Motor upgrade on lathe.

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodturning forum

Forum topic by mickeybob posted 01-09-2015 07:33 PM 2335 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View mickeybob's profile


9 posts in 1409 days

01-09-2015 07:33 PM

Topic tags/keywords: lathe router speed controller upgrade motor harbor freight variable speed tachometer question turning

I received a harbor freight 14×40 lathe for Christmas. It is definitely a cheap lathe but perfect for something to learn on and see if I want to shell out 2k on a nice lathe later. The thing that really bugs me about the lathe is the speeds. It’s slowest speed is over 900rpm and in order to change speeds you have to loosen bolts. I have already decided to replace the motor with a more powerful one that I can run a speed controller on. I have been looking around for a used treadmill motor but after thinking about I realized I have an extra 2hp brushed motor with a speed control already. The only problem is that the speed range is 0-28000 rpm’s. I have a set of custom fabricated pulley’s that i could use that would give me a 10 to 1 speed reduction which would give my lathe a speed range of 0-2800 which seems like it would be about perfect. What I am concerned about is whether or not the router motor will be able to have enough torque as slow speeds to properly power the lathe. Has anyone here tried using a router motor as a power source for their lathe? I have a hall effect rpm sensor and digital readout that i would be adding as well. I figure i will fabricate a control panel that can swing out from the table with a master on/off, a speed control knob, a tachometer and an emergency off switch. Any thoughts that any of you have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

20 replies so far

View Sawdustonmyshoulder's profile


477 posts in 3803 days

#1 posted 01-09-2015 07:42 PM

mickeybob, I am in the middle of a lathe refurb where I am fitting a lathe with a 2HP treadmill motor with a MC-60 motor controller. The speeds are quite a bit more manageable than using a router motor. MHO would be not to use a motor that is turning that fast for a lathe.

I am blogging it on LJ. Hope this helps. Click here to view.

-- The more skilled you are at something, the worse you are at it when someone is watching.

View Nubsnstubs's profile


1414 posts in 1905 days

#2 posted 01-09-2015 08:52 PM

Mickeybob, I just replied to sawdust, and what I stated could apply to you also…. Jerry (in Tucson)

-- Jerry (in Tucson)

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5106 posts in 4136 days

#3 posted 01-09-2015 08:59 PM

Sounds as if you’re spending a bunch for an upgrade.
My Grizz has the Reeves drive and, if kept clean and lubed, will work for a long time.


View mickeybob's profile


9 posts in 1409 days

#4 posted 01-09-2015 09:22 PM

Thanks for the replies. I have been looking at using a treadmill motor as well, the main reason I am trying to see if I can do it with a 28000 rpm router motor is that I already have everything I need, including custom machined pulleys. I have found that with the reduction ratio my belt speed is just below the max speed for the belt i would be using. Basically I just don’t know what kind of torque that I will be getting from that motor. I would hate to build the whole thing then have to rebuild for a different motor.

Jerry that is the setup my Pulleys have belt wise.

Bill This would be an expensive upgrade, especially on such a cheap lathe, but I already have everything just sitting around collecting dust, and honestly I just like building random things. I figure when I go on to bigger and better lathes the parts are still reusable.

View ChuckC's profile


843 posts in 3110 days

#5 posted 01-09-2015 09:35 PM

HF has a router speed controller for about $15. I wonder if that would work?

View mickeybob's profile


9 posts in 1409 days

#6 posted 01-09-2015 09:37 PM

ChuckC That is the speed controller I have attached to that router, it actually works really well. I just dont need that router anymore so I thought I might as well try to use the motor for something.

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3146 days

#7 posted 01-10-2015 07:42 AM

I suspect the weak link would be the belt when it comes to torque.
Is that a cog belt? How wide?

View mickeybob's profile


9 posts in 1409 days

#8 posted 01-11-2015 03:08 AM

Well it looks like I will be going with a treadmill motor after all, I was over at my in laws house putting in their New dishwasher and while down in the basement to shut off the water I looked over and back in a corner was a treadmill. They haven’t used it in years and said if I was willing to drag it out that it was mine. I love free stuff.

View bigblockyeti's profile (online now)


5256 posts in 1896 days

#9 posted 01-11-2015 03:54 AM

I don’t think you would have the torque you’re looking for at lower speeds, like under 500 rpm. If you are able to find a treadmill motor that would work best, despite having closer to 1 – 1.5hp a motor around 3000rpm will be making much more torque than a motor making 2hp at nearly 30000rpm. The noise could be a problem too as the scream typical of most routers would be enough to make any future turner take up whittling instead.

-- "Lack of effort will result in failure with amazing predictability" - Me

View Woodknack's profile


12399 posts in 2555 days

#10 posted 01-11-2015 04:37 AM

When you say “router motor” do you mean a shaper motor? I’ve never heard of a router having a separate motor. Is it an induction motor? Is it loud like a router, because I would get sick of that in about a minute.

-- Rick M,

View MrUnix's profile


7005 posts in 2374 days

#11 posted 01-11-2015 05:01 AM

I’ve had bad luck finding a treadmill motor to use.. I keep getting treadmills for free that are in too perfect condition, and I just can’t bring myself to tear them apart. I keep hoping to find one with a smashed up control panel or otherwise in bad shape, but so far, no luck :(


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View exelectrician's profile


2328 posts in 2603 days

#12 posted 01-11-2015 05:49 AM

Tread mill walk on base make a great router table! The slick melamine, and the strength of the core is amazing, and they are usually free!

-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

View mickeybob's profile


9 posts in 1409 days

#13 posted 01-11-2015 08:23 AM

So any of you that have used a treadmill motor, do you just use a 1 to 1 drive ratio?

View bigblockyeti's profile (online now)


5256 posts in 1896 days

#14 posted 01-11-2015 01:08 PM

I am using a “treadmill duty” Baldor 1hp motor on my old craftsman lathe. The motor and spindle have four step pulleys installed and while I could run 1:1, I have it set up with the greatest reduction. I leave it this way as I don’t do many small turnings and when roughing bigger stuff the additional torque is needed. The motor can spin up to roughly 4000rpm which is far more than I need, with the reduction set up the way it is, my maximum spindle speed is around 1200 – 1350rpm.

-- "Lack of effort will result in failure with amazing predictability" - Me

View Tennessee's profile


2889 posts in 2690 days

#15 posted 01-11-2015 01:20 PM

One of the best places I’ve seen to find treadmill motors is in thrift shops like Goodwill, Restores, etc. They always get used exercise equipment in, and it sells cheap. They usually always test them since they cannot sell ones that are running poorly, or are burned out. I just saw one a day ago in a Habitat For Humanity Store that was rather hefty, for under $50. Plus, like exelectrician said, you get that great walking platform to work with also.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

showing 1 through 15 of 20 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics