Friday, January 26, 2007

Building my lathe bench

My lathe bench is made from construction grade spruce and plywood. It is 26" wide and 60" long to accomodate both my Nova 3000 and Delta. It is square with no splayed legs but the width makes up for this. The legs and cross members are 4x4's. The frame joints are all mortice and tenon.

Plywood has been fitted to the bottom and sides. This will help keep it square and add rigidity. Eventually sand will be added as ballast. Fishing line has been stretched diagonally between the corners to check that they are planar. They should touch where they cross.

I fixed 2x4's (on their edge) to the top of this frame to support the top. They are easily planed to make the top as flat as possible.

Before the long plywood panel was fitted, I added vertical 2x4's between the beams. When the plywood is screwed to these, there are no large areas of unsupported plywood that could flex or vibrate.

The top is 4 layers of plywood glued and screwed together. Care had to be taken to make sure screws weren't used where bolt holes are needed to secure the lathe.

One invaluable tip for anyone building a workbench is to wire in some power sockets, so that you have somewhere to plug in lights, power tools, vacuums and the like.

Inside the frame I have added plywood panels (the black ones you see here) and filled the resulting cavities with sand. This not only adds weight to the bench, but it adds that weight higher up than if I had merely thrown some sandbags in there. It also reduces any vibration in the exterior panels.

The dimensions are:

61 inches long. That accommodates the Nova headstock and two extensions. I mounted the headstock flush with the end of the bench incase I want to add the outrigger at a later date.

27 inches wide. This is wide enough to have another lathe on the other side, but the important thing is the stability a wide bench gives you.

33 inches high. This was calculated to put the Nova spindle at elbow height, the 'norm' quoted by most books, and it seems good for most things except hollowing vases where it seems to be a bit high. You can always stand on a raised board if the lathe is too high, but you can't make yourself any shorter.

The only other items which seem to be dimensionally important are the positioning of the cross members that the bench top sits on. You need to make sure they won't be in the way of the bolt holes. Apart from that, I think I figured everything else out to maximize usage of 4x8 sheets of plywood.

I did a few sketches to help in determining dimensions, but nothing I would consider a plan! I tried to use materials I had on hand where possible, so a lot of my dimensions are specific to that, and my own circumstances. You will probably be best off figuring out what suits you best. But if you have any other questions, please ask.

What did I do wrong?

Actually, not a lot! I do wish that I hadn't been in such a hurry to try the lathe out, and had given the bench a coat or two of finish. It would probably have been easier to keep clear of dust.

I positioned the 2x4's that support the bench top so that they are either side of the holes where the Nova is bolted down. I positioned them close together so that they would provide maximum support where they are most needed. Unfortunately I didn't give myself enough space to get my hand in to fit the nuts, so that job became really tricky.

Other than that it works pretty good.

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