Pole Lathe 2000

discussion of the niceties of turning on a bow, bungee or pole lathe.

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Re: Pole Lathe 2000

Postby Mark Allery » Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:09 pm

Peter,

it seems as if you have fallen for John Evelyn's assertion that Birch is the worst of timbers. I thought that people in the US knew better than that?

I burn almost entirely birch as firewood and to make charcoal and I can say that it burns much better than does the oak to which I have access. Although in truth each timber has its strengths, my preference being to mix birch (and/or ash) and beech for fuel. Interestingly the static strength of birch (axial compressive) is almost identical to that of oak! (Manual of wood decays, K Weber, C Mattheck).

My most recent pole lathe 2000 is made entirely from local birch that I felled and milled myself. From memory the 2inch stock had been stored, not particularly well, for just under a year by the time that I used it. No serious problems with warping. It's quite light for carrying - but the polelathe 2000 is primarily a light design and suffers most in this respect. Here it is;

http://woodlandantics.blogspot.com/2008/12/polelathe-get-handle-on-it.html

I don't the legs in the cart shed, I just bang it into a friction fit on the uprights. And for purely gratuitous drivel on the uses and merits of birch

http://woodlandantics.blogspot.com/2009/01/greenwood-happy-birch-day.html

Luckily for the Scandinavians, they don't seem to share your opinion of the birch tree, which has made Mr IKEA one of the worlds richest people.

A slightly more serious point on the original subject, it is perfectly possible to protect birch in the open by treating it. It seems a little unfair that we are quite prepared to treat softwoods but dismiss birch without even giving it a chance. Oiling would be the simplest treatment. My birch lathe is quite happy in the rain at shows providing that I keep it well oiled (same as me really!). My cider press is made from birch and I use both oil and bees wax on this during the pressing season. The rest of the year it remains under a plastic tarp and seems quite happy as long as it was oiled up well enough.
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Re: Pole Lathe 2000

Postby Bob_Fleet » Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:01 pm

I'm with the consensus and think that birch is under-rated too.
I have to agree though that if left outside unprotected and damp it rots very quickly. We used some birch poles as path edging and after a few years they need replaced so the lesson is not that birch is no good but you need to use it appropriately.

In the picture of my lathe above - http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/onegoodturn/images/hawickpl.JPG the legs, feet, the pole with my foot on are all birch. Cut and used round and only get wet like Mark's at a demo otherwise stored dry. The bed is sycamore I think.

I've turned spindles, bowls and carved spoons from it. Great stuff - nice grain and nice figure on some.
Here are two burr birch bowls - mother and daughter from the same burr http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/onegoodturn/images/burrbirchpair1.jpg

I think it gets a bad reputation because it isn't appreciated so much as a tree in it's own right. We see it as a weed in the woodlands and are always cutting it back as it's so prolific. We all want mature old woods with oak and beech and ash so we seem to think that the pioneer species such as birch, hazel and alder etc. because they are only a 'temporary' measure don't have the same value as the mature stage trees.
I've even fallen into the trap myself and though I do have seperate species on my website - birch is lumped in with 'other'.

I'm not the greatest fan of birch but it has it's place and isn't as valueless as it's made out.

Where would corporal punishment be without it?
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Re: Pole Lathe 2000

Postby Follansbee » Thu Jan 15, 2009 3:14 am

OK, I have several things to say. First off, boy - do you guys really like birch! Thanks to Mark & Fleetpeople for their explications on birch, its uses & strengths...but as long as there is still oak to be used, I still will opt for it over any other hardwood...except ash for a turned chair.

Robin F - thanks for the view of the lathe at the Science Museum, but why would you think it's not framed from green oak - think of every old timber-framed house in your country. No one in their right mind tries to hew & mortise dry oak...

So, here I am, born in America, but of English descent...championing the oak to the greenie-woodsie crowd back home...am I really the only one around who makes stuff from green oak other than ladderback chairs????? where are the Quercus-o-philes?

And as far as the Scandinavians & their birch - the old, traditional stuff I can at least respect, but Mr IKEA? Sorry, but that's not furniture. I am reminded of a quote I saw recently "Some poor people work all their lives, and all they ever make is money."

All in good fun,
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Re: Pole Lathe 2000

Postby robin wood » Thu Jan 15, 2009 8:43 am

Ho ho a very fun little debate. Yes peter I believe you are the only one I know making anything other than timber frames or ladderback chairs in green oak and when I go round any old country house and see the sheer volume of 17th C oak furniture I wonder why no one is doing it over here. Surely there must be a market. I think it is just a case that few people go back to original stuff for inspiration most are just working from Mike Abbott's books or copying things they have seen other "new generation bodgers" doing. So there is the challenge who will take it up and make an English green oak framed chair?

