Hand Tool School Semester 5

Wood Turning By Hand (or foot)

There are so many great furniture projects out there that have turned elements. These round sections can be done by hand using chisels and spokeshaves, but nothing beats a lathe for speed and consistency. Lathes have been around for thousands of years so there are many options open for the galoot. This semester will tackle the art of turning and will start by comparing spring pole and treadle lathes, then build an 18th century treadle lathe with some modern hardware and finish with an iconic table as a perfect introduction to turning furniture parts. We will need to build our lathes first before we can get into the lessons so the whole thing will be backwards unlike previous semesters.


Introduction to turning tools

This lesson will discuss the wide variety of turning tools from roughing and spindle gouges to skew chisels and specialty hollowing tools. We will take a close look at how the tools cut, how the geometry of the blade effects the cut, and the body language needed to ensure a clean, consistent cut. We will compare “traditional” turning tools with modern, replaceable carbide tip tools.

Sharpening Turning Tools

Despite the complex geometry of some turning tools, they are quite easy to sharpen when compared with the variety of flat work tools used by cabinetmakers. We will discuss my sharpening process, when to sharpen, tools to use, and how to create repeatability to reduce sharpening time. Finally we will add a grinding wheel attachment to our treadle lathe.

Spindle Turning

This lesson looks at all the aspects of turning between centers from preparing and securing the work piece to the actual cutting techniques to shape beads and coves. We will apply these skills by building 3 useful shop projects. We will also compare and contrast spindle turning on the spring pole and treadle lathes.
Spindle Exercises

  • Joint Stool Leg
  • Tool Handles
  • Shaker Knob

Faceplate Turning

Faceplate Turning by handTurning with a chuck or a mandrel is a very different style and requires different tools and rock solid work holding. These techniques are even more important when foot powered lathes are used. We will examine the entire process of faceplate turning by turning a small bowl using traditional methods and by employing a modern chuck. We will also build a centuries old work holding device called an arbor and cross for large outboard faceplate turnings.
Faceplate Exercises

  • Platter
  • Pencil Holder
  • Rosette Turning

Foot Powered Turning 101

You secure the workpiece and start it turning, that’s all there is to it right? Not quite. This lesson takes a look at the differences in technique and stock preparation between electric powered lathes and foot powered lathes. We will also look closely at the differences between spring pole and treadle lathe turning. Basically we will cover the…um…basics to getting started turning on a foot powered lathe.


Spring Pole Lathe

Hulot Pole LatheSome incarnation of spring pole lathe has been in use since the Egyptians and this ancient lathe form still exists today. The lathe is dirt simple and can be made from simple scraps and a sapling to more elegant 16th and 17th century forms. There are a lot of designs for this style of lathe from the bow lathe to a sapling woven through the rafters of your shop. All you need are two points to hold the workpiece, a cord to wrap around the work, and a treadle to set it in motion. We will build the now iconic Hulot 1775 version made popular by The Woodwright Shop and Roy Underhill. This lathe is easy to build, requires very little material, and can even be knocked down flat when not in use.

Treadle Lathe

treadle latheThere are more designs for treadle lathes than one could possibly build in a lifetime. Fortunately that means we can take the best of many different designs, add in a little modern hardware and end up with a lathe suited for any size shop or style of wood turning. We will take several “field trips” to examine 18th, 19th, and 20th century treadle lathe designs. My design is a blend of the stability of the monster 45 degree frame with the space saving design of a vertical leg, timber framed model. It will be well suited for spindle turning as well as face plate work. Plus we will add in some great attachments for tool sharpening and large faceplate work.

Shaker Pedestal Table

With a solid grounding in turning techniques and an option of Spring Pole or Treadle style lathe built, why not build a classic example of wood turned furniture? The Candle Stand from the Lebanon Valley Shaker Colony has become a kind of Shangri-la of the perfect form. This table is beautiful in its stark simplicity and gives us a chance to try several types of wood turning from the elegant vase shaped column to the larger top. Add in some great sliding dovetails and you have an outstanding skill building project.

Semester 5 Price: $150