If this will only be used for sharpening or grinding metal, I suggest removing the dust port parts completely (front cover and end cap) to avoid having hot grinding sparks build up inside.
I’m using a small shop vac and need a 1-3/4″ hole that’s a snug fit in the front panel. I drilled out as much as I could with the forstner bit, then finished it with the spindle sander:
A trick for cutting the back-bevel on the tool rest is to set the saw blade so that it will cut close to 45 degrees at the front (I’m using my small clear plastic triangular square to set the angle), the make a series of stop cuts:
The strip of plywood clamped to the fence stops the cut in the right place, then I can move the fence over 1/8″ and make another cut. I continued making cuts until the opening was wide enough.
The bracket needs a semi-circular slot to adjust the angle of the tilting table, and I laid out the curve with my compact compass. The arc represents the middle of the slot:
This can be done a number of ways, but I just used a 3/8″ drill in my drill press to make a series of holes:
Looks rough, but cleaning it up takes no time with a couple of files:
To start assembly, I installed the t-nuts in the parts before gluing and screwing them together. An alternative to t-nuts (if they are difficult to get) is to use an regular hex nut driven into a slightly undersized counterbore:
Some fast set epoxy helps to keep the nut from loosening.
The drive wheel needs to be as close to 6-1/2″ in diameter as you can make it. I turned mine completely flat on the edge, then crowned it very slightly with coarse sandpaper. The wheel doesn’t need anything to make it grip better, the raw plywood will work just fine:
On my lathe the motor is very close to the bed, so I had to cut a section out of the back panel to fit it in:
I also had to notch the end cap:
It’s good to get these parts fitting well around the obstacles on the lathe to help maximise the dust collection efficiency. If dust collection is not an issue for you, you can delete the end cap and front cover altogether.
When lining up the sander on the lathe bed, check that the drive wheel is just behind the front of the 1/4″ filler. Here I’m holding a plastic block to show the clearance:
Also when the backer plate is held in place, you should be able to see the very edge of the drive wheel (red arrow) when sighting down it. Ideally, the belt will not touch the backer plate at all while running, until you push it in to sand something.
After the machine is in place and lined up on the lathe bed, a plywood key is cut and fastened (red arrow) to keep it in line:
With the upper arm in place on the butt hinge and with some tension on the belt, it should be level on the top (red arrow). If it is not level, make adjustments to the location of the butt hinge to fix that at this point. I demonstrated this in the assembly video below:
The shroud is optional, but doesn’t take long to do. If you are using dust collection, that will catch most of the dust before it can reach the top fly back at you.
With the sander set up and the belt tensioned, it should be just proud of the surface of the backer plate like this:
The rub plates are optional, but recommended. I used sheet metal, but plastic would also work. Before installing the tool rest (tilting table), I had to cut the stud shorter on that locking handle so that it wouldn’t hit the drive wheel:
The sander fully assembled and ready to use:
Finally, here’s a look at the tolerances inside the bottom part of the unit. The belt should be nearly touching the inside of the front cover:
I made one (optional) change that makes removing the sander and changing the belt much easier. I drew the arc of the drive wheel on the end cap with a short pencil:
Then I cut it out with the jigsaw. With this done, the whole unit can slide in and out without removing the drive wheel, and it doesn’t reduce the efficiency of the dust collection. After lining it up again, I scratched a mark into the side of the bed to show where to put it. Of course you can always use a piece of tape or marker if you don’t want to damage the finish on the lathe:
This is the detailed assembly video for the sander: