Lathe Mounted Disc Sander

Lathe SandingSanding machines are common in most woodworking shops. I have thought about getting a disc sander for my garage/workshop but I don’t have the space for a dedicated machine and – never having owned one – am not sure how much use it would get, making it doubly hard to justify.

Recently I was looking at my lathe and the penny dropped that this is a horizontal motor to which you can attach stuff that rotates. I had the basis of the disc sander staring me in the face.

A quick search on the internet showed me I was not alone (even if I was slow to make this connection!) so I decided to spend half a day using up workshop scraps building a disc sanding attachment for the lathe. The design for this disc sander evolved during the making, influenced by the materials at hand.

Sanding Disc

Some years ago I bought a box of self-stick 6″ 60 grit sanding disks. I used a few stuck to boards for rough sanding, but most of the box was still there. This would great as the sanding material, so the size of the sanding disc was set at 6″ (150mm) – smaller than I would have liked but I was not going to quibble at this stage. Once the sanding discs run out I can remake the disc in a larger size..

The disc was easy to make. First I rough cut a circle just larger than 6″ from a 12mm plywood scrap. Then I attached a face plate to the center of the disc and used the lathe to turn it down to round, being careful to keep it big enough for the sanding disc. Job done.

The Table

The size of the table depends on the size of the disc and how it is attached to the  lathe. The table top should be at or just slightly below the disc center, so it needs to be bigger than the diameter of the disc. I sized mine for ‘growth’ in case I want to increase the disc size in future.

My lathe headstock needs to be slightly rotated into an outboard position to make it easier to used the disc sander. I decided the table would be attached through the tool rest post hole using a short piece of scrap ¾” hardwood dowel. The table (upside down) is shown in the photos below.

The basic components of the table are a rectangular top and a pine rib glued and screwed through the top. The rib provides some added rigidity but is mainly a support for the dowel. The dowel was glued into the hole and one driven in from the side to make sure it stayed put. The rib was located just off center to give the more support towards the front of the table, hopefully preventing it tipping towards the disc when in use.

That was going to be it until I tested the device and, in a cloud of sanding debris, discovered that a disc sander with a a 60 grit disc can make a big a mess really quickly. Some form of dust control was needed …

Dust Collection

My simple solution was to build a small box under the table, with a hole on the outside face to connect my shop vacuum. This arrangement proved highly effective and no dust escapes when the shop vac is running. The box can be seen in the photos above and below.


At the front of the box (the disc side) the panel is cut to fit the edge of the disc. While the rest of the box was glued in place, this panel was screwed in so that it can be resized to match any future disc size changes.

My New Sanding Station

For the little effort that went into this project, it works remarkably well and allows me to double up the use of the lathe.

I have also now ‘seen the light’ – a lathe is essentially just a motor with a horizontal shaft – so I am now planning more sanding attachments like a V-drum style sander or a belt sander. The lathe could yet turn out to be my sanding station.

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