Motors for shop made tools

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Forum topic by Absinthe posted 06-29-2011 02:19 PM 3956 views 2 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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84 posts in 1997 days

06-29-2011 02:19 PM

Many projects for shop made tools require a motor of one kind or another. Some of them don’t need to be very bog, 1/2 to 3/4 HP and such for some, and upwards of 5 HP for things like dust collectors.

Even on the used market many of the larger HP motors are easily the most expensive part of these things.

It would seem that many sources for these motors tend to be pump and compressor motors. What I have recently come across have been DC powered treadmill motors. I have seen several available in the < $100 price level at 2.5 HP or more. These motors are small and compact for their strength and run from normal mains either with a transformer or some kind of rectifier to run at 120 DC. Obviously, they have relatively long duty cycles sicne they are designed to run a treadmill for an hour or more.

Has anyone used one of these to make anything? It seems small and compact, works without 220 and most times in 20 or less (17) amps. But Mama always said, if it seems too good to be true…

-- Absinthe

22 replies so far

View Bertha's profile


13003 posts in 2159 days

#1 posted 06-29-2011 03:01 PM

Wow, this is a point worth pondering. You’d think they were also designed for continous use under load. This could be the beginning of a VERY good idea. I’m tuned in.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View George M's profile

George M

118 posts in 2230 days

#2 posted 06-29-2011 03:27 PM

I picked up a used treadmill for $35 specifically to use the motor on my drum sander. When I got the motor out, found it was belt driven with a short belt. I could not find a source for a longer belt, and could not get the belt pulley off of the motor to replace it with a chain sprocket. So I went to a local surplus store and got a geared motor. This was for the transport belt on the Drum Sander.

Since the geared motor is one speed, I still want to find a way to install the treadmill motor so I can have variable speed.

-- George, Parker Colorado

View MedicKen's profile


1610 posts in 2928 days

#3 posted 06-29-2011 03:46 PM

I have a 90 VDC motor with a DC controller waiting for the time to build a large belt sander. I was able to get the motor off ebay and the controller from Baldor. 90vdc and only 30 rpm with the controller will allow 220vac input and infinite spped control with a pot. Its a pretty slick set up, when I get around to the final design and build of the sander it will be even better

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their

View Bertha's profile


13003 posts in 2159 days

#4 posted 06-29-2011 03:48 PM

Hey Ken, did Baldor sting the wallet on that controller?
I ask b/c I was looking to drop a Baldor into my Rockwell 20” bandsaw & it started getting pricey real quick.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View ptweedy's profile


75 posts in 2859 days

#5 posted 06-29-2011 04:16 PM

I have used swimming pool filter motors to replace burned out jointer motors. Just be careful of the switch. 220 or 110 on some I have seen. 3450 rpm. If I remember.

View Loren's profile


8313 posts in 3114 days

#6 posted 06-29-2011 04:46 PM

I have a 2.3 HP swimming pool motor. Runs on 220 only and also
it cannot be reversed and has a non-standard shaft.

It just depends on what comes up. As a rule of thumb, I’ll buy
used motors when I find them for $60 or less if it’s over 1.5 HP.

View MrRon's profile


3926 posts in 2709 days

#7 posted 06-29-2011 06:16 PM

Check out They have all kinds of AC and DC motors at very good prices.

View Don W's profile

Don W

17971 posts in 2034 days

#8 posted 06-29-2011 06:27 PM

I had the same issue as George. The belts are typically a weird configuration and no easy way to change them. It was on an old treadmill I had, so no money was spent, but beware. I have no idea if they are all the same, so look before you leap.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View Rob_G's profile


13 posts in 2085 days

#9 posted 06-29-2011 06:51 PM

Could you use one of those adjustable length link belts some people use on t heir table saws?

View Don W's profile

Don W

17971 posts in 2034 days

#10 posted 06-29-2011 07:09 PM

no. They look like this.
And the pulley (if thats what its called) is a large spline type, sometime built right into the motor.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View EEngineer's profile


1061 posts in 3079 days

#11 posted 06-29-2011 09:31 PM

Several of the “other” woodworking forums that I visit regularly talk about this a lot. In fact, for years now, the hot setup for midi and mini lathes was to use a DC treadmill motor and a variable speed controller to add variable speed to the lathe. A quick Google on this topic brought up ~ 10,000 hits.

So, no, I don’t see any problems with this.

As for the belt problems brought up here, those are standard belts and they are available in many lengths. They have used those belts in the machine tool industry for many years.

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

View Bertha's profile


13003 posts in 2159 days

#12 posted 06-29-2011 09:33 PM

I bought a pillow block setup from my local Ace. It came with all manner of step pulleys and other gadgetry for the sum of $29.00. Perhaps you can find an existing system with a similar arbor? I’m having a hard time visualizing the driveshaft of these motors.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View PurpLev's profile


8523 posts in 3115 days

#13 posted 06-29-2011 09:41 PM

I replaced the AC motor on my lathe with a leeson 90vdc motor with variable speed. you can read all about it here:

that said, many people use treadmill motors, and I would too for applications that require shorter lengths of time. that said – do your homework before getting the motor. treadmill motor advertised HP is far far far from what it actually is. you also need a controller for it (more $$) and depending on the environment – you would want to protect it from dust (things that most treadmill motors are not designed for as they are using open enclosures for heat displacement purposes).

bottom line – yes very doable (pulleys can always be replaced to suit your needs) just make sure you know what to expect and get what you need.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Viktor's profile


456 posts in 2885 days

#14 posted 06-29-2011 11:11 PM

Forget the motor! Why don’t you use the treadmill itself to drive your lathe. It will be variable speed also: the faster you run the faster it spins!

View Absinthe's profile


84 posts in 1997 days

#15 posted 06-29-2011 11:18 PM

Thanks, those are the types of answers I was looking for.

-- Absinthe

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