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Easily Made Primitive Lathe

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  • rmhowe
    An relatively easily made primitive lathe from the Steppes: Happened to be reading a book called _Nomads of Eurasia_ this week (one I bought from the late
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 17, 2003
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      An relatively easily made primitive lathe from the Steppes:

      Happened to be reading a book called _Nomads of Eurasia_
      this week (one I bought from the late Master Finnr's estate).
      There is an interesting lathe in it that is extremely
      simple to make and use to turn bowls and cups with.
      Knowing how some people love primitive projects out
      there I may as well describe it. People loved the
      home-made forge article. It's not every day you can lie
      or sit down at your work either. Pick a dry day. ;)

      This takes two people to operate. One manipulates
      the tool. The other pulls a cord/strap wrapped around
      the round mandrel to turn the workplace to be cut.
      The puller sits straight up on the ground.
      The turner lies partially over the left side of the
      lathe beam and holds the tool he is using on the inside
      of the bowl slightly lower than center. The tool would
      have to have a more acute angle than the curve of the
      bowl or vessel it is cutting to do this. There is no
      discussion and the end of the tool bit is obscured
      by the wooden core piece. I have no idea if it is hooked.
      Many tools used by pole lathers in Europe certainly are.

      The main body is a log with a cross-section cut out
      of it in order to put a wooden cross-piece into with
      I assume a conical arbor in the end. This is then
      held in place with a simple wedge. In fact this is
      how the lathe tightens to clamp the workplace and
      the mandrel stuck into the back of it to turn it
      with. Looking at it, the mandrel itself has the other
      turning point in the end of it as when it hits the
      end post there are various v shaped holes in it at
      different heights.

      I am going to make the log square for ease of drawing
      the item. {No? Okay, you do it. ;) )

      __ <==back up _ stakes==> __
      _|__|___________| |___ _________|__|_____
      | wedge- |w| |-turning center |
      | |_| O | on the end |
      | FRONT |_|___| of mandrel |
      | ^ |
      | main beam crosswise slot |

      __ ____ Bowl blank split from tree.
      | |________ |__ \ ___
      | |________|_____ _ \ \ _______________ |> |
      | |wedge || \_ | \_| |=| | round | | |> |
      | |________|| |_|>> _ |=| | mandrel | |>|> |
      | |_________|____/ |_/ | |=|_|___________|_| | p |
      | | | __/ /^ | o |
      | |solid beam |____/ |Teeth driven into | s |
      |__|_________|__________________ bowl blank____|_t_|_
      | | Ground Level | |
      | | | |
      | | | |
      |__| |___|

      The round mandrel has a cord wrapped about it, or
      you could use a belt. This is pulled back and forth
      alternately on either end to turn the round mandrel
      with a reciprocating motion. The main beam acts
      as the lathe tool rest. In the picture I saw the
      lathe tool looks like it is on a broom handle.

      There are iron bands on either end of the round
      mandrel and there is one on the end of the fixed
      mandrel in the crossbeam. These are there to hold
      the conical ended spike tips in to act as lathe
      centers or for the several sharp flat teeth in the
      bowl end of the round mandrel that the bowl blank
      is normally driven onto in line with the grain.
      You don't want your mandrels splitting do you?
      Similar round mandrels are known to be used on medieval
      lathes from York. Bow and spring pole lathes for
      example use them for turning bowls. I have books from
      Russia, Germany, and England showing turning waste
      and objects and lathe parts.

      What I am referring to as the beam is actually
      a large chunk of tree trunk with a flat bottom
      backed by two stakes. All adjustment is done
      by knocking the end of the main mandrel in the
      beam and tightening or loosening it with the wedge.

      For metal lathes a 60 degree point is generally
      used. That would not be a bad point in the case
      of this little lathe. If you have a half inch drill
      and a grinder you could put a half inch piece of
      steel rod into the drill chuck and rotate it against
      the grinder to make the conical ends. Use eye
      protection and be patient. The other ends could then
      be driven into a half inch holes several inches deep.
      If it were me I would use a mallet or a board and
      not hammer the mandrel points with a hardened hammer
      and dull them. You would need to pre hole the turning
      blank and the upright post at the end of the round
      mandrel. Given the primitive circumstances the holes
      wouldn't have to be perfect, just centered. There
      are drill bits made for drilling these holes for
      mounting on lathes. Ask at a machinery supply house
      like Enco or MSC - Manhattan Supply company. In fact
      you can buy some lathe centers for less than $10 each
      from Enco. Usually these fit Morse Tapered Holes.
      #1 is the smallest size, #2 is generally used.
      #3 and up are for larger metal lathes.
      They both sell tool steel if you care to grind or
      forge your own tool bits. If I were starting out I'd
      simply buy some Sears turning chisels and re-handle
      them for this application in a longer handle. In
      the case of the nomad it was held under his arm
      and shoulder.

      The medieval turner would have axed the corners off
      his blanks wherever possible.

      All you need to cut anything is something harder with
      a sharp edge. Turning chisels and gouges are available
      from Sears quite cheaply although for this application
      you would want to put them in a longer handle with a
      steel ferrule or ring at the end to keep them from

      Rings could be made of steel pipe couplings or if
      you have access to a pipe cutter pieces of steel
      pipe cut to length. For the turning mandrel I would use
      3" diameter steel. The larger the diameter the easier
      it is going to be to twist it back and forth.

      If you hook the turning mandrel up to a motor and
      it cold cocks you or someone else don't come crying
      to me. These things aren't meant to operate at motorized
      revolutions per minute. Wear eye protection and gloves.

      Master Magnus Malleus, OL, GDH, Atlantia © 2003 R.M. Howe
      *No reposting my writings to usenet newsgroups,
      especially rec.org.sca, or the SCA-Universitas elist.
      I view this as violating copyright restrictions.
      As long as it's to reenactor or SCA -closed- subscriber
      based email lists or individuals I don't mind. It's
      meant to help people without aggravating me.*
      Inclusion, in the http://www.Florilegium.org,
      Atenveldt MoAS newsletter, or Regia’s Chronicle
      as always is permitted.

      It generally helps if you want to ask me a question to
      put an * in front of the subject line. I read by list,
      not by date generally and I never catch up.

      There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading,
      the few who learn by observation, and the rest of them have to
      pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers
    • DinoKruz@aol.com
      http://home.vicnet.net.au/~pwguild/a-pole.htm I made the above lathe to have one that was portable
      Message 2 of 2 , Jun 18, 2003
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        I made the above lathe to have one that was portable - didn't consume alot of vehicle space when traveling and easy to use.
        Pictures of the lathe are at the link below - it works well and is user friendly. I also made the pulley/cord removable for those events that my group attends that require us to be period correct - I then just use a fresh cut pole - or set the lathe near a small tree that can be bent for use.
        Blars Kyostti
        King's Life Guard of Foote - www.ecwsa.org
        and Buttler's Dragoons (30 years war)
        The King and the Cavalier

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