- Once upon a time an adventurer named Ken wrote:
> One of the infinite questions that I was saving ...The biggest problem I can think of is you are going to
> was about pole lathes. I saw one being used by a guy
> in Wiltshire and wondered if they were around in
> Anglo-Saxon times. I guess the answer to that is ...
> Next question please !
> I would like to learn to use these... <
be walking around like John Cleese for a while after
you are done pumping the silly thing. ;) They are
A few references for you:
There is a picture of a primitive ground-mounted lathe
being used to turn bowls in:
Basilov, Vladimir N. (ed.): Nomads of Eurasia; Seattle,
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in association
with University of Washington Press, 1989. First Edition.
Quarto hardcover, 8.25x11.5”, jacket, xiii, 192pp. including
contributors, extensive bibliography, index, 99 full color
plates with 128 b/w illustrations; hardback, , index.
Published to coincede with "Nomads: Masters of the Eurasian
Steppe," exhibition from Feb.1989 - Feb. 1990 - a touring
exhibit which featured 1,100 artifacts from Soviet museums.
ISBN:029596815X A number of Steppes dwellers turnings of
bowls, vessels and kumis cups of wood are included in it.
Available through http://www.bookfinder.com/ or
A wonderful late period illustrated discussion of
lathes is in:
Daumas, Maurice: A History of Technology & Invention -
Progress Through the Ages, Volume II,The First Stages
of Mechanization; Translated by Eileen Henessy, Crown
Publishers, New York, English translation 1969, originally
published as Historie Generales des Techniques, 1964,
Presses Universitaires de France. Hardback, 694 pages.
This book begins with the Fifteenth and Sixteenth
Centuries. It includes lathes for glasswork and screw
cutting and early jeweller's/watchmakers type lathes.
Curiously one large bow lathe illustration is upside
down in its room. I saw one of the keyed multiple
screw cutting wood lathes once at Williamsburg in an
exhibit. A very similar one is depicted here.
The head had a variety of threads cut on the central
spindle, any of which could be engaged for bow lathe
work by raising or engaging the key which would then
move the spindle in and out. Obviously this was for
turning objects not mounted on the end-stock. But it
was bow lathe operated. It had to be reciprocal.
There are a number of different lathes in use at
Williamsburg - I've photographed all of them in the
different shops. Wheelwright, Cabinetmaker, silversmith,
pewterer. And that one complex one at the Decorative
Arts Museum exhibit.
Hodges, Henry: Technology in the Ancient World; 1980,
Alfred A. Knopf, New York. With drawings by Judith Newcomer.
About 300 pages. Attributes the earliest lathe depiction to
a Ptolemaic tomb painting [this would have been after
Alexander the Great, or third C BC at least]. Says Theodorus
of Samos invented the lathe [doubtful claim]. Depicts a
vertical and a horizontal Egyptian lathe. Photograph of
modern Hunzas turning a cup on a primitive bowl lathe.
The cup is held by three or four metal or wooden dowels
set into the base from the human powered lathe shaft end.
Depicts another lathe device for holding a charged [with
abrasives] copper wheel for cutting stone [lapidary] or
glass. The invention of the lathe was again attributed to
Anarcharis. ISBN 394448081
A particularly good one for turners:
Müller, Ulrich: Holzfunde aus Freiburg und Konstanz;
[Wood finds from Freiburg and Konstanz]
Theiss, 1996, 328p. + 52 pls., Hardback.
ISBN 380621266X. $84.00
"Wooden objects from waterlogged deposits in Konstanz
and Augustinian drains in Freiburg range in date from the
13th to the 16th centuries. Not only an extensive
illustrated catalogue that will be invaluable for
reference and identification, but also an extensive
study of how the objects were made, what timber, how
it was cut, how it was worked and what they were used for.
Ranges from combs and beads to a complete backgammon board;
lots of turned objects." [Their take.]
Have it, like it. Similar to the woodworking book from York.
