The three basic operations that can be performed on both a metal or wood lathe machine are turning, boring and facing. At least one--if not all three--of these functions will be used each time you work on a project. The only things that will change are the tools used and the speed and feed of the lathe.
Facing is when you remove wood or metal from a cylindrical work piece. This creates a smooth surface. However, if you use a chuck you can face rectangular, square or other unusual-shaped pieces. When facing, begin with a slower speed and gradually increase to a faster speed. Also, the work piece should not extend farther out of the lathe than around three times its own size. When facing, gouges, parting and chisel tools can be used to create the desired results.
Turning is when a turning tool is applied to the work piece to create groves, ridges and indents in the work piece. Turning creates metal or wood chips as the piece turns on the lathe. The work piece spins between two end points to hold it in place. The speed can be adjusted as necessary depending on the size of the work piece and the desired results. Such tools to use are a captive ring chisel, a decorative bead chisel or a scraper.
Boring is enlarging an existing hole. The hole can be a drilled, molded, cast or a forged hole. The work piece is placed in the lathe chuck and will be spinning while the boring tool is slowly driven into the opening. Boring tools are cylindrical in shape and will have a cutting tool protruding from them. Two different boring tools can be mounted together to make two different cuts at one time.
The tools that are used to turn, bore and face on a lathe are made of either high-speed steel or carbide. High-speed steel tools stay hard, even when temperatures reach 1,000-degrees Fahrenheit. They are also easy to sharpen on a standard grinding wheel. A carbide tool has a carbide tip that has been forged to a steel shank. Using a carbide tool is best for extremely hard or abrasive materials. Carbide tools stay hard at degrees as high as 1,700-degrees Fahrenheit. However, a diamond wheel or silicon carbide wheel must be used to sharpen them. Carbide tools chip and become dented over time, while a high-speed steel tool does not.