pole lathe turner, Stent panel

Regarding the turner from the Stent panel. We have seen the entire panel earlier; (see https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2009/01/22/seventeenth-century-joiners-bench/ ) and I posted these pictures earlier, but had no time for any notes. So, now for a couple of details.

Stent panel, turner
Stent panel, turner

Here is the turner, using his pole lathe to turn a large pillar for a cupboard, or perhaps a baluster for a table leg. Instead of a pair of uprights with two timbers forming the lathe bed, this example has a slab pierced with a slot in which the poppets are inserted. Note also the tool rest’s support, presumable wedged into this slot.

Robin Fawcett, a pole-lathe turner from the UK wondered if the cord should pass through the lathe instead of outside it. I mentioned that Jan Van Vliet’s turner uses the same configuration as this example.

Two things Robin – first, that cord is repaired on the panel, it fell off the wall during World War II. So the section between the lathe bed and the treadle is replaced. BUT, I think the cord is going where it belongs. See Van Vliet’s turner, the Dutch engraving 1635. It too runs the cord outside the lathe. This is what I have done for everything except bowls on my lathe. Works fine.

Alexander points out that Moxon describes this very arrangement as well:

“And Note, that the farther the Fore-end of the Treddle reaches out beond the Fore-side of the Lathe, the greater will the sweep of the Fore-end of the Treddle be, and consequently it will draw the more String down; and the more String comes down at one Tread, the more Revolutions of the Work is made at one Tread, and therefore it makes the greater riddance of theWork.”


Here’s the Van Vliet engraving again:

van Vliet's turner, 1635
van Vliet's turner, 1635


Stent panel, turner's tools
Stent panel, turner's tools

 here is a closer view of the tools hanging on the wall; a compass (period term is the clunky phrase “pair of compasses”, thanks JA) and two chisels and a gouge. One of the chisels has a flared cutting end. So does the gouge for that matter. A tool like this chages size over repeated sharpenings, getting progressively narrower…







5 thoughts on “pole lathe turner, Stent panel

  1. I still think that the cord may have passed through the lathe bed . . .
    1. The boss that is being turned is quite big. When turning larger diameters, such as bowls, it helps a lot if the cord is attached to the treadle nearer the turners foot – this gives more torque and less revs.
    2. I think that often the illustrator or carver or artist depicting the image didn’t exactly understand what was going on. I have seen some terribly confused images of old machines.

    Could the tool on the right be a “Vee” tool or buzz as used by the Chiltern bodgers to form their beads ?

    It’s interesting to see the difference in size of the ‘poles’ being used in the two different turners shops – van Vliet’s quite slender for delicate spindle turning and Stent’s fairly beefy.

  2. Robin Fawcett’s comment about larger turnings requiring greater torque is well taken. I ask Peter his experience with his pole lathe. It is rather clear that the Stent Panel carver meant the cord to run outside the lathe bench. I also feel, as I have already indicated, that the carver was knowledgeable. But Robin’s caution about confusing images is well taken. In this regard, it appears that both joiner and turner have a pair of compasses in their tool kit.One might expect that the the turner might have (as Holme states): “… a Pair of Callippers. As common Compasses are for measuring Distances upon a plain Superficies; so the Callippers measure the distance or Thickness of any Cilindrick or Orbicall body, either in their extremity, or any part lesse then the extremity….”

  3. OK – a quick note or two. Robin, we can duke it out – the cord’s where it belongs. I have turned pillars this large with my setup…the cord as seen in the panel is wrapped around the smallest diameter of the pillar. Takes some doing to start, but that’s life.

    Let’s look at the poor examples of images too – got a reference?

    re: gouge v. V-tool. I have not heard the term “buzz” referring to a V-tool, but I gave up on the chair bodgers from Wycombe ages ago – too modern. I suppose the tool in the Stent panel could be a V-tool, but I vote for gouge. 17th c. inventories sometimes mention them by name.

    good point about the pole size.

    Alexander’s notes are mostly on target – but while a turner could/might use calipers, doesn’t mean he doesn’t use a compass. He can mark out his centers with a compass, just draw the desired (or slightly larger) diameter on the end grain of the stock.

    next volley.

  4. I once watched a smith at a medievel faire make a turning gouge for the guy set up turning.

    It was made from round stock, heated near white. Basically used a cold chisel to begin opening up the stock and various hammers to form the U. The beginning end of the flute was a decided V shape from the cold chisel while the end of the flute was roundish and flared.

    End result was very much like the Stent panel’s gouge.

    Take care, Mike

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