CNC lathe tools

CNC Lathe Tools: Everything You Need To Know About 

Lathe tools are a prerequisite for CNC turning

Like a manual lathe, you also need machine tools for CNC turning. And while most of these tools are common for both manual and CNC lathes, there are some tools used exclusively for CNC machining.  

Why, you might wonder? 

You see, even though the basic function of both manual and CNC lathes is similar, the way they function is entirely different.

In fact, with its automated production capacity, a CNC turning machine outperforms its manual counterparts, thus offering you unmatched accuracy and repeatability while also reducing the project time and cost. 

So it isn’t surprising why the CNC version of your turning machine needs some specialized tools and components. 

However, as a CNC lathe owner or operator, you’ll not only have to source these CNC specific tools but optimally utilize them too. And that can be quite a task, especially if you’re a beginner CNC machinist. 

That’s exactly why we have compiled this guide to help you pick the right CNC tools for turning operations. So let’s have a look up close.

What are CNC lathe tools? 

Before we begin with the different kinds of lathe tools, it is important to first understand what exactly they are. 

To put it simply, CNC tools for lathes are cutting tools mounted on a lathe machine for different operations. 

There are tools for every cutting task, including turning, threading, knurling, boring, facing, and more. And a CNC lathe kit is typically equipped with all of them. 

The popular lathe tools on the market are available in various shapes, sizes, and forms, based on their intended operation. Also, as we discussed earlier, there are common and CNC specific lathe tools, something we will look at later.

Now, when it comes to choosing from these CNC machine tools for your turning machine, there are some key factors worth considering. For instance, you should take into account the workpiece material, planned configuration for the parts, machining conditions, etc., and choose the tools accordingly. 

Which tools are common for both manual and CNC lathes? 

If you’ve operated a lathe machine or are familiar with its working, you’ll agree when we say that the primary purpose of all lathes is the same. And that holds for both a manual and a mini lathe CNC machine

As such, the basic tools meant for shaping a piece of metal or wood need not be different for different models of the machine. 

Moreover, these basic machine tools are a prerequisite for the very functioning of your lathe. Meaning, notwithstanding the machine type, you do need these tools to run the lathe and sustain your operations. 

Here are some of the tools essential for both CNC and manual lathe machines: 

#1. Turning tools 

A turning tool is the most critical cutting tool on your CNC lathe machine

As a single-point component for cutting, it is placed on a rotating workpiece, thus ensuring precision and symmetry on produced parts. 

Based on their materials and finish turning tools can be subcategorized into two types, namely rough and fine tools. And while there is no difference in the functioning of the two turning tool categories, we suggest you go for the latter. 


Let’s understand why: 

Even though the rough turning tools are solid and capable of handling high cutting pressures, they’re incapable of machining parts evenly. That’s because these tools have small clearance angles and remove a huge volume of materials from the workpiece during turning, leaving the part rough. 

On the contrary, a fine-turning tool has a much larger clearance angle and removes little materials from the workpiece surface. As a result, they provide you with a smooth surface on the machined parts and come in handy for a top-notch finish. 

#2. Boring tools 

A boring tool, also known as an internal diameter cutting tool or a boring bar, is used to expand the existing holes on a workpiece. 

With a single point of cutting, the boring tool allows you to remove the material and thus enlarge a hole swiftly and efficiently. And to do so, this tool has a cylindrical bar and an insert to reach deep inside the piece and take out the labeled material. 

In fact, boring tools can create holes larger than regular drill machines can, something you can utilize to create a straight and accurate hole. 

Also, one such tool can be deployed on non-standard workpiece sizes to create holes precisely and with a better finish. 

#3. Chamfering tools 

A chamfering tool has an angled edge for cutting, used to turn the squared edge into a sloping one between the twin faces of a workpiece. 

The process of chamfering on a piece removes the sharp edges, thus helping eliminate potential points of stress concentration. And this, in return, not only makes the produced part safe to handle but also much stronger. 

#4. Facing tools

The facing tools have cutting edges on their sides, which is useful for machining flat surfaces perpendicular to the workpiece’s axis of rotation. 

To remove materials from a workpiece’s end or face, the facing tools are placed centrally across the axis, thereby creating a flat surface. 

#5. Knurling tools 

A knurling tool is used to create diagonal or straight patterns on the surface of a workpiece. 

Consisting of a holder and steel wheels, these tools have a particular pattern. And when you press its wheels into your workpiece surface during rotation, it creates knurled parts. 

