Central Virginia Woodturners

a registered chapter of the American Association of Woodturners

Rose Engine Lathe Info

Rose Engine Lathe Demo
Central Virginia Woodturners
July 21, 2015

Dale Winburn

History of the Rose Engine Lathe

Complex lathes started to be developed as early as the 15th century when the nobility of Europe commissioned and collected the beautiful wood and ivory turnings made on them.

The Holtzapffel Rose Engine Lathe

A beautiful example of one of the finest Rose Engine Lathes by Holtzapffel, one of only 8 ever made. These were a specialized type of ornamental lathe in which the headstock rocked back and forth as controlled by a rubber moving against a rosette or cam-like pattern mounted on the spindle at the same time as the lathe spindle rotated.


Besson’s O.T. lathe of 1578

INTRODUCTION Complex lathes started to be developed as early as the 15th century when the nobility of Europe commissioned and collected the beautiful wood and ivory turnings made on them. During the 16th to 18th centuries kings and princes employed the best turners and engineers to produce ever more complex machines and fantastic artefacts and many of the nobility took up ornamental turning as a hobby. Following the French Revolution the centre of interest in this hobby transferred from France to England where it spread widely, not only among the aristocracy but later to the wealthy middleclasses. This change was largely influenced by John Jacob Holtzapffel, an engineer of Alsatian descent who moved from Strasburg to London in 1792 and set up a lathe-making business that was to flourish until the First World War. With the advent of the motorcar the hobby of ornamental turning was largely abandoned until 1948 when the Society of Ornamental Turners was formed. An ornamental turning lathe may be described as a combination of a light engineering lathe with a milling or engraving machine and having additional complexities to position the work and/or the cutting tool to move on a path other than circular.

Lathe by Bergeron, Paris 1795 (photo courtesy Christies, London)

The following notes describe the main features: The Traversing Mandrel or Screw-Mandrel (or lathe spindle) traverses (or slides) so that the work may be advanced towards the cutter under the control of a swash-plate for obliquely-inclined cutting, by a rosette for cutting wavy lines on cylinders or by a screw-thread guide for cutting short screw threads. The Overhead Drive is a system of bands and pulleys to drive a Cutting Frame (holder of a flying cutter) which cuts shapes or patterns into the work according to the profile of the cutter and its path of movement. Early complex lathes Holtzapffel style Evans style had an overhead flywheel to drive the ornamental cutters but this was not popular in England where Holtzapffel introduced the ‘Shepherd’s Crook’ type whereby a band from the under-bed Modern type flywheel drives a drum from which a second band drives the ornamental cutting frame. J H Evans later introduced a Double Standard Overhead having cranes with weights and jockey pulleys to give adequate tension to the drive band at all times. Several other methods were developed, one of the best of these is the single crane type often used by modern turners with an electric motor doubling as a counterbalance weight.

Holtzapffel style .................................. Evans style

Modern Type

Here is a typical high-class late model Ornamental Turning lathe by Holtzapffel (made at the start of the First World War) with double mahogany frame, treadle, flywheel, shepherd’s crook overhead, screw- mandrel headstock, screw-barrel tailstock, ornamental slide-rest and mahogany backboard chest of tools.

High-class Ornamental Turning Lathe

Cutters and Drills were supplied in mahogany chests. There are several sizes of cutters: long ones for use as fixed tools, called Slide-rest cutters, short ones for use in the revolving Cutting Frames, small section ones for the Eccentric Cutting Frame and usually two sizes of drills; the drills have tapered shanks made individually to fit each hand-made drilling spindle. Two drilling spindles are shown at the right-hand side of the chest, together with a pad handle for using slide-rest cutters as hand-tools. In front of the chest is a lever for ejecting drills and tweezers for extracting cutters from the chest.

A complete chest of cutters and drills with accessories

The Drilling Spindle is used to drills single holes, patterns of holes or, like a router, to cut flutes. Some drills have fancy profiles for cutting mouldings. Many modern turners use a small Jacobs Chuck and straight shank drills. Much of the ornamentation on this Victorian style Posyholder was done with the drilling spindle; the techniques used include: cutting pearls or beads, cutting flutes and drilling rings and holes.

Drilling Spindle with Jacobs Chuck


General Interest in Rose Engine Lathes - Today

Due in large part to the efforts of Jon McGill, Steve White and David Lindow and Gorst Duplisse there is a significant resurgence of interest in Rose Engine Lathes in general. There is an international association for ornamental turners OTI based in the UK. There is a chapter of the American Association of Woodturners devoted strictly to Ornamental Turning. http://www.ornamentalturners.info/index.php They have members from all over the world and meet once every two years in a different city.

