A pole lathe is a
lathethat uses a long pole as a return spring for a treadle. Pressing the treadle with your foot pulls on a cord that is wrapped around the piece of wood or billet being turned. The other end of the cord reaches up to the end of a long springy pole. As the action is reciprocal, the work rotates in one direction and then back the other way. Turning is only carried out on the down stroke of the treadle, the spring of the pole only being sufficient to return the treadle to the raised position ready for the next down stroke. While the action of the polelathe and the skills required are similar to those employed on a modern power lathe, the fundamental differences are that the timber used on a polelathe is unseasoned and freshly felled. The angle that the tools are ground is closer to that of a carpenters chiselthan that of a power lathe tool. Using powerlathe tools on a polelathe is safe but hard work. Taking a polelathe chisel to a power lathe is to risk serious injury since the forces are such that the blade is likely to break.
A pole lathe's origin is lost in antiquity, we know that
Vikings used them from the archaeological finds at Jórvík. Jórvík is the Viking settlement discovered beneath the modern city of Yorkin England. The use of pole lathes died out in England after the World War II. It has seen a return through the increased interest in green woodwork, although the majority of practitioners are at the hobby rather than professional level.
* [http://www.bodgers.org.uk The Bodger's Home]
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