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The Lathe and Turning


A lathe is a fundamental machine tool in material processing, primarily used for metals, to perform turning operations on various workpieces. This tool has a long history and continues to be essential in numerous industrial and artisanal sectors.

what is a lathe?

A lathe is a machine tool that works by rotating a piece around a fixed axis. During this rotation, a cutting tool is applied against the piece to remove excess material and achieve the desired shape. The machine mainly consists of a spindle, which holds and rotates the piece, and a tool carriage, which supports and moves the cutting tool.

What is turning?

Turning is the machining process performed with a lathe. It involves removing layers of material from the workpiece using a sharp cutting tool. The piece, fixed on the spindle, rotates at high speed, while the tool moves in a controlled manner to cut away excess material, shaping the piece according to the desired specifications. 

cnc lathe

What is the lathe and turning used for?

The lathe and turning are used for a wide range of applications. In metalworking, the lathe is employed to create precision cylindrical, conical, and spherical components, such as shafts, bushings, and pins. In the woodworking industry, lathes are used to make objects like table legs, columns, and other decorative forms.

Compared to milling, turning is a faster and less expensive process, offering higher productivity for large series production of rotationally symmetric parts. Additionally, it ensures superior precision for cylindrical and rotational surfaces.

In summary, the lathe is essential for:

  • Producing precision mechanical parts.
  • Manufacturing components for machinery and instruments.
  • Creating artistic and decorative objects.
  • Repairing and finishing worn or damaged pieces.

Who invented the lathe?

The lathe is one of the oldest machine tools, with a history dating back thousands of years. The earliest forms of lathes were used by the ancient Egyptians, but the Greeks and Romans developed more advanced versions. During the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci designed a more sophisticated pedal-operated lathe. However, it was only during the Industrial Revolution that the modern motor-driven lathe was developed, revolutionizing industrial production.

First threading lathe

First threading lathe


How is turning done?

Turning is performed through a series of well-defined steps:

  1. Preparing the Workpiece: The material piece is securely fixed onto the lathe spindle. 
  2. Setting the Tool: The cutting tool is mounted on the turret and positioned to make contact with the piece.
  3. Adjusting the Speed: The spindle rotation speed is selected based on the material and type of machining.
  4. Executing the Cut: The tool is brought close to the rotating piece and begins to remove material, creating the desired shape. This can include roughing (to remove large amounts of material) and finishing (to achieve a smooth and precise surface).
  5. Control and Measurement: During and after turning, the piece is checked and measured to ensure it meets the required specifications.


The lathe and turning represent a combination of technology and art, capable of transforming raw pieces into high-precision components. This machine tool, with its ancient origins and continuous evolution, remains a cornerstone in industrial and artisanal production, demonstrating its fundamental importance in the history of material processing.

Relying on Weerg for turning operations means benefiting from a high-quality, efficient, and cost-effective service, capable of meeting the precision and timeliness demands of the modern market.



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