Many turned objects in it. Got it through Oxbow listed below.
and another good one for turners:
AY 17/13 Morris, Carole A.: Craft, Industry and Everyday
Life: Wood and Woodworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and
Medieval York; 2000, 400pp, 37 half-tones, 8 colour
plates, 185 line-illustrations, ISBN 1902771109,
£34.00 "This important fascicule is the definitive study
of over 1,500 wooden objects and woodworking tools of both
wood and iron, recovered from 16-22 Coppergate and the
surrounding area, and from the Foundry and College of
the Vicars Choral sites at the Bedern." [Their take.]
(Do not buy the Bedern Foundry book, you'll be terribly
disappointed in it.)
Morris, Carole A.: Craft, Industry and Everyday Life:
Wood and Woodworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval
York: The Archaeology of York - The Small Finds Series
17/13, 2000, app. 400pp, 225 illus., (Council for British
Archaeology, Bowes Morrell House, 111 Walmgate, York,
Y01 9WA), pb, ISBN 1902771109, Printed by Henry Ling Ltd.
The Dorset Press, Dorchester, Dorset.
Has a lot of information on medieval turning. Depicts
woodworking tools and techniques, the craft of lathe
turning, vessels, and resultant waste; coopered vessels;
domestic equipment and utensils; boxes and enclosed
containers; furniture bits; personal items; manual and
agricultural implements; textile implements; implements
used for non woodworking crafts and activities; games
and pass-times; building bits and fragments; pegs and
miscellaneous implements; 2 saddle bows; and a willow shoe
last; with a large bibliography and a small glossary.
[My take on what's in it.] Obtainable from:
York Archaeological Trust, to C. Kyriacou at Cromwell
House, 13 Ogleforth, York, YO1 7FG. (We accept Mastercard
and Visa. We now have an on-line order form (which can
also be printed/faxed). For further information contact
YAT by telephone (01904 663000), fax (01904 663024)
or e-mail (postmaster@...).
York Series: (AY) http://www.yorkarchaeology.co.uk/index.htm
Direct or through http://www.oxbowbooks.com/ if you like to
Richards, Julian D.: Viking Age England; Tempus Publishing
Ltd., The Mill, Brimscombe Port, Stroud, Gloucestershire,
GL5 2QG UK; PB 190pp., ISBN 0752414895 £14.99.
Wooden cups, plates and bowls with turning waste
from York (p. 109). Otherwise sparce for turnings.
Sim, David: Beyond the Bloom, Bloom Refining and Iron
Artifact Production in the Roman World; edited by
Isabel Ridge, BAR International Series 725, 1998, 155pp.,
published by Archaeopress, PO Box 920, Oxford OX2 7YH
England, printed by the Basingstoke Press, ISBN 0860549011,
available from Hadrian Books, Ltd., 122 Banbury Road,
Oxford, OX2 7BP, England.
"The major part of this work details practical experiments
that replicate the working environment of a Roman blacksmith.
The tools and equipment used were as far as possible copies
of Roman originals. A record was kept of time taken to turn
raw bloom iron into workable iron and the amount of fuel
and other materials consumed. Similar records were made of
the times to make Roman iron artifacts together with the
amount of metal and fuel consumed." [Their description.]
Various ancient to 16th C. forges, furnaces, hearths, tools,
weapons, etc. are depicted. Examples would be drawplates, a
mandrel / die used to make solid rings for mail, pattern
welded blade, pilum, *pole lathe, stylus, hammer head, nails,
ballista bolt head, fire arrow head, bow drill, swages.
A three page glossary and a three page bibliography are
included. For some reason the author also includes quite
a bit about firescale including many pictures of it...
Sim David, and Isabel Ridge: Iron for the Eagles,
The Iron History of Roman Britain; 2002,
Paperback, 160 pages, black and white diagrams and
photos, and a number of color photos of Roman stuff
and reenactors there. Tempus Publishing Ltd., The Mill,
Brimscombe Port., Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5 2QG UK/
Tempus Publishing Inc. 2 Cumberland St.,
Charleston, SC 29401 USA http://www.tempuspublishing.com/
http://www.tempus-publishing.com. ISBN 0752419005 $30.
How blacksmiths made weapons for the Imperial Army.
It is full of progressive diagrams of tools and making
the artefacts like arrowheads, pilum heads, plumbata
heads for pila, spear heads, tools, *portable wooden
Singer, Charles (ed. et al): A History of Technology,
Volume II, The Mediterranean Civilizations and the Middle
Ages c. 700 BC to c. A.D. 1500; 1956, Oxford University
Press, New York and London. Should have lathes in it.
Volume I certainly does. Unfortunately my second volume
has gone walk-about for the moment.
Singer, Charles Joseph. Ed. (1954 - 84). A History of
Technology. First 4 of 8 Volumes. Oxford University Press,
On medieval carpentry tools Singer states:
"His main tools ax, adze, hammer, saw and chisel, had been
in use for millennia; his bag of tools hardly differed from
that of an Egyptian carpenter." (pg. 240). [The Egyptians
definitely had simple framed lathes, and the oldest
depiction of one is in an Egyptian tomb.] [11th century]
"Italian craftsmen were practicing inlaying and veneering
and using mortise-and-tenon and dove-tail joints long
before the craftsmen of northern Europe." (pg. 240).
It is possible that the brace was in use by Assyrian times,
for the Theben hoards contained what appears to be crank
pieces and centre bits from a brace. ...Roman bits with
square-section shanks are known, though the braces have
not so far been traced." (pg. 230).
Volume I From Early Times to the Fall of Ancient Empires.
Lathes pp. 192-3 discussion of earliest lathes., p. 518
discusses the spread of the lathe from the Mediterranean
to Northern Europe from Greece where it was possibly in
use from the middle of the second millenium BC., 680
and 688 depict turnings by the Phoenicians in the 9th C BC..
Strong, Donald and David Brown (editors): Roman Crafts;
1976, ISBN 0715607812 Duckworth, The Old Piano Factory,
43 Glocester, Crescent, London, NW1 7DY. Covers a little
Roman lathe work, in particular the turning of cast metal
pans on an illustrated wheeled lathe.
Theophilus' On Divers Arts contains a number of
instructions and illustrations of early lathes for such
stuff as bellfounding and pewterturning. Circa 1122.
Dover ISBN 0486237842
Woodbury, Robert S. 1963. "The Origins of the Lathe."
in _Scientific American_, vol. 208, no. 4 (April 1963),
pp. 132-143. The short version of this man's longer work
on the history of the lathe in industry. There is also a
brief list of references for this article on page 202.
His longer work: History of the Lathe to 1850:
A Study in the Growth of a Technical Element of an
Industrial Economy. Cleveland: Society for the History
of Technology, 1961. First Edition. 124 pp; 49 figs.
Ranulf of Waterford mka Gary R. Halstead
Robin Wood http://www.robin-wood.co.uk/
Robin does museum quality work on a pole lathe (and has
some advice on how to build one).
A past issue of Woodwork, A Magazine for All Woodworkers
#73 - Feb. 2002 has an article on Robin Wood of UK
Medieval woodturning fame (he does the stuff full
time) visiting a woodturning demonstration in Germany
with a bagful of tools and producing a pole lathe out of
a mostly 10" by 6' oak trunk. http://www.robin-wood.co.uk/
There is a subsequent article on making hooked gouges to
turn with by him.
The Robin Wood articles run from page 24 to page 31 so
it's larger than most. There is also an article in the
magazine on Rumanian spoon carving and one that contains
some gothic carving including a pretty gothic chest picture.
The only things in the photos that seem to be missing
in explanation is the spring pole and there is no
indication of the construction of the cord wound mandrel
which he is using to turn the bowls with. Such things are
covered in the York Book on Woodworking Crafts available
from the York Archaeological Trust.
Woodwork No. 73 ISSN # 1045-3040
Woodwork Magazine woodwork@...
P.O. Box 1529, Ross, CA 94957
(published by Ross Periodicals, Inc.
42 Digital Drive #5, Novato CA 94949)
No website as of yet.
Haven't checked these recently. At one time they had
articles on lathes. http://www.historicgames.com also
had a page on lathes.
Master Magnus Malleus, OL, GDH, Manx, Regia.org
© 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.
*Sasha & M. Mira, I am no longer on Medieval Encampments -
can't catch up on my mail. If you care to forward...
I am on Medieval Sawdust though.
It generally helps if you want to ask me a question to put an
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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