Call me irrational, illogical and a spendthrift, if you will.  But I’ve concluded that one can never have too many treadle driven lathes.  After all, God saw fit to give us two feet, so…  Over the next month or so, I’ll be working on a “sidewinder” style, continuous rotation lathe.  This is a curious configuration, with the wheel sitting parallel to the lathe bed, that offers a number of distinct advantages and challenges.

The advantages of this design are; the wheel diameter is only limited by the number of pulleys that are required to create the appropriate reeving path.  The larger diameter wheel can generate much higher spindle speeds with fewer treadle strokes.  The crank link will be in the center of the treadle.  This will allow me to build a trapezoidal treadle which will be both stronger and lighter than a “side load” treadle (type seen on most treadle lathes).  The actual depth of the lathe will be much narrower than one with the wheel perpendicular to the lathe bed, therefore saving valuable floor space.

I’ve only seen two partial photographs of this style lathe.  If anyone out there has any information that they could share with me, I’d certainly appreciate it.  Stay tuned.  We’ll doubtlessly uncover some arcane information about gear ratios, reeving, pulleys, bearings and rope splicing.  Should be fun.

Explore posts in the same categories: historic woodworking, woodturning

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  1. Coupe de Fleur Says:

    From that drawing, it looks like the drive rope wraps around a drive spindle, rather than wrapping around the workpiece. Set it up to take a #2 taper? I’d think there needs to be some form of idler wheel to keep tension on the drive rope.

    I suppose you could make it a multi-speed job by having two or three diameters on the drive spindle, maybe with a slight raised rim between them.

    I did rope splicing on hay slings a long time ago. It’s not too difficult to make a splice that can go through a block & tackle.

    Making a set-up in which you could drill with a shell auger would be brill! You want low rpm’s for that anyway.

  2. kepib Says:


    This is an interesting project! I’m keen to see the results. I line a simple off grid lifestyle (at present renovating a ruined farm in Latvia) and I am keep to make my first pole lathe, but, seeing this I would love to make this a winter project – not that I am great at woodworking, but, as with all the old skills and crafts that I have learned over the years, I’m an enthusiastic amateur.

    Now off to find the rest of your posts about it 🙂

    • D.B. Laney Says:

      I am old and slow, so you might get your sidewinder lathe done before I do. Please keep me informed as to how you’re coming along with your project. It’s a great design and perfectly suited for the “off grid” life. This style lathe is capable of doing anything that a modern power lathe will do, with no cost for electricity. You may just have to eat more to keep your energy up. Keep your calcium and magnesium input at the right level. When I first started working on the spring pole lathe, I suffered leg cramps every night for a week. Stay in touch.

      • kepib Says:

        I’m renovating an old ruined farm in Latvia, so I’m thinking this will be a winter project. But as an aside, thanks for the tip re cramps, I’ve been having incredible leg cramps down the entire leg and have been wondering why (I broke my back years ago in military, thought it might have been to do with that….) but next time I do a supply run I’ll be getting bananas and nuts to add to my diet 🙂 I’ll pass on info and pics when I start the project 🙂

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