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Thread: Turning on a drill press

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
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    El Dorado Hills, CA, USA
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    193

    Turning on a drill press

    I've never used a lathe before, but would like to make some handles for files and chisels. Is this something that can be done on a drill press? I have a nice Nova Viking drill press, and worry that I'd somehow get it out of balance by doing this. If it's possible on the drill press, can I just use my bench chisels and carving gouges?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Northern MN
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    274
    Probably not in the same way that it's done on a lathe. I used a drill press to make a tool handle before I had a lathe (in fact, it was the original reason I bought a lathe) -- I put the wood on a mandrel and the mandrel in the drill press, then used abrasives to remove the wood.

    I would be much more inclined to do it by hand. A spokeshave is a good tool to use, though you can also use chisels/gouges if you don't have one. Make the stock octagonal on the table or band saw, then work it down from there. Actually, octagonal is a pretty pleasing shape for handles IMHO, and they don't roll.

    Best,

    Dave
    Last edited by Dave Mount; 06-02-2021 at 6:21 PM. Reason: typo

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    E TN, near Knoxville
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    10,862
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Mills View Post
    I've never used a lathe before, but would like to make some handles for files and chisels. Is this something that can be done on a drill press? I have a nice Nova Viking drill press, and worry that I'd somehow get it out of balance by doing this. If it's possible on the drill press, can I just use my bench chisels and carving gouges?
    You can turn wood on anything that rotates and will hold the wood. For something like a handle that has a hole I have (on a lathe) I have forced the wood onto the bit and used it to hold the work.

    The bigger problem is the tool rest. Chisels and gouges need to have a solid support underneath to allow the cutting edge to cut the wood without grabbing and forcing the tool back and down. A carving gouge may be especially tricky since the sharpened angle is quite small compared to a typical woodturning gouge. You might make a vertical tool rest that clamps onto the table. It will be tricky to use. Some people shape wood on the drill press with coarse and fine files or even hand-held rotary cutting bits (such as in a Dremel) - no tool rest needed.

    As suggestion: locate and contact a woodturning club in your area. If meeting in person now, go to a meeting, introduce yourself as interested and without a lathe, and someone may well offer to show you the basics on a lathe. If they are not meeting in person the club president may be able to point you to someone. Once you see and try that you can better judge if a drill press and the tools you have will do the job. Or better, break down and buy a cheap, perhaps used, lathe! If you are like most people who try, you will learn quickly and find a zillion uses.

    There are also a zillion videos on the net that will show how to get started but there is nothing better than an experienced person. (Take a road trip to TN and I'll give you some lessons! )

    JKJ

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    Inver Grove Heights, MN
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    740
    Yes it can be done on a drill press, but since you have carving tools I think you would be better off just carving your handles. If this is going to be a lot of tool handles in the future, buy a cheap lathe and get sucked into the turning vortex.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Winterville, NC (eastern NC)
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    2,198
    It can be done but you need to use a light touch. Drill a hole through the blank for a bolt and nut.Install in the chuck, and use a file with a light touch to get to the shape desired. Fine Woodworking magazine had an article on this very subject a year or so ago, penned by Christian Beeksvort (I think this is the correct spelling).

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    El Dorado Hills, CA, USA
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    Thanks very much for all the input. I was naively thinking this was easier to do on a drill press than described here. I'm glad I checked before just trying something.

    John, I'll give you a call if I end up in TN

    Dave

  7. #7
    The drill press was my very first lathe. I even had a few items made to help me hold wood.
    Pete


    * It's better to be a lion for a day than a sheep for life - Sister Elizabeth Kenny *
    I think this equates nicely to wood turning as well . . . . .

  8. #8
    The first thing I ever turned was on a drill press. I needed some mushroom type drawer pulls for a table I built. Cut the head off of a screw, chucked it up, screwed a block on, used a block of wood for a tool rest, used a bench chisel to cut, and made the pulls. Some thing short like the pulls, only 1 1/2 inches would be simple. Longer handles would be difficult, mostly because it will wobble the farther away from the chuck you get. I would expect minimum speeds to be maybe too high for sanding. It could be done. You might be able to center the bottom end of the handle with a nail through a board, center it, and crank the table up until it is in the end of the blank. A bench chisel will work, but isn't the best tool... Like John said, try to find a club. Lots of us have as much fun mentoring as we do turning...

    robo hippy

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    E TN, near Knoxville
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    10,862
    I met an extremely creative guy in a little shop in Venice, Italy and I gave him some finger tops. We "discussed" woodturning (neither spoke the other's language!) and he wanted to show me his lathe. From the back room he brought a Dewalt electric drill which he clamped on the workbench. Clamped a piece of wood for a tool rest and made a tailstock with another block and a nail. He ground tools from screwdrivers. I so wanted to bring him a mini lathe!

    Venice_craftsman_IMG_3513.jpg

    I bought some very clever things he had made.

    JKJ

  10. #10
    For $67 you can buy a drill press lathe attachment...

    https://smile.amazon.com/D4088-Lathe...ustomerReviews

    The customer reviews are about as bad as one would expect!!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    Location
    Northern Florida
    Posts
    392
    I've made some very limited and crude turnings with a drill press by using 2 coarse rasps. I held them with one on each side of the wood so the pressure balanced and the wood was held in alignment. Use finer files or sandpaper the same way to clean it up from there.

  12. #12
    Go for it, its just tool handles and you can clean them up with hand tools if they come out a little wonky.

    Why not take advantage of the opportunity to check another tool box. I ended up going more in with a Midi, wet sharpening system and medium level HSS tools but for under $500 you can choose from multiple brands and get a very nice mini lathe and a set of carbide tools (no sharpening system and only 3 tools) and have a lot of new wood working options to explore. WEN has on for $170 that supposedly works pretty well and Rikon's 70-105 is only $370.

    Of course you do have to worry about the vortex mentioned above
    Last edited by Stephen White; 06-07-2021 at 10:36 AM.

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