How to Use a Metal Lathe

How To Use A Metal Lathe- A Beginner’s Guide

Spread the love

Before using any tool, you ought to have enough knowledge. Here, we will talk about the metal lathe, its usage, and how to handle it efficiently. A metalworking lathe or a metal lathe is a considerably large class of lathes designed for notably machining relatively hard materials or metals. This apparatus moulds metal pieces by holding and rotating them by the lathe.

They were initially invented to machine metals; however, with the emergence of plastics and other versatile materials, they are used in many applications. This type of machine can be used in a factory or a workshop.

 You often think you have enough knowledge of the machines and tools used in a factory or a workshop, but then you lack the experience to use that tools. Well, you need not worry anymore because we have brought you an easy guide explaining everything to newbies like you about one such tool- the metal lathe.

The objects produced on a lathe machine are metal screws, candlesticks, table legs, gun barrels, cue sticks, baseball hats, pens, musical instruments, crankshafts, and many more. These machines have been developed in large numbers for producing screw threads, drilling, cutting, tapping, turning, etc. of metal nowadays, which is in contrast to the basic lathe designed to cut cylindrical metal stock only.

Things You Need to Know Before Using a Metal Lathe

The lathe comprises two ends, the headstock and the tailstock. The headstock spins while the tailstock stays still to support the workpiece. Two typical measurements are there in the lathes to be looked into. Firstly is the distance between the centres of the headstock and the tailstock moving it into the end.
The second measurement is known as the centre height. It generally gives the idea of the swing measurement while purchasing a lathe. This swing measurement indicates the distance between the centre of the headstock and the bed.
The small metal lathes often have only three speeds or pulse width modulated DC motor; in contrast, some may have gearboxes that can be square-up to 6-speed gearboxes starting from 140 to 170 RPM to rotate the spindles.
However, in some of the metal lathes, some gears change the speed of the lead screw.

General Steps: How To Use a Metal Lathe

Metal lathes are used in the production of various projects. Each has different operations like cutting, drilling, boring, etc.

With the help of a metal lathe, you can shape any object into a cylindrical form. It can be a block of metal, steel, plastic, silicon, aluminium, acrylic, wood, and many more. In contrast to wood lathes, metal lathes can work with any possible versatile material if the tool bits are strong and sharp enough to equip.

  1. For the first step, the lathe and the cutting tool must be set up according to your project. Small bench lathes are usually mounted on a sturdy bench or pedestal.
  2. Then you need to mount the workpiece into the headstock of the lathe using a holder called “jaw chuck”’
  3. Nowadays, the modern mini-lathes come with a chuck guard. Put the guard on, select the direction you want to rotate it, and then turn on the lathe.
  4. The lathe has to be rotated at a particular revolution per minute (RPM), and don’t forget to wear protective gear.
  5. Now, slowly move your tool post near the rotating workpiece and try to give a light pass.
  6. You can slide the carriage as per your needs to set the cutting tool.
  7. Different types of cutting tools are there to perform numerous operations. Slowly scrape out the materials from the surface of the mounted workpiece. Keep continuing until the final result.
  8. The switch can be turned off after performing your first light pass and going again.
  9. After finishing the process with your tools, you will now find the workpiece moving towards your desired shape- for example- Doorknobs, metal mallets, key rings, metal rings, threads, etc.

You will get acquainted with several methods to complete the process, such as turning, chamfering, drilling, boring holes, threading, parting, and so on. Each of the methods has its unique technique and result.

To master the processes of the metal lathes, you need to be a little patient and calm. There is no shortcut to it.

Drilling With The Lathe

The tailstock of the metal lathe can also be used to drill out a piece at the centre of a wall or any other surface. You may use the lever at the back of your tailstock to pop in the drilling tool and lock it down.

Turn on the rotating workpiece and easily make a hole in the object. Remember to use a good lubricant while drilling, as it will make your tool last longer.

The steps to do different types of drilling are mentioned below for your easy guidance:

Center Drilling.

The purpose behind getting a centre drilling done is to get the holes started precisely on the lathe’s axis. Unlike regular drilling, centre drilling is relatively rigid. It cuts right on the point that regular drilling fails to do so. You will need to set your spindle at high speed as the surface centre of the bit will be very low, and you will need proper feet per minute for cutting edges on the centre drills.

This will allow you to get the hole started right at the centre. The spindle speed can be set at 1000 revolutions per minute (RPM).

Pilot Drilling.

Pilot drilling helps to ensure that the more significant drill bit goes straight. It has another purpose, too: to make clearance for the chisel tip on the end of the giant drill. The chisel tip needs clearance because if the tip is too large, you can’t do any cutting. You ought to also make sure to clear the chip off from your drill. One of the easiest ways to clear your chips is to unlock the tailstock, slide the whole tailstock out and then push it back in. This allows you to save your setting on the tailstock ram.

Tips for Beginners.

Attention must be paid to the lathe you are working with.

The type of lathe you use will have a massive impact on the project you are working on. For the initial usage, you might prefer working on a mini metal lathe until you master the process. Smaller lathes allow you to produce more detailed products.

Bigger lathes available in the market allow you to work on comparatively more significant projects.

Master the Basic Toolkit.

Do not let your curious mind fool you into trying all the different tools simultaneously. You ought to have a solid foundation before working with other fancy tools. More attention must be paid to mastering the technique of using the essential toolkit that you have got.

Do not let your curious mind fool you into trying all the different tools simultaneously. You ought to have a solid foundation before working with other fancy tools. More attention must be paid to mastering the technique of using the essential toolkit that you have got.

Measures to be Considered While Using the Lathe.

Handling the lathe recklessly can cause hazardous injuries or lead to lethal accidents. Also, by carelessness and not taking proper care of the machine, there is a high risk of damaging the lathe.

  • Some safety measures are mentioned below, which will help you better control the machine. These points can be helpful if you are a novice using this machine.
  • Please do not throw away the manual given on the machine purchase; it would be helpful.
  • Always be careful if a cloth gets stuck on a moving machine. It’s a sign of an accident. Try to avoid wearing loose clothing while working on this machine.

Never forget to wear safety goggles.

If you have sensitive ears, try putting on ear puffs.·   Always start the machine at a minimum speed.


I hope the above information will give you a great kick-start to your promising career or hobby. The lathe will test your patience if you want reasonable control over it. It can be overwhelming sometimes to watch others producing innovative products with smoothness.

But never get in a hurry to compete with others; they might have also been in the same phase as yours and have worked hard to reach the stage they are right now.

The key to mastering this machine is always to remember the quote, “Practice makes a man perfect”, and be consistent with your daily practice. Devote a reasonable amount of time every day to increase your muscle power. Hence, you get the desired product.

Website | + posts

Hi, my name is Charles Winn, A DIY enthusiast, Mechanical Engineer. I was born and raised in Springfield, Missouri. I am also a father of two troublemaker kids, a terrible photographer, and I love to play chess.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *