Instructables
Yep, the title is a pun, sorry.

If you've ever watched much of Roy Underhill's show The Woodwright's Shop on PBS, you've seen him use a self built treadle lathe. If you haven't watched much of Roy Underhill's show, why not!? Seriously, look up if/when it shows in your area and watch it!

I'm working on a wooden sailboat mast. It is 14 feet long and constructed with the birdsmouth techinique. I wanted to round it, but a lathe capable of handling a 14 foot long workpiece isn't exactly common... or cheap. So, what to do? I started out with an octagon; the shape the birdsmouth build produced. I used a hand plane to knock off the corners to make it 16 sided. Then again to make it 32 sided. That is pretty close to round. How does one make it rounder? Sanding.

One common way of sanding masts is to turn a belt sander belt inside out and use a drill equiped with a disk to turn it. I don't have a belt sander and as such no belt sander belts. I didn't really want to buy one, nor did I want to stand around running a drill for a long time. Especially since my drill isn't really that good of a drill. I came up with my own way.
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Workpiece
Sawhorses
Scraps of wood
Screwdriver
Screws
Tree
Rope
String
Something to attach string to and throw

Very nice. Just one thing. That's a pole lathe, not a treadle lathe.

A treadle mechanism makes use of a large flywheel to power the spindle. When the foot pedal is moving through the "up-stroke" so that it can be pushed again, the flywheel continues to power the spindle "forward." This actually allows the lathe spindle to achieve much higher RPMs than the pole lathe can, since that on each stroke (down and up) of the pole lathe, the spindle has to come to a stop and then spin in the opposite direction. Each stroke then has to overcome inertia rather than building on the momentum of the previous down-stoke. This is why the treadle lathe was an improvement over the pole lathe and why it eventually replace the pole lathe. Eventually, the treadle mechanism was replaced by a pulley system powered by water wheels, then steam engines, and eventually electric motors.

However, the advantage of the pole lathe is that it is easier to construct than the treadle lathe, especially since it requires virtually no engineering. The advantage of both the pole and treadle lathe over modern lathes is that you don't need to have an electrical source near by.
polymarkos1 year ago
This isn't a treadle lathe, but a spring pole lathe.
This is a great idea! Thanks for sharing and good luck with the boat!
Years ago I built a spring pole lathe between 2 trees following pictures from Foxfire 2. The summer after graduating high school, I went with my family to Branson and a trip to Silver Dollar City. It was amazing to discover thatmy 12 year old self had built a lathe almost identical to the one that a craftsman was using there. After my mom said something about mine the craftsman invited me behind the rope with him to use his lathe. Wow the memories this can bring up, now it is time to build another only this time with pictures.
Sweet!
IdahoDavid1 year ago
How did you get my sawhorses out of my yard?
Satrek1 year ago
Looks like a neat system - thanks for sharing!

I wonder if it was feasible to adopt the system on a smaller scale for my workshop. I have a lathe which can do pieces up to about 2cm in diameter, and maybe 20cm long. I think I'll have to give it some thought. It probably cannot beat anything motorized when it comes to smaller pieces or more ambitious work than rounding, but who knows... I'm definitly putting that on my list.
Goodluck (author)  Satrek1 year ago
You bet you could build one to handle something smaller. Do a Google image search of "treadle lathe" and you'll see all kinds from home built to ones which were once commercially available. Put enough design work and construction effort into it and you could produce turnings which rival those you could produce on a motorized lathe. Here's kind of a video diary of a guy building one. I believe Mr. Underhill has a book out there which has plans for one also.
Phil B1 year ago
We saw a reconstructed facsimile of one of these lathes in a Roman museum in Augsburg, Germany. We also attended a medieval festival in Dornum (Ostfriesland) Germany where a young couple was selling items made from wood. They had one of these lathes set up for making some of the items they were selling. These lathes have a long history, even if the beds on the two we saw were shorter than what yours shows.
Kiteman1 year ago
+1 to the video.
Pro

Get More Out of Instructables

Already have an Account?

close

PDF Downloads
As a Pro member, you will gain access to download any Instructable in the PDF format. You also have the ability to customize your PDF download.

Upgrade to Pro today!