Treadle Lathe Build #1: Starting the build

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Blog entry by brianl posted 09-29-2011 04:31 AM 4097 reads 7 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Treadle Lathe Build series Part 2: Framing Complete »

As part of my bowsaw project I ended up building a crude bungee lathe. In doing so I realized how useful a lathe could be and how it could enable my addiction…I mean hobby. Since most of my projects are from the arts and crafts movement I don’t see a lot of spindle turning in my future, but I can definitely see some serving implement, bowl, condiment shaker, and box turning happening.

So I started looking around for a way to build a lathe that fit into my “no power tools” lifestyle. I looked at a more complex spring pole/bungee lathe but to be honest the half one way half the other way thing got pretty annoying after a while. Eventually I found plans for Roy Underhill's treadle lathe (pdf) that appeared in Popular Woodworking. They were even nice enough to provide a Sketchup Plan for it. After looking over the plans it looked like a reasonable build so I got started.

My plan is to build the entire lathe from store-bought dimensional lumber – Douglas Fir to be precise. I looked around for the necessary hardware (steel rod for an axle, bearings, and stop collars) and they seemed price prohibitive. The bearings alone were $9 a piece at Grainger! While I’m normally a fan of buying American-made products whenever possible, it seemed like no matter where I looked I could not find American-made sealed bearings. So, I went on ebay and bought 10 of them for $18 with shipping – roughly 20% of the cost from grainger. We’ll just have to see how these suckers hold up over time.

I got started building the main frame – Douglas Fir 4”x4” braces make for a hefty base. Cutting the tenons for this took some time but boy were they beefy.

I’m assembling the frame with breakdown hardware – since I live in a rental I have to be able to disassemble this sucker and move it at some point.

I’m also assembling it in reverse of Roy’s plans. The configuration he had wasted a lot of valuable space. In my small shop I can’t afford to waste space so I’m flipping the lathe around. I’m also reversing the support for the drive pulley. I’m probably going to be using a spade or screw chuck and I wanted the screw to turn in the correct direction.

Now it’s time to see about the supports, the headstock, and the tailstock.

-- Brian - Belmont, Massachusetts

4 comments so far

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5623 posts in 3888 days

#1 posted 09-29-2011 05:19 AM

This should be interesting, thanks for letting us accompany you!

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View Tomcat1066's profile


942 posts in 3971 days

#2 posted 09-29-2011 12:11 PM

I’m definitely going to be following this one, since I see a treadle lathe in my future as well :)

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View helluvawreck's profile


32087 posts in 3042 days

#3 posted 09-29-2011 02:04 PM

That’s a good start on this lathe and this blog will be very interesting.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View CartersWhittling's profile


453 posts in 2849 days

#4 posted 09-30-2011 03:05 AM

Thanks for posting I look foward to seeing your progress. I know after I made my spring pole lathe I found many uses for it.

-- And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord... Colossians 3:23

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