power cord of old?

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

Moderators: jrccaim, Bob_Fleet, gavin, Robin Fawcett, HughSpencer

power cord of old?

Postby Johan Davidsson » Sat Apr 23, 2005 11:27 am

Hi i´m a craft student i sweden and i´m reconstructing an pole lathe from the 1700´s, after Hulot´s illustration.
One thing I can´t find any information on is what kind of power cord was used in the old days.
Can anyone help me?
Johan Davidsson -woodcrafter in Sweden
Johan Davidsson
new member
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue Apr 05, 2005 5:23 pm
Location: Sweden

power cord of old?

Postby gavin » Thu May 19, 2005 9:41 am

Try leather thong of various widths and thicknesses. Or any cord laid from natural fibre. If you want to be authentic, lay it up in the old-fashioned way on your thigh.
I have heard that seal skin can give you a one-way, ratchet type effect. This may mean your lathe conserves forward momentum.
User avatar
Posts: 1595
Joined: Mon May 16, 2005 4:17 pm
Location: Dalbeattie, near Dumfries, Scotland

Postby Guest » Sat Jul 09, 2005 2:07 pm

I am in the same position as Johan, having built a replica 14c lathe. With a lot of help from Gudrun Lietz.
I will be giving leather thong a try and maybe some linen thread on a 3 way plat.
I will post any results.
P.S. I will also take some nylon cord along !

Postby Chip » Sun Jul 24, 2005 12:59 pm

I tried out some luceted linen cord, it did not last more that 15 mins before breaking.
I also had some cotton cord rom B&Q. that was slightly better, maybe giving 45 min to an hour.
I ended up using som mylon cord, that was not much different from the cotton.

the weather was very hot, so that may have made a bit of difference.

Being quite new to pole lathing would a wide cord running area be better and give longer life to the cord ??
new member
Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Jul 09, 2005 2:14 pm
Location: Essex


Postby HughSpencer » Sun Jul 24, 2005 9:28 pm

3 to 4 mm nylon cord, woven outer, twisted inner. I'd expect this to last several weeks.
The same sort of size cord in kevlar ( Mike Gordon sells it in the Gazette) I have not worn any out. I'm told it does harden with age.

Are you using too stiff a spring? Take a look at the poles in the photos in the Gallery pages. 1-1.5" diameter at the tip and 12-18' is the norm.

Bowl turning really needs a thicker cord as you have to use a stronger spring.

Make sure the cord does not rub against itself as it passes round the work or it will fray quickly. Its better that it runs fron side to side a bit as it turns the work.
User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 430
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 12:05 am
Location: Peterborough

Postby Chip » Mon Jul 25, 2005 7:33 pm

I am realy after a natural fibred cord for use at historical re-enactments.
I will be getting some kevlar cord for "normal" use.
thanks for the tip, I am off to measure my pole.
new member
Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Jul 09, 2005 2:14 pm
Location: Essex

Postby MikeGordon » Fri Jul 29, 2005 7:24 pm

Which cord to use? For authentic demonstrations durability is likely to be a problem, but I do wonder about a leather strip. I personally am not bothered about the authenticity of the cord hence selling a very high tech cord. I was surprised to hear that some cords only last for a matter of minutes. The cord that I am currently selling lasts for so much longer there is no real comparison. Admittedly my cord sells for 95 pence per metre, but the long term economics seem to make sence. I have now completed in the region of twenty hours of turning on the same length of cord. It looks really tatty as the outer sheath wore away several hours ago, but the inner core is still going strong. I was dissapointed with the sheath wearing out so quickly, but pleased and relieved, to find the core is lasting much longer.
Posts: 11
Joined: Sun Feb 13, 2005 9:59 pm
Location: East Sussex

Polelathe cord

Postby Robin Fawcett » Mon Aug 01, 2005 8:28 pm

I've finally got round to trying out some cord I bought ages ago. It looks like hemp but is made from nylon. After about 15 hrs use it hasnt even started to go 'fuzzy' - quite impressive.
I've been using it with a bobbin but sometimes I use a bungee - hardly ever a pole perhaps this may have some effect on wear patterns ?
I also know people who soak nylon cord in tea to give it an "ambient" look - being a purist is quite hard work !
I bought the Hempex in a ships chandlers in Shaftesbury Avenue in London ages ago - I will try to find out who makes it.
User avatar
Robin Fawcett
Site Admin
Posts: 974
Joined: Tue Mar 01, 2005 8:47 pm
Location: Essex/Herts/London

Postby Chip » Tue Aug 02, 2005 4:27 pm

The soaking in tea is quite common in the strange world of re-enactment. It gives cotton the apearence of flax, which was much more common pre 18c.
I have got large cotton decorators sheets to use as ground sheets and shaving collection sheets stained with tea. A wet season gives much the same effect !!
I think it will have to be kevlar for the time being whilst I play with different materials.
new member
Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Jul 09, 2005 2:14 pm
Location: Essex

Postby Chip » Sat Sep 17, 2005 5:47 pm

I had a successful day at Corfe Castle last weekend. The saturday was very damp and I did not want to get out my new chisels, so preped a couple of pieces of ash.
The sunday was fine, after lunch, when I felt It safe to handle sharp objects again !!!
Using a cotton type cord I had a good afternoon, with no breakage.

