12 March 2011

Less Power

Cat with plane
    I've thought about the idea of less power for years. I began woodworking using only hand tools and gradually moved towards using machine tools sparingly. I wanted to enjoy the benefits of machine tools, speed and accuracy, without sacrificing the pleasures and joys of hand tools. this was the genesis of my passion for human powered machines.
    My ideas were distilled into this
   - choose less power over more power
   - choose  simple over complex
Even after the generator arrived to run some power tools these criteria continue to shape my decisions.
    I am not a power phobe and I am quite content to use it when appropriate. The power in my shop is provided by a small generator (3500 watts) and is not unlimited, which keeps me thinking about how best to use what I have. 

     Here are my treadle machines.        James

Drilling  plane bodies on the treadle drill press
Close up

1 x 30 Belt sander


Treadle lathe set up for sanding


  1. Nice treadle belt sander. I'm interested in building one (for metal), and was thinking of converting a hand cranked grinder to get enough speed. Any advice or design references? Thanks, Jeff

  2. Jeff I use exersise bike flywheel-freewheels for my machines and about a 3.5x step up to the drive wheel with chain,hubs and sprockets from a farm supply. As humans don't produce a lot of power you shouldn't expect to remove large quantities of metal. The machine has to be as free running as possible.

    There is an old article by Richard Starr on treadle lathes in Fine Woodworking On Making and Modifing Machines
    I use mine for both wood and metal sharp belts make the most difference.
    Good luck James

  3. Hi i also like your treadle belt sander, but other intresting thing is your table drill, i've seen hand powered ones, but this is new to me, could you show us more about your designs?