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Lathe

7-5-08 I want to acknowledge the assistance of Joel Moskowitz, in helping me work out some details about the lathe's history. However, I also want to note that organizing and formatting the narrative on the lathe for the Internet is presenting considerable difficulty for me. Please be patient.

See also Turner.

Definition and Etymology

(1) A machine for turning and/or shaping wood, metal, ivory, etc., in which the article to be rotated is held in a horizontal position by means of adjustable centers and rotated against the Chisels with which it is "cut" into the desired shape.


(2) Machine for turning and shaping wood, metal, etc. 1310, device used by coopers, perhaps a turning lathe; probably borrowed from a Scandinavian source (compare Danish -lad stand, supporting framework, as in drejelad turning lathe, savelad saw bench, vaeverlad loom, and Old Icelandic hladh layered pile or pile regularly built up as from the shavings of a lathe, related to hladha to load, LADE --

[Note: this section above adapted from Barhhart, cited in Sources, below -- the reference to 1310 is not explained by Barnhart, but seems to suggest a date when "lathe" as a term, is recorded in an English source?]).

(3) This definition comes from a 1900 publication on American lathes: "The Lathe is a machine for working metals, wood, or other substance by causing the material to revolve with greater or less speed, according to the nature of the material and work to be performed, before a tool which is held at rest."

Source: Kenneth L. Cope, American Lathe Builders Mendham, NJ: Astagal Press, 2001, page i.

Evidently the first dictionary reference to a turning lathe used in English is Cotgrave's Dictionary (1611).

1659 John Leak (translator), of Isaak de Caus's Waterworks. 25 As in a Turner's Lathe might turn a much finer neck...
    CAUS, ISAAC DE. New and rare inventions of Water-works, shewing the easiest waies to raise water higher then the spring. By which invention the Perpetual Motion is proposed many hard labours performed And variety of motions and sounds produced. First written in French by Isaak de Caus a late famous engineer: And now translated into English by John Leak. London, Printed by Joseph Moxon. Folio. 1659. ~London Institution.


1753William Hogarth Analysis of Beauty x. 58 A turner, in his lathe, might turn a much finer neck. (link to 1810 ed.)

1812-16 James Smith Panorama of Science and Art I. 31 A file ... to smooth wood or metal revolving in the lathe.



Sources: Robert K Barnhart, Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology, 1988; 1611 Randle Cotgrave, d. 1634 A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues, 1611 (This book is available in digitized format on the Internet, but to access it a subscription is needed. A copy in microfilm is at WWU ibrary but looking this word -- on microfilm is a pain. Maybe I'll get around to it at some later date.)

[The following highlighted terms will be defined sometime in the future. 6-20-08] Tools used in ordinary wood turning will be treated later under the following entries: Caliper, Chisel, Turning (including Gouges); Hook Tool, under Chisel Turning; Sizing Tool.

A tool with a long history for rounding and shaping wood.

The the lathe is also used for turning "irregular forms" and in engraving figure-work and geometrical designs on metal and to make Bowls, Spindles (for chairs), legs for chairs and tables, and other decorative items.

Sources: OED, the and Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology, 1988, and R. A. Salaman Dictionary of Woodworking Tools London: Unwin, Hyman, 1976, page 258.

Anatomy of Lathe

lathe_anatomy_1974

The Headstock, at the left end of the lathe Bed, holds a Spindle, threaded on both ends. (The threads on the inside end are right-hand and those on the outside end are left-hand.) They are used to attach the Face-Plates on which workpieces are mounted for turning projects such as bowls. The spindle is hollow with the inside end tapered internally to carry the shank of the spur or live center.

The hollow spindle permits the use of a Knockout Bar to remove the Spur Center or other Taper Shank Tools.

The Tailstock can be moved and locked along a track in the bed. It also has a spindle that is hollow and holds the cup center, (also called a dead center). This spindle can be moved in and out of the tailstock by turning the hand–wheel. The cup center is removed by turning the handwheel counterclockwise until the spindle is completely retracted (withdrawn) into the tail-stock.

 

The Tool Rest (or Tool Support) clamps to the bed and adjusts up and down and/or any position along the track on the bed. lengths of tool rests vary. The top edge must be straight and smooth so that the lathe tools can be easily moved.

Turning Chisels

lathe_chisels

A set of turning chisels come in about six different shapes, and,  in turn, each chisel is available in several sizes (i.e., widths). With a round-nose, coved-lengthways, the Gouge, is used for roughing out and making cove cuts. double-ground, flat-lengthways, the Skew is used to smooth cylin­ders and cut shoulders and beads. Used for cutting-off (i.e., severing) work and for making sizing cuts, the Parting  Tool is a double-ground tool.  The Spear Point (also called a diamond point), Round Nose and Square Nose are all single bevel tools used wherever their shape best fits the contour of the work. (Need image of my chisels)

The skill to manipulate chisels comes with practice. Once you know the techniques of using the  chisels, you can apply them to turning out anything from the wheel hub for a scale-model car to a good-sized Lazy Susan or a fluted table leg.

When compared with other tools in the home workshop, the wood-turning lathe is unique by virtue of its singular purpose: It's designed to allow rapid and symmetrical shaping or carving by rotating the workpiece on a driven center. Don't, however, assume that the lathe is too limited in function to be useful. Tackling even a moderately intricate project without one would be a major chore, and a well-equipped machine is flexible enough to handle a wide variety of turning tasks, as well as shaping, sanding, and finishing jobs.
 

Source: mother earth news lathe survey.

Sources: Robert S. Woodbury, History of the Lathe: A Study in the Growth of a Technical Element in an Industrial Economy. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1961;

R. A. Salaman Dictionary of Woodworking Tools (1989), page 258, is limited to lathes "adapted to  particular woodworking trades":  "We have not included the range of  pedal and power driven Lathes used for more general work"; Willis  H. Wagner, Modern Woodworking: Tools,  Materials, Procedures. South Holland, IL: Goodheart-Willcox, 1974,  chapter 15;  Charles G. Wheeler, Woodworking: A Handbook for Beginners in Home and School Treating Tools and Operations, pages 314-331; Herman Hjorth, "The  Lathe", Home Craftsman 18 1949, pp  ?, two  articles -- with numerous photos (on opd).

History of the Lathe

Table of Contents

Overview

Wood turning falls into two main branches:

    (1) centered work

    (2) face-plate work.
In both (1) and (2) the preliminary "rounding" and "shaping" is done with large Turning Gouges.

In centered work or spindle turning, the "finishing" operations are done with sets of Gouges, Chisels, and V-Parting tools.

In face-plate work with Scraper Tools.

Finally, for hard, close-grained woods such as box and ebony, with Profiled Scraper chisels.

Before Electrification, Early Lathes Fall Into Three Types:

    (1) Pole-and-treadle lathe
    (2) Great Wheel (or, "fly-wheel") Lathe
    (3) Treadle Lathe ca 1850


The upside of the pole-and-treadle lathe is -- using crude, readily available materials -- its relatively-easy constuction. The downside of the pole-and-treadle lathe is its operation. Rather than a steady rotary motion, its motion is reciprocal. That it, as the operator depresses the lathe's treadle, the lathe rotates the workpiece for a "cutting". Then, the operation reverses, as the pole must return to its original position, in preparation for another press-down on the treadle. In the hands of a skilled operator, the reciprocal nature of the motion of the workpiece is minimized, but it is still not the ideal of steady rotation. Some links to other accounts:



MacGregor Historic Games webpage on Ancient lathes

Stuart King's webpage on Reciprocal Rotation

MacGregor Historic Games webpage on reciprocal rotation of lathes

Continous Rotation:

The Great Wheel or Fly-Wheel lathes give continuous rotation, a breakthrough of major proportions [more on this overview later] Stuart King's webpage with more on "coninuous rotation"

Evidence of lathes and lathe-work traces back to about 700 B.C. We may now ask, what kind of a lathe was it? What were its principal features, and how did it operate? Prior to the third century B.C. we have only the very vague characteristics which we have shown can be inferred from early turning work.

