Making a stand

bench for mini-lathe (thumbnail)

After the tedium of de-rusting lathe ancilliaries, I was keen to play with my new toy as soon as possible. To this end I plonked it on the only available surface which seemed kind-of suitable, a cheap copy of the “leading brand” folding trestle-type workbench-cum-woodworking-vice, of the sort favoured by D.I.Y.-ers on a budget. However, it wasn’t long before I was mentally designing, then building, something more purpose-made.

Not having all that much space in the room now known as “spare”, I was struck by how much more suitable the small folding bench seemed than I’d at first imagined – in fact, I reasoned, you don’t need all that much space behind the lathe or in front of it, and any serious amount of space to the sides is going to fill up with stuff that probably shouldn’t be sitting in the way of a regular splattering with cutting fluid or swarf.

I toyed with the idea of buying another off-brand folding workbench, but these things cost over twenty quid, and something purpose-made could be more solid, just a little bit longer and also have a place for tools, and perhaps a vice on the end, so I decided to build a bench from scratch.

This seemed like a perfect time to familiarise myself with Google’s “Sketchup” – I could rough out my bench design as a practice project, then later on I could use sketchup to draw various things I wanted to make on the lathe. I chose sketchup as my home CAD solution because I’d been hankering to try it out and, obvioulsy, because it’s free.

I visited B&Q (a chain DIY store I normally consider too expensive for my taste) and picked up some of their bargain timber – they sell smooth planed 2.4 metre lengths of 88 x 38mm (3½” by 1½”) intended for building interior “stud” walls, which is significantly cheaper than their rough-sawn timber of the same size. Go figure. It’s around £3.50 a length, and I reckoned I needed about four lengths of it, plus some narrower bits. I already had some offcuts of shelving and other stuff to hand from household DIY exercises.

Don't try this at home. For one thing, it contravenes most principles of workshop safety and common sense, and for another, jigsaw blades go up as well as down, so keeping the workpiece from lifting, jamming or drifting off track is fraught. Er, that is to say it would be fraught, if one were daft enough to try it.

The bench took a bit longer to make than I’d hoped, and involved some not-recommended improvised tooling (e.g. a sawbench for rip-sawing shelving, comprising a power jigsaw clamped upside-down in the cheapo folding work-bench). But I think the lathe bench came out OK, and it’s certainly solid.

I celebrated by splashing out on a brand new red metalworking vice from Machine Mart (around fourteen quid), which is now firmly bolted to the end. The major sections of the bench are held together with bolts into recessed nuts, so it can be easily dismantled and stored flat, if need be. (Well, as flat as one can get something made with three inch thick sections of timber.)

I might update these pictures in due course, they aren’t very good.

The four lengths of timber which make up the bench top are held together with lightweight metal angle and a couple of mild steel strips, neither of which take any strain when the bench is assembled.

The square of dark wood in the back beam, visible next to the metal bracket which holds the top down, in the second pic from the left, is concealing an M10 nut and washer, into which is screwed a four or five inch long bolt which passes through the leg assembly – the head of this bolt is visible in the next pic along. The back of the bench has diagonal braces for the back legs, attached to the back beam with recessed bolts, and to the legs with those concealed knock-down fittings comprising a bolt into a cylindrical nut held in a cross-drilled hole, the kind of thing Ikea are very fond of using. These things are a pain to get right if you don’t have a pillar drill to make holes at a reliable 90 degrees to surfaces.

There are no fancy joints of the sort a carpenter would make. The only times I picked up a wood chisel when making this were to make the square holes for the nuts set into the back beam, and a couple of slots in the top of the back beam to clear the steel strips holding the top planks together.


About lathenovice

Turning bits of metal into differently-shaped bits of metal.
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