What Is an Engine Lathe?

Last Updated on April 22, 2023 by Charles Wilson

If you’re new to the world of turning, you may have come across the term “engine lathe” and wondered what it means. Well, today I’m here to clear up any confusion:

Engine lathe is just another synonym for “lathe”. The term “engine lathe” dates back to the Industrial Revolution, when mechanical lathes were not the norm.

The engine lathe is mainly used to create various shaped metals. The machine uses advanced cutting tools to give them the desired shape.

It is also commonly used to spin sheets of metal as well. Engine lathe became popular around the nineteenth century and has been with us ever since.

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Now, let us first see the works one can do using an engine lathe.

Things You Can Do with An Engine Lathe


These are the main operations an engine lathe can operate;


Boring is the process of enlarging a hole in the desired metal. With an engine lathe, you can easily do this step in no time. It can help you create gun barrels and engine cylinders.


We all know what drilling is. Engine lathe successfully helps us drill different parts of machineries. This machine makes the whole drilling process a lot easier.


An engine lathe is mostly used to complete the turning process. In this process, the metal rotates, and the unwanted parts get cut. The whole turning process is unthinkable without an engine lathe these days.


In facing, we can see metals being smoothened to give it a more finished look. With an engine lathe, you can do this with ease.

These are some of the main functions of an engine lathe. They are also the major processes while creating any sorts of metal works. But an engine lathe is also used in other areas. From knurling to threading, an engine lathe covers a lot of sectors.

However, it is mostly used in creating parts and shapes in the automobile industry.

The Parts of An Engine Lathe

There are four major parts of a lathe. These are gears, carriage, tailstock, and a stepped pulley.


The main purpose of gear is to transmit power to the spindle of the lathe. This power helps the cutting process greatly.


Carriage is mounted on the inner side of the machine. It helps to damp the vibration of the lathe. A carriage supports, guides and also feed the tool. The carriage itself has five parts as well.

  • Saddle
  • Cross-slide
  • compound rest
  • tool post
  • and an apron

Among these parts, the cross-slide helps the tool to feed. It provides cutting action to the tool and it can be operated by hands as well.


A tailstock mainly provides bearings and support to the process. It comes with various different parts itself. A tailstock is generally mounted on the bed of the lathe.

Stepped Pully

Stepped pully is an important part of the machine as it helps to operate spindle speed. The speed of the spindle needs to be closely monitored to carry out the task properly.

Other Parts of An Engine Lathe

Apart from these parts, there are some major controls of an engine lathe. There’s a power switch to turn the machine on or off.

Then, we can find a handwheel that helps operate the tailstock. There’s also a crossfeed knob and some speed control knobs to operate as well.

Learning the functions and uses of these controls are very important for operating an engine lathe.

A Word of Caution!

While the lathe is indeed a very useful tool, it needs to be handled carefully. We need to take precautions for our own sake. An engine lathe comes with a moving chuck and stock, there are sharp blades and edges as well. So, mishandling the device can be a bit hazardous for your health.

Also, some pieces of stock may come out of the machine and hit you. The metal chips can be sharp and hot as well.

To keep yourself safe while using the tool, you need to operate the machine carefully and handle it with proper care. You should always wear safety glasses to keep your eyes out of harm’s way. And make sure to switch the machine off prior to making any adjustments.

Overall, the hazard is still very much manageable. You just need to handle it with proper caution. But, in return, you get a complete machine to help you cut and shape your metals in a professional way.


As you can see that engine lathes are not very difficult to understand. You’ll just have to be a bit careful while handling them, and you’ll be fine.