Steady Rest on the Cheap

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Project by USCJeff posted 07-20-2009 01:55 AM 7771 views 44 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I took some ideas from several different designs for similar rests and found this one to be very simple, but very functional. If you are going to attempt one, there are a couple things that would improve upon what I did (didn’t have the materials on hand). Many designs have used sink cutouts for their weight and density. I also saw many designs use roller blade or skate boarding wheels vs. the casters I had on hand. I think the countertop and a wheel with a true bearing would reduce the run out somewhat, but I found mine to be pretty true and within my tolerance.

The materials are standard stuff. I used MDF (doubled up for the ring). Knobs and machine bolts make the adjustments. It’s held to the lathe by tightening the rear knob which secures it from underneath.

As you can see, I had to bore some large holes for the peppermill in the making. I’ve tried without it and have had mixed results. The rest eliminates wandering and keeps the bit on the same axis as the centered piece.

TIP: Chuck one end. Use the tail to center the other end. Then adjust the rest to keep it in place.

Second TIP: The piece of junk Harbor Freight Tool Set you cna see hanging is terrible. I just started turning and wanted a feel for what tools I’d actually use. I spent the time on the Work Sharp and they still performed terrible compared to a middle of the line Benjamin’s Best set I bought . Not a HF basher, the dust collector in one of the shots was a good buy. The Jacob’s chuck on my tailstock was less than $5 there. I’ve yet to find an issue with it, but steer clear of the turning tools (planes, chisels, carving, yeah I’ve made this mistake more than once, sucker for a “deal”).

-- Jeff, South Carolina

18 comments so far

View CedarFreakCarl's profile


594 posts in 4080 days

#1 posted 07-20-2009 02:17 AM

Great design Jeff! I might have to try that one. Thanks.

-- Carl Rast, Pelion, SC

View kolwdwrkr's profile


2821 posts in 3616 days

#2 posted 07-20-2009 02:18 AM

I need one of those. Nice work

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4326 days

#3 posted 07-20-2009 03:12 AM

A very nice set up Jeff!

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View cabinetmaster's profile


10874 posts in 3584 days

#4 posted 07-20-2009 03:40 AM

I made one very similar to yours but used skate board wheels. Works fantastic.

-- Jerry--A man can never have enough tools or clamps

View David65's profile


190 posts in 3312 days

#5 posted 07-20-2009 04:10 AM

Last year I made one for my ShopSmith much like I have seen I used Rollerblade wheels and have had great luck with it. I have had fun hope you will it opens up greater options.

-- David '65

View USCJeff's profile


1063 posts in 4094 days

#6 posted 07-20-2009 04:17 AM

I think I’ll switch from the casters before all is said and done. I like the idea of the skateboarding wheels for the sole reason they are wider and make more contact than rollerblades. I suppose you could also just purchase some large bearings and use them as is. I did a google search for ideas on construction as this wasn’t an original. Most had Cabinetmaster or David’s wheels on them.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4273 days

#7 posted 07-20-2009 11:35 AM

Looks a lot heaftier than the one I designed. Looks like it would work a lot better too. Although mine did work ok. I think I’ll make my next one more like yours, looks more stable.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4326 days

#8 posted 07-20-2009 12:59 PM

I believe rollerblade wheels would be a better choice, because of their rounded surface.

They would have less contact to adjust to uneven surfaces, like say a tapered turning.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View hairy's profile


2720 posts in 3558 days

#9 posted 07-20-2009 08:43 PM

Nice job, Jeff! A steady is on my short list of projects. About the harbor fright lathe tools- as long as they are High Speed Steel, they should work. You might have to change the bevel angle.

-- My reality check bounced...

View a1Jim's profile


117120 posts in 3603 days

#10 posted 07-20-2009 09:35 PM

That will doer well done

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View USCJeff's profile


1063 posts in 4094 days

#11 posted 07-20-2009 10:19 PM

I’ll buy into that Dick. Makes sense. Take the peppermill in the shots of the rest. There really isn’t a surface that a wide (skateboard) wheel would make full contact. A rounded roller blade wheel could be positioned between the beads to make very solid contact.

Hairy, I love HF, work about a half mile from them. I admit, I didn’t give all of them a chance. I specifically took the time on the largest gouge, skew, and scraper. The handles weigh next to nothing. Maybe turning some new ones would make it feel better. My main comparison was that I used the same Worksharp 3000 system for the HF and Benjami’s Best. I felt I did the process as close to the same as possible. The results had a wide margin. The angle could be a factor. I sharpened to the angle set.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

View USCJeff's profile


1063 posts in 4094 days

#12 posted 08-30-2009 03:08 PM

Amendment I’m going to have to retract my blast of the HF turning set somewhat. Yes, they are in terrible form off the shelf. I followed the same sharpening methods that work with my better chisels. I played with the angles/bevels a bit and found a vast improvement on several. The largest gouge knocks off material in a hurry. The skews hold their own as well. Haven’t had much luck with the scrapers, but I haven’t played with them much. They weigh very little which makes them feel flimsy. I think I’m going to turn a handle and give it a real test. I would now say, it was worth the $10-$15 bucks paid. Calculate in some serious sharpening time and a denser handle, and I think it is a good buy if you don’t mind the effort. It met my goal in quickly getting some experience with some different types of chisels. I now know what I use and what I don’t.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

View WistysWoodWorkingWonders's profile


12758 posts in 3183 days

#13 posted 02-09-2010 08:19 PM

I like the simplicity in this design… and the usefulness… thanks for posting and sharing this idea.. time to hit the lathe again…

-- New Project = New Tool... it's just the way it is, don't fight it... :)

View USCJeff's profile


1063 posts in 4094 days

#14 posted 07-20-2011 01:54 PM

Having used this for a over a year or so, I never became quite satisfied. The casters used were a bad choice. A skate wheel with better bearings needs to replace them. I have used it w/o the casters by attaching joust the arms with UMHW tape at the contact point. Worked very well so far. It also could stand to have a little more support for the ring to keep it perp to the lathe. Any vibration of stock that pushes it makes it wobble a hair. Not a huge deal, but something that could easily be corrected.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

20599 posts in 3132 days

#15 posted 09-13-2011 02:14 AM

Nice steady rest. It sure is beefy to hold the work on center. If you need some skate board wheels, check the resale shops or look on the curb during junk day. I got 3 pair one night and have a bucket full of wheels.
I used the roller blade wheels on mine and they track really well because of the radius on the outside and they have some great bearing in them.

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

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