Traditional spring lathes predate motorized ones (or even flywheel designs) and aren't expensive or hard to build. They have their limitations, and if course since they're powered by the operator repeatedly stepping on the treadle they're slower and more tiring than a motorized lathe -- but as the furniture in museums demonstrates, they can produce most or all of the same kinds of turnings.

And there are some modern non-traditional versions that use return springs made of bungee cords and the like rather than a flexing stick, and thus may fit in a shop with less space overhead (though even the traditional ones often knock down for transport so you could set up outdoors wherever you want to work.)

Has anyone here played with these, and if so are there any tips/tricks you'd like to pass along about building and using them?

(I'm wondering whether bungee returns plus some block-and-tackle magic to replace the usual lever arm on the treadle could result in a spring lathe almost as compact as a motorized one...!)

  • Never used one. I'm way to lazy for that much work, but it would be fun to try one out some time.
    – bowlturner
    Jul 9, 2016 at 12:30
  • Sees Roy Underhill wandering through town
    – FreeMan
    Jul 13, 2016 at 20:30
  • By the way, I just confirmed that, not surprisingly, the spring-loaded concept works perfectly well to power a bandsaw-like tool. Non-power tools doesn't have to mean only hand tools; machine tools predate motors, and even predate mills.
    – keshlam
    Oct 9, 2016 at 23:45

1 Answer 1


Saint Roy is on it.

The thing about treadle lathes is that the piece rotates in two different directions, so you'll need to use a different technique to keep the tool from gouging into the work when it suddenly starts rotating in the opposite direction.

It's not a fundamental philosophy change, you just need to back the tool off at the top or bottom of the stroke.

  • 2
    Or you need to get fancier with flywheels and such rather than doing a simple spring lathe.
    – keshlam
    Jul 14, 2016 at 23:43
  • There are some very cool ones on YouTube. You've got me pondering. Jul 15, 2016 at 0:00
  • 3
    It's good to have a response to this Question, but SE strives to have Answers that are not so completely dependent on external sources — if the URL of that link changes or the video is removed from YouTube there's not much here. Would you be willing to expand it to include the relevant info to make this into a fleshed-out Answer? As it stands this is more of a Comment, see How do I write a good answer? for more.
    – Graphus
    Jul 15, 2016 at 13:42
  • But you do get a pat on the back for the "Saint Roy" reference! :)
    – FreeMan
    Jul 15, 2016 at 20:41

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