Rack ’em up — Lathe Tool Rack

As an avid wood turner I often spend a lot of time at the lathe.  When doing production work I am often trying to figure out better ways to be more efficient in my work. A modest time sink is often finding the next tool to use as historically my turning tools usually lived in a Woodcraft tool travel bag which was overflowing on a nearby table or tool, and a small rack for 4 tools that would sit on the end of my lathe’s bed. Over the past few weekends I set out to fix this problem…

Drilling Holes
Drilling Holes

The drill press got a workout hogging through a LOT of Maple…

Completed sets of holes
Completed sets of holes

Then came test fitting the joints….

Testing Joints
Testing Joints

Then making sure the size, shape and angles I figured actually worked for tools in the real world…

Working out design
Working out design

Refined the design a bit by tapering the sides…

Tapering the sides
Tapering the sides

Next up was fitting together each of the double units..

Completed racks awaiting finish
Completed racks awaiting finish

Then finishing them and installing them on to the 4’x4′ plywood backing. The backing, much like everything else in my workshop rides on a french cleat, so I can re-arrange my wall space each time my needs, tooling or shop changes.

Completed racks installed
Completed racks installed

Part of the beauty of this design is the over sized holes and the large dowel underneath which allows shavings to easily fall through the rack, rather than fill up as they would if the bottom of the holder was closed in. (This was a design element seen on similar, but smaller turning tool racks we had at NBSS — so thank you to my friend Rich Friberg or one of his predecessors for the inspiration 🙂  ) The completed rack looks naked without any tools, so time to populate it…

Completed racks, with room to grow
Completed racks, with room to grow

The completed rack has worked out great. When I turned the handles for my tools, I made them different shapes and species so I could tell them apart with only a quick glance and this rack allows for very fast identification and selection. There is room for my full sized tools, room for my smaller detail tools, and room to add more. (I’ve been itching to build some of the hollowing tools from Alan Lacer’s video on making your own turning tools). The rack holds 28 tools, 14 on each level, so as your collection of tools grows you can still make use of the shelf space — I filled some of the space with tiny turning blanks and rolls of turner’s tape)

Side view
Side view

Time to get back out into the shop and keep turning…

2 thoughts on “Rack ’em up — Lathe Tool Rack”

    1. The back of the rack is a 4’x4′ piece of 3/4″ cabinet grade plywood. The tool holders are 3/4″ maple and the dowel was 1″ or 1-1/4″. The racks are slightly narrower than the plywood sheet since I rounded over the edges. All the pieces including the rack were rounded over with a 1/8″ radius rounder bit. The size of the tapered side pieces was dictated by my turning tools. If you need more specific measurements and this is not an idle rock fetch, let me know and I can go measure it. I’m sure I had notes at the time I built it but its been several years and I’d have to re-generate it.

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