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.
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.
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.
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.
Owen Lowe and his Fly-by-Night Copper Company
The problem in this country is that the bar is constantly being lowered;
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>)
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
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
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.
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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