PROJECT: Mobile Lathe Stand

PROJECT: Mobile Lathe Stand

The more functional a shop project is, the better I like it. So when I designed this mobile stand for my mini lathe, “fancy” took a back seat to utility. It’s built from common 2x and 1x construction lumber to keep costs down. I splayed the legs to give it a sure stance. Large casters make it easy to move the lathe from a corner of my garage shop out into the open when I want to use it, and sand poured inside the bottom box provides enough ballast to dampen any vibration and keep the lathe stationary, even without the casters locked. If you don’t have a lathe, this stand could be a great place to park other tools, like a small band saw, drill press or benchtop sander.

Mobile lathe stand with band saw attached

My stand’s height places the lathe’s spindle at about elbow height for me — right where you want the spindle to be for comfortable turning — and I’m about 5’10”. If you’re taller or shorter, you may need to change the length of the legs and their splay angle to make this project better suit your height.

Building the Leg Sets

Cutting caster legs for mobile lathe stand on miter saw
Swivel your miter saw to 30° and miter-cut stock for making the four caster mounting brackets. One cut produces the angled ends of two brackets. Cut the opposite ends of the brackets square, bringing these workpieces to final length. Repeat the process to make the other two brackets.

Get this project off to a quick start by ripping a blank for the caster brackets and then forming a 30° angle in the middle of the piece. Cut the pieces to length and repeat the process. Then cut two square-ended blanks for the base gussets. Mark each caster bracket for bolt holes, and drill these holes all the way through; I located my casters 1/2″ in from the brackets’ square ends.

Marking location for caster installation
Lay out the caster mounting hole locations on each bracket. The author positioned his casters 1/2″ in from the ends of the brackets.

If you have a pocket-hole jig as I do, set it up for drilling 2x stock, and bore three screw pockets into the angled end of two caster brackets. Attach a drilled bracket to an undrilled bracket with 1-1/2″ coarse-thread pocket screws to create two caster bracket subassemblies.

Drilling holes for installing caster bracket in lathe stand base
Bore 5/16″ holes through the caster brackets at your layout marks. A drill press and fence ensure that these holes are aligned and square.

A base gusset will strengthen these bracket miter joints; we’ll add those next. Bisect the gusset blanks with a square center line. Place a bracket subassembly on top of the blank with its joint aligning with your marked line and its outside edges at the blank’s corners.

Drilling for bracket installation on lathe stand subassembly
Attach pairs of caster brackets together along their mitered edges to form two subassemblies. Pocket screws are a sturdy way to secure these joints — even without glue to reinforce them.

Trace along the outer edges of the brackets, then cut the gusset carefully to shape on your band saw. Use the first gusset as a template to trace and cut the second gusset to shape. Drive six pocket screws through each gusset’s face and angled edges to attach it to its caster brackets.

Tracing gusset angle for mobile lathe base
Set a caster bracket subassembly on top of a base gusset blank, and trace along the outside edges to create the gusset’s triangular shape.

Head back to your miter saw and pivot it to 21-1/2° so you can cut the four legs to length, mitering both ends of each leg. Set a pair of legs on a caster bracket subassembly with their bottom pointed ends even with the ends of the brackets. Center each on the bracket’s width.

Cutting gusset angles at the band saw
Cut out the gusset, and flatten its edges on a belt sander if needed. Use this gusset as a template to trace the second one, and cut it out, too.

Clamp the legs in place and measure across the outside top corners of the legs. Make sure this distance is 14-1/2″ or less so the legs will hide under the top boards. Check that the legs line up with one another well, then drive 3″ screws through the brackets and into the legs to secure them.

Fastening gusset to caster brackets
Bore six screw pockets along the angled edges of the gussets, then fasten them to the caster brackets with coarse-thread pocket screws.

Next, rip blanks for the upper gussets to width, but leave them a couple of inches overly long. Flip the leg set over so you can mark the positions of both legs on its upper gusset, and cut out both gusset “trapezoids” on your band saw. Repeat as you did with the base gussets, fastening the upper gussets to the outside faces of the legs with more pocket screws.

Assembling the Stand’s Framework

Measuring gab between parts of mobile lathe stand's legs
Wooden hand screw clamps, used in tandem with F-style clamps, make the angled legs easier to clamp to the caster bracket subassemblies. Once they’re set, measure across the tops of the legs to verify this span.

Cut the bottom stretcher to length from a piece of 2×8. Line up the outside edges of the base gussets with the ends of the stretcher, and drive countersunk 3″ screws through the gussets and into the stretcher to lock the leg sets in place.

Marking angle for gusset on lathe stand legs
Flip a leg set upside down so you can position the top ends on the upper gusset blank and mark the final gusset shape.

You can now crosscut both top pieces from a 1×8, set them together on top of the leg sets and drive countersunk 2″ screws down through them and into the upper gussets. Make sure the top pieces overhang the leg sets evenly all around and that their ends are aligned before you drive these screws. Then bolt the casters to the stand.

Cutting mobile lathe stand upper gusset at band saw
Cut the upper gussets out at the band saw, following your layout lines.

The last bit of woodworking involves building the ballast box that mounts beneath the stand. Crosscut the box’s top, bottom, sides and ends to length from 2×8 lumber. Now rip and crosscut two cleats from scrap 2x stock; these will support the box top. Screw the cleats to the inside faces of the box sides, 1-1/2″ down from the top. Assemble the bottom, sides and ends of the box with pocket screws. Attach the box to the stretcher with 3″ countersunk screws driven through the box’s bottom.

Add Sand to Finish Up

Weighing mobile lathe stand base with sand
Fill the stand’s bottom box with 50 lbs. of sand. This ballast will reduce vibration from the lathe during use and help to keep the stand stationary.

I used a piece of 6 mil plastic sheet to line the inside of the box, then poured 50 lbs. of coarse sand into the box and leveled it out before securing the top in place with countersunk screws.

You can apply finish to the stand if you prefer, although it really isn’t necessary. Then trick it out any way you like, with a tool rack, power strip, dust collection, task light and anything else that suits your needs. I’ve added a number of Rockler products to mine, and we’re providing a list of them as a “More on the Web” addition to this article.

Click Here to Download the Drawings and Materials List.

Hard-to-Find Hardware:

4″ Polyurethane Casters, Total-Lock Swivel (2) #23030
Kreg Jig® K4 Pocket Hole System (1) #53310
Kreg 1-1/2″L #8 Pocket Hole Screws (1) #38541

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