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Pole lathe tooling


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John Brown

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...

Sheffield Tony

Ghost of the disenchanted
2 Aug 2012
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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.


Established Member
3 Jun 2014
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Lichfield Staffordshire
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)