Lathe Machine A lathe (pronounced /ˈ leɪð/) is a machine tool which spins a block of material to perform various operations such as cutting, sanding, knurling, drilling, or deformation with tools that are applied to the workpiece to create an object which has symmetry about an axis of rotation. Lathes are used in woodturning, metalworking, metal spinning, and glassworking. Lathes can be used to shape pottery, the bestknown design being the potter's wheel. Most suitably equipped metalworking lathes can also be used to produce most solids of revolution, plane surfaces and screw threads or helices. Ornamental lathes can produce three-dimensional solids of incredible complexity. The material is held in place by either one or two centers, at least one of which can be moved horizontally to accommodate varying material lengths. Examples of objects that can be produced on a lathe include candlestick holders, cue sticks, table legs, bowls, baseball bats, musical instruments (especially woodwind instruments), crankshafts and camshafts. History The lathe is an ancient tool, dating at least to the Egyptians and known and used in Assyria, Greece, the Roman and Byzantine Empires. A turned wood bowl with natural edges The origin of turning dates to around 1300BC when the Egyptians first developed a two-person lathe. One person would turn the wood work piece with a rope while the other used a sharp tool to cut shapes in the wood. The Romans improved the Egyptian design with the addition of a turning bow. Early bow lathes were also developed and used in Germany, France and Britain. In the Middle Ages a pedal replaced hand-operated turning, freeing both the craftsman's hands to hold the woodturning tools. The pedal was usually connected to a pole, often a straight-grained sapling. The system today is called the "spring pole" lathe (see Polelathe). Spring pole lathes were in common use into the early 20th Century. A two-person lathe, called a "great lathe", allowed a piece to turn continuously (like today's power lathes). A master would cut the wood while an apprentice turned the crank.  During the industrial revolution, mechanized power was applied to the lathe via steam engines and line shafting, allowing faster and easier work. The design of lathes diverged between woodworking and metalworking to a greater extent than in previous centuries. Metalworking lathes evolved into heavier machines with thicker, more rigid parts. The application of leadscrews, slide rests, and gearing produced commercially practical screw-cutting lathes. Between the late 19th and mid 20th centuries, individual electric motors at each lathe replaced line shafting as the power source. Beginning in the 1950s, servomechanisms were applied to the control of lathes and other machine tools via numerical control (NC), which often was coupled with computers to yield computerized numerical control (CNC). Today manually controlled and CNC lathes coexist in the manufacturing industries. Description Parts Parts of a wood lathe A lathe may or may not have a stand (or legs), which sits on the floor and elevates the lathe bed to a working height. Some lathes are small and sit on a workbench or table, and do not have a stand. Almost all lathes have a bed, which is (almost always) a horizontal beam (although some CNC lathes have a vertical beam for a bed to ensure that swarf, or chips, falls free of the bed). A notable exception is the Hegner VB36 Master Bowlturner, a woodturning lathe designed for turning large bowls, which in its basic configuration is little more than a very large floor-standing headstock. At one end of the bed (almost always the left, as the operator faces the lathe) is a headstock. The headstock contains highprecision spinning bearings. Rotating within the bearings is a horizontal axle, with an axis parallel to the bed, called the spindle. Spindles are often hollow, and have exterior threads and/or an interior Morse taper on the "inboard" (i.e., facing to the right / towards the bed) by which accessories which hold the workpiece may be mounted to the spindle. Spindles may also have exterior threads and/or an interior taper at their "outboard" (i.e., facing away from the bed) end, and/or may have a handwheel or other accessory mechanism on their outboard end. Spindles are powered, and impart motion to the workpiece. The spindle is driven, either by foot power from a treadle and flywheel or by a belt drive to a power source. In some modern lathes this power source is an integral electric motor, often either in the headstock, to the left of the headstock, or beneath the headstock, concealed in the stand. In addition to the spindle and its bearings, the headstock often contains parts to convert the motor speed into various spindle speeds. Various types of speed-changing mechanism achieve this, from a cone pulley or step pulley, to a cone pulley with back gear (which is essentially a low range, similar in net effect to the two-speed rear of a truck), to an entire gear train similar to that of a manual-shift auto transmission. Some motors have electronic rheostat-type speed controls, which obviates cone pulleys or gears. The counterpoint to the headstock is the tailstock, sometimes referred to as the loose head, as it can be positioned at any convenient point on the bed, by undoing a locking nut, sliding it to the required area, and then relocking it. The tailstock contains a barrel which does not rotate, but can slide in and out parallel to the axis of the bed, and directly in line with the headstock spindle. The barrel is hollow, and usually contains a taper to facilitate the gripping of various type of tooling. Its most common uses are to hold a hardened steel centre, which is used to support long thin shafts while turning, or to hold drill bits for drilling axial holes in the work piece. Many other uses are possible. Metalworking lathes have a carriage (comprising a saddle and apron) topped with a cross-slide, which is a flat piece that sits crosswise on the bed, and can be cranked at right angles to the bed. Sitting atop the cross slide is a toolpost, which holds a cutting tool which removes material from the workpiece. There may or may not be a leadscrew, which moves the cross-slide along the bed. Woodturning and metal spinning lathes do not have cross-slides, but rather have banjos, which are flat pieces that sit crosswise on