In recording the history of when the lathe was introduced as a tool for cutting and shaping wood and other objects, Wisely, I think, Robert S Woodbury, a historian of technology, shuns the urge to use speculation. Instead, he turns to what is considered the earliest evidence of a lathe used by humans, in Egypt, third century BC -- see box directly below:

... "[P]robably the oldest of the developed machine tools. [The lathe and the bow drill are the] only complex tool[s] known to antiquity. ...[U]ntil the end of the 18th century, technically, these two tools were the most important available to the mechanic."



Other scholars have also speculated about the origin of the lathe, but without tracing the available evidence as carefully as Woodbury.

The images of ancient lathes in the 1881 fourth volume, Chapter 1, but -- in my view -- of John Jacob Holtzapffel's, Turning and Mechanical Manipulation provides do not capture the spirit or character of a primitive lathe's operation. However, the 40 years that separate the initial 1843 three volume set and the 1881 fourth addition reflects the growth of Western museum resources about ancient and nonwestern cultures.

Holtzapffel's claims -- in 1881 -- about the long range of the use of lathes by humans is also confirmed by R A Salman, who -- in his Dictionary of Woodworking Tools, under the entry “Turning” -- points out that lathes were known in the ancients, including the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans. At that time, workpieces were held between two sharply-tapered centers and rotation created with a strap or bow. Pole lathes also existed in Classical times. (For more background on the existence of lathes in Ancient times, see Gordon Childe, “Wheeled Vehicles” History of Technology, Oxford, 1954, Volume 1; Robert S Woodbury, History of the Lathe Cambridge,MA: MIT Press, 1961, pages 18-35).

In the illustration below is shown what Woodbury claims is the earliest representation we have of a lathe. The image comes from a bas-relief, carved in low relief on one of the walls of an Egyptian grave of Petosiris, ca. the third century B.C. (The source cited by Woodbury, Le Tombeau de Petosris, is available on line here.)

According to Woodbury (page 31), plenty of evidence exists that the lathe was well-known in antiquity.

Sources: click here for a link to an extensive background on the history of the British Musuem, an institution which Charles Holtzapffel acknowledges drawing upon -- in the early 1840s -- for early books on the history of the lathe; Robert S. Woodbury, History of the Lathe: A Study in the Growth of a Technical Element in an Industrial Economy. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1961, page 13; (The image of the ancient lathe is orginally from G Lefebvre, Le Tombeau de Petrosiris, Cairo, 1923-1924, as cited by Robert W Woodbury, A History of the Lathe to 1850 Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1961, page 32..

[ I am checking Philip Rowland Harris, History of the British Museum Library, 1753-1973 London: British Library, 1998; my academic librarian juices tell me that Holtzapffel's use of the library at the British Museum -- where he located early books going back to 16th century -- is a story in its own right.)


lathe_egyptian_3d_century_BC  
    "In examining this picture one should remember the Egyptian pictorial convention by which objects in the horizontal plane are frequently rotated into the vertical plane for clarity, in the absence of a technique of perspective drawing."

    As is still common in both the Near East and the Far East, the two workers kneel or squat at their work. We can clearly see the turner at the left and his assistant at the right.

    The frame of the lathe appears to have consisted of two longitudinal bars, of which one is probably hidden behind the assistant. At right angles to this primitive lathe bed are two other bars which act as head and tailstocks. One or both of these must have been movable along the lathe bed, to permit the turner to do work on pieces of different lengths, for both stocks seem to have been secured to collars which could slide along the front bed bar. The purpose of the curious curve on the ends of the stock bars is not clear. Even though such an arrangement would be less rigid, it is possible that there was no rear bed bar and that the curved ends of these stocks were driven into the ground.

    The workpiece is clearly mounted between centers, and the bas-relief is not so badly damaged that we cannot make out the use of at least one offset center point.

    The turner has a cutting tool with a handle, and clearly rests the tool on the front bed bar for more rigid support. The center line of the workpiece seems to be rather far from the supporting point of the tool, but we must make allowance for some artistic license.

    A wooden furniture leg is being turned, and is put in rotation by a two-hand cord drive worked by the turner's assistant.


    Source: Robert S. Woodbury, History of the Lathe: A Study in the Growth of a Technical Element in an Industrial Economy. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1961, pages 31-33


The classicist, Benjamin Jowett translated Plato's PHILEBUS in 1871. Read in the box below and see where, in Plato's text, reference is made to a "lathe" in operation in classical Greece, around 360 BC, the same century an image of a lathe in ancient Egypt is exemplfied by Woodbury's narrative on the history of lathes:


In the form of a globe, round as from a lathe.



My meaning is certainly not obvious, and I will endeavour to be plainer. I do not mean by beauty of form such beauty as that of animals or pictures, which the many would suppose to be my meaning; but, says the argument, understand me to mean straight lines and circles, and the plane solid figures which are formed out of them by turning - lathes and rulers and measurers of angles; for these I affirm to be not only relatively beautiful, like other things, but they are eternally and absolutely beautiful, and they have peculiar pleasures, quite unlike the pleasures of scratching. And there are colours which are of the same character, and have similar pleasures; now do you understand my meaning?

Source: 1871 Benjamin Jowett PHILEBUS New York, C. Scribner's Sons, 1871.



Limits of Primitive "Cord-Driven" Lathes

On pages 34-35 of his history of the lathe, Woodbury dedicates several paragraphs to issues associated with the limits of cord-driven lathes, and methods employed to overcome these limits:


    ... early lathes were driven by a cord wound around the workpiece, or around the lathe spindle, and pulled back and forth by some means.

    Two methods were in use by the beginning of the Christian Era. One is shown above and consists of having the turner's assistant alternately pull on the ends of the cord.

    The other uses a bow by which the ends of the cord are stretched and pulled back and forth.

    Unfortunately, each of the "cord-drives" methods result in the workpiece alternately rotating back-in-forth.

    The downside: Since the lathe chisel cuts in only one direction, the turner must coordinate the action of the chisel as direction of rotation of the workpiece changes.

    The alternating rotation provided by the usual cord drive not only requires skillful manipulation of the cut­ting tool, but also loses half the working action, and it produces a rather jerky motion, which the skill of the turner must control. The more one examines the objects made on these crude lathes, the more one must admire the hand skill of these craftsmen....

    ... Despite its many disadvantages the cord-driven lathe, taken together with the hand skill of the turner, proved satisfactory for the needs of antiquity. Further improvement, as with so many technical devices, was not to come until medieval times....

    Source: Robert S. Woodbury, History of the Lathe: A Study in the Growth of a Technical Element in an Industrial Economy. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1961, pages 34-35.


Cultural Impact of the Early Lathe

Perhaps better than any other source, the renowned 1843 multi-volume work, by Charles Holtzapffel, Turning and Mechanical Manipulation, sets out for our better understanding this framework on the impact of the lathe upon humanity, by taking the narrative back to where lathe use begins as a pursuit by amateurs, the 16th century.

According to the material culture historian Steven Gelber,


    As early as the sixteenth century, lathe work moved out of the cabinet­maker's workshop and into the gentleman's craft shop.

    A small number of wealthy hobbyists continued the tradition of upper-class turning in Europe through the nineteenth century.

    Americans do not appear to have been widespread practitioners of this aristocrat's hobby, although in the 1780s and 1790s the administration of Cokesbury College in Maryland set aside time in the evening for student recreation that included "the carpenters', joiners'. cabinetmakers', and turners' business."

    The rarity of the hobby is confirmed by an 1856 article in Arthur's in which neighbors mistake a clerk's hobby lathe for an ironing mangle and a lens grinder, forcing the clerk to lead an otherwise exemplary life so as not to raise suspicions with his atypical behavior.

    Amateur turning may have become more common after the Civil War when readily available treadle-driven fret saws could also be used to drive small lathes.

    Most of the literature, however, suggests that fret saws were used mainly for sawing.

    Source: Steven Gelber Hobbies: Leisure and the Culture of Work in America New York: Columbia University Press, 1999, pages 188-202. (I find it curious that Gelber makes his expansive statement above but fails to give documentation. As a check on my own claims, I searched (6-19-08) on google scholar for instances of a co-citation of Holtzapffel and Gelber, and found nothing.)


