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How important is levelness of the table for lathes?

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Pcmaker

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#1
I'm building a table for my 11x27 lathe that I ordered a week ago. How important is the level of the table top? The wood bench I made isn't too level.

Also, do you think this will hold 1200 pounds? Made out of 4x4s and some 2x4s.

I'll be setting my lathe, my mill, along with other tooling on top of it. I'll be using 2 pieces of 3/4" plywood glued together as top

I don't have a machinist's level. I just have a regular bubble level from Home Depot

 

Mitch Alsup

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#2
I would add some diagonals to stiffen up the square/rectangular sections.

As to holding vertical loads--yes it is fine
As to handling horizontal bumps by heavy things--I am not so sure.
 

francist

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#3
I would not put 1200 pounds on that stand as it is with no leg in the front, especially considering the near-perfect placement of the knot dead centre of the front apron.

-frank
 

Technical Ted

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#4
If I was making one for myself, I would want full support under each of the four corners of a mill and under both sides of each base section of a bench lathe. So that would be a minimum of 8 legs directly under the critical areas (4 mill, 4 lathe). I wouldn't be very comfortable with an open front design like your picture. I'd put some supports going all the way to the floor as I stated. Besides just being level, you want things to be stable. A non-stable base would lend itself to chatter and other issues down the road. I rather over build than under build something of this importance.

Also, it's not so important that the bench be level... it's the machinery that needs to be level. The lathe should not be twisted, which is different than being level. There are a lot of previous posts on leveling a lathe. You can always adjust, shim or whatever to level your machines after you install them on the bench.

Of course all this depends on the size of your machinery, which I have no idea what you have... so if they are very small, you may be able to get by with less. It would depend on how much they weigh, among other things.

Just my two cents,
Ted
 

benmychree

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#5
A bench made of wood will not be stable with changes in humidity, having said that, indeed, it does need more legs and suitable bracing, such as plywood back and end panels; I agree with the other posters.
 

WCraig

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#6
I'm building a table for my 11x27 lathe that I ordered a week ago. How important is the level of the table top? The wood bench I made isn't too level.

Also, do you think this will hold 1200 pounds? Made out of 4x4s and some 2x4s.

I'll be setting my lathe, my mill, along with other tooling on top of it. I'll be using 2 pieces of 3/4" plywood glued together as top

I don't have a machinist's level. I just have a regular bubble level from Home Depot

I believe you said, in another thread, that you're using pallet wood? How dry is it? Pallets are often made of the cheapest, sopping wet wood that they can get away with. If your wood continues to dry out over a year or two, it may decide to warp, twist and otherwise ruin the flat, straight support you want for your tools. That would be "A bad thing"!

Also, you may want to put levellers under the legs. If the floor isn't perfectly flat and level, the bench top won't be for long.

I'm not sure if it is designed for this, but you might want to see what the Sagulator says:

https://www.woodbin.com/calcs/sagulator/

Effectively, your top is a shelf supported on the two ends. Alternatively, I know there are calculators out there for joist deflection. Maybe one of them would help.

Craig
 

ttabbal

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#7
What they are talking about is the reason my bench has 8 legs. 4 for the corners, 4 directly under the machine feet. I also made sure to build it in such a way that fasteners and glue aren't used to hold the weight.

As for level, it's nice to keep things from rolling off the bench. The lathe doesn't care so long as it is not twisted. We talk about level as it's a common reference we're familiar with. I leveled mine with a carpenters level and it's fine. Then I leveled the lathe with a machine level and used the 2 collar test to align it the rest of the way. Reminds me, I need to do it again.
 

Pcmaker

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I believe you said, in another thread, that you're using pallet wood? How dry is it? Pallets are often made of the cheapest, sopping wet wood that they can get away with. If your wood continues to dry out over a year or two, it may decide to warp, twist and otherwise ruin the flat, straight support you want for your tools. That would be "A bad thing"!

Also, you may want to put levellers under the legs. If the floor isn't perfectly flat and level, the bench top won't be for long.

I'm not sure if it is designed for this, but you might want to see what the Sagulator says:

https://www.woodbin.com/calcs/sagulator/

Effectively, your top is a shelf supported on the two ends. Alternatively, I know there are calculators out there for joist deflection. Maybe one of them would help.

Craig
It's 4x4 Fir from Home Depot, not pallet wood. I don't know where you got that from
 

Superburban

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#9
As for level, it's nice to keep things from rolling off the bench. The lathe doesn't care so long as it is not twisted. We talk about level as it's a common reference we're familiar with. I leveled mine with a carpenters level and it's fine. Then I leveled the lathe with a machine level and used the 2 collar test to align it the rest of the way. Reminds me, I need to do it again.
Agreed, we use "Level", because the lathe was basically designed to run level, and level is easy to aim for. The real goal, is no twist. It could be 10 degrees forward, as long as the whole thing is 10 degrees forward. Exaggeration, I do not think the tail stock would hold center well, at 10 degs, even though there are slant bed lathes. I would bet there is more to them, then just turning the lathe forward.
 

dtsh

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#10
A wooden bench is perfectly acceptable; however, as others have stated you need to add more support.
A triangle is one of the strongest shapes, add diagonals inside the vertical squares and another leg in the front, at minimum. If you load it up with that design and the front support gives, it will toss the lathe right in your lap and that's not going to end well.

