Can a lathe be fabricated from mild steel ?
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    Default Can a lathe be fabricated from mild steel ?

    Been looking at some YouTube efforts at building a lathe which range from junk to not so much junk. I'm pondering if there is any way to really build a serious small lathe that would equal a shop bought one ?

    Some of the basics you can't do without ?

    1. a high mass of stable cast iron to dampen vibration
    2. Excellent bearings
    3. Hardened and ground ( scraped ) bedways.

    I'm a welder and even if I fabricated a lathe from heavy sections and plates the distortion and stress in the finished product would be huge. I'd probably go find a scrap cast iron lathe bed and get it re ground , then start from a stable base.

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    It's all design and execution. Heck, I could build a nice lathe from maple and some steel plates. Good lathes have been made from heavy round rod stock. SBs use simple plain bearings yet achieve excellent results. In the past people have made good lathes from cast bronze. OTOH, why not just find a good used lathe?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Waterworks View Post
    I'd probably go find a scrap cast iron lathe bed and get it re ground.
    At which point you would probably be into it for almost as much time/money as finding a good enough used lathe.

    If I needed a large wood lathe I might consider building something like a Oneway, and I would like to build a spinning lathe at some point. For a metal lathe though I wouldn't bother unless the whole purpose is just the fun of the project.

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    One technical reason that cast iron is used for machine tool frames is that cast iron heavily damps vibration, thus controlling chatter. Making a lathe frame out of even the best of steel is likely to disappoint. There have been many attempts.

    The sourcebook for this is "Precision Machine Design" by MIT Professor Alex Slocum. This is a book by Slocum plus a course taught by Slocum and others.

    Available online: Precision Machine Design | Mechanical Engineering | MIT OpenCourseWare

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    it will cost you more money and alot of time to make a lathe. easier and cheaper to buy one new or used. many used ones available usually biggest problem is how to deliver it as even small ones are heavy
    .
    and engineering design to make a compact well engineered design is very time consuming. sure big clunky awkward design can be made. you could spend years and decades redesigning rebuilding for better engineered design
    .
    Gingery lathe doesnt have to made from aluminum castings, can easily use steel.

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    You might try a search for "bar bed lathe". A few rather nice ones have been made.

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    There are ultra precision lathes built on a massive slab of granite (synthetic) - Tilted and un-tilted + use of air bearing spindles or Hydrostatic bearings depending on what you are cutting + size of parts.

    For optical applications the base is pneumatically floating / vibration damped / isolated. So theoretically you could weld together a base / box to support a granite block and slab based machine.

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    You could buy the size lathe you want, brand new, for a small fraction of what you would spend building your own. With a store bought lathe you have resale value as well.

    If you wish to research the venture, I suggest you start with the book "Design of Weldments" by Blodgett, published by the James F. Lincoln Are Welding Foundation. There are several other books from the foundation that would also be beneficial, but that one is the most applicable.

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    Yes, you can build a lathe out of scrap steel if you have the desire to try, but as others have mentioned, it is not a cost effective way to get a lathe, and unless you do a spectacular job, resale is questionable. I believe it was WWI where we needed to tool up quickly, they poured lathes with a concrete bed and just used steel in critical locations like ways and spindles.

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    What is it with people wanting to build their own lathes? This seems to come up way too often....I don't hear about people wanting to make their own washing machines or screwdrivers or weed eaters.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GregSY View Post
    What is it with people wanting to build their own lathes? This seems to come up way too often....I don't hear about people wanting to make their own washing machines or screwdrivers or weed eaters.
    The fact they are even thinking about it impresses their girlfriend.... better to ponder making one's own rocket ship to the moon ...

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    Cincinati made a mill of welded construction.
    Or was that Fadal?
    It was a line, and another line was a cast base.

    I've been pondering it to build a cnc
    But prolly go for a boxford headstock and saddle and bed cus that's all that would be needed.
    We'll see...

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    Because "I tried to build a lathe once" sounds better than "I bought a used lathe and couldn't get it working".

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    To answer the original question, yes a lathe can be made from weldments.

    I am quoting a long ago post from JimK here.

    "In 1958 Axelson was owned by US Industries, Clearing Division. The Clearing-Axleson lathes of that time had welded steel beds. The lathes were modern looking with squared off design resembling Lodge and Shipley's Powerturn machines.

    One advertizement in Machinery Magazine that year showed a Clearing-Axleson lathe taking a heavy cut on a work piece with an overhead crane holding the tailstock end of the lathe two feet off the ground!"

    Blodgett's "Design of Weldments" describes the design of a lathe from steel weldments.

    I wish I could test drive one of those Axelson welded lathes.

    Chuck
    Burbank, CA

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    Quote Originally Posted by GregSY View Post
    What is it with people wanting to build their own lathes? This seems to come up way too often....I don't hear about people wanting to make their own washing machines or screwdrivers or weed eaters.
    Probably the high cost of small machines, and a lack of understanding of what all makes a true lathe. If you are willing to forgo feeds, threading capabilities and any real precision, a chunk of I-beam, some pillow block bearings, and a scabbed up carriage, is better than no lathe at all. I've seen a few in out of the way places where nothing else was available, but in the modern civilized world where a real lathe can be purchased cheap, why bother.

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    Well, I've made screwdrivers on occasion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GregSY View Post
    What is it with people wanting to build their own lathes? This seems to come up way too often....I don't hear about people wanting to make their own washing machines or screwdrivers or weed eaters.
    … or so you think...take the blinders off.

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    Some Very large lathes were made in Erie Pa by "RD&D" and they used welded beds.
    One technique they used was to fill the fabricated bed with concrete (I was told
    by someone that worked there)

    IIRC the Morton Thiokol solid rocket booster lathe was one.

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    Not quite a lathe, but quite a lot of "fabbing up" in that 120 foot length

    Thirty-five years ago in Houston
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails spiral-mill-01.jpg   spiral-mill-02.jpg   spiral-mill-03.jpg   spiral-mill-10.jpg   spiral-mill-11.jpg  


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    "To dampen" = to make slightly wet.
    "To damp" = to absorb oscillation.

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