Router/Lathe Combinations

Thoughts on coupling a router and a lathe for complex wood turning. October 3, 2009

I was thinking of mounting a router on a lathe to mill some wooden precision parts for a project. Does anyone have experience with this? Is it dangerous to run the lathe and the router at the same time (wood implosion)? Should I turn the lathe manually? I plan on using a down spiral bit in the router.

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor J:
Routers and lathes are often used in conjunction. Routers or milling heads mounted on lathes are usually used for ornamental turning such as twisting or fluting of the round stock. These machines are already available so you don't have to build one.

I used to have a Craftsman Router Crafter tool. It used a hand crank to turn the stock. A router was mounted and attached with a continuous looped cable. When you turn the crank, the router would traverse the piece. You could completely shape the stock as well as do all the indexing embellishments (fun toy).

You might also consider a small combination lathe and mill (machine tool available at Harbor Freight & Tool). This has a milling head mounted over the lathe.

When using a milling head or a router with a lathe, the stock turns slowly while the milling or routing is high speed. Typical recommended surface fpm apply (dia. x rpm).

So yeah, if you already have a lathe, you certainly can mount a router and use it for a variety of things.

From contributor F:
I built a lathe duplicator several years ago that used a router. The largest spindles I've turned were about 2 1/2" diameter. I built a low speed drive for the lathe that turned the spindle about 60 rpm. The router moved on a secondary carriage. I used a 1/2 x 13 (coarse) all-thread rod to drive the router down the carriage. The all-thread was geared 1:1 to the spindle. I built a mechanism to disengage the all-thread and turn off the router and drive when it reached the end of the spindle. I use a pattern mounted to the secondary carriage for the spindle profile. I've mostly used carbide round nose core box bits in the router. I offset the router slightly so the side of the bit was doing more of the cutting. If I'm removing a lot of stock I would start out with a larger bit on all the spindles, then use a smaller bit for the final pass. The spindles I built this machine for had gentle sweeping curves. I have used it for fancier spindles; I would chuck them in another lathe and touch up the details and sand them. The duplicator has saved me a lot of time.

I own a specialty woodworking business and don't use the machine much anymore. The products I build don't have any spindles.

From the original questioner:
Good points!
1) Keep the lathe speed slow.
2) Round nose router bit.

I am setting up a lathe to make the radius on fingerboards for string instruments (violins, cellos). This will require a cylinder to mount the board on, that will then turn on the lathe. The powered carriage is a great idea, but for now I am only producing a few. Yes! I do remember the Sears Router Crafter - a classic.

From contributor M:
How about a carriage to move the router and keep the part stationary, rotating on an axis incrementally? Allows you to go up the part with the grain, kind of like a fluting jig.

From contributor H:
I think there are already 2 possible solutions out there for you. 1) Legacy Ornamental Lathe or 2) Vega lathe duplicator with the router attachment. I believe based on what was written, these may be store bought solutions you can use.