Studio of Bill Ooms

Bill Ooms

Building A Computerized Ornamental Lathe


Warning -- This is not intended for people looking for a turn-key solution! This is for geeks who want to make something for themselves. These web pages are somewhat technical and intended for people with knowledge of making their own hardware and wiring/circuitry. You will need some computer experience to follow all of this.

A few definitions are in order -- specifically the names of the axes. We will follow traditional CNC lathe nomenclature which defines the X-axis as the radius and the Z-axis is along the axis of rotation. The C-axis is rotation around the Z-axis, so that will be our lathe spindle. In our case, I'll refer to positive X-motion being toward your belt buckle when you are standing in the normal position in front of a lathe (for plain turning). Positive Z-motion is along the axis of the lathe away from the headstock (toward the tailstock). Positive C-rotation is counter-clockwise when looking toward the chuck from the tailstock.

Building the hardware will require some mechanical skill as well as some electrical knowledge. For a few things, it would be convenient to have access to a small milling machine (such as the inexpensive mini-mills sold by Grizzly and others for around $600).


The main hardware components are listed below. This list doesn't cover hardware that is common to traditional mechanical ornamental lathes such as cutting frames and overhead drives. Click on any of the items for a more complete description.

The main software components are listed below. The computer is included on this list because it has to mate with the software. Click on any of the items for a more complete description.

Disclaimer -- This tells you about how and why I did things the way I did. There are lots of other ways of accomplishing the same thing. Others may have better ideas (please share them if you do). There are no guarantees implied for anyone who tries to follow in my footsteps!