What Speed to Run Metal Lathes

When using metal lathes, or lathes designed to cut metal, the speed it is ran at can vary. The speed is based on the type of metal being worked, the metal of the working bit, and the size of the cut. The following guidelines can help you determine the proper speed to use.

Types of Metals

Various types of metal require different turning speeds to be cut. Softer metals such as aluminum will require a higher cutting speed than a hard material like steel. Slower speeds allow the cutting bit to work through the metal and is needed when turning hard to cut metals.

Cutting Bit

The cutting bit used can also determine the speed that the lathe needs to be set to. Most metal cutting bits are made of carbon steel, high speed steel, and carbide. Just like the material being worked the bits require more speed for softer materials.


The depth of the cut can be manipulated using speed as well. With deeper cuts a slower speed is need to manipulate the metal being worked and to provide the most accuracy. This speed adjustment is not as important when selecting a running speed, but must still be taken into consideration.