The wood turner and the story of the long lost lathe



GeorgeLaileyThe wooden bowl can be traced back to medieval times and was the standard eating vessel for 1000 years. Every town had its own wood turner.

In 1958 one of England’s last traditional wood turners died – and with him centuries of knowledge on how to use a simple, foot powered lathe.

Decades later a contemporary artisan, Robin Wood built a replica of the late wood tuner George Lailey’s wood pole lathe, taught himself how to use it,  and helped revive this (almost) lost art.

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“When George Lailey died in 1958 a craft going back more than 2000 years died with him,” Robin writes on his blog.

“He was the last person in England to make a living turning wooden bowls on a foot powered pole lathe. In medieval times nearly everybody in Britain ate from wooden bowls every day.

“They were beautiful, functional bowls that linger on in memories of Goldilocks but were killed off by the industrial revolution and cheap pottery.

“I became fascinated by the craft whilst working in woodland conservation and set about reviving the lost technique, first learning the blacksmithing skills I needed to forge the specialised turning tools.”

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 “I’m trying to simplify life; simplify the production process. I go from a tree to a finished product using a few simple hand tools.”

– Robin Wood

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“Thirty years ago I decided never to do a day’s work I did not enjoy; I wanted to use mind, body and soul in my work and be close to nature.

“The act of taking a tree, cutting it open, feeling the wood and making it into something that will be useful and bring pleasure for years is immensely fulfilling for me.

“Few people know the pleasure of eating from wood, it is quiet, soft, warm and somehow compatible with good natural food in a way that hard ceramic never can be.

“My aim now is simply to make the very best wooden bowls and plates that bring a little quiet beauty into everyday life.”

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Watch the video to see Robin in action on the lathe. Source: Artisan Media

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Find out more at Robin Wood’s website here

Images: and Reading Museum

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One thought on “The wood turner and the story of the long lost lathe

  1. Beautiful craftsmanship. But someone ought to tell Robin never to work a lathe with long sleeves on. That will inevitably lead to a very nasty accident.


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