A couple of years ago I built a simple lathe in my shed which has turned out to be quite useful for both bowls and spindles. It’s really a chunky spindle lathe with taller poppets and accommodating a toolrest for the bowl tools. This year I decided to evolve the shed lathe into one that can be used at shows – or at least to try. Three versions of the lathe later and it’s settling into something that I am getting used to and which seems to fit the bill – and I wonder where the time has gone this year!
Since it’s a pole lathe for bowls as well I’ve christened it the ‘Bole-lathe’.
Having refined the lathe bed (I posted on making the first one on my chainsaw mill) when the first one cracked and overcoming a set of legs that were too small I finally ended up with the size and shape I wanted. I initially used the poppets from the shed. But in between the last few shows I’ve managed to produce a new set which are improved and I hope are as good for bowls as spindles without being a compromise that represents the worst of both.
The wood for the poppets came from the same log as the lathe bed but squared off on the chainsaw mill. The final shape of the poppets was cut out by chainsaw and cleaned up with simple flat chisels. Then the holes for the wedges were drilled using a 1inch bar augur. This augur bites really well and drills holes through oak very quickly, you only need to turn the handle the lead screw pulls the bit through the wood. Once you get an augur that works this well you know just how bad the rest of your collection are!
The hole to take the centres was drilled out by a brace and bit. Here both poppets are wedged onto the bed back to back to minimise errors in the drilling. It’s a lot harder to align the brace and bit I find and I didn’t get it as straight as I would with a bar augur – if I had one the right size I would use it in preference.
One of my earlier versions of this lathe suffered from a lack of stability in turning spindles but this one does the business – bigger legs and a wider angle have improved it no end – and it seemed to cope well in the recent log-t0-leg races at the APF
The centres were turned down on a bench grinder. One problem that crept in was some slop in the centre that is threaded and adjustable. I’ve cured this by chiseling out a hole in the poppet to take a nut and gluing it in place – much reduces any slack and with another nut up against it the centre is fully locked into position.
When changing over to bowl turning I make two changes. The first is a support for the tool rest which locates into two peg holes on the side of the left hand poppet and the second change is to take the drive cord down through the centre of the lathe bed to the treadle – and as the treadle has a bar halfway up it I thread the cord round the bar reducing the length of the treadle and improve the power on the drive to cope with the bowl inertia. I realise my description is not too helpful, but I don’t have any photos of this arrangement at the moment so I’ll need to remember this for the next outing.
The result is a much refined version of the lathe in my shed and the obvious compromise with this lathe is its size and weight. It’s a lot heavier than the Mike Abbott polelathe 2000 which has served me so well for 5 years. But it does seem to be doing as well for bowls and spindles though I will need a few more outings to really get at home with it.