In the entry "Turning" -- in his 1975 Dictionary of Woodworking R A Salaman notes that,

"During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries turning became a popular hobby among gentleman amateurs, using a treadle lathe with ingenious accessories for various types of ornamental work. It was largely for this purpose that Holtzapffel made his celebrated Lathes and wrote his monumental work on the subject (London, 1847)".


(Strangely Charles Holtzapffel does not take the narrative back to lathe use in the ancient world. Speculativley, I think that in the early 1800s scholarship on lathe use in the ancient world was too sketchy and not readily available for Charles Holtzapffel, but in latter half of the 1800s, scholarship -- in reflection of the advances in the social sciences -- Area Studies, Anthropology, Geography, and a handful of other human sciences -- John Jacob Holtzapffel sought to cover this significant missing saga of lathe technology.

Chapter 1 of Volume 4 -- written by John Jacob Holtzapffel in 1881 -- takes the narrative about lathe technology back into the ancient world. "Two books, Inventing Human Science, edited by Christopher Fox, et al, Roger Smith, Berkley: University of California Press, 1995, The Norton History of the Human Sciences, New York: Norton, 1997, and Lynn McDonald, The Early Origins of the Ssocial Sciences Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 1993, are three recent studies of what was known about the ancient world by scholars in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.)

Lathes Flourished in 'Dark Ages'

As the renowned historian of technology, Lynn White, argues, while the "Dark Ages" -- the negative label frequently given the Medieval era -- may have suffered as a political, intellectual, or artistic backwater, we know that what did not occur was a corresponding decline from the high level of Roman technology, such as the lathe, and that even under the alleged moribundancy of the Dark Ages, important innovations in technology of lathes occurred. especially up and during the so-called "high Middle Ages". In truth, throughout the medieval period, the lathe, a machine introduced to Europe by the "barbarians", spread -- largely by the Romans --throughout the ancient world, remained an important tool.

Technological Advances of Lathes During Middle Ages:

For more background on the history of early technological advances in lathes, see these sites:

    The Turner's Company

    Szerszamgepgyartas.hu

    The Woodturner's Workshop

(1) The Use of the Spring-Pole-and-Treadle Drive

(2) the transformation of the lathe bed and its stocks into rigid substantial structures

(3) the introduction of continuous motion drive of the workpiece

(4) the appearance of the first device for holding and controlling the cutting tool mechanically


Sources: Lynn White, "Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages," Speculum Volume 15, No 2 1940, pages 149-150 (click here for a listing of books on the Internet that confirm White's claim.) ; Robert S. Woodbury, History of the Lathe Cambidge, MA: MIT Press, 1961, page 38.

1. The Use of the Spring-Pole-and-Treadle Drive



Culturally, it is customary in Western Europe to work in a standing position and/or be seated erect at a bench. This custom was not true in antiquity, nor in the geographical East. (As examples, Woodbury points to weaving and pottery.) During antiquity and in the East the custom was to sit, squat, or kneel on the ground.

It was also common in the East -- but not true in the West -- for the operator to use his feet for exact control of a tool.

Writing in 1961 on this custom, Woodbury observes that,
Although the origins and causes of these customs are not yet satisfactorily explained, the facts are real enough.
Therefore, it is not unexpected some changes in how -- especially in the means by which it was driven -- the operator manages the lathe as it spread in Western Europe. (Personally, I would like to investigate these differences in customs -- and, if the opportunity arises, will -- but in the meantime will leave this claim as is. Disappointingly, Woodbury does not cite any sources, especially since the evidence is probably readilyt available in anthropolgy literature.)

lathe_pole_1395


    ... [T]he action of the spring pole, cord, and treadle is quite clear.

    The turner is shown standing at his work, but in a position such that coordination between the pole drive and the operation of the tool would not be obtained by rocking his weight from one foot to the other.

    The cutting tools have short handles and are merely held in the hands, without any tool rest.

    Source: Robert S. Woodbury, History of the Lathe: A Study in the Growth of a Technical Element in an Industrial Economy. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1961, page 43.






Woodbury speculates that the spring-pole-and-treadle drive emerged to meet these cultural customs, and -- significantly -- marks the next great advance in the lathe's technical development.According to Woodbury, the spring-and-pole drive was recognized as a genuine improvement, for after its first appearance, it spread very rapidly.

lathe_tourneur_1770 Turning in wood on pole-and-cord lathes was done well down into the 19th century.

Essentially, the design was the same as those we see in the 13th century, and in some parts of the world lathes of this type can still be found in daily use. (Variations crept into the original pole-and-cord lathes, as we see on the left, a plate from the famous Diderot and D'Alembert L'Encyclopedie, a multi-volume set published early in the second half of the 18th century. Also see Deborah Dependahl Waters,"Wares and Chairs: A Reappraisal of the Documents" -- Issue theme: American Furniture and Its Makers -- Winterthur Portfolio Volume 13 1979, page 163.)

As pictured, the pole lathe shown on the upper left -- its date is 1395 -- retains the "cord-drive" mode, except that the cord's upper end is fastened to the end of a wooden pole, secured above the lathe. The cord's other end is attached to a treadle, anchored on the floor. By pushing down down on the treadle with one foot, the workpiece rotates rapidly in one direction. When the operator releases his foot, and the pole and the cord pull back to their original positions, causing the workpiece rotate in the opposite direction.

Directly on the left, detail from the Diderot and D'Alembert L'Encyclopedie, the article on "Tourneur", or "tour en bois". What is clarified by this image is that the "bow" section of the lathe's mechanism is likely the same in Roubo, even if this part of the lathe is not shown in Roubo.






The spring-pole-and-treadle drive lathe is certainly much more convenient than the simple cord or the bow drive.

The upside:

(1) the rotation power is probably increased

(2) the number of revolutions per stroke is increased

The downside:

(1) an alternating rotation of the workpiece is the same

(2) the speed of the workpiece's rotation is the same


More important, it marks the transition to a drive of the lathe by a mechanical linkage, whose action can be coordinated with convenient control of the cutting tool.

Despite strong evidence that the pole lathe was used widely during the Middle Ages, curiously, says Woodbury, we have no certainty about when or where the spring-pole-and-treadle drive lathe appeared first.

The only clue that Woodbury found of the spring-and-pole treadle drive prior to the 13th century -- about 1130 -- is in Theophilus Presbyter's Theophili, qui et Rugerus, presbyteri et monachi, libri III. de diversis artibus: seu, Diversarum artium schedula pages 61, 81, 85 and 88. Following Woodbury (pages 40-41) Presbyter describes a device for making the cores for casting bells and for pewter tankards. For these cores he constructed a heavy temporary device, saying
"make a lathe in the same manner as trenchers and other wooden vessels are turned."


lathe_chartres_13thcA stained glass window at Chartres cathedral in France -- given by the turners of the local guild in honor of their patron Saint Julien -- is the earliest of these representations of the pole lathe but is not as clear or detailed as we would like. But we can see the workpiece supported between centers, and with the turner's hand resting upon it as he sits on a bench at his work. We can see only the tip of the spring pole, but the cord drive is clear, even if it is not shown as wrapped around the workpiece. The details of the treadle are not clear, Woodbury notes, but the visible presence a single cord surely indicates that the spring-pole-and-treadle drive lathe had only a single pedal.

Source: Genevieve Aclocque, Les Corporations, l'Industrie et 1e Commerce a Chartres, Paris 1917, Plate III, as cited by Woodbury, page 41. The intent of this series of drawings was -- after each brother's death -- to commemorate a monk's achievements at his trade. Woodbury notes that this image is in the Nurnberg Stadtbibliotek, folio 18v. (Evidently this source is not on the Internet.)

