Ryedale Woodturners


Jim Wood

Jim Wood

Thursday 7 January 2016

Snainton Woodturning Supplies

Jim Wood visited us from Alne near Easinwold. Jim does demostrations of pole-lathe turning for school parties at the Ryedale Folk Museum, Hutton le Hole.

Making a pole lathe

Pole lathe A frame

Jim said this is easy - it takes "about a Sunday". Timber can be rough cut, mainly 3 x 2 with some 6 x 2, 20 nuts and a couple of studding bars (10mm threaded bar), and some rope.

Start with two A frames made from 3 x 2. Then two beams for the lathe bed 6 x 2, planed on the top to give a little more freedom for the tailstock and headstock to slide. These are bolted to the A frames with two bolts on each side, making the whole quite rigid.

Pole-lathe bed

Once this is fastened together, the talistock can be slotted between the two beams. This is just a couple of 6 x 2 blocks bolted together, with one piece more like 6 x 1.5, to fit into the slot. Jim felt that the cross piece might be better a little longer.

Pole lathe tailstock

The handle to tighten the tailstock was found "in the yard" and braxzed on to a bolt with a pointed end ground on to it. It could be fastened with a couple of nuts. A locknut is also on this thread, with a handle made from a bar.

The headstock is made in a similar fashion, the one Jim had with him having a wider cross-section.

Pole lathe headstock

This allows for moving the rest, which is a simple piece of timber with a planed chamfer to allow it to slide up close to the timber being turned. This rests on the cross-piece - further out at the headstock end to accommodate faceplate turning.

Pole lathe hazel poles

Two hazel stems were then fastened to either side of the frame, using sizal rope - better than nylon as it doesn't slip. The hazel stems are about 10' 6" (so you won't be making one of these to go in the garden shed!). Two fairly simple knots top and bottom of the A frames keep the stems in place.

Pole lathe treadle

Finally the treadle is attached, a sort of A frame with an extended block to take the rope. The frame is hinged to a hefty footboard using thick pieces of leather.

A piece of sash cord is then looped around the spindle to be turned twice and knotted to the treadle at one end, and a rope stretched between the two hazel stems at the top, providing the necessary spring.

Different sizes and shapes of treadle boards can be tried, but in essence one push needs to ensure at least a complete revolution of the timber, and be comfortable enough on the leg which is acting as the engine.

Pole lathe drive shaft

For turning bowls or other faceplate work, a small driver can be created. A short cylindrical section to loop the drive rope around, then four tacks protruding through its end allows a bowl to be sandwiched between the headstock and the driver to be turned. The small boss left in the centre can be turned away as far as possible, then removed with a chisel or spokeshave.

Source books and inspiration

Green Woodwork by Mike Abbott

Jim based the construction of his pole-lathe on plans in Mike Abbott's book, Green Woodwork, which obviously goes further into the craft of working with green wood, and looks at the bodgers craft of chairmaking.

The Reading Lathe by Philip Dixon

Jim also mentioned another book, The Reading Lathe, (as in the town, "Reading", not as in reading a book), which describes a pole-lathe used by George Lailey (1869-1958), reportedly the last professional bowl turner who used a pole-lathe. Written by Philip Dixon.

Apprentice pole-lathe turners