You want all of the horizontal members to rest directly on top of a vertical member, like you would a jack stud in framing, so that none of the load is supported by fasteners. You will likely need to double up a few more vertical members, such as inside the corners to support the cross members because it looks like they are effectively unsupported by anything but fasteners and that's where a significant portion of your load will be. Imagine removing all the fasteners, any piece that holds load but wouldn't stay up without fasteners needs to have a support member directly beneath it supporting it in place. With the short cross members at the benchtop, should a fastener or two fail, what keeps the lathe from falling and injuring you?
 

Tozguy

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#11
Agreed on most of the comments above. A carpenters level, used carefully, should be fine to get the table top level enough.

It is going to be tricky to get five or more legs to bear evenly on the floor without adjusters.
What about adding a third sheet of 3/4 plywood under the top to sandwich the cross studs? With everything glued together it should be a very stable top. If you plan the layout of the machines beforehand access holes can be cut in this 'under panel' as required.

Ideally, with a rigid top built like a sandwich, four beefy legs located in from the corners (to balance out the span between and beyond the legs) would be enough.
 

bill70j

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#12
I'll be using 2 pieces of 3/4" plywood glued together as top
Pcmaker:

A couple of things you may want to consider for your top.

1) If you're going to use plywood, you could be susceptible to twist, so reinforcing the top frame with additional blocking will help minimize that possibility. Sort of like designing a torsion box. That would stay flat.

2) As an alternative to plywood, an equally cost effective design for the top would be laminated 2X4's on edge. They would stay flat with the frame as-is.

3) In any case, if you're using a soft wood for the top, you may want to add steel plates under the mounting feet of the lathe. Without a hard surface, the feet will dig into the wood upon tightening, which makes precise leveling very difficult.

HTH, Bill
 
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RJSakowski

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#13
I'm building a table for my 11x27 lathe that I ordered a week ago. How important is the level of the table top? The wood bench I made isn't too level.

Also, do you think this will hold 1200 pounds? Made out of 4x4s and some 2x4s.

I'll be setting my lathe, my mill, along with other tooling on top of it. I'll be using 2 pieces of 3/4" plywood glued together as top

I don't have a machinist's level. I just have a regular bubble level from Home Depot

My personal preference is metal for machine stands. As others have stated, wood is not stable with respect to changes in temperature and humidity.

That said, there are probably more bench lathes mounted on wood than steel. Since you already have the stand built, the design focus would be on improving what you have. I would put vertical supports as close to the machines' bases as possible. I would also use through bolts and nuts rather than construction screws. I would also use glue as well as fasteners on all joints. In assembling the top, I would glue the two sheets of plywood together.

Using a wood bench, you may want to consider leaving you machine mounting hardware fairly loose. Tight enough to prevent the machines from moving but not enough to create stress in the castings, causing twisting of the machine base.
 

P. Waller

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#14
A lathe can never be level enough in the hobby world.
Materials such as wood and steel are thermally unstable, they will both move with temperature gradients as will the substrate that you mount them on. Granite is an excellent machine base so start there, granite on a very thick and large concrete slab would be an excellent choice. There is no excuse for not excavating your home in an effort to achieve machine accuracy

Then buy a level, this is an excellent beginners choice https://www.higherprecision.com/pro...er-magnetic-precision-spirit-level-53-422-048
Place the granite base on the foundation then place the lathe on the granite and secure as needed, level the machine when the room achieves the required air temperature and density, NOW level it to the desired accuracy but make sure that the coolant pan is tilted toward the drain at all times otherwise coolant will find its way to the floor. You are now good to go, good luck.

You do realize that this is sarcasm I hope.
 

mikey

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#15
Actually, the word facetious came to mind.
 

Downunder Bob

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#16
having the bench top level is not really that important, it is, however very important that it is very stable. when the lathe is attached to the bench it can be levelled by use of shims and jacking screws. It is most important that there is no twist in the lathe or other forces causing it to hog or sag. Unfortunately making your bench out of wood uis I think asking for trouble, as the temperature and moisture content of the wood varies throughout the year it will apply various twisting, hogging, sagging forces to the bed of your lathe.
 

Sackett

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#17
You mean useing my lathe tossed on the tailgate of the pickup aint cool???
 

Pcmaker

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#18
This is the bench I just made, I hope it'll hold my 600 pound lathe and my 300 pound mill, as well as all the other tools

 

francist

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#19
That looks much more promising!

