CNC lathes are widely used for machining wood and metal. This usage includes hobbyists, schools and various industries, from electronics and automotive to sports and aerospace. However, finding the best CNC lathe can be tricky.
Firstly, you need to find a CNC lathe that fits in with your budget. Lathes can vary greatly in price, from a few hundred to dollars to tens of thousands, so you need to find a machine that represents good value.
You also need to find a CNC lathe machine that has your desired features and applications. For example, you may be looking for a benchtop lathe with variable speed control, or an industrial lathe.
To help you find the right lathe for you, we’ve reviewed the best CNC machines for 2021, covering both cheap and expensive machines. Before we get into our top pics, however, let’s take a closer look at what exactly CNC lathes are.
What is a CNC Lathe?
The main thing that distinguishes lathes from other machines is that in lathes, the material is clamped and rotated by the main spindle. As it rotates, the cutting tool is mounted and moved in various axes, cutting chips off the material.
The action of cutting a material on a lathe is known as “turning”, and lathes are sometimes referred to as turning machines.
Because of the geometry of lathes, they are most commonly used for machining parts that have symmetry around an axis that can be clamped in the spindle. Examples include pipes and shafts.
The CNC stands for computer numerical control. This means that the lathe is controlled by computer software which sends g-code to the machine. The code directs the machine and determines how it cuts.
CNC lathes are used for machining parts across a wide range of industries, and they are much more efficient than other methods such as multispindles. The last few decades have also seen more and more cheap CNC lathes become available, meaning they are now widely accessible to hobbyists as well.
CNCSourced is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more
DC 12V 24W DIY Tool CNC Metal Motorized Mini Lathe – Cheapest CNC Lathe
- Price: $240 — Available on Amazon here
This is a very budget-friendly CNC lathe machine that can be easily bought on Amazon and is perfect for beginners.
For starters, this is a very sturdy machine despite its low price. The bed is made up of industrial-grade iron, meaning the lathe is durable and can last for years.
The DC 12V is also a very user-friendly CNC wood lathe. For example, you can easily control the speed by using the control knob feature. This means you can adjust the speed depending on the material you’re working with.
This CNC lathe can be used with hardwood, softwood, plastic, and soft metals such as aluminum. It has various applications, including bevel cutting, face cutting and internal cutting.
Another benefit is that it has a three jaw chuck rather than a drill chuck like many other low-price CNC lathes. This allows you to flip the jaws around to hold larger items up to 45mm. The three jaw chuck also brings added stability, which in turn will help you cut more accurately.
51% of users rate this product as 5 stars on Amazon and 32% rate it as 4 stars, so it’s clearly popular among hobbyists.
SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe – Affordable Benchtop CNC Lathe
- Price: $371 — Available on Amazon here
The Shop Fox W1704 benchtop lathe is another affordable yet high quality option. This DIY CNC lathe is ideal for hobbyists and small businesses.
One of its best features is the ability to control the speed simply by turning the control knob. This unlimited control of the speed variability makes the lathe incredibly easy to control for both beginners and experienced users.
With a cast iron construction, this small CNC lathe is also very sturdy and reliable. It’s also incredibly quiet, another aspect that makes it particularly suitable for home use.
While it’s one of the more affordable lathes out there, it still packs an impressive 1/3 horsepower engine that’s made from quality materials. The CNC lathe machine also boasts two excellent tool rests, a 13-inch distance between centres and an 8-inch swing over the bed.
Another impressive aspect of this mill is the 5 3/4 inch faceplate. This threads onto the headstock spindle for non-spindle turning, allowing you to make items that can’t be supported from the tailstock.
One thing to note is that like other small machines, this lathe is best suited to turning small pieces rather than larger projects.
Z ZELUS Metal Lathe 600W 8 x 14Inch Mini Lathe – Best Mini CNC Lathe
- Price: $659.99 — Available on Amazon here
The Z Zelus 8×14 mini lathe is another affordable CNC that offers high quality turning. This cheap CNC lathe has a wide variety of applications, including industry and teaching settings, home and vehicle maintenance, and scientific research units.
Like some of the other CNC lathes we’ve profiled, the Z Zelus offers infinitely variable speed control. You can adjust from the low spindle speed of 50 RPM all the way up to the max 2500 RPM.
You can forward and reverse in all speeds, and you can operate the lathe either manually or using the adjustable auto feed rate.
Another benefit of this desktop CNC lathe is the high accuracy 3-jaw chuck, which has been tested thousands of times to ensure precision. The spindle is supported by precision tapered roller bearings, providing a spindle accuracy of within 0.01mm.
The bed of this mini CNC lathe machine is made with high-grade iron, making it reliable and durable. The machine is also equipped with metal gears, so it’s water resistant and provides more accurate rotation than some other machines.
The Z Zelus has 600 W DC motor power, with 14 inches between centres and an 8 inch swing over bed.
Grizzly G0602 10″ x 22″ Benchtop Metal Lathe – Benchtop CNC Lathe with Great Durability
- Price: $1,795 — Available on Amazon here
This is an exceptional benchtop CNC lathe that’s the perfect mix of powerful performance and high functionality. The Grizzly G0602 is packed with interesting features that help it stand out from the crowd.
