The following is excerpted from “Mechanic’s Companion,” by Peter Nicholson, one of the foundational English-language texts in woodworking and the building trades. First published in 1812, “Mechanic’s Companion” is an invaluable and thorough treatment of techniques, with 40 plates that provide an excellent and detailed look at the tools of the time, along with a straightforward chapter on the geometry instruction necessary to the building trades.
If you work with hand tools, you will find useful primary-source information on how to use the tools at the bench. That’s because Nicholson – unlike other technical writers of the time – was a trained cabinetmaker, who later became an architect, prolific author and teacher. So he writes (and writes well) with the authority of experience and clarity on all things carpentry and joinery. For the other trades covered – bricklaying, masonry, slating, plastering, painting, smithing and turning – he relies on masters for solid information and relays it in easy-to-understand prose.
A B the treadle or foot-board.
a the manner of fixing the treadle to the floor.
C the crank hook, hooked into a staple, and the end of the piece A.
D the crank for turning the fly with the upper part of the crank hook formed into a collar for embracing the crank.
E the fly. heel with several angular grooves cut in its circumference, in order to hold the band and keep it from sliding.
F the pillar for supporting the end of the mandrel.
G the puppet supporting the end of the mandrel, which holds the chuck.
H the right hand puppet, containing the fore centre, which is tightened by means of a screw.
I, K the legs, the fly being supported by that of I, the other end is supported by an upright between the legs.
L the mandrel, showing the end of the spindle projecting over the puppet G, in order to receive the chuck.
M the rest, tightened below by means of a screw, and made so as to be fixed in any position to the chuck.
N a foot-board.
O several of the most useful tools employed in turning.
4 thoughts on “‘The Foot Lathe in its General Construction ‘”
I’ve heard that everyone at Guantanamo has a foot lathe.
Great looking foot lathe. Does the Mechainics Companion have details so a repoduction could be crafted?
So I looked over the image for the foot lathe and always saw the same design on the pbs woodworking show out of NC( brain farted the name); here’s some food for thought from years of gym time and previous anatomy classes…the muscles which push down the pedal on the toe are mainly your gastrocnemius, soléis, and the lower part of your quad right above the knee (depending on standing vs seated position). Why hasn’t anyone developed the lever to be pushed down with the heel? In a seated position this would be not feasible as it would utilize the anterior tibiales, but in a standing position (which seams always the case when using the machine, you incorporate more upper leg muscle, quad and hammy together, which would lessen fatigue. Just a thought… I know our lower leg just as our arms “bounce back” the following day from repeated use, but I wouldn’t think most people continually use this type of lathe day in and day out. Any thoughts?
I’ve found good use of that book for working out 19th century masonry, it’s worth going beyond the bits relating to timber.
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