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How To Make your Lathe Bigger


My lathe is a 50 year old 11"x36" Delta Homecraft. Seeing those on the market today stimulates interest in a larger lathe. Of course the old lathe allows turning large diameters outside the headstock. Still the newer techniques using a laser hollowing tool for vases, the bed to spindle distance limits the turning piece diameter. Even more limiting is the tool rest support, which subtracts almost 1.5" from the turning piece diameter.

If you are attached to your old lathe like I am and can do welding, you can make your lathe bigger. Lathes with the 2 rail beds like mine can be easily made larger. All that is needed is a riser block for the headstock and tailstock. The tailstock riser block is just a duplication of the lathe bed. I will describe my project and not comment on other style lathes.

First decide how high you want to raise the lathe. Mine is now a 16" lathe and is currently able to turn spindles about 40" long. I have plans to increase the spindle length to 60". The spindle diameter is limited to the original turning diameter of the 11" lathe over the tailstock riser block.

The 2.5" riser block for the headstock and tailstock are made from 2"x4" channel with 0.5"x1.5" bar stock welded to the top of the 2" legs of the channel. The tailstock riser block is movable on the lathe bed ways and can extend away from the headstock making the lathe bed longer. The 1.25" width between the lathe bed rails allows the riser block to be centered on the ways with a 1.25"x0.25" flat stock welded to the bottom center of the riser blocks.

Lathe Riser
Headstock, tailstock, and tool rest risers.

Fabrication suggestions:
Lathe Extended
  1. Fabricate both the headstock and tailstock riser blocks as one piece. Only after all the welding is completed should the riser block be cut to provide the headstock riser block. This way both riser blocks will be of the same height.
  2. Clamp the 0.5" bar stock to a flat surface with a 1.25" spacer between them. Place the channel on the bar stock with the legs of the channel evenly spaced on the bar stock. Weld the channel to the bar stock.
  3. Drill 0.5" holes every 4-6" the length of the 1.25" flat stock beginning 1" from the end of the metal. Clamp this flat stock to the center of the 4" channel flat side. Plug weld the flat stock to the channel using the 0.5" drilled holes. Plug welding will keep the flat stock edges clean for sliding on the lath bed.
  4. Cut the headstock riser block from the welded channel riser block, drill mounting holes, and install with longer bolts as needed.
  5. The tailstock riser block needs one additional part. To tighten this riser block to the lathe bed, cut a length of 0.25"x2" flat stock the length of the tailstock riser block. Drill 0.5" holes in the center of the bottom of the tailstock riser block 1" from each end. Drill and tap the 0.25" flat stock to align with the holes in the bottom of the riser block. Install a 0.5" bolt through the riser block holes and thread into the flat stock.
  6. The tailstock riser block is now ready to install. The tailstock can be installed on the riser block as needed.
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