(2) Transforming the Lathe's Bed Into a Rigid Structure

lathe_wood_hasluck_1887 In connection with the 1395 image from Mendelsches Bruederbuch, above, Woodbury singles out another sign of progress in lathe technology, this time in the lathe's bed, its head and its tailstocks. (My image on the left comes from an 1887 manual on lathes for amateurs written by Paul Noonan Hasluck, a prolific writer on woodworking topics, London-based, and who straddles the 19th and 20th centuries. While Hasluck's "bare-bones" lathe is designed to be driven with a belt on a line-shaft above, the image (anachronistically) captures nicely Woodbury's claim about "rigidifying" a lathe's structure.) Made of heavy timbers, these components are much more rigid and stable. The assembly assumes its longstanding structual outline: -- mounted on four stout legs, its bed comprising two long heavy timbers in parallel, joined at each end with two hefty blocks. For workpieces of different lengths, a wedge makes the tailstock adjustable.



lathe_roubo1In 1395, we have that example -- in illustration of a turner at work on his lathe, on the right -- from the Zwolfbruderbuch of the Mendelschen Stiftung of Nuremberg (Not on the Web in English, although there are several instances of sites available in German.) Contrast Woodbury's example of a lathe from the 1400th century with this 18th century example, part of Plate 309, from Jacques-Andre Roubo, L'Art du Mensuisier, 1769. (For more on Roubo, click here. I intend to look into this issue later. Roubo -- working in France in the latter half of the 18th century, would have "state-of-the art" tools, and yet from its appearance, the Roubo lathe is a reciprocal rotation type, rather than continuous rotation, something that you would expect from Roubo.)











lathe_roubo2 As Woodbury explains,
    Here the action of the spring pole, cord, and treadle is quite clear.

    The turner is shown standing at his work, but in a position such that coordination between the pole drive and the operation of the tool would not be obtained by rocking his weight from one foot to the other.

    The cutting tools have short handles and are merely held in the hands, without any tool rest.


It is certain that all the elements of the spring-pole- and-treadle were in use by 1400.

The inconvenience of the alternating rotation of the workpiece, inherent in all the cord drives we have seen thus far, became a far more serious problem when the lathe was used to turn metals, even the non-ferrous metals.

Here the cutting force required was such that the turner had all he could do merely to guide his cutting tool accurately, without at the same time coordinating it with an alternating rotation of the workpiece, to say nothing of providing with his foot the additional driving power required.

For metal-turning the pole lathe would not do.

The answer:
    have continuous drive by an assistant

    have another source of power, such as a horse gin or a water wheel.


Since such sources of power were already available, the question was -- how to apply them to the drive of a lathe?

(3) Continuous Rotation of the Workpiece

lathe_wheel_15thc









Continuous drive of a spindle by means of a cranked flywheel and cord was, according to the evidence in the sketches from the Louvre (on the left) introduced in Italy in the second half of the 15th century.
















    ... Here a large wheel has a crank, apparently driven by a treadle (not shown), and is conveniently mounted below a bench so that a cord can give direct drive to a pulley carried on a spindle mounted between two bearings. This tool is intended only for light work not mounted between centers but held in a simple clamp chuck. A hand rest takes the place of a tool rest. Continuous drive of the spindle of a machine tool is an advance of the first importance, but this device may not be a lathe, for it could equally well be a gem engraver's tool. If so, an assistant turning a crank on a great wheel driving a cord to give continuous motion to the spindle was certainly in use by 1568, for we see it in Jost Amman. (On the right, below.) Although the lathe itself is also shown here as largely schematic, we do see the long-handled tool braced under the armpit and surely with a tool rest hidden behind the work. There can be no doubt of the method of driving the workpiece.

    Source: Robert S. Woodbury, History of the Lathe Cambidge, MA: MIT Press, 1961, pages 44-45





lathe_wheel-and-cord_1568

    Early Hand Wheels: "Necessity is the Mother of Invention"

    The answer to the downside of the reciprocating motion lathe was a lathe driven by a wheel that gives continuous motion, like the one in the image above, on the left, a lathe driven by a wheel and cord, a 1568 woodcut.

    The Great Wheel Lathe, 1568, as Depicted by Jost Amman in a Woodcut,

    Historians of Lathe Technology draw on a handful sources for accounts of the impatience with the limits of reciprocal rotation of workpieces encouraged woodworkers to seek improvements, specifically continuous rotation:

    for the 16th century, Hartmann Schopper: 'Panoplia, omnium illiberalium mechanicarum aut sedentaiarum artium genera continens...'(This source, printed in Latin, shows a woodcut of a mandrel lathe, 1569;

    Improved (screw) lathe described in THEATRUM INSTRUMENTORUM: tool held rigidly and moved axially forward by lead screw. (Jacques Besson, France)

    for the 17th century, De Caus 1624, Moxon 1677, Felibien, 1677;

    for the 18th century, Plumier, 1701;

    for the 19th century, ? 1816, and the 5-volume Holtzapffel set (1843, 3 vols, 1881, 2 vols);

    and the 20th century, Woodbury 1961, for the 20th century


    Again, as they say, "Necessity is the mother of invention". (Note about the History of Printing and Woodcuts: In 1456, in the German city, Mainz, Johannes Gutenberg published the so-called Mazarin Bible, said to be the first example in the Western World of a book printed with movable type. Printing technology spread quickly, and in the second half of the fifteenth century emerged as a viable industry. The first images contained in books are "woodcuts". A woodcut is a design printed from a plank of wood "incised parallel to the vertical axis of the wood's grain". One of the oldest methods of making prints, printing from wood blocks on textiles was known in Europe from the early 14th century, but developed little until paper began to be manufactured in France and Germany at the end of the 14th century. In the early 15th century, religious images and playing cards were first made from wood blocks. The so-called "black-line woodcut" reached its greatest perfection in the 16th century with Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) and his followers. Schopper's Panoplia is a collection of woodcuts by Jost Amman, representing numerous arts and trades of that era and region, i.e., Frankfurt, Germany.) lathe_great_wheel_lathe_burstall_1968

    Because the wheel lathe needed two men to operate it -- one to provide the motive power, the other to do the actual turning operations -- the machine was soon labelled "the Great Wheel Lathe". Its proportions were impressive to operators and onlookers alike: its larger scale allowed the turning of large objects such as the elm hubs of spoked wagon wheels.

    (The flywheel was over six feet in diameter and to it was bolted a driving pulley, about three in diameter, which the assistant turned by means of a handle. The drive to the mandrel was by a cord.)

    Moxon (1677), page 179, describes the advantages of the fly wheel.
    Of the Great Wheel
    Besides the commanding heavy Work about, the Wheel rids Work faster off than the Pole can do; because the springing up of the Pole makes an intermission in the running about of the Work, but with the Wheel the Work runs always the same way; so that the Tool need never be off it, unless it be to examine the Work as it is doing.

    A Task for the Apprentice in the Guild System

    The Guild system provided the answer, where apprentices, as they were introduced to the craft, spent time turning the wheel. lathe_great_wheel_lathe_schematic
    This schematic representation of a great wheel lathe fist appeared as figure 31, page 31, of John Jacob Holtzapffel's 1881 Hand or Simple Turning.

    The Great Wheel Rotates the Workpiece

    In early lathes, initially, the workpiece was mounted between dead centers, that is a pair of centers neither of which rotate. Instead, as shown in these images, pulleys are attached directly to the workpieces, and -- to avoid slipping of the cord -- the driving cord was often crossed .

    A later development in the driving configuration was to make the "head" of the lathe the location of a "dead center", meaning that the pulley is attached directly to the mechanism that rotates the workpiece.





Innovations: Metal-Turning Lathe, ca. 1411; Slide Rest, 1480; Treadle Lathe, 1561; Horse lathe, 1569; Water-Driven Lathe, 1590

Metal-Turning Lathe, ca. 1411
Possibly by 1411, but certainly in the second half of the 15th century, exist continuous drive of a metal-turning lathe by means of a hand crank. Both the great-wheel and cord-driven lathes were in use, and by the end of the 16th century -- for operating the great-wheel lathes -- the necessary second person, the turner's assistant -- is increasingly substituted by animals or water power.

Possibly by 1411, but certainly in the second half of the 15th century, exist continuous drive of a metal-turning lathe by means of a hand crank. Both the great-wheel and cord-driven lathes were in use, and by the end of the 16th century -- for operating the great-wheel lathes -- the necessary second person, the turner's assistant -- is increasingly substituted by animals or water power. Leonardo da Vinci is said to have introduced the concept of a treadle lathe. But -- not unlike the parachute -- as with many of his suggestions by Leonardo, no certainty exists that this treadle lathe was ever constructed.

