Back in 1985 Lindsay Publications printed John Maloy's "Turning Metal On A Simple Lathe". By "Simple Lathe" he means a woodworking lathe. The concept is not new, it has been done since lathes first existed with mixed results. What John does here is clarify the procedure and provides info on producing the tools with modern materials and the methods of using them. He finishes off with an example of a model pipe T engine cylinder.
I have turned aluminum face plates and shafting on wood turning lathes. My Delta/Rockwell variable speed lathe came with a cross slide attachment and I have used it to turn the commutator on my tractor starter successfully. I have never tried it, but with care and John's instructions I don't see why steel can't be turned as well.
There are two main requirements The gravers, which John shows you how to make, and a speed reducer to get your lathe speed down to the 300 rpm range. Pictured below is Dave Gingery's plan for a lathe speed reducer from his book "The Metal Lathe". There are many different plans around the web for speed reducers but I do like Dave's plan.
If you want John Maloy's interesting little manual click Turning Metal On A Simple Lathe to download. 3 MB - pdf.
Click images to expand, click again for best view.
Most people are familiar with Dave Gingery's "Build Your Own Metal Working Shop From Scrap" series. Chapter 6 in book # 2 "The Metal Lathe" is a plan for the motor mount and speed reducer. I like this plan, it is easily built. A hack saw, portable drill, and vise is all that is needed and the offset lock and release is quick and easy to operate. It is easily mounted on other machines, where speed reduction is wanted.