For all the girls I’ve maimed before: I’m sorry.
Though I have fairly good hand skills, my feet skills on the dance floor are murderous. When I dance, most people look for a wooden spoon in order to help me through my grand mal seizure.
So it should come as no surprise that woodworking machines powered by feet should be a challenge for me. I first started working on treadle machines when I took a chairmaking class in Canada. We turned all the spindles on a springpole lathe. And it took me an entire day to get the rhythm to actually work a chunk of ash into something round.
This week I went to visit Roy Underhill and he let me work on two of his foot-powered machines: a Graves treadle-powered table saw and a treadle grindstone.
The saw is something special. I want one, though it’s doubtful I’d ever be able to get my feets on one. You pump the treadle, which turns a flywheel, which spins the blade. You adjust the height of the blade by raising and lowering the table. You make crosscuts with a miter gauge in a miter slot.
Rips are a little different. One person turns a crank (included!) to spin the blade. A second person guides the stuff through the blade. There is a rip fence that locks into a second slot.
Roy Underhill had no problem crosscutting stuff time after time. The blade never slowed. The cuts were clean. His rhythm was slow and steady.
For me, it was like a spastic weasel pumping a Nordic Trac. Too fast. And then the thing stalled. After a few tries…¦ it got worse.
Underhill kept saying, “It took me a whole day to get the hang of it.”
Then we went out and played with his treadle-powered grindstone. Underhill sharpened a chisel in about a minute. Then he let me try , in front of the entire hamlet of Pittsboro, N.C. Again, my feet kept getting tangled up in themselves. I couldn’t get more than two seconds of grinding before my legs looked like something at the Auntie Anne’s pretzel counter.
Underhill kept saying, “I need to tighten up those pedals. That would make it easier.”
Again, Underhill is an excellent liar.
I think I should stick with hand tools. Foot tools are just beyond me.
– Christopher Schwarz
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