Lathes are machine tools used to shape material such as metal or wood by rapidly turning the material against the tool on a horizontal axis. This action cuts, drills and sands the material, forming the shape desired. Smaller lathes can be used for do-it-yourself home projects like bowls, pencils and furniture. Industrial sized lathes are more suited for commercial use including building and construction. A specialized lathe is used for fluting and helicoidal, or coiled, shapes. This lathe application is often seen in columns and banisters. The twisted decorative look is also known as rope design. For any sized woodworking project, special lathing tools are needed to get the desired decorative effect.
The slide rest is a device which moves the lathe’s cutting tools in precise angles up to 90 degrees creating an assortment of spiraling effects. It is an important tool for creating both basic and ornamental spiral patterns. Slide rests on wood lathes are lighter and more flexible than those used in metalworking lathes. This type of slide rest is manufactured to perform the delicate cutting tasks of various ornamental lathing works such as spirals. There are some lathes which are equipped with interchangeable slide rests that can be used for both wood and metal.
Initially, the Bowers Rasp was made of metal which would bend and dull easily. At present, this lathing tool is manufactured from tungsten carbide. This material provides a coarse grit which helps the rasp wear better and last longer. The Bowers Rasp is usually available in three sizes. It is effective in carving very thin twists using dense hardwoods and produces spirals in a wide range of sizes.
There are three parts to this wood-lathing tool. The spiral chuck carries the main gear wheel and screws onto the end of the shaft, which is important for indexing the turned pieces of woodwork. The banjo arm is made of brass and is fastened to the headstock of the lathe. A slot on the banjo arm accommodates the fittings which hold the wheels of this lathing tool. This apparatus is also made up of a spiral set which has 16 wheels. These wheels are made of heavy brass in gradually increasing sizes; from 15 to 114 teeth. This variation in the wheels allows for a wide range of decorative spiral patterns.