As for birch I am a big fan too. Like peter if I had the choice of birch or oak for a lathe I would use oak every time, two reasons one is mass, I like a lathe that does not wander around, the other is durability, I would rather not have to keep oiling and worrying about rot. Having said that lathes are quick and easy to build so I have no problem of making one out of birch, burning it in a year or two and making another.

Last thing there was a question early on about how the green wood will move and twist and whether you can predict it. Well yes it is totally predictable.

Basically if you start from a clean straight log without spiral and saw straight boards they will cup a little but of ripped down the centre they will remain straight and true as they dry. If you saw a spiral log into straight boards as it dries it will dry back into a spiral so you can only use it in short lengths. If you cut a curved or wiggly log into a straight board then it will dry curved and wiggly. The trick is to understand the timber you have and use it appropriately. Keep the big clean stuff for boards and use the second rate stuff for bigger heftier timbers.
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Re: Pole Lathe 2000

Postby Mark Allery » Thu Jan 15, 2009 11:15 am

An excellent discussion, thank you. I wasn't aware that oak wasn't being used. I know that a friend of mine, at Amberley working museum enjoys turning oak when he can get it. Just to be clear, I am not in any way against using green oak. My supply of timber is limited and I will try to get the best from what I have.

Yes I agree that oak will always make a sturdier lathe, and that lack of mass and stability is the main shortcoming of the pole lathe 2000. But this thread is entitled pole lathe 2000 and there is a reason for its design, as Mike Abbott says, he can get the lathe into the back of a Nissan Micra - if thats not environmentally friendly I don't know what is. The collapsable legs make it so much easier to transport, store and assemble. It seems counter productive to take such a light weight design and build if from a heavier wood, especially if you have a lighter one around that is perfectly good enough. Of course a sturdier lathe will be much better built from oak, and even more so if you don't use the pole lathe 2000 single bed and collapsable legs.

So it's not a Birch versus Oak thing for me, even if I have a heart of birch, instead of a heart of oak (and a keel of elm) :-) it's more about the philosophy of the lathe, which is aimed at getting people started particularly using what they have access to. My first lathe (also a pole lathe 2000 based design) was made entirely from old softwood roofing joists salvaged from a skip. I had no idea where to get hardwood or even roundwood, and throwing more difficulties in my way would have frustrated me from achieving the goal - building the lathe in a weekend, before I went back to the office. So Mike Abbott's book, pole-lathe 2000 and all its short comings, and his careful cutting list, were actually an important stepping stone in freeing me from the office ratrun, for which I am eternally grateful.

Robin, its a very good point that we tend to copy what we see demonstrated - must be one of the most powerful learning techniques. Probably 95% of what I do is just copying from others, but that other 5% can be anything that catches my mind, the more radical the better. It's precisely because nobody round here has been using birch that 5% of my time has been looking at the merits of it. So much birch is cleared here every year and a lot is burned on site by volunteers. This struck me as wrong, and so I am keen to bring the uses of birch much more to the fore and it's extremely traditional around here. Not in the big houses, they all had the oak (and I guess thats why it still in these big houses), but it was profits from besoms that build my local pub, and the broom squires all worked at the bottom of their gardens in this road. So please excuse me if I am little evangelical on the subject. As there are more and more of us working green wood, I am sure that green oak will also be taken up. I have a friend (who demonstrates at Amberley) who is keen on turning green oak - maybe its happening already?

Oh - and thanks for the common sense guide to planking. Seems to stick in my memory better than the theory books. I have a big oak stem to plank in the next couple of months so I will be using it. After hearing what you say I'd like to quarter saw if I can,

great stuff, and all in fun as Peter says.

cheers

Mark
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Re: Pole Lathe 2000

Postby robin wood » Thu Jan 15, 2009 3:00 pm

Hi Mark,

Going even more off topic, I am surprised folks are clearing birch. Is that on heathland or in woodland? I can understand it if it's growing somewhere you want to graze and maintain open heath or grassland but in woodland it would seem a complete waste of time and in fact very counterproductive from a nature conservation point of view. If I remember corectly birch comes third behind willow and oak in the number of invertebrate species it supports and it acts as a wonderful nurse crop for other trees helpong them grow up tall and straight without shading them out.

