Do you want to see an interesting old craft demonstrated? See the wood cleaved with a froe, prepared on a shave horse with a draw knife and turned on the pole lathe. Watch and talk with the craftsman and learn about the pole lathe and see what can be made with it. Perhaps even have a go! If you are interested in having this craft demonstrated for a Heritage festival or museum click here and request more information Would you like to do the course?
What is a pole lathe?A pole lathe is a foot- powered lathe.
The foot- operated treadle is attached to the tip of a pole by a rope. The rope goes from the treadle around the wood that is to be turned and is attached to the tip of the pole. The other end of the pole is fixed to the ground and a support elevates the pole tip nearly over the lathe. As the treadle is depressed, the pole bends and as this happens, the wood rotates, at the same time, the chisel - which is supported on a tool rest - is pushed against the wood that is being turned. When the treadle is released, the pole rises and the work rotates in the opposite direction, the chisel is then pulled back away from the wood that is being turned. The work is rhythmical: the treadle is depressed, the chisel presented, the treadle rises, the chisel withdrawn. The chisel is moved along the wood and so the work is shaped. There are several types of chisel. The wood is turned green. There are two types of turning: spindle turning and bowl turning. bowl turning requires a slightly different set up on the lathe. Spindle turning is how the parts for chairs are made.
Wood selection and preparation
A range of woods can be turned; in New Zealand and we have many good turning woods: such as Totara and Macrocapa. The wood is turned green, that is to say it has not been seasoned. Knot free wood is selected and prepared for turning with a froe, shave horse and draw knife.
Cleaving wood into billets with a froe
Once the billets have been cleaved, they are further prepared on a shave horse which brings them to 'near round'.
Bringing the billet to' near round' on a
shave horse with a draw knife
Mounting the wood in the pole lathe.
The centre of the 'near round billet' is located at each end and a small hole made at these points.
The holes are lubricated and the wood mounted between between the poppets - two metal points.
Preparing the billet for mounting on the pole lathe.
The wood is then mounted in the pole lathe, the cord wrapped around the wood and then turned.
This is spindle turning and how the parts for chairs are made
and then we can begin to turn the wood!
Wooden bowls: warpage is common but part of the experience.
You haven't lived until you have eaten out of bowl you have turned yourself!
Recently I have been turning bowls. It is entirely different from spindle turning. The tools are shaped differently and much smaller and the turning is done with the tool positioned in a different position relative to the work than for spindl;e turning.
the outside is shaped first
and then the inside
My summer camp December 2007
The turned up shapes for a scoop and ladle came from the same piece of wood - this meant there was very little waste of time and wood as they were turned at the same time.What do I do on the pole lathe? Well, I have been making ladles, scoops and spoons from turned pole lathe forms but just lately I have been making wooden bowls. I was given some ornamental pear wood. I stripped the bark from it, prepared it on the shave horse (see shave horse work traditional crafts for a description of this piece of equipment), with a draw knife for turning on the lathe.I turned the basic form on the pole lathe from the freshly cut green wood. The wood had been cut for about two weeks when I turned the basic shape. It was so wet the surface oxidised within hours of turning and it went quite brown - not unlike pears when they are cut and left exposed to the air!
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The scoop form is on the left the ladle on the right.
The wooden scoop blank and ladle blank were then separated.
Scoop blank. Ladle and ladle shape formed on pole lathe
The wooden scoop and ladle were then cut to shape, the basic shape being modified with with saw, and carving tools, hollowed out, carefully dried and brought to a glass like finish. Strictly speaking these are treen they are "of wood" and hand formed. I try to get that quality which is intrinsic to all good craft items: it speaks to me and I cannot help but pick it up and run the palms of my hands and fingers over it.
Would you like to know more about pole lathe turning? Visit Pole lathe and greenwood links
Association of Pole lathe Turners and Greenwood Workers.
APT is based in the UK welcomes input, questions and answers from visitors worldwide.