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Quick and Dirty(tm) Spring Pole / Bungee Lathe

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Project by llwynog posted 857 days ago 7616 views 24 times favorited 26 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hello fellow Lumberjocks,

I agonized several minutes whether I should post this as a simple blog post or a full-fledged project but I eventually figured that this would get more visibility as a project.

I have never been attracted to turning as an end in itself but I regularly feel the need to use a lathe to turn the odd tool handle or make parts for a larger project. Until now my only resort was to borrow some other people’s lathes. Therefore, ever since I got introduced to them on Roy Underhill’s show, I have been entertaining the idea of building a spring pole lathe. As it turned out, I really never committed to actually making one. Seeing Dave's blog post made me pull the trigger.

I found several plans for pole lathes on the internet but I was always put off by the space requirements they would claim in my already too small b̶a̶l̶c̶o̶n̶y̶ workshop. I then found Jennie Alexander's page about using the end-vice of a workbench as the bed for a pole lathe and instantly knew that this was the way to go for me.

Building this bench top lathe took me just about 1 evening and cost me 4 Euros in threaded rod, string, bungee and winged nuts. Everything else is made from scrap materials.
The poppets were sawed off reclaimed church benches that my grandfather salvaged many years ago.
The spring pole itself was replaced by a bungee tied to an unused shelf frame that came with my apartment.
2 scraps of wood were screwed together to form the treadle and the string was tied to their end.
I used my sculpting tools to turn the test piece and they cut without issue.

  • On picture 1, you can see the resulting lathe itself, without the tool holder
  • Picture 2 shows how the puppets are secured to the bench through the bench dogs holes.
  • Picture 3 is a shot from my messy workshop and you can see the bungee being tied to the shelf frame, which is itself simply leaning on the workbench and tucked against a crate.
  • Picture 4 exhibits the most high-tech tool rest you will ever find on a lathe (patent pending)
  • Finally, the first piece ever turned on this lathe is displayed on picture 5. I used a scrap of an exotic wood sold under the name “ramin” in local home centers.

That’s it. All in all, this lathe performs flawlessly for simple spindle turning.

This is without any doubt my quickest and dirtiest project that I ever uploaded to lumberjocks.com but I hope that this project can inspire someone like me who until now could not afford to invest the real estate and money required for a regular lathe.

-- Fabrice - "On est bien bête mais on sent bien quand on se fait mal" - my grandfather





26 comments so far

View vakman's profile

vakman

301 posts in 1006 days


#1 posted 857 days ago

Well, this is awesome! I have similarly limited space and the occasional desire to use a lathe, looks like this could be a solution. Thanks for sharing

-- - Power is not revealed by striking hard or often, but by striking true. -

View Brandon's profile

Brandon

4137 posts in 1554 days


#2 posted 857 days ago

Very creative! I like it. :-)

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View nubbin00's profile

nubbin00

19 posts in 857 days


#3 posted 857 days ago

I’m a turner and my lathe that gets a lot of use but I’ve always wanted to try a pole lathe just for the experience. This is a really cool idea, nice work!

-- Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

View lizardhead's profile

lizardhead

517 posts in 1444 days


#4 posted 857 days ago

Nice looking project—All I can say is thank God for power tools

-- Lizardhead---Yeah but it's a dry heat--Tempe, Az

View llwynog's profile

llwynog

282 posts in 1181 days


#5 posted 857 days ago

Thank you everyone for your kind words.
Lizardhead, as far as I am concerned, I would not say thank god for powertools.
A power lathe would have cost me about 100 times more without speaking of mandrels and such.
Also, for the simple pieces I intend to turn, a power lathe is not automatically faster, see below video for instance.

-- Fabrice - "On est bien bête mais on sent bien quand on se fait mal" - my grandfather

View Philip's profile

Philip

1080 posts in 1141 days


#6 posted 857 days ago

I dig it, thanks for posting!

-- If you can dream it, I can do it!

View Bill729's profile

Bill729

238 posts in 1684 days


#7 posted 857 days ago

It has nothing to do with whether one can afford an electric lathe. You made an inspiring great project!

I hope I can make one someday. I appreciate your efforts and those of anyone else that makes it look do-able.
It must be very satisfying to use.

Thank your for sharing!
Bill

View Don W's profile (online now)

Don W

14658 posts in 1170 days


#8 posted 857 days ago

that’s one cool lathe.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.com

View mafe's profile

mafe

9456 posts in 1692 days


#9 posted 857 days ago

What a wonderful lathe.
love the simple design.
I love the video of the battle.
Best thoughts,
Mads

-- Mad F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View Dave's profile

Dave

11142 posts in 1442 days


#10 posted 857 days ago

Fabrice I am so glad you did this. I love it. You have to try some green wood if you haven’t. Nice job. I have to tear mine down when I am not using it, so the design you picked would be great for my shop as well.
The video of the contest was great.
Thanks for posting.
This is one of the cheapest fun things you can do. Bodgers would go to the woods with a chisel and a rope and come out with chairs.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are." http://chiselandforge.com

View cutmantom's profile

cutmantom

271 posts in 1637 days


#11 posted 856 days ago

great idea, could something like this have been the first shopsmith

View Dave's profile

Dave

11142 posts in 1442 days


#12 posted 856 days ago

Grats on the badge

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are." http://chiselandforge.com

View llwynog's profile

llwynog

282 posts in 1181 days


#13 posted 856 days ago

Wow, I can’t believe that this 3 hour project generated more attention than most of my other projects all put together. I guess that simple is sometimes more appealing.

I have to admit that, to me, this little lathe has the same attraction as a simple card scarper: I am amazed at the output quality and effectiveness of the tool in relation to its unbeatable low price.

@Bill : No effort on my part to make it look do-able really, the design is already as simple and easy as possible by nature ;) It is just really 2 bits of wood with a pointy rod stuck in each.

@Mads : yes that video is a great battle. I love the man vs machine theme and the last picture of the sawn off bowls says it all.

@cutmantom : Did not know what a shopsmith was, googled it and burst out laughing. If they are relatives, this bench-top lathe and the shopsmith are indeed very very distant cousins (and it would seem that family ties are not that strong between the two as one of them clearly struck fortune without deigning to share any of it with the other one)

@Dave : As I wrote, it is your blog post that decided me into trying it for real. Thank you.

The only thing I need to work on now is to find some more appropriate turning tools as sculpting tools tend to grab quite a fair bit due to their shape (and most obviously due to my lack of turning knowledge also).

Yesterday evening, I tried myself to a little bit of oval/off-center turning (hammer handle) and it went decently. I still have some smoothing down to do because of the tool marks but it was not so bad for a first try.

-- Fabrice - "On est bien bête mais on sent bien quand on se fait mal" - my grandfather

View llwynog's profile

llwynog

282 posts in 1181 days


#14 posted 856 days ago

A quick picture of the oval hammer handle (just a mock up in pine, would not hold very long as a real handle)

-- Fabrice - "On est bien bête mais on sent bien quand on se fait mal" - my grandfather

View Dave's profile

Dave

11142 posts in 1442 days


#15 posted 856 days ago

I love it now you are offset turning, wonderful. My first handle was a GREEN oak sapling. It was a small disaster.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are." http://chiselandforge.com

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