Foot-powered Lathe Is A Tour De Force Of Joinery Techniques


Meet [Quetico Chris]. He’s a master woodworker who likes to find his own alternatives to using power tools. Most recently, he was inspired by a fly-wheel from an old factory. He used it to build this foot powered wood lathe.

It works something like a foot powered sewing machine. There’s a lever for your foot which converts the downward force from your foot into a rotating force which drives the work piece. The mechanics of the lathe are pretty common, but we think the build techniques he uses are anything but. The video after the break shows each step [Chris] went through when crafting the human-power tool. His approach was to use wood as often as possible which includes foregoing modern fasteners for older joinery. He uses mortise and tenon, wood pinning, doweling, and a lot of puzzle-like tricks to get the job done.

We lack the skill and tools to replicate this kind of craftsmanship. We’re going to stick to letting a laser cutter form our wood connections.

[Thanks Aurel]

48 thoughts on “Foot-powered Lathe Is A Tour De Force Of Joinery Techniques

  1. You know… nails were in use in the Viking age, before many aspects of modern joinery were discovered, at least in Europe. And their nails were much more efficient fasteners than the wire nails we use today.

    Not gonna argue about modern screws though.

  2. It’s nicely done. Being a wood turner myself, I’m always interested in lathes. I’ve seen quite a few treadle, spring pole, and bow lathes made from wood and a few metal parts for wood holding. This one is pretty cool.

    1. Agree! I found the experience of watching this soothing even. Did he simply record the sound during work and then speeded it up or is there some other audio manipulation going on?

  3. That must have taken a huge amount of time to build. I do some woodworking in my spare time and most projects take longer than I initially plan on. I can’t imagine doing it by hand – that would make it take 2-3 times as long. Awesome project, though.

    1. What do you mean, it only took him six minutes in the video, he just works real fast! ;0 Seriously this is really an amazing piece of work, and with hand tools, this guy is a master woodworker, trees should be proud to be worked by him.

    1. Roy is the man… They are in their 32nd season.

      You should check out his Wikipedia article. He has a bachlors degree in Theater. His masters degree in forestry was a multidisiplinary degree includes engineering, forestry, and history.

      One of my favorite things to do at work on Saturday (I work for a PBS station) is watch his show. Roy and Red Green are the best builders PBS has (IMHO).

      1. Very cool, did not know that about him. I grew up since I was little fascinated by his show, it actually was one of the reasons I got into lost technology for my career- I went to watchmaking school and am becoming a watchmaker, finally.

        I still can’t believe his show and he are still running, I’ve literally seen his show my entire life, as I’m almost 30, but he’s been doing it longer! My dream is to resurrect a watermill and have a lineshafted pulley powered workshop of multilevels, all thanks to the inspirations stemmed from one man’s TV show- Roy Underhill.

        Everything he does is wonderful. I can’t wait until finally the entire series is on DVD soon, 30 years of that show, I’d sit and watch happily everyday. I’d love to meet and talk with him, and I envy you getting to work for such an awesome employer like PBS, they are the only worthwhile thing left on TV. Thank god 32 years ago they saw fit to give Roy such a cool show, or I would never be where I am today.

        To others who like Roy’s show, The Woodrights Shop, you can watch a lot of it free online, check it out!

        1. The Woodwright’s School

          $145, and a trip to Pittsboro, North Carolina can help that dream come true (meeting Roy, not the watermill thing). I would like to be able to take several of these classes, but I’m not sufficently skilled as a woodworker (or blacksmith) for any of the classes to truely benefit me. Sure, it would be a LOT of fun, but I have too many other projects that I haven’t even started to take three days for a trip to South Carolina.

  4. Great build & video. “We’re going to stick to letting a laser cutter form our wood connections.” Mike is not going to be ready for that zombie Apocalypse many mention is he? Wood is going to the most readily available construction material. Need to accumulate the hand tools to work with that. Sometime ago I had to let 2 sweet post drills go to metal savage, but that was not under my control.

  5. Norm Abrams sucks this guys balls. I love watching people who are good at what they do, and love doing it. Don’t care if you are a trash collector or a master carpenter, watching someone who loves what they are doing, is nothing but fun.

  6. You don’t have the tools? The tools he used were saws, chisels and a drill (and a square, and admittedly planes and spokeshaves).

    Skills are acquired over time, and mortises aren’t that hard, as long as you’re careful.

    Mind you, he’s very good. Great to see!

  7. I can’t wait to be able to build a lathe for my shop. I to have grown up on a healthy diet of watching Roy and still watch his shows at least 5 days of he week I love my app,e tv for this fact that I can watch quite a few episodes and have learned so much from this man and many others that decide to unplug the shop!

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