metal lathe in production

A metal lathe in the hands of a creative worker can be used to turn bare metal sheets to masterpieces.

Metal lathes are metalworking machines that create metal objects by turning metal stock on a rotating metal bed. The metal can be carved, shaped, drilled, or polished.

However, with the advent of relatively hard plastic and other materials. A metal lathe is also known as a metalworking lathe or simply lathes. Experts in the machining industry refer them by more-specific subtype names like toolroom lathe, turret lathe, etc.

Lathes come in many different shapes and sizes, but they all work with a similar concept: shape /curve metal. There are plenty of metal projects out there for beginners, so this article will focus on some of the most fun and easy projects to try out!


what you can make with a metal lathe

Related: GMC High-Speed Precision Engine Metal Lathe Machine

7 Fun & Easy Metal Lathe Beginner Projects To Try Out

These easy metal lathe projects will be an excellent opportunity to practice before trying out more advanced projects. They are friendly and straightforward, even for first-time metal lathe machine beginners.

Replica Bullets

Replica bullets are highly ornamental. Think keychains, large-caliber display bullet, lighter match, and so on. This will be a good lathe project if your metalworking skills are still pretty limited and you want something simple yet impressive to show off with at home or in a machine shop. They'll also look really nice displayed on a shelf somewhere!

Shaping replica bullets also teaches you some of the most basic but essential techniques of lathe metalworking, like bending and finishing. While they may not be an excellent option for a beginner, metal lathe projects like these will help you gain the metalworking skills and experience necessary to move on fast in metalwork.

Plus, it's so much fun, and you can 'case up' and put your replica bullet on display at home!

Hammered Bowl

Hammered bowls are perfect metal lathe projects for lathe beginners. You'll need a center punch, a round-faced mallet and machinist's hammer, file, and a scriber. Working with a combination of these tools and the metal lathe builds up your skills and confidence to try out a more advanced project.
Use the round-faced mallet to give the bowl its shape, then follow with a buffing to smooth and give your hammered bowl a brighter finish.

Metal Scriber

A metal scriber is a hand tool used to mark various materials such as wood, plastic, steel, and metal before cutting or machining.

Having a metal scriber is essential for metal lathe projects. It's a nice and simple project, so it should be among your very first metal lathe projects. You can also make more metal or woodworking tools such as bending forks, friction calipers, chisels, and more!

Metal Ring

One of the best things about making rings is you can actually wear them or quickly sell them off eBay or even to friends.

Rings are very beginner-friendly as you can use metal scraps, even nuts and bolts, and transform them into your finished project. This helps keep your practice costs down, and you don't have to worry about messing up metal or wasting large amounts of material.

Start with a simple round ring, and as you get more comfortable, you can start carving out more intricate designs.

Metal Mallet

While it's not the most exciting lathe project, a metal mallet is one of the most valuable things you could ever have in your shop, so it's definitely worth making.

Creating the mallet head and the handle is pretty straightforward. You can get creative and add texture to the handle or sculpt a custom shape out of it to make yourself something unique. and of course, you can make an entire set of machinist's hammer mallets with different sizes and styles.

Metal Candlestick

Creating a candlestick is a great way to perfect boring and rounding skills. It will be good practice for you to get the hang of creating more complicated shapes like spheres and cylinders.

A metal candlestick can be made in a variety of ways.

One way is to turn the stock into an octagon and then drill holes through it to make room for candles. Another way is to turn the stock into a round or square rod and then cut it at angles to create octagonal shapes placed over candle holders.

Steel Jewelry Box

A nice, simple jewelry box is a very cool and useful metal lathe project to start with.

If you can work on something that will last for years without worrying too much about messing up, then this is the perfect first-time beginner's metalworking project! It might take a little longer, but it won't require more materials or tools to make either.

If you are up for the challenge, you can try to make a traditional treasure chest or box!

Types of Metalworking Lathes

Metal lathes are available in different variations, with each designed for a particular function and/or tolerance. The two major classes of lathes include manual lathes and automatic lathes. For manual lathes, you have to do the shaping, planing, or sanding by hand. They are an affordable option for beginners, and you can do tons of awesome projects with them as you gain skills. Popular brands include GMC metal lathes.

Automatic modern lathes are usually loaded with CAD files to create patterns and extensive projects automatically. If you want to practice and turn your hobby into a business, a CNC machine is the best option.

best metal lathes

That said, here are the five main types of metalworking lathe machines:

Center Lathe/Engine Lathe Machine

This type of lathe is currently widely used and can perform operations such as turning, end face, grooving, knurling, and threading. The center lathes feed mechanism operates the cutting tool in both the longitudinal and lateral directions. Depending on the source of the drive, this lathe is classified as either belt-driven, motor-driven, or reducer-driven.

CNC Lathe Machine

The CNC lathe is a computer-controlled machine tool that can be used to produce precise, high-quality parts quickly and easily.

CNC lathes use computer programming and automation. They can be set up to perform mass production with precision and speed. Because of its advanced features and precise tolerances, the CNC lathe is the most popular choice for manufacturing high-quality parts today.

Special Lathe Machine

Special lathes are designed for specific machining operations that are not possible with the rest of the lathe machines. Some of the most common types include wheeled lathes, multi-axis lathes, tracer lathes, vertical lathes, T-type lathes, production lathes, duplex, etc. They are best known for their heavy-duty production of the same parts.

Their versatility and flexibility make them a popular choice for many manufacturing plants.

Capstan Lathe & Turret Lathe

The turret lathe is a machine tool that can continuously perform turning, milling, and drilling operations with one set-up. The turret head can be mounted on a rotating spindle which carries multiple tools. Their main advantage is they are very efficient in producing more high-quality parts without changing the tool.

Toolroom Lathe Machine

The toolroom lathe machine is very similar to the engine lathe, but it provides a much more comprehensive speed range. The spindle speed range goes from very low all the way up to 2500rpm.

Some of the main features that set toolroom lathes apart and make them more expensive than other lathes include taper turning attachment, steady and follower rest, a chuck, draw-in collet attachment, and coolant pump.

Toolroom lathes are preferred for grinding, polishing, and other metalworking operations where is accuracy is needed.

Bottom Line

Remember that you don't need to be an expert at everything to create fantastic items. Start with something you are familiar with before expanding to other fancy ideas. This allows you to hone your skills.

One of the most important things to consider when choosing a metalworking lathe machine is the purpose. If you are looking for something that will help with mass production, then find out if it has all the necessary features and accessories required for your job.

Metal Lathe Projects; FAQ's

Can I use a metal lathe for turning wood?

Yes, you can use a metal lathe for turning wood.

A metal lathe can shape wood, metal, plastic, and a variety of other materials. However, turning metal on a wood lathe, even if it's one of the finest one is not advisable as you could break the machine.

What do you make with a metal lathe?

You can make almost anything on a lathe. You can create simple items like bowls, carvings, spindles, pens, and pencils, just to name a few! Metal lathes are also used in the automotive industry, aerospace and aeronautics, construction, shipbuilding, and other heavy industries. See also our brake lathe collection.

How do small metal lathes make money?

Metal lathe projects are popular on sites such as Etsy or eBay, where you can sell your creations. You might also find some success selling at craft fairs. The most common purchases include machinists, jewelers, woodcarvers or sculptors, model makers, and other hobbyists.

What is the best metal to use on a metal lathe?

You can make anything out of any type of material, but some materials will be better than others. Some of the best metals to use on a lathe include aluminum, stainless steel, and brass.