View Full Version : What determines a lathes name? Bench? Engine? etc

Bill Pace
09-21-2008, 09:35 AM
There are a couple threads running now questioning why a particular lathe is called a "student" and another "bench"

kmp gave a very good description of a student lathe, ---can we get some description/explanations for some of the other - many - names of the different lathes: "engine", "bench", "toolroom" "turret" "2nd operation", etc, etc......

Spin Doctor
09-21-2008, 09:50 AM
Student refers to the targeted education market.
Bench is one that means mounted on a seperate bench or an intregral one (think SB 10" and under or Hardinge)
Turret and second operation can be the same thing or completely different. Take one of the Hardinge Split Beds. They can be set-up as a turret lathe, second operation lathe or a model makers lathes.
Engine lathes are general purpose lathes that will do just about anything you want. The Tool Room Lathes are just ones built to a higher degree of accuracy with a possibly wider bed.

Now there can be Bench Lathes that are Tool Room Quality (Wade 8" for example)

Paul Alciatore
09-21-2008, 11:55 AM
Short answer: The manufacturer does.

It is partially a marketing thing and partially the features and level of accuracy that the machine has. I don't think that there are any official, written, enforcable standards but there are features that people might expect to find on one type as opposed to another.

It is kind of like the auto makers use of the word "class". "It is the least expensive in it's class." In one sense, this is a totally meaningless statement because there is no real definition of what the classes of cars are. In another sense, it does mean that the company making the statement does think that they have a product that is better than some of the competing products. But the list of other cars that one company would say are in the same "class" as their model may/would not be the same as any other company's list for similar models.

Some terms do have some real meaning. A bench lathe should be one you could mount on a bench. A student lathe is probably a cheap one because schools have limited budgets and have to buy several. A tool room lathe should have higher accuracy than at least other models by the SAME manufacturer.

It is better to decide what features and level of accuracy you want or need and look for this instead of getting hung up on a name that different manufacturers may apply differently.

09-21-2008, 03:57 PM
A student lathe starts out as a bench lathe for the most part. Then it quickly becomes a beta- once students get to play with them, they test every limit it has :)

09-21-2008, 07:10 PM
FWIW, South Bend called its 10" lathe a "toolroom" lathe if it had the taper attachment, and an "engine" lathe if it didn't. Possibly the "toolroom" lathe also included a collet attachment...I don't recall for sure.

09-21-2008, 07:59 PM
Yeah its general sort of description. There are "engine lathes" that are setup to the same or better tolerances than "tool room lathes" from another manufacturer. For instance, Pacemaker "engine lathes" were setup (ground, scraped etc) to tool room quality. The only difference between the Pacemaker engine lathes and ATW's "tool room lathe" was an enhanced gearbox that could cut metric and inch threads and a few other minor changes in features. I suspect that a new Pacemaker could turn to better precision than a SB "tool room lathe". I don't know though, just an opinion.

I'm sure this is true of other lathes, too. I often bring up Pacemakers since, in my lathe selection process, I did alot of research on them. Not trying to brag on them or anything. (well not trying to brag too much anyway :) )

09-21-2008, 08:41 PM
This subject is in the best threads over on PM:


Rich Carlstedt
09-22-2008, 02:07 AM
Lots of comments, but the term Engine Lathe means a screw cutting Lathe.
This signifies that the lathe will take gears and drive a lead screw in order to cut threads. This can be either a quick change or standard change gear set.
Speed lathes, and finishing lathes or second operation lathes are not capable of doing this. In the old days screw cutting was also refered to as engine making.
Tool Room Lathes are specific Engine Lathes and there are VERY FEW around.
Machinery Makers like Monarch, American,and J &S , long ago placed that title
on engine lathes that have single paw clutches on lead screws for threading.
This allows the lathe leadscrew to kick out when the carraige reaches a preset location. This allows extremely fast single point threading operations.
It was considered, that Tool Room Lathes would be used by Tool Makers only.
Tool makers are considered to be the most skilled of all machinists, and needed these types of lathe for utmost effect.

Unfortunitly, marketing people have distorted all these definitions


Wedges, Screws and Levers were engines of mechanisims,
" engine " meaning to work for you
If the lathe made a screw thread, it was an engine lathe

09-22-2008, 03:18 AM
There are a couple threads running now questioning why a particular lathe is called a "student" and another "bench"
Reasoning by analogy; a bench lathe ends up lying on top of a bench, and a student lathe ends up lying on top of a student.

That's my theory, and I'm stuck with it.