A rose engine lathe is a specialized kind of geometric lathe.
The headstock rocks back and forth with a rocking motion or along the spindle axis in a pumping motion, controlled by a moving against a rosette or cam-like pattern mounted on the spindle, while the lathe spindle rotates.
Rose engine work can make flower patterns, as well as convoluted, symmetrical, multi-lobed geometric patterns.
The patterns it produces are similar to that of a Spirograph. No other ornamental lathe can produce these "rose" patterns.
One type of decoration produced by a rose engine lathe is called guilloché. Guilloché is sometimes confused with "jewel finishes" or engine turning, a much cheaper process of making swirly marks in metal by a rotating abrasive peg or pad, which is repeatedly applied to the surface to make a pattern of overlapping circles. Jewel finishes used to be common on stereo faceplates and automobile interiors. An example of the jewel finish is on the nose of the Spirit of St. Louis (shown at the right).
Beautiful wooden objects are also made with a rose engine lathe, and that seems to be the primary purpose for most hobbyists.
At a simplistic level, a rose engine lathe makes three sets of movement happen at the same time.
But what makes a Rose Engine Lathe really fun is that there are so many variables that can be brought into play.
(There are other approaches that can be taken, but this gives the general idea.)
To me, the most excellent part is the way it can work relatively unattended. This means:
And, my wife loves what I make on the machine! (She chooses what to keep, and what to give away.)
So, how do you get started? Well this site is intended to help you do just that. But if you get hung up along the way, do send me an email via the address shown below. I will do what I can to get you past your stopping point.
The Santa Fe Symposium is an annual conference for jewelry makers, and often has topics around ornamental turning. These articles include a bit of history and are great reads.
In this video, Steve White shows us the rose engine and how to turn post finials in this hands-on lesson provided by Lindow White and Roseengine1.com.
Steve White has a series of lessons, and they are great to watch for ideas. You will have to search for some as they seem to have been uploaded by a different YouTube id (swhitefrog, for example). Search for:
And for a fun video, here is a spirograph used on an MDF rose engine lathe.