Regardless of our speculation about Leonardo's contributions to lathe technology, the driving necessity of lathe development came from clockmakers, in the 18th century. Clockmakers needed lathes capable of producing the intricate parts that clocks and other mechanical timepieces.

It is by this route that the lathe assumed a wider role, not only for turning, but for gear-cutting and screw-cutting. Moreover, concomitantly, the drive toward producing ornamental work led to the introduction of the rose engine and other ornamental turning lathes and devices.

Three hundred years later, a device almost identical with this is shown in Diderot's Encyclopedie, engraved images: Vol. IX, "Taillanderie [edge-tools], Fabrique des Etaux [wood and metal products made with a vise]," [plates I through VI]. providing for feed of the tool into the work by means of a screw mechanism looking very like modern cross-feed devices. And the whole is mounted on a slide rest which is fitted to a longitudinal guide way. This tool holder with its cross slide is intended to be wedged in place in the slot of the screw-cutting lathe shown above it.

We then have a tool holder fixed in the longitudinal direction, and the workpiece moved in traverse by a lead screw passing through a movable threaded headstock and turned by a crank. The screw blank is set into a squared socket in the end of the lead screw, probably rather deeply to give the necessary rigidity. The screw blank can then rotate and slide in a hole in the fixed tailstock. We have here all the essential elements of a screw cutting lathe, including a fully developed cross slide, at the end of the 15th century!

Of the great contributions of the high Middle Ages to the development of the lathe, the perfection of the spring-pole-and-treadle drive no doubt seemed the most important to the medieval and renaissance turners. But the other contributions were far more important, even though one must look ahead to the modern lathe to realize their great signflcance and how they interacted to pro- duce the basic elements and characteristics of the lathe of today.

The stronger construction of the lathe bed and its stocks laid the foundation for turning much heavier work and for turning metal. Taken together with mechanical holding and control of the cutting tool, it is the first step in the direction of precision working on the lathe-a de- velopment that we shall see come to a climax with Maudslay.
Treadle Lathe, 1561
lathe_leonardo_treadle_burstall_1968This image is a 20th century rendering of Leonardo's Treadle Lathe:

Leonardo da Vinci is said to have introduced the concept of a treadle lathe. But -- not unlike the parachute -- as with many of his suggestions by Leonardo, no certainty exists that this treadle lathe was ever constructed. (Another image -- ca 1500 -- from Il Codice Atlantico is featured on page 51 of Woodbury's history of the lathe to 1850. A search on the Internet shows no full text versions of Il Codice Atlantico available)

Regardless of our speculation about Leonardo's contributions to lathe technology, the driving necessity of lathe development came from clockmakers, in the 18th century. Clockmakers needed lathes capable of producing the intricate parts that clocks and other mechanical timepieces.

It is by this route that the lathe assumed a wider role, not only for turning, but for gear-cutting and screw-cutting. Moreover, concomitantly, the drive toward producing ornamental work led to the introduction of the rose engine and other ornamental turning lathes and devices.

Three hundred years later, a device almost identical with this is shown in Diderot's Encyclopedie, engraved images: Vol. IX, "Taillanderie [edge-tools], Fabrique des Etaux [wood and metal products made with a vise]," [plates I through VI]. providing for feed of the tool into the work by means of a screw mechanism looking very like modern cross-feed devices. And the whole is mounted on a slide rest which is fitted to a longitudinal guide way. This tool holder with its cross slide is intended to be wedged in place in the slot of the screw-cutting lathe shown above it.

We then have a tool holder fixed in the longitudinal direction, and the workpiece moved in traverse by a lead screw passing through a movable threaded headstock and turned by a crank. The screw blank is set into a squared socket in the end of the lead screw, probably rather deeply to give the necessary rigidity. The screw blank can then rotate and slide in a hole in the fixed tailstock. We have here all the essential elements of a screw cutting lathe, including a fully developed cross slide, at the end of the 15th century!

Of the great contributions of the high Middle Ages to the development of the lathe, the perfection of the spring-pole-and-treadle drive no doubt seemed the most important to the medieval and renaissance turners. But the other contributions were far more important, even though one must look ahead to the modern lathe to realize their great signflcance and how they interacted to pro- duce the basic elements and characteristics of the lathe of today.

The stronger construction of the lathe bed and its stocks laid the foundation for turning much heavier work and for turning metal. Taken together with mechanical holding and control of the cutting tool, it is the first step in the direction of precision working on the lathe-a de- velopment that we shall see come to a climax with Maudslay.


    Of the Treddle Wheel

    This is a Wheel made of a round Board about two Foot and an half Diameter, conveniently to stand under the Cheeks of the Lathe. It also has a Groove on its Edge for the String to run in; it hath an Iron Axis with a Crook or Crank at one end: And on the Crook is slipped the Noose of a Leather Thong, which having its other end fastened to a Treddle, does, by keeping exact time in Treads, carry it swiftly about without intermission.

    But the length of the Thong must be so fitted, that when the Wheel stands still, and the Crook at the end of the Axis hangs downwards, the end of the Treddle to which the Thong is fastened may hang about two or three inches off the " ground : For then, giving the Wheel a small turn with the Hand, till the Crook rises to the highest, and passes a little beyond it; if just then (I say) the Workman gives a quick Tread upon the Treddle to bring the Crook down again with a jerk, that Tread will set it in motion for several revolutions; and then, if he observes to make his next Tread, just when the Crook comes about again to the same position, it will continue the motion, and cause of the motion, and keep "the Wheel always running the same way, if he punctually makes his Treads.

    Source: Joseph Moxon, page 179, as cited by John Jacob Holtzapffel, 1881, pages 35-36.


from here on needs much work -- please be patient

(4) The First Devices -- a Tool Holder and a Slide Rest -- for Holding and Controlling the Cutting Tool Mechanically

Both a tool holder and a slide rest appeared in the late Middle Ages. For lathe development, these two advances are significant, for they predict a transition from hand control of the cutting tool to mechanical control. Together, these two devices provide greater ease for working and greater precision.

Most significant, by injecting a power drive for the workpiece lead -- early in the 18th century -- to power drive of the tool relative to the work being turned. Both became crucial for the metal-cutting lathe.

When the ornamental turners later provided means for automatically controlled motion of the tool device, highly complex forms were possible, as we shall see.

Even for the industrial lathe, the old hand skill of the turner is no longer needed. Given a blue print, any technical school graduate could turn out the Uffing vase in a short time today. We see here the beginnings of "building the skill into the machine" which was to lead to modern, fully automatic lathes.

It should be noted, however, that no one of these important first steps would have been significant in itself alone.

All required the others, as well as still further elements which we shall examine. We can now understand from their very beginnings in the Middle Ages, the interaction of many elements which made the modern lathe possible.

This early period also experienced some of the social effects which in later times new tools were to produce, or at least similar reactions, for the Council of Nuremberg on several occasions from 1559 to 1591 forbade inventors to use improved and power-driven lathes, had the machines destroyed, or put the inventors in jail for their flagrant violations of repeated orders to stay within guild regulations.18 [18. Hampe, loc. cit.]

Horse lathe, 1569
Water-Driven Lathe, 1590
Starting around page 57, Woodbury begins his account of the further development of the lathe, especially concerning its development as an industrial machine for working metal. Woodbury's departure point is Jacques Besson. Ornamental turning, Screw-Cutting, Metal Cutting, are some of the directions taken, but for my narrative, I will concentrate upon the lathe as a machime tool used by amateurs.

Lathe as 'Engine of Civilization'

Because of the benefits the lathe has bestowed upon humanity, Holtzapffel wants to call it an engine of civilization! Evidence exists, Holtzapffel continues, that “the art of turning has been successfully practised for over two thousand years.
Holtzapffel traces the use of the lathe back to the Scriptural figure, Tubal Cain. Cain is alleged to be the first worker in metal. Others claim that he invented wind instruments, the organ, and other machines.
According to Genesis 21-22 (Revised Version of the Bible), Cain was "the forger of every cutting instrument of brass and iron.

