Wooden lathes

Hello everyone,
I was talking with a friend of mine at the hardwood supplier's, and he mentioned that he has a book on making a lathe out of wood (I'm assuming that it would be maple, but I've not seen the book yet) He had not tried it out, but offered to loan me the book. I guess the lathe has a 100" bed, and is a beautiful piece of work. I haven't done any turning yet, but I've been considering getting one of those midi lathes for a while.
Does anyone know anything about these wooden machines? I know it would be a neat thing to have in the shop, but I'd like it to be functional, and not just an oddity. I've made a few other machines with maple, and it does seem to work pretty well as a wood-shop substitue for steel, but I've used it for nothing as complex or potentially dangerous as a lathe. I've got access to a well-equipped shop now, and it might be the best time to do it- but I don't want to waste all the time and resources on something that is fundementally flawed, when I could just make a nice dresser or something.
Any thoughts?
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On Mon, 11 Oct 2004 21:07:26 -0500, Prometheus

Look up "pole lathes". Standard piece of kit for bodgers who work out in the woods, turning chair legs from green wood.
It's powered by a (wooden) treadle downwards and a bendy pole to pull it back upwards. It doesn't rotate continuously, it goes back and forth a few turns each way.
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On Mon, 11 Oct 2004 21:07:26 -0500, Prometheus

I saw a big honkin' lathe made of heavy oak timbers at a rennaissance festival once. the guy was a little apologetic about the thing- it is in no way period, even though foot powered. it was a good lathe though. probably 5 or 6 hundred pounds of timber for IIRC about a 6 foot bed machine. the bearings were truck wheel bearings seated directly into the oak. it had some kind of a heavy flywheel. very solid, very quiet running. way cool looking too. it was definitely a working machine, and a kick ass one. if you can get the timber at the right price it could be a low dollar way to get a seriously nice lathe- but it would take a bit of time to pull it all together.
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There is one here you can take a look at: http://www.mimf.com/articles/lathe /
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As a first lathe, I highly recommend the Jet or Delta mini/midi - for the price, excellent quality, sturdiness and versatility these little workhorses just can't be beat. After you get some turning experience *then* look into building your own - you'll have a much better idea of what capabilities you'd like in your wood lathe.
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Some famous artistic turners use homemade lathes, some of wood. I have a midi (delta) I'm happy with for now, been turning on it for about a year, it'll do til I get the itch to turn a bowl or platter or vase, for that matter, that's over 10" diameter. It only cost me $300, and about another $300 for tools and chucks since then. Built my own stand out of 2x12 and 2x6 DF with a PB drawer cabinet to hold tools etc. The cabinet also helps weight down and dampen vibration. It seems to me, unless you have access to some pretty good bearings, a decent 3/4 to 1 hp motor, and a shaft with a morris taper in the end, and standard threads on the outside for very cheap or free, you will wind up spending more making one than just buying it. Buying has the instant gratification factor, as well... 8>)
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Wood is a bit lightweight for a lathe. A lathe should be very heavy. You could make hollow end pieces out of 3/4" ply and fill them with sand. Popular is a good choice for the bed--it absorbs vibration better than other woods.
On Mon, 11 Oct 2004 21:07:26 -0500, Prometheus

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wrote:

What you need is a bed that's more rigid than your turning stock. 4x4 Oak timbers oughta be the ticket.
I'd use modern metal bearings for the headstock. I can't think of a good reason to wish wooden bearings on anyone.
In HS industrial arts, they showed us footage from Williamsburg (iirc). The shop there had a spinning wheel sort of arrangement (A "walking wheel" rather than a treadle drive) that was kept spinning by an apprentice, though obviously the belt was beefier than a spinning wheel's.
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Somewhere I recall seeing a kit for building a wooden lathe. The kit had a pair of cast iron legs , a head stock, tool rest and tail stock. I also seem remember that they recommended maple beams. I heard that this setup worked for turning pencil bed posts in one piece.
Grant
U-CDK_CHARLES\\Charles wrote:

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Perhaps the now-defunct Conover? Recommendation was poplar.
You can mount any lathe's tailstock any distance away you please, as long as that distance is in some way fixed. interior finish friend of mine turned columns on a 12" Delta lathe with the tailstock ten feet away on a stand screwed to the floor and attached to the head by the timber he was using as a toolrest. Truth is, he did most of the "turning" with a plane, and rested the sander on it to finish.
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I think that was one of ernie conover's lathes. Unfortunately, I think he's done with that.
http://www.conoverworkshops.com/ww/news/ww1_5.htm
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