Moto-Tool Lathe

by Chuck Davenport

This assumes you have access to a table saw, bandsaw, and router. Everything cam be accomplished with basic hand tools, though. It just requires more effort and greater cutting precision.

1. Fig. 1 (tail stock) Build the tailstock first as all dimensions are based on it. Build from 3/4" pine, ply, or hardwood. Assemble pieces with 1 1/4" drywall screws. Remove screws and glue with Elmer's Wood Glue or Titebond. CLAMP AND ENSURE SQUARENESS. Once dry (24 hrs.), remove the screws and recheck for squareness. Round the top and bevel the sides according to the plan.

2. Fig. 6 (throat brace) Cut the throat brace from 1/4" stock. Width will be the same as the tailstock, 2 1/4". Height is 2", according to plan. Drill throat hole diameter centered on stock. The throat diameter of the Dremel Model 260 is 7/8".

3. Fig. 2 (bed) Cut the bed to size on a table saw. Set the fence at 3/16". Adjust the blade to 1/4" height. Cut a dado starting at the tailstock end, stopping 10" short of the head stock (moto-tool end). Before changing the table saw, run the tailstock through to cut dados (see Fig. 3). Readjust the fence to 5/16" and widen the dados to 1/4". You will want to widen the dado on the tailstock to 9/32" to ensure easy sliding.

4. Fig. 3 When placed on a flat surface, the dados in the bed rail and tail stock should line up with a tailstock dado having a slightly higher clearance.

5. Drill 1/4" holes in the bed pieces according to the plan.

6. Lay out and cut the bed profile to plan.

7. Assemble the tailstock and bed. Secure them with stove bolts and wing screws. Glue the throat brace into position assuring squareness (see Fig. 3 for positioning).

8. (Fig. 5) Pillow blocks:
a. Measure the widest point on your moto-tool (1 1/2" on the model 260). If the tool is cylindrical, pick a point midway on the tool clear of the carbon contacts.
b. On a scrap piece of 2" wide, 3/4" stock draw a centerline.
c. Scribe a circle the diameter of the tool centered on the line.
d. Halve the width of the lathe (2 1/4") and transfer the measurement to the 3/4" stock either side of the center of the circle.
e. Mark the stock with perpendicular lines.
f. Scribe lines parallel to the centerline by 11/16". These lines should intersect the circle.
g. Drill the circle or cut with a coping saw.
h. On a table saw, trim along the parallel lines releaseing the stabilizers.
i. Trim excess wood to the perpendicular line.

9. (Fig. 6) Attach the pillow blocks to the tool with tape leaving the end grain clear. Add glue, loosen the wing nuts, force the headstock end of the lathe apart with your fingers and slide the moto-tool into position. You will want to ensure that the moto-tool is level by supporting it with a scrap piece cut to the appropriate width. (This width is the difference between half the diameter of the moto-tool and half the height of the throat brace.) Clamp with the bed tightening bolts and set aside for 24 hours.

10. File a sharp point on a 10 penny nail (chucking the nail in a drill and filing while the nail turns works well). Cut to 2" length.

11. Select a suitably sized drill bit. Chuck it into your moto-tool and drill a mounting hole into the tailstock by slowly advancing the tailstock into the drill bit. Epoxy the nail into place. It should protrude by about 3/4".


  • Your lathe is ready for use. If your moto-tool has no speed control, you need to make or buy one. If you intend to turn large pieces, clamp the lathe to the work surface.
  • X-Acto blades make good general purpose turning tools. You can custom grind tools from flat concrete nails. The ends should be epoxied into a length of dowel.
  • At low speed, you can turn styrene sprue. If you cut carefully, one end of the sprue will reveal a small hole in which the tailstock nail can ride. CAUTION, though: too high a speed and the plastic will melt and buckle.
  • Figures

  • Lathe overview
  • Tail stock
  • Bed
  • Dados
  • Cutting bed profile
  • Individual steps
  • Throat brace

  • Ed. Note: I have created an Adobe PDF file containing the full size scans for printing on your own printer. The most current version of the Adobe Acrobat software may be obtained free of charge from the Adobe web site:

    Charles T. Davenport
    IPMS #25544