The lathe is one of the earliest of forming tools. It has been around since the days of the Pharaohs. It can be described as a tool that creates new objects by removing material. The object that is being formed can be made of wood, metal or other substances.
Although the word lathe is practically a household term, it is an acronym. It stands for, “Longitudinal Axis Tool Holding Equipment”. Now you pretty much know why we call them lathes.
What is the basic process of using a lathe?
As mentioned, to remove material from wood or metal stock, the stock is usually placed horizontally into the lathe. In the case of a metal product, there are times when the piece to be formed will be mounted vertically.
Working with wood, the ends of the stock are placed into the lathe where it is held firmly by the ends. The usual way to clamp the stock into place is by using a chuck. Chucks on each end of the lathe open and close to clamp the outside circumference of the stock. Think of a chair leg or baseball bat, made of wood. The ends of these would be held by the chucks of the lathe.
From this balanced position, the motor of the lathe turns the stock on its longitudinal axis and the operator starts his work. The operator’s tools are applied to cut, shape, sand and polish the exterior of the stock.
Why is variable speed important for a lathe?
Lathe speed is important because of many variables. The size of the stock a contributing factor. The diameter of a wooden bowl is many times that of a pen. Therefore, the speed of the lathe must be able to be adjusted to reflect the size of the stock being turned. If the stock is made of hard metal, such as steel, the speed will need to be increased while the smaller pieces are cut from the stock. A wood stock that is of lower quality will need to be rotated more slowly. A stock that is irregular in shape will need to be rotated at a slower speed.
Security is one of the most basic reasons why a variable speed is important for a lathe. Some parts will fly off the lathe and hit the operator if they are spun too quickly. To avoid this situation, varying the speed of a lathe is important. One example of a lathe that can do this is the Twister Speed Lathe. This lathe has a variety of rotation speeds. A stock with square ends on it will need to be spun slower. This is because the tips of the square stock are not always in contact with the cutting tool. This fraction of a second with no contact will cause the tool to move slightly. When the next point of contact arrives the tool may be in the incorrect position. This results in a cutting error. For operator security and for stock security, variable speeds are indispensable for a lathe.
Lathes use air collets
Chucks and air collets are similar on lathes. The chuck is usually tightened by hand on many lathes. This keeps the stock centered and firmly in place. Air collets do the same but with an important difference.
An air collet uses pressured air to clamp the stock in place. The materials that can be secured in an air collet are the same as with a regular chuck. This helps to automate the process of mounting or dismounting the piece that is being formed. Anything that can save time is a welcome addition in a manufacturing atmosphere. The ability to save work time means an air collet is superior.
Wood and metal products are manufactured in lathes
Wood is commonly cut in a lathe and used for making the legs of tables or chairs. Metal is used to form stronger items. A metal pen is a small object that can be produced easily. In the early days of the Industrial Revolution, forming metal and machining popularized lathes in a big way.
Lathes were the first machining tools that allowed the creation of other machining tools. Plastic can also be turned in a lathe, but wood and metal are more common. Lathes are not going away any time soon because they put out finely detailed items. The material in a lathe can be formed to very exacting tolerances. For this reason, lathes will remain in use for the foreseeable future.