Help needed with pole lathe project, @lathetechs

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I live in Herne Hill and am looking for help for my eleven year old son who is a very keen maker.

He has been spending some of lockdown making a pole lathe. And since we don’t have a lot of tools he has managed so far with a standard electric drill, a couple of chisels and a mallet. But now he really needs a pillar drill or similar to make holes for two large bolts (about 13 cm long) and I was hoping an SLMS member might have access to a pillar drill which I could borrow/hire/use to make the holes for him or could otherwise offer him advice on how to make these holes.

Any help much appreciated!



Hi @Juliette! Welcome!
@lathetechs will hopefully be able to help with advice regarding a pole lathe, sounds like a great project!
Also thinking possibly the @woodtechs may be able to help with making advice!

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Hi @Juliette! That’s an impressive project, I’ve wanted to build one of those for a while myself…

As far as drilling the holes is concerned, under current circumstances, I would suggest using the hand drill and practice. It may be helpful to drill a hole through another piece of wood (e.g. 2") to create a guide block which could be used to start the hole in the main workpiece. This is slower and a bit less accurate than using a pillar drill, but he’ll build up the muscle memory and skills which a pillar drill wouldn’t give him.

Normally I’d suggest bringing the parts in and we could host your son as a guest for the afternoon and use our pillar drill, but as you may have read on this Forum the makerspace is currently closed for everything but essential PPE production.


Thanks Hannah

Come down on Sunday and i will drill his holes or let him use our drill

Will be about on Sunday

I am doing the ppe thing:-)

Hi Joe,

That’s so kind. Are you planning to be there all day?


Under the current COVID-19 restrictions we can’t bring guests into the space, unfortunately

And let a 11 years old use the drill would be breaking so many rules sadly.

I can drill the hole , for him

Not a problem, was going to ask you before letting him in


Under supervision should be ok

If used properly a pillar drill is very safe if used in properly it can rip your hand off obviously under supervision the drill would be used safely

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Thanks all - quite understand that he can’t go in at the moment!

@CriticalTolerance - he is using the instructions in Green Woodwork, Working with wood the natural way, by Mike Abbott (which seems to work so far) but he did cheat slightly as we bought the wood, ironmongery and treadle as a package rather than sourcing it all separately and him making the treadle. But it is indeed still quite a project, particularly with our rather limited set of tools and some very hard wood!

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Brockwell community gardens runs a green woodworking group, they have a working pole lathe , it’s great fun and might be helpful to see one up close. They are up and running again, running various sessions and drop ins. They might let you take some green wood, it’s much much easier to work with than air dried wood.