Engine Turning Lathe Machines: Adaptations in Pottery Industry

The use of Engine-Turning Lathe began sometime before the 1770s. During that time, this particular machine found application in the production of designs and decoration in stoneware and earthenware. Primarily, the widespread use of this equipment originated from England, where highly skilled potters used it for cutting exclusive patterns and creating unique designs on pots and stoneware. Well, the machine used to work on the principle mechanism of rotation. To put it in a comprehendible manner, pots used to rotate on it, eventually allowing the equipment to carve out specific embellishments.

Pottery IndustryTracing the adaptations

What potters achieved as the end-result was beautiful pots with stunning graphic designs. Moreover, these amazing designs were perfectly visible through the interplay of lights as well as contrasting colored slips. Since then, the engine-turning lathe has been the go-to tool for every ingenious potter. However, there have been substantial changes in its appearance and functioning over these years. From its inception to the present times, this particular equipment has readily adapted to the changing trends in the pottery industry.

Perhaps, it is impossible to trace its significance, adaptations and contributions to the pottery sector without delving deep into its past. If you really wish to know a lot about this tool, then you will surely find this article quite engaging.

Adaptations in Pottery IndustryHistorical background

It will be judicious to begin with a brief history of the equipment. The idea of applying this machine in pottery began as early as 1763 in Birmingham. Josiah Wedgwood was the person who conceived this concept after an intriguing encounter with the machine, at a metal-working facility run by one of his friends. Later, this man differentiated the functioning of this tool in the woodworking and metalworking industries from its operations in the ceramic industry.

The transition

At first, it was the simple-turning lathe machines, finding use in the creation of exquisite designs. The engine-turning ones were nowhere in the picture then. Slowly and steadily, the machine adapted to the emerging trends, rising demands, and advanced technology. And these factors came together to produce what is known today as the engine turned Lathe. Potters felt two significant benefits while operating with this device.

  • Firstly, the machine had the capacity to lathe-turn hollow wares. As the outcome, the process of carving designs on the mugs, cups, jugs and bowls became quite easier than before.
  • Secondly, the equipment was apt for cutting unique designs and regular patterns on even the clay items, thus creating decorative elements.

The simple and advanced versions

It won’t be quite possible to understand the adaptations of this equipment, without a bit of information on the earlier models. Breeze through the following points for a pristine clear idea on the uses of the old engine-turning lathe.

  • The classic model: Wedgwood developed the “rose and crown lathe”, where the rose and crown refers to the edge and end cam respectively. Simple versions of engine lathe were primarily manufactured with the edge cam. And that is the reason that bigger pottery projects demanded the rose and crown ones.
  • Major components: Presently, every pottery project demands the newly constructed Lathe machine. The major components of the machine are the steel frame and the central axle, on which the end-cam, edge cam and mandrel are supposed to be mounted.
  • Customized pattern generator: Mandrels, also popular as chums are customizable into various designs and forms. And that proves to be highly beneficial in generating diverse patterns.

Allows lucid operation

Another important aspect is the flexibility in operating the machine. Especially, the pulley placement enhances the flexibility of operations with the machine. The engine-turned lathe has come a long way from just being simple pattern-carving equipment to a highly advanced design-making tool. Today, every ingenious Potter makes perfect use of the machine for belting out some great pot designs.

Lathe Machine Operations

Nowadays, the tool room work and workshop machine activities; are done by repairers or through suitable lathe tools. A lathe is a tool utilized to perform various functions like turning, cutting, drilling, grooving, knurling, parting, threading etc. They are used to produce accurate products made from metal, plastic, wood etc. The basic lathe machine operations are as follows:-

Turning is an essential and important lathe operation. It is used to create circular objects and for reducing the diameter of the work. Taper turning refers to the process where the tool narrowly cuts the job at a specific angle. Knurling is done using a knurling tool; it has two slashed lined wheels that are pressed against the rotating work piece to produce a knurled object.

The drilling operation uses a drilling tool which is held in the tail stock and fed into the work by using a handle on tailstock. Threading is a precise operation, where the tool is fed into the job at a constant speed. This is done by attaching a carriage assembly with lead screws that are connected to the driving mechanism through gear trains. Two types of threading are external and internal threading.

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Grooving is done before external threading by feeding the grooving tool perpendicular to the rotating work piece. Parting is done for cutting a work into smaller parts. Chamfering refers to slitting or cutting the edges of the object.

The major parts of a lathe machine are bed, headstock, saddle, tailstock, top slide; apron, cross slide, lead screw, countershaft, tool rest, chuck and gears. The bed is the base of a lathe, the chuck holds and spins the work piece; whereas the apron grips the gears, and the headstock allows the spindle to rotate at variable speeds. The tailstock holds the end of the work; and the carriage houses the cross slide, top slide and saddle.

Many types of lathes are available including the wood lathe. Here the cutting tool is operated manually by skilled workers to precisely form smooth curves and complex shapes on the work piece. The spindle is normally driven by a belt connected to the motor, and the speed can be varied manually. Lathe tools are held manually against the work, with the help of an adjustable tool rest; that is clamped to the base at a suitable position.

Engine lathes are machines with a longitudinal base, where the headstock and tailstock are mounted. It has an advanced spindle drive that runs at variable speeds; the selectable gears help to operate the machine at higher speeds. The lathe cutting tools are moved against the work using hand wheels; or automatically using a lead screw that is power driven by gears in the headstock. The carriage moves back and forth on the bed for longitudinal turning. The cross slide and compound rest are mounted above the carriage to enable cross and angular cutting.

Finally during any lathe machining operation, always take necessary precautions; even if you are an expert, or are handling an important process..