Lathes are common metalworking and woodworking tools that are designed to hold and rotate a workpiece, allowing the operator to accurately cut, drill, sand and turn the piece. They're used in a wide range of industries aside from metalworking and woodworking, with some of their uses being in glasswork, thermal spraying and pottery as well.

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Lathe designs vary depending on their intended use, and can vary from small tabletop machines to large, stand-alone models that can hold large workpieces.

When it comes to metalworking lathes, there are also a few varieties that offer different results. Some of the most common metalworking lathes include engine lathes, mini metal lathes, centre metal lathes, terret metal lathes and accessories for tooling lathes.

Picking the right kind of lathe will depend on what you're looking to create. As with many production machines, a lot of modern lathes are equipped with computer numerical control (CNC) systems. This allows the workpiece to be accurately tooled, sanded or drilled with little-to-no room for error.

Of course, while there are many CNC lathes, manually controlled lathes are still popular, especially for smaller pieces and workshops with smaller production lines.

When using a lathe, specialist tool bits will need to be used. These tool bits are available in a range of shapes and sizes, and are hardened (especially for metalworking uses) as they need to be able to cut through metal and other hard materials. Some of the most common cutting tool styles include diamond, round, square and triangular.

If you're looking to buy a lathe, there are a few specs you'll want to keep an eye out for. Things like the swing over bed and over carriage distance, max length of workpiece, taper hole of spindle, distance of spindle and tool plane, and the main motor power are some of the primary specs to be mindful of.

If you're unsure what lathe is the best for your needs, consult with your dealer or seller before purchasing. Different lathes will offer different results in certain situations, and it's best to ensure you have the right one for your needs before beginning production.