Traditional ornamental lathes relied on sophisticated mechanical machinery to control the location of cuts.
Today, we can use computers with stepper motors and lead screws to achieve a greater degree of accuracy.
The hardware is much simpler, more reliable, and much lower cost.
When properly applied, the use of a computer to move the position of the cutters or the work does not reduce
the artist's contribution to the final piece of art.
Rather than using a mechanical "analog computer", we use a digital approach.
I've been using a computerized ornamental lathe for several years.
However, my current design is not easy for someone to replicate unless they are able to deal with the complexities
of writing their own software.
There have been a number of stand-alone software applications that I've made available to help with
plain turning as well as ornamental turning.
For more information, see software.billooms.com.
More recently, I've started to make smaller portions of the software available.
My goal is to help others begin to utilize computer-control without needing any programming experience.
The first of these projects is a simple computer-controlled indexer for any lathe.
Rather than using an index wheel, a computer-controlled stepper motor is linked to the spindle of the lathe.
This gives the effect of an index wheel with any number of holes.
More importantly, the movement from one index position to the next is controlled by the computer so that there is
very little risk of losing count or indexing to the wrong position.
This is especially useful for ornamental turners, but can also be used for those doing open segmented work.