Pole/Treadle Lathe

Introduction: Pole/Treadle Lathe

Nothing overly complicated just a simple way to create a modern take on the medieval pole lathe.
This instructable dosent involve a lot of wood work capabilities and it can be achieved in under an hour.
 The pole lathe was a medieval invention in order to make things perfectly cylindrical. Instead of using an electric motor they used a length of spruce from a nearby forest. We will not be using spruce instead we will be using bungee cord. This will achieve the same effect but won’t take up as much space.

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Step 1: Materials and Tools

Materials needed;
Length of 40mm by 40mm pine (at least a metre long)
6 meters of 6mm nylon rope
2 G clamps
Length of hard wood (does not matter what size as long as it is longer than the wood you are going to turn and it can fit in the g clamp with pine)
Metal spacers
Bungee cord
Window screws with no thread at the end
Gate hinge (optional but makes life easier)
Tent pegs
Piece of old wood I used a floor board
Wood screws
Work mate bench

Tools needed;
Screw Driver
Drill bit
Tenon Saw
rubber mallet
claw hammer
spirit level

Step 2: Let's Start Making

We are starting by making the spindle. 
Start off with the pine. Cut them in to two equal lengths of the same size. Drill a hole in the wood for the window screw to go in. repeat this with the othere half but make sure that when you put them in the work mate they line up.(but make sure the drill is smaller than the screw because we want it to be tight) Screw the window screws in to the pieces of wood. This is going to be the main part of the lathe.

Step 3: The Treadle

We are now going to make the treadle.
To start off with I used an old section of a floor board but you can use anything that’s roughly the same size and thickness of a floor board.
To start by cutting it to 50cm in length. It’s just short enough to fit under the work mate but long enough to get the wood to do a few full rotations. The next part is not strictly necessary but makes it a lot easier when using the lathe. Screw the gate hinge to the end of the floor board. And you can hit the other end of the hinge in to the ground with the tent pegs.

Step 4: The Bungee

In this step we will be providing the lathe with power source.
First need to put two hooks parallel to each other in a high up place. I used the top of my shed this is to hook the bungee to .
Next we have to tie the six meters of nylon rope to the bungee I found the best knot to use was a double half hitch. Then we just clip the hooks on the bungee to the hooks on the shed.

Step 5: Now We Put It Together Part 1

We start of with the wood we want to turn. It’s best to if the wood is square to use a hand plane and round it of roughly. Then using the centre punch a small indentation in both sides of the wood. We are now ready to set it up. Start by putting the work mate directly under the shed. Then open the jaws of the work mate and dropping the nylon string straight through but make sure that the bungee is hooked to the shed still. Then slide the treadle under the work mate and lifting it up in its upright position tie the nylon string in place so that it lifts up the treadle when you press down.

Step 6: Now We Put It Together Part 2

We now have to use the tent peg to keep the treadle in place to stop it from creeping forwards as we work. Now we have to lock one of the pine spindles in place in the work mate. Then twist the rope around the turning wood and place the second spindle in the indents and lock it tight in the wok mate. Once this is done use the spirit level to check if they are level in my case they are not so just tap it down with a mallet. Now you are essentially done but you need something to wrest your chisels against so take that strip of hard wood and the metal spacers and lock them in place on the pine with the G clamps this also gives the lathe more stability.

Step 7: And Thats It

You have how hopefully successfully created a treadle lathe if you have any enquiries or problems don’t hesitate to ask.

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    6 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    to keep the bungee cord from coming off the hooks, can you not use eyes instead on the roof or even somewhere inside the barn?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Yes that would also work it would probably be safer as the bungee cord could not fly out of the hooks as easily but I only had hooks at the time. I have thought about putting it inside but decided that the angle could prove difficult as we have uneven ground in front. thankyou for veiwing aswell


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    well regardless, I still love this instructable. :)

    You have given me ideas for having my first lathe. *does a happy dance* :)

    TY Sir for sharing.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    brilliant, just brilliant! I've been looking for a simpler way to do this, just to see if I can be a**ed to make a proper one with the whole timber frame, etc.

    You had me right up to the video! I've been wanting something just like this, so thanks for the instructions. Video aside, how has this been working for you?