My inspiration came from a wood turner named Ed Moulthrop. I believe he used a car axle to turn massive pieces of tulipwood in his Georgia workshop. Having made up my mind that this would be my hobby, I started talking the idea over with my friend, Bob Dittmer, who at the time had a large metal shop in Friday Harbor. After many ideas were tossed out, we took off for a day of exploring the Seattle industrial area for parts in which we could build a massive lathe.
First stop was Boeing Surplus in Kent, Washington. There we found many pieces of the puzzle. But, we were not totally convinced the project could be built with any kind of manageable rpms or tolerance. Then we moved on to industrial bone yards around the ship yards. There we found the “beast” full of old metal shavings, oil, and rust. It was love at first sight – a nine feet tall, 6,000 pound turret lathe. It had first been put into service during the First World War, and later modified with motor and transmission for World War II. From what we gathered from the workers at the shipyard, this lathe turned tapered holes in Navy propellers.
This lathe has served me well for the past 30 years. Pretty much unlimited in its capabilities, we have mounted a counter-top and turned a sink inside it. And, I have mounted and turned 1,500 lbs of walnut, all off center.
Bring us any large piece of wood and we will make a figment for you!