what is a CNC turner?

As a CNC turner, you control the turning lathe machine to ensure the precision cutting of parts into cylindrical shapes. The turning operation relies on CNC machines to control the rotation speed as excess material is removed from the workpiece. The turning operation distinguishes the role from milling or drilling, where the tools rotate while the workpiece is stationary.

While CNC turners use computer numerical control, it is important to be familiar with the various types of turning lathes like manual, semi-automatic and automatic lathes. In the manual and semi-automatic turning lathes, position and guide the cutting tool for precision cutting. The automatic lathe only requires the initial setup. However, the CNC turning machines automatically execute instructions from your select programmes.

Your specific tasks as a CNC turner vary based on the degree of automation and the machine. However, all turners achieve the desired objective of cutting a workpiece to the desired shape and dimensions. You require expertise in reading technical drawings before beginning the cutting process. After cutting operations, you perform quality control checks using measuring equipment to ensure the metal piece meets relevant tolerance specifications.

Would working in manufacturing as a CNC turner suit your attentiveness to details? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a CNC turner role.

CNC turner jobs

average CNC turner salary

According to ONS, a CNC turner earns an average salary of £28,039 per year or hourly rates of £14.38. Entry-level positions usually attract a lower salary of £25,747 annually due to the minimal experience and academic qualifications required. The most experienced CNC turners earn a compensation package of over £34,117 per year.

While benefits aren't part of the standard employment contract, some employers provide medical and life insurance allowances. Working overtime hours or additional shifts also attracts overtime pay at a higher rate. Some companies have annual bonuses instead of overtime pay.

how to boost your CNC turner salary

The salary of a CNC turner depends on the industry, scope of the role and academic qualifications. Most CNC turners work in metalwork industries, while others work in plastics and stone industries. The complexity of the role affects the salary prospects. For instance, a CNC turner working in plastics has minimal responsibilities compared to those working in producing handcrafted products and art pieces. Since producing handcrafted art pieces is complex, the compensation package is higher.

Qualified CNC turners also negotiate higher salaries due to the skills and expertise they bring to the table. Combing your qualifications with experience increases your salary further. Your skills also improve your salary prospects.

male cnc turner
male cnc turner

types of CNC turners

Some of the types of CNC turners include:

  • junior CNC turners: as a junior CNC turner, you check the technical drawings and ensure the cutting tools are used in machining operations. You should be familiar with the turning operations, including face turning, taper turning, and cylinder turning. 
  • CNC turners' setup operator: as a setup operator, you configure the CNC turners and ensure the cutting tools meet the specifications. As a setup operator, you should understand the properties of the workpieces to ensure you configure the machines for precise and accurate turning.

working as a CNC turner

Working as a CNC turner requires familiarity with various precision tools and mechanical skills. Take a look at the duties, work environments and work schedules of CNC turners before joining the field.


education and skills

Some of the routes of becoming a CNC turner include:

  • college course: as a CNC turner, you should complete a college course to learn practical engineering skills. Some of the courses preferred by employers include Level 1 Certificate in performing engineering operations, Level 1 Certificate in engineering and manufacturing and Level 2 Certificate in mechanical engineering. The entry requirements for Level 1 courses are 2 GCSEs in grades 3 to 1, while Level 2 courses require two or more GCSEs in grades 9 to 3.
  • apprenticeship: you can become a CNC turner through apprenticeship programmes like intermediate apprenticeships for engineering operatives. You become a junior CNC turner when you complete the apprenticeship and learn under a senior-level turner.

CNC turner skills and competencies

Some of the qualities of a CNC turner include:

  • manual skills: as a CNC turner, it is important to be physically fit with manual skills like the ability to operate various conventional and machine tools. Sometimes, you operate manual or semi-automatic CNC turners that requires physical skills. Manual skills also help you lift heavy metal pieces and mount them on the lathes.
  • attention to detail: as a CNC turner, you ensure workpieces are cut to precise shapes. Turning operations are also methodical, and attentiveness to details helps you keep track of the work processes. Paying attention to details helps ensure the turning operations are done according to the technical specifications, and the shapes produced match those from the drawings.
  • flexibility: as a CNC turner, your job requires flexibility and willingness to work diverse shifts. Sometimes, you work early morning shifts due to the demand for the workpieces or late-night shifts to keep the production going.
smiling man
smiling man


FAQs about working as a CNC turner

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