Woodturning History

Woodturning is an ancient craft known to many cultures worldwide. For many hundreds of years leading up to the Industrial Revolution, the foot-powered woodturning lathe was the only woodworking machine in common use.

Turning Between Centers
The lathe is amongst the oldest of machines. At its simplest, all that is required is a set of centers, a sharp tool, and some means of revolving the work. A piece of twine can do the revolving part. While most turners today envision wrapping the twine around the work and tying a bowline into which the turner inserts his foot, it was actually attached to a long stick that greatly multiplied the short stroke possible with the foot alone. Read more.

Muscle Machines
Are you looking for a lathe with a little more oomph than your midi lathe? Maybe a 62-foot Oliver 18-would fill the bill. Or perhaps you could drop a towering Oliver faceplate lathe—capable of 100"-diameter work—into your basement shop before turning your next bowl. Read more.

The Rise of Artistic Woodturning
At the beginning of the 20th century, the lathe was perhaps that last thing to be considered a tool for creating a bold new art form. Modern art was defined by experiments in painting and sculpture, not utility. Lathe work concerned woodworking and craft – worlds away from new art movements such as abstract expressionism and conceptualism. At the same time, the Arts & Crafts Movement had created a romantic and idealistic view of the craftsperson in opposition to the “soulless” machine production of the Industrial Revolution. The lathe was a machine closely tied to industry and showed no promise as a mean of self-expression. Despite these challenges, artistic woodturning grew organically out of the woodworking traditions and the cultural milieu of the 20th century. Read more.