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Lathe and Turning Machine Tool Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic
SOC Code: 51-4034.00

Set up, operate, or tend lathe and turning machines to turn, bore, thread, form, or face metal or plastic materials, such as wire, rod, or bar stock.

Sample of reported job titles: Computer Numerical Control Lathe Operator (CNC Lathe Operator), Computer Numerical Control Operator (CNC Operator), Lathe Operator, Lathe Set Up Person, Machine Operator, Numerical Control Operator (NC Operator), Screw Machine Operator, Screw Machine Tool Setter, Set Up / Operator, Turn Operator


  • Adjust machine controls and change tool settings to keep dimensions within specified tolerances.
  • Replace worn tools, and sharpen dull cutting tools and dies, using bench grinders or cutter-grinding machines.
  • Inspect sample workpieces to verify conformance with specifications, using instruments such as gauges, micrometers, and dial indicators.
  • Start lathe or turning machines and observe operations to ensure that specifications are met.
  • Position, secure, and align cutting tools in toolholders on machines, using hand tools, and verify their positions with measuring instruments.
  • Crank machines through cycles, stopping to adjust tool positions and machine controls to ensure specified timing, clearances, and tolerances.
  • Study blueprints, layouts or charts, and job orders for information on specifications and tooling instructions, and to determine material requirements and operational sequences.
  • Select cutting tools and tooling instructions, according to written specifications or knowledge of metal properties and shop mathematics.
  • Move controls to set cutting speeds and depths and feed rates, and to position tools in relation to workpieces.
  • Refill, change, and monitor the level of fluids, such as oil and coolant, in machines.
  • Install holding fixtures, cams, gears, and stops to control stock and tool movement, using hand tools, power tools, and measuring instruments.
  • Compute unspecified dimensions and machine settings, using knowledge of metal properties and shop mathematics.
  • Lift metal stock or workpieces manually or using hoists, and position and secure them in machines, using fasteners and hand tools.
  • Move toolholders manually or by turning handwheels, or engage automatic feeding mechanisms to feed tools to and along workpieces.
  • Turn valve handles to direct the flow of coolant onto work areas or to coat disks with spinning compounds.
  • Mount attachments, such as relieving or tracing attachments, to perform operations, such as duplicating contours of templates or trimming workpieces.

Technology Skills

  • Industrial control software - Autodesk HSMWorks; Computer numerical control CNC editor software
  • Inventory management software - Inventory tracking software
  • Object or component oriented development software - G-code; M-code

Tools Used

  • Adjustable wrenches - Crescent wrenches
  • Allen wrench - Allen wrench sets
  • Automatic lathe or chucking machine - Computer numerically controlled CNC lathes; Gang-tool lathes; Swiss turning centers; Swiss-style lathes (see all 5 examples)
  • Ball peen hammer - Ball peen hammers
  • Bench grinder - Bench grinders
  • Boring tool - Boring heads
  • Calipers - Inside digital ID calipers; Outside digital OD calipers; Vernier calipers
  • Chucks - Lathe chucks
  • Combination square - Combination square sets
  • Comparators - Profile projectors; Surface finish comparators
  • Compasses - Trammels
  • Conveyor feeders - Bar feeders
  • Coordinate measuring machines CMM
  • Dial indicator or dial gauge - Coaxial indicators; Dial test indicators
  • Drill gauge - Drill gauge sets
  • Ear plugs - Protective ear plugs
  • End mills - Center-cutting end mills
  • Facial shields - Face shields
  • Forklifts - Fork trucks
  • Gage block set - 1-2-3 blocks; Gage blocks
  • Go or no go gauge - Go/no go gauge sets; Plug gauges
  • Grease guns - Lubrication guns
  • Hacksaw - Mini hacksaws
  • Height gauges - Vernier height gauges
  • Hoists - Jib hoists
  • Hole gauge - Bore gauges
  • Horizontal turning center - Horizontal lathes
  • Insert carbide - Carbide cutting inserts
  • Lathe bit - Cutoff tools; Face/turn tools; Groove tools; Parting off tools
  • Micrometers - Digital micrometers
  • Milling vise - Precision milling vises
  • Oil can - Oil dispensing cans
  • Open end wrenches - Open end hand wrenches
  • Overhead crane - Electric overhead travelling EOT cranes
  • Power saws - Power hacksaws
  • Protective gloves - Safety gloves
  • Protractors - Bevel protractors
  • Radius gauge - Digital radius gauges
  • Rubber mallet - Rubber mallets
  • Rulers - Steel rules
  • Safety glasses - Protective safety glasses
  • Screwdrivers - Straight screwdrivers
  • Sine bar - Sine bars
  • Spanner wrenches
  • Squares - Steel squares
  • Straight edges
  • T handle tap wrenches
  • Tape measures - Push-pull rules
  • Taper gauge - Machinists' taper gauges
  • Tapping machine attachment - Tapping tools
  • Thread pitch gauge - Screw pitch gauge
  • Threading insert - Hand taps
  • Threading machine attachment - Threading tools
  • Tool holders - Automatic tool changers; Parting off tool holders
  • Tool template sets - Center finders; Electronic edge finders; Mechanical edge finders; Tool probes (see all 5 examples)
  • Turret lathe - Automatic turret lathes; Capstan lathes
  • Two way radios - Mobile radios
  • Vertical machining center - Vertical machining centers
  • Vertical turning center - Vertical turning centers


  • Mathematics - Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
  • Mechanical - Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.


