Craft & Design Fun & Games Woodworking

Stewert King shot this video of a talented woodworker in the streets of Marrakech using a bow lathe to turn out a chess piece. This simple hand-powered tool, in the right hands (and in this case feet), can produce intricately carved items in a matter of minutes. The show of skill and dexterity is truly mesmerizing. [via Reddit]

22 thoughts on “Moroccan Bow Lathe

  1. Blimey, that’s bloody impressive. I’ve never seen a bow lathe before, looks quite uncomfortable to use.

    However, I can’t help but think that if the chap scavenged a bicycle, he could use the pedal system to free up both hands and provide continuous rotation via his feet.

    1. I agree, bow lathes are quite impressive (my first time seeing one, too). However, some of what makes it so awesome is its simplicity. Almost no moving parts except the bow, which is easy to replace.
      I don’t know why, but I really like tools that you can make if you became Robinson Crusoe.

      1. I think you’re missing the significance of his left foot.  It’s not idle.  There is no mechanical stop for the tailstock. 

        Another small detail is that he never cuts the cord for the bow, the excess is just strung behind him.  If it ever breaks, he can just re-string it.

        So no, I really don’t think he’s letting ANYTHING go to waste here.  I really like it.

        I imagine he could make a hell of a lot more than chess pieces, though!

    2. Pedaling while trying to use a lathe would actually be bad, as it would likely throw off your balance.  The 2 more advanced forms of lathes after this are spring pole (basically, a bow lathe where a push down on a pedal stores the energy in a pole, and a release of the pedal spins the piece in the cutting stroke http://www.pbs.org/woodwrightsshop/tools/Lathe_spring_pole.html ) or a Treadle lathe where a down stroke on a pedal powers a flywheel.  In both these, one foot is planted firmly on the ground for stability.  Treadle lathes were actually often set up so the apprentice powered the lathe while the master cut. http://rizaydog.webs.com/treadlelathebuild.htm

  2. This would, even in modified form for easier setup, make a good article for Make mag! It’s simple and could be useful for those who don’t want to deal with motorized lathes or don’t need lathes often.

  3. Curiously, the tool seems to cut on bth opposed turns of the piece… that must be a very, very, very sharp chisel!

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I make cool stuff and write about other people making cool stuff on makezine.com. If you have something you think I should see, send me a tip.

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