Woodworkers typically have their work cut out, as it is amongst the toughest of jobs to carry out. There are so many things that go into making the perfect creation, and one mistake can lead to a sordid conclusion and the dreaded aspect of starting from scratch.
However, times are changing, and what used to be one of the most tedious things ever is now becoming a fun pastime and something to look forward to. One of the tools that have been so helpful over the years is the drill press, a tool that ticks so many boxes and keeps finding more cool uses. One of these additional uses would be discussed in depth here.
Here, we will be describing what a lathe is and what it is used for in woodworking, we would also be showing you just how versatile a lathe is, and we will be showing you the different components of a lathe.
At the end of this piece, you’ll be well equipped with the basics and the more advanced means of operating a drill press as a lathe and beyond. So without further ado, let’s get to showing you a thing or two about the versatility of one of a woodworker’s favorite tools.
About a Lathe
A lot of us have heard about lathes, their versatility, and it’s not out of the ordinary to hear woodworkers go on and on about how they make their jobs easier. But do we know what these tools are about, do we know the components, and do we know just how versatile they can turn out to be? Well, now you’re about to find out. A lathe is a “machining tool that is used primarily for shaping metal or wood. It works by rotating the work piece around a stationary cutting tool. The main use is to remove unwanted parts of the material, leaving behind a nicely shaped work piece”.
As you can see from the above definition, lathes are pretty similar to drill presses, which makes it a no-brainer for them to perform similar functions, and that’s one of the reasons we are having this discussion.
Lathes come in different shapes and sizes they come with different and yet unique features, and most importantly there are different types of lathes that you can find in the market. Lathes aren’t so understated anymore, as now people have found out just how special they are, and they’re going on to purchase them in bulks and convert their drill presses to lathes if the need arises.
Lathes have been used to make a plethora of creations, such creations including but not limited to bowls, musical instruments, woodworking projects, and so much more. However, just ensure that no matter the system is operated, you ensure that your lathe is using the basic holding and rotating mechanism, that way you’ll be certain of a worthwhile result.
Parts of a Lathe
Lathes are pretty complex tools, it’s super important that we show you some of the parts, giving you a clear picture about how they work, and their multifaceted uses.
This is the path that holds the rest of the components together, it is super important, and a lathe wouldn’t be properly functioning without an effective one. All parts of the lathe are attached to the bed, this is important as it forms the base of the lathe and keeps everything in one proper piece. It also tells you the maximum diameter limit of the lathe, and how far it can stretch or otherwise.
The Tool Rest
This is an adjustable part of a lathe that is properly equipped for keeping tools when not in use. It is one of the most important parts of the lathe, as without it work might be tedious, overbearing, and frankly inaccurate. It’s worthy of note that you can adjust the tool rest for height and rotation, but for safety reasons, you should only do this when the machine is off. Tool rests should be tampered with, as that could be pretty detrimental to the person operating them.
This is a part of a lathe that is specially used to hold the wood in place and rotate it freely on a stable axis. You could either use it as a live center or a dead center, a live center turns with the work, while the dead center does not rotate as the work rotates on it. They both work similarly and the choice remains the handymen.
How to Use a Drill Press as a Lathe?
At the beginning of this discourse, we spoke about how versatile a typical drill press is, and this versatility plays a major role in it being used efficiently as a lathe. It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to use your drill press as a live center or dead center, it would fit the bill as long as you make some minor alterations. But first of all, we’ll tell you a bit about a couple of things that a drill press can do when used as a lathe.
What typically is the main function of a lathe, can easily be performed by a slightly altered drill press. This involves feeding the work piece against the rotation of the chuck, and you’ll be able to produce flat surfaces at the end of a work piece with requisite ease, in such a way that even the keenest of eyes won’t know that you did it with a drill press instead of a specialized lathe.
This is one of the top functions of a lathe, and luckily it can be done with equal precision and efficiency as a drill press. Boring entails “removing a part inside a work piece to create holes with various sizes depending on your pin”. All you need to alter in a drill press is to ensure you add a single-point cutting tool and then you’re good to go!
One of the major steps in achieving a stylistic and effective finishing. Chamfering is “the process of beveling the extreme ends of the work piece to remove the burrs or protect the wood from any damage”. It can also be done using a drill press instead of a specialized lathe, and the great part is that you don’t be sacrificing any of the final product in the process.
Other things that can be done by a drill press working as a lathe include, turning, counter boring, knurling, among others.
Using a Drill Press with a Live Center and/ or a Dead Center
Now that we understand that a drill press can serve as a lathe, it’s now time to understand how it can be used as either a live center or a dead center. It’s not as serious as it sounds, but it’s something completely realizable if you pay rapt attention.
Using a Drill Press with a Live Center
First off you need to convert it to something resembling a lathe machine, this can be done by using a router bearing that has the same diameter at the bottom of your work piece.
Once you get that out of the way, then you’ll set up the drill press to a lathe, which can be realized by getting a 2×4 scrap of wood, clamping it to your drill press table, and finally drilling a hole that would snugly fit your bearing. Once you get that out of the way, you’ll insert the work piece, start lathing, sanding, and once you’re done you’ll check your workspace to make the last few adjustments.
Using a Drill Press with a Dead Center
As regards using a drill press as a lathe with a dead center, it’s a little different from using it with a live center, but it’s also realizable. First off, you’ll have to fit some essential hardware like unique bolts that’ll hold the press in place. Then you’ll install the bolts by “attaching the pointed bolt with some offender washers at the center of your drill Press table”, this will rightfully serve as the dead center.
The next stop is pre-drilling a hole, which thereafter should be properly aligned to the live center for proper operations. Following this, you’ll mount your wood, put some lubricants to use, and you’ll finish the process by lathing the woodwork to perfection. See, it wasn’t so hard after all.
Converting a drill press to a lathe is a piece of cake, as long as you have the right component to make it a reality. It is thoroughly realizable, as long as you go over the process in the right way, as well as discarding the temptation to go through any shortcuts. Before you start lathing, ensure that you go through all of the tips above, possibly consult with a friend that has some knowledge about the whole thing, and ensure that you are protected at all times.
Of course, you can make a metal lathe out of a drill press, but you have to ensure that you do so the right way to avoid stories that touch. Of course, you can use a drill press as a lathe, just that you must ensure that you tick all the boxes before getting into the crux of the matter. Woodworking has never been more versatile, it’s now a case of achieving multiple goals while using a specialized tool, you too can be part of the fun!