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There are many types of lathes in metalworking. A centering lathe is a dual head machine where the work remains fixed and the heads move towards the workpiece and machine a centre drill hole into each end. The resulting workpiece may then be used "between centers" in another operation. The usage of the term metal lathe may also be considered somewhat outdated these days, plastics and other composite materials are in wide use and with appropriate modifications, the same principles and techniques may be applied to their machining as that used for metal.

Centre Lathes

Center lathes, engine lathes, and bench lathes are a type of lathe that is considered the classic type of metalworking lathe. The name bench lathe is a version of this class small enough to be mounted on a workbench (but still full-featured, and larger than mini-lathes or micro-lathes).

Capstan Lathes

Capstan lathes are a type of lathe that used for repetitive production of duplicate parts. It evolved from previous lathes with the addition of a turret, an indexable toolholder that allows multiple cutting operations to be performed, each with a different cutting tool, in easy, rapid succession, with no need for the person operaring the lathe to perform setup tasks in between (such as installing or uninstalling tools) or to control the toolpath.

There is a great range of capstan lathe designs, reflecting the variety of work that they do.