A Brief History of the Lathe
Thursday, June 12, 2014

Turning is one of the most important processes in metalworking. This couldn’t be done, of course, without a lathe. Pottery, watches, and even optical materials wouldn’t exist without the function of a lathe. So how did lathes come to be? Read on, and you’ll see a brief history of this powerful tool in this next installment.

Usages of lathes date all the way back ancient Egypt along with Assyria and ancient Greece also using the tool. It has been discovered that Egyptians developed and used a two-person lathe around 1300 B.C.  The two-person lathe allowed one person to use a rope to turn the woodwork piece, while the other person used a sharpened tool to cut the wood into a desired shape.

While this was developed in one part of the world, the Romans were developing their form of the lathe in another part of the world. The ancient Romans added a turning bow to the lathe. By using a woodturning lathe, Romans were able to make lidded boxes and containers from materials such as boxwoods. The Romans were also able to make furniture using the advances they had made in woodturning lathes.

In the 13th century, the first image of the pole lathe was created in a stained glass window at the Chartres Cathedral in France. The 13th century is the first mention of the pole lathe, however it could have been used before that time. This was a major technological breakthrough for the time period; the pole lathe eliminated the need for a second person like in the aptly named two-person lathe, and it also enabled the worker to stand at a table and work rather than sit on the ground and turn.

Fast forward many years to the 1700s, and people of England were making advances on the ever-useful lathe. Dutch-born Jan Verbruggen was selected to be master founder of the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich in the late 1700s. He helped create a horizontal drilling machine that allowed guns to be more precisely produced, as well as allowing a more accurate production of cannon. (These produced stronger cannon that would be used in the American Revolutionary War.) In his home country, while serving as master caster at the National Heavy Artillery Foundry in The Hague, Verbruggen designed an innovative horizontal lathe for the production of cannon.

The lathe went on to be a tool used for many functions. During the Industrial Revolution, the lathe benefitted from steam power. Steam engines and water wheels provided mechanized power; transmitted through line shafting, this made for much faster and more efficient work. Developments and improvements to the lathe permitted the metal parts of engines to be accurately cut, thus allowing for large engines to be built, which meant more powerful engines.

Now, in the 21st century, the function and basic form of the lathe is the same, but there is a vast array of lathes and surprising functions they provide. CNC metalworking, metal spinning, glass-working and ornamental turning lathes all have played roles as important tools to mankind. Who knows, maybe within the next century there will be some developments to lathes that can improve that will “turn” the machining world upside down.


Blog Categories

  • General Interest
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    • 02/19/2019 - Lining Your Spindles for Bette
    • 01/22/2019 - Selecting the Right Bar Feeder
    • 12/18/2018 - Benefits of CNC manufacturing
    • 11/20/2018 - Lathe Machine Accessories and
    • 10/23/2018 - What is Chamfering and How Doe
    • 09/18/2018 - Why Gears Need to be Chamfered
    • 08/21/2018 - How to Assess What Bar Feeder
    • 07/24/2018 - Increase Your CNC Machining Pr
    • 06/19/2018 - Machines You Would Need for Me
    • 05/22/2018 - Quality Parts: 5 Benefits to y
    • 04/17/2018 - 3 Type of Metal Fabrication To
    • 03/16/2018 - Learning about Lathing Machine
    • 02/16/2018 - Why CNC Machining is Important
    • 01/26/2018 - Step By Step Guide For Easy Sp
    • 08/15/2017 - Fully Automatic Chamfering Mac
    • 07/05/2017 - Chamfering: Manual vs. Automat
    • 05/23/2017 - The Mother of Machine Tools –
    • 04/17/2017 - The Mother of Machine Tools –
    • 12/17/2016 - DIY Spindle Liners
    • 11/05/2016 - Spindle Liners: Steel or Ureth
    • 07/23/2016 - Quick-Change Workholding Syste
    • 06/23/2016 - The Best Spindle Liners
    • 05/12/2016 - Apps for CNC Machining
    • 03/15/2016 - T-Rex Spindle Crushes Industry
    • 10/13/2015 - From Hand Tool to Simple Machi
    • 05/11/2015 - Bevel and Chamfer: What’s the
    • 04/24/2015 - What’s In A Name: The Definiti
    • 03/17/2015 - A Brief History of Geometric L
    • 02/10/2015 - 3-D: Not Just for Printers Any
    • 01/20/2015 - Ornamental Turning
    • 12/09/2014 - Informative Machinist Blogs
    • 11/20/2014 - The Ins and Outs of Being a Ma
    • 10/23/2014 - Bow Lathes Before Power
    • 09/10/2014 - World Record: The World’s Larg
    • 08/18/2014 - Lathes: Not Just for Heavy Ind
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    • 06/12/2014 - A Brief History of the Lathe
    • 05/25/2014 - The History of Lathing: Ancien
    • 04/02/2014 - Useful Apps for Machinists and
    • 03/18/2014 - The Basics of Spindle Liners
  • Historical Turning

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Hi Josh, Please order the attached PO 17456 for a JF Berns spindle liner quoted on #QJMJ-12828. It can ship UPS ground collect. Thank you for the outstanding service. Any questions please contact me. Thank you

Dave / YHM CO. INC.
PS: I will never buy a urethane liner again!



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