no tool rest?!

discussion of the niceties of turning on a bow, bungee or pole lathe.

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no tool rest?!

Postby Darrell » Fri Nov 06, 2015 4:01 am


I was at an SCA event last summer and one of the people there had a pole lathe at the "Circa 1200" tent. I was immediately drawn to this site, and struck up a conversation and began to examine his lathe.

Oh dear.

The first two things I pointed out, not too unkindly I hope, was that the pole should be dry and the turning blank should be green - not the other way around. His treadle was a bit short i thought, making one pump like mad to get anything done. A simple fix. The pole was short, about 10 feet long, and I suggested he would be well served by using a longer pole.

I asked to have a go if I might, and he said yes of course. His tools were dull, and they were a set of small power lathe tools. I prefer longer chisels. His tool rest was not adjustable, and set about 4 inches from the work. I suggested that he move the rest closer to the work, and he admitted that the had added the tool rest as an afterthought, as "there is no documented evidence that they used a tool rest in circa 1200". He showed me a copy of a period picture of a man working on a pole lathe, and pointed out the lack of a tool rest. I suspect that the illustrator was omitting the tool rest out of ignorance, or due to excessive complexity of the drawing.

So, to my question: has anyone seen/heard/documented someone using a pole lathe without a tool rest?

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Re: no tool rest?!

Postby gavin » Fri Nov 06, 2015 4:51 pm

I understand that drop-spindles were turned by Ion Constantin's wife with a bow-lathe. I have seen no picture, but recall a report I think by Robin Fawcett. The gist of it is that the work is trapped between the body and a door frame. Either end of the work spins on a wooden bearer or block or plate with a recess in it. The hollow between shoulder and collar bone holds one wooden bearer. One hand pulls the bow to spin the work, the other hand holds the cutting-tool. The tool will need to be fairly large as it needs a good deal of inertia in the absence of a tool-rest.

As for the illustrator's lack of tool-rest: it is likely that putting the tool rest in the image ( in the rare case of a rear or over the shoulder view) would have complicated things and made it hard to draw. Most old pictures (or all?) I have seen are front-on i.e. not over-the-shoulder, because it is easier to convey the sense of what a lathe looks like from the front. And if the image is a front-on image, you won't see the tool rest as it will be obscured by the work.

Put yourself in the position of the demonstrator you saw. He knows he is struggling. He has looked at youtube and seen shavings flying off there - but he is not getting those results. Nonetheless, he does have the guts to demonstrate, knowing he is somehow lacking. And then along comes Darrell to put him straight. He don't know Darell actually knows his stuff and indeed has competed in the BB2015 Log-to-leg race. He just thinks you are the standard know-it-all plonker which every show-field has a large quantity of.

I'd invite that demonstrator round to yours to 'share experiences'. You'll both learn from each other, and you will surely gain someone you may choose to work with in future.
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Re: no tool rest?!

Postby Bob_Fleet » Sun Nov 08, 2015 12:05 am

In theory you could turn the bed at right angles horizontally and use the bed itself as the tool rest.

I got that idea after remembering this old image which I knew had no tool rest shown.
The vertical support acts as the bed in this case.
Basically tip it over.

heiroglyph tomb of Petosoris 300bc.jpg
heiroglyph tomb of Petosoris 300bc.jpg (11.8 KiB) Viewed 4344 times

Be interesting to try one out.

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