Pole lathes are devices used in woodworking. Whilst technically not a tool per se, they are necessary for the use of woodworking tools for turning wood and were developed in the early medieval period. They function by having a cord wrapped around a job that is attached at one end to a foot treadle and the other to a long, springy pole. When the treadle is depressed the job spins on its axis (being held between two poppets). As it spins the user holds their chisel or gouge against the job removing wood in the form of shavings. When the treadle is released, the job is rotated in the other direction, pulled by the cord as it is pulled upward in turn by the pole. The chisel is not left resting against the job on the return stroke.
This lathe functions best when using green wood and often a pole lathe turned job can be identified by the slightly oval shape it develops as the wood dries and shrinks.
The pole lathe supercedes the hand or bow lathe which was turned by a bow and sometimes required two people to use. The pole lathe was, in turn, superceded by treadle lathes and eventually by mechanical lathes.