the bed. The position of a banjo can be adjusted by hand; no gearing is involved. Ascending vertically from the banjo is a toolpost, at the top of which is a horizontal toolrest. In woodturning, hand tools are braced against the tool rest and levered into the workpiece. In metal spinning, the further pin ascends vertically from the tool rest, and serves as a fulcrum against which tools may be levered into the workpiece. Accessories Unless a workpiece has a taper machined onto it which perfectly matches the internal taper in the spindle, or has threads which perfectly match the external threads on the spindle (two things which almost never happen), an accessory must be used to mount a workpiece to the spindle. A workpiece may be bolted or screwed to a faceplate, a large flat disk that mounts to the spindle. Alternatively faceplate dogs may be used to secure the work to the faceplate. A workpiece may be clamped in a three- or four-jaw chuck, which mounts directly to the spindle or mounted on a mandrel. In precision work (and in some classes of repetition work), cylindrical workpieces are invariably held in a collet inserted into the spindle and secured either by a drawbar, or by a collet closing cap on the spindle. Suitable collets may also be used to mount square or hexagonal workpieces. In precision toolmaking work such collets are usually of the draw in variety, where, as the collet is tightened, the workpiece moves slightly back into the headstock, whereas for most repetition work the dead length variety is preferered as this ensures that the position of the workpiece does not move as the collet is tightened, so the workpiece can be set in the lathe to a fixed position and it will not move on tightening the collet. A soft workpiece (wooden) may be pinched between centers by using a spur drive at the headstock, which bites into the wood and imparts torque to it. Live center (top) Dead center (bottom) A soft dead center is used in the headstock spindle as the work rotates with the centre. Because the centre is soft it can be trued in place before use. The included angle is 60 degrees. Traditionally a hard dead center is used together with suitable lubricant in the tailstock to support the workpiece. In modern practice the dead center is frequently replaced by a live center or (revolving center) as it turns freely with the workpiece usually on ball bearings, reducing the frictional heat, which is especially important at high RPM. A lathe carrier or lathe dog may also be employed when turning between two centers. In woodturning, one subtype of a live center is a cup center, which is a cone of metal surrounded by an annular ring of metal that decreases the chances of the workpiece splitting. A circular metal plate with even spaced holes around the periphery, mounted to the spindle, is called an "index plate". It can be used to rotate the spindle a precise number of degrees, then lock it in place, facilitating repeated auxiliary operations done to the workpiece. Modes of use When a workpiece is fixed between the headstock and the tailstock, it is said to be "between centers". When a workpiece is supported at both ends, it is more stable, and more force may be applied to the workpiece, via tools, at a right angle to the axis of rotation, without fear that the workpiece may break loose. When a workpiece is fixed only to the spindle at the headstock end, the work is said to be "face work". When a workpiece is supported in this manner, less force may be applied to the workpiece, via tools, at a right angle to the axis of rotation, lest the workpiece rip free. Thus, most work must be done axially, towards the headstock, or at right angles, but gently. When a workpiece is mounted with a certain axis of rotation, worked, then remounted with a new axis of rotation, this is referred to as "eccentric turning" or "multi axis turning". The result is that various cross sections of the workpiece are rotationally symmetric, but the workpiece as a whole is not rotationally symmetric. This technique is used for camshafts, various types of chair legs. Varieties The smallest lathes are "jewelers lathes" or "watchmaker lathes", which are small enough that they may be held in one hand. The workpieces machined on a jeweler's lathes are metal, jeweler's lathes can be used with hand held "graver" tools or with compound rests that attach to the lathe bed. Graver tools are generally supported by a T-rest, not fixed to a cross slide or compound rest. The work is usually held in a collet. Three spindle bore sizes to receive the collets are common, namely 6, m/m , 8;mm and 10 m/m these dimensions refer to the straight shank body size of the collet. The term W/W refers to the Webster/Whitcomb collet and lathe , this lathe was invented by the American Watch Tool Company of Waltham Ma. The name Webster/ Whitcomb was the last names of the founders of that Company. Most of the lathes that are commonly refered to as watchmakers lathes are of this design. Most of the watchmakers lathes built anywhere in the world after the introduction of this lathe in 1888 were copies of this lathe design. In 1909 the American Watch Tool company introduced the Magnus type collet ( the 10 m/m body size collet)using the same basic lathe , originally as the Webster/Whitcomb Magnus. In 1918 the American Watch Tool Company was purchased by the former superintendant of the American watch Tool Company Frederick William Derbyshire , the names Webster/Whitcomb and Magnus are STILL trade names of F.W.Derbyshire, Inc. the company founded by Frederick Derbyshire in 1911 and these collets are still correctly produced ( nominal thread size 7m/m 6.95 m/m x .625 m/m pitch NOTE many poor quality copies reduce the pitch diameter and run 40 threads per inch) by F.W. Derbyshire, Inc. today Two patterns of bed are common: the WW (Webster Whitcomb) bed, a truncated triangular prism (found only on 8 and 10 m/m watchmakers lathes); and the continental D-style bar bed (used on both 6 mm and 8 mm lathes by firms such as Lorch and Star). Other bed designs have been used, such a triangular prism on some Boley 6.5 mm lathes, and a V-edged bed on IME's 8 mm lathes. Lathes that sit on a bench or table are called "bench lathes". Lathes that do not have additional integral features for repetitive production, but rather are used for individual part production or modification