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Homemade long tool rest

A homemade long tool rest can be a useful accessory. It’s a great help if the tool rest is longer than the spindle you are turning by at least 25 mm at each end. This gives tool access to the ends of the spindle, and it’s much easier to turn sweeping curves accurately if you don’t have to keep moving a short tool rest. Few lathes come with a very long tool rest as standard. They can often be bought as an accessory, at substantial cost. Over a certain length, they need two stems to keep them rigid and stop chatter.

It’s quite easy to put together a homemade long tool rest and a second holder for it using hardwood. A wooden tool rest is pleasant to use, and was standard in past times. You will need to remove the sharp side edges on skew chisels to protect the wood. But that’s necessary for steel rests too. You may have to plane or sand the top smooth from time to time.

The stems

Make the two stems of round steel bar. One needs to fit your existing tool rest holder. The other can be any size because you will drill the holder to fit. The length should bring the top of the rest to the proper height when it is fitted into the wooden holder.

Drill a hole in one end of each bar, using a tapping drill that matches some threaded rod. Tap the thread and screw in a short bit of the rod. Tighten it in the hole so it stays secure. If you insert the rod about 25 mm deep and it projects about the same distance that will be about right. If you don’t have a tap, you could drill a larger hole and use adhesive to keep the threaded rod in place.

The rest

My homemade long tool rest began life as a table leg, about 600 mm long, 40 mm thick and 50 mm deep. I find it quite strong enough. Plane the front to make a slope. Drill two tapping size blind holes in the wood for the threaded rod, about a quarter of the way along from each end. Screw in the stems.

You could tap the holes, but most hardwoods will not make a good thread using an engineer’s tap. If you cut the end of the threaded rod cleanly, the rod should make its own thread in the wood. This is the method I used. You could drill the holes larger and use epoxy instead, or glue the stems into the wood without using threaded rod at all. The main thing is to make sure the stems are parallel to each other and securely held in the wood.

The holder

Use hardwood, say 60 mm thick, and drill a blind hole, say 45 mm deep, at one end for the second stem. Wood will probably not be strong enough to take a locking screw that will hold the stem firmly, so that limits height adjustment. You can raise the rest a little by putting a spacer in the hole under the stem.

Saw a slot in the holder that will fit over a clamping screw to hold it on the lathe bed.

A steel version of this holder could have a locking screw to allow height adjustment.

The clamp

Now make a clamping block that will fit your lathe bed. Its design will vary because all lathes are different. Mine is made of thick MDF and fits between the ways. It has a projecting lip underneath. A bolt passes through the block and is long enough to reach up through the wooden holder, a washer and a nut that will clamp the holder in place on the bed.

homemade wooden tool rest
My long tool rest, with a block of redwood waiting to be turned.


tool rest holder plan view
tool rest holder plan view
cross section view


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