Ingenious foot-powered lathe

comments (47) January 10th, 2014 in blogs, videos

sscott Stephen Scott, associate editor
thumbs up 410 users recommend

Video Length: 6:04
Produced by: Chop With Chris

Have you ever thought about building your own treadle-powered lathe using an assortment of castoff machine parts, only some of which come from a lathe? Or about using knockdown joinery to construct an extremely sturdy, integral base for it?

Me neither.

But a video blogger with the YouTube handle Chop With Chris did think about it, and - as his video makes clear - he thought very carefully. Click play and you'll see a fast-motion document of his work - an inspiring mix of machine engineering, woodworking skill and old-world technology. The only power tool in use was the camera.

The clip is long on show and short on tell, and that's just fine. The photography is smart and detailed enough to carry the message. Enjoy!


posted in: blogs, videos

Comments (47)

jsef jsef writes: unbelievably cool video, thanks!
Posted: 7:57 pm on February 5th

CowboyKenny CowboyKenny writes: Awesome, worth every second. That was great.
Posted: 6:48 pm on January 23rd

ntino81 ntino81 writes: wow, that might be the greatest woodworking video ever
Posted: 8:00 pm on January 18th

kemo kemo writes: Wonderfully entertaining and practical. Great job, I enjoyed it and love the first finished "fire wood" project!
Posted: 10:00 am on January 18th

frontrow1 frontrow1 writes: the only problem is, without the metal parts from the old lathe and the bearings, tool post steel, welding, metal turnings etc, its just basic carpentry, how about a video on building the nuts and bolts of the project, it seems to me that those are the important parts

Posted: 7:19 pm on January 17th

stewdes stewdes writes: Totally bad ass! Thanks Chris!
Posted: 10:57 am on January 17th

dense_as_wood dense_as_wood writes: superb in all aspects. thanks
Posted: 10:32 pm on January 15th

turningjohn turningjohn writes: Wow really impressed he got such a big piece of wood spinning with just foot power.
Posted: 7:48 pm on January 14th

Hacker Hacker writes: This was one of the best woodworking videos I have seen. The workmanship of the lathe was awesome, the handle he turned at the end was inspirational, and the video was very professionally produced. Awesome!
Posted: 6:42 pm on January 14th

papaelk59 papaelk59 writes: Very Impressive!!
Posted: 10:53 pm on January 13th

user-107863 user-107863 writes: great project, I thought of making something like it out of an old treadle sewing machine. you can pick them up for a song and re purpose it.

Posted: 7:03 pm on January 13th

mikem56 mikem56 writes: Awesome!
Posted: 6:56 pm on January 13th

KennyJoe87 KennyJoe87 writes: Thanks for the presentation!
Posted: 6:06 pm on January 13th

Tool_box Tool_box writes: It is a ripper. There are a few plans floating around on how to build a treadle lathe or even pole lathes on the web. The one I actually like the best uses a bicycle freewheel gear and chain as there you can safely stop pedaling which I think from memory is actually on a Fine Woodworking article somewhere.
Posted: 4:35 pm on January 13th

user-27806 user-27806 writes: Let's see a B&W version.
Posted: 7:54 am on January 13th

dandegennaro dandegennaro writes: 100% terrific craftsmanship. Thank you for sharing your talent and ingenuity.
Posted: 9:56 pm on January 12th

Zecarle Zecarle writes: how does the metal rail guide locks into the table? the video does not show a rabbeted shoulder it drops into or any visible support.

great video. I rarely post a comment this was refreshing to watch

Posted: 5:07 pm on January 12th

ron20 ron20 writes: This brought back a great memory. When I was a kid I worked at a place that actually had something similar to this. I was walking by it one day and the operator (who obviously had to many beers before work that day) said he had to go to the men's room and asked me how you shut it off.
Posted: 9:52 am on January 12th

pizzicato pizzicato writes: 50 years ago I saw a 10 year old boy in Morocco turn chair legs between 2 nails as centres. He had a bow (as in bow and arrow) in his left hand with the cord of the bow wrapped around the leg, a turning tool resting on a wooden bar and his foot pressing down and guiding the tool. as he pushed the bow back and forth the chair leg rotated against the tool then backwards while his right hand withdrew the tool and advanced it for the next rotation. He was very quick and amazingly skilled. Child labour laws hopefully have changed this but the skill and technique was worthy of a Krenov commendation !
Posted: 2:10 am on January 12th

joker28 joker28 writes: :-) and again, :-)
Posted: 12:18 am on January 12th

JonJeswald JonJeswald writes: Brilliant!
Posted: 10:30 pm on January 11th

Loxmyth Loxmyth writes: I know treadle lathes have a long history. And I know that, conceptually, there really isn't all that much to a wood lathe, especially if you aren't looking for machinist-like precision. But it's nice to see the two put together -- and he clearly put some good thought into the forces on the machine and bracing it properly. Well done.

