How to Make Your Own Metal Spinning Lathe

Written by lauren ferris
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How to Make Your Own Metal Spinning Lathe
You can use your metal-spinning lathe for a wide range of projects. (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Metal spinning lathes can be used to create a wide range of useful and decorative products, from household goods and cookware to instruments and tools. You can form practically any ductile metal, from stainless steel to high-performance alloys. Building your own metal spinning lathe allows you to include your own specifications in the design to match your intended scope and projected usage for the machine.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 1-inch-by-1-inch cold-rolled steel (CRS) 1020 bar stock
  • Ruler
  • Safety gear
  • Band saw or power hacksaw
  • Drill
  • Bolt
  • 2-inch-by-1-inch cold-rolled steel (CRS) 1020 bar stock
  • Metal bolts
  • 3/4-inch cylindrical shaft made of 1214 mild steel
  • 100mm-diameter, 20mm-thick 1214 steel disk
  • 8mm high-tensile bolt
  • 8mm high-tensile thread
  • 16mm, four-flute, cobalt end-mill or similar size end-mill
  • 10mm cap-head bolt
  • 6mm cap-head bolt
  • Metal vertical pins
  • 1/2-horsepower or similar motor unit
  • Metal clamps (optional)
  • Welder (optional)
  • 1-inch screws

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  1. 1

    Construct the bed or base of your lathe using four 1-inch-by-1-inch cold-rolled steel (CRS) 1020 bar stock laid out in a rectangle. Place two 1 1/2-foot long steel bars 1 inch apart, measuring to ensure they are perfectly parallel; these are the legs. Use 3-inch long 1-inch-by-1 inch bars (the feet) to connect the 1-inch bars. Bolt all four bars together. The bed provides stable support for the headstock, tailstock and tool rest.

  2. 2

    Make an "I" beam using two 2-inch-by-1 inch CRS 1020 bar stock and one 1-inch-by-1 inch steel bar. The height of the I beam equals the maximum radius of the metal you can spin. For example, a 7-inch I-beam allows you to spin a metal piece 7 inches in radius or 14 inches in diameter. The 1-inch-by-1 inch steel bar is used to separate the two larger steel bars. This is done by milling a 1mm slot into the inside of each 2-inch-by- 1-inch bar, fitting the 1-inch-by-1 inch bar in it and then attaching the pieces together with metal bolts.

  3. 3

    Bolt two horizontal 2-inch-by-1-inch steel bars to the outside, bottom of each vertical 2-inch-by-1-inch steel bar of the I beam. This provides side support. The lower horizontal bars should be the same 3 inches as the feet of the bed and will run parallel to the feet. The upper horizontal steel bars should measure 4 inches long. The I beam and side supports are called the headstock.

  4. 4

    Bolt the headstock to the bed with metal bolts, one on each end of the horizontal 2-inch-by-1 inch steel bars.

  5. 5

    Drill a 1/2-inch hole that is 1/2 inch from the top of the two 2-inch-by-1-inch bars of the I beam. Bore it out to 36mm. This will hold the lathe shaft, a solid steel tube that connects the headstock to the back-plate.

  6. 6

    Insert a 3/4-inch cylindrical shaft made of 1214 mild steel. It should fit snugly through the holes in the headstock.

  7. 7

    Drill a 1/2/-inch hole in a 100mm-diameter, 20mm-thick 1214 steel disk. Mount the steel disk onto the front of the lathe shaft. Bolt it in place with an 8mm high-tensile bolt and 8mm high-tensile thread. This is called the back-plate, and it is what the metal you spin will be clamped or bolted to in order to prevent the metal from shifting.

  8. 8

    Construct the tailstock, which provides clamping pressure counter to the back-plate. The tailstock needs to be able to move along the legs of the bed to adapt or correspond to differently sized metal forms you spin. Build the base of the tailstock with 2-inch-by-1-inch steel bar, and mill two slots that will fit over the legs of the bed. Mill the slots 1 inch using a 16mm, four-flute, cobalt end-mill at 500rpm. Mill about 2mm at a time for accuracy.

  9. 9

    Fit the base of the tailstock over the legs of the bed, facing the headstock. The tailstock base should glide smoothly back and forth over the bed's legs.

  10. 10

    Bolt a vertical, 3 1/2-inch tall, 2-inch-by-1 inch steel bar to the tailstock's base with metal bolts. This "tailstock vertical" holds the adjustment screw and live-centre needed to provide clamping force on your lathe.

  11. 11

    Drill a hole in the top of the tailstock vertical for a 10mm cap-head bolt. Insert the 10mm cap-head bolt into the hole. Secure it by screwing a 6mm cap-head bolt onto a small brass pad that presses down on top of the 10mm cap-head bolt. This is the clamping mechanism.

  12. 12

    Bolt a small 2-inch-by-1-inch steel bar as a crosspiece to the vertical tailstock. This piece should point toward the headstock. Center a spindle bearing onto the end of the steel bar. Secure it in place with a 10mm bolt. This is the live-centre, which spins the metal on the lathe.

  13. 13

    Bolt a vertical 2-inch-by-1-inch steel bar onto the front leg of the base. This is the post of your tool rest, which will hold and balance the tools you use to form the metal. Bolt a 1-inch-by-1-inch crosspiece to the top of the vertical post using only one bolt so that the crosspiece can rotate and swivel as needed. Drill three to five holes in the top of the crosspiece, and insert metal vertical pins. This will provide leverage for tool manipulation.

  14. 14

    Attach a1/2-horsepower or similar motor unit to the rear of the headstock either with metal clamps or by welding the unit in place. This will provide the energy to spin the metal on your lathe.

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