Modified tailstock nut
I modified the tailstock on my Homier 7x12 minilathe by adding a handle to the nut that locks the tailstock in place. Usually a 17mm open-end wrench is required to loosen this nut, but with this modification, a flip of the thumb is all that is required. This was such an easy and useful modification that I figured I'd add it to my website.
First I marked the face of the nut that was faced toward the headstock when it was tightened down. Make sure it's tight, or you'll mark the wrong face. I also marked the top of the nut so I could get it back on right. It makes a difference - if you put it on upside down, the hole will be facing the back when it's tightened down. Once the handle is in place, you won't be able to tighten it down because the handle with hit the tailstock.
I carefully center-punched the center of the marked face and drilled a 1/8" hole in the nut. (Missing the punch-mark by a mile, I might add.) Be careful drilling this - you want to drill into the center of the nut, but not damage the threads on the other side.
To make the handle, I turned the end of a piece of hardware-store 1/4" steel rod down to a force-fit with the hole in the nut, and long enough to reach the bottom of the threads in the nut. I didn't measure it, I just eyeballed it. Make sure you don't make it undersized.
Leaving a tiny sholder, I then turned a taper on the rod so it came out to a diameter of 1/4" after a length of about 1-1/2" or so. I did this by setting the compound just past parallel with the ways of the lathe, so that as I advanced it toward the headstock, the diameter got larger. Again, I just eyeballed the angle.
Once I reached the outside diameter of the rod, I backed up a bit with the compound and then engaged the carriage feed, to create a short cylindrical length about a half-inch long. This gives a cylindrical surface you can hold in the chuck.
I cut it off with a hacksaw in my vice, and returned it to the lathe to face off and chamfer the cut end. The last step was to pound it into the hole in the nut with a hammer. I'm sure it will come lose someday, but when it does, I'll solder it. I suppose I could have threaded it, but it wasn't necessary.
To reinstall the nut, I had to remove the tailstock from the lathe and screw the bolt, which is welded to a big square piece of steel, into the nut. Make sure you have the nut installed with the correct side up, or it won't tighten down.
That's all there is to it.
© 2003 W. E. Johns