As for the environmental benefit of driving a lathe around in a Nissan Micra, I will start another thread on that on because it is one of my bugbears.
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Re: Pole Lathe 2000

Postby Mark Allery » Thu Jan 15, 2009 3:29 pm

Sorry Robin. I thought the Nissan Micra comment might get some steam up and prove too provocative, I should have put a smiley on it :-)

Sorry about this off-topic,

Yes, Surrey and West Sussex contain a lot of remnant lowland heath. Personally I prefer woodland, but since over 95% of the lowland heath has disappeared in the last 100years making it one of Europes rarest habitats. As Southern England has the lions share of what remains there is a strong drive to protect what remains.

I'd describe the 300acres I help to manage as a heathland mosaic, so its part woodland pasture, part scrub and part heathland. Technically lowland heath would only have about 12 trees an acre. Who dreams these things up? It's a vision of mine to be able to manage the scrub regrowth as a form of coppice so that we are continually working areas enabling us to harvest the heathland as it would have originally been created, givus maximum biodiversity and allowing us to grow selected trees on to form new woodland as well as thinning and clearing small areas of woodland to restore heathland. Hope that makes sense. It can be quite hard to explain to people why we are cutting trees down in the interests of conservation. It's one reason I am keen to maximise the usage of the brash/scrub that is cut rather than just burning it or chipping it (although you can't chip on heathland as it would instantly stop being heathland). The merits of heathland as a carbon sink are only just starting to get some attention. There is a view that creating peat is a better carbon store than trees, an interesting topic for some future discussion.

When I got involved we were spraying, cutting mechanically and burning almost everything in sight. Recently we have managed to introducing cutting birch for horse-jumps,

http://woodlandantics.blogspot.com/2009/01/lynchmere-common-cutting-birch-for.html

and for pea-sticks and beanpoles

http://woodlandantics.blogspot.com/2008/12/cutting-pea-sticks-and-bean-poles.html

as well as for besoms, firewood and charcoal. Much more to do, but at least we've stopped spraying, reduced the mechanical work and are starting to use some of the take-off, so its encouraging.
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Re: Pole Lathe 2000

Postby Bob_Fleet » Thu Jan 15, 2009 4:33 pm

We have birch growing like grass.
Some areas of our woodland were felled following a storm and the few birch left are extremely good at reseeding it.
Other areas had trees planted in tubes and in between them the birch have grown in abundance and are now swamping them.
Once they get to a certain height and the canopies meet, sound like huge trees but actually about 6', they crowd everything out.
We then need to clear the area and there are several rules;
1 Clear around any tubes
2 Leave what isn't birch or sitka
3 if neither of the above, don't leave a field behind you but leave the better birch but more widely spaced.
4 cut at ground level so they don't stab everyone
There's a picture at http://www.wooplaw.org.uk/forum/photos/show-album.asp?albumid=44&photoid=389 showing the end results.
This is how it starts http://www.wooplaw.org.uk/forum/photos/show-album.asp?albumid=11&photoid=90
You'll see that most of the trees left are actually birch.

I'm not the greatest friend of birch but it does have it's place
a) as timber and I've already gone on about that (however I prefer Oak but birch is more available)
b) as a tree - it supports quite a lot of wildlife and as it rots seems to increase that. If standing we get woodpeckers and if fallen it's hooching with beasties.

When we are "birch bashing" we quite often end up taking a load and planting them on the way home or locally on wide verges - a linear forest.
Don't know if we can get a grant for that.

Also the heaps are good wildlife habitat and we don't have a besom making industry set up here but they're welcome to start.

I don't think this should become a pro/anti birch arguement because it's not like that. Everything in it's place and although I prefer other timber/trees I won't say no to birch. Please don't read into this that my favourite wood is birch, just that it's there and shouldn't be ignored.

Maybe another thread on "my favourite tree/timber". One man's meat is another man's poison.

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Re: Pole Lathe 2000

Postby cagsley » Sat Mar 28, 2009 3:18 am

Well it's finished? I stuggled with the poppets as I haven't got a thickneser so had to plane the timbers with a hand held electric plane. It was all done whilst on nights so maybe lacks a little accuracy. I have had it spinning with a bobbin spring and am greatly pleased. I hope it will wander less when on grass etc as I had to follow it across the lino in the workshop. It is all birch apart from the board for the treadle which is larch. I am itching to try it but as yet don't have and chisels/gouges. I was supposed to be waiting till the BB to look for some, but am now wondering if This Set on ebay at £70 may be better.

1 1/2" square roughing out gouge

2" square chisel

3/4" skew chisel

3/8" spindle gouge

What do people think?

I still have 3 big Oak logs as yet un milled and will look at lathes at BB with a view to making a fixed heavy lathe in our wood which with 2 sets of poppets may be suitable for bowls as well eventually.