-frank
 

tjb

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#20
That's much better, but I still think you need to run some diagonals - at least on the two long sections in the back. One of the strongest building joints you can make is a triangle. It's very difficult to cause a triangle to lose its rigidity. You can't change the degrees on any of the three angles without changing the length of at least one side. (That's one of the reasons roofs are gabled instead of flat. It's also one of the reasons framers often run a temporary diagonal 2x4 across studded walls until the roof ties the building together.)

Not so with a rectangle. A perfectly laid out rectangle with four 90 degree sides can easily distort into a non-square parallelogram without any change in the length of the sides. With 1,200 lbs. of machinery on top of it, that's a formula for a disaster.

Regards,
Terry
 

tjb

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#21
P.S.: Another solution - perhaps easier - would be to make the back more rigid by facing it with a solid piece of plywood (half-inch or three quarter). That would accomplish the same objective of not allowing distortion. Might have some aesthetic appeal as well.

Regards,
Terry
 

Downunder Bob

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#22
Looks much better, that extra leg in the front center makes a world of difference, but I have to agree with Terry above it definitely need some diagonals across the back and on the ends.

I would also put steel plates under the feet of the machines so that the jacking bolts have a solid surface to press on. I would also screw the plate to the top ply and put a hold down bolt through each plate, when you adjust the machines you can have them bolted down as well as the jacking bolts to make it all very rigid.
 

Pcmaker

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#23
I have a pm25mv milland pm1127 lathe. Should I bolt them both to the table? The table isn't perfectly flat or even.
 

tjb

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#24
I have a pm25mv milland pm1127 lathe. Should I bolt them both to the table? The table isn't perfectly flat or even.
Yes. If the table's not flat or even, you'll almost certainly need to shim the machines to achieve stability. If the machines are shimmed, the best way to keep the machines stationary is by though-bolts. I suggest re-reading RJSakowski's post above. He's offered great suggestions on the optimal method for mounting machines to wood benches.

Regards,
Terry
 

WarrenP

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#25
Also would depend on if you think you have enough room to work on your projects without either the lathe or mill getting in the way.. especially if you have a longer piece coming off the mill the lathe might be in the way.
 

Pcmaker

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#26
The wood I used to make this workbench is so twisted, I can't get it level. I'll have to level the lathe itself, shim it somehow and bolt it to the table. Should I put adjustable leveling feet on the lathe itself?
 

ttabbal

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#27
The wood I used to make this workbench is so twisted, I can't get it level. I'll have to level the lathe itself, shim it somehow and bolt it to the table. Should I put adjustable leveling feet on the lathe itself?
That's what I did, adjustable levelers at the corners. The thread I posted earlier has some pics of them, pretty basic setup.
 

Downunder Bob

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#28
The wood I used to make this workbench is so twisted, I can't get it level. I'll have to level the lathe itself, shim it somehow and bolt it to the table. Should I put adjustable leveling feet on the lathe itself?
From what you have said about this table, I really think you need to take the table itself out of the equation. Sure you can still use the table, but you need to make a sub frame to secure the lathe too, and then the sub frame can be secured to the table.

I would make the subframe out of not less than 50 mm 2" square heavy wall tubing, not less than 3mm 1/8" wall thickness, weld the subframe up to fit the lathe mounting points make it a square and rigid as you can. bolt the subframe to the table top shimming where necessary don't force the frame to conform to the table, but rather force the table to conform to the frame. I would probably only bolt the subframe to the table at 3 points, 2 of them under the headstock , and the other one under the tailstock area, this will allow the table to move quite a bit with the weather with out unduly influencing the frame and lathe. The lathe can then be securely fitted to the frame with a combination of hold down bolts and jacking screws, making it as near to perfectly square as you can.
 

Tozguy

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#29
Pcmaker, just wondering how much swing in temperature and humidity you are expecting throughout the year. Do you have climate control in the shop?
 

Tozguy

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#30
Using a wood bench, you may want to consider leaving you machine mounting hardware fairly loose. Tight enough to prevent the machines from moving but not enough to create stress in the castings, causing twisting of the machine base.
An uneven table top is no more of a problem than a common uneven floor. I would bolt the headstock down solid but leave the tailstock end free enough to slip under stress. The lathe itself is built solid so the tail end is better to slip if the table shifts than to have any table warp transferred to the lathe. There have been many a three point lathe stand just sitting on the floor with only one foot at the tail end.

I would bolt the mill down solid to the table with shims to level it.

The wood I used to make this workbench is so twisted, I can't get it level. I'll have to level the lathe itself, shim it somehow and bolt it to the table. Should I put adjustable leveling feet on the lathe itself?
Unless there are wide swings in temp and humidity, the wood bench should stabilize over a year or two. After all there is some pretty fancy wood furniture that stabilizes well (think pianos) if conditions permit.

I would wait and see how your table actually works before fixing it. Also, you might eventually find other reasons to modify or improve your set up later on.
 
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