Buying a Rose Engine Lathe

Buying a new rose engine lathe is an option that lets the craftsman get up and running quickly. It allows that craftsman to use the machine to make work, not requiring the craftsman to work on the machine to get it into operational order.

But there are others who like working on older machines to get them into working shape again. If that is something that excites you, please go ahead and pursue it. Ignore anyone who might criticize you for not using the machines. It is your hobby, so do what makes you happy. (A similar criticism could probably be leveled against those who choose to design and build their own machine over purchasing one, but that is an entirely different story.)

In the end, buying a new machine vs. repairing an older one (or building your own) is similar to home repairs. Some chose to have the work done whilst others do it themselves.

Only one used option is shown below : a Holtzapffel. There were other companies, including : Birch, Evans, Fenn, Goyen, Hulot, Lukin, Munro, and Plant. Just knowing the company names will help the ornamental turner know what search terms to use to seek information on the Internet. The British ornamental turning group, The Society of Ornamental Turners is a great place to start.

The video below shows Dr. Fred Armbruster in his shop. He's demonstrating a Birch ornamental turning lathe (starting around 0:38) and his Armbruster Rose Engine Lathe (starting around 1:22). The video is a bit long (almost 2 hours), but it shows one of the great inventors of the current day.

Ornamental Turning, with Fred Armbruster from GNHW on Vimeo

The options listed below are shown in broad price groupings (like is done for restaurants). I won't try to display the costs as they will change over time, and certainly change with the options selected. In any regard, where the manufacturer has a known web site, a link is provided. The user can use those sites to get ideas of the costs.

The lathes are shown alphabetically, and no preference is given for one over another.

Index of Known Options

Armbruster Mark II Rose Engine Lathe

Armbruster Mark II Lathe
Image courtesy Dr. Mark Berry
(Click on the picture to see more pictures of this wonderful machine.)

The story is that Dr. Fred Armbruster made two exact replicas of an existing Holtzapffel Rose Engine Lathe, and he called them the Armbruster Mark I Rose Engine Lathes. (The story also is that Dr. Armbruster sold one to pay for the other.)

Then, he made others with all the parts made to the standards of today. (The standard thread definitions we know and love today {UNC, UNF, etc.}, didn't come about until 1949.) These new machines are known as the Armbruster Mark II Rose Engine Lathes. Unfortunately, rumour has it that Dr. Armbruster stopped at 27 of these, and there won't be any more.

As with the MADE Lathe, I consider this machine to be a fine piece of artwork.

Holtzapffel Rose Engine Lathe

Holtzapffel Rose Engine Lathe
Image courtesy of Skinner, Inc.
(Click on the picture to see more pictures of this wonderful machine.)

When these are in great shape, they are the most amazingly beautiful machines you can imagine.

They aren't cheap : The last complete one sold was in 2012 for $228,000 (shown in the picture on the right).

Holtzapffel & Company Rose Engine Lathe No. 1636 and Cabinet of Accessories

If you do buy one, please do consider that one is not considered the owner of a Holtzapffel lathe : merely the current care-taker.

Lindow-White Rose Engine Lathe

Lindow-White Rose Engine
Image courtesy Lindow Machine Works

The Lindow-White Rose Engine from Lindow Machine Works seems to be the one used by most serious enthusiasts, at least in the U.S.A. It was built as a collaboration between David Lindow and Steve White.

There are also some great videos by Eric Spatt on YouTube.

David Lindow is owner of Lindow Machine Works in Pennsylvania, and is a big influence in the community. You can see David's work on his Instagram page.

MADE Lathe

MADE Lathe
Image courtesy MADE Lathe

This is one of the finest machines you can buy, if not the finest. It was designed by and for some of the field's top ornamental turners, along with some fine machinists.

It is a very sturdy machine, designed with the ruggedness needed for fixed tool work (at which Al Collins excels).

I have come to believe that this machine has so many capabilities that you should not be allowed to buy one until you can demonstrate that you know how to use it by demonstrating a large volume of excellent work.

In addition to its capabilities, this lathe is itself fine piece of artwork. In speaking with the makers of this machine, great care has been taken to use materials and processes that hold to the history of such machines. The picture to the right does not do the machine justice for its beauty.

The acronymn "MADE" comes from the 4 principals involved in the machine's creation :

  • Mike Stacey - President and founder of Columbus Machine Works in Columbus, Ohio.

  • Al Collins - a renowned ornamental turner who has made quite a few award-winning pieces on his MADE lathe. Some are shown on his Instagram page, but these pictures don't do them justice. If you get the chance, check out his work.

  • David Lindow - owner of Lindow Machine Works in Pennsylvania. Lindow Machine Works also makes beautiful clocks and the Lindow-White Rose Engine.

  • Eric Spratt - a rose engine collector (and the guy whose name changed the lathe's name from DAM to MADE).

An informal walk-around of the MADE Ornamental Lathe at the 2012 Ornamental Turners International Symposium is shown in the video below.

This machine is quite expensive, but if you can afford it, you will be able to make some incredible works.

Mandala Rose Engine Lathe

Mandala Rose Engine Lathe
Image courtesy Mandala Rose Works

The Mandala Rose Engine is a great way to get started without having to build your own machine. I've spoken to a number of people who own them, and they really like the machine.

It has a few really great features :

  • It can hold many rosettes at one time
  • It can move in both directions : both rocking and pumping.
  • It has a low cost.

Wade Wendorf is the owner, and he is a great guy to talk to. He can help you ensure you get started well.

When I was building mine, Wade worked with me to get customized rosettes for what i wanted to do.