Best plastic for lathe turning

When it comes to lathe turning, choosing the right material is crucial. While wood is a popular choice among turners, plastic also offers a wide range of advantages. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced lathe turner, knowing the best type of plastic can greatly impact the quality and outcome of your projects.

One of the top plastics for lathe turning is Acrylic. Acrylic is a versatile and durable material that is available in various colors and finishes. It is known for its transparency, which allows for stunning visual effects when turned on a lathe. Acrylic is also lightweight, making it easy to work with and perfect for creating intricate designs. Additionally, this plastic is resistant to weathering and yellowing, ensuring that your creations will maintain their vibrant appearance over time.

Another popular plastic for lathe turning is Delrin. Delrin, also known as acetal plastic, is a high-performance material that offers exceptional strength, stiffness, and dimensional stability. It is highly resistant to wear, making it ideal for creating functional parts and components. Delrin also has low friction properties, which helps reduce the heat generated during the turning process. This makes it a great choice for precision turning and achieving smooth finishes.

What is lathe turning?

Lathe turning is a machining process that involves rotating a workpiece on a lathe machine while a cutting tool is used to shape the material. It is one of the most common operations in metalworking and woodworking, used to produce a wide range of cylindrical and conical shapes, such as spindles, bowls, and shafts.

The lathe machine consists of a spindle, which holds the workpiece and rotates it at various speeds, and a cutting tool that is secured in a tool rest and moved horizontally along the workpiece to remove material. The cutting tool can be equipped with different types of tool bits, depending on the desired shape and material being turned.

Lathe turning allows for precise control over the shape and dimensions of the workpiece, as well as the ability to create intricate details and patterns. It is a versatile process that can be used on a wide range of materials, including metals, plastics, and wood. The choice of material depends on the specific application and desired outcome.

Key Considerations for Lathe Turning

When it comes to lathe turning, there are several key considerations to keep in mind in order to achieve the best results. From choosing the right materials to understanding the capabilities of your lathe, here are some factors to consider:

Material Selection

  • Durability: The material you choose should be durable enough to withstand the turning process without breaking or chipping.
  • Workability: Consider the workability of the material, as some materials may be more difficult to turn on a lathe than others.
  • Finishing: Think about the desired finish of your turned piece and select a material that can be easily finished to achieve the desired result.

Lathe Capabilities

  • Size and Power: Understand the size and power limitations of your lathe to ensure that the material you choose can be accommodated by your machine.
  • Speed Control: Familiarize yourself with the speed control options on your lathe, as different materials may require different rotation speeds for optimal results.
  • Chuck and Tool Compatibility: Ensure that the chuck and tools you have are compatible with the material you plan to turn, as different materials may require specific tools or chuck configurations.

By taking these considerations into account, you can make informed decisions when selecting materials and using your lathe, ultimately leading to better results in your lathe turning projects.

Why is the choice of plastic important?

Choosing the right plastic for your lathe turning projects is essential for achieving the best results. The choice of plastic material will directly affect the ease of turning, the durability of the finished product, and the overall quality of the outcome.

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One important factor to consider when selecting plastic for lathe turning is its hardness. Different plastics have varying degrees of hardness, and this can impact how well the material can be shaped and cut on the lathe. Harder plastics may require more effort to shape, while softer plastics may be prone to tearing or deforming during the turning process. It is therefore important to choose a plastic that has the right balance of hardness for your specific project.

Another important consideration is the stability of the plastic material. Some plastics have a tendency to expand or contract when exposed to temperature changes, which can affect the accuracy and dimensions of the turned object. It is therefore crucial to select a plastic that is stable and has minimal thermal expansion or contraction properties to ensure that the final product maintains its shape and size over time.

Additionally, the aesthetic qualities of the plastic should be taken into account. Some plastics are available in a wide range of colors and finishes, allowing for greater creativity and customization in lathe turning projects. The choice of plastic can also impact the overall look and feel of the final product, so it is important to consider the desired visual appeal when selecting the material.

In conclusion, the choice of plastic for lathe turning is important due to its impact on ease of turning, durability, stability, and aesthetics. By carefully considering the hardness, stability, and visual qualities of the plastic, you can ensure that your lathe turning projects are successful and produce high-quality finished products.

What properties should the plastic have for lathe turning?

When it comes to choosing the best plastic for lathe turning, there are several important properties to consider. These properties will determine the ease of turning and the quality of the finished product.

Suitable Hardness and Machinability: The plastic should have the right level of hardness and machinability to ensure smooth and accurate turning. It should be hard enough to resist deformation during the turning process, yet not too hard that it becomes difficult to shape or cut. Additionally, the plastic should have good machinability, meaning it can be easily shaped and cut with the lathe tools without causing excessive wear or damage to the tooling itself.

Low Thermal Conductivity: Another important property is low thermal conductivity. Plastics with low thermal conductivity are less likely to overheat during the turning process. This is essential for maintaining the structural integrity of the plastic and preventing any unwanted melting or warping that may occur due to excessive heat. Low thermal conductivity also reduces the risk of damage to the lathe tools and improves overall productivity.

Dimensional Stability: Dimensional stability is crucial for achieving precise and accurate turning results. The plastic should have minimal dimensional changes, even when subjected to high temperatures or varying environmental conditions. This ensures that the finished product retains its desired shape and size, making it suitable for its intended use.

Chemical Resistance: Lastly, the plastic should exhibit good chemical resistance. This property is particularly important when the turned plastic component will come into contact with chemicals or other potentially corrosive substances. Good chemical resistance will prevent damage or degradation of the plastic, ensuring its longevity and durability.

Considering these properties when selecting the plastic for lathe turning will help ensure a successful and high-quality turning process, resulting in functional and reliable finished products.

Acrylic: The best choice for lathe turning

When it comes to choosing the right material for lathe turning, acrylic stands out as the top choice amongst professionals. This versatile plastic offers numerous advantages that make it ideal for this type of machining process.

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First and foremost, acrylic is known for its exceptional clarity and transparency, which allows for excellent visualization of the turning process. This is especially important when precision and accuracy are required. Additionally, acrylic is available in a wide range of vibrant colors, making it perfect for creating eye-catching and aesthetically pleasing turned objects.

  • Easy to work with: Acrylic is a relatively soft and easy-to-shape material, making it perfect for lathe turning. It can be easily cut, drilled, and shaped into various forms without compromising its structural integrity.
  • Durable and long-lasting: Despite its lightweight nature, acrylic is highly durable and resistant to shattering, making it a reliable choice for lathe turning. This ensures that your turned objects will withstand everyday use and last for a long time.
  • Wide range of applications: Acrylic can be used for a variety of purposes in lathe turning, ranging from creating customized pen bodies to crafting intricate sculptures. Its versatility makes it a go-to material for both functional and decorative projects.

In conclusion, acrylic is undoubtedly the best plastic for lathe turning due to its excellent clarity, ease of use, durability, and wide range of applications. Whether you are a professional woodturner or a hobbyist, acrylic will provide you with the reliability and flexibility needed to create stunning turned objects.

5 Best plastic for lathe turning

FTVOGUE 10pcs CNC Carbide Tips Inserts, CCMT060204 VP15T Lathe Turning Tool

2 new from £7.24
Free shipping
as of July 18, 2024 9:36 am


  • Made of carbide substrate, high-precision insert, exquisite workmanship, high hardness, high toughness, wear resistance, stable and durable use, the blade is not easy to deform and collapse.
  • Good wear resistance and good chemical stability, which makes the chip removal smoother and the processing efficiency higher.
  • This set includes 10 pcs carbide inserts, so it provides convenience to replace the broken one and correct cutting action, lower cutting force and prolong tool life.
  • Suitable for processing of ordinary steel and ordinary stainless steel, such as 45 steel, A3 steel, stainless steel 201, 304 and other soft material.
  • We strive to provide you with the highest quality product and the best customer experience, if you're not entirely satisfied, please just feel free to contact us at any time.

Lathe Turning Tool Set, Weytoll 21pcs 10mm Lathe Tool Holder- Shank Lathe Turning Tool Holder Boring Bar Carbide Inserts Lathe Turning Tool, Woodturning Power Lathe Accessories

as of July 18, 2024 9:36 am


  • ✅ Profiling bar for semi-finishing and finishing operations. Fine toughness and hardness, long service life.
  • ✅ It can reduce the tool grinding cost and improve the cutting efficiency.
  • ✅ Fine low temperature impact toughness, improved the surface gloss of the cutting pieces.
  • ✅ Fine grip strength, impact resistance and strong, clear speed advantage in cutting off a large margin and processing.
  • ✅ Practical and a variety of processing environments, even in very dirty environments.

Jcevium Turning Carbide Cutter Inserts Combination Set for Wood Turning Working Lathe Tool with Screw 5Pcs


Part Number 302222
Color Silver

Pen Turning Mandrel, Wood Turning Lathe Parts Pen Mandrel, 2 Morse Taper Revolving Centre Wood Turning Mandrel, for Woodworking Lathes

2 new from £23.58
Free shipping
as of July 18, 2024 9:36 am


  • PEN TURNING MANDREL: Woodturning pen mandrel is processed from excellent materials, wear‑resistant and rust‑resistant
  • STAINLESS STEEL MATERIAL: Stainless steel material have corrosion resistance, good mechanical properties, high strength
  • NO.2 TAPER SHANK: The pen mandrel using humanized design, easy to use, shank type is Morse No. 2 taper shank, very practical
  • MAIN USE: This wood lathe pen is suitable for clamping workpieces when used on lathes, fit for woodworking lathes
  • DURABLE: The woodworking pen is using excellent production technology, durable. Smooth surface is not easy to hurt hands
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Carbide Lathe Turning Tools, Turning Tools 6pcs Woodturning Tool Set by Poweka Including Swan Neck Hollower, Finisher, Rougher, Detachable Alloy Handle, for Carpenter Craft DIY Hobbyists or Carpenter


  • 【THE WOODTURNING CHISEL SET INCLUDES】-11'' tool shank, 9.8'' shank extension, Carbide cutting tool shafts (circle, square, diamond), Carbide hollowing cutting tool with gooseneck, T15 spanner, Allen spanner, Aluminum protective case with foam insert
  • 【MADE WITH TUNGSTEN CARBIDE BITS】-Carbide tipped wood lathe tools are made with tungsten carbide tips for extended cutter life, stainless steel shaft for strength and durability, and aluminum oxide alloy handles for grip, comfort and durability
  • 【INSERTS ARE ROTATED AND REPLACED】 -Indexable carbide cutting inserts can be rotated or replaced to provide a fresh cutting edge when needed
  • EASY TO USE】-The variable length spindle design and carbide cutters are valuable for all skill levels of woodworkers. Lathe woodturning tools allow both novice and experienced woodturners to start projects quickly by reducing the learning curve associated with traditional turning tools
  • 【UNIQUE DESIGN - SQUARE SHAFT PROFILE】-The tool spindles are CNC machined from high-carbon square steel, making them strong and solid in the hand. The square shaft profile helps keep the tool flat on the tool holder and level with the floor, making round shaft tools less likely to roll and shift while in the tool holder


What is acrylic?

Acrylic is a type of plastic that is transparent, durable, and lightweight. It is commonly used in various industries for its versatility and aesthetic appeal.

Why is acrylic a top choice for lathe turning?

Acrylic is a preferred material for lathe turning due to its ease of machining. It can be turned, shaped, and polished with relative ease, making it ideal for creating intricate designs and smooth finishes.

What are the advantages of turning acrylic on a lathe?

Turning acrylic on a lathe allows for precise shaping and control. It provides the ability to create symmetrical and consistent forms, as well as smooth and polished surfaces. Additionally, acrylic is available in a wide range of colors and finishes, providing endless creative possibilities.

Are there any drawbacks to turning acrylic on a lathe?

One drawback of turning acrylic on a lathe is that it can generate heat and friction, which can cause the material to melt or warp if not properly managed. It is important to use sharp tools, proper cutting techniques, and cooling methods to prevent these issues.

What are some examples of lathe turned acrylic projects?

Lathe turned acrylic projects can include items such as pens, bowls, vases, bottle stoppers, jewelry, and decorative pieces. The versatility of acrylic allows for a wide range of designs and applications.


In conclusion, acrylic is the top choice for lathe turning for several reasons. Firstly, it offers a wide range of colors and finishes, allowing for endless design possibilities. Secondly, it is easily machined and shaped, making it ideal for creating intricate and detailed lathe turned pieces. Additionally, acrylic is known for its durability and longevity, ensuring that the finished product will withstand the test of time. Lastly, acrylic is a versatile material that can be used for a variety of applications, from pen turning to jewelry making. Overall, acrylic is a fantastic choice for lathe turning due to its aesthetic appeal, ease of use, and durability.

Harrison Clayton

Harrison Clayton

Meet Harrison Clayton, a distinguished author and home remodeling enthusiast whose expertise in the realm of renovation is second to none. With a passion for transforming houses into inviting homes, Harrison's writing at brings a breath of fresh inspiration to the world of home improvement. Whether you're looking to revamp a small corner of your abode or embark on a complete home transformation, Harrison's articles provide the essential expertise and creative flair to turn your visions into reality. So, dive into the captivating world of home remodeling with Harrison Clayton and unlock the full potential of your living space with every word he writes.

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