Mobile CNC Lathe Cabinet

The Sheffield Hackspace have a bench top CNC lathe that lives in the corner of the space on a pair of trestles. The machine is not currently operational and is awaiting repair, it also has a fair bit of weight to it so requires two people to manoeuvre it. The space needs to be flexible so this means things need to be easy to move about for different events etc. With the space ever expanding space is coming as a premium and with this in mind I came up with a solution to make a cabinet on castors with storage below for tooling with the CNC lathe sat on top.

I took some measurements and drew a CAD model using FreeCAD. The cabinet was constructed using rebate joints on the top, bottom and back. The panel rebated in to the centre helps take the weight on the top, the two lengths of material on the front top and bottom help improve the structural strength, the cabinet will be made using 18mm construction ply.


Two full sheets of ply where used for this project, I started by ripping all of parts to size by using a straight edge and a circular saw.


For routing the rebates running along the centre of the base, back and top I used the same method, being sure to take in to consideration the width between the widest point of the cutter and the edge of the routers base and subtracting this away from the centre of the work piece.

With the external rebates that ran around the perimeter of the base, top and back I used the routers fences set at 18mm from the cutter. I took the cut in two passes to make it easier on the cutter.


I put an 18 x 100mm notch in the top and bottom of all of the three front vertical panels to accept the two lengths of ply that would improve the structure trength, I did this using the band saw. Now I had all of the parts machines I did a quick dry fit to ensure that all of the parts fitted together as anticipated before glueing up. I also sanded all of the internal surfaces with some 80 grit sand paper.

I started the assembly process by fixing the top and base to the back and middle vertical section, before this I drew a light pencil line between the centre of all of the the rebates, I used a combination square to do all of the external ones and a ruler to do the rebates in the middle of the base back and top, this was so I knew exactly where to shoot the staples in to. I then spread wood glue over the joints and held them together with 50mm staples whilst the glue set.


Now I had the cabinet frame assembled I hung the doors and mounted the castors. I used cabinet hinges which gave me plenty of play for adjustments, they also come apart in two parts which makes it easy to remove them to put a finish on. The side of the hinge that rests on the door needs a 32mm hole bored using a forstner bit and is secured in place with two screws, the other end is simple secured in place with just screws. I then sanded all of the joints smooth with some 60 grit and the rest of the surfaces with 80 grit.


With all of the surfaces smooth I applied the first coat of varnish. I thinned down the first coat with white spirit, this makes the varnish absorb better in to the plywood. The next day I lightly denibed all of the surfaces with some 180 grit. I ensured that there was no dust left on the sanded surfaces by blowing compressed air on them. The top coat was then applied and left to dry over night. I was then able to re attach the doors and I had a finished cabinet!


Some of the things that I really liked about the cabinet was that I was able to get all of the joints flush making it look more aesthetics, the finish also turned our very well leaving a smooth surface on all of the faces.

Two things that I would improve next time is to have adjustable shelf studs on the interior panels, this would involve making a jig with a series of holes drilled all the way through at set intervals that would hook on to the base of the part to ensure that all of the holes where consistent, this is a much better alternative that to permanently install fixings in one place for one shelf. The second thing that I would add is some flight case style handles on either side of the cabinet to make manoeuvring it around easier, the lathe itself has two handles at the front for handling but is is much better that is is moved around by pushing the cabinet so that the lathe dose not inadvertently slip on the surface.

This has overall been a really great project and I am hoping to do some more cabinet work in the not so distant future!

For more build images visit my Flicker page.

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