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JOEL Joel's Blog

An Update on the Gramercy Tools Treadle Lathe


The lathe folded and about to be set up
The lathe folded and about to be set up

Last September, we took the first prototype of the Gramercy Tools Treadle Lathe for a public outing to the Handworks show in Amana. It was a smashing success - but only a step in the project's development. After one dramatic breakage and lots of user feedback, we went back to Brooklyn with tons of ideas for the second prototype - and more importantly, the road towards production.

This is the first folding treadle lathe ever made. Here is a quick slide show going from folded to assembled.

The actual lathe is pretty light and aluminum, but the flywheel is cast iron and very heavy by design. That does make the lathe a little harder to start, especially when you are first learning, but once you get used to it, the heavy flywheel lets you power through real work.

The first prototype had a welded frame, but all the hinges and accoutrements were bolted on. This added a lot of wobble, which we needed to address. In addition, the forces upon the treadle bar that connected the power drive to the crank and the flywheel were way higher than we had initially thought, leading to a break at the Handworks show. Fortunately we got it welded together at the show so we could continue using the lathe, and the welded treadle was a massive improvement over the original bolted version. We saw that the power transmission over a solid weld was much better - so much better that we decided to make the next version entirely welded. Welding is actually the reason it has taken so long to get to this point of the second prototype. In order to weld, we needed to redesign a bunch of parts; learn how to weld aluminum; and then set up a vented area for the actual welding in our rather packed shop. Fortunately we already had a large vented area over the heat-treat department, so we put all our heat-treat kilns on wheels and moved them out of the way. Then we ran a 220 line for our newly acquired welder, and got proper screens to shield the rest of the shop. That took much longer than we hoped, but the end results are (1) we can produce nice clean welds and (2) the entire design is actually changed for the better.

The weight of the cast iron tool rest and tailstock was also a problem for folding. So this version has both an aluminum tool rest and tailstock. We are liking these fabricated versions. Production will have cast aluminum tailstock, toolrest, and headstock.

We did other stuff as you would expect with a project of this size. There are still a few odd and ends that need final approval, but the big news is that the flywheel and pulley castings have been approved for production, so we are going forward on that. Other casting and parts we hope to get moving this week or next.
Once we have prototype production parts, we will open up pre-orders.

The first prototype that we took to Amana has been taken apart to enable this second prototype. We hope to have the third and final prototype as soon as production parts start showing up.

Click here for more information about the lathe and you can also add you email if you wish to the update mailing list for the Lathe.

The new lighter tailstock
The new lighter tailstock

The headstock and new tailstock
The headstock and new tailstock


 In use.
In use.

Join the conversation
05/01/2024 Richard Carter
Keep me informed on the development of the treadle lathe. I also live in an apartment equipped with hand tools for wood working.
05/01/2024 Roy Underhill
Looks great! I want one in anodized blue!
05/01/2024 Bob Easton
Looking fabulous! Can the foot pedal be moved along the length of the lathe? Hard to tell for sure from these pics.
Yes - The pedal can be positioned anywhere.
05/01/2024 Jeff in RI
Very nice, do they make a Scroll Saw attachment? And would you carry it? I hope so!
05/01/2024 Bob Leistner
Are all the wear parts off-the-shelf, including the belt? 100 years from now, will want to use it.
05/01/2024 Clay
Can you move the foot pedal to tail stock end for table legs say?
You might have missed this in the blog but we are the ones making it. I definitely want to offer a scroll saw attachment and while plans for them are readily available, I don't think we will be able to sit down and design one until after the main unit gets out the door. We also have ideas for other attachments.

Bob - Depends. All the aluminum is our design but the belt is a custom length from a belt maker - standard stuff. And of course the bearing and fittings are all off the shelf.

Clay - Yes - the treadle moves everywhere - that's a very important feature if you want to have a bed as long as ours. You always have to be able to turn in a comfortable position. Not to mention I am left handed and footed so what is comfortable for me might not be for you.
05/03/2024 martin
Having spun on a two peddle spinning wheel, it is much smoother and easier to use. Was there ever a two peddle lathe, maybe with a built in seat? If not, maybe something for you to try!
Two pedal lathes certainly existed in the 19th century. Barnes for one made them. But they were not very popular. I don't know why. I do know that they have to cost more and unless the bed is really short you have to be able to shift the seat and pedals left to right. Which isn't trivial to do. I also know that once you get the lathe up to speed you are pedaling at a fairly leisurely pace and using both legs isn't much of an advantage. Our flywheel weighs about 35 pounds and that is at the low end of what a good 19th century lathe would have. about 30-100 lbs, depending on how heavy a cut you want to make is the norm. 100lbs being for things like cast iron on a metal turning lathe.
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