(2) the transformation of the lathe bed and its stocks into rigid substantial structures

(3) the introduction of continuous motion drive of the workpiece

(4) the appearance of the first device for holding and controlling the cutting tool mechanically




The Lathe in Modern Times

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ In England, (the first Holtzapffel is writing in 1843) where, during the last half-century, the art has perhaps been far more extensively practised, both as a source of emolument and of amusement, we find in addition to the brief articles in the various encyclopaedias, periodicals, and a few works devoted to mechanical subjects, only the following treatises on detached portions of the art, namely:

1817. Specimens of Eccentric Circular Turning, with Practical Illustrations for Producing Corresponding Pieces in that Art. By John Holt Ibbetson, Esq."

1819. Specimens of the Art of Ornamental Turning, in Eccentric and Concentric Patterns, with 6 copper-plate engrav­ings; by Charles H. Rich, Esq., Southampton."

1819. Tables; by which are exhibited at one view all the divisions of each circle on the dividing plate. By C. H. Rich, Esq."

1825. A second edition of Ibbetson's Specimens.

1833. A Brief Account of Ibbetson's Geometric Chuck, manufactured by Holtzapffel & Co., with a selection of 32 Specimens, illustrative of some of its powers. By J. H. Ibbet­son, Esq."*

1838. A third edition of Ibbetson's Specimens of Eccentric Circular Turning, With considerable Additions, including a description and copperplate engravings of the Compound Eccentric Chuck, constructed by the Author, and used by him in the execution of his Specimens.

[change below] The mention of the above publications by Mr. Ibbetson, enables me to particularize the services he has rendered to his fellow amateurs; and their inspection will abundantly show the great care and perseverance that he has devoted to the pursuits of turning, and the deserved eminence he has attained therein.

He has not only attended to the production of numerous highly ornamental combinations and effects, many of which are displayed in the treatises before cited ; others in his "Prac­tical View of an invention for the better protecting Bank Notes against Forgery," editions 1 and 2,-1820 and 21, and in numerous communications to the Mechanics' Magazine; he has done more than this by constructing with his own hands the major part of the apparatus that he has used, many of which are original, and will be duly noticed in their appropriate places, in this work.

The best notices in our language of the general application of the art, are probably those contained in Rees's Cyclopedia, under the heads of " Turning," "Lathe," and " Rose Engine."

link to rose engine: http://books.google.com/books?id=ixAFAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA200&dq=%22rose+engine%22&ei=bHRaSOC9FoGisgOQ9Mi-DQ

For Mr. Ibbetson's first description of his modification of the Geometric Chuck, see Mechanics' Magazine, 30th Dec., 1826.

Several amateurs have undertaken the translation of Bergeron's Manuel into the English language, and others have commenced new works, but none of these have been carried to completion. The former proceeding would have called for a re-construction of the book, which, although it abounds with a great deal of ori­ginal, useful, and practical matter, is rather diffuse, and refers to apparatus that has been so far altered and superseded by others of more recent construction, and subsequent invention, that such a translation, if adapted to the present state of the art, would almost amount to a new work.

(This is a source of the English translation of Bergeron, to which Holtzapffel alludes above: ENGLISH MECHANIC AND WORLD OF SCIENCE: No. 1,253. AND WORLD OP SCIENCE AND ART FRIDAY, MARCH, 1889. EXTRACTS FROM BERGERON volume XXII: "Description of the Rose Engine....." )


The author of these pages has been repeatedly urged, by many amateurs, to write a work upon the subject, but by no one more than by his late father, in conjunction with whom he made several beginnings; but the pressure of other business has prevented their efforts from arriving at maturity, and the delay has been materially lengthened by the difficulty of deter­mining upon the most suitable arrangement. The first intention was to have written the book as a series of lessons ; to have begun with the description of the plain or simple lathe, and so to have selected the examples, as to have successively described the more important and valuable of those instruments and methods which are now used.

Moreover, as the art now embraces a much more extensive and still increasing range of objects and instruments, than it did at the time when Bergeron wrote, the difficulties of arrange­ment that he experienced, are now proportionally increased. The author also felt some doubt as to his ability to produce, upon the first method, a work that should satisfactorily meet the wants of amateur turners generally, in reflecting upon the widely different views with which they had, even for some centuries, practised turning and the mechanical arts.

[top pf page 10] DIFFERENT PURSUITS OF AMATEUR TURNERS.

Many persons have pursued these arts as a source of active and industrious employment, accessible at all hours, in the intervals between their other pursuits; a source of amusement that renders the amateur independent of the ordinary artizan for the supply of a great variety of works of utility for the common wants of life, including those constantly required either for the domestic establishment, or those personally experienced by its inhabitants, of every age or choice of occupation.

Other amateurs have pursued the art of turning as a source of elegant recreation, and of inventive and skilful pastime; one closely allied to the fine arts, insomuch as its greatest success depends upon a just appreciation of sculpture and painting, and for the attainment of which the education and opportunities of the man of independent leisure eminently qualify him; whilst the embellishment of the drawing-room, cabinet, and boudoir, stimulate him to apply his knowledge and skill to that end, and in which he frequently administers at the same time to the extension and cultivation of tasteful form in ordinary manufactures.

Another Class of Amateurs Have

1) preferred the pursuit of such branches of the art as unite, with taste and design, a certain admixture of the more exact acquirements connected with mathematical and general science, and the arts of construction; and

2) devoted their time and ingenuity to the production of models, embracing a variety of objects rela­tive to the arts of peace and war; and

3) devoted their time and ingenuity to the production of various machines and apparatus, or in the still more praiseworthy attempt of improving those already in use, or of inventing new ones; and

4) devoted their services [to achieving ] ... independence and education ... [in use of lathes by amateurs] ....

Holtzapffel's Prospectus

[here]

In his "prospectus" for the multi-volume set, Holtzapffel separates Turning into three distinct and different parts. to be preceded by two general or preliminary volumes, to contain miscellaneous information required nearly alike in the pursuit of every branch of the mechanical arts; thus dividing the entire work into five volumes, namely,

VOL. I. Materials, their Differences, Choice, and Preparation; various Modes of Working them, generally without Cutting Tools.

VOL. II. The principles of Construction, and Purposes of Cutting Tools; Abrasive and Miscellaneous Processes.

VOL. III. The Principles and Practice of Hand or Simple Turning,

VOL. IV.The Principles and Practice of Ornamental or Complex Turning.

VOL. V. The Principles and Practice of Amateur Engineering.


The first volume relates principally, to the materials for turning and the mechanical arts, arranged under the heads of the three great sources from which they are respectively derived ; namely, the vegetable, the animal, and the mineral departments of nature; it includes also their treatment in the extended sense of the word, so far as regards their preparation for the Lathe, and their employment in various distinct branches of mechanical art, the practices of which do not in general require the use of tools with cutting edges.

The metallic materials are submitted to the greatest variety of processes, and which mainly depend on their properties of fusibility, malleability, and ductility ; and consequently, the formation and qualities of alloys are considered, as also the arts of founding and soldering; those of forging works in iron and steel which are comparatively thick, and the nearly analo­gous treatment of thin works, or those in sheet metals ; drawing tubes and wires, hardening and tempering, and a variety of co- relative information is also offered, for the particulars of which the reader is referred to the Table of Contents.

The second volume, on cutting tools, and abrasive processes, is intended first to explain the general principles of cutting tools, which are few and simple ; the forms and proportions of tools are however extensively modified, to adapt them to the different materials ; to the various shapes to be produced; and to the convenience of the operator, or of the machine in which they are fixed.

The remarks on the tools will inevitably be somewhat commingled with the account of their practical use, and the consideration of the machines with which they are allied, as indeed it is difficult to say where the appellation of tool ends, and that of machine or engine begins.

The tools will be treated in different chapters, on Chisels and Planes, Turning Tools, Boring Tools, &c., as before enumerated. The subsequent part of the second volume will be devoted to the description of abrasive processes; namely,

those for restoring or sharpening the edges of the cutting tools;

those for working upon substances to which, from their hardness or crystalline structure, the cutting tools are quite inapplicable; and also

to the modes of polishing, which may be viewed as a delicate and extreme application of the abrasive process, and the final operation after the cutting tools; and lastly,

to the ordinary modes of staining, lackering, varnishing, and other miscellaneous subjects.