I will assemble mine at home and linseed oil it and admire it until I can use it.

Thanks for the help/advice.
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Re: Pole Lathe 2000

Postby gavin » Sat Mar 28, 2009 8:08 am

cagsley wrote: I am itching to try it but as yet don't have and chisels/gouges.

Contact Mike Abbott and get a set of his Ashley Iles tools. They are purpose made, and with 25 degree bevel you want for greenwood working. Power tools will be from 45 to 70 degrees bevel. That's a lot of metal to remove to get even to 30 degrees.

Re your vertical post: If you lead the post INSIDE the legs, they will splay outwards and jam without need of clamping, or fixing with a horizontal wire.
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Re: Pole Lathe 2000

Postby jrccaim » Sun Apr 05, 2009 4:02 am

The Scandianvians, including Finns, use birch a great deal because it's what they have. Me too: there is little difference in latitude between, say, Helsinski and Willow, Alaska. I have a choice of two: birch or spruce. If I want to extend my choices (and spend no money!) I resort to cargo pallets. This is a little like prospecting for gold: you get a lot of gravel mixed in with a few shiny nuggets. There are quite a number of oak pallets out there; indeed my whole experience with this wood is based on cargo pallets. Most pallets are, as somebody in Fine Woodworking magazine put it, "asiatic woods of dubious moral character," but now and then you get mahogany! For many people, wood on the hoof is unobtainable. To them, I recommend the humble cargo pallet. Hint: carry a little scrub plane when you go prospecting in pallet-land. Plane off the surface grime, grunge, and corruption. See if you have gravel or gold.
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Re: Pole Lathe 2000

Postby Steve Martin » Sun Apr 05, 2009 6:22 am

J.R., it sounds like you are in quite a fix. Although, like pallet wood, it's not greenwood, an acquaintance of mine has agreements with two cabinet companies (making and installing cabinets) and one furniture manufacturer, to go through their scrap wood bins right before they are sent to the dump. He regularly retrieves cherry, maple, both hard and soft maple, mahogany, hickory, oak and various other "exotics". He's been working and turning wood for over twenty-five years and has never had to pay for wood. When I get stuck with green wood pieces that have dried out more than I like, I simply submerse them in water for a couple of hours or more. Then they turn more like greenwood on my pole lathe. In July and August, when it dries out the wood on the lathe very fast, especially when selling an item or demonstrating the drawknife/shaving horse or other traditional technique, I spray water on the dried out blank mounted on the lathe and start turning away. Not the greatest solution, but when I'm in a fix, it gets me through the day. Maybe it will be of some benefit to you as well. Happy turning.
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Re: Pole Lathe 2000

Postby cagsley » Sun Apr 05, 2009 9:37 am

Well my lathe tools arrived yesterday so I was straight out with my copy of Mike Abbotts book to try a rounders bat. Stopped it dead twice, had to ask my neighbour if I could get it back from his garden once :oops: After an hour and a half I ended up with a peg that I may be able to use in a new shave horse etc. I was really pleased with myself anyway and was going to post a pic but my wife said not to as it looks phallic to her. As I don't have access to Ash I was trying Oak and was wondering if I have made it deliberately hard for myself? I may try to turn some Birch next and see what that is like. I will have to try more practice, but if anyone needs any help on stopping a workpiece quickly with a gouge just give me a shout.

Craig.

Ps My longest shaving measured just over 6 inches, something to aim for next time.
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Re: Pole Lathe 2000

Postby Mark Allery » Thu Apr 09, 2009 10:43 pm

Craig,

sounds pretty good to me. I'm not so far from being a beginner that I can still remember how hard it was to rough the first blanks. You might be right, unless the oak is very fresh it could be a bit tougher than other woods. Softer woods like field maple, sycamore and alder would be good practice. Birch is soft when very fresh, but can be very hard once its seasoned. Ash should be quite soft to turn green, but sometimes it can be quite stubborn as well.

A ped sounds useful Could have been worse, how about a kebab stick?

6 inch shavings sounds like a good sign to me,

keep it going,

cheers

Mark
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Re: Pole Lathe 2000

Postby Rich Dyson » Tue May 26, 2009 10:08 pm

On the basis that there is no such thing as a stupid question I'll dive in.

Is there any reason why I need to make two moveable poppets for a pole lathe :?:

Looking at the design for a Pole Lathe 2000 it appears that I could just increase the height of one of the vertical uprights to receive the fixed centre and then form a support for the tool rest with a block of wood :idea:

Has anyone tried this modification or is here some reason why it will not work?
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