I recently got a new wood turning lathe, a fairly inexpensive model that came with a metal bolt-together stand. The stand is probably capable enough at supporting the tool, but I thought I could do better.
I measured the lathe and did some drawings in SketchUp, to work out the basic shape. What I was looking for was a simple, solid stand with a relatively small footprint but good stability. I prefer a stand to a table or cabinet, since these collect the shavings and dust from the lathe. It would be as open as possible, to let the dust fall through to the floor for easy clean up.
I wanted it to be well made, but not difficult to make with very few special cuts and joints, using common size material. Assembled using glue, screws and butt joints, similar to the way I made the leg sets for my new router table.
As much as this article is about the finished project, it’s also about the method I use to make things like this. This is a way to build that is exceptionally strong, without complex joinery and specialized tools and equipment. It uses simple cuts and relies on glue and fasteners to add strength.
Here’s what I came up with:
Made mainly from 3/4″; thick pine boards that have been cut to the same width, it has adjustable feet to sit level on any floor. There are no drawers or cupboards to fill with dust and shavings. Tools and accessories for this lathe will be stored in a separate wall cabinet directly behind the tool.
I got started by cutting boards to rough length and trimming them down to 4-1/2″; wide. Having all of the components the same width reduces the number of machining steps and eliminates some confusion. Whenever possible, I try to do things this way, since it is more efficient:
There are four pieces that make up the top of the stand that run from side to side. These are laminated together and have mounting holes for the lathe bed to bolt to. To drill these holes after the parts are assembled can be tricky, so I laid out where they are and routed a slot in each piece. These are an equal distance from each end and line up exactly with the holes in the lathe:
I cut two pieces of solid spruce to bridge between the top stretchers and these are glued and screwed in place first:
The first stretcher is then doubled – glued, screwed and clamped to the first:
For maximum stability, I oriented the parts so that the grain is opposed like this:
This goes a long way in keeping the members straight and true.
After the clamps are removed from the first stretcher, the second one is installed in exactly the same way as the first – glued and screwed to the spacer blocks:
This stretcher is then doubled, like the first, and the parts are clamped for about an hour to let the glue set:
The legs splay out five degrees and to make this happen, I cut wedges:
Here’s a short video showing a jig for cutting these safely on the table saw:
The wedges are glued to the ends of the stretchers. This is a cross-grain glue joint and not something that is recommended in woodworking. In this instance, there isn’t much of a choice – to make the joints strong and durable, glue is the best option. The overall width of the boards is narrow and the wood is well seasoned, so this should minimize the amount of expansion/contraction across the grain to the point where the glue joint can restrain it. Using a softwood helps as well, since it is not as strong as most hardwoods, it will stretch and compress a lot easier.
The first part of the leg is glued and clamped in place:
After the glue has set, pilot holes are drilled for 2-1/2″; screws that are driven through the leg and into the stretcher:
These are ‘insurance’. As explained above, the cross-grain glue joint is not likely to fail, but if it does, these screws force the failure to happen at the very top of the leg.
The next part is screwed and glued under the top stretchers:
The other leg is glued on:
I’m using two different glues. For butt joints and joints where there is the possibility that the parts are not a tight fit, I use polyurethane construction adhesive. This is better at bridging gaps and is actually stronger than regular wood glue for butt joints.
Each leg is then doubled. These parts only go part of the way down the legs to accommodate the bottom stretcher:
This is installed and the lower parts of the legs are then doubled. What this assembly does is quickly and easily create joints that would have to be carefully cut out of thicker material, thereby decreasing the amount of machining required and also decreasing the risk of error. If we consider that laminated wood is almost always stronger and more resilient than solid wood, and that the long grain glue joint is stronger than the surrounding wood, there is no compromise with using this method. On the contrary, joints can be a tighter fit and more thoroughly glued this way, so this actually increases the strength over traditional joinery:
After the glue has set and the clamps removed, I give the stand a sanding with 100 grit to smooth things out and round the sharp corners:
The stand will be painted, but I want to wait until spring, when the weather warms up enough to spray it outdoors.
With the stand now fully assembled, I turn my attention to the adjustable feet. These are made from 1/4″; plywood and solid maple:
The parts are cut at 5 degrees to match the angle on the legs.
I put the feet on and drilled a 5/16″; hole through:
I then turned this into a slot on the legs with the jigsaw:
The feet get tightened with 1/4″; carriage bolts and nuts. To make sure the bolt stays put, I used some polyurethane adhesive under the head to glue it in place:
And here it is all finished, but not painted, with the lathe set in place:
Ready for serious turning action. The lathe is not in my shop yet, since it is still too cold to use out there and I haven’t found a good location for it.
A quick and easy project that was interesting to do. I hope that some of the design and building methods are useful to some readers and that it inspires you to build your own.