Make a spanning beam metal lathe stand easily

(also known as a torsional beam stand)

I wanted a decent stand to put the lathe on, so I made one.

It's based on the principle used for lathe stands in ships, know as "torsional, or spanning beam".

The lathe is mounted onto a massive beam, the width of the base plates.  This locates the lathe accurately, and prevents flex.  It can be steel box/beam/channel, cast iron, or even concrete.  The heavier the beam the better.

Lighter legs/supports are then used to counter any uneveness or movement in the floor.

Mine uses a length of heavy 250 x 100 x 6 mm thick, rectangular steel construction beam for the top - the same width as the lathe base plates.

It's dead flat, won't flex, and lifts the lathe well above the chip tray, providing exceptional clearance for the hand controls, and plenty of room for cuttings to fall out of the way.

Seen below shortly after completion. 

metal lathe stand

And another shot after several years use, showing the amount of clearance available and the essential drip tray.

lathe stand clearance

The top of the beam is set slightly lower than the side supports, to ensure oil can not run sideways off of the top.

It is also a good idea to add oil deflector tabs to the bottom of each beam end, to direct oil into the drip tray. Alternatively you can cut the bottom half of the beam ends at an inward angle to do this.

If varying the design always think about where any oil or bubricant will run and allow for that, to avoid any mess.

The beam is drilled and tapped to take the four lathe mounting bolts.

The uprights are 75 x 55 x 5 mm angle iron.  Horizontal bracing (which also forms the shelf base) is 55 x 55 x 5 mm angle iron.

A diagonal angle iron cross brace is bolted between the rear uprights for maximum rigidity. 

metal lathe bench

The removable drip/chip tray makes cleaning easy. 

I added some wooden drawers, as they absorb oil and are less likely to cause condensation which can rust tools.  They are also quiet and don't rattle.

You could finish off the stand with modern built in drawers on rollers, and even paint them, but that level of detail didn't interest me - it's purely functional.

I later fitted a rear chip guard, moved the light to the centre, and bolted a wooden tool rest onto the right hand side of the bench for the most often used stuff to sit on. 

The design is simple, easy to fabricate, and minimises welding distortion.

The final setup is seen below - with several of my old Rega oil cans at the ready.

metal lathe stand

DIY metal lathe stand

All the steel used to make the stand came from a salvage yard. Total cost was $75 AUS.

I made a second stand out of light racking steel (channel section) and included a horizontal diagonal brace as part of the shelf base to prevent side flex.

The beam on this is removable and bolts in, making it easier to handle and weld up.

For safety, two diagonally opposite legs of both stands are dyna-bolted to the concrete floor. 

Here's a video showing both stands plus a few tips about design and construction.


Spanning beam stands made by other constructors

Ray made a similar spanning beam stand, and finished it off very nicely.


beam type lathe stand

Instead of using one heavy RHS section, Ray stitched together two smaller RHS sections to make a custom width beam. 

This is a great idea for lathes with a wider foot print, and can keep cost and weight down significantly.  You can also use two separate beams side by side for a wider foot print.

Alan made the one below, but mounted the factory chip/drip tray on top of the beam, directly under the lathe, as per a conventional design.





Another nice neat job, but with the beam partly hidden from view.

The stand below has had oil drip deflectors added to the beam ends, to direct oil into the tray.  A good idea.

oil drip deflector

Timothy tackled it differently, using a steel section beam, but attaching it to a wooden base.





This allows people with non welding skills to get the beam fabricated, and then complete the wooden stand/base themselves.  A clever idea.

John made the beam separate from the stand and incorprated levelling adjusters into the bolt up sections.


Spanning beam lathe stand

Adjustable lathe stand

Emerson used some heavy gauge "U" section as the beam, with a removable tray, oil deflectors and made it all movable.

Enerson lathe stand

Emerson stand frame

Nice strong and simple design.  Well thought out and executed.

How to calculate the correct bench height for a metal lathe



The above video explains it all.



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South Australia

2020