as the primary role, are called "engine lathes". Lathes with a very large spindle bore and a chuck on both ends of the spindle are called "oil field lathes". Fully automatic mechanical lathes, employing cams and gear trains for controlled movement, are called screw machines. Lathes that are controlled by a computer are CNC lathes. Lathes with the spindle mounted in a vertical configuration, instead of horizontal configuration, are called vertical lathes or vertical boring machines. They are used where very large diameters must be turned, and the workpiece (comparatively) is not very long. A lathe with a cylindrical tailstock that can rotate around a vertical axis, so as to present different facets towards the headstock (and the workpiece) are turret lathes. A lathe equipped with indexing plates, profile cutters, spiral or helical guides, etc., so as to enable ornamental turning is an ornamental lathe. Various combinations are possible: e.g. one could have a vertical CNC lathe (such as a CNC VTL), etc. Lathes can be combined with other machine tools, such as a drill press or vertical milling machine. These are usually referred to as combination lathes. Major categories Woodworking lathes A modern woodworking lathe. Woodworking lathes are the oldest variety. All other varieties are descended from these simple lathes. An adjustable horizontal metal rail - the tool rest - between the material and the operator accommodates the positioning of shaping tools, which are usually hand-held. With wood, it is common practice to press and slide sandpaper against the still-spinning object after shaping to smooth the surface made with the metal shaping tools. There are also woodworking lathes for making bowls and plates, which have no horizontal metal rail, as the bowl or plate needs only to be held by one side from a metal face plate. Without this rail, there is very little restriction to the width of the piece being turned. Further detail can be found on the woodturning page. Metalworking lathes A metalworking lathe Lathe (metal) In a metalworking lathe, metal is removed from the workpiece using a hardened cutting tool, which is usually fixed to a solid moveable mounting, either a toolpost or a turret, which is then moved against the workpiece using handwheels and/or computer controlled motors. These (cutting) tools come in a wide range of sizes and shapes depending upon their application. Some common styles are diamond, round, square and triangular. The toolpost is operated by leadscrews that can accurately position the tool in a variety of planes. The toolpost may be driven manually or automatically to produce the roughing and finishing cuts required to turn the workpiece to the desired shape and dimensions, or for cutting threads, worm gears, etc. Cutting fluid may also be pumped to the cutting site to provide cooling, lubrication and clearing of swarf from the workpiece. Some lathes may be operated under control of a computer for mass production of parts (see "Computer Numerical Control"). Manually controlled metalworking lathes are commonly provided with a variable ratio gear train to drive the main leadscrew. This enables different thread pitches to be cut. On some older lathes or more affordable new lathes, the gear trains are changed by swapping gears with various numbers of teeth onto or off of the shafts, while more modern or expensive manually controlled lathes have a quick change box to provide commonly used ratios by the operation of a lever. CNC lathes use computers and servomechanisms to regulate the rates of movement. On manually controlled lathes, the thread pitches that can be cut are, in some ways, determined by the pitch of the leadscrew: A lathe with a metric leadscrew will readily cut metric threads (including BA), while one with an imperial leadscrew will readily cut imperial unit based threads such as BSW or UTS (UNF,UNC). This limitation is not insurmountable, because a 127-tooth gear, called a transposing gear, is used to translate between metric and inch thread pitches. However, this is optional equipment that many lathe owners do not own. It is also a larger changewheel than the others, and on some lathes may be larger than the changewheel mounting banjo is capable of mounting. The workpiece may be supported between a pair of points called centres, or it may be bolted to a faceplate or held in a chuck. A chuck has movable jaws that can grip the workpiece securely. There are some effects on material properties when using a metalworking lathe. There are few chemical or physical effects, but there are many mechanical effects, which include residual stress, microcracks, workhardening, and tempering in hardened materials. Cue lathes Cue lathes function similar to turning and spinning lathes allowing for a perfectly radially-symmetrical cut for billiard cues. They can also be used to refinish cues that have been worn over the years. Glassworking lathes Glassworking lathes are similar in design to other lathes, but differ markedly in how the workpiece is modified. Glassworking lathes slowly rotate a hollow glass vessel over a fixed or variable temperature flame. The source of the flame may be either handheld, or mounted to a banjo/cross slide that can be moved along the lathe bed. The flame serves to soften the glass being worked, so that the glass in a specific area of the workpiece becomes malleable, and subject to forming either by inflation ("glassblowing"), or by deformation with a heat resistant tool. Such lathes usually have two headstocks with chucks holding the work, arranged so that they both rotate together in unison. Air can be introduced through the headstock chuck spindle for glassblowing. The tools to deform the glass and tubes to blow (inflate) the glass are usually handheld. In diamond turning, a computer-controlled lathe with a diamondtipped tool is used to make precision optical surfaces in glass or other optical materials. Unlike conventional optical grinding, complex aspheric surfaces can be machined easily. Instead of the dovetailed ways used on the tool slide of a metal turning lathe, the ways typically float on air bearings and the position of the tool is measured by optical interferometry to achieve the necessary standard of precision for optical work. The finished work piece usually requires a small amount subsequent polishing by conventional techniques to