Won't keep me from entering the "win a turning kit" contest, though...
Posted: 5:31 pm on January 11th

dmargoliash dmargoliash writes: All I could do was laugh, cry, and give you a thumbs up at the end of the video.
Posted: 3:05 pm on January 11th

The Driver The Driver writes:

You are one of the most talented individual woodworker I’ve ever seen. Thank you for sharing with us.

Posted: 1:26 pm on January 11th

alanj49 alanj49 writes: WoW! This guy should have his own TV show.
Posted: 12:11 pm on January 11th

gmlhl4 gmlhl4 writes: Outstanding job and great presentation. Thanks for sharing..
Posted: 11:57 am on January 11th

usafchief usafchief writes: BTW, my son's lathe had nothing of steel or iron that could be made of wood
Posted: 11:14 am on January 11th

loulou50 loulou50 writes: Quel talent ! Une réalisation digne de mention. Bravo monsieur Chris !
Posted: 11:11 am on January 11th

usafchief usafchief writes: About 30 years ago, my son built his own foot powered lathe, and the flywheel used to even out power strokes was made of concrete, and believe the bearings were made from either iron wood or lignum vitae. He turned some fantastic stuff on his "machine"......
Posted: 11:10 am on January 11th

uffdoc uffdoc writes: The very best part was the bow at the end!
Posted: 11:06 am on January 11th

rqk rqk writes: Bravo
Posted: 11:04 am on January 11th

Bob817 Bob817 writes: Awesome and Inspiring!
Posted: 10:44 am on January 11th

SAnders76 SAnders76 writes: Love this! Well done!
Posted: 10:44 am on January 11th

Alveston_Born Alveston_Born writes: Impressive, reminds me of Green Woodworking (Mike Abbott), however this lathe is more elaborate than a pole lathe (which I love to use).
Posted: 10:11 am on January 11th

TotallyRetired TotallyRetired writes: Brilliant! Creative engineering, craftsmanship, and presentation at its best. How much coffee does one have to drink to work that fast?
Posted: 10:04 am on January 11th

JPdOrleans JPdOrleans writes: Not only a brilliant design and an amazing bit of woodworking but a stunningly well done video!
Posted: 9:44 am on January 11th

Dequis Dequis writes: Amazing! Kudo's to you...
Posted: 9:22 am on January 11th

FlaxMan FlaxMan writes: A wise old mechanic said "if it worked before it can work again". How true it is for vintage tools and machinery; also for the parts and pieces. I enjoyed and am inspired by the creative reuse of the old stuff.
Posted: 9:16 am on January 11th

DanM DanM writes: Video jammed after about a minute. Couldn't get it to play. dan
Posted: 8:36 am on January 11th

MickMc MickMc writes: I'm impressed. Wonderful from start to finish.
Posted: 8:19 am on January 11th

user-2989110 user-2989110 writes: its funny , i have been slowly getting inspired to go powerless but thought that some power tools were irreplacable but now i see that even the lathe can be converted. its brilliant! now i have to see if i can find all those parts:) a truly inspired video!
Posted: 8:03 am on January 11th

gizmojohn gizmojohn writes: Wow!!!! A true CRAFTSMAN for sure. Congratulations!!!!!
Posted: 7:42 am on January 11th

gpdc gpdc writes: and the proud poppa takes a well deserved bow.....
beautiful.......both the subject & the presentation !
Posted: 7:27 am on January 11th

WoodenRestorations WoodenRestorations writes: Outstanding!
Posted: 7:12 am on January 11th

61A 61A writes: What a brilliant video. Woodturning and exercise combined, so much better than going to the gym !!!!
Posted: 4:42 am on January 11th

Artex Artex writes: Amazing, that´s an awesome project
Posted: 9:39 pm on January 10th

JL_Smith JL_Smith writes: Man that was pretty impressive :)

Posted: 6:35 pm on January 10th

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