Woodturning with the Pole-lathe
by Brian G. Howarth.

Traditional woodturning is a craft many centuries old. No one can say with certainty when it really started, but there is logic in thinking it goes back to the time when the wheel was invented and man first recognized the benefits of rotary motion.

The earliest record dates back to 300BC. It is located in an Egyptian tomb and depicts two men turning an object. Turned objects from the late Iron Age may be seen in the British Museum and there is evidence of woodturning during the Saxon period on display at Jorvic. From that period on there are a number of illustrations depicting woodturning scattered across Europe each showing the use of simple lathes. The main difference illustrated being the method by which the work-piece is rotated. As the desire to turn larger objects increased some methods of rotating the work-piece became obsolete and the pole-lathe reigned supreme for many centuries.

Above is an illustration of a Dutch wood-turner dated 1650. I would have no difficulty using his lathe, nor he mine.

Even when various forms of power became available some craftsmen preferred the economy and flexibility of this simple machine.

Some twelve years ago I made a pole-lathe with the basic objective of experimenting to discover its versatility and limitations. The items on display have all been turned using this machine. I do not use any power or artificial light. When it becomes too dark or I feel tired I cease working.

© 2001by Brian G. Howarth

Brian Howarth recommends the following book, saying:
"This is the most comprehensive history of wood turning I have seen."

Click on the link below for details.

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