Microlathe - The Parametric, Printable Lathe

by cathalgarvey, published

Microlathe - The Parametric, Printable Lathe by cathalgarvey Jan 13, 2010

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Notice: This is a project in development, and I intend to improve it over time. This draft will work, but it's hardly ideal. Caveat Emptor!

Update Jan 31st: I've uploaded Version 2, which is pretty much the same as 1.5 (which I've removed as a result) but comes with the "Hex Key Holder", which can be fitted with a standard screwdriver bit from a powertool to act as a crude "center". My experiments with using two such centers to drive the lathe weren't great, as one invariably ends up spinning and the piece stops. So it looks like the required parts at present are: Two Bearing-End-Body Sections, two Bearing-And-Tool-Fittings, A Boltplate and a Hex tool holder. You'll also want a Dremel Rest and a length of MDF/wood to bolt it all down to. And you'll need googles, and perhaps gloves, and a lot of sense.
For now, it is left to the user to figure out spacing of the body sections and how to align them. I'm working on improving that. :)

More Update: Really bad video of me demoing Microlathe: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XXN6UkrnIw and a shot of the finished piece of dowel on my Twitpic: http://www.twitpic.com/y8jnl
Also, Microlathe was featured on Makezine! http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2010/01/tiny_printable_dremel-powered_lathe.html

Microlathe is a little dremel-powered woodturning/watchmaker's lathe that can be printed and bolted together with all those leftover M3 nuts and bolts that came with your Makerbot. In addition to the M3 nuts/bolts, you only require a 608 bearing (I got an extra one with my Makerbot) and an 8mm diameter spring to fit the bearing-end. You probably don't even need that spring.

So, if you have a Dremel handy, you can consider this "The Lathe That Came Free With The Makerbot"!

Microlathe is Parametric, and makes use of a "Global Parameters" script from which the others derive shared traits such as the radius of the bolt plates, etc.. you could try printing a larger one, but bear in mind the limited space you have to print the body portions, which are already quite large for a Makerbot.

MicroLathe makes use of shapes.scad, which was kindly released to the community under the GNU General Public License by Catarina Mota. Permission was explicitly granted for shapes.scad to be considered released under an Attribution, Sharealike license additionally in this case, to facilitate licensing crossover. Thanks a million Catarina!
Microlathe also makes use of teardrop.scad, which was provided kindly by Erik De Bruijn. Teardrop.scad is released under the GPL2 license, with the inheritance clause generously waivered in this case to permit release under a non-GNU license. I'm very grateful Erik, thanks!

I'd appreciate a small donation via Paypal if you find yourself using this to generate a profit (selling turned items, etc.), or if you just love it and want to show your appreciation. Otherwise, it's all yours to print for yourself or others! Just don't charge for it without asking me and informing the buyer that it's available freely here.


Microlathe requires some large printed parts, which may necessitate the use of a heated or pre-heated build platform. Even with a heated platform, my body sections had a slight curve to them that required clamping to a flat surface to remedy. Future revisions may do away with the "Spine" of the Lathe to help prevent this.

In the STL Pack, you'll find all the parts needed. You can alternately print directly from the Gcodes in the Gcode Pack, though bear in mind I extrude at around 230C. You may need to change this temperature manually.

As of my first test print, the tolerances were slightly too tight on these STLs. You will need a craft knife to widen holes that don't fit your nuts and bolts. You may also want a ratchet-clamp to help push in the captive nuts on either bolt-plate. Their tight fit is actually advantageous, as they're used to provide easy threads for the bolts, and you want them immobile. But be careful, as you can damage the Fabject at this stage. Additionally, the spur for the inside of the bearing was too narrow, leading to instability at higher speeds. I aim to fix this shortly!

Assemble as shown in the pictures, using M3 nuts and bolts to secure all the parts together.
You may need to have several sets of M3 bolts of varying length for the boltplates, so that when a dowel is affixed properly by the bolts, the Bolt-Heads are flush with the rim of the BoltPlate. This is because I added housings for the spinning boltplates to help prevent injury (which don't really house the boltplates that well anyway); if you want to render without these housings, it's up to you.

The first draft does work, but is flawed. Take great care, and bolt/clamp down the body to a solid surface if you plan to use it.

Use of the MicroLathe, Dremel, and Makerbot are entirely your own concerns and risks. I take no responsibility for any personal harm you cause yourself, others, or to property through your use of this item in any manner. Wear goggles.

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You suggested gloves. I'm a machinist and it's a dangerous idea to wear gloves or rings for that matter when running a lathe.

Astucieux, bien conçu, bravo pour ce partage !

If you continue to develop this some gearing options UP or DOWN might be handy too. Most likely you wouldn't need both sets of gearing for any given build, I expect it would vary with the motor you were planning to use.

Just to confirm, you are saying to use Draft 2 files

Can someone fix scad files? nothing is working

Hello Cathal. I have been thinking about making my own lathe using my old dremel and a couple of 2x4s for a couple weeks now. I'm happy that I bumped into your lathe after a short google search. I just created my acct here to be able to comment how much I appreciate your creativity. I don't have a 3D printer, I'm not into this " makebot" thing, but I love to play pool ( billiards) very much and this little homemade lathe is what I want for changing tips on my pool cue. Write to me and give me any advice or suggestions about parts, since I only have a dremel and don't have a printer. Maybe PVC or plumbing fixtures ?
Eddie. [email protected] thanks

YouTube video not there? Great idea. Can't wait to print it.