achieve a finished surface suitably smooth for use in a lens, but the rough grinding time is significantly reduced for complex lenses. Metal spinning lathes In metal spinning, a disk of sheet metal is held perpendicularly to the main axis of the lathe, and tools with polished tips (spoons) are hand held, but levered by hand against fixed posts, to develop large amounts of torque/pressure that deform the spinning sheet of metal. Metal spinning lathes are almost as simple as woodturning lathes (and, at this point, lathes being used for metal spinning almost always are woodworking lathes). Typically, metal spinning lathes require a user-supplied rotationally symmetric mandrel, usually made of wood, which serves as a template onto which the workpiece is moulded (non-symmetric shapes can be done, but it is a very advanced technique). For example, if you want to make a sheet metal bowl, you need a solid chunk of wood in the shape of the bowl; if you want to make a vase, you need a solid template of a vase, etc. Given the advent of high speed, high pressure, industrial die forming, metal spinning is less common now than it once was, but still a valuable technique for producing one-off prototypes or small batches where die forming would be uneconomical. Ornamental turning lathes The ornamental turning lathe was developed around the same time as the industrial screwcutting lathe in the nineteenth century. It was used not for making practical objects, but for decorative work - ornamental turning. By using accessories such as the horizontal and vertical cutting frames, eccentric chuck and elliptical chuck, solids of extraordinary complexity may be produced by various generative procedures. A special purpose lathe, the Rose engine lathe is also used for ornamental turning, in particular for engine turning, typically in precious metals, for example to decorate pocket watch cases. As well as a wide range of accessories, these lathes usually have complex dividing arrangements to allow the exact rotation of the mandrel. Cutting is usually carried out by rotating cutters, rather than directly by the rotation of the work itself. Because of the difficulty of polishing such work, the materials turned, such as wood or ivory, are usually quite soft, and the cutter has to be exceptionally sharp. The finest ornamental lathes are generally considered to be those made by Holtzapffel around the turn of the 19th century. Reducing lathe Many types of lathes can be equipped with accessory components to allow them to reproduce an item: the original item is mounted on one spindle, the blank is mounted on another, and as both turn in synchronized manner, one end of an arm "reads" the original and the other end of the arm "carves" the duplicate. A reducing lathe is a specialized lathe that is designed with this feature, and which incorporates a mechanism similar to a pantograph, so that when the "reading" end of the arm reads a detail that measures one inch (for example), the cutting end of the arm creates an analogous detail that is (for example) one quarter of an inch (a 4:1 reduction, although given appropriate machinery and appropriate settings, any reduction ratio is possible). Reducing lathes are used in coin-making, where a plaster original (or an epoxy master made from the plaster original, or a copper shelled master made from the plaster original, etc.) is duplicated and reduced on the reducing lathe, generating a master die. Rotary lathes A lathe in which softwood, like spruce or pine, or hardwood, like birch, logs are turned against a very sharp blade and peeled off in one continuous or semi-continuous roll. Invented by Immanuel Nobel (father of the more famous Alfred Nobel). The first such lathes were set up in the United States in the mid-19th century. The product is called wood veneer and it is used for finishing chipboard objects and making plywood. Watchmaker's lathes Watchmakers lathes are delicate but precise metalworking lathes, usually without provision for screwcutting, and are still used by horologists for work such as the turning of balance shafts. A handheld tool called a graver is often used in preference to a slide mounted tool. The original watchmaker's turns was a simple dead-centre lathe with a moveable rest and two loose headstocks. The workpiece would be rotated by a bow, typically of horsehair, wrapped around it. Examples of lathes Small metalworking lathe Large old lathe Belt-driven metalworking lathe in the machine shop at Hagley Museum Examples of work produced from a lathe Lathe exercise Turned chess pieces Metal lathe or metalworking lathe are generic terms for any of a large class of lathes designed for precisely machining relatively hard materials. They were originally designed to machine metals; however, with the advent of plastics and other materials, and with their inherent versatility, they are used in a wide range of applications, and a broad range of materials. In machining jargon, where the larger context is already understood, they are usually simply called lathes, or else referred to by more-specific subtype names (toolroom lathe, turret lathe, etc.). These rigid machine tools remove material from a rotating workpiece via the (typically linear) movements of various cutting tools, such as tool bits and drill bits. Construction The machine has been greatly modified for various applications however a familiarity with the basics shows the similarities between types. These machines consist of, at the least, a headstock, bed, carriage and tailstock. The better machines are solidly constructed with broad bearing surfaces (slides or ways) for stability and manufactured with great precision. This helps ensure the components manufactured on the machines can meet the required tolerances and repeatability. Headstock Headstock with legend, numbers and text within the description refer to those in the image The headstock (H1) houses the main spindle (H4), speed change mechanism (H2,H3), and change gears (H10). The headstock is required to be made as robust as possible due to the cutting forces involved, which can distort a lightly built housing, and induce harmonic vibrations that will transfer through to the workpiece, reducing the quality of the finished workpiece. The main spindle is generally hollow to allow long bars to extend through to the work area, this reduces preparation and