Treadle Lathe #3: Big wheels keep on turnin'

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Blog entry by Texasgaloot posted 09-03-2008 04:47 AM 7450 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Step 1: Design Part 3 of Treadle Lathe series Part 4: Paying attention to basics... »

Well, I’ll take Labor Day. I know that doesn’t make me unique, but I was able to get some much needed shop time in. Work started on the treadle lathe. I’ll warn you ahead of time: the work is certainly going to be sporadic, since I have a couple of other projects I’m working already. But that’s okay with me.

I started with taking a couple of 2×4’s and cutting half dovetails in them. They were left over from the platform I built so that I could build my assembly table. Now that I have the table, the jointed 2×4’s can become lathe ways, a more noble purpose, perhaps. This is a couple of the half-dovetails sawn with my crispy IT saws, not purtied up:

Half dovetails -- lathe ways

I then put a considerable amount of energy into the flywheel. It all started at Lowes… I didn’t have the stock on hand. Brought it home, threw it across the jointer, and glued it up. A couple of hours later I found a center, drove a finish nail through it, and started routing using a shop-made router circle cutting jig. It went pretty well until the finish nail pulled through. Disaster. I then had an oblong wheel, and I don’t even care for the elliptical machines at the gym! A 4d common nail, a new hole in the router jig, and viola! It has been healed, slightly smaller in diameter but round nonetheless.

The flywheel, 1

The flywheel, 2

It will be a few days before I can enter the sanctuary again, so I’ll post more when I get more. Thanks for following this!

-- There's no tool like an old tool...

10 comments so far

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 3232 days

#1 posted 09-03-2008 04:54 AM

Sweet. Are you going to put any weight on the perimeter?

-- Scott - Chico California

View Christopher's profile


573 posts in 3337 days

#2 posted 09-03-2008 09:19 AM

This is going to be cool. I have always wanted to build a treadle lathe. I look forward to seeing the finished project!

View Texasgaloot's profile


464 posts in 3117 days

#3 posted 09-03-2008 12:31 PM

Hey Chico:

I had originally conceived a rim around this wheel made of dimensional lumber. I’m beginning to mull over the possibility of using plywood or MDF. MDF would be heavier and would certainly aid in dimensional stability. That’s as far as I’ve gotten. What do you think?

-- There's no tool like an old tool...

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1509 posts in 3541 days

#4 posted 09-03-2008 03:19 PM

When I saw “flywheel”, my first thought was that you should put a pipe down the middle of that, put a ring of Masonite around it, and pour a concrete flywheel. If you wanted to stay with the easily millable, then, yeah, MDF seems like its cheaper and heavier, but a concrete disk would get your mass cheaply and in the shape you wanted.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View Texasgaloot's profile


464 posts in 3117 days

#5 posted 09-03-2008 07:19 PM

Hey Dan:
That’s actually a really good point. There are plans out there in the ether for just such an animal, and I considered them carefully. With what I’m doing, I’m trying to strike a balance with reasonalbe portability, ease of building, economical bearings, and retained energy (which will never be as good as what you propose.) I’ve even given consideration to hollowing out sections of what I’ve done and pouring lead, similar to what is done with the centerboards of larger sailboats. The other thing is that I would like to use this thing while I’m still young enough to operate it—I’ll procrastinate it long enough that it won’t get done if I continue to cogitate. The top three design considerations here were cheap, cheap, and cheap, and dimensional lumber is, whereas I have no idea about the metal reinforcing required on a concrete wheel. Those were my thoughts on heading this direction. Thanks for the input!!

-- There's no tool like an old tool...

View Kaytrim's profile


63 posts in 2992 days

#6 posted 09-03-2008 07:35 PM

If you are thinking of using lead make your channels using your router and circle jig. This will maintain balance on the wheel. Drill a starter hole on opposite sides of your circle again to maintain balance and use a straight bit for the initial channel. Then followup with a dovetail or other such bit so the inside of the channel is wider at the bottom. This will lock in the melted lead when you pour it into the channel.

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1509 posts in 3541 days

#7 posted 09-05-2008 12:17 AM

I should note that I haven’t actually made a concrete flywheel, but I had a pottery wheel for a while that had a home-made concrete flywheel, and it was great. And I’ve used concrete in circular forms for similar things, most recently I put a pipe in the middle of a plastic bucket with a few short lengths of rebar to make an umbrella stand. Heavy as all get-out, but we can roll it to where we need it.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6819 posts in 3396 days

#8 posted 09-07-2008 01:59 PM

Hi Tex;

You didn’t make any mention of Proud Mary, what’s the deal?

Looks like a good start to the project.

The lead in a dovetailed channel sounds like a good idea.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View ShannonRogers's profile


540 posts in 3204 days

#9 posted 09-09-2008 04:13 AM

I am really enjoying this build. I can’t wait to see it in action. Remind me again where you got the design ideas. This seems like one of those old tools lost in esoterica and would be hard to come up with any detailed specs to build it. Of course I haven’t researched it so I might be surprised. How did you get started on it.

-- The Hand Tool School is Open for Business! Check out my blog and podcast "The Renaissance Woodworker" at

View Texasgaloot's profile


464 posts in 3117 days

#10 posted 09-09-2008 12:34 PM

Hey Lee:
I have to admit I was singing “Proud Mary” in my head while I wrote the title. The CCR version, not someone else’s cover, either. I try to be a purist whenever I can…

Hey Shannon:
The final design is really a synthesis of several I’ve plagiarized. It started with St. Roy’s, and that is the inspiration, but I’ve bumped across a number on the web and even one or two in the area (there’s one in a gun shop in San Antonio!) If it works really well I’ll take credit for it.

-- There's no tool like an old tool...

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