The AAW publication, American Woodturner, has featured articles on ornamental turning in several issues. Many AAW chapters in America has at least one member who either has built or is in the process of building a McGill MDF rose engine. There are Ornamental Turning forums on the internet so the buzz is constant.

Lindow-White Machine Works is the result of the collaboration of Steve White and David Lindow.

Lindow Rose Engine Lathe

Rose Engine Lathe  -  $4350.



Released in the spring of 2005, the Lindow Rose Engine has set a new standard in the world of Ornamental Turning. This Rose Engine is a modern translation of the original Victorian machines.


Mandala Rose Engine – Starting at $2595.00

The Mandala Rose Engine is manufactured of 6061 aircraft aluminum and steel.

Features included in the base model are:

Small Shop Frindly – Under 35 pounds makes it easy to store when not in use.
Pumping System – For 3D Turning and Decoration.
360 Degree Phasing – Allows you to phase the cuts of rosettes in 1 degree increments.
Motorized Drive System – Variable speed with no hand ranking.
12 Acrylic Rosettes – 12 rosettes included with the base model.
Quick Removal Rosette Barrel – Allows changing rosettes in a matter of minutes.
Standard 1” x 8 tpi Spindle – Enables most standard lathe chucks to be used.

Custom Rambling Rose Engine & Ornamental Lathe


Photographs and notes on the design and construction of a custom Rose Engine Ornamental.

Fred Connell & Roland Hege


Jon McGill Design Medium Density Fiberboard Design

MDF Do-It-Yourself Rose Engine promoted by Jon McGill. This design was published in the American Association of Woodturners Magazine and demonstrated at one of the national symposiums in approximately 2007. The reception was very enthusiastic and several dozens have been built and are currently in operation all across America, the UK and Australia.


Dale Winburn

Design and Construction of my Rose Engine Lathe

After several years and many hours of research and several months of design and construction my Rose Engine Lathe is up and running.  Can't say it's finished because on-going enhancements and modifications are planned.

For several years I've been collecting material for the lathe. The one part I was having design issues with was the headstock. In the summer of 2013 I was prowling through the surplus metal at a machine shop in Bridgewater, VA and found a piece of extruded aluminum rectangle tube, 6" X 4" with .5" walls, this fit the bill perfectly. With the headstock problem solved I began to get serious about starting the final design and construction. The lathe has been operational for several months as I continue to work on it and experimenting with it.

Design Criteria



Ornamental Turners International (OTI) Website http://www.ornamentalturners.org/

Lindow Machine Works Modern Rose Engine Lathes http://www.roseengineturning.biz/index.php

Jon Magill’s MDF Rose Engine Lathe Overview and Detailed Drawings AAW American Woodturner http://www.woodturner.org/resource/resmgr/aw/suppl_12.pdf?hhSearchTerms=%22mdf+and+rose+and+engine%22 http://www.woodturner.org/resource/resmgr/aw/suppl_10.pdf?hhSearchTerms=%22mdf+and+rose+and+engine%22

The MDF Rose Engine Lathe & Ornamental Obsessions Articles http://www.whidbeyworks.com/root/Home.html

Mandala Rose Works, LLC http://www.mandalaroseworks.com/site/home

Bill Ooms http://www.billooms.com/index.html

Rambling Rose Engine & Ornamental Lathe - Fred Connell & Roland Hege http://ornamentalroseengine.com/index.htm

Ornamental Turning Center Ornamental Turning Equipment w/Chucks http://www.turners.org/OTEquip.htm

ORNAMENTAL TURNING LATHES AND THEIR ACCESSORIES By John Edwards http://www.the-sot.org/craft.html

Society of Ornamental Turners http://www.the-sot.org/index.html

A Bolt-On Accessory Turns An Existing Wood Lathe Into A Fully Functioning Rose Engine Lathe http://bicitywoodturners.com/newsletters/articles/Rose_Engine.pdf

James E. Harris Specializing in ornamental turning http://www.ornamentalturner.com/index.htm

OrnamentalTurning.net http://ornamentalturning.net/index.html


Handouts and Info from the Demo

Rose Engine Lathe Demo General Interest - PDF - DOC

Rose Engine Lathe Demo History - PDF - DOC

Rose Engine Lathe Design and Construction - PDF - DOC

Rose Engine Lathes History - PDF - DOC

Rose Engine Lathe Links - PDF - DOC