Lathes are used to create products which are radially similar (around the central axis), these products can range from dowel rods and baseball bats to steel pins and connectors. A lathe works by spinning a round/square/hexagonal bar of material, typically called rod stock, around its central axis and uses cutting tools which are in a fixed place to reduce the excess material to create the product. There are a wide variety of tools available which can attach to the lathe machine parts to produce a different variety of effects from smoothed or sharp corners, boring channels, drilled holes, and shaving material.
There is are a variety of different types of lathes which, while very similar, can produce a variety of different effects. The most common type of lathe is a center lathe (often called bench or engine lathe as well), often used with a single cutting implement or hand tools. Turret lathes are different in that they are used for rapid production of duplicate parts. The turret refers to a set series of cutting tools which in rapid succession can perform several different cuts and operations onto the rod stock. This allows a single operator to do multiple operations without setup or verification processes between steps. The final lathe we will discuss is the Multispindle, which are also now frequently called CNC machines. Through the use of computer controls, these production machines are typically high volume and low operator input. The Multispindle expands on the capabilities of a turret lathe by automating the changes between heads and accurately controls the production of parts. As the CNC lathes become more advanced they can now utilize multiple angles (multi-axis) to machine from as well as a continual increase in the accuracy of computer controlled tools.