An deil choise – the foot loom

I’ve called this blog thrown and riven to try and capture the two major threads in all my woodworking – turning and green woodworking. The word thrown derives from an old english word that meant to turn or twist, which survives in the term to “throw” a pot. I like the fact that it links the pole lathe turned bowl, with its characteristic texture and form, to a thrown clay pot.

I have plans to write more about the “loom” as it’s called in Ireland, and the history and heritage of the pole lathe that survived just about into living memory before all but disappearing. For now I just want to share my fascination for these most simple of machines with a few examples from around the world that I have come across.

Here is one from Japan:

This one is from China:

And I just saw today that it has inspired Jarrod Stone Dahl ( to begin working on a lathe for his end grain bows and cups. This is a fantastic endeavour! I myself am keen to make an attempt at this, but would like to try the two-footed approach and make a lathe specific for the purpose, rather than adapting the familiar pole lathe set up.


Another variation that I want to try is the style I have only seen in use in the photo’s of the Tixileiros of Asturias in northern Spain. These lathes have a big offset between the plane of the tool rest and the centres, allowing the turner to easily create a deep undercut of the rim of a bowl or box. At least that is one reason for the offset I have hypothesised, it does also help create a good angle for the hook tool to cut at. I have in the past adapted my lathe so it can effectively function in this way for making drinking bowls, but again it would be best to make a lathe specifically to that design in my opinion.

Photo credit:

Another example this time from Algeria. The turner is stood in a hole, and his foot goes directly to the drive strap. Photos from Hilton-Simpson, M.W. (1924) “The Pole-Lathe in Algeria and in England”, Man, 24;49-51.

Screen Shot 2015-11-07 at 21.49.01 Screen Shot 2015-11-07 at 21.50.24

Of course this wouldn’t be complete without including Robin Wood’s lathe. I’m not sure if the world of pole lathe turning would ever have come onto my radar if it was not for this video:

And finally a couple of examples of my own more boring lathes:

The main lathe I am using at the moment in Wales.
The main lathe I am using at the moment in Wales with a plate half thrown.


This is the lathe in my family home that was the first one I made. It works as well as any of the others.


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