Using a pole lathe, or more accurately a bungie lathe in my case, is a lot of fun. It is quiet, safe and creates less dust than a power lathe. Now I don’t think I would want to work at one all day for production, but it is a great addition to my human powered tool workshop.
I first built this pole lathe a year or so ago. It was about the third lathe I had built and the first that actually worked. However, I built it similar to a modern style lathe. The lathe sat in the corner for a long time waiting to be used. I spend some time on a great website for those wanting to turn green wood with human-powered lathe and other green woodworking techniques, the Bodger’s Ask and Answer. It turns out that I needed to make some changes. For one, the bed of my lathe was too low. If your pole lathe is low like mine was, then you work all hunkered over and out of kilter, leading to a sore back. According to the regulars on the Bodger’s forum the lathe centers needed to be “a little below nipple height”. I found that adding risers to the lathe so that the centers were indeed nipple height made the lathe much more comfortable to use.
This shrinking allowed the wedges for the poppets to go in too far. It also made the tool rest out of alignment with the centers as can be seen in the two pics so far. I had been making do with some temporary shims but decided to add a thin layer to the bottom of the poppets and tool rest. I also shortened the tool rest base so that the cord would no longer rub against the rest, creating friction. When you are the power source friction is a bad thing. It saps energy away from the tool, and you.Now that I have made these improvements the lathe is working much better. Now I need to learn how to turn.
The next improvement to the lathe will be a better foot pedal and a proper tailstock feed handle. More on those later.