March 3, 2021

CNC Lathe vs Manual Lathe: Reasons to Pick One over the other

The CNC lathe and Manual Lathe come with differences in improved features and ease of use. The introduction of CNC has a way of making a wide range of items in a short space of time. Great innovation comes with controlling machines using computers. 

However, it does not mean that the manual lathe ceases to be a great tool. It can be great for starters. It is easier to use. The instructions can be easy to follow. Below is a more detailed review of both lathes. 

CNC Lathe

The CNC Lathe is a more complex machining experience that requires less skill than the Manual lathe. The system can be of best use for complicated cuts. You are not limited to manual work. 

A CNC machine is an improved manual lathe that can do all the manual lathe can and comes with more improved skills than the traditional lathe. It comes at a price as it is not affordable. 

A CNC lathe machine comes at a steeper price. It requires additional accessories such as the computer, which is an additional cost. 

The CNC lathe accurately duplicates designs fed to it through a computer. Accuracy and precision are some of the strengths projected by the CNC lathe. Chances are very slim that you will make errors during the cutting process. Increased productivity comes with improved features on the machine. There is less waste involved. 


  • Innovative
  • Saves time
  • More production 
  • Less experience
  • Convenient


  • Not affordable
  • Complicated

Manual Lathe

A Manual lathe can be less innovative, but it might be worth having as it gives you a better understanding of how the machine works. You can utilize it to its best capability. You can have a satisfactory experience as you can easily find better ways to work with the machine. 

The early stages of using the machine mean losing more time and resources, but it can be worth it when you start excelling. What determines your production is the level of your skill. For specific parts of a business, you will need more years of experience in the industry. No additional costs are required since the machine does not need a computer or any software.  


  • Ease of use
  • Great performance
  • Sharpens your skill
  • Affordable
  • Allows you to be more involved


  • It is time-consuming
  • Demanding

Main Features

  • Control systems
  • Spindle options
  • Gearbox

CNC Lathe

Automatic Control Systems

These are used for regulating all the functions of the machine. Amongst the systems is the lubrication system. This is the reason why there is long-term reliability that lies in the machine.

Boring Heads

It plays a major role in the woodworking sector. The heads determine a variety of shapes and sizes in large quantities. It helps when the user is carving detailed parts. In industries where craftsmanship is a must, it plays a major role.

Spindle options

A wide range of spindles attains a high level of efficiency. There is the HSD, and the Perske spindles are great when it comes to CNC machining. 

Manual Lathe

Headstock Gears

They are made up of Alloy steel. It is durable and hardened so that it allows you to rub the machine smoothly without making noise. It has an oil bath lubrication that reduces friction.


Highly accurate bearings support the spindle. When you are cutting, the machine remains stable and solid. A bigger spindle bore can work better.


It controls the threading capacity. Accuracy in cutting threads can be a difficult exercise that requires precision. To get rid of overload, you will need a shear pin that needs to be fitted onto the machine.

What could be better?

CNC Lathe

Some tasks require direct involvement, which might be difficult to execute with a computerized machine. A machine that uses both the manual system and CNC would have been more practical and convenient. 

When you have more orders, you could utilize the manual system hence increased productivity. In some instances, there is a single project that requires a simple and light machine. I would recommend a Manual lathe. This will even save your power. Setting up the CNC machine can take more time than you need when using a traditional lathe.  

Manual Lathe

What could be better when using the machine is accuracy, speed, consistency, and time taken to complete a task. Understandably, you will be working manually, but making the same design on different items would be better. The instructions could have been more clear and innovative. There could be a way to lessen the workload, even if it is manual work.

Similar Features

  • As much as the manual lathe requires a more skilled user, both machines need increased productivity skills. 
  • The machines can execute heavy-duty activities. 
  • Even if the CNC is controlled using a computer, it still involves the user in cutting. 
  • Both machines work on a wide variety of materials such as metals, plastics, and glass. 

Key Differences

When you are using a manual lathe, you need the skill to master the cuts, whereas less skill is needed when using the CNC lathe. A Manual lathe will require you to master your cuts so that when you are required to execute a certain cut, you do not stumble. Unlike the Manual lathe, the CNC uses computers to do the work. 

The Manual lathe takes more time because you need more time to be an expert. You will have to use more resources in the learning process. When you want to save time, I would recommend the CNC machine. 

A Manual lathe is difficult to use when you are after consistency and perfection. Cutting multiple parts of the same style can be hard to maintain. Your clients might understand a certain degree of variation, but you will notice some differences. This can affect your business. 

Items that need to be similar in every bit need a computerized lathe. This does not mean it is impossible to make more similar items using a Manual lathe. It needs careful cutting and precise measuring. Attention to detail is another prerequisite. The process will take more time as you try to be precise. 

The CNC can be the best machine for items that need more accuracy because it is easier, accurate, and faster. Considering all the features that come with the CNC, one can justify the cost. A matching computer will be appropriate for the software. 

This will also attract an additional cost. I would advise you to make savings before you buy the machine and the computer. When you are using the Manual lathe, no accessories are required. It is more affordable.

Final Verdict

If you like practically exploring more, you may use the manual lathe for a satisfactory experience. If you are that type of user who is ever busy and wants to produce more items in a short space of time, then the CNC lathe will be of more advantage. I recommend the CNC lathe for a more precise, fast, easy, and increased productivity.

David D. Hughes


Alice Carroll

Thanks for clarifying that it’s not the computer doing the cutting but the craftsman himself when it comes to using a CNC lathe. I’m interested in looking for a CNC lathe machine shop service soon because I’ve been planning to have one of my large table redesigned. getting new legs for it will surely require a good lathe.

Leave a Reply