How Does a Lathe Work?

A lathe works by spinning an object quickly and using a cutting tool to remove material uniformly from the diameter of the object that is spinning. It can perform a "rough turn" and remove a substantial amount of material all at once, or it can perform a "finish turn" to remove material more smoothly. There are a number of tools that can be used with a lathe.

When using a lathe, an object must be placed into a chuck, and a tool must be fitted into the tool holder. When the chuck begins to spin rapidly, the carriage of the lathe moves the tool holder and shifts the tool down the spinning object gradually. This creates an even cut across the entire spinning object while the tool moves.

Lathes can also be used with a variety of different tools in the tool holders to create more customized and nuanced parts. A facing tool will create a smooth, straight surface on the object when it is finished. A boring tool can be used, as with other applications, to drill a hole into the object being spun. All of these tools have shapes and angles that allow them to modify the object on which it is based.