Seeking advice on foot powered lathe design (treadle vs pedal)

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Forum topic by Jwinn posted 04-11-2021 11:46 AM 261 views 0 times favorited 2 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 40 days

04-11-2021 11:46 AM

Topic tags/keywords: treadle lathe foot powered foot velocipede barnes turning question hand tools

I recently got an old lathe from a relative (ways/bed, 3 speed belt driven head stock, tool rest, tail stock, and some tools and workholding attachments). If it cleans up well I was planning to turn it into a foot powered lathe as I primarily like to work with hand tools.

I’ve seen many successful DIY treadle style lathes and those look fairly straightforward, if I chose that route I would go with a free wheel + flywheel. I’ve also seen the pedal driven Barnes velocipede like Roy Underhill uses. I understand those are mechanically more involved and I’m still researching my options for off the shelf components to hack together but I can envision a path forward that shouldn’t be prohibitively expensive/more effort. I would also incorporate a reversal in the power transmission design so I would pedal it the normal bicycle way (rather than backwards as for most Barnes velocipedes, I believe)

The question I’ve been trying to answer is whether the pedal style is actually superior in terms of efficiency/ease of use? Was the Barnes velocipede a good design that just lost appeal when motors were more available or was it just not worth the cost/complication when compared to a treadle, especially nowadays when a treadle can be coupled with a modern free wheel + flywheel to smoothen out power transfer?

I have never turned, but a foot powered lathe seems appealing especially since my current garage doesn’t have a lot of power options and I like to take things at a slower pace. I don’t think I’d care for an electric lathe right now. I would also appreciate feedback on the fact that for a pedal style drive, I would need to be seated, where I’ve seen a most people turn standing up. I don’t have any turning projects lined up but I imagine I wouldn’t often exceed 3” diameter.

Thanks in advance and all opinions/advice.

2 replies so far

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11127 posts in 3376 days

#1 posted 04-11-2021 04:50 PM

I haven’t used a pedal lathe yet, but I started out with a treadle (Millers Falls companion). With a more modern take on the treadle mechanism, with free wheel and sprocket + chain for the treadle bar, that would be my preference. A nice long pedal bar the length of the lathe so you can operate it with either foot from any location along the lathe.

The thing I don’t like about the idea of pedal is that you’re sick in a seat with fixed pedal locations, granted the Barnes had 3 pedals so you could move a little, you’re still stuck using those. Just watch how Roy had to contort himself to make some of the cuts to see the drawback to this.

Do share if you build one though, I always find it interesting to watch. I love foot powered machines. Still have that companion lathe, and a Barnes mortiser in the shop.

Oh, and welcome to LumberJocks :-)

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View Jwinn's profile


2 posts in 40 days

#2 posted 04-23-2021 03:22 AM

I have decided to go with a more traditional treadle inspired, standing design instead of the pedals sitting down. Still trying to decide whether the freewheel mechanism is worth venturing from the typical treadle tempo-based drive, but leaning towards trying it to try it and settling on tradition if I have to.

This project is still a ways out for me as I’ve still got a split top roubo in progress, but I’ve found that bicycle components are not worth the effort since they rely on bicycle standards that are not easy to work around to configure in non-bicycle usage.

I’ve been looking at freewheel bearings (also sprag bearings, one way bearings) and these typically are for keyed shafts , which aren’t too much more expensive than a standard steel shaft.

In that direction, I’m thinking a fairly standard wood flywheel design, possibly weighted with some metal or some mdf layers. That would either be fixed to the shaft and the input will be on the freewheel bearings, or vice versa. Since the freewheel bearing would mean that the internia of the freewheel won’t bring the treadle back to the “up” position, I’ll need to include some sort of spring or counterweight, like a springpole but charging a flywheel instead of the spindle directly. This opens up the avenue of having a longer stroke without sacrificing the leverage ratio since I can translate a long linear motion into multiple rotations instead of needing to treadle only a single downward portion of the rotation

I’ll need to consider what length of stroke and how heavy of a stroke (which hopefully I can make adjustable in the drive wheel so I can experiment and change per project) is comfortable for use. I imagine I could turn the lathe into a stairmaster and use my full weight for each stroke but I wouldn’t want to do that for long nor have much control left to actually turn the part.

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