While I sit here and dream of building furniture and working wood for a living, after January I am glad I don’t rely on it to put food on my table.
The last month has seen very little activity in my shop, not due to a lack of projects but due to a lack of motivation. For some reason, every time I tried to get started in the shop, I’d find an excuse. We had the polar vortex so a few nights it was too cold, thankfully a number of nights I decided sleep was better, or I’d settle in for a video game before bed. (I love grand strategy games and found Europa Universalis 4 a few months ago. That was a bad find for my sleep.)
Sometimes, though, inactivity can be a blessing. Usually, when I don’t have the willpower to get myself into my shop it’s because my mind is focused on something else. That something else has been turning. For months now, I’ve been dreaming and saving to get a lathe and try my hand at turning. I watched countless videos about how to turn and what to look for in a lathe (I’ll post an article about what to NOT look for in a lathe). Then I stumbled across a spring-pole lathe.
Interestingly enough, I stumbled across this in a video I was using as background noise about building a medieval castle. In it, they were discussing what the peasants would have for “furniture” (a flour box), how to make that using medieval tools and making a bowl on the lathe. I was hooked.
For a background, the spring-pole lathe is how wood turning was done before electricity using the power of the modern man to operate a foot pedal which would pull on a rope tied around the work-piece to spin it. From there, you use chisels and gouges and all sorts of material to make chair legs or spindles for stair rails or pens or baseball bats or anything!
The style in the picture above was created by the legendary Roy Underhill (which is about as much of a household name you’ll get when it comes to woodworkers). But there are so many different styles and ways to build it. Watching him or any experienced person use it is hypnotic. So quiet and rhythmic. Slower, yes, but far safer to use and cheaper to build.
But I think I can engineer it to be better. Perhaps accept modern parts while still retaining portability (I’d love to set it up on my deck when the weather is nice and work out in the sun for the world to see) and ease of use.
So, next up, a series on making my spring-pole lathe. I’ll gather my inspirations, sketch out a few things, and then begin the build.