A metalworking lathe machine is used for shaping metal (or other materials) round by holding and rotating the workpiece while a carbide tool bit is pushed into the outside or inside of the workpiece – causing a chip removing cutting action. Holding the part is normally done with a chuck that has jaws to grip the part at one end and a pointed center or steady rest to support the center of the part at the other end.
Lathes may also be able to produce screw threads, tapered work, drilled holes, knurled surfaces, and crankshafts depending which tooling is used and options are chosen. Engine lathes can be grouped into four categories: lightweight bench type, precision tool room type, gap type and big bore. Precision tool room lathes are used for all operations, such as turning, boring, drilling, reaming, producing screw threads, taper turning, knurling, and radius forming where higher tolerances are required.
Gap lathes have a removeable gap section that comes out of the bed allowing them to fit larger diameter but short workpieces with the machining work to be done on the face. Big Bore means the machine is large and has an extra large diameter spindle bore through the head stock to allow working on shafts and other parts that are longer than the distance between centers, such as an oil drilling shaft.
Before choosing a lathe, consider the diameter of the work that will rotate (swing) over the bed, the diameter of the work that will swing by the cutting tool carriage/cross slide, and the length to be held between centers.
Affordable Chinese made lathes have become popular now that their quality is improving. But before using one for the first time please thoroughly flush the gearbox oil to get any chips and manufacturing grit out. Also check to make sure all the bolts are still tight after shipping. If you need to minimize runout or use the machine for many hours per day, please choose one of our better machines made in Canada or Taiwan. Please call us for advice.