You know the saying: “Every journey begins with the first step,” well this is true for my woodworking projects as well. Last month I attended the MWTCA tool meet in Hillsborough, NC and I purchased a old loom shuttle for $5.00. If you are not familiar with loom shuttles, they are used to pass the horizontal thread through the vertical threads and they have steel cone shaped points in each end. It is these points that I am interested in as centers for my upcoming project – a Spring Pole Lathe. These points make excellent dead centers as they are perfectly round and smooth. I did not mind destroying this particular shuttle because it was made out of some sort a laminate and was not very old. I would have had a much harder time bringing my self to destroy a wooden antique, even for a good purpose. One other plus, I was able to re-purpose the spool in the shuttle as a leather burnisher. It works great for this task.
What is a “Spring Pole Lathe” you might ask. A lathe is a machine used to turn round objects like spools, spindles, bowls and tool handles. A Spring Pole Lathe is a more traditional type of lathe that has been around for 1000’s of years. This is a reciprocal, driven by a cord wrapped around the piece being turned, and only cuts on the down-stroke of the foot treadle. There is more information at the end of this article about this amazing tool.
Back to the shuttle points. Well, saying that they were smooth is stretching it a little; they had a very light coat of rust. Fortunately, they have a nice 3/8″ shaft and mount in a drill chuck perfectly. A few minutes with course to finer sandpaper and they will have a nice smooth finish. I hope to provide each step in the lathe building process in as much detail as possible to show how this is built.
I will be using Roy Underhill’s plans for a breakdown model for easier transport. I have been planning to build this for some time and I have just finished a lengthy house project and I have promised myself that the lathe is my next major woodworking project. I know Roy is tired of me asking tons of questions about the design. I just want to have a usable tool that I will get many years usage out of.
Here is the online information and some pictures of the lathe. The Woodwright’s School has a class on making the lathe Making the German Spring Pole Lathe with Roy Underhill. I have enough experience now that I should be able to make this myself without the class.
Here is a link to the Wood Turners of Virginia’s web site. This is the plan I will be using to make my lathe.
Here is a link to a Lee-Valley article about spring pole lathes and some of their history: http://www.leevalley.com/us/newsletters/Woodworking/5/5/article2.htm
The Woodwright’s Shop featured the spring pole on a couple of episodes, but the one I am making was shown on Season 24 episode 5. Unfortunately that episode is not currently available online.
The picture on the left is Roy, who was helping my daughter, Malena, with her turning. This was taken in Jan. 2012 during the Lie-Neilson tool event at the NCSU Crafts center. The picture on the right is my son, Will, and Roy being Roy at the Jan. 2013 Lie-Neilson tool event at the NCSU Crafts center. Kids change but Roy stays the same.
The wood that I plan on using is strong, hard, cheap and plentiful SYP, or Southern Yellow Pine. This stuff is heavy and strong. It is a good choice for this lathe, and it available most anywhere in my area. I will be getting my supply from Capital City Lumber, local in Raleigh.
I cannot wait to get started and I hope you will join me in this fun, and useful project.
“Keep those Olde Tools sharp”