Similar to the chamfering tools, a knurling tool also makes the part easy to handle while also improving its grip. 

Not to mention, knurling also creates designs that enhance the aesthetic appeal of cylindrical objects. 

#6. Parting tools 

The parting tools on a CNC lathe feature a slim cutting edge that you can use to cut the workpiece at the required length. 

Apart from cutting, the fact that you can utilize the parting tools for facing and turning operations makes them a multipurpose component on lathe machines. 

Also, once you’ve machined a workpiece, you’ll need the parting tool to separate the finished part from the body clamped in the chuck. And that makes the parting tools one of the most extensively used components in CNC and manual lathes. 

What are CNC specific tools for lathe machines? 

For their unique machining requirements and to perform specialized operations, CNC lathes do need some distinctive tools apart from the common lathe tools. 

Take, for instance, the high levels of synchronization between the movement of cutting tools and the rotation of the workpiece that can only be achieved on a CNC lathe. 

You can’t achieve such levels of synchronization by using regular lathe tools. 

In addition to that, CNC lathes have a higher rate of material removal and are even used for rotary broaching operations to create cavities of desired shapes. 

Also, CNC lathes have live tooling capabilities, which allows them to perform complex tasks in less time, as the workpiece need not be removed from the machine.

And to machine these sophisticated geometrics faster than most lathes can, your CNC turning machine will need tools that include: 

#1. Threading tools

A threading tool, also known as the thread-cutting tool, is used by a CNC lathe to create uniform spiral edges on the surface of your workpiece. And to do so, this CNC lathe tool uses indexable inserts. 

By programming a steady feed rate and RPM rate, the threading tools advance the stock precisely as per the spindle movement, thus leading to a compatible thread pitch. 

But, when talking about threading tools and their working, it’s important that you know about a catch. 

You see, threading operations require a CNC lathe to synchronize the motion of every threading pass. And towards that end, you should get inserts of precisely the same shape and size as the necessary threads. 

#2. Polygon turning tools

The polygon turning tools on a CNC lathe is used to create such polygon shapes at the circumference of a workpiece that is otherwise complicated to generate. 

A polygon turning tool has various inserts placed at its end. And by synchronizing the workpiece rotation, the inserts make precise cuts as required. 

#3. Face and cross drill tools

The face drill tools are radially driven and used for multiple tasks like drilling, tapping, and more. 

The cross drill tools, at the same time, are also very similar to the face drills and perform all the tasks as the latter. And the fact that cross drill tools are axially driven is the only way they’re different from face drills. 

#4. Angle tools 

As an alternative to face and cross drills, modern CNC lathes are now being equipped with angle tools. 

These tools are adjustable at just about any angle, including radial and axial, and placed on a uniquely positioned holder. 

You may also want to read this blog: 5 Benefits Of Automating Your Manual Lathe With A CNC Conversion Kit

Some things you should consider before buying the tools for your CNC lathe:

  1. The choice of your cutting tools should be based on the type of workpiece and also how hard the material is. For instance, if you’re looking to machine hard materials like stainless steel, it’s worth investing in diamond inserts. At the same time, for soft materials, steel cutters can be the ideal pick. 
  2. To machine rigid materials with precision, the stability of the machine is key. So if you intend on such operations, then left-hand tools are something you should go for. 
  3. Similarly, for machining regular materials that don’t call for greater machine stability, right-hand tools can be apt. 
  4. For optimum CNC lathe machining, we suggest you go for live tools, as not only do they save time and effort, but they are also suitable for operations other than turning. 

The final words 

As machining is becoming more complex and competitive, the evolution of lathe and milling machines shouldn’t take us by surprise. After all, the industry once dominated by manual machines is making the switch to CNC machines by leaps and bounds. 

And thanks to the readily available and highly affordable CNC conversion kits on the market, this switch is happening faster, with even smaller players equipping their workshops with CNC-enabled machines. 

The same thing applies to CNC machine tools as well, which are now capable of creating the most complex parts. 

Looking to source one such CNC lathe or its tools for your machine shop? 

You can reach out to us!

At CNC Conversion Plus, we have the largest inventory of top-of-the-line CNC lathes, mills, and also conversion kits for your manual machines, that too at cost-efficient prices. 

Also, our team of machine experts can turn your manual mill or lathe into a CNC machine and ship it back to your workshop. 

So whatever is your machining requirement, we’ve got your back.

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