waste of material. The spindle then runs in precision bearings and is fitted with some means of attaching work holding devices such as chucks or faceplates. This end of the spindle will also have an included taper, usually morse, to allow the insertion of tapers and centers. On older machines the spindle was directly driven by a flat belt pulley with the lower speeds available by manipulating the bull gear, later machines use a gear box driven by a dedicated electric motor. The fully geared head allows the speed selection to be done entirely through the gearbox. Bed The bed is a robust base that connects to the headstock and permits the carriage and tailstock to be aligned parallel with the axis of the spindle. This is facilitated by hardened and ground ways which restrain the carriage and tailstock in a set track. The carriage travels by means of a rack and pinion system, leadscrew of accurate pitch, or feedscrew. When a lathe is installed, the first step is to level it, which refers to making sure the bed is not twisted or bowed. There is no need to make the machine exactly horizontal. However, a precision level (usually across the cross slide) can be a useful tool for identifying and removing twist. It is advisable also to use such a level along the bed to detect bending, in the case of a lathe with more than four mounting points. In both instances the level is used as a comparator rather than an absolute reference. Types of beds include inverted "V" beds, flat beds, and combination "V" and flat beds. "V" and combination beds are used for precision and light duty work, while flat beds are used for heavy duty work. Feed and lead screws The feedscrew (H8) is a long driveshaft that allows a series of gears to drive the carriage mechanisms. These gears are located in the apron of the carriage. Both the feedscrew and leadscrew (H9) are driven by either the change gears (on the quadrant) or an intermediate gearbox known as a quick change gearbox (H6) or Norton gearbox. These intermediate gears allow the correct ratio and direction to be set for cutting threads or worm gears. Tumbler gears (operated by H5) are provided between the spindle and gear train along with a quadrant plate that enables a gear train of the correct ratio and direction to be introduced. This provides a constant relationship between the number of turns the spindle makes, to the number of turns the leadscrew makes. This ratio allows screwthreads to be cut on the workpiece without the aid of a die. Some lathes have only one leadscrew that serves all carriagemoving purposes. For screw cutting, a half nut is engaged to be driven by the leadscrew's thread; and for general power feed, a key engages with a keyway cut into the leadscrew to drive a pinion along a rack that is mounted along the lathe bed. The leadscrew will be manufactured to either imperial or metric standards and will require a conversion ratio to be introduced to create thread forms from a different family. To accurately convert from one thread form to the other requires a 127-tooth gear, or on lathes not large enough to mount one, an approximation may be used. Multiples of 3 and 7 giving a ratio of 63:1 can be used to cut fairly loose threads. This conversion ratio is often built into the quick change gearboxes. Carriage Carriage with legend, numbers and text within the description refer to those in the image In its simplest form the carriage holds the tool bit and moves it longitudinally (turning) or perpendicularly (facing) under the control of the operator. The operator moves the carriage manually via the handwheel (5a) or automatically by engaging the feed shaft with the carriage feed mechanism (5c). This provides some relief for the operator as the movement of the carriage becomes power assisted. The handwheels (2a, 3b, 5a) on the carriage and its related slides are usually calibrated, both for ease of use and to assist in making reproducible cuts. Cross-slide (3) The cross-slide stands atop the carriage and has a feedscrew that travels perpendicular to the main spindle axis. This permits facing operations to be performed, and the depth of cut to be adjusted. This feedscrew can be engaged, through a gear train, to the feed shaft (mentioned previously) to provide automated 'power feed' movement to the cross-slide. On most lathes, only one direction can be engaged at a time as an interlock mechanism will shut out the second gear train. Compound rest (2) The compound rest (or top slide) is the part of the machine where the tool post is mounted. It provides a smaller amount of movement along its axis via another feedscrew. The compound rest axis can be adjusted independently of the carriage or crossslide. It is utilized when turning tapers, to control depth of cut when screwcutting or precision facing, or to obtain finer feeds (under manual control) than the feed shaft permits. The slide rest can be traced to the fifteenth century, and in the eighteenth century it was used on French ornamental turning lathes. The suite of gun boring mills at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, in the 1780s by the Verbruggan family also had slide rests. The story has long circulated that Henry Maudslay invented it, but he did not (and never claimed so). The legend that Maudslay invented the slide rest originated with James Nasmyth, who wrote ambiguously about it in his Remarks on the Introduction of the Slide Principle, 1841; later writers misunderstood, and propagated the error. Maudslay did help to disseminate the idea widely. It is highly probable that he saw it when he was working at the Arsenal as a boy. In 1794, whilst he was working for Joseph Bramah, he made one, and when he had his own workshop used it extensively in the lathes he made and sold there. Coupled with the network of engineers he trained, this ensured the slide rest became widely known and copied by other lathe makers, and so diffused throughout British engineering workshops. A practical and versatile screw-cutting lathe incorporating the trio of leadscrew, change gears, and slide rest was Maudslay's most important achievement. The first fully documented, all-metal slide rest lathe was invented by Jacques de Vaucanson around 1751. It was described in the Encyclopédie a long time before Maudslay invented and perfected his version. It is likely that Maudslay was not aware of Vaucanson's work, since