Treadle Lathe

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Project by Bob Downing posted 09-19-2011 01:29 AM 6608 views 20 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’m a big fan of The Woodwrights Shop and decided I wanted a treadle lathe. It works great! Any deficiencies in the turnings are strictly the fault of the guy holding the gouge (ME).
This is a prototype. After I use it for awhile and decide on any changes in the design I’ll build one out of better wood. OK, the details. I built this out of 4×4 Doug Fir from HD. It was sufficient to the task and cheap. The hardware I purchased from McMaster-Carr. The whole project cost approx. $200.00. The headstock consist of a 1/2” shaft threaded on one end and 2 thrust bearings. I used a threaded coupler and welded an old spade bit in it to turn the work. The opposite end is a dead center, just a 1/2” shaft filed to a point. Found out early a little beeswax helps out here. Both to reduce friction and to eliminate a loud and irritating squeal. The flywheel is 25” in diameter and the drive pulley is 2” in diameter. This gives me a 12.5 to 1 ratio. So 100 rpm’s on the flywheel gives me 1250 rpm’s at the work. I know, slow by the standard of a powered lathe but seems to work OK if the tools are sharp. The flywheel is 3” thick and mounted on a 1/2” shaft with ball bearings. It weighs about 25 lbs. and it has plenty of inertia to overcome the drag of the tools on the work. The connection between the tie rod and flywheel is made with a 1/2” bolt. I used a piece of 1/2” copper pipe thru the wheel and tie rod as a spacer. This way I can tighten the nut on the bolt but maintain just enough space for the tie rod to move freely. I’m using 1/4” round leather as a drive belt although when it’s time to replace it I’ll probably go to 3/8” to try to cut down on much it stretches.
As you can see by my practice turnings, I’m not very good at it yet. This is the first lathe I have ever used (power or treadle). But it sure is fun to use.

-- BobD Chandler, AZ

21 comments so far

View glatzenator's profile


42 posts in 2619 days

#1 posted 09-19-2011 01:50 AM

That is awesome!! I was lucky enough to visit Roy’s shop a few weeks ago and I saw the foot-pedal lathes he had there. Since then I’ve been entertaining the thought of trying to build something similar out of scrap metal, but what you’ve got there is pretty impressive. Great work.

View cutmantom's profile


405 posts in 3092 days

#2 posted 09-19-2011 02:11 AM

looks good to me,only use will show you what will need to be changed as far as materials etc, good job

View Wayne's profile


196 posts in 2650 days

#3 posted 09-19-2011 02:14 AM

Wonderful job. Douglas fir is one of my favorite smells in the shop.

This project is on my bucket list.

View MShort's profile


1791 posts in 3475 days

#4 posted 09-19-2011 02:28 AM

Very cool.

-- Mike, Missouri --- “A positive life can not happen with a negative mind.” ---

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3075 days

#5 posted 09-19-2011 03:05 AM

This would be a great project for young woodworkers who needs tools and can build them to save money. Wish I was young again and would definitely go this route. Thanks for posting.

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View PhiltheLuthier's profile


57 posts in 2826 days

#6 posted 09-19-2011 03:11 AM

It’s beautiful!! But it begs the question; why is there no douglas fir at my local HD??

View PurpLev's profile


8539 posts in 3705 days

#7 posted 09-19-2011 03:33 AM

that is a great build, and yours looks great!

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18316 posts in 3733 days

#8 posted 09-19-2011 03:37 AM

Nice work. I’m a big fan too!! I would like to build one too, but my knees won’t run it ;-((

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Bob Downing's profile

Bob Downing

43 posts in 2883 days

#9 posted 09-19-2011 03:56 AM

Thank you for the comments. Definitely will post first project turned on it.
With the weather in Phoenix starting to break it should be soon. My wife already has me scheduled for new coffee table and end tables. And a dresser and a side board and a sofa table. Gonna be a busy fall, winter and spring.

-- BobD Chandler, AZ

View Docopac's profile


43 posts in 2665 days

#10 posted 09-19-2011 04:47 AM

Very Cool!! It looks like it works as well as my little shop craft lathe ;-) Have fun.

-- Docopac (a carpenter in a different medium)

View Woodstock's profile


253 posts in 3345 days

#11 posted 09-19-2011 06:18 AM


Your knees won’t run this? Why I thought that’s what grandkids are for….


-- I'm not old. Just "well seasoned".

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3172 days

#12 posted 09-19-2011 07:21 AM

congrat´s with your new toy :-)
its looking good enjoy and have fun

you just build a 3 yard standalone flywheel and let the wife use a handswing to turn it .... :-)


View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18316 posts in 3733 days

#13 posted 09-19-2011 07:36 AM

wife and g-kids are never around when you need them ;-((

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3172 days

#14 posted 09-19-2011 08:04 AM

you just have to schedule the projects to be ready when they are around
and invite to a workingweekend …. ha ha :-)

View helluvawreck's profile


31749 posts in 2923 days

#15 posted 09-19-2011 01:29 PM

Bob, this lathe is wonderful. Did you have a plan to go by or did you just build it from pictures?

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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