Bread & Wood

Bread & Wood

Handcrafted Artisan Bread & Hardwood

The Drill Press Lathe


I've always been a believer in the phrase "Do what you can, with what you have, where you're at."  I suppose that mantra, in combination with a few other reasons a traditional wood lathe wouldnt work on this particular project, inspired the creation of this very simple "drill press lathe."


The job was a custom order for a round knife block.  The plan was to cut the block out square, round over the edges as much as possible with the router, and collaborate with a local wood turner to round out the piece completely.  However, with the slots for the knives having to be already cut in the top, it turned out to be more of a struggle to accomplish on the standard wood lathe.  How would we make sure the sacrificial end piece glued over the top had not squeezed glue into the knife slots and hardened?  What about wood tear out next to those knife slots when the top was then cut off?  Plus, we would need to come up with a jig for cutting off that sacrificial top piece on a perfectly round cylinder.


The solution seemed to be something simple on the drill press.  The set-up was fairly straight-forward...a bearing mounted to the bottom of the block and also to a straight 2X4.  The 2X4 is then clamped to the drill press table with the other end resting on the appropriate side of the drill press spine.  The thing I liked about the drill press here is it allows for manual tension to be applied as needed.  The key was finding the exact center of the knife block to mount the bearing on bottom, and then drilling the top hole also in dead center.  The same drill bit for drilling that top hole is then left in the press and serves as a bit of a stabilizer while applying tension.  Since the tension is applied downward, industrial double-sided tape was sufficient enough to hold that sacrificial top piece to our knife block and consequently solve the glue problem.


I've certainly no plans to turn any award winning pieces on the drill press, as I have a close and local friend, Glenn Johnson, who turns amazing wood art on the lathe.  I appreciate and respect his skills and talent needed to turn beautiful hardwood pieces on the wood lathe.  If you are like me and not a skilled woodturner and just looking to clean up a rounded out piece fresh off the bandsaw, I had some pretty good luck with this set-up…and kept all my digits, too.





"I am not bound for any public place, but for ground of my own where I have planted vines and orchard trees, and in the heat of the day climbed up into the healing shadow of the woods."    

-Wendell Berry



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