Issue Three T.O.C. - Spring Pole Lathe: Design, Construction, and Use


Today, we begin releasing the table of contents for Issue Three. Each day we will describe one article from the upcoming issue to give you all taste of what’s to come. On Friday at Lie-Nielsen, we released the list of articles and heard lots of excited feedback about this upcoming issue. Mike and I keep pinching ourselves as we continue to get such talented and passionate authors. Stay tuned here at the blog as we announce each of the 12 articles that will be in Issue Three.

Without further ado… here is the first article:


“The Spring Pole Lathe: Design, Construction, and Use” by: Joshua Klein

Of all the work that I’ve demonstrated over the years there’s one thing that never fails to captivate an audience: the spring pole lathe. Every time I am working at this foot-powered lathe, people seem genuinely astonished that such a simple device can produce elegant craftsmanship. I’m usually asked if I invented the idea. The answer is, of course, “Absolutely not”. This reciprocal lathe using a cord wrapped around the workpiece has been in use for many centuries.


This is my second spring pole lathe. The first was a softwood lathe I built from the wonderful design by Roy Underhill. It worked for most smaller projects but I eventually wanted longer rails and more mass. When designing this new lathe, I combed through numerous resources. I relied primarily on Roubo’s discussion (translated by Don McConnell) as well as the Dominy example at Winterthur in combination with many other historic paintings and images.


This lathe is built of white oak and features drawbore mortise-and-tenon joinery. This build is more like timber framing than furniture making. Even though I prefer meat-powered tools for my furniture making, I show in this article how a cordless drill with Forstner bits made quick work of the large mortises.


If you have been interested in trying out a spring pole lathe but haven’t known where to start, this article was written for you. There is a wonderful satisfaction in turning beautiful beads, coves, and balusters all powered with the pump of your foot. This article also addresses common myths about pole lathes such as how exhausting it must be to pump the treadle and how it is only good for green wood. Neither of those things are true.


I hope this build gives you the final bit of confidence it takes to build your own spring pole lathe. There is nothing quite like hearing the wind in the trees carrying the “SCRIT, SCRIT” of the bevel engaging at each rotation. On top of that, the refreshingly humane surface it creates is nothing like the 10 million RPM electric sandpapered perfection machines offer us.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s Issue Three article announcement…

- Joshua


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