Manual Metal Lathes
Since the earliest days of an infantile metal working industry, metal lathes have been used to perform actions like turning, sanding, drilling and polishing in order to achieve a cylindrical object with symmetry. Lathes are required to transform cylindrical shaped blanks of difficult materials such as tool steel, various metals, wood and hard plastics into piece parts of exceptional tolerances, and sometimes the requirement for a polished finish. This is done through insertion of a spindle followed by a rapid rotation at a set speed while various tooling is applied to the work piece.
Debate, What Debate?
How long has the debate gone on now? At least a 100 years? What debate you say? Well, it’s one of the least formal debates you’ll find around. It’s the debate that wages from the first-year student level all the way up to the board room, including experienced operators, programmers, schedulers, shop or department foreman.
You’re dying to know right now which debate we're referring to aren’t you? It’s so subtle you might even remember yourself engaged with the debate over the years. Okay, we'll give it up: it’s the debate over which machine would you rather have if you could only have one, a lathe or a mill. One of our salesmen commented, "When I came out of my technical school training, I at first favored the mill, but as time went on and I gained more experience in my chosen field of band saws and band saw blades, I spent more time on the shop floor and got to liking the lathe over the mill."
Lathe or Mill — where do you stand?
The History of the Humble Lathe
There is one thing the experts do agree on, the invention of the working lathe dates back to around 1300 B.C. The first chronicled history of that primitive device is referred to in both ancient Egypt and Greece depictions at about the same time. The Egyptian version was well described and required two people to operate it. You could probably guess why they needed two people to run this thing — yep, one guy handled the cutting tool and the other guy provided the circular motion somehow with a rope (we try to picture how that would work and are just not seeing it).
You can see throughout history that the longer the lathe was in use, the larger the piece parts became with each improvement. The ever popular “spring pole lathe” came into being — best guess — in the late 1600’s. This small bench top size machine was powered by the operator's own two legs via a heavy dual pedal setup connected to a long sapling that drove the head. Very similar to the old style sewing machines of not so long ago (the ones that your grandma might have used when she was young). You can imagine that the old “spring pole lathe” didn’t have a very large working envelope, like 1"-2" part diameters in soft metal, maybe 4-5 inches long.
What Happened When They Finally Put Some Power to the Lathe?
One of the first well-known and well-documented production lathes wasn’t a lathe at all. It was a horizontal boring machine installed in 1772 at the Royal Armory at Woolich, England. Is it any wonder how the first large-capacity boring machine powered by horse came into being if it weren’t for war? This very machine was designed to produce more accurate, stronger and longer cannon barrels. In fact, this very machine produced the cannon used in the Revolutionary War, both by America and against America.
As we roll through the 1800’s, common power sources became water wheel as well as steam engine. Early manufacturing companies running many machines in one room would have a belt and shaft drive system where each machine was run by a belt coming down from above. By the late 19th century electric motors became the primary power source on each individual lathe machine. By the mid 1950’s servo-controlled systems began to be fitted to the lathes, which were easily adaptable to the later CNC control. (Some manual lathes available today do have non-CNC controls but still have servo-drive components.)
Sometimes It’s More Important Who You Brought Your Machine Tool from Then Where!
Unfortunately, we have all probably experienced this at one time or another, you buy something from a supplier a long way off, hoping the lowest bidder on your item would somehow come through. So, you use it hoping for the best and — alas — you are less than impressed with the item's functionality. Then is when you will experience whatever customer service level the company has budgeted for. Narrow hours of operation on East coast time, always has a voicemail option and nothing else — we think you know the situation as well as we do, so we probably don’t need to describe it anymore.
We are confident that you will experience the exact opposite with Jorgenson Machine Tools. We run towards challenges, not away from them. We stock, sell, install, and maintain just about every kind of machine tool imaginable. Call us today for your next machine tool acquisition and experience the Jorgenson difference. That’s why we like to say, Jorgenson Machine Tools: “Strong On Service.”