his first versions of the slide rest had many errors which were not present in the Vaucanson lathe. Toolpost (1) The tool bit is mounted in the toolpost which may be of the American lantern style, traditional 4 sided square style, or in a quick change style such as the multifix arrangement pictured. The advantage of a quick change set-up is to allow an unlimited number of tools to be used (up to the number of holders available) rather than being limited to 1 tool with the lantern style, or 3 to 4 tools with the 4 sided type. Interchangeable tool holders allow the all the tools to be preset to a center height that will not change, even if the holder is removed from the machine. Tailstock Tailstock with legend, numbers and text within the description refer to those in the image The tailstock is a toolholder directly mounted on the spindle axis, opposite the headstock. The spindle (T5) does not rotate but does travel longitudinally under the action of a leadscrew and handwheel (T1). The spindle includes a taper to hold drill bits, centers and other tooling. The tailstock can be positioned along the bed and clamped (T6) in position as required. There is also provision to offset the tailstock (T4) from the spindles axis, this is useful for turning small tapers. The image shows a reduction gear box (T2) between the handwheel and spindle, this is a feature found only in the larger center lathes, where large drills may necessitate the extra leverage. Types of metal lathes There are many variants of lathes within the metalworking field. Some variations are not all that obvious, and others are more a niche area. For example, a centering lathe is a dual head machine where the work remains fixed and the heads move towards the workpiece and machine a center drill hole into each end. The resulting workpiece may then be used "between centers" in another operation. The usage of the term metal lathe may also be considered somewhat outdated these days, plastics and other composite materials are in wide use and with appropriate modifications, the same principles and techniques may be applied to their machining as that used for metal. Center lathe / engine lathe / bench lathe Two-speed back gears in a cone-head lathe. A typical center lathe. The terms center lathe, engine lathe, and bench lathe all refer to a basic type of lathe that may be considered the archetypical class of metalworking lathe most often used by the general machinist or machining hobbyist. The name bench lathe implies a version of this class small enough to be mounted on a workbench (but still full-featured, and larger than mini-lathes or microlathes). The construction of a center lathe is detailed above, but depending on the year of manufacture, size, price range, or desired features, even these lathes can vary widely between models. Engine lathe is the name applied to a traditional late-19thcentury or 20th-century lathe with automatic feed to the cutting tool, as opposed to early lathes which were used with hand-held tools, or lathes with manual feed only. The usage of "engine" here is in the mechanical-device sense, not the prime-mover sense, as in the steam engines which were the standard industrial power source for many years. The works would have one large steam engine which would provide power to all the machines via a line shaft system of belts. Therefore early engine lathes were generally 'cone heads', in that the spindle usually had attached to it a multi-step pulley called a cone pulley designed to accept a flat belt. Different spindle speeds could be obtained by moving the flat belt to different steps on the cone pulley. Cone-head lathes usually had a countershaft (layshaft) on the back side of the cone which could be engaged to provide a lower set of speeds than was obtainable by direct belt drive. These gears were called back gears. Larger lathes sometimes had two-speed back gears which could be shifted to provide a still lower set of speeds. When electric motors started to become common in the early 20th century, many cone-head lathes were converted to electric power. At the same time the state of the art in gear and bearing practice was advancing to the point that manufacturers began to make fully geared headstocks, using gearboxes analogous to automobile transmissions to obtain various spindle speeds and feed rates while transmitting the higher amounts of power needed to take full advantage of high speed steel tools. The inexpensive availability of electronics has again changed the way speed control may be applied by allowing continuously variable motor speed from the maximum down to almost zero RPM. (This had been tried in the late 19th century but was not found satisfactory at the time. Subsequent improvements have made it viable again.) Toolroom lathe A toolroom lathe is a lathe optimized for toolroom work. It is essentially just a top-of-the-line center lathe, with all of the best optional features that may be omitted from less expensive models, such as a collet closer, taper attachment, and others. There has also been an implication over the years of selective assembly and extra fitting, with every care taken in the building of a toolroom model to make it the smoothest-running, mostaccurate version of the machine that can be built. However, within one brand, the quality difference between a regular model and its corresponding toolroom model depends on the builder and in some cases has been partly marketing psychology. For namebrand machine tool builders who made only high-quality tools, there wasn't necessarily any lack of quality in the base-model product for the "luxury model" to improve upon. In other cases, especially when comparing different brands, the quality differential between (1) an entry-level center lathe built to compete on price, and (2) a toolroom lathe meant to compete only on quality and not on price, can be objectively demonstrated by measuring TIR, vibration, etc. In any case, because of their fully-ticked-off option list and (real or implied) higher quality, toolroom lathes are more expensive than entry-level center lathes. Turret lathe and capstan lathe Turret lathe Turret lathes and capstan lathes are members of a class of lathes that are used for repetitive production of duplicate parts (which by the nature of their cutting process are usually interchangeable). It evolved from earlier lathes