Anyone make anything cool with the lathe?

Nice! The video links look like wrong, could you check please? Thanks :)

a replica machine other

So we are still in Draft 2.
Is there still development going on on this one?

At the moment, I am not actively developing the Lathe, no. I'm focusing on perfecting projects like the Dremelfuge, while branching into other territory and experimenting with DIYbio stuff at home. :) So I'm kinda too busy to develop uLathe properly. That said, one of the other projects I'm looking at doing will tie into uLathe, I think. When it's ready..

Of course, since it's Creative Commons and all I invite anyone with the creativity, drive and experience to play around with it and develop it!

Lets build a printable workshop. ;)
One 3d-printer to start with and all the other tools can just be made.

I just created a printable mini-vice:

and I made a milling-toolhead:

to we can print, mill, drill, mill PCBs for electronic, pick
amp;place, engrave,... what is left to do?

(moved) dremel milling toolhead for RepMan

I love those things! I think we could get a critical mass soon of printable bootstrapping tools that could really turn a 3D printer into the "seed" technology of a whole mini-fab-lab. Nice thought, isn't it? :D

It looks like the lathe requires three screws to serve as the chuck. I would think it would be possible for someone to design a printable chuck...

If I better understood how Chucks work I'd do it myself! And indeed, I'd love to see a proper chuck designed for this. For now, I'm planning to prototype using a little hexagonal holder for standard electric screwdriver bits for use as cheap-o centers, which should be a lower-mass, safer way of spinning a blank.

I've never operated a lathe and never knew how a chuck was put together until I saw this diagram. http://www.grupotdg.com/index.php?cID=273http://www.grupotdg.com/index.... It appears that each of the chuck teeth has several concentric curved grooves on it's back. The plate behind the teeth has a spiral groove. As you rotate the plate its spiral will force the chuck teeth to slide open or close.

Not all chucks are complicated. Take a dremel chuck for example it is made out of two pieces and is my inspiration to create my lathe http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4322http://www.thingiverse.com/thi...

Most easiest way to do a chuck for this would be a sliding "T" shape with nut inside. The problem would be, how to balance all three of them when the piece is attached.

Real ones have some sort of planetary gear sliding all the clamps at ones.

For V2 can I ask a tool rest (also the piece should always turn against the tool) and some sort of vacuum hose attachment because this is really messy device :)

You sound like a person with experience in Lathing! Big help, because I have no practical experience with Lathes except the prototype one I used in the video. If you have a concise list of suggestions, I'd love to hear them by email, you can find my address at the start of the .scad files, you can open them with any text editor. I rather not post the address online where the bots can see it.

As far as making a true chuck, I'm not sure it's practical on such a small part via makerbot. The Makerbot won't be able to do threads with any fidelity, and I have a feeling that anything using captive nuts won't be that much better than just ramming the screws right into the piece like I did alr

That said, I'm going to abandon the nut/screw approach if the screwdriver-holder works OK: I'm just uploading that .scad now. I haven't tested it yet, but it's supposed to hold a hex-fit screwdriver bit from an electric/magnetic screwdriver, which would make for a crude "center" if driven int
o the ends of a workpiece.

For a toolrest, it's valuable to know the piece rotates against the tool. I'll try to work something together when I next give this project some time, but for now I'd suggest using a rolling pin for leverage similar to the hand-rests on a wood lathe. My ambitious priority
would be to just right to CNC rather than making a perfect hand-tool Lathe, but that might be a dumb idea anyway.

Let's not forget though, if you're feeling up to the task you could always hack something in yourself and share the designs! It's Creative Commons for a reason ;)

Cool, CNC wood lathe would kick ass :) Can't wait to see that.

I'm not pro but I have some experience on hand-tool lathe. You seem to have the basics down pretty well.

A quick search turned up few good vids on youtube and I thought I'd put them here since we were taught the same way in school.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNKfFnddIIAhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v... Basic tools and what they are for.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nk_rGxOZhZMhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v... The basic usage of tools/tool rest. (note how much stuff flies out and what angle)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEvqn9vOslYhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v... Little more advanced use of lathe. This is the way to make hollow objects like cups, goblets, plates etc.

Also teacher mentioned that beware (read: NO) loose garments, jewellery, long hair. Because machine doesn't know what it's turning, you or the wood.
(Although Dremel doesn't have the power to big damage, I'd imagine it would hurt anyway :))

I can
´t wait to see the improved version :)

I haven't fully built V2 yet, but I'm releasing what I'm going to call "V1.5": The Body parts from V2 minus the improved Chuck fittings or centers! The new body parts are far more robust, so there's no reason to print the old while I develop the better tool fittings.

