What’s A Pole Lathe

A pole lathe is an amazing tool that lets you spin wood without electricity and shape it. The power that drives the work piece comes from a pole of wood. There are 3 main pieces: the pole, drive rope and spindle.

With a pole lathe you can make handles for hammers, rolling pins, spindles/legs for chairs, candle holders, bowls and more. You can make some really nice and functional pieces once you make the pole lathe.

There is no need to overthink this simple tool. Start by building the bench and spindle. It won’t take long to make a simple lathe, but you can also make a really intricate one that will take much longer. I like to keep things rustic and keep in mind that I have something to build with the pole lathe.

This is one of my favorite rustic builds for pole lathes. It’s easy to understand and gives you a good idea on how to build it. You will make revisions according to what you think and as you can see at the end of the video, even he had revisions he made.

As you use your pole lathe, you will find things you like and dislike. Make changes to accommodate the way you like to work. Your height may need to be adjusted as well as your pole. Some people switch out a pole for a bow.  Some even use a rubber strap for the recoil.

Along with your pole lathe you will need your cutting tools. Most will be gouges, but there are hooks and others for hollowing. These tools can be bought used or new. Either way you buy them, keep them sharp. Dull tools will gouge out wood and catch which can hurt you.

Keep collecting the cutting tools as the more you have the more you can do. You won’t be able to do much work with one tool. Each tool really has its purpose from shaping to cutting off. Having an assortment of sandpaper is also a good idea to help with shaping and smoothing. I use from 100 grit to 2,000 grit depending on the wood and the project.

If I’m working on a piece that will need to be finished, why not do it on the lathe. I usually like to use oils like teak oil when finishing wood. It seals the wood pores and makes for a beautiful finish on the part. Then, I polish the wood by spinning it and buffing with either steel wool or cotton material. When you oil finish on the lathe, the part will be really smooth.

Careful cutting off your part. I like to use a hack saw while turning on the pole lathe. Cut off tools work well, but I feel better with the hacksaw. Use a blade with fine teeth and catch it as it falls. The last thing you want is to drop or damage your first work of art. Enjoy your new lathe and I’m sure when you get a hang of it you may want to build a bigger and better lathe.