The titles of volumes III, IV, and V, are ... sufficiently descriptive of their contents ..., arranged with a similar attempt at order and classification, upon which it is unnecessary here to enlarge.

From the systematic arrangement which has been attempted throughout the five volumes, it is hoped that instead of the numerous descriptions and instructions, being indiscriminately mixed and scattered, they will assume the shape of so many brief and separate treatises, and will in a great measure condense into a few consecutive pages, the remarks offered under each head; a form that will admit of any subject being selected, and of a more easy and distinct reference and comparison, when the reader may find it necessary; a facility that has been particularly studied.

Each of the five volumes may be considered as a distinct work and complete in itself; this will admit of any selection being made from their number. At the same time it is to be observed that the first and second are written as accompanying volumes, and will have an index in common, so as to constitute a general and preliminary work; the addition to which, of one of the other volumes, will render the subject complete for each of the three classes of amateurs before referred to, should the entire work be deemed too extensive.

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

The first twelve pages of Holtzapffel's first volume lays out in expansive detail, how beginning in 1582, with the classic woodworker's manual by the Frenchman, Jacques Besson -- 1792-4: L. E. Bergeron, Manuel du Tourneur 2 vols. quarto, 1792-4, Paris -- marks a tradition of amateurs using the lathe. (Besson and the other authorties on the lathe mentioned by Holtzapffel are laid out here.)

In particular, Holtzapffel focuse on L E Bergeron, because "amateurs attempted to translate Manuel du Tourneur

(This is a source of the English translation of Bergeron, to which Holtzapffel alludes above: ENGLISH MECHANIC AND WORLD OF SCIENCE: No. 1,253. AND WORLD OP SCIENCE AND ART FRIDAY, MARCH, 1889. EXTRACTS FROM BERGERON volume XXII: "Description of the Rose Engine....." )

For Holtzapffel,



    ... this work is highly satisfactory, and is a record of all the material improvements introduced in the mechanism of the lathe by our Continental neighbours, subsequent to the period at which Plumier wrote; and from these machines many of our modern contrivances are taken, although during the interval which has since elapsed, considerable changes have been introduced, as well in the manner of turning as in the material of the apparatus, wood being in many cases supplanted by metal, a more useful change as regards the excellence of construction, and also the strength and durability of the machinery.

    A second edition of Bergeron's work, revised by his son-in-law, Hamelin Bergeron, was published in 1816; another smaller publication, entitled L'Art du Tourneur, par M. Pauline Desormeux in 2 vols. 12mo, with an atlas, was printed in Paris in 1824; and lastly, two small volumes 16mo, with plates, entitled Nouveau Manuel du Tourneur, ou Traite complet et simple de cet Art, redige par M. Dessables, the second edition of which, printed in 1839, and forming a part of the Encyclopedie-Roret, completes the list of French works devoted to the subject, the last two being in some respects compilations from Bergeron; the latter works only include the practice of hand-turning, leaving unnoticed the rose-engine, the eccentric-chuck, and various apparatus described in the old books, although the Manuel-Roret contains, in an appendix, some extracts relative to the art of turning, from more recent scientific journals, and the printed transactions of various societies, with explanatory notes, by Mapod, Tourneur-mecanicien....

    . Several amateurs have undertaken the translation of Bergeron's Manuel into the English language, and others have commenced new works, but none of these have been carried to completion. The former proceeding would have called for a re-construction of the book, which, although it abounds with a great deal of original, useful, and practical matter, is rather diffuse, and refers to apparatus that has been so far altered and superseded by others of more recent construction, and subsequent invention, that such a translation, if adapted to the present state of the art, would almost amount to a new work.

    Source: Charles HoltzapffelTurning and Mechanical Manipulation London: Holtzapffel, 1843 VOLume I, page 7open source copy


1817-19 etc: John Holt Ibbetson

Adapted from Holtzapffel, 1846, pages 7-8: lathe_ibbetson_1833In England, where, during the last half-century, the art has perhaps been far more extensively practised, both as a source of emolument and of amusement, we find in addition to the brief articles in the various encyclopaedias, periodicals, and a few works devoted to mechanical subjects, only the following treatises on detached portions of the art, namely:

1817:John Holt Ibbetson, Specimens of Eccentric Circular Turning, with Prac­tical Illustrations for producing Corresponding Pieces in that Art.

1819: Charles H. Rich, Specimens of the Art of Ornamental Turning, in Eccentric and Concentric Patterns, with six copper-plate engravings; by Esq., Southampton."

1819: "Tables; by which are exhibited at one view all the divisions of each circle on the dividing plate. By C. H. Rich, Esq."

1825: A second edition of Ibbetson's Specimens.

1833: "A Brief Account of Ibbetson's Geometric Chuck, manufactured by Holtzapffel & Co., with a selection of 32 Specimens, illustrative of some of its powers. By J. H. lbbet­son, Esq."*

1838: A third edition of Ibbetson's Specimens of Eccentric Circular Turning. " With considerable Additions, including a description and copperplate engravings of the Compound Eccen­tric Chuck, constructed by the Author, and used by him in the execution of his Specimens."

The mention of the above publications by Mr. Ibbetson, enables me to particularize the services he has rendered to his fellow amateurs; and their inspection will abundantly show the great care and perseverance that he has devoted to the pursuits of turning, and the deserved eminence he has attained therein.

He has not only attended to the production of numerous highly ornamental combinations and effects, many of which are displayed in the treatises before cited ; others in his " Practical View of an invention for the better protecting Bank Notes against Forgery," editions 1 and 2, 1820 and 21, and in numerous communications to the Mechanics' Magazine; he has done more than this by constructing with his own hands the major part of the apparatus that he has used, many of which are original, and will be duly noticed in their appropriate places, in this work.

The best notices in our language of the general application of the art, are probably those contained in Rees's Cyclopfedia, under the heads of 11 Turning," " Lathe," and " Rose Engine."

For Mr. Ibbetson's first description of his modification of the Geometric Chuck, see Mechanics' Magazine, 30th Dec., 1826.

Source: Charles HoltzapffelTurning and Mechanical Manipulation London: Holtzapffel, 1843 VOLume I, page 7open source copy


Charles Holtzapffel, 1843:



Turning and Mechanical Manipulation Volume 1



1843: Charles Holtzapffel>Turning and Mechanical Manipulation London: Turning and Mechanical Manipulation VOLume 2,



Turning and Mechanical Manipulation Volume 3
1850

John Jacob Holtzapffel, 1881:

Turning and Mechanical Manipulation volume 4 (The partially online Dover edition of volume 4)


fret_saw_manufacturer-and-builder_1881b

    The art of turning is one very extensively pursued in this country both for business and pleasure; its uses, too, are manifold, and scarcely second to any in mechanical importance; yet, strange to say, there is probably no branch of art on which less has been written and published in our mother tongue.

    All the best works on turning are in the French language; the only English authors of note are [John Holt] Ibbetson and [Charless H] Rich - the former, i.e, Ibbetson, an old and frequent correspondent of the Mechanics' Magazine, which had the honour of giving to the world (as Mr. Holtzapffel very handsomely acknowledges) the first description of his admirable modification of the geometric chuck;

    and in our greatest English collection of books, the British Museum, there is not a single work on turning, either French or English, (with the exception of Rich's) of later date than 1724-7.

    Of there being ample room under these circumstances for a complete English work on the subject (for both Ibbetson's and Rich's embrace but small portions of it) there can be no question; and among the persons most likely to do it well, we know of none so likely to unite the suffrages of all turners, both amateur and practical, as the living representative of the house of Holtzapflel, long the most eminent makers of turning tools and machines in this country.

    [checking Philip Rowland Harris, History of the British Museum Library, 1753-1973 London: British Library, 1998]

    Mr. Charles Holtzapffel, the author of the work before us, states that he had made some beginnings in conjunction with his late much-respected father; but that after the death of the latter in 1835, he recommenced his labours on a new plan, of which he now presents the first fruits to the public.

