spring pole lathe is said to be one of the earliest woodworking
machines. While its origin is unclear, Egyptian tomb illustrations
dated 300 BC show two men operating a lathe; however, it's thought
that pole lathes existed well before this time. For thousands
of years, craftspeople have relied on lathes to turn all manner
of round objects.
||Parks Canada heritage interpreter Joel Doucet using the spring pole lathe.
Fast forward to the 21st century to Port-Royal National Historic
Site on the shores of Nova Scotia's beautiful Annapolis River
basin. This period reconstruction tells the story of renowned
explorer Samuel de Champlain and the French colony established
in 1605 by merchant and explorer Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons.
The wooden Habitation's buildings were constructed using mortise-and-tenon
joints throughout and are filled with handsome period furnishings.
In the early 1990s, heritage interpreter Joel Doucet, one of
the Habitation's staff, searched for a historically accurate
way to demonstrate some of the woodworking skills practised
by these early French settlers. In 1991, while watching an episode
of Roy Underhill's The Woodwright's Shop, he was inspired
to build a spring pole lathe. He first built a miniature prototype
for approval by the Parks Canada historian. Once the project
was sanctioned, Mr. Doucet teamed up with his colleague John
Wooler to build a full-sized lathe using materials and tools
that would have been available to the 17th century colonists.
While the two upheld their commitment to use period tools, including
an adze, chisels, a mallet and a drawknife, to construct the
lathe, they admit they used a chainsaw to harvest the lumber
from Mr. Wooler's woodlot and an electric hand drill to bore
the holes required for the wooden pegs.