My latest project is a smaller version of a Moravian spring pole lathe. I've seen pictures of this lathe in some of Roy Underhill’s books, but I became really interested when I saw it featured on the Horn Guild’s blog. They have some great photos of a reproduction at Old Salem Village in Winston Salem.
I had a spring pole lathe, but it got to be a pain using it at living history events because of the problem with transporting the long pole. Finding a good straight pole is difficult in my part of Nebraska because the trees tend to grow more out in the open. This causes the trees to be more scraggly and gnarly. Not good for a spring pole.
I wanted a pole lathe that I could break down and set up with no tools. I also wanted it to be self-contained so if I had to set up on concrete or in a building I could. The Moravian spring pole lathe was the ticket. I will
primarily use the lathe to turn chair parts, but with the application of a modified tool rest, I should be able to turn bowls. The thing I’m most impressed is the tensioning device I use for my hickory spring. By turning the screw I can move it on the beam thereby changing the resistance.
Overall I’m pleased with the outcome, but I’m still tweaking the design. The first problem I encountered was the cotton cord I was using was stretching. I fixed this problem by using 550 parachute cord…I know this is not historically correct, but for now, it will have to do. I am also not fully satisfied with the foot treadle. It’s weight and the combination of the leverage caused by the pitman arm robs tension from the hickory spring. The easiest fix is to add weight to the end of the spring to counteract the weight of the treadle, but I will have to play around a bit first as the treadle is awkward to use. It needs more refining than just adjusting the weight.
Last week I used it at the local museum's pioneer day. The lathe drew a crowd which is always good because I want people to get involved and uses the tools I display not just watch me use them. The lathe was the definite favorite of the kids. Most of the people that tried the lathe could not really coordinate the foot and tool action together, but in the case of the children, it didn't matter they just want to work the treadle. I just about could have charged admission for the amount of kids wanting to pump the foot treadle. It actually worked out nice because it was extremely hot and humid and I had plenty of child labor to power the lathe while I did the turning.