A lathe is a machine tool which rotates the workpiece on its axis to perform various operations such as cutting, sanding, knurling, drilling, or deformation, facing, turning, with tools that are applied to the workpiece to create an object which has symmetry about an axis of rotation.
Headstock contains high-precision spinning bearings. Rotating within the bearings is a horizontal axle, with an axis parallel to the bed, called the spindle. The tail-stock 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.
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 CNC metalworking lathe
Main article: 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 tool-post 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 tool-post is operated by lead-screws that can accurately position the tool in a variety of planes. The tool-post 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 lead-screw. 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 lead-screw: A lathe with a metric lead-screw will readily cut metric threads (including BA), while one with an imperial lead-screw 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 change-wheel than the others, and on some lathes may be larger than the change-wheel 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...
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