with the addition of the turret, which is an indexable toolholder that allows multiple cutting operations to be performed, each with a different cutting tool, in easy, rapid succession, with no need for the operator to perform setup tasks in between (such as installing or uninstalling tools) nor to control the toolpath. (The latter is due to the toolpath's being controlled by the machine, either in jiglike fashion [via the mechanical limits placed on it by the turret's slide and stops] or via IT-directed servomechanisms [on CNC lathes].) There is a tremendous variety of turret lathe and capstan lathe designs, reflecting the variety of work that they do. Gang-tool lathe A gang-tool lathe is one that has a row of tools set up on its cross-slide, which is long and flat and is similar to a milling machine table. The idea is essentially the same as with turret lathes: to set up multiple tools and then easily index between them for each part-cutting cycle. Instead of being rotary like a turret, the indexable tool group is linear. Multispindle lathe screw machine Multispindle lathes have more than one spindle and automated control (whether via cams or CNC). They are production machines specializing in high-volume production. The smaller types are usually called screw machines, while the larger variants are usually called automatic chucking machines, automatic chuckers, or simply chuckers. Screw machines usually work from bar stock, while chuckers automatically chuck up individual blanks from a magazine. Typical minimum profitable production lot size on a screw machine is in the thousands of parts due to the large setup time. Once set up, a screw machine can rapidly and efficiently produce thousands of parts on a continuous basis with high accuracy, low cycle time, and very little human intervention. (The latter two points drive down the unit cost per interchangeable part much lower than could be achieved without these machines.) Rotary transfer machines might also be included under the category of multispindle lathes, although they defy traditional classification. They are large, expensive, modular machine tools with many CNC axes that combine the capabilities of lathes, milling machines, and pallet changers. CNC lathe / CNC turning center CNC lathe with milling capabilities An example turned vase and view of the tool turret CNC lathes are rapidly replacing the older production lathes (multispindle, etc) due to their ease of setting and operation. They are designed to use modern carbide tooling and fully utilize modern processes. The part may be designed and the toolpaths programmed by the CAD/CAM process, and the resulting file uploaded to the machine, and once set and trialled the machine will continue to turn out parts under the occasional supervision of an operator. The machine is controlled electronically via a computer menu style interface, the program may be modified and displayed at the machine, along with a simulated view of the process. The setter/operator needs a high level of skill to perform the process, however the knowledge base is broader compared to the older production machines where intimate knowledge of each machine was considered essential. These machines are often set and operated by the same person, where the operator will supervise a small number of machines (cell). The design of a CNC lathe has evolved yet again however the basic principles and parts are still recognizable, the turret holds the tools and indexes them as needed. The machines are often totally enclosed, due in large part to Occupational health and safety (OH&S) issues. With the advent of cheap computers, free operating systems such as Linux, and open source CNC software, the entry price of CNC machines has plummeted. For example, Sherline makes a desktop CNC lathe that is affordable by hobbyists. Swiss-style lathe / Swiss turning center For work requiring extreme accuracy (sometimes holding tolerances as small as a few tenths of a thousandth of an inch), a Swiss-style lathe is often used. A Swiss-style lathe holds the workpiece with both a collet and a guide bushing. The collet sits behind the guide bushing, and the tools sit in front of the guide bushing, holding stationary on the Z axis. To cut lengthwise along the part, the tools will move in and the material itself will move back and forth along the Z axis. This allows all the work to be done on the material near the guide bushing where it's more rigid, making them ideal for working on slender workpieces as the part is held firmly with little chance of deflection or vibration occurring. This style of lathe is also available with CNC controllers to further increase its versatility. Most CNC Swiss-style lathes today utilize two spindles. The main spindle is used with the guide bushing for the main machining operations. The secondary spindle is located behind the part, aligned on the Z axis. In simple operation it picks up the part as it is cut off (aka parted off) and accepts it for second operations, then ejects it into a bin, eliminating the need to have an operator manually change each part, as is often the case with standard CNC turning centers. This makes them very efficient, as these machines are capable of fast cycle times, producing simple parts in one cycle (i.e. no need for a second machine to finish the part with second operations), in as little as 10-15 seconds. This makes them ideal for large production runs of small-diameter parts. Combination lathe / 3-in-1 machine A combination lathe, often known as a 3-in-1 machine, introduces drilling or milling operations into the design of the lathe. These machines have a milling column rising up above the lathe bed, and they utilize the carriage and topslide as the X and Y axes for the milling column. The 3-in-1 name comes from the idea of having a lathe, milling machine, and drill press all in one affordable machine tool. These are exclusive to the hobbyist and MRO markets, as they inevitably involve compromises in size, features, rigidity, and precision in order to remain affordable. Nevertheless, they meet the demand of their niche quite well, and are capable of high accuracy given enough time and skill. They may be found in smaller, non-machine-oriented businesses where the occasional small part must be machined, especially where the exacting tolerances of expensive toolroom machines, besides being unaffordable, would be overkill for the application anyway from an engineering perspective. Mini-lathe and micro-lathe Mini-lathes and micro-lathes are miniature versions of a generalpurpose center lathe (engine lathe). They typically have swings in the range of 3" to 7" (70 mm to 170 mm) diameter (in other words, 1.5" to 3.5" (30 mm to 80 mm) radius). They are small and affordable lathes for the home workshop or MRO shop. The same advantages and disadvantages apply to these machines as explained earlier regarding 3-in-1 machines. As found elsewhere in English-language orthography, there is variation in the styling of the prefixes in these machines' names. They are alternately styled as mini lathe, minilathe, and minilathe and as micro lathe, microlathe, and micro-lathe. Wheel lathe A lathe for turning the wheels of railway locomotives and rolling stock Brake lathe A lathe specialized for the task of resurfacing brake drums and discs in automotive or truck garages. Screw-cutting lathe A screw-cutting lathe is a machine (specifically, a lathe) capable of cutting very accurate screw threads via single-point screwcutting, which is the process of guiding the linear motion of the tool bit in a precisely known ratio to the rotating motion of the workpiece. This is accomplished by gearing the leadscrew (which drives the tool bit's movement) to the spindle with a certain gear ratio for each thread pitch. Every degree of spindle rotation is matched by a certain distance of linear tool travel, depending on the desired thread pitch (English or metric, fine or course, etc.). Until the early 19th century, the notion of a screwcutting lathe stood in contrast to the notion of a regular lathe, which lacked the parts needed to guide the cutting tool in the precise path needed to produce an accurate thread. Since the early 19th century, it has been common practice to build these parts into any general-purpose metalworking lathe; thus, the dichotomy of "regular lathe" and "screw-cutting lathe" does not apply to the classification of modern lathes. Instead, there are other categories, some of which bundle single-point screwcutting capability among other capabilities (for example, regular lathes, toolroom lathes, and CNC lathes), and some of which omit single-point screw-cutting capability as irrelevant to the machines' intended purposes (for example, speed lathes and turret lathes). Today the threads of threaded fasteners (such as machine screws, wood screws, wallboard screws, and sheetmetal screws) are not cut via single-point screw-cutting; instead they are generated by other, faster processes, such as deformation between forming dies and cutting within thread dies. The latter process is the one employed in modern screw machines. These machines, although they are lathes specialized for making screws, are not screw-cutting lathes in the sense of employing single-point screw-cutting. History The screw has been known for millennia. Archimedes devised the water screw, a system for raising water. Screws as mechanical fasteners date to the first century BCE. Although screws were tremendously useful, the difficulty in making them prevented any widespread adoption. Early machine screws were made by hand, with files used to cut the threads. This made the screw slow and expensive to make and the quality highly dependent on the skill of the maker. A process for automating the manufacture of screws and improving the accuracy and consistency of the thread was needed. Lathes have been around since ancient times. Adapting them to screw-cutting is an obvious choice, but the problem of how to guide the cutting tool through the correct path was an obstacle for many centuries. Very old lathes used a mechanism that provided for back-and-forth motion, which rotated the workpiece first one way and then the other. Leonardo da Vinci created drawings showing screw-cutting machines that did away with this back-and-forth system and replaced it with a system that maintained rotation in one direction. He also added a flywheel to keep the rotation consistent. His design also used two leadscrews to guide the tool, perhaps to average out the error in the leadscrew construction. It is unknown whether this machine was ever built, but it is an example of Leonardo's genius. Dozens of designs followed but few were significantly accurate. Henry Hindley designed and constructed a screw-cutting lathe circa 1739. It featured a plate guiding the tool and power supplied by a hand-cranked series of gears. By changing the gears, he could cut screws with different pitch. Removing a gear permitted him to make left-handed threads.. The first truly modern screw-cutting lathe was likely constructed by Jesse Ramsden in 1775. He appears to have been the first person to put a leadscrew into actual use (although, as Leonardo's drawings show, he was not the first person ever to think of the idea), and he was the first to use diamond-tipped cutting tools. His device also included a slide rest and change gear mechanism. These form the elements of a modern (nonCNC) lathe and are in use to this day. Ramsden was able to use his first screw-cutting lathe to make even more accurate lathes. With these, he was able to make an exceptionally accurate dividing engine and in turn, some of the finest astronomical, surveying, and navigational instruments of the 18th century. Others followed. Senot, in 1795, created a screw-cutting lathe capable of industrial-level production. David Wilkinson of Vermont employed a slide-rest in 1798. However, these inventors were soon overshadowed by Henry Maudslay, who in 1800 created a screw-cutting lathe that is frequently cited as the first. Clearly, his was not the first; however, his did become the best known, spreading to the rest of the world the winning combination of leadscrew, slide-rest, and change gears. These late-18th-century screw-cutting lathes represented the breakthrough development of the technology. They permitted the large-scale, industrial production of screws that were interchangeable. Standardization of threadforms (including thread angle, pitches, major diameters, pitch diameters, etc.) began immediately on the intra-company level, and by the end of the 19th century, it had been carried to the international level (although pluralities of standards still exist).
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