The Holtzapffel Lathe in use

I recently posted on the restoration of the Hotlzapffel lathe owned by my former employer. I know there was little in there about the actual trials and tribulations of the work, but for those of you who have restored old mechanical stuff you probably don’t need to read about my trials and those of you who never have done any such restoration, well, you probably wouldn’t find it any use at all. Suffice to say I found the whole thing abssolutely fascinating. I had spent years of dreaming about one of those machines and here I was restoring and eventually, actually operating the thing.

That really was a dream job.

As I explained in that post, I set it up to work off the treadle. It worked beautifully. Once you had your workpiece set up on the faceplate and you knew exactly what you were going to do, you used your left hand to reach down and pull the top of the flywheel toward you, briskly. Then you used one of your feet to pump the treadle at a steady pace. Not fast and not slow. Just steady. That flywheel had lots of options to choose from regarding the diameter of the drive wheel you used, and the transfer drum  on the hanger above the lathe also had a few diameters to choose from. By the time that energy reached the drive pully on the tool you had chucked up on the tool rest (you did sharpen it, right?) you had better have everything exactly how you wanted it.

Here is a close up view of the overhead transfer drum. There are a few things to note: first, that drum is Cuban Mahogany. Second, there are four diameters of pully wheel to accept the drive band running up from the flywheel. On the drum itself there are three diameters to transfer power down to the  cutting tool on the bed of the lathe.  The long smooth surface of the drum is available to the drive band if you are working on a piece chucked up between centers. Also, again there are no bearings. If you look at the ends of the drive shaft you will see they are taper fit into cones bored into the suspension arms and lubricated with light machine oil.

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Even before you got down to ornamental details on your work piece, the lathe has inumerable options to deal with in setting up your work – face plate turning, turning beween centers, locking the work into place and using the dividing head to position your work in segements for drilling or cutting. And a number of different chucks unique to the Holtzapffel Lathe. Examine the books by Mr. Holtzapffell and if you are any sort of turner, begin to dream.

What have you got to lose?

In the photograph below, a decorative piece was glued to a waste block and chucked up to the lathe to be turned round.

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In the phto below, one of six ebony bowls is being trimmed to final dimensions using a plexiglass pattern as a guide.

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Above is  a Maccassar Ebeony Seder Plate sixteen inches in diameter. The pierced knot work just inside the rim of the plate is inlaid with legal Ivory after the receptacles are carved using chisles. Between the two closest “bowls” you can see clear through to the turned base (hence the term ‘pierced work’) that raises the plate off the table.

Below is a photograph of the truned base for the plate.

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Below is the completed seder plate with the bowls attached after turning on the holtzapffel lathe. We had silver bowls turned to rest inside the smaller ebony bowls but I don’t have that one available right now. In all, I can say I would not have been able to to work like this as easily as I did without that lathe.

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Folks, I truly loved that kind of work. The challenges were downright stimulating and the rewards for getting the work done were immense. Not fincially, mind you, but in every other way they were truly immense.

I will be building a new shop starting later this year and hope to be working again before mid-year next. Please take the opportunity to leave a comment if you enjoy these posts, or even if you don’t.

About Gary Showalter

Gary Showalter was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He lived in Aruba, Florida and the Panama Canal Zone before joining the U.S. Army during the 1960s. Following his discharge from the Army, Mr. Showalter picked cotton in East Texas, baled hay in Ardmore Oklahoma, sold light bulbs in Los Angeles, California, and built cattle pens in Fallon, Nevada (during a blizzard, of course). After settling in Atlanta, Georgia, Mr. Showalter worked as a professional gardener before turning his hand to furniture making. In 1981, he moved to Israel, married, and raised four children while working as a furniture maker, silversmith, goldsmith, and ornamental wood turner. He served in the Israel Defense Forces Reserves for sixteen years, and when not on active duty he worked in government and private security. He has also served in senior management positions in two software development companies in Israel. During his time in Israel, Mr. Showalter published articles dealing with international terror and the Israel-Arab conflict in the Jerusalem Post, Israel national News and several political science web sites. Mr. Showalter returned to the United States in the fall of 2003, to care for an elderly parent. He published his first novel, “The Big Bend”, in the fall of 2008. His second novel, “Hog Valley”, is now in print. Mr. Showalter's third novel, “Twisted Key”, was published in the fall of 2011, and his fourth novel, "Lonesome Cove" is now available in Kindle format and should be published in paper near the end of 2012. Those words were written a few years ago. Frankly speaking, the literary well has dried up. I now live in Dunnellon, Fl, where I amworking as the caretaker on a horse farm and looking to build a workshop here on the property where I can get back to building furniture. With any luck I will be sinking piers some time early in November and hope to have the floor joists ready for flooring by the end of the month. I'll get back to you on that.
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2 Responses to The Holtzapffel Lathe in use

  1. How neat! I’ve always thought it would be neat to watch someone working on a lathe! My husband builds furniture but we haven’t gotten that far into it, yet. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Gary Showalter says:

      Thank you for your comments. Please make the acquaintance of a few Turner’s in your area and visit their shops. Learn what they do and how. Don’t spend any money on tools or books or online videos until you feel comfortable with what you learn in face to face meetings with a few Turner’s. It can get very expensive. And accidents with lathes do happen, even to ‘professionals’. That said, I do wish you both well!

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