Ornamental Turning Book of Knowledge
Making a Rose Engine Lathe

The lathes are shown in order of popularity based on commentary from users with whom I have spoken.

Index of Known Options

Jon Magill's MDF Rose Engine Lathe

MDF Rose Engine Lathe

In 2007, Jon Magill designed a Rose Engine lathe using half (½) a single sheet (4 ft. x 4 ft. x ¾ in. sheet) of medium density fiberboard (MDF).

Jon has written a number of articles about this machine, and these are linked on the For More Information page.

Parts You Will Need

The items listed below are described in greater detail on the Ornamental Turning Language and Terms page. No attempt was made to duplicate the definitions shown there. This list is only to outline the specifics for these items.

  1. Lathe Proper
    1. MDF Rose Engine (as designed by Jon Magill)
    2. MDF Rose Engine Kit. You may have to order rosettes separately.
    3. Self centering, 4-jaw lathe chuck
    4. Quick Change Tool Post
    5. Cross Slide
    6. Lathe Drive Motor - if you don't want to drive the work by hand.

    Left side, showing the drive
  2. Cutter
    1. Cutting Frame

  3. Overhead Drive Assembly (if you don't use a direct drive cutting frame)
    1. Overhead Frame
    2. Drive Motor
    3. Drive Cable

Notes :

  1. The MDF Rose Engine is oftentimes how people get started in this craft / hobby. This machine may look pretty basic, but don't be fooled. There are some very awesome aspects to this machine.

    1. Two rosettes can be mounted onto the headstock for driving motion.

      1. These rosettes can be used together for forming a complex form (i.e., one touch can be disengaged whilst the other is engaged).

        The picture to the right shows how, as the two rosettes (one red; the other blue) rotate together, the rosette driving the cutting will change from the blue rosette to the red rosette, and back. Every revolution will engage the blue rosette twice, for about 20° of the rotation each time.

      2. These rosettes can be phased relative to each other. Using the picture to the right again, the red rosette has 36 lobes, so rotating it 5° relative to the blue rosette would produce a wave-like pattern.

        This is a feature that I've only seen on this machine. The typical approach is that many rosettes are secured together as a barrell, and all are rotated together, not relative to one another.

    2. There are many of these machines in use, and thusly, there is also a huge user community driving constant innovation.

    3. The machine was initially designed for rocking motion, but a number of great approaches have been implemented for adding pumping motion -- whilst using the same rosettes.

    4. Stepper Motor Drive on the
      MDF Rose Engine Lathe

    5. The machine was also designed to have the object be rotated by a hand crank (the little black handle in the lower left part of the left picture above). At the 2018 Ornamental Turners International Symposium, three different demonstrators showed their MDF Rose Engines, and all three showed how they had modified their machines to use stepper motors and a very sophisticated drive mechanism based on the Teensy controller (a variation of the Arduino controller). This provides for rotation with a motor which has a wide range of rotational speeds, and slower speeds don't sacrifice torque, as is seen with variable frequency drives. If you are thinking of going this route, contact Jon Magill. He can assist with process, and may even be able to provide you parts.

      Jon discusses stepper motors in this video from the 2018 Ornamental Turners International Symposium.

    6. Similar drive mechanisms have been used for implementing a leadscrew.

    7. The leadscrew movement can then be used to implement curvilinear slide type of movement.

  2. On the forum for the Ornamental Turners International (OTI), George Balock noted in the MDF Rose Engine section that he was able to acquire rosettes from Wade at Mandala Rose Works which were created especially for the MDF rose engine, including the phasing holes and hold-down screws.

    Please note however, that the rosettes I have from Mandala Rose Works are ¼ in. thick (vs. the ones provided by Jon Magill which are ½ in. thick). This is not an issue when using these rosettes for rocking; however, the ½ in. thick ones are needed if pumping is to implemented on the machine.

Below is a YouTube video showing Jon's MDF Rose Engine in use :

MDF Rose Engine

Bill Ooms' Computer-Assisted Lathe

Image courtesy Bill Ooms

Bill Ooms is an accomplished artist who has created great works. The piece that I consider to be his most beautiful is on the opening page to this web site (he was very kind to share it).

Bill is also the leading pioneer in the use of computerization as an approach to ornamental turning. In my correspendence with him, Bill has stated that he prefers the term "computer-assisted" over "CNC". His reasoning is that the use of a computer to help the artist achieve his goal is quite different from the typical use of computer numerical control (CNC). CNC is identified with the repeated production of given object, not one-off artistic work.

Interesting side note : The drives now commonly used in MDF Rose Engine Lathes are the same stepper motor functionality used by Bill's COrnLathe™. Certainly brings into question the definition of "traditional".

Bill documented the building of his Computerized Ornamental Lathe (COrnLathe™) on his web site. That site has a load of great information, and I won't take the time to repeat it here.

Bill is to be greatly commended for freely sharing three things :

  1. the COrnLathe "hardware" designs he has created,
  2. the software he has created, and
  3. the designs he has created for ornamental cutting frames.

About this site
Disclaimer : eMail comments to me at OTBookOfKnowledge @ Gmail.com. The process of woodturning involves the use of tools, machinery and materials which could cause injury or be a health hazard unless proper precautions are taken, including the wearing of appropriate protective equipment.