View Full Version : Treadle Lathes

Quick Change
02-11-2003, 10:47 PM
I would like to build a pedal powered lathe. Actually, a base that uses human power as the prime mover to which a small lathe is adapted on the top.
Does anyone know where I can see, or obtain detailed pictures of, different types of pedal or lever powered lathes. This would include museums, collections, or individuals that would be willing to show their machines. I'm in California which is too new, industrially speaking, to have much machinery like this.

02-11-2003, 11:00 PM
Old Williamsburg has examples along with the woodwright that is so good at building them - (Bow lathe).

Al Messer
02-11-2003, 11:18 PM
Dixie Gun Works, Union City, Tennessee has one in their museum. They are very nice people there and perhaps they could give you some information and specs on it. This is the machine on which the late Turner Kirkland made his first gun barrel. Basically, the underside is made much like an old tredle powered sewing machine except that it has a heavier flywheel. Some of the older model engineering books of the past had some information on tredle lathes in them.

02-11-2003, 11:20 PM
I've thought of this often! If you don't need to be traditional, how about the freewheel from a ten speed? You wouldn't have to 'pedal' per se, drape the chain over the freewheel and a spring return, hooked to a treadle. Five speeds, maybe more depending the bike you pirated.

Quick Change
02-12-2003, 10:48 AM
Thanks for the replys.
Gizmo, a bike /chain set up would likely work. I was also thinking of two arms connected to a shaft(s) with over-running clutches. This would allow one to stand at the lathe, pump the speed up a bit and then move a little if necessary during the job. A guy from Connecticut had a picture of somthing like this in a recent issue of HSM ot Projects.

02-12-2003, 11:02 AM
Roy Underhill of "the yankee workshop" has a tredle lathe that he uses to turn wood. Roy probably either traded for it or I wouldn't be surprised to learn he made the thing himself. "First you make a shovel from an old plow, then you find iron ore and you dig it up........." what a guy.


02-12-2003, 11:17 AM
An antique pedal powered lathe was sold at Cabin Fever Expo auction on Jan 17. It had to sell to a collector or an antique dealer who probably be glad to send details. Get Gary Schoenly's email address from the Cabin Fever Expo web site and ask him who it was sold to. If he didnt trash the sales records he will have that info.

Forrest Addy
02-12-2003, 11:49 AM

A vague memory teases me where someone told me something about how a small SB lathe was hooked up a pedal crank mechanism. A largish flatbelt pulley used as a flywheel figured in.

I can see where with care the whole business could be made to look factory original.

02-12-2003, 12:39 PM
Perhaps this might be lead to some info.

I have been told of a lathe that jewelers and silversmiths use that is a treadle type. A small machine that hangs from a wall and can be made to run backwards by merely reversing the motion of your pedaling.

This is a vague recollection of a tale told me by a fellow worker who visited a family in the New England area during WW2 which at the time was a center of the silver plate and jewelers chain cottage industry.

Dr. Nick
02-12-2003, 12:44 PM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Tibertus:
Roy Underhill of "the yankee workshop" has a tredle lathe that he uses to turn wood. Roy probably either traded for it or I wouldn't be surprised to learn he made the thing himself. "First you make a shovel from an old plow, then you find iron ore and you dig it up........." what a guy.


Actually, Roy Underhill is the Woodwright. Norm Abram is the New Yankee. Roy wrote an article in American woodworker a while back about making a treadle lathe from scrap wood.

I know that Roy does buy an occasional antique tool or two. He outbid a friend of mine on a treadle scroll saw some time ago. The man really is amazing. I especially like his book "How to start with tree and an axe and make a house and everything in it".


02-12-2003, 01:31 PM
I have a book by L.C. Mason called "Using the Small Lathe" which has a one page description of how to power a lathe with pedal power. It is not terrifically detailed but a handy person could use his guidance to set one up. I may yet put a pedal under my Taig.


02-12-2003, 01:41 PM
If you use the bike chain and sprockets you will need a flywheel of some sort to smooth out the power. Try scored and scrapped auto brake disks. They are heavy, well balanced, and have holes in right places.

02-12-2003, 02:04 PM
You can see a number of them in this book:
titled "Turning Lathes" by James Lukin.

The copy I have has a section that is a reprint of a Britannia Tool Co. catalog from around 1890. There are treadle (not pedal) powered lathes up to the size of a 10x40, with gap bed, and back gear!
The treadle mechanism is very similar to that on an old sewing machine...

I could scan and email you a couple of pix if you like. Just drop me an email.

02-12-2003, 03:03 PM
Dr Nick

Gee all this time I thought Roy was first and that Norm came a little while later with his program and laser equiped shop (I'm so jealous). Wait I just did a web search it was called "The Woodwrights shop", hmmm you'd think I'd of heard the marbles dropping out of my head and bouncing around the floor. Sorry about the bad info.


[This message has been edited by Tibertus (edited 02-12-2003).]

02-12-2003, 05:20 PM
It's a shame that your on the West Coast. Rutgers University Cook College Agricultural Museum has a screw cutting lathe, tredle powered, completely restored. I saw it in the restoration area when I was still working there and again on display in the Museum. I do on occasion go back to bust on my former co-workers, now that I'm retired, and can check on it to see if more information is available. I was told that these were used on farms. E-mail me if you are interested. Stephen K

02-14-2003, 12:56 PM
There is a guy featured in the Sherline book that made a treadle powered Sherline lathe for making pen bodies at craft fairs. I've seen a couple of original traedle powered lathes on E-bay, they usually bring alot of $.

02-14-2003, 01:34 PM
Look up Barnes lathes. There are a couple folks that I was expecting to see post on this thread, who have them.

The barnes are pedal-powered designs from the 1800's, with pretty full features. There are still quite a few out and about, most likely, so you could probably find one.

Quick Change
02-16-2003, 09:06 PM
Thanks to all for your help.

Jsteinem, I like your idea for using brake discs for a flywheel. I've got my local repair guy looking for a big one for me.

Lukenheimer, thanks for your offer of pictures. I would like to take you up on it but your profile lists no e-mail address.

StephenK, thanks for your offer of pictures from the ag collection. I'm writing you by separate e-mail.