Terms of the Trade: What is a Plastic Turning Lathe?

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Lathe turning rotates objects for precision crafting, usually along a rounded area. The element of a lathe that rotates is a spindle. Different kinds of attachments like collet chucks and three jaw chucks can be used to mount specific objects, usually by the center of their mass. An electric motor makes the spindle rotate, turning the object.

The object may not need to be cylindrical—as long as it has a center hole to accommodate the spindle, it can be held on the machine. Some models have a saddle for controlling and supporting the tools for cutting. An apron controls the feed mechanisms, and a cross slide controls the oblique movement of the tools (away or towards the operator). Other common elements include a tool compound capable of angular adjustments, and a T-slot holding the tool post.

A classic example of lathe work is the wheel device that spins pottery. The only difference between that process and working on plastic with a lathe is that ceramic crafts can be formed using bare hands.

Operating a lathe isn't too complicated, but it can be dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. Take it slow and keep it out of reach of any curious young hands to avoid causing surprise injuries.