    The most distinguishing features of this plan are its great comprehensiveness, and excellent methodical arrangement.

    Mr. Holtzapffel proposes to discuss in successive volumes,

    I. The materials used in turning, and the various modes of preparing them, as seasoning, hardening, tempering, alloying, &c.

    II. The principles, construction, and purposes of cutting tools, and the various processes used in the production of form, and embellishment of surfaces, as grinding, polishing, &c.

    III. The principles and practice of hand or surface turning. IV. The principles and practice of ornamental or complex turning.

    IV The principles and practice of amateur engineering, embracing wheel and screw cutting, drilling, planing. Sec.

    The work will thus include not only everything necessary to a perfect understanding of the art of turning in all its branches, but a vast body of valuable information having important relations to other arts as well as turning. Excellent as some of the French works are - the Manuel du Tourneur especially - they are likely to be quite eclipsed by this new production of our own country. The chief fault -- if fault it can be called -- of Mr. Holtzapffel's work will be its size; but this will be found remedied to a great extent by the judicious arrangement of the materials which he has adopted.

    "From the systematic arrangement which has been attempted throughout the five volumes, it is hoped that instead of the numerous descriptions and instructions being indiscriminately mixed and scattered, they will assume the shape of so many brief and separate treatises; and will, in a great measure, condense into a few consecutive pages, the remarks offered under each head; a form that will admit of any subject being selected, and of a more easy and distinct reference and comparison, when the reader may find pliers and thrown into water if necessary; others are then thrust forward from the cooler parts of the plate to take their place."

    Hatchets, adzes, cold chisels, and numbers of similar tools, in which the total bulk is considerable compared with the part to be hardened, are only partially dipped; they are afterwards let down by the heat of the remainder of the tool; and when the colour indicative of the temper is attained, they are entirely quenched. With the view of removing the loose scales, or the oxidation acquired in the fire, some workmen rub the objects hastily in dry salt before plunging them in the water, in order to give them a cleaner and whiter face."

    In hardening large dies, anvils, and other pieces of considerable size, by direct immersion, the rapid formation of steam at the sides of the metal prevents the free access of the water for the removal of the heat with the required expedition; in these cases a copious stream of water from a reservoir above is allowed to fall on the surface to be hardened. This contrivance is frequently called a 'float', and although the derivation of the name is not very clear, the practice is excellent, as it supplies an abundance of cold water, and which, as it falls directly on the centre of the anvil is sure to render that part hard. It is, however, dangerous to stand near such works at the time, as when the anvil face, &c., is not perfectly welded, it sometimes in part flies off with great violence and a loud report."

    Occasionally the object is partly immersed in a tank beneath the fall of water, by means of a crane, slings, &c.; it is ultimately tempered with its own heat and dropped in to become entirely cold." "Oil, or various mixtures of oils, tallow, wax, resin, &c., are used for many thin and elastic objects, such as needles, fishhooks, steel pens, springs, &c., which require a milder degree of hardness than is given by water."

    Source: M. Salmon, The Mechanics' Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazette 1843, pages 37, 40



Joe V Romig, "Amateur Mechanic's Combination Lathe", Boy Mechanic 1915, pages 447-451 (In the files, under Romig, this article details the requirements of a foot-powered lathe that includes jig saw, planer head, and circular saw attachments. three images, two of which are schematic drawings for making the lathe's parts. Powered by a foot-pedal, the lathe is driven by a large wheel, suggesting that it is an adaptation of the Great Wheel Design. Romig also writes for Popular Mechanics Shop Notes)

    672. Lathe. Most woodworking machines are of recent invention, but the lathe in its primitive forms dates from antiquity. Woodturning is a trade in itself, and is much better learned from a practical and experienced turner than from a book. All woodworkers should, however, understand the general principles of turning and the elementary operations, which are all that can be included in a general handbook. Turning requires concentrated attention and freedom from interruption, both on account of the work and to avoid accident.

    Source: Charles G. Wheeler, Woodworking: A Handbook for Beginners in Home and School New York: G P Putnam Sons, 1924.



Wheeler's comments about lathes -- as one of the several scaled-down power tools -- is noteworthy, because his woodworker's manual is dedicated to the Boy Scouts, and that his manual is one of the first to feature power tools for the home shop. (For more on the introduction of electrification, and its impact on the development of wooddworking machinery for homeshops, click here.

Rose-engine Lathe. (Engraving.) A lathe in which the rotatory motion of the lathe and the radial motion of the tool combine to produce a variety of curved lines. The mechanism consists of plates or cams set on the axis of the lathe, or suitably rotated and formed with wavy edges or grooves which govern the motion of the cutting point toward or from the center Source: Knight's American Mechanical Dictionary: A Description of Tools, Instruments ... By Edward Henry Knight [I have ceased the narrative here, going on to doing other things until a later date] Sources: Oliver Impey and Arthur MacGregor, eds., The Origins of Museums: The Cabinet of Curiosities in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Europe (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985), pages ?; click here for a link to an extensive background on the history of the British Musuem, an institution which Charles Holtzapffel acknowledges drawing upon -- in the early 1840s -- for early books on the history of the lathe; "Hobbies," Arthur's Home Magazine 8 (September i856), 167.

[arthur's for 1856 not available on proquest]

Diderot & d'Alembert. L'Encyclopedie Diderot & d'Alembert- Art du Tourneur. Tours; Bibliotheque de l'Image: 2001. A selection of plates from Diderot's famous 'Encyclopedie', with the original French text explaining the processes and tools illustrated. This volume reprints the section devoted to turning on a lathe, with almost 90 plates illustrating the tools and techniques used. Softcover. 9"x12", 19 pages plus 87 b/w plates. New. [95021] $20.00

Lukin, James The lathe & its uses; or, Instruction in the art of turning wood and metal. Including a description of the most modern appliances for the ornamentation of plane and curved surfaces. With an appendix, in which is described an entirely novel form of lathe for eccentric and rose engine turning; a lathe and planing machine combined ... New York,: J. Wiley & son, 1868; Egbert P Watson, Manual of the Hand Lathe Philadelphia: Henry Carey Baird, 1869. (the link is to a very accessible copy on OpenLibrary.)

Gordon Childe, “Wheeled Vehicles” History of Technology, Oxford, England: Oxoford University Press, 1954, Volume 1;

Robert S. Woodbury, History of the Lathe Cambidge, MA: MIT Press, 1961



opensource john jacob holtzaffpel, Turning and mechanical manipulation 1846 volume 4 on the lathe

1923: Paul N. Hasluck, Lathe-Work: A Practical Treatise On The Tools, Appliances, And Process Employed In The Art Of Turning, Including Hand-Turning, Boring And Drilling, The Use Of Slide Rests, And Overhead Gear, Screw-Cutting By Hand And Self-Acting Motion, Wheel-Cutting, Etc Etc, With Numerous Illustrations Drawn By The Author 11th Edition, Revised And Enlarged With Additional Chapters On Automatic, Repetition, Capstan, And Turret Lathes. New York: D. Van Nostrand Co., 1923 (Originally published in 1881, and worldcat shows a 1930 English edition.)

Using the calculation formula, 2500 copies per printing, and multiplying by 11 gives us approximately 30,000 copies sold. However, given that this printing is the 11th edition, it is more likely that the total copies of this book is much larger. (I shall be on the lookout for more accurate details. Since this book was first published in 1881, it had a long life) Even looking at the situation superficially, though, tells us that Hasluck's lathe manual filled a need -- that many amateur lathe enthusiasts were active at the beginning of the 20the century on both sides of the Atlantic.

(This book is printed in England but sold in America under the Van Nostrand imprint.)

Moreover, in chapter 1, Hasluck tells his readers that the foot-powered lathe is the most popular model. A disclosure such as this belies several other truths, most specifically that electrification -- in America, urban electrification commenced in the middle of the preceding decade -- would rapidly change attitudes of amateur lathe operators about how to power lathes, while manufacturers such as Delta had lathes designed for home shops on the market later in the 1920s decade.

1947 Shopsmith in Lathe Mode

shopsmith_lathe_1947