A CNC lathe is a very useful machine both for manufacturing industries and hobbyists. What a CNC lathe does, is that it transforms a piece of raw material into a 3D object with given dimensions by removing excess parts of material. This is done automatically, without the need of human labor -apart from the loading of the raw material to the machine- as the CNC machine follows instructions loaded to it and written by a CNC programmer. In CNC lathes, the raw material is spinning in the center of the machine while different tools move around it to shape it.
CNC lathes can be used to create many different things out of metal, wood, plastic foam wax etc. From furniture parts to tiny miniature modeling components, there is a type of CNC lathe for everything. But they do cost a lot to buy. There is the option to buy a used one, but there is no guarantee and if you have no experience with machines, it is likely that you might oversee a defect and end up with a less-than-perfect CNC lathe. So why not DIY instead and save money while doing something creative that will challenge your modeling skills?
Nowadays with open source communities becoming more and more widespread, you can relatively easily find DIY CNC lathe plans online for free. Keep in mind that most of the plan contributors take it for granted that you have some experience with CNC machining and do not provide information on how to construct and assemble the parts.
If you need more detailed instructions, you will most likely have to purchase a set of CNC plans that are for sale from different CNC companies. These plans come with detailed instruction, sometimes also “how to” videos, and you can find not only overview plans but also details, close-ups, axonometric views and assembly plans with numbered components. This makes the DIY process much more accessible, even to total beginners.
If you are intimidate about having to source all the different components needed to create the CNC machine, then you can get a DIY CNC lathe kit. Those kits usually include the mechanical components that allow you to construct the frame of the machine and you have to purchase separately components such as the controller, the motor and the spindle. This is not necessarily bad, as is allows room for customization, while you can be sure that the given parts will fit each other (something that is not at all guaranteed in fully DIY attempts).
After you set up the mechanical and electrical parts of your CNC lathe, you need to also set up the programming part. If you have no experience with CAD (Computer Aided Design) and CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) programs, it will take some time to train yourself and eventually be able to properly operate your DIY CNC lathe.
Both for the actual construction of your CNC lathe and for the software and programming part, do not hesitate to ask questions. There are many online communities of people who are into DIY CNC and they are mostly friendly and glad to help you out. They can help you choose the right type of plans, find sources for the materials you will need and even tackle issues if your finished CNC lathe is less than perfect.