When someone is heard talking about an engine lathe, they are talking about a very specific type of tool. This is a type of lathe which is horizontal in nature. It was most popular in the early 20th century when it was commonly used to manually turn large or hard to handle pieces of metal. When the metal is turned in this way, and special tools are used in conjunction with this, the metal can be formed to suit very specific shapes and needs. While the tool is vintage in nature, it is still used very widespread today.
The pieces of metal that are formed with it are usually those used in things such as automobiles. Obviously, these are very special pieces and they must be formed by professional lathe operators or machinists. While most workers generally tend to turn large pieces of sheet metal with a lathe, engine lathe manufacturers also market their tool towards those who make shafts or square blocks.
An engine lathe has some very specific features. These features can and do include such things as a tailstock, various gears, and a pulley. The pulley can be used to adjust the lathe to different speeds. While the tools themselves have remained essentially the same, what has changed is the fact that the carriage in the original design would trap all of the dirt and grime which had accumulated. This would eventually ruin the machine as the grime would mix in with the oil and create a gumming and rubbing effect which would wear the machine down unnaturally.
To combat this, the lathe has been re-designed to include a self-oiling option. These days this self-oiling option is located at both the front and the back of the machine which leads to a great reduction in the amount of wear and tear placed on the machine.