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Bow lathe comparison

The closest I can find to my ideal design for the Utilitarian Mk1 so far... a hand powered bow lathe. I'm not keen on holding the chisel with my feet, but this does suggest that hand power and a simple set of steel points and basic tool rest is adequate.

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The Utilitarian Mk1 (This won't be pretty)

Design considerations for a beginner's homemade lathe
Inspired by a mix of youtube videos and my earlier mistakes, a few thoughts have begun to circulate on what a basic homemade woodturning lathe for a beginner might look like.

Unfortunately its unlikely to be as pretty as some of the masterpieces put together to honour the skills of yesteryear. What it could be is cheap and functional (read ugly), and able to be constructed within a reasonable time frame using basic skills and tools.

Design considerations: The Utilitarian Mk1

It should run quietly: If you have your own sound-proof workshop then you can already afford to buy a lathe. For everyone else who lives with their folks, flatmates or in their sister's basement, a power-drill running non-stop is going to get really annoying. Even if you have your own place, your neighbours won't appreciate a drill whining all night.

Electrical safety: Noisy motors limit when you can use your lathe, and their need for electrical power l…

Green wood, sharp tools, pole lathe

This guy Robin Fawcett makes me wonder why we ever bothered hooking motors up at all. I assume part of  the secret is using the right wood, and the other part is having tools sharp enough to shave with.

Maybe you don't need a lathe at all

OK lets face it - some of us only want to play with a lathe because we like the idea of making some sort of billy club to impress our friends with. And there are actually a bunch of ways to carve your own baseball bat or "fish stunner" (for when you land those 50kg tuna in your row boat) without using a lathe at all.

Travis Janeway for example apparently really likes sanding, and has a lot of patience, but his work beats any of the clubs I ever turned on my lathe.

Lathes are for people who can't cut circles by hand

So Mr Chickadee wants to make a treadle lathe, and starts by cutting a perfect wheel out of some boards using just a handsaw and drawknife... I'm guessing the lathe is going to be a present for one of his friends who can't cut perfect circles with a saw cause he clearly has no need for a lathe. His joinery is also freaking amazing, from 9:30 through to 10:00 he demonstrates tongue-and-groove planes (I never knew these actually existed before tonight). In fact I'm wondering if this is really a trailer for an action movie in which the bad guys choose the the wrong woodworker to pick on.

Simple skateboard bearings for homemade lathe

Other than making me feel less afraid for the life of the lathe operator than some similar efforts, what I like about Izzy Swan's approach is his use of skateboard bearings mounted straight into the timber using a spade bit and a hand drill (1:45).

No tool rest, no lathe tools ... no problem!

I made it through to about 4:15 on this video before suddenly feeling the need to take shelter behind armoured glass. The number of times the chisel catches gives a few clues about why strapping blocks of wood to really fast motors and then freehanding them with random tools you had laying about might be a bad idea.

Pilesofplenty,  the creative mind behind this attempt, is upfront about this not being safe. Citing "wanting to find out if woodturning was something he would enjoy" as motivation, I feel this demonstration is a big vote in favour of asking your buddy who has a lathe if you can come over on Saturday afternoon.  
By 8:10 we get to the roughing gouge with no handle and well .. yeah. I wonder if there is a sequel to this.