  • Operation Monitoring - Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
  • Operation and Control - Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
  • Monitoring - Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
  • Quality Control Analysis - Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.
  • Active Listening - Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.


  • Control Precision - The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
  • Arm-Hand Steadiness - The ability to keep your hand and arm steady while moving your arm or while holding your arm and hand in one position.
  • Finger Dexterity - The ability to make precisely coordinated movements of the fingers of one or both hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble very small objects.
  • Near Vision - The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
  • Reaction Time - The ability to quickly respond (with the hand, finger, or foot) to a signal (sound, light, picture) when it appears.
  • Manual Dexterity - The ability to quickly move your hand, your hand together with your arm, or your two hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble objects.
  • Problem Sensitivity - The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
  • Deductive Reasoning - The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  • Selective Attention - The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
  • Static Strength - The ability to exert maximum muscle force to lift, push, pull, or carry objects.
  • Trunk Strength - The ability to use your abdominal and lower back muscles to support part of the body repeatedly or continuously over time without 'giving out' or fatiguing.
  • Information Ordering - The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
  • Multilimb Coordination - The ability to coordinate two or more limbs (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while sitting, standing, or lying down. It does not involve performing the activities while the whole body is in motion.
  • Oral Comprehension - The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Oral Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Rate Control - The ability to time your movements or the movement of a piece of equipment in anticipation of changes in the speed and/or direction of a moving object or scene.
  • Visualization - The ability to imagine how something will look after it is moved around or when its parts are moved or rearranged.
  • Written Comprehension - The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.


  • Interest code: RIC
    • Realistic - Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.
    • Investigative - Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.
    • Conventional - Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.

Work Context

  • Wear Common Protective or Safety Equipment such as Safety Shoes, Glasses, Gloves, Hearing Protection, Hard Hats, or Life Jackets - 100% responded “Every day.”
  • Spend Time Standing - 63% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • Importance of Being Exact or Accurate - 66% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Spend Time Using Your Hands to Handle, Control, or Feel Objects, Tools, or Controls - 70% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • Sounds, Noise Levels Are Distracting or Uncomfortable - 65% responded “Every day.”
  • Face-to-Face Discussions - 66% responded “Every day.”
  • Exposed to Contaminants - 57% responded “Every day.”
  • Pace Determined by Speed of Equipment - 45% responded “Very important.”
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety - 44% responded “High responsibility.”
  • Freedom to Make Decisions - 39% responded “A lot of freedom.”
  • Time Pressure - 41% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
  • Structured versus Unstructured Work - 52% responded “Some freedom.”
  • Work With Work Group or Team - 34% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Importance of Repeating Same Tasks - 39% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Spend Time Making Repetitive Motions - 53% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • Duration of Typical Work Week - 67% responded “40 hours.”
  • Exposed to Hazardous Equipment - 52% responded “Every day.”
  • Frequency of Decision Making - 33% responded “Every day.”
  • Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results - 51% responded “Important results.”
  • Degree of Automation - 32% responded “Highly automated.”
  • Indoors, Not Environmentally Controlled - 57% responded “Every day.”
  • Responsibility for Outcomes and Results - 30% responded “Very high responsibility.”
  • Contact With Others - 31% responded “Constant contact with others.”
  • Spend Time Bending or Twisting the Body - 41% responded “Less than half the time.”
  • Spend Time Walking and Running - 34% responded “Less than half the time.”


Percentage of RespondentsEducation Level Required
68%High school diploma or equivalent
20%Post-secondary certificate
9%Associate's degree

Work Styles

  • Attention to Detail - Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
  • Dependability - Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
  • Cooperation - Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
  • Initiative - Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
  • Stress Tolerance - Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high stress situations.
  • Concern for Others - Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
  • Adaptability/Flexibility - Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
  • Integrity - Job requires being honest and ethical.
  • Self Control - Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
  • Independence - Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
  • Achievement/Effort - Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
  • Persistence - Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
  • Innovation - Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.
  • Analytical Thinking - Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
  • Social Orientation - Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.
  • Leadership - Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.

Work Values

  • Support - Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical.
  • Achievement - Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment. Corresponding needs are Ability Utilization and Achievement.
  • Independence - Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.

Wages & Trends

  • Median wages (2017)
    • $18.55 hourly, $38,580 annual
  • Employment (2016)
    • 34,000 employees
  • Projected growth (2016-2026)
    • Decline (-2% or lower)
  • Projected job openings (2016-2026)
    • 2,900

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