Lathe Tools for Machining Rubber

Written by neal litherland
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Lathe Tools for Machining Rubber
You can use rubber in a lathe, if you're careful. (lathe image by Andrey Kiselev from

Machinists have to use a variety of different tools in order to make mechanical parts. While many parts are made out of metal, rubber is a common material that machinists may have to work with. If you're going to use a lathe with rubber, then it's important that you use the right tools.

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The lathe is the primary tool that you'll be using. Simply put, a lathe is a machine that holds two ends of a material to be shaped and then once it's switched on, the lathe spins the material. As the material spins you press a tool against it, creating a cutting action. This cutting action shapes the material, causing it to take on a different shape. This can be done with tire treads, but it can also be done with chair legs and even metal screws.

Cutting Tool

The second part of the equation when using a lathe is the actual cutting tool. Where rubber is concerned, it's important that you use something very sharp. Rubber by its very nature is resilient and flexible, and even dense rubber might give before it allows the point or the edge to cut it into a shape. One difficulty with rubber as a material is that it will bend or stretch while being shaped, so as you cut you need to keep an eye out for that difficulty.


One way to work with rubber is to make it cold. If rubber is chilled it becomes harder, but also more fragile. Using products like dry ice or industrial freezers, you can harden rubber to the point that its natural give is balanced out and you can cut it more easily. If you use too much cold, though, the rubber will become brittle and shatter rather than cutting. It's a fine line and can sometimes take a little experimentation.

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