Tinder Box
Auckland, New Zealand

pole lathe

 Wood  to Turned Item.
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See a  traditional woodland craft demonstrated

  Tinder box polelathe in Taumarunui
What is a pole lathe?   Pole lathe course   Wood preparation.      Mounting the wood in the lathe       Spindle turning       Wooden bowls      Spoons ladles and scoops    Pole lathe links       
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 The work is rhythmical: the treadle is depressed, the chisel  presented, the treadle rises, the chisel  withdrawn.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 blletsi with a froe
 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 near round billet

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. 

locating the centre  of the billet and making a hole

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

turning wood on the pole lathe
  and then  we can begin to turn the wood!

Wooden Bowls

polle lathe turned bowl three small turned wooden bowls
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.

polelathing  making a bowl

the outside is shaped first

turning the inside of a bowl
 and then the  inside

turning the bowl

back view bodgers shelter and sleeping accomodation
My  summer camp December  2007

Wooden spoons, ladles and scoops

turning in a reneactment  enviroment
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!
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.

The scoop form is on the left the ladle on the right.

The wooden scoop blank and  ladle blank were then separated.
wooden scoop blank shape wooden ladle with  shape for a ladle
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

wooden scoop and ladles,
Finished wooden ladle and scoops

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.


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Copyright RPL  14/1/2008

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