CNC & Machining Woodworking
A Foot-Powered Lathe

Youtube user QueticoChris recently acquired an old cast-iron flywheel, and it got him to thinking. Why not use it as a power-plant for a wood lathe? You see, Chris is quite passionate about old-style woodworking techniques and uses hand tools whenever possible. Keeping in this tradition, Chris used the flywheel to build a wood lathe that’s powered by a foot treadle.

Other than having a machinist cut a groove in the flywheel to fit a pulley, he exclusively used hand tools and wood to craft the apparatus that fit the lathe. Every part is friction fit and held together tightly by wooden pegs. It’s really a marvel of vintage engineering, and as you can see at the end of the video, his contraption works gorgeously. Chris manages to pump out quite a nice handle for a large chisel in need of one. I’m excited to see more projects from this maker.

22 thoughts on “A Foot-Powered Lathe

  1. ameyring: the music is called “The Entertainer”, best known as performed by Scott Joplin at the turn of last century. They used is in “The Sting”, which made it popular again in the 1970s.

    1. Thank you. It did sound like the Entertainer, but I wasn’t sure if it was all Entertainer or a mix of segments from different tunes. Back to the video, I’m impressed with the wall of cutting tools!

  2. You sir win the Internet. This is quite possibly the single most beautiful thing I have ever seen built. It is gorgeous, and oh so useful. I am flabbergasted and delighted beyond comprehension at the same time. Stupendous, amazing, impressive, a work of art and technology at one time. I bow down to you!

  3. just viewed the video, the whole family was glued to my laptop for the entire show, you sir are amazing and we salute you for your skill and entertaining show of your foot powered lathe

  4. That was the most incredible use of hand wood working tools I have ever witnessed and absolute genius in visualizing all of it from looking at a single, used flywheel.

    Standing ovation.

    I agree, you win the internet today sir.

    The best part is that this lathe is now an heirloom piece for it will surely be easy to make or replace any wear items.

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In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens' educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

View more articles by Michael Colombo