Bodger is an old word applied to a woodworker who turned wooden parts on a portable lathe powered by a treadle and a springy sapling called a pole lathe. A bodger set up his lathe in a wood where he felled and coppiced trees. The still green timber was then turned into chair legs and spindles. After a winter of hard work, the bodger loaded his cart with thousands of spindles and chair legs taking them to High Wycombe to make the world famous Windsor chairs.

My Dad built his own Pole Lathe a few years ago from scratch (the clever man he is!) and I found the photos this week when i was tidying up.


It’s powered by foot pushing down on a treadle type mechanism under the lathe which rotates the material between the spindles, A return spring (the pole) to counter rotates the work on the release of the treadle. A cord is wrapped around the work in such a way as to make the work rotate towards the user when the treadle is pressed down. The tool, a chisel, is rested on the tool rest, with the point near the work. As the treadle is pressed down, the cutting edge is pushed against the work. As the treadle is released, and the pole rises, the work rotates in the opposite direction, and the chisel is pulled back away from the work. A rhythm is built up, with a cut on the down, and a pull on the up. By moving the chisel around, the material is shaped.

In the top picture you can see the shave horse dad made to go with it. Think of it as an early work-mate. It is used to hold work still, whilst it is pre-shaped prior to going on the lathe.

The other pictures show the hand carving he did on the front of the lathe and the complete view of the lathe. Normal pole lathes would have a flexible branch over the lathe from the front, in dads case he made two poles at the sides with a flexible (bungee type) cord bwteen the two to return the treadle. Its also compatible with a branch type as well.

Make sure you click on the image to see the full size picture of the craving etc.

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