Spring Pole lathe, broken!

When you build your own tools from scratch, you know what is needed to fix them.  Normally this is not a concern but perhaps due to boneheaded operator error (or boneheaded builder error, or both) might be necessary at some time in the distant future.  In my case, it was the near future, and I broke one of the spring poles, the upper one.  And the wire connecting the spring pole to the upper arm.  At least my digits are all intact and my boneheadedness required no stops to the ER.  Is boneheadedness even a word?

A week or so after getting home with my completed lathe, I was merrily treadling away and thought “I need more spring pole!” so I moved the metal ring more to the left, which alters the fulcrum for the spring pole.  This effectively changes where the spring pole bends, thus shortening the spring and making the action snappy.  At the same time I also changed where the spring pole attaches to the upper, over-head arm, again shortening the throw which should make the action snappy as well.

It made it snappy alright.  Treadle treadle treadle snap!  The treadle went all the way to the floor and stayed there.  Because of my experiences with the parachute cord, that was my first suspect (the knots tended to come loose and I’d re-tied them four or five times already).  Nope, those are all tight.  I look over at the spring pole and it was hanging at an ugly angle.  I felt shame.  “Pittsboro, we have a problem”.  Well, crap now what?  I decide to get MacGyver on it and try moving the fulcrum point on both the arm and spring pole.  This resulted in action akin to ‘overcooked linguine’, but I could still do some turning.  That is until I manage to break the wire that connects the spring pole and the upper arm.  When we wrapped these, Roy suggest we put a pretty good bend right where we wanted the loop to start/stop, then wrap any excess below that.  I got a bit overenthusiastic with this bend and created a weak spot for the wire, which caused it to snap under stress.  “She can’t take no more Captain!”.

The first chance I get I go out in the woods, find a young sapling, take my bow saw to the base and cut it down. “We can rebuild it.  We have the technology.”  I think it is a beech but it might be a birch.  Meh, it’s a late summer pole (heh heh) and if it breaks again, I can just go get another one.  I have 5 acres of the stuff surrounding me.  So I cut it to length, grab my new-to-me drawknife and take off all the bark.  Then I get one end down to the requisite diameter using my spokeshave and leave the other end on the thicker side, thinking a little extra diameter there will help should I get all springy obsessed again.  Of course that means widening that opening and also finding a bigger ring to go around the two poles.

I probably should get a turning saw, because sometimes you just need a turning saw. I ended up widening the opening for the new spring pole with some chisel work and slightly scary forstner-bit-in-the-shop-smith action.  Remember, no ER visits.  I had to break out the rasps and clean up my chisel work. Yeah, a turning saw sure would have been nice.  I positioned this photo to hide my beaver-esque chisel work.

For the wire, I bought 100′ of the stuff at the local hardware store, but also remembered Roy saying you want this connection to be as stiff and non-elastic as possible–he suggested one good solution would be a piece of wood connecting the upper arm with the spring pole.  So I got a hardwood dowel, some eye screws and connected the two parts that way.  I need to adjust the dowel (I cut it a bit too long) but overall I’m pleased with the results.  While doing all this I took the axle out of the upright, and put some grease on it.  The entire lathe really works great now, so with a few more improvements (tool rest tightening, tool rest shimming) the lathe ought to be turning out table legs and tool handles for a while.  I did find that the wood had swollen a little since I’ve left it outside, so getting the ways and stretcher back together after breaking it down proved to be a bit more trouble than originally.

Poor lathe needs some Viagra now that its heart is healthy enough for treadling.  “If you treadle for more than 4 hours without stopping for water, you might get dehydrated and keel over.  Please also eat once in a while or you will get light-headed and perhaps keel over.  Never treadle in front of your door or you will track in wood chips.  Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant or have been pregnant or breathe air tend to take a dim view of wood chips tracked into the house, which (you guessed it) might result in you keeling over.”

I’m just going to leave it unfinished and let the pine age naturally.  Erhmm, gracefully.  And yes, in case you hadn’t noticed, I tend to use quotes from popular media (TV, Movies, Music).  Maybe I should read more.  Well, let me restate that.  Maybe I should read classic literature more, I read a ton already.  No, seriously, I need to make some bookshelves to hold all my reading material.  Hmm, Jefferson “Library of Congress” bookshelves?  From PW a year or two ago?  Maybe, but sometimes you just need a turning saw…

Update. The screws pulled out of both ends of the dowel (on two different occasions), so that solution might not be worth the trouble. I might have made the pilot holes a little too big, but since I have 100 feet of the galvanized wire, I just used that and got back to work.

Leave a comment


  1. I blame the tracked-in wood chips on the dogs. Little white lies in the name of self-preservation.

  2. Door mats. Get some!
    Even a simple fabric door mat will help if you remember to stop on it and shuffle a bit. I keep one near the door of my shop and use it every time I leave. The nubby rubber ones meant for removing mud are even better.

    And if you ever go near a semiconductor “clean room,” take note of the sticky door mats they have, which remove the last bit of dust and lint from the clean room booties before a person enters.

    Neat changes to the lathe. The really nice thing about shopmade tools is that there’s no hesitancy in “improving” them.

  3. Once you have one turning saw, you have to get another, then a resaw frame saw, and a dedicated ripping frame saw, and a medium radius large capacity frame saw, and…and…

    Nice field repairs, I have never thought of the wood connector between the pole and lever. Very clever. I’m debating adding a wide platform to the base of mine so I stand on it with my straight leg thus anchoring the assembly in place. In general I need to spend more time at it before I make the decision.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: