What does a Lathe Machinist do?

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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2019
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A lathe machinist works on one of several kinds of lathe machines. In general, a lathe machine is used to cut materials, such as metal; however, it can be set into one of four broader classifications - turning, speed, engine, and turret. Lathes can be programmed so that a pattern is precisely cut out of the material. Using a lathe machine, a lathe machinist can fabricate precision machined parts, such as rotor studs, fasteners, bushings, valve components, and the list goes on and on. The kind of parts she will make depends on the industry that she works in, such as power generators, steam turbines, or automobiles.

The job responsibilities of a lathe machinist are quite numerous. For example, she may be in charge of setting up and operating a wide range of machine-operated tools. The tools, such as the lathe, are used to create precision instruments and parts. Besides fabrication, the lathe can also be used to turn cylindrical work, to bore metal, for thread-cutting, and for turning spherical work.


Sometimes a lathe machinist is responsible for fabricating, modifying, or repairing the mechanical instruments that they use. Other times, she may simply fabricate or modify the parts that are used to repair the lathe. Consequently, she must have working knowledge of the lathe, and other industrial machines. The knowledge base includes the engineering behind the lathe and the mechanics of the lathe. In addition, a lathe machinist should be able to read the blueprints of the units she is fabricating.

Mathematics is also an important part of a lathe machinist’s job. Through the course of her work, the lathe machinist may need to calculate dimensions. The detailed calculations can be in miniscule increments, such as micrometers. In addition, it is useful to know and be able to apply shop mathematics and the properties of a variety of metals, heavy plastics, or other materials for each project.

Machining parts is often a job requirement for a lathe machinist, as well. It is important that any machined part is made to exact specifications. It is sometimes helpful to have working knowledge of other equipment, such as milling machines, grinders, and shapers when fabricating some parts. If a lathe machinist does not know how to operate such tools, she may need to request the assistance of someone who does; however, many employers require their lathe machinists to have working knowledge of the basic machining tools.

Other job duties of the lathe machinist include measuring, examining, analyzing, and testing fabricated units. Hopefully, by inspecting and testing completed units, any defects will be detected. For example, since exact specifications are often of the highest importance for a completed part, she may be required to measure the part to make sure it conforms to the specifications – down to the micrometer.


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