Usually woodlathes are used with a variety of fairly large tools (leverage) and
you work your way from the rough-turning of an octagonally cut workpiece into a
cylindrical one, then medium turning to get the countour/profile that you want,
and then some finer tools that you actually use to sort of slice or peel to get
a very fine finish.
Big industrial ones, like the ones used to make baseball bats or other
high-throughput items use a copying template and really go FAST.
See youtube for "How It's Made"
Metal lathes have the cutter mounted in a carriage that you either move with
screws/gears and a wheel, or by motor-driven means for things like cutting screw
threads. Different speeds are used to account for things like heat, chatter,
chipping, etc. that are peculiar to the turning and feeding speed coupled with
the type and hardness of the metal you're cutting.
There are also specialized tools like "knurling wheels" that actually press a
texture into the surface of the metal rather than cut the pattern into it.
I'd say youtube is your friend, or if you want an actual lathe manual, I might
be able to dig you up a pdf ...
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