Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Full time cruising on my boat. Currently on the Tenn. River in NW Alabama in Jo
I personally have not built one but I knew several people that have. Back in the mid 1980's, building a lathe was quite common for the 'large bowl' turners. As a matter fact, every home made lathe I knew of was strictly a bowl turning lathe with no bed. There was a craft college around Bellingham, Washington that developed a variable speed control system for them. I think it was based on DC motors, I cant remember for sure, it was a long time ago. Anyway, every home made lathe I knew of was excellent.
Consider the fact that a lathe is probably one of the oldest and simplest machines known to man. Basically, a modern lathe is nothing more than 2 pillow block bearings, a shaft and a motor. If you were to make the lathe of high quality components you will probably have a very good lathe. Make it with junk parts and you will have a junky lathe.
Many lathes I knew of used automotive/truck drive shaft steel, which I think was monel and mounted on steel rails on a solid concrete poured base. These were made for very large bowls, like in the 18 to 24" diameter category. The tool rests were usually made in a tripod configuration with a swing arm attaching it to the lathe.
Thats about all I remember off hand.
Retired woodworker, amongst other things, and now full time cruising the waterways on my boat.