For example, it has a gearbox that allows you to select from six different speeds, from 150 RPM up to 2400 RPM. This allows you to easily and precisely choose the speed required depending on the material and project you’re working on.
In terms of durability, this CNC metal lathe has a hardened and ground V-way bed, guaranteeing excellent support and longevity. It’s constructed on top quality materials and ensures at least 2 years of optimal operation.
This CNC metal lathe also comes with a full featured carriage and apron assemblies, making for extremely accurate cutting.
The 1 horsepower motor provides plenty of power, while the 1 inch bore means the lathe can turn some critical metals such as cobalt and lithium. Other useful features include the 5 inch 3-jaw chuck with two sets of the jaws and the 8 inch faceplate.
Although it provides plenty of power and durability, the Grizzly G0602 is still small enough to be easily movable. It’s relatively low price also makes it a viable option for hobbyists as well as professionals.
Baileigh PL-1236E-DRO – Excellent Mid-Range CNC Lathe Machine
- Price: $7,000+
Moving a little further up the price scale, the Baileigh PL-1263E-DRO is a mid-range machine that guarantees high quality turning.
An upgrade on Baileigh’s original PL-1236E model, this machine has numerous added benefits, including an industrial grade digital readout system for improved efficiency.
This is also an easy-to-use machine, which is powered by 220v single phase and allows you choose the voltage that best suits your needs. The various voltage options and integrated digital readout make this CNC lathe particularly well suited to garages, schools and small fabricators.
The lathe has a simple gear system that allows for easy turning, taping and polishing. There are nine speeds to choose from, from 70 to 1400 RPM.
Another notable aspect of this machine is that all ways are ground and hardened to ensure longevity and precision. They also have adjustable gibs to ensure they slide freely with no binding.
Other nice features include three and four jaw checks, a foot brake, a coolant system, a steady rest and a halogen work light.
Genos L25011 – Industrial CNC Lathe Machine with Compact Footprint
- Price: from $89,990
It’s far from cheap, but the Genos L25011 is an excellent machine for industrial CNC lathing. This machine is made by Okuma, which is one of the biggest names in the CNC lathe industry, so you can be sure it’s of excellent quality.
For example, it has an integral main spindle which produces incredibly powerful and precise CNC machining. A one-saddle lathe, this is stronger and smaller than many other lathes on the market, so it’s very efficient.
It can also be used to easily cut and turn a variety of exotic materials. This is a very advanced horizontal lathe with a compact footprint.
Another impressive feature is the thermo-friendly construction. It includes a thermo active stabilizer which automatically compensates thermal effects to maintain tight tolerances.
This is also a user-friendly lathe, thanks to the separate cooling tank for quick servicing, easy spindle access to reduce operator work burden, and reduced chip accumulation. It also has a friendly user-interface with a library of apps for easy setup and operation.
Mazak QT-Compact 300MY – Professional CNC Lathe with Integrated Spindle
- Price: Available upon quote
Mazak is another big name in the world of CNC lathes and offers a huge range of machines for different persons. The 300MY is the best model from the QT-Compact Series, which contains entry-level, compact and cost-effective machines for industrial work.
Like with Okuma’s Genos L25011, the 300MY boasts an integrated high rigidity spindle for improved performance and accuracy. No gears or belts are used, meaning there is less vibration generating during the process.
This machine is also incredibly versatile – as well as turning, it offers milling, Y-axis and second spindle capability. This is thanks to the C-axis indexing in 0.001 degree increments, along with rotary tools mounted on the turret.
The 300MY CNC lathe machine also ensures high accuracy, thanks to the high rigidity linear roller guides and direct coupled servo motors on all linear axes.
Finally, this lathe has the added benefit of the Mazak SmoothC. This is a highly advanced control panel that delivers an improved user experience and faster machining times.
Haas ST 10Y – Best CNC Lathe for Industrial Use
- Price: Available upon quote
Haas machines are widely regarded as the gold standard when it comes to CNC lathes, and the ST 10Y is a great example of this.
This machine is designed to provide flexibility, rigidity and high thermal stability. With an extra small footprint, high RPM and rapid speeds, it’s perfect for high-volume, high-production environments.
This Haas CNC lathe is also ideal for machining complex parts, due to its small footprint, amazing rigidity and generous travels. The video below shows a prop shaft being turned between centres. As you can see, the machine achieves a mirror finish without having to slow down, despite a nearly 10:1 length to diameter ratio!
One of the standout features of the ST 10Y is the finishing sub spindle, which is fully synchronized with the main spindle. This provides effortless in-cycle part handoff and allows you to finish first and second-op sides of your part in a single setup.
Other important specs are the 6000 RPM, the 12-station bolt-on turret and the 30-gallon coolant tank. In terms of usability, there is a control touch screen and remote monitoring via HaasConnect.
These machines don’t come cheap – each Haas model costs tens of thousands of dollars. But if you’re looking for unbeatable quality in an industrial setting, you can’t go wrong with the ST 10Y.
If you enjoyed this article:
Sign up to our email list and get the latest CNC news, buyer’s guides and giveaways direct to your inbox: