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Lathe - The Wonder Machine

written by: Ricky • edited by: Swagatam • updated: 5/5/2009

Manufacturing of various products is carried out with the help of different kinds of machines. Lathe machine is one of the oldest, yet most useful and versatile of such kind of manufacturing machines, and can be used for numerous manufacturing operations on a wide range of materials.

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    Just imagine you were trapped in a time machine and got thrown into the 1300BC era. If you happen to land somewhere near the Gift of the Nile (Egypt) don’t forget to see one of the oldest manufacturing machines. Two persons were required to perform the operation wherein one person would rotate a wooden piece of work with the help of a rope while the other used some sort of a sharp tool to give shape to the piece according to the required purpose. This was the very beginning of the modern day lathe machine which was later on improvised upon by various other civilizations.

    The lathe machine which we understand today is not much different in terms of its purpose, but the functioning is much more advanced. These machines can be used for a variety of tasks ranging from cutting, drilling, knurling etc.

    Parts of the Machine

    A typical lathe machine consists of the following parts:

  • Bed – this acts as the base upon which the other parts are placed
    • Headstock – this contains the various gear arrangements and related paraphernalia of the lathe machine
      • Spindle is the rotating part which transmits the motion of the machine to the chuck
        • Chuck is the part which holds the moving part to be worked upon in tight grip while rotating it at the same time
          • Tailstock is opposite to the headstock and while the latter is fixed, the former can be moved along the bed and tightened at one particular position
            • Cross-slide is a platform which can be rotated as well as moved along the bed axis and contains the tool-post which can hold different kinds of sharp tools
              • Main categories of Lathe Machines

                The above description is of a generic lathe machine, but these days lathe machines come in different flavours and some of the useful types are as follows.

              • Woodworking lathes which are mainly used for woodcutting operations
                • Metal cutting lathes that are used for metal working procedures
                  • Cue lathes are used for manufacture of cues used in billiards game
                    • Ornamental lathes are used to manufacture ornaments
                      • Watchmaker lathes are used for very small and precision works usually associated with watch making
                        • The above list is not exhaustive by any means but surely serves the purpose to give an idea to the readers how vast and versatile the lathe world is. It must also be remembered that whenever operations such as cutting and turning are involved, a lot of heat is generated which is driven away by the use of coolants which keep the cutter tip as well as the metal piece cool. Of course this depends on the type of application and process underway as in the case of glass working lathes, there is not coolant, rather a flame which is used to keep the glass in a malleable state so that it is easy to give shape to it.