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Many of us have a shop-full of tools and some of us are pretty darn good with them. But what could you make if you had just one tool? And what if you had to make a living using that tool? And what if that tool was one of the most basic hand-tools, no power?

If you haven’t seen this video of a Moroccan bow lathe turner it’s a “must see.” I guarantee you’ll be both amazed and humbled. Watch carefully as he cuts a captured ring. Check out the finish on the wood he gets right off the tool– hint, no sanding needed. This method of turning is undoubtedly thousands of years old. Heck, he makes our favorite bodger Don Weber look totally high-tech.


– Steve Shanesy

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Showing 10 comments
  • Bill Lattanzio

    I’m willing to chip in a couple of bucks to get this guy a lathe.
    I’ve suffered a couple of fairly serious hand injuries woodworking but never a foot injury. I wonder if I could learn to feed a table saw with my feet, or use the router table? Maybe that’s why I’ve gravitated to handwork this past year, so I don’t seriously injure my feet.

  • pervez

    Being tech savvy and having traveled around a bit when I moved to USA I was amazed at what I didn’t know! How much equipment, space, money and investment is needed to get the simplest of the job done. Craftsmen from Egypt to Iran to India and upto the outer regions of china used similar techniques, methods and tools.

    This vast region with people divided, earlier trade and interaction which has come to a standstill. I’m amused when Morrocan design asthetic as seen in resturants is called uniquely Morrocan. In fact with the exception of more reds and more lattice work you will find the similar concept all the way to the land of Uyguirs in eastern china.

    Just watch a video of how cloth is dispensed in a fabric store in India.

    Unfortunately numbers of craftsmen ranging from tailors to bakers to weavers, metal workers and stonemasons and builders are now dropping. Craftsmen till a few decades back were almost 20% of the population in most of these countries.

    Value of this kind of work is just too low and modernity only means only to ensure that children acquire degrees without any acquiring skill or knowledge. Well meaning westerners and the westernised locals in the guise of eliminating child labor are decimating an entire community of nearly a million carpet weavers in Kashmir(to give an example) by banning the trade where entire famiies practice a craft from generations.

    The output is not just loss of craft & skills or more unemployable college graduates but also for most part lives destroyed as family business suffers and destituton soon follows leading to hunger, poverty migration from villages to cities. Former clans of craftsmen in a generation or two are then ragpicking in large cities living in shanties. while the elite pats its self on its own back for having made a small increase in the ranks of educated.

    A hand full of saved seeds like these populate tourist locations carefully nurtured by the same govt which destroyed it source to earn much needed hard currency.

  • Clay Dowling

    I think the reason I haven’t found fame and fortune is that I have an excess of electricity.

  • McDara

    I like the way he incorporated the chipout into the design.

  • whintor

    It really puts you in your place! Hand/eye/toe in harmony, and what an uncomfortable position – a real health & safety issue! One big tool, handled with precision & power. Also note – a leftie.

  • B Jackson

    It was a chess king he carved …. a game once up my alley.

  • B Jackson

    i’m humbled

  • woodmagnet

    Mesmerising to watch.Thanks Steve.

  • Jonas Jensen

    Amazing! What an astonishing coordination of hands and feet (foot).
    Thanks for sharing this video.

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