A good stand is just as important as a good lathe. As
a professional turner, I can’t emphasize enough how
important it is to have a stand that’s stable, strong and
heavy—particularly for bowl turning. This one meets
all those requirements, and is better than many steel
stands, yet it’s just made from plywood.
Building your own stand has another major advantage:
You can customize its height. Turning on a stand
that’s the right height allows you to control your tools
much easier, and is less fatiguing, too. Time to do it!
Make the parts
First determine your stand’s height and length (see
“Sizing Your Stand," below). This stand is designed for
a person about 5' 8" tall and a lathe that is 28" long with
an axis 9" above its base. (I built this particular stand for
a Vicmarc VL100.) Adjust the cutting list if necessary to
fit your height and your lathe's dimensions.
Most of the plywood parts are made from two pieces
glued together, face-to-face. Cut the pieces for these
parts slightly oversize (Fig. A, Parts A, D, E, F, G, H and
J). Glue them together (Photo 1).
Cut the top interior (A) to final size. Glue edge
banding on all four sides (B and C, Fig. A). Trim the
edging flush with the interior.
Double-splayed legs are the key to the base’s stability
(Figs. B and C). Use your tablesaw or circular saw to
cut the top and bottom ends of the legs at 5° (Photo 2).
Before you cut each leg, make sure these angles lean
the same way, not in opposite directions. Lay out and
cut the tapers on the long sides of the legs (Photo 3).
Rip the rails (E, F and G) and shelves (H and J)
to final width. Trim the pieces to length, cutting their
ends at 5° in opposing directions. (Leave the top shelf
extra-long for now, so you can adjust its position later, if
necessary.) In addition, cut the shelves’ front and back
edges, and the rails’ top edges, at 5°. On the bottom
shelf, leave the front edge square. (Note that the front
bottom rail is not angled to follow the legs’ taper. It is
set back so you won’t bump your ankles.) Make the tool
dividers (N) and fasten them to the top shelf.
The fastening system
To make the joints, start by laying out the bolt-holes in
the legs (Fig. C and D). Tilt your drill press table to 5°,
put a 3/8" bit in the chuck and drill the holes (Photo 4).
Use a fence to ensure that all the holes are the same
distance from the tapered edges of the legs. Reset the
fence for the front bottom rail holes.
Temporarily clamp together the legs and all four
rails. Using a hand drill and the same 3/8" bit, extend
each bolt-hole into its corresponding rail (Photo 5). Disassemble
the base. If necessary, drill these holes deeper.
Lay out the holes for the copper tubes that will hold
the nuts directly from the holes you just drilled. First,
draw a centerline across each hole. Insert the 3/8" bit.
Adjust a sliding bevel so it’s parallel to the bit (each
hole may lean at a slightly different angle). Place the
bevel adjacent to the hole’s centerline and draw a line down the face of the rail (Photo 6). Mark the center of
the copper-tube hole on this line (Fig.D).
Reset the drill press table to 90° and drill the coppertube
holes all the way through the rails using a 7/8"
Forstner bit (Photo 7).
Cut 1-1/2" lengths of 3/4" i.d. copper pipe (P) and
tap them into each hole (Photo 8). Put the 3/8" bit
back in the drill. Push the bit into each bolt hole and
drill through the near side of each copper tube.
Assemble the stand
Drill holes through the top rails for the lag screws
that fasten the top. Clamp the legs and all of the rails
together again. Insert a bolt through each hole. Slide a
nut into the copper tube, hold it against the bolt with a
flat-bladed screwdriver, and tighten the bolt.
Attach the shelves and feet (K) using countersunk
wood screws. The exact position of the top shelf will
depend on the length of the motor’s drive belt. After
determining the top shelf’s proper height, cut it to
length. To fasten the top shelf, mark its location, then
tip the base upside down. The shelf will stay put because
its ends are tapered. Run screws through the legs and
into the shelf.
Attach the top. Position your lathe on the stand. (If
your lathe has a separate motor, place it on the upper
shelf about where it will go. Line up the lathe’s pulley
with the motor’s pulley.) Mark the lathe’s mounting
holes. Mark the passage hole for the belt (Fig. A).
Bolt the motor to the motor mount (M) and attach the
motor mount to the top shelf using hinges.
Remove the lathe and cut out the belt-passage hole.
Pre-drill holes for the hanger bolts that will fasten the
lathe to the stand. Install the hanger bolts and mount
the lathe. Finally, screw on the knock-out bar holder
(Q) and a hanger for your wrench. Apply finish if you
Sizing Your Stand
“One size fits all" doesn’t work for a lathe stand—its height
should suit your height.
You’ll need two measurements to calculate your stand’s
height. First, if you’ll use a floor mat, stand on top of it. Bend
your arm at the elbow to form a 90° angle. Measure the
distance from the floor to the top of your fingers. Second,
measure the distance from the center of the lathe’s spindle
to the bottom of the lathe’s base. Subtract this distance from
your hand-height—this is the ideal height for your stand.
The length of the stand depends on more than just the
length of the lathe. You’ll need enough room at the stand’s
left end so that your feet won’t bump into its leg. When you’re
working out your stand’s dimensions, drop an imaginary
plumb line from the chuck’s face to the floor. Allow about 10"
between the plumb line and the inside face of the leg.
Fig. A: Exploded View
Fig. B: Leg Detail, End View
Fig. C: Leg Detail, Front View
Fig. D: Joint Detail
Click any image to view a larger version.
Double and triple thicknesses of 3/4"
plywood, plus 120 lbs. of sand, provide
ample mass to absorb vibration.
Strong fastening system.
The legs and rails are bolted together
using copper tubes to house the nuts.
These joints will never shake loose.
The legs splay out in both directions.
1. Glue two sheets
of 3/4" Baltic
make the legs.
Use torsion beams
or other large
cauls to flatten
the plywood and
to provide even
2. Cut a 5° angle
on the top and
bottom of each
leg. This angle
creates the sideto-
3. Use a saw guide
and a circular saw
to taper the legs.
4. Drill holes
angled at 5° for
the bolts that will
join the stand.
Make the rails
cut their ends at
assemble the base
5. Drill into the
rails through the
holes in the legs.
6. Insert the same
drill bit into
the rails. Using
a sliding bevel,
transfer the bit’s
angle to the rail’s
face. This enables
you to find the
exact center of
the holes for the
copper tubes that
will hold the nuts.
7. Drill holes for
tubes using a
bit. Precision is
important for a
strong joint and
8. Tap copper
tubes, made from
copper pipe, into
the holes. Drill
through the ends
of the rails and
through the tubes
to finish the joint.