Palm Beach County Woodturners

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Treadle Lathe Project

To Contact Us:


Carl Schneider


Vice President:

Brian Rosencrantz




Bud Escher


Membership Chairman:

Bob Brulotte



Richard Chesler


Newsletter Editor /


Brian Rosencrantz


Look Ma, No wires!

Brian Rosencrantz turns on the completed treadle lathe.

The Lathe as it arrived from Ebay

Fittings made by Dick Waterbury

Forging the red hot steel for the


The PBCW Treadle Lathe project, begun in August of 2002 has been successfully completed.

The project began with the suggestion by Brian Rosencrantz at the June 2002 board meeting for the club to construct a treadle lathe for display at public events.

The purposes of the project were multi-fold: To encourage club members to collaborate on a project requiring many diverse skills. To produce a unique attention getter for public events, and, to recapture part of the spirit of the history of woodturning.

While the board was divided over the matter Brian was directed to study the idea and report back at the July meeting.

Brian researched the information available on the subject, doing extensive searches on the internet and through local library materials. He collected the information and presented it to the board at the July meeting.

The information gathered suggested that the club had two avenues that could be pursued, either to build a

Treadle Lathe Pictured in Holtzappfel's 1881 text

"Hand Or Simple Turning"

historically acceptable wooden lathe or to adapt a more modern lathe to foot power. The

board directed Brian to study the matter further and to come up with a plan of action.

In late July Brian found what he'd been looking for: an antique lathe offered  for auction on Ebay. The lathe appeared to be a near perfect copy of a lathe pictured in the 1881 edition of John Jacob Holtzapffel's book Hand or Simple Turning.

Brian bid on the lathe and won the auction for $28. It cost a further $25 to have it shipped to West Palm Beach.

The lathe was presented to the club at the August general meeting.

The club membership approved the purchase of the lathe from Brian and authorized the expenditure of up to $200 to complete the project under his leadership.

Brian requested volunteers to help complete the project and received offers from a number of members.

The lathe was turned over to Richard Chesler for cleaning and painting. Upon disassembly Richard discovered that a wide wooden pulley had been fitted to the lathe to adapt it for power  from a flat belt at some time in the past. After removing this part the lathe is a perfect example of the lathes pictured in Holtzapffel's book. Richard completed the cleaning ,painting and reassembly of the lathe and returned it to the club at the September meeting.

Antique Flywheel purchased and

prepared by George Miller

In the meantime Brian, working from the illustrations in Holtzapffel's book, produced plans for the wooden frame, metal frame fittings and crankshaft.

When Richard returned the lathe in September it was handed over to Dave Friedman who had volunteered to build the frame and treadle assemblies.

Guided by the plans and materials suggested by Holtzapffel Dave produced a work of art, constructing the frame of solid Maple and Oak. The treadle was built of Cherry and the accessory shelf of Black Walnut. All of the materials for the frame were donated by members of the club.

While David worked on the frame and treadle Dick Waterbury made the steel fittings to fit the crankshaft and treadle. Dick turned and threaded these items on his metal lathe and heat treated them to minimize wear.

Michael Stockwell and Brian Rosencrantz took on the formidable task of forging the crankshaft and treadle hook. Brian designed a fixture for forging the 1 1/2" steel bar for the crankshaft and Mike built it.

The crank was heated in Mike's forge and, with help from "Big Jim" Forrler and his hydraulic press, bent into the required shape.

Brian then cut the crank to the proper length and finish machined it on his metal lathe.

Mike forged the treadle hook from 1/2" drill rod and Brian machined an adjustable fitting to hook it to the treadle.

The only remaining major part was the flywheel. George Miller took charge of this part of the project. The original plan was to fabricate a flywheel from 1" thick steel plate 26" in diameter and fit a wooden rim into which the belt groove would be cut. This would result in a flywheel weighing about 55-60 lbs. as recommended by Holtzapffel. Unfortunately problems cropped up right away as no one in the club had equipment to handle such a large machining job. George managed to get a commitment from a local machine shop to produce the flywheel and the blank was flamecut and ready by late November.

In the meantime, however, George found an antique cast iron flywheel on Ebay

that closely matched the club's requirements and had a genuine original appearance. The only drawback was that the flywheel only weighed about 25 lbs. The consensus of the group was that the authentic nature of the flywheel outweighed (no pun intended) its lack of mass and it was decided to proceed with this unit.

George had a groove cut for the drive belt and machined the hub to fit the crankshaft. Then he cleaned and painted the flywheel to match the other metal parts of the lathe.

Final assembly of the lathe was completed by Brian in February, 2003.

Since the original catgut drive belts are no longer available, Brian fabricated a 1/4" round drive belt from screen spline for temporary use.

On a sunny Saturday in early February Brian moved the lathe out of his garage to make the first turning ever on this fully restored piece of woodturning history.

Brian reports that the lathe turns easily with little effort and is easier to use than he had anticipated. The flywheel could use some extra weight to help power the tool through the work and the belt should be replaced with a better unit less subject to stretching. A few accessories still need to be added such as a lower tool rest and a faceplate. Bob Brulotte has already volunteered to make the accessory box to sit on the shelf behind the lathe. Brian and others are sure to fill it with a number of special fittings.

The lathe made its first public debut at the club's Meet and Eat picnic in March 2003. It was an instant hit with all of the members present. Several took turns working at the lathe. All expressed a healthy respect for those woodturning pioneers who earned their livings with similar machines.

Some also remarked on their enhanced appreciation of electric power.

The initial goals of the project have been completely fulfilled.  The lathe is fun to use and will be a great attention getter at our events. The project has brought together a number of our members in a spirit of cooperation and shared goals. And a piece of woodturning history has been restored to its former glory.

Everyone who took part in this project should be proud of his efforts and the results achieved. I especially want to thank Dave Friedman, Richard Chesler, Richard Waterbury, Michael Stockwell, Jim Forrler and George Miller. Without their time and expertise this project would never have achieved the spectacular result it did.

Brian Rosencrantz

Left to right: George Miller, Michael Stockwell, David Friedman, "Big Jim" Forrler, Brian Rosencrantz