Review of Ornamental Turning Companion Software

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The screen shot above is of Ornamental Turning Companion (OTC) a software program for ornamental turners by the Dusk Empire software company. Rick Unland, President of Dusk Empire, is an ornamental turner and was looking for some computerized help with eccentric turning patterns he was working on. He found none and so developed this program for sale by his company.

I have had the opportunity to try this program and have found it is quite useful in helping to visualize eccentric patterns as a design aid. In the terminology used by the program, the tailstock offset equals the eccentricity and the cutter offset is the radius. The toggle between tailstock and cutter offset is a nice feature as it quickly gives you a view of how having a radius less than or more than the eccentricity affects the resultant pattern. The ability to use the Windows color palette to change backgrounds and drawing colors is a great help for visibility. I have used a dark plum background with green figure as shown above. The interface is very clean and straightforward and I have seen no problems of any kind in the program's execution of different patterns.

The software is very simple to use, with any pattern combination for a given set of index holes easy to configure. The "# of Elements in Pattern" box determines the number of elements used for a pattern before it repeats. After choosing a set of Index holes, a drop-down list of all the possible divisions of this index appears in this box. After choosing a number of elements, the "Array" is automatically determined as the number of repetitions of the pattern. Then a drop-down list is available for choosing in the "Cut" box. This determination gives all the possible cuts based on the array determination. Upon choosing a number of cuts, the "Skips" box displays the number of index holes to skip and the pattern is automatically drawn in the window of the program. So the above pattern in the screen shot has 8 elements repeated 15 times consisting of 5 cuts followed by 3 skips for each element. Bounding circles may also be displayed which show the inside and outside diameters of the workpiece.

Rick and his company have been very responsive to user feedback. In the original version of the program I tried, the index numbers were limited to 96, 72 and 24. However, upon requests to allow a wider choice of pattern manipulation for index hole layouts such as 84, 120, 360, etc. such as would be found on traditional OT lathes, a user configurable box was added so that any index hole layout would now be possible to use to configure the software. The program upgrade was available via a simple download from the Dusk Empire website. A possible future upgrade is the ability to apply multiple pattern layouts to display together. This program only supports eccentric turning at this time, but if the company meets with success in marketing their product, other capabilities such as basketwork, or side-cutting on a cylinder, may be developed.

This software is not computer controlled ornamental turning, but designed to serve as a design aid. It is useful to allow the exporation of eccentric patterns with infinite choices for the design parameters and instantaneous feedback. Thus it allows the ornamental turner the opportunity to explore many different designs before embarking upon cutting a pattern with their lathe. The element of risk is still inherent in the actual creation of the eccentric pattern, so the element of craftsmanship has not been compromised in any degree.

The OTC website contains a demo of the software and answers questions about its use while allowing online ordering. There has not been any ornamental turning software available until the appearance of OTC, despite the intense mathematical nature of this type of craft which would be highly suitable for computer-aided calculations. Thus I hope the OTC software is a commercial success, so more OT capabilities will be developed in time, giving the OT community some of the advantages of this new technology. The original OT equipment by lathe developers like Holtzapffel and Evans was on the cutting edge of the technology of their time over a hundred years ago and it seems appropriate that this innovative style of craftsmanship be integrated into the cutting edge techology of this new information age in which we now live.

You may check out the OTC website at

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World-Wide Web presentation Copyright 1999, James E. Harris. All Rights Reserved.
Last revised 23 September, 1999