What Does "Engine Lathe" Mean?
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  1. #1
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    I have heard that it refers to a lathe for working on engines. BS. In reading thru Rose's 1901 Modern Machine Shop Practice, it is plain that to them, a little over a hundred years ago, it meant that the lathe had enough "engine" to it to be "self acting", or power fed as we would say.

    John

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    That's the best explaination I've been able to find too, that it refers to the "self acting" element of the power feeds.

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    I kind of always thought it came from the old use of the word engine as in machine...... as in wheel cutting engine, dividing engine, rose engine etc....... I'll try to look through some earlier books and see if they have anything.

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    >>I kind of always thought it came from the old use of the word engine as in machine<<

    I think that is probably it. About 50 years ago There was a fellow in our shop who had just barely got out of Hungary ahead of the Russian tanks. He was fussing to the forman about his engine. It was a drill press, that he didn't understand.

    Bob

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    I heard once that it was the type of lathe James Watt used to build his steam engine....

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    Per Advaned Machine Work, circa 1900's, it refers to power feeds.

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    Well I looked around a bit and didn't find anything interesting..... first I would say it is an American term..... found no refrence of it in many of the older Engish books such the one by Steeds or books about Watt, Maduslay, Roberts or Whitworth. In some of the earlier American stuff there was also no mention so it must have to do with power!!!!

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    From Machinery's Encyclopedia, published in 1917, the following: "The most common type of lathe is usually known by the manufacturers as an engine lathe. The term "engine," as used in this connection, simply means a machine, and it serves to designate that particular class of lathe which is used by machinists for general work, and which may be considered the standard type."

    Yes, I did say Machinery's Encyclopedia, all 7 volumes of it. I recently discovered it in a used book store, fell in love, and paid too much for it. It makes very interesting reading on how things used to be done. Life has gotten easy.

    Stu Miller

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    I never get rid of an old machinery's manuals or pass up one I dont have. There is a ton of good info that has been dropped from the modern issues.
    Have all my dads old stuff from the 20's and 30's and referance it often.

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    Refering to my earlier post, "Shop Theory" 5th edition, by James Anderson and Earle E. Tatro, copyright 1934, has the following: " The father of the modern engine lathe was Henry Maudslay who first invented the slide rest." He also combined the slide rest with the lead screw with change gears. " This took place in the early 19th century and made the the lathe the most important machine in the industrial revolution, for without the lathe James Watt's steam engine would never have been built. Because it machined the parts of Watt's engine, it became known as the engine lathe." Other sources simply state the engine lathe to be powered by a engine, whether it be gas, electric or steam. Now, we all know steam was the first type of these three power systems.

    Also, how the term "engine" a term to denote a mechanism, I haven't had time to check, but Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin in 1796, may have a clue. FWIW, Webster's says the word "gin" a modification of the Old French "engin" dates to the 13th century, and means "any of various tools or mechanical devices.Incidentaly, Author James Anderson was apprenticed into the trades in London, England.

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    I've heard before that it refers to the old "lineshops" like the pics. that Lathefan is always posting. An old timer that I used to work with said that he worked in a place once where the only means that they had to drive all of the shafts was one single internal combustion engine.
    That's my insignificant little opinion!

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    "Other sources simply state the engine lathe to be powered by a engine, whether it be gas, electric or steam. Now, we all know steam was the first type of these three power systems. "

    Aaaa, What about Water. Think that was in use before any of the above as a motive power...Don't think Watt could have been using steam as he hadn't built the engine yet.

    Cheers Ross

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    Stu- did you buy the copy of Machinery's Encylopedia at the bookstore in Oakland in Pittsburgh? Cant remember the name of the store, but its the one off craig st. near 5th ave.
    I was just there at the beginning of August, and I bought quite a stack of books from them, but passed on that one, not because it was too expensive- 175 bucks for 7 volumes from 1917, but because it was just too much volume to fit in my bag on the airplane on the way back, especially as I already had about 25lbs of books.
    Kinda kick myself for not getting it, though.

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    Ross: Of course you're correct about water power preceeding steam. However, it has its limitations. One being it may sometimes be in limited supply, and the other is it cannot always be in the location where work needs to be done. Newcomen may not have discovered the use of steam to power other apparatus, but he did develop a workable device which allowed him to bring the "engine" to the job site, for instance coal mines, and others later to where ever useful work needed to be done. FWIW, Watt, according to Harry Walton, author of the book "The How and Why of Mechanical Movements" copyright 1968 by Popular Science Publishing Co., E P Dutton & Co., New York, repaired a model Newcomen engine used as an instructional model at the University of Glasgow in 1765. It is here where he developed the double acting steam cylinder, which used steam pressure on both sides of the piston and the condenser.

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    I have a very old book printed in the usa called Hawkins Mechanical dictionery printed in 1909
    Here's what it says
    "Engine lathe.-a manufacturers term for a good class screw cutting lathe,such as is generally employed in producing smaller parts of steam engines; the ordinary type of lathe without the special attatchments or arrangement which cause other classes to be diffferentiated as pit lathe, wheel lathe, turret lathe, &c."

    all the best......mark

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    Ries, your copy is safe and awaiting your return to pick it up. I got mine in Seattle. [img]smile.gif[/img]

    Stu

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    John:

    As it was explained to me years ago, "engine lathe" was used to describe a lathe so big as to require an engine to drive it. About the time this term came into being, so did the steam engine as a source of power. Lathes were driven by foot power or hand-cranked for small/light work. With the advent of steam engines as a prime mover, there was suddenly a demand for machine work which hadn't existed previously. Water power, whkich had been the other major prime mover at that time, utilized mills and mill machinery made mainly of wood. The steam engine brought the need to machine fairly large metal parts onto the scene, hence the need for heavier lathes. Heavier lathes were being built to answer the demand for machining steam engine parts. However, the term "engine lathe" simply meant the lathe was too big to be powered by foot treadle or hand crank.

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    Since my 1917 Machinery's Encyclopedia did not settle the issue, I offer the following from my 1888 issue of Modern Machine Shop Practice by Joshua Rose, M.E. This should be definitive as the two volumes weigh about 20 pounds. [img]smile.gif[/img]

    This from a section in which he defines the varieties of lathe.

    "The self-acting lathe, or engine lathe, implying that there is a slide rest actuated automatically to traverse the tool to its cut or feed."

    Incidently, Joe Michaels, I tried your recipe for brewer's lunch. In spite of the lack of an appropriate steam engine on which to cook it, it turned out great. My wife approves heartily, so I have now blown that old and good advice to never be good at things you don't like to do. Thanks.

    Stu Miller

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    Thanks Stu! also see the first post in this topic.

    John

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    Stu:

    I am glad you enjoyed the Brewery Worker's Lunch. In today's world of diet-conscious politcially/socially correct stuff, with "designer"/imported spring waters costing more than good lager, the mention of cooking something like wurst in lager beer might not go over so well in some circles. Thanks for the note. We are starting up a re-creation of an 1895 steam plant at a preserved sawmill complex here in NY State next month. I was by there this morning to check some of the piping details and to deliver a "hydrostatic" lubricator for one of the steam engines. Now that you mention that lunch, I am thinking my black iron Dutch oven will go real good on the cylinder head of the upright steam engine in that plant.....

    Joe Michaels


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