Sorry Mike, I have not used the kevlar cord yet, as it has the coloured theads running through it, but maybe this weekend in the woods.
new member
Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Jul 09, 2005 2:14 pm
Location: Essex

Postby Andrea L Willett » Sat Jun 14, 2008 9:17 am

What about rope, as in hemp or sisal?

Andrea L Willett
Posts: 41
Joined: Sat May 31, 2008 2:20 pm
Location: Geelong, Victoria, Australia

Postby robin wood » Sat Jun 14, 2008 9:28 am

I have not tried sisal but had some nice hemp rope which worked well without fraying. All the oldest pole lathe pictures are bowlturning and the pictures clearly show they are using straps rather than cords.
http://www.robin-wood.co.uk bowls, books and courses
User avatar
robin wood
Posts: 1670
Joined: Thu Mar 30, 2006 10:21 am
Location: derbyshire

Postby Wayne Batchelor » Sat Jun 14, 2008 9:36 pm

I've been using a 20mm wide leather strap on my lathe made from veg tan leather. To toughen it up I gave it a good soaking in water and then hammered it flat to compress the fibres, and when dry rubbed in some Neats foot oil. I haven't used it that much yet but except for some stretching looks fine.
User avatar
Wayne Batchelor
Posts: 17
Joined: Tue Apr 22, 2008 9:11 am
Location: Sussex

Re: power cord of old?

Postby Follansbee » Sun Jun 15, 2008 1:43 am

[quote="Johan Davidsson... i´m reconstructing an pole lathe from the 1700´s, after Hulot´s illustration.
One thing I can´t find any information on is what kind of power cord was used in the old days. [/quote]

Well, I thought I'd chime in with some of my usual 17th c junk...here's the section of Joseph Moxon's Mechanick Exercises (1678-83) on the "string" for a pole lathe. it's kinda long, and only of interest to some...apologies otherwise. I have never used sheep gut for my pole lathe. I use 1/8" nylon cord. lasts & lasts...and much of my turning is on square sections of oak for joined stools and wainscot chairs. The nylon stands up to working on those square corners pretty well.
P. Follansbee

here's the Moxon quote

Upon the thin end of the Pole is wound a considerable Bundle of String, that as a Mandrel requires to be bigger than ordinary, or the Work heavier, they may unwind so much of the String as will compass the Mandrel twice, or (if the Work be heavy) thrice; the easier to carry it about.

This String is made of the Guts of Beasts (most commonly Sheep, and spun round of several thicknesses, of which the Workman chuses such sizes as are aptest for his Work; for large and Heavy Work, very thick, but for small and light work, thin: And there are several reasons for his Choice; for a thin String will be too weak for heavy Work; but if it were not too weak for heavy work, it would be apt to mark soft wood more than a thick String would, when they are forcÂ’d to shift the String, and let it run upon the Work. Besides, a thin String (though it were strong enough) would not so well bring heavy Work about; because being small, but little of the String touches the wood to command it, unless they wind it the oftner about the Work, which both takes up time, and hazards the breaking of the String, by the fretting of the several twists against one another.

Now a thick String is uncommodious for small work; because having a strength and stubbornness proportionable to its size, it will not comply closes to a piece of Work of small Diameter, but will be apt to slip about it, unless both Pole and Trad be very strong; and then, if the Center-holes be not very deep, and the Pikes fill them not very tight, and the Puppets also be not very well fixt, the strength of the String will alter the Center-holes; especially when the work is upon soft Wood, of else it will endanger the breaking of the work in its weakest place.
Posts: 156
Joined: Sat May 03, 2008 7:26 pm
Location: Kingston, Massachusetts USA

Pole lathe cordage

Postby Robin Fawcett » Sun Jun 15, 2008 11:41 pm

It isnÂ’t 17thC junk Peter.

I haven’t got or read that book and find and it sounds fascinating. I also use 1/8th nylon, and if you really want to make it look “ambient” - soak it in strong tea, preferably Assam, for a while. This was a trick learned from Ginette Marsh at The Chiltern Open Air Museum.

I also have had a cord called Hempex which looks like hemp but is actually nylon.

Could turners have made cordage from nettle fibres or elm or hickory or lime bark do you think ?
Green woodwork courses, treen, demonstrations & talks http://www.treewright.co.uk[/url]
User avatar
Robin Fawcett
Site Admin
Posts: 974
Joined: Tue Mar 01, 2005 8:47 pm
Location: Essex/Herts/London


Return to Polelathe turning

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests