Building an MDF Rose Engine Lathe 2.0

This page is designed to outline what you need to buy or build to make an MDF Rose Engine Lathe 2.0.

Buy the Kit Do it Yourself
Case Kit Follow the directions in this manual.

Step 1: Build the base & headstock

MDF (medium density fiberboard) is used to make the lathe's body, both the base and the headstock.

This is split out from the base system parts (in Step 2) as many choose to build their own base and headstock. It is not hard, simply follow the instructions shown for the "do it yourself". But, do pay attention to the need for accuracy in the cuts.

The kit we supply has all the MDF parts already cut to size and ready for assembly.

Buy the Kit Do it Yourself
Base System Kit
not applicable -- these parts are not easy to make

Step 2: Add the base system parts

Even if you build your own machine, you should get this kit of parts from us: It includes parts which are hard to machine as high quality parts. We worked with machinists to get a great kit put together.

The kit we supply provides the other key parts needed to build the lathe base and headstock.

Buy the Kit Do it Yourself
Controls Kit If you wish to build your own, we offer kits with parts, especially those hard to obtain parts.

Kits and links to instructions are on the Controls Kit page.

Step 3: Add a spindle drive motor

The original MDF Rose Engine Lathe was designed to be hand cranked, but many added motor drives of various types to rotate the spindle. (Jon Magill later outlined a way to add a stepper motor for driving the spindle.)

The MDF Rose Engine Lathe 2.0 was designed from the base to use a stepper motor for driving the spindle.

This video overviews the two controls kit options
and attempts to show the differences

We have designed two options for this. Both options are further outlined on the Controls Kit page.

  • Spindle-Only Stepper Motor Control Kit which is used to drive the spindle's rotation, and a

  • Multiple Stepper Motors Control Kit which can drive the spindle's rotation also, but can also drive the stepper motor movement. The secondary spindle motor movement would be used to synchronize movement along the Z or X (or B) axis.

By the way, these kits are also a great option for retrofitting an original MDF Rose Engine Lathe to use a stepper motor for driving the spindle.

Step 4: Add tool holding

For a rose engine lathe, there are two basic cutting tool types: a cutting frame or a Drill Spindle. Either way, the cutting tool needs to be held onto a table which moves smoothly along the lathe's X and Z axes.

There are a number of options you can pursue for this. Some have started by using an X-Y table designed for use on a drill press, but the more common approach is to have the cutting tool held in a quick change tool post (QCTP) attached to a cross slide.

We recommend you get started using's X-Y Table, Quick Change Tool Post, and Tool Holder:

  • X-Y Table, p/n 2008
  • Quick Change Tool Post, p/n 4701
  • Tool Holder, p/n 2281

The Case Kit includes the additional MDF pieces needed to raise the table's level to what is needed to get the cutting tool to the right height, or you can build your own using the DIY directions for that kit.

Use an Integrated Drive Motor
Buy One Do it Yourself
Universal Cutting Frame

Drill Spindle
Bill Ooms published plans for making MicroMotor Universal Cutting Frames. He also has plans for a Drill Spindle.

Step 5: Add the cutting tool

Cutting tools are available two ways:

You can choose to start with a cutting or Drill Spindle which uses an integrated drive motor: many do. If you want to go that way, Wade Wendorf at Mandala Rose Works sells some nicely designed ones. The ones he sells can be held in the QCTP outlined above in Step 4.

Use an Overhead Drive
Buy One Do it Yourself
Overhead Drive Kit

Universal Cutting Frame

Drill Spindle
Build an Overhead Drive, an article by Jon Magill.

Bill Ooms published plans for making Cutting & Drill Spindles.

There are a myriad of reasons why an overhead drive is preferred by many:

  1. As you add more cutting or Drill Spindles, only one motor is needed for all of them, saving you money.

  2. By having the motor separated from the cutting or Drill Spindle, there is a reduction in transfer of the motor's vibrations to the cutter.

  3. By having the motor further away from you, the motor's noise is further from you, and there is less obstruction to the visibility of the work.

This video overviews the overhead drive we sell

The Overhead Drive Kit attaches to the back of the MDF Rose Engine Lathe 2.0.

After you get going, you may want to add more rosettes or other parts. The steps outlined above will get you started.