Stainless Lathe Bed Question

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Forum topic by ckorkyrun89 posted 11-11-2012 03:57 AM 1698 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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65 posts in 2018 days

11-11-2012 03:57 AM

This is my first post but I have been lurking for about 6 months so far.

I am currently designing a substantial bowl and spindle lathe. Currently, it will have a 21” swing and about 48” between centers. The 21” dimension is to make the most out of my nova chuck and the 48 inch dimension is somewhat arbitrary and I figure it allows me to turn just about anything I would ever need.

I have been using a 12 inch Delta lathe that is about 15 years old. The headstock casting is pretty flimsy and turning any bowl over about 6 inches really is pretty scary. I believe it has a cast iron bed and I have never had a problem with it rusting.

In doing some research on exactly what I should include when making this lathe I have noticed that some of the more expensive brands advertise having stainless steel. I plan on using steel sections and creating a large welded together lathe so other than cost having stainless steel for the bed would not be a problem. I am wondering if anyone that has a steel lathe as opposed to cast iron ever has problems with rust or corrosion or if it is a gimmick that I need not worry about.

7 replies so far

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David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2993 days

#1 posted 11-11-2012 01:45 PM

I would say that it is more in the gimmick category. You also have a lot better selection of structural profiles with steel than you would with stainless.

The only problem you get into with welded construction is that the metal moves around when heated which creates warping and internal stresses. That is manageable but needs careful planning.

If I were designing a big lathe like that, I would be going with steel and concrete. Mass and rigidity is your friend. Steel alone tends to be springy and transmits vibration. That is why they tend to use cast iron rather than steel in precision machinery. There is a current trend that goes to epoxy based concrete for big machines that is kind of cool.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

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2099 posts in 2184 days

#2 posted 11-11-2012 05:58 PM

Oneway, arguably the best lathe built in North America, offers a stainless bed but it’s only recommended for guys who turn wet wood often. If Oneway offers it, it won’t be a gimmick.

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

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65 posts in 2018 days

#3 posted 11-12-2012 03:44 AM

Yea this will probably be a several year project to get finished and I am only planning right now. Im fairly confident I will be able to weld everything together with minimal deformation. I am not concerned about residual stresses as it will be so strong there will never be a chance of it yeilding. I have a 3 foot long piece of 10 inch by 10 inch by .625 inch structural steel I plan on using for the headstock. I think that it is way more than stiff enough to deal with vibrations from turning. I plan to fill the bed with concrete because the steel I have for it is a little thinner. With the steel alone so far I am over 500 pounds and that does not include legs. I will probably just go with the regular steel for the bed and just keep after it to control any corrosion. The spindle I have designed so far is somewhat similar in design to Oneway. The big difference is that I plan on using link belts with V groove pulleys. I have had a really hard time finding the multi-v pulleys that most of the companies use on their large lathes.

Thanks for the replies.

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David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2993 days

#4 posted 11-12-2012 04:13 AM

Well, worst case scenario is you can order pulleys from McMaster-Carr. Not the cheapest but they carry just about everything.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

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928 posts in 2069 days

#5 posted 11-12-2012 07:02 AM

If its made by whosyerwhatsits everyone should own at least one ‘cause theyare the best!.....LOL…...ROFL….....ok wiping tears from my eyes.

Ok enugh playing around …(lingering chuckle) I have built several peices of equipment including a couple specialty lathes. Welding will at least be dificult especialy if welding stainless to mild steel thermal expansion rates are very different. Plan on straightening the bow out with a tiebar. properly done prestressing can be used to your advantage. Mass is helpfull but it can be overkill and dangerous as you will have no warning before something else up the line gives out. Example a lathe that is so ridged and heavy that there is no sense of imbalance till the tie bolt on the tailstock gives way or the faceplate flange breaks loose from the part threaded onto the spindle. I have turned dry blanks that weighed over a ton on a lathe thaat weighed 800 lbs. There have been time that the out of balance part has allowed the lathe to be moved effortlessly. I think the stainless ways would be a nice addition especially if you turn wet wood. As far as the ridgidity of cast concrete, unless you plan to spend an exceptional amount of money on the spindle bearings it would be a waste of time. Same idea on the link belt they make it easier to change when they break but why not put the belt outboard of the spindle box and use plain belts. For your bearings for the one on the work side of the spindle get an angular contact and for the outboard side just plain ball will do. use piloted flange inserrtsto insure and maintain allignment. I am planning on another large lathe build soon as soon as I get a couple planes(the flying kind) built. I would love to exchange ideas with you. I have the use of several drafting programs. PM me if you wish.

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65 posts in 2018 days

#6 posted 11-12-2012 02:55 PM

HAHA I cant PM yet as I do not have 5 total posts on the website.
I have thought about putting the pulleys and belts on the outboard side of the spindle but I also thought it would be nice to be able to turn some bigger turnings on the outboard side so I plan on having the pulleys in between the bearings. I am going to use two angular contact bearings on the outside with a bearing nut to deal with the axial load and on the inboard side I will probably just use one or two sealed ball bearings. You make a good point about it being too ridgid and the failure moving to something unexpected.

I have been using Solidworks to get the basic ideas down for the lathe. Most of it still in my head as opposed to being finalized but I am trying to throw different ideas around to get the best result in the end.

View hairy's profile


2701 posts in 3527 days

#7 posted 11-12-2012 03:28 PM

Here’s an interesting lathe.

-- My reality check bounced...

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