Different types of lathe machine and their classification

Due to how the functionality and how effective lathe machine has become in its operation, different types have been available over the years. However, classifying them into categories is not an easy task which is why this post was published.

Read: Understanding lathe machine

Lathe machines of different types and sizes are purposely designed to suit specific jobs and material will be explained in this article.

types of lathe machine


According to the construction and design, lathes are classified as follows


Bench lathe

This is a very small machine mostly used by wristwatch manufacturers. It is mounted on a cabinet or bench, and used for small and precision work that requires high accuracy. It contains all parts the larger lathe carries and will perform almost the same operation as the larger ones.

Speed lathes

These types of lathe machines are used in wood turning, polishing, centering, and metal spinning. They’re either available with supporting legs, fitted to the bed and the one mounted on a bench. It contains all features other lathes carry but it lacks provision for power feed. It also has no gearbox, carriage, or lead screw. Due to this, the tool is fed and actuated by hand.

As the name implies, speed lathes are named because of the very high speed at which the spindle rotates.

Engine lathe

Engine lathe is one of the most used lathes. The name is quite confusing right, after all, lathes are available with a motor drive. Well, the engine lathe carries a great historical significance because, in the very early days, it is driven by a steam engine. Because of this, it is a popularly known engine lathe today.

Practically, these lathe machine types look like a speed lathe as it has all its features. But the construction of the engine lathe is bigger in size and more robust, and a large mechanism for providing multiple speeds to the lathe spindle.

The headstock spindle receives power from a lathe shaft through a belt, making it have a cone pulley with back gears. This helps to provide desired speed to the headstock spindle which is why the machine is also called geared head lathe.

Toolroom lathe

These types of lathe machines are the same as the engine lathe but have some extra features. One of these features is to make it suitable for a relatively more accurate angle of speeds and feeds. However, the ideal features of the tool room lathe include, taper turning, follower rest, collets, chucks, etc. Comparatively, this lathe has a smaller bed length than the engine lathe as the most used length is 135 to 180 cm.

Capstan and turret lathe

These types of lathes are widely used in mass production and it’s very important due to their features. They are actually semi-automatic type and various operations can be performed on them. Little skill is required to operate the machine, the only skills required are in the tools set in the turret or capstan head. Once this setting is successfully done, the operations are done automatically.

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Automatic lathe

An automatic lathe is known for its enhancement in quality and quantity of production. This machine is so perfect that the complete manufacturing process is automatically achieved. This means, no participation of the operator is required during the operation. And just like the semi-automatic lathes, the work of operators is just the mounting and removing of workpieces from the spindles. Well, automatic types of lathe machines are available with single or multi spindles. They are classified as heavy-duty, high-speed lathes mainly used for mass production.

Other special types of lathe machine tools include;

Special purpose lathes

Some lathe is purposely designed for a specific project or to suit a definite class of work. They are more efficient and effective in what they do. These machines are classified as the following;

Precision lathe – these machine tools are capable of a dimensional accuracy as small as 0.002mm. Its previously rough-turned workpiece in many cases, replaces a high-class grinding machine due to its fine dimensional accuracy.

Facing lathe – in the facing lathe, the carriage is driven by a separate motor, while the main spindle is independent. Tailstock is not indicated in this machine. It is used to machine the end faces of bulky cylindrical projects.

Frontal lathe – these types of machine tools contain two carriages, one on each end. Two tool heads are also provided, which allows the machining of two jobs simultaneously. It is suitable for use in machining smaller jobs.

Vertical lathe – this special lathe carries a vertical column, in which the cross slide and vertical slide are fitted to it. the jobs are held by the heavy base located at the bottom that carries a face plate. It is used for boring and turning very large and heavy rotating parts like flywheels and large gear blanks

Crankshaft lathe – the crankshaft lathe carries all features like other common lathes like taper turning, threading, etc. Well, there are supports for the shafts. It is used for turning very long parts such as crankshaft, turbine, and engine shafts.

Production lathe – in this lathe machine type, the bed is made to be inclined towards the rear. This feature ensures maximum chip removal making operation faster on heavy work. It is specially designed for the mass production of cylindrical parts and it increases the rate of production. But it is not very suitable for repair work.

Duplicate lathe – the duplicate lathe features a tracer connected to the carriage, which moves along a template and guides the carriage. It is used for mass production of identical parts where the previous machine part is used as a sample.

Screw cutting lathe – This type of lathe machine is automatic for screw cutting, operated through cams and cam plates. It is used for mass production of screwed parts. Mostly applied for precision screw work.

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Classification of lathes

The classification of lathes cannot be given from the comprehensive outlines given. But different types of lathe machines can be classified according to the type of drive they carry, sizes, the gap between the center to the bed (height), etc.

Classifications according to the height of centers can be given below;

  • Small lathe: the height of the center is up to 150 mm.
  • Medium-size lathes: the height of the center is from 150 to 300 mm.
  • Heavy duty lathes: height of centers is above 300 mm.

According to the type of drive, lathes are classified as:

Lathe with a step cone pulley drive and the back-gears for various speeds affect the machine –      Machines like this use a countershaft that carries a similar cone pulley to the one on the lathe spindle. The pulley carries two clutch pulleys connected to the main shaft through belts. One of the pulleys carries an open belt and the other with a closed belt. Due to this arrangement of belts, the machine spindle can rotate in opposite directions.

Lathe with a step-cone pulley drive and back-gears, but with individual motor drive – well the elimination of the main shaft takes place. In machines like this, the countershaft is located within the machine and it contains a stepped cone pulley. Using V belts, another pulley is provided at the end of the shaft to the motor pulley.

The drive is transferred from the motor to the countershaft and then to the machine spindle. while the range of speeds can be obtained just as the first classification.

Lathes with a single pulley constant speed or geared-head drive – in this type, V belts are used to drive a single pulley from the motor to the internal mechanism pack in the headstock. It is designed to have various speed gears inside and enables a wide range of speeds to the spindle. these types of lathe machines provide power feeds to the carriage.

Read more: Parts of lathe machine

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