The Lathe Tool

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I will delve a little into the basics of the lathe tool in this tutorial - you will learn how to make a Vree saucer in one operation and how to model a spring.


1) Previous Step | Next Step

The lathe tool is often an underrated and bypassed tool - but it is very versatile in its application.

Lathe will spin an object multiple times around a user defined axis of rotation and then join these duplicates together to make an outer surface or "skin". The user can set which objects are lathed - if nothing is selected the contents of the entire layer will be lathed. You can set the axis of rotation by clicking with your Left Mouse Button in the desired view port - this will create a positional cross which the user can then relocate to the precise point - either with the mouse or by pressing "n" and using the numeric requester.

Note that if you press the right mouse button the lathe will be performed automatically around that point - not recommended unless you have an eagle eye!

What is useful is that you can perform the lathe on a curve - or set of curves and they will be deleted when the lathe is completed - so if you want these curves however - make sure you copy them.

Another good thing about the lathe operation is that because it creates an automatic point order - so long as the original template polygon is used for different lathes - how ever they have been adjusted for different lathe operations - you can make multiple Morph targets! The technique is simple - lathe your template object - save it - then undo - adjust the points and lathe again - save that - a perfectly set Morph target!

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First off, when you open up the lathe tool you will see a requester like this:

Lathe Numeric Requester


Start Angle defaults to zero on startup will start the lathe at 0 degrees - other values will start it at different degree settings
End Angle same as above but obviously for where the lathe operation will stop
Sides Higher the sides the smoother the object

is very useful - if you make a disc for example 1m diameter 3m away from the axis of rotation -

then lathe around the axis - you'll get a donut. By offsetting by say 10 m - you will create a spring - see example later.

Axis of rotation - set here or using Mouse Button in Views
Centre of rotation - set here or using Mouse Button in views
What the requesters mean


Lathing a disc using the settings as above in the requester image gives this result:
result from settings in first image
Now by using these settings and a disc of 20m diameter with its centre 40m from the rotation axis
New settings
result from new settings

Now to make a real spring: We do this by multiplying how many times we want this effect to occur - so let's factor up the end angle, sides and offset by by a value of 10; i.e. 3,600 degrees, 360 sides and 500m offset - you'll get this:

The resultant Spring!

Pretty cool huh? but let's get down to something more substantial - what about making the Vree saucer main sections in one sweet operation?

3) Previous Step | Next Step

The success of this operation lies completely with preparation - you will be using the Polygon menu and the points option - by using the right mouse button to immediately place points - note that pressing Control + p will create a polygon curve from your points and just p will make a 2 or more sided polygon dependent on points selected. We want to aim for something like this:

Our desired polygon profile for lathing using curves and standard polygons

Now all we do is lathe this beast -- 64 sides should do: after the lathe, remember to weld the points as the skin created by the separate 2-point polygons will not be connected to their adjacent "skins" - then run the Reduce_Polygons plugin to tidy it up and check for 1 and 2 sided polygons and eliminate them and finally we get this:

top profile


side profile


lower profile

And she weighs in at just 5,836 Polygons.

Tutorial ©2000 F. Passaro (E-mail)


© 2000 Kier Darby and Alternate Perspective 3D Ltd.