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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 extra length 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. Lathes don’t usually come with a very long tool rest as standard. One can often be bought as an accessory, at substantial cost. Over a certain length, a long rest needs two stems to keep it rigid and stop chatter.

It’s quite easy to put together a homemade long tool rest and a second holder to support 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. If the rest gets a lot of use, you may have to plane or sand the top smooth from time to time. If thought necessary, a metal strip or bar could be fixed on top with epoxy.

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 in the wooden holder.

I made mine by drilling a hole in one end of each bar. I used a tapping drill that matched a bit of threaded rod. The rod was tight in the hole so it would stay secure. Inserting the rod about 25 mm deep and projecting about the same distance seemed about right.

More simply, you could just glue the stems into holes about a quarter of the way along from each end of the wooden rest. The main thing is to make sure the stems are parallel to each other and securely held in the wood.

The rest

My homemade long tool rest began life as an oak table leg, about 600 mm long, 40 mm thick and 50 mm deep. I find it quite strong enough. I planed the front to make a slope.

The holder (banjo)

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 bear on the stem and hold it firmly, so that limits height adjustment. You could make a saw cut in the holder and put in a clamping bolt to squeeze it and make it pinch the stem. A second bolt would be needed on the opposite side of the stem This would reinforce the holder and stop it splitting when tightening the clamp. Or you could just put a spacer in the hole under the stem to raise it a little.

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 easier 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 nut clamps the holder in place on the bed.

homemade long tool rest
Homemade long tool rest

Plan of homemade long tool rest

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