Introduction and Main Parts of Lathe Machine

Lathe is considered as one of the oldest machine tools and is widely used in industries. It is called as mother of machine tools. It is said that the first screw cutting lathe was developed by an Englishman named Henry Maudslay in the year 1797. Modern high speed, heavy duty lathes are developed based on this machine.

The primary task of a lathe is to generate cylindrical workpieces. The process of machining a workpiece to the required shape and size by moving the cutting tool either parallel or perpendicular to the axis of rotation of the workpiece is known as turning. In this process, excess unwanted metal is removed. The machine tool useful in performing plain turning, taper turning, thread cutting, chamfering and knurling by adopting the above method is known as lathe.

Main parts of lathe machine

Every individual part performs an important task in a lathe. Some important parts of a lathe are listed below

  1. Bed
  2. Headstock
  3. Spindle
  4. Tailstock
  5. Carriage
    1. Saddle
    2. Apron
    3. Cross-slide
    4. Compound rest
    5. Compound slide
    6. Tool post
  6. Feed mechanism
  7. Leadscrew
  8. Feed rod
  9. Thread cutting mechanism



Bed is mounted on the legs of the lathe which are bolted to the floor. It forms the base of the machine. It is made of cast iron and its top surface is machined accurately and precisely. Headstock of the lathe is located at the extreme left of the bed and the tailstock at the right extreme. Carriage is positioned in between the headstock and tailstock and slides on the bed guideways.

The top of the bed has flat or ‘V’ shaped guideways. The tailstock and the carriage slides on these guideways. Inverted ‘V’ shaped guideways are useful in better guide and accurate alignment of saddle and tailstock. The metal burrs resulting from turning operation automatically fall through. Flat bed guideways can be found in older machine tools. It is useful in heavy machines handling large workpieces. But then the accuracy is not high.

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Headstock is mounted permanently on the inner guideways at the left hand side of the leg bed. The headstock houses a hollow spindle and the mechanism for driving the spindle at multiple speeds. The headstock will have any of the following arrangements for driving and altering the spindle speeds

  • Stepped cone pulley drive
  • Back gear drive
  • All gear drive



The spindle rotates on two large bearings housed on the headstock casting. A hole extends through the spindle so that a long bar stock may be passed through the hole. The front end of the spindle is threaded on which chucks, faceplate, driving plate and catch plate are screwed. The front end of the hole is tapered to receive live center which supports the work. On the other side of the spindle, a gear known as a spindle gear is fitted. Through this gear, tumbler gears and a main gear train, the power is transmitted to the gear on the leadscrew.


Tailstock is located on the inner guideways at the right side of the bed opposite to the headstock. The body of the tailstock is bored and houses the tailstock spindle or ram. The spindle moves front and back inside the hole. The spindle has a taper hole to receive the dead centre or shanks of tools like drill or reamer. If the tailstock handwheel is rotated in the clockwise direction, the spindle advances. The spindle will be withdrawn inside the hole, if the handwheel is rotated in anti-clockwise direction.

To remove the dead centre or any other tool from the spindle, the handwheel is rotated in anticlockwise direction further. The movement of the spindle inside the hole may be locked by operating the spindle clamp located on top of the tailstock.In order to hold workpieces of different lengths, the tailstock can be locked at any desired position on the lathe bed. Tailstock clamping bolts and clamping pates are used for this purpose.

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 Tailstock is designed to function as two units-the base and the body. The base of the tailstock is clamped to the bed. The body is placed on the base and can be made to slide sidewards-perpendicular to the bed guideways upto a certain distance.


Carriage is located between the headstock and tailstock on the lathe bed guideways. It can be moved along the bed either towards or away from the headstock. It has several parts to support, move and control the cutting tool. The parts of the carriage are :


It is an “H” shaped casting. It connects the pair of bed guideways like a bridge. It fits over the bed and slides along the bed between headstock and tailstock. The saddle or the entire carriage can be moved by providing hand feed or automatic feed.

Cross slide:

Cross-slide is situated on the saddle and slides on the dovetail guideways at right angles to the bed guideways. It carries compound rest, compound slide and tool post. Cross slide handwheel is rotated to move it at right angles to the lathe axis. It can also be power driven. The cross slide hand wheel is graduated on its rim to enable to give known amount of feed as accurate as 0.05mm.

Compound rest:

Compound rest is a part which connects cross slide and compound slide. It is mounted on the cross-slide by tongue and groove joint. It has a circular base on which angular graduations are marked. The compound rest can be swiveled to the required angle while turning tapers. A top slide known as compound slide is attached to the compound rest by dove tail joint. The tool post is situated on the compound slide.

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Tool post:

This is located on top of the compound slide. It is used to hold the tools rigidly. Tools are selected according to the type of operation and mounted on the tool post and adjusted to a convenient working position. There are different types of tool posts and they are:

– Single screw tool post

– Four bolt tool post

– Four way tool post

– Open side tool post


Feed mechanism

There are several mechanisms to make the carriage and crose-slide move automatically and to change the direction of their movement. Some important mechanisms are dealt with as follows.


The leadscrew is a long threaded shaft used as master screw. It is brought into operation during thread cutting to move the carriage to a calculated distance. Mostly leadscrews are Acme threaded.

The leadscrew is held by two bearings on the face of the bed. A gear is attached to the lead screw and it is called as gear on leadscrew. A half nut lever is provided in the apron to engage half nuts with the leadscrew.

Leadscrew is used to move the carriage towards and away from the headstock during thread cutting. The direction of carriage movement depends upon the direction of rotation of the leadscrew.When the leadscrew is kept stationary, the half nuts are engaged with the leadscrew to keep the carriage locked at the required position.

Feed rod

Feed rod is placed parallel to the leadscrew on the front side of the bed. It is a long shaft which has a keyway along its length. The power is transmitted from the spindle to the feed rod through tumbler gears and a gear train. It is useful in providing feed movement to the carriage except for thread cutting and to move cross-slide. A worm mounted on the feed rod enables the power feed movements.

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