What is A Metal Lathe – Metal Lathe Tool Bit Types & Safety Rules | CNCLATHING


Lathe machines are one of the most commonly used mechanical production equipment, as a classification of lathes, the metal lathe is a type of important metalworking facility. In this article, we’ll explain what is a metal lathe, also get into the metal lathe types, tool bit, and its safety rules.

What is A Metal Lathe?

A metal lathe, also known as metalworking lathe, is a large class of lathe machines initially designed for precision machining of metals, now it is also widely used to process a range of plastic and other materials. The construction of lathes can vary greatly due to the intended uses, the basic components of a lathe including a headstock, bed, carriage, and tailstock. With different single-point cutting tools, this type of machine tool removes material from a rotating workpiece and produce desired CNC turning parts and lathing parts. The core principle of a lathe is that it spins a material and the cutting tool remains stationary, which minimizes the amount of motion that’s required of the tool relative to the part, gives you flexibility within the work envelope. The cutting is actually done by a tiny point of the end of the cutter, to make cuts of surface and reduce the diameter of a part or flatten the end of some objects. It also minimizes the tool pressure. 


There are many variants of metal lathes, including center lathe/engine lathe/bench lathe, toolroom lathe, turret lathe, gang-tool lathe, multispindle lathe, CNC lathe/CNC turning center, Swiss-style lathe, combination lathe, mini lathe, brake lathe, wheel lathe, pit lathe, vertical lathe, and oil country lathe.

Metal Lathe Safety Rules

There are lots of things you should pay attention to before operating the metal lathe, read the user manual first. 

1. Don’t set foot in a machine shop with safety glasses.

2. No dangerous items, such as jewelry, rings, and loose clothing.

3. The chuck key should only live in two places, in your hand, or in its home, its home might be a holder on the machine, make it a habit that you put the chuck key away after every single time you use it, don’t ever set it on a bench.

4. Ensure your long hair be tied up or contained by a hat.

5. Wear work boots at all times when working in an area exists a risk of a foot injury.

6. Do not lean on the machine.

7. Do not put your hands on work turning in the lathe.

8. Do not make adjustments when the machine is moving.

9. Do not perform heavy cutting on slender workpieces to avoid the piece bend and fly out of the lathe.

10. Do not leave the lathe unattended when it is running.

Metal Lathe Tool Bit - Different Types of Tool Bit Used for Metal Lathes

What the tool bit does is actual material removal, and it will be held in the tool holder then attached to the tool post. 

1.The most common type of metal lathe tool bits that you can see in the home and hobbyist shop is the high-speed steel cutting tool. It’s easy to work with and a good fit for benchtop machines. They are going to be smaller and have lower horsepower, you need to grind the high-speed steel into the shape required for the type of cutting operation to be performed. High-speed steel is also good for interrupted cuts, it’s a little more flexible than other types of tool bits, if you are turning down a hex bar or dealing with key slots, it’s an ideal choice. 

2.The second type of tool bit is carbide insert tooling, which you can see in lots of professional shops and big machines, it’s good for production because the insert can be rotated, it’s difficult to use at home because it has minimum speeds and feeds to get good results, your machine has to have high horsepower and high rigidity for production. Compared to high-speed steel, the carbide inserts are more expensive. 

3.The third option is called brazed carbide, it’s literally a random chunk of carbide that’s been braised onto a shank, it’s useful if you need to cut something very tough, carbide is extremely tough but it’s also brittle, so it’s not as good for interrupted cuts. The high-tech profiles cut into the tops of them are chip breakers. 

4.The last type of metal lathe tools are the cut-off blades or parting blades, it’s a carbide insert type which has a little replaceable part. High-speed steel cutoff blade also suitable for home machines with less horsepower and less rigidity.

You can change the angle of the tool post with a wrench, this allows you to get the angle of the tool bit relative to the material, to get the right clearance angles for your cutting.