This section is from the book "Spons' Mechanics' Own Book: A Manual For Handicraftsmen And Amateurs", by Edward Spon. Also available from Amazon: Spons' Mechanics' Own Book.
If the tools are ground ready to use, of the proper shape, and placed in order so as to be reached without delay, the latheman may at once be set down as having 2 of the main qualifications of a first-class workman, which are order, and a knowledge of tools; while on the contrary, a lathe-board piled full of old waste, clamp-belts, and broken tools, shows a want of that system and order, without which no amount of hand skill can make an efficient workman.
It is also necessary to learn as soon as possible the technicalities pertainiag to lathe work, and still more important to learn the conventional modes of performing various operations. Although lathe work includes a large range of operations which are continually varied, yet there are certain plans of performing each that has by long custom become conventional; to gain an acquaintance with these an apprentice should watch the practice of the best workmen, and follow their plans as near as he can, not risking any innovation or change until it has been very carefully considered. Any attempt to introduce new methods, modes of chucking work, setting and grinding tools, or other of the ordinary operations in turning, may not only lead to awkward mistakes, but will at once put a stop to useful information that might otherwise be gained from others. The technical terms employed in describing lathe work are soon learned, generally sooner than they are needed, and are often misapplied, which is worse than to be ignorant of them.
In cutting screws it is best not to refer to that mistaken convenienco called a wheel list, usually stamped on some part of engine lathes to aid in selecting wheels. A screw to be cut is to the lead screw on a lathe as the wheel on the screw is to the wheel on the spindle, and every workman should be familiar with so simple a matter as computing wheels for screw cutting, when there is but one train of wheels. Wheels for screw cutting may be computed not only quite as soon as read from an index, but the advantage of being familiar with wheel changes is very important in other cases, and frequently such combinations have to be made when there is not an index at hand.
The following are suggested as subjects which may be studied in connection with lathes and turning: the rate of cutting movement on iron, steel, and brass; the relative-speed of the belt cones, whether the changes are by a true ascending scale from the slowest; the rate of feed at different changes estimated like the threads of a screw at so many cuts per in.; the proportions of cone or step pulleys to ensure a uniform belt tension; the theory of the following rest as employed in turning flexible pieces; the difference between having 3 or 4 bearing points for centre or following rests; the means of testing the truth of a lathe. All these matters and many more are subjects not only of interest but of use in learning lathe manipulation, and their study will lead to a logical method of dealing with problems which will continually arise.
The use of hand tools should be learned by employing them on every possible occasion. A great many of the modern improvements in engine lathes are only to evade hand-tool work, and in many cases effect no saving except in skill. A latheman who is skilful with hand tools will, on many kinds of light work, perform more and do it better on a hand lathe than an engine lathe; there is always more or less that can be performed to advantage with hand tools even on the most elaborate engine lathes. It is no uncommon thing for a skilled latheman to lock the slide-rest, and resort to hand tools on many kinds of work when he is in a hurry. (Richards.)