THE ORNAMENTAL LATHE

Ornamental wood turning was an all-but-forgotten art form until about 10 years ago when two gentlemen began to try to design and build a lathe that hadn’t been built since the mid 1800’s. Ornamental wood turning was an art form that found its origins among the very wealthy Europeans in the seventeenth, eighteenth, & nineteenth centuries. The lathes that were produced way back in those days, at the beginnings of the industrial age, were outlandishly expensive and thus were only owned by royalty. The ornamental lathes of that day were primarily manufactured in England. A small number of those ancient lathes were rediscovered during the second half of the twentieth century and reconditioned to near their original condition. Even at that, they sold for tens of thousands of dollars.

A decade or so ago two men (one from Maine and the other is from Pennsylvania) began an adventure into manufacturing contemporary ornamental lathes, or better yet – the “Rose Engine” and are now marketed as the Lindow White Rose Engine. They are very complex machines with eccentric cutting heads and dozens of cams configured to produce cuts in wood that are hard to imagine came from a lathe. We think of lathes as producing primarily round items. There are some exceptions, of course. But rose engines are truly unique unto themselves.

Bill Housley purchased his rose engine from the Pennsylvania gentleman, David Lindow, and has begun creating wood art that can only be achieved with such a lathe. You will see the embellishments created by the rose engine on a number of wood pieces such as bird house ornaments, wine bottle stoppers, pens, bowls, and so forth. These creations are unique and you will see precious few such embellishments anywhere including high end galleries.