The origins of metal spinning are lost in the midst’s of history. It is probable that the potters wheel of the ancient Egyptians provided the basis for the forming process, although the first evidence of metal spinning techniques being used for the forming of metals occurs in the middle ages. This is provided by an old wood carving, which shows a metal spinner engaged in the production of what are obviously metal vessels.
The motive power for the lathe on which he is forming the vessels is being provided by a second person turning a large wheel connected to the lathe spindle by belt. When one considers that even modest hand metal spinning lathes today have electric motor drive ratings in excess of 1.5KW, it is apparent that the technique as illustrated must have had very severe limitations. Only very thin, soft metals could be formed by the metal spinner with his stick-type tools. However, despite the limitations, this method of metal spinning represented a significant advance on the techniques used until then, which were limited to either casting or hammering.
Later, the metal spinning process advanced as both water power and steam power were used to drive the main spindle of the metal spinning lathe, but the hand spinner was still required to provide both the motive power and the forming skill necessary to transform a flat blank into the finished hollow component
With the advent of the electric motor, the hand metal spinning lathe reached the ultimate in its development, the limitations being those of the power which could be provided by the hand spinner. The next step then was the development of some form of power assistance for the hand spinner so that he could concentrate solely on the metal spinning technique. The use of feed screws with hand wheels has not been particularly successful due to the high feed rate which the spinner has to achieve, particularly in the transverse movement. The real breakthrough came with the use of the hydraulic power and the change from the stick-type tool to the use of a roller.
This permitted the metal spinning of components in harder metals of heavier gauge and led to the development of the newer techniques of shear forming and flow forming. However, the final result on each component was still dependent on the skill of the individual operator and such factors as varying levels of concentration, fatigue, experience etc. In other words, the human factor still had to be taken into account in the metal spinning process.