Making Ends Meet Tudor Style – Pole Lathe Turning & Woodcarving

Pole lathe made by craftsman Huw Edwards from a number of recycled wooden objects.

The last workshop in Tudor Revels’‘Making Ends Meet Tudor Style’ series, was Pole Lathe Turning and Woodcarving.  I spent a very enjoyable afternoon, at The Hawthorns Centre on Southampton Common, learning all about these ancient rural crafts.  The pole lathe turning demonstration was given by Huw Edwards, a local Coppice Craftsman.

Huw’s shave horse. He uses this device to prepare the green wood before turning it on his pole lathe.

Huw is an expert hurdle maker too. He brought with him a selection of hurdles that he had built using coppiced hazel wood. Huw also makes hazel wood thatching spars.

A thatching spar made by Huw from a branch of split hazel wood. The wood is twisted in the middle into a ‘V’ shape. Spars are used to ‘staple’ thatching in place on a roof. We had a go at making a spar, it is beyond difficult and takes a lot of practice but once you have done your first one it does get easier. 

Hazel wood hurdle.

Twisted hazel wood hurdle ends.

One of Huw’s hurdles in the early stages of construction. The top row shows hazel wood that has been split.

Using a pole lathe to turn wood was thought to have first been practiced in ancient Egypt, c300 BCLeonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) is known to have invented a treadle lathe with a crank mechanism.  Craftsman and Woodturner, Stuart King, has actually built Da Vinci’s treadle wheel lathe, using a simple sketch c.1480 as his guide.  If you would like to learn more about Stuart’s project then I recommend that you read his article, ‘How I built Leonardo Da Vinci’s Lathe’.  It is incredible what Stuart recreated.  For the article, please Click here.

The Turners’ Company is the oldest Livery Company in the City of London. In 1179, reference to a Guild first appears: ‘..the gild of strangers of which Warner le Turner is elderman.’ (The Turners’ Company website). It wasn’t until 1604 that the Turners were granted their first Royal Charter by King James I (1566-1625).

During the Tudor period, wood-turned domestic ware became less fashionable as a result of the introduction of pewter.

The Tudor Parlour, c.1560, at Avebury Manor, Avebury, Wiltshire. The table is laid with pewter ware which became more popular, amongst the well-to-do, than wooden table ware.

Inside The Hawthorns Centre, a woodcarving display was given by The Hampshire Woodcarvers Association. So many talented craftsmen working to create a wide range of objects fashioned from all different types of wood. One gentleman was making a sculptural relief of a chimpanzee, another a Green Man plaque and another creating a sign in gothic typeface.

Further Resources