A lathe is a machine used to turn both metal and wood and is comprised of many parts. From the stand to the chuck, lathe parts work in unison to create a finished item for the craftsman or woman. A lathe is assembled from parts such as the motor, drive belts and tail stock. Tool rests and the bed are responsible for holding work steady and allow the user to maintain tight tolerances when using the lathe to complete a project. Cutting bits and chuck wrenches are integral to the proper operation of any lathe without being directly attached to the basic machine.
The typical metal lathe is a machine that is made up of many smaller machines and lathe parts to build a single functioning machine. Large electric motors power several sets of drive gears by way of rubber belts in the common metal lathe. Using lathe parts such as threaded shafts and reduction gear boxes, the drive motor is able to power both the chuck and the automatic feed control for the cutting bit. Much like the transmission in the average automobile, the lathe's transmission is able to shift gears and dictate the speed at which the workpiece is being turned. In the common wood lathe, this is accomplished by opening the gear cover and moving the drive belt to the desired drive pulley by hand.
The metal lathe is much more advanced than the average wood lathe and uses many more lathe parts to power or drive the automatic feed drives and many of the lathe functions. The wood lathe, while consisting of lathe parts such as a drive plate and tail stock with center point, is more dependent on the operator to move the tool rest and make adjustments on the pressure applied to the carving tools. The metal lathe uses precision gear drives to move the tooling into the workpiece. Vices can be aligned to allow lathe parts such as cutting tools and bits to run on angles at very controlled speeds and depths to create tapers on solid steel bar stock.
Many lathe operators keep a supply of cutting tools and other various lathe parts, such as chuck keys, center points and drive collars, on hand in case damage occurs to the primary part. This can avoid shutdowns and unfinished projects. The many components of the typical lathe and the vast assortment of lathe parts create a complex maintenance schedule to ensure peak performance from the machine.