Hey this is awesome i cant wait to print it!!! :-D

this would make a great gift for my grandpa shame I don`t have a dremel

can you make that so it works on a electric motor(like those used in a reprap/makerbot, if necessary an other type ) instead on a dremel ?
or are those not fast enough?
but if you can do that people without a dremel(like me)
can also use it
but thats probably not possible if the motors are not fast enough if so
sorry to bother

As it happens, one of my medium-term goals is to look into adapting this design to fit some appropriate motor that would make it more predictable; Designing for the Dremel is a great way to get a quick working prototype that many people can use right away, but the Dremel has a tendancy to speed up without warning sometimes. Hardly what you want on a tool like this.

I'd eventually like to have a fully CNC lathe design out of this, using a 2-D stepper-motor driven cutting tool and a predictable and strong/fast motor to drive it.

For now, if you have a different type of drill to the Dremel you should be able to adapt it for your use using the Global Parameters
, but a quick hack would be to print two Bearing-end plates and use one of them for the chuck on the drill instead. You can change the "DremelGroundClearance" parameter to the radius of the drill you use at the point you want it supported by a saddle, that should make the saddles print at the correc
t height. But maybe the incorrect width/depth, I haven't experimented..

Using the drill chuck and a bearing endplate, you might be able to work this just by carefully balancing and clamping down the drill so it is perpendicular to the bearing and won't move during use.

Hold out for draft 2, I'm h
oping to have it ready in a day or two!

Brilliant thing!!!
Slight note: you should not use zip files since it prevents the nice auto-preview functionality of thingiverse...
love your brilliant parametric designs :)

Actually, I deliberately went with .zip not only for the convenience of downloading Scad/STL/Gcode/3gs packs, but also so that I could choose my own rendering pictures. I then cleverly went on not to provide any real rendering pictures, but that's my day job's fault. ;)

Next revision I'm planning to have a special .scad script to render all the parts in approximately the right places, so I can provide a nice Hi-Res image of the whole thing, not just the parts. :)

Awesome, nice engineering! I have few of dremels' add ons and this kicks their ass by quality (and price!!). As soon as I get more botfeed I'm gonna print this and do atleast a goblet or two :)

:D Glad you like it! I'm working on the next draft already, it'll be a bolt-down design and I'll be trying to get more stability out of it, and a better grip on dowelling. Hopefully I'll have that up soon!


"MicroLathe makes use of shapes.scad, which was kindly released to the community under the GNU General Public License by Catarina Mota."

"Just don't charge for it without asking!"

If you have used GPLed source files then your derived work must also be GPLed. You can't require people to ask for your permission to charge for works released under the GPL. You can ask them to let you know but they are not obliged to.

This is a fantastic Thing and I can't wait to see what other derived works show up and what gets made using it.

I'd be proud if my teardrop.scad contributes (even only slightly) to this great design :)
As for the license: Obviously I license it GNU GPL v2+!

I would love to print one myself. Much better than a drill press hack that I use now ;)

As for requiring GPL, I guess public domain parts can also be compatible with GPL, or not? As long as the PD licence stays attached to the part is PD.

I'll take that to be your explicit permission to use this without forcing inheritance of the GPL, for which I'm very grateful! Thanks Erik.

After reading through the Wikipedia article on GPL and Inheritance, it seems that any version of the GPL will force any connected or derived works to use GPL also.

An alternative is to use the GNU Lesser Public License, the GLPL, which is specifically modified to permit works not to inherit the G
PL if desired. It used to be called the GNU Library Public License, which made the relationship between the original and derivative more clear, but they changed the name because people assumed they intended all libraries to use the GLPL instead of the GPL.

So it's a matter of strategy; you use th
e GLPL if you want to ensure your work and its direct derivatives (as in, a new "teardrop.scad") remain free, but want to let people release works employing or using the library in any form they wish.

You use the GPL1/2/3 when you want to enforce the total freedom of the end-product, so that any de
rived works must use GPL unless your permission is given to the contrary.

It's a pity they haven't worked out a way of crossing over with Creative Commons. :-/ Still, I've found all of this very informative. Good stuff!

Thanks again Erik! :)

Very true, this was brought to my attention already: I checked with Catarina and she kindly allowed me to consider it CC as well, to avoid conflict with the GPL. Fantastic!

I'm trying to read the label on the bottle in the background of that shot, because whatever it is you've been drinking, I need to get some of that. This is incredible!

That would be acetone
amp;abs glue! Don't drink it. What I wad. Drinking was Rochester Ginger Ale, which the label leads me to understand packs the kick of two angry mules. I was also under the influencebof a strong mug of Barry's tea laced with Soymilk, potent stuff indeed.

you are godly in your engineering abilities. this is epic win. I had this idea since i saw someone build a gingerly lathe, and here you go, you made a simpler printable one. EPIC.

It was the Gingery Lathe that inspired me too! I plan to improve this design through a few iterations, and I'm hoping to include a tool rail complete with a little crank for very precise work, and to pave the way for someone to hack in CNC control. Might be an overly grand vision, but there's no harm in dreaming!

Thanks for the support, I love to offer cool stuff for the good people of Thingiverse!

This is pure genius. Thank you for taking printing so seriously!

I have seen the future, and it is printed! :)