According to some historical records, lathes have existed since 1300 B.C., and their primary purpose has remained the same over the centuries: to turn an object around an axis of rotation to facilitate its shaping in some way.
Engine lathes came into being in the 19th century, and the term today is basically synonymous with what we would consider a simple lathe. It’s a metal-cutting, machining device that operates horizontally. It has a cross-slide, a flat, maneuverable section that users can position at right angles to the bed, which facilitates different kinds of material cutting. It features a carriage, which allows users to precisely position their metal-working tools. Finally, engine lathes are powered by some kind of engine that uses gears to help spin the lathe.
Though virtually all of today’s lathes are engine lathes in a manner of speaking, the term indicates a machine that’s used by hobbyists and also in industrial applications. Due to their smaller size, they are sometimes called bench lathes.
Engine Lathe Manufacturers
Surplus Record has a wide assortment of engine lathes by top manufacturers. Read more about our top engine lathe manufacturers.
Types of Engine Lathes
Engine lathes can be broadly characterized by several different factors. These include the maximum diameter of the material handled by the lathe (which is also called the swing), as well as the maximum length of the same material. The minimum and maximum revolutions per minute (RPM) is another important factor when purchasing an engine lathe. So are the overall dimensions of the lathe itself.
Additionally, lathes can be differentiated by three drive methods, which we will detail down below.
These types of lathes derive their rotational power from pulleys, which turns the lathe’s spindle at high speeds. A combination of gears and a speed cone can help adjust the machine’s speed. Belt-driven lathes don’t generate much torque at low speeds.
Gear boxes filled with different sized gears power the spindle, and speeds will ratchet up or down in increments depending on the specifications of the gear box.
This type of lathe is powered by a built-in motor that’s a part of the machine’s construction.