How to Make a Spring Pole Lathe for Bowl Turning, Part 5

I worked hard. Anyone who works as hard as I did can achieve the same results.

J.S. Bach

Work continues on the lathe, yesterday I fashioned the legs for the poppits. In this shot I'm cutting the shoulders for the poppits, they'll sit on the bed of the lathe. By the way, the saw I am using belonged to my grandfather, it's an E.C. Atkins crosscut with a rosewood handle. I've never had it dated, I'm assuming that he got it around 1910 the year he and my grandmother were married. (After that they had a lot of kids and not much money!) It's a wonderful saw.

Now comes the fun part, splitting of the cheeks so I can finish with an axe. The froe is another heirloom made by grandfather from a car spring. I have 2 of his froes, a riving froe and a checking froe. I used the riving froe to split off the cheek, it is a narrow froe, I was told by my uncle that you used a narrow froe to split the shingle off of the bolt. The checking froe is wider and a little heavier, it was made to mark the bolt to see how many shingles you could rive from it, in other words, you used it "to check and see what you could get." Douglas fir is a bit stiffer to split then sugar pine, you can see I'm trying to get my right hand into the split to help it along. The right hand holds the split while you work the froe down the split, usually your hand gets a little squashed in the process. I once tried to teach this skill to some historic preservation workers that I worked with, they thought it was the dumbest thing. "Why, do we need to know that?" they said, "can't we buy the shingles already made?"

Success! The cheek split off more or less how I wanted it. As I said, Douglas fir is tough and stringy and this tree had a twist to it, not the best stuff for splitting. I finished up the cheek faces with an axe. I wanted to include a photo showing me trying to fit the poppit into the slot, by for some reason Blogger would allow me only 4, not 5, photo uploads today.

Both poppits fitted into the bed. Now I need to drill and cut out slots for the wedges that will hold the poppits in place.

It's lightly snowing right now. I have to replace a fingerboard on one of my guitars, the walnut/spruce one and I need to finish french polishing the neck of the cedar/maple guitar. Always, there is too much to be done!

Post Script 12/20/2011
After Steve's comment I decided to add a photo of me using the handle of the mallet to hold open the split while I work the froe down the split. I wasn't able to upload this photo when I wrote the original post. (I know it is a small mallet, it was the only one that I could find at the time, I later remembered that the other mallet was in another tool chest!) Steve is right, your hand can get trapped in a split. It's a habit for me to put my hand in the split, that is what I was taught when I learned how to rive sugar pine shingles. You start the split and open it with the froe driving it down through the bolt with a mallet and then work your fist with the thumb up into the split to hold it open while you continue splitting with the froe. A sugar pine shingle is supposed to be less then 3/16ths of an inch thick, sugar pine splits easily, there's less chance of getting your hand trapped. I learned this skill from 2 uncles, men who could rive over a 1000 shingles day back in the 1930's and 1940's for "a penny a shake". That doesn't mean I shouldn't be aware of safety concerns, thanks for the safety tip, Steve!


  1. Just be careful about holding the split open while using the froe! Drew Langsner, in his book Green Woodworking, says never put your hand in a split, because it can close up like a mousetrap, with huge force clamping down on your hand or finger. He says to put a glut in: a crude wedge hacked out of a branch or another scrap.


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