Treadle Lathe – Parts Update

Any of you who followed my treadle lathe project know that most of it was based on Stephen Shepherd’s drawings of an 1805 Turning Bench. You might also remember that I stalled for a long time while searching for a blacksmith … who apparently fled NY’s wonderful tax system and literally headed for the hills.

I recently heard from another lathe builder who was also looking for certain parts, all the metal bits. Good News…

Just in! Stephen Shepherd has just pulled together a hardware package for people building the lathe. The hardware lets one keep the authentic nature of the machine with fittings that match the original plans (with a very minor size difference here or there). From Stephen’s description, the fittings look great and I see the price as very reasonable.

Highly recommended! see:


12 Responses to “Treadle Lathe – Parts Update”

  1. Bill Vittal Says:

    Hello Bob:

    I have been considering building a muscle-powered lathe for some time, but I am not sure that it would serve my needs. I turn spindles for furniture projects and small boxes and small bowls. Furniture projects (chair posts) sometime need a long bed, but otherwise nothing too big that requires a high-powered lathe. Since I live in a major city (Phoenix), I am working with dry wood. The nearest forest (coniferous) is 100 miles away. Would the lathe you built be satisfactory for my needs? Your thoughts would be appreciated. By the way I am just looking for an opinion, not a lifetime guarantee. No pressure!

    By the way, great blog, really enjoyed your posts on your treadle lathe.


  2. Bob Says:

    Hi Bill,
    I too wondered about relative power as I was building it. We see all these electric lathes with multi-horsepower motors and here we stand with a fraction of that much (or so it seems). The things you describe should be easy. I’ve turned objects (lidded boxes, for example) up to 6: in diameter and the lathe and my right leg performed very well. Spindles are easy. They spin fast and are easy to shape. As you might expect, you’ll need to take shallower cuts and more of them, (and keep your tools very sharp) but I don’t see that as a deal breaker. Make the bed as long as you need for the length of spindles you intend to turn.

    Good luck with it, and start a blog to show us pictures!

  3. Travis Says:

    Thank you for posting this Bob. I have been sitting on these plans for two years. I ordered the kit today and the price is very reasonable.

  4. matt Says:

    Do you have more specifics on how you built the headstock? I’m the furthest thing from being a machinist, so I’m in very choppy waters when I have to do anything with metal. I see that you have flanged bearings in both wooden pieces of the headstock. And I’m assuming they are flanged bearings with a 5/8 inch hole to accomodate the rod. But where is the thrust bearing? And how does it function? I’m assuming that it’s necessary to accomodate the clamping pressure associated with the tailstock. I have an old companion treadle lathe, and that is its downfall. When you tighten the tailstock to secure the wood, you can’t pump the treadle because the chuck in the headstock gets crimped against the frame of the headstock, if that makes any sense. Could you please send me phots of the thrust bearing? And where did you purchase the rod for the headstock? I have been puzzling over how to install a #2 morse taper socket on a shaft for the headstock, but your drive center with the 5/8″ opening seems to make life much simpler.

    Thanks in advance. Matt

  5. Bob Says:

    Hello Matt,
    The head end is shown in an earlier post at this link. The first photo in that post shows details of the thrust bearing. The bearing works by not allowing the shaft all the way through the bearing. It cups the end of the shaft and transfers the pressure to all the balls in the bearing, and therefore to the race. That’s how it absorbs the “thrust” from the tailstock.

    The shaft is very simple 5/8″ cold rolled steel rod from Home Depot. I was fortunate enough to pick up a piece that runs true. Shannon Rogers laments not having the same luck and replaces his shaft with a rod from McMaster Carr.

    Yes, this was much easier than trying to build ahead spindle for a #2 taper. At the other end, that socket was a nice find for accommodating tapered tailstock accessories.

    Good luck with your lathe build. Let us know how it goes.

  6. Matt Says:

    Thanks so much for the info on the headstock. I’m more likely to start on the building of it now that I have some of that mystery solved. I was pretty stuck on how to construct the headstock. Still not exactly sure how to make the offset portion for the wheel. I don’t have any machinist friends like you have. Your set-up looks pretty nice. Do you have any advice for determing the overall height of the lathe? What are you suggestions for the height of the ways or the drive center in relation to a person’s height or arm position? Thanks again for the help. Hoping to start on this sometime this winter.


  7. Bob Says:

    Hello again Matt,
    That machined crank piece was sheer good luck and the generosity of a kind blog follower. Like you, that was a part that held me back for quite a while. Stephen Shepherd’s plans describe a shaft bent into a crank shape by a blacksmith. We have none of those sorts of people here. My first attempt was a wooden crank, but it wasn’t secure enough to stand the load. All I can recommend is find a welder, or search the McMaster Carr catalog.

    hmmmmmm…? Maybe crank handles?

    Your second question is easier. I learned this one from experience, not from calculation. My lathe has been raised a bit (blocks under the legs) to bring the center line to the same height as my elbows. Your arm bent at right angle and the tool it holds should meet the center line nicely.

    Get started soon. You’ll have a lot of fun!

  8. Matt Says:

    I thought that I found somewhere on your web page that you had a list of the parts you purchased to make your lathe, and the name of the company where you purchased them online. It was the bearings, etc. Or maybe I’m mistaken. Am I missing it somewhere?

    Thanks. Matt

  9. Bob Says:

    Hi Matt,
    You’re right. There is a post listing all the other bearings and such … somewhere in the pile of 23 posts in the “treadle lathe” category. The one you’re looking for is “Treadle Lathe – Parts.”

  10. Josh Says:

    Hi Bob,
    I am awaiting my plans for the treadle lathe and am excited. Since I don’t have the plans I am not sure what you are referring to when you say “that machined crank piece”. I thought between the parts list on the earlier page and the package offered by the blacksmith that I would have all the parts needed to build the lathe except the wood. Is that not the case? Can you tell me a little more about this piece that I need to have made?
    Thanks again and really appreciate all your work on the lathe project. Love your site.

  11. Bob Says:

    Hi Josh,
    Yes, if you purchase Stephen’s metal parts package, you will have everything but the wood. Be aware, the specs are for an 1805 version and the hardware matches that era. For example, the headstock is a simple mandrel in a tube, not the more modern shaft and bearing arrangement I used. Not that the modern stuff is really needed. The 1805 version works great.

    The machined crank that I refer to is another modern version of the flywheel crank. That’s the hardest part of the whole build and Stephen provides it in his kit. I didn’t have a blacksmith or welder who could make one for me. So, I started with a wood substitute that didn’t last long. Another fellow saw it and made me the metal / machined version. The crank in Stephen’s kit will do perfectly.

    Start collecting wood! … and have fun with the lathe.

  12. Josh Says:

    Thanks! I converted your blog posts into a word document and added a table of contents for myself to use. I thought others might find it useful. How can I get it to you?