Roy Underhill spring pole lathe

  • Advertise with us
Project by Jeremymcon posted 07-23-2017 10:44 PM 2045 views 1 time favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Finally got around to making the spring pole lathe from Roy Underhill’s article in popular woodworking.

It’s made from Douglas fir construction lumber (which was awful to work with) to Roy’s specifications exactly. The only thing I did differently from his recommendations was that I attempted to make a screw-feed tightening mechanism for the center on the poppet. Didn’t work! Lol. I’ll fiddle with it a bit, and maybe make some way to lock it in place – it loosens itself as I use the lathe.

This lathe will definitely take some practice to learn to use. I never got the hang of using a skew chisel on my mini lathe, but it seems like the skew is a bit more important a tool on the pole lathe than it was on the mini electric lathe. My favorite tool to use on this thing so far is my 2” bench chisel and the parting tool from my power lathe chisel set.

7 comments so far

View lew's profile


13114 posts in 4525 days

#1 posted 07-24-2017 02:48 PM

Cool Lathe! Must really give you a workout!!

Maybe replace the screw/nut with “left hand” threads.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View handsawgeek's profile


663 posts in 2165 days

#2 posted 07-25-2017 03:12 PM

That is really sweet. I’m sure you’ll have fun turning out projects on this thing. I have a copy of St.Roy’s treadle lathe plans complete with a dimensional lumber-made flywheel, and an optional scroll saw attachment. Should start getting around to building that thing sometime. Be sure to post some pix of your turning projects.

-- Ed

View Jeremymcon's profile


414 posts in 1449 days

#3 posted 07-25-2017 05:46 PM

Ooh a treadle scroll saw? That sounds cool. I saw Roy’s treadle lathe, but one other things I liked about the pole lathe is that it can be knocked down and is portable. I rent my house right now, and when I move out I’ll have hard enough time without needing to move a full size electric lathe or a big heavy treadle lathe. The pole lathe only took a couple days to build too, which was a plus.

View WayneC's profile


14358 posts in 4867 days

#4 posted 07-25-2017 05:50 PM

Very cool

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View ohwoodeye's profile


2422 posts in 3923 days

#5 posted 07-27-2017 02:45 PM

Why…........I’ve always wondered why.
Might be fun for a while but there is a reason machines and motors and electricity and the world evolves.
This is just an inefficient pain in the ass to use :)

-- "Fine Woodworking" is the name given to a project that takes 3 times longer than normal to finish because you used hand tools instead of power tools. ----Mike, Waukesha, WI

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3636 days

#6 posted 07-27-2017 04:55 PM

You have done a very nice job on this lathe.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Jeremymcon's profile


414 posts in 1449 days

#7 posted 07-30-2017 06:39 PM

Why…........I ve always wondered why.
Might be fun for a while but there is a reason machines and motors and electricity and the world evolves.
This is just an inefficient pain in the ass to use :)

- ohwoodeye

It was a combination of factors for me: I like that it’s quiet and safe – no chance of a chisel or workpiece injuring me or anyone else around. It’s cleaner too – flings chips, but doesn’t fill the air with chips and dust like a powered lathe can. It’s also really quite portable – I can knock it all down and put it in my little hatchback if I want to. No heavy metal stand. This thing weighs just slightly more than my little electric benchtop lathe does!

Also, it was really cheap – It cost me like $50 with all the hardware, lumber, and rope. I already had some of the stuff on hand. I have a chair in the works – I initially intended to simply shave the chair parts round with a drawknife and spokeshave. But looking at the parts, I wasn’t satisfied with the way the shaved legs looked. So now I have a bunch of half finished chair parts that I really need to turn on a lathe. I also don’t have much money in the budget to spend on a lathe. Solution: make a cheap lathe that can get the job done.

The old-school/historical/hand tool cool factor was a plus too.

If I ever own a home and have a decent sized shop, I can see myself owning a full sized powered lathe. But not right now.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics