Pole lathe tooling


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John Brown

Freeloading Social media influenza
25 Sep 2008
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Stinchcombe, Gloucestershire
Happened upon a pole-lathe demo in Marlborough on Saturday. I asked the costumed demonstrator whether the tools needed sharpening in a different fashion because of the reciprocating motion of the workpiece. He answered that, yes, he sharpened his tools every day. I asked again, about angles and suchlike, whereupon he showed me a drawknife, a leather strop and an old whetstone. So I'm none the wiser...
Maybe. Differences are due to the limitations of energy input, and softer and easily "torn" nature of green wood. You want a sharp tool paring shavings away, never a scraping action which is harder work and leaves a grotty finish.

Some of us pole lathe turners prefer older carbon steel tools as opposed to HSS, frequently sharpened more as you might bench chisels - on a water or oilstone rather than straight from the grinder, with maybe a single flat bevel around 30 degree bevel angles rather than the steeper ones often found on power lathe tools.

I am told power lathe turners don't use flat chisels as some pole lathe turners do - a wide (2") flat, beveled on one side only, used bevel down at an angle to the work to get a smooth cylinder or gentler curves, where you might use a skew. Then there are the hook tools used for bowls and other cross-grain turning which I imagine would be quite scary to use on a power lathe ?

I am being deliberately a bit vague, as bodgers are usually not the sort to follow rules, and so there are probably almost as many opinions as turners.

Edited to add - the reciprocating action doesn't make a difference - the tool is only touching the wood on the down stroke of the treadle. You back the pressure off on the return stroke - if you don't the tool can easily be lifted off the rest and cause a catch next treadle stroke.
Some demonstrators can be a bit 'obtrusive' when answering questions. Our pole lathe turner bought his first set of three tools from a medieval market. The rest, Our blacksmith made, on the show. No Idea of angles, sharpening techniques or technical stuff like that. I just source things for the rest of the group, (and pour a bit of pewter as well)