Last Updated on
There’s no escaping it:
If you have a lathe, then you need a DRO. The time and materials you’ll save make it an indispensable component of any great lathe setup.
It’s as simple as that:
In this article, we’re going to try to help you find the best digital readout (DRO) for lathe work. We’re going to look at the top five best DROs out there.
We’ll also talk you through the nature of these devices, and we’ll look at the benefits of owning one.
So, let’s go find a DRO….
Top DRO's For Lathes
GENERIC LCD DRO
Best for the money
Best for milling
A good option
DEMYSTIFYING THE dro (DIGITAL READOUT)
What is a DRO?
It’s a Digital Readout for your lathe.
These devices make working out, and working quicker.
They do this by installing on your lathe and helping you to calculate all sort of things that are a pain to work out without a DRO.
Keeping on track:
The DRO is a measuring instrument. So, it’s not a CNC addition, and it doesn’t automatically move stuff around for you.
You still operate the mill manually - but you use the DRO to keep track on how far you’ve moved from a starting or original position.
You can get either a two axis, or a three axis DRO.
As the name suggests, each version will keep track of movement and work on either two axis, or on all three.
On the hole:
A good DRO can also assist you when you’re repeatedly milling the same part, and when you have to drill patterns of holes repeatedly.
Basically, a DRO is a very useful addition to any milling operation. I\
It saves a lot of time calculating. And the resulting lack of calculations WILL save error and material wastage.
Because we all make mistakes!
Why your lathe should have DRO?
The built-on dials and scales on your lathe are subject to inaccuracy over time.
This is because as you use your lathe, things wear. Tooling also creates movement at times that is unwanted.
Known as backlash, this isn’t accounted for on built-on scales and dials - so work becomes as inaccurate as the measuring system.
On the scale of things:
A DRO solves these problems for you. And let’s face it - these problems affect all woodworkers, all the time.
It does this by attaching sensors to the carriage on the lathe, and a sensor to the slide.
That way, the fixed scale of the DRO gets a true measurement - unaffected by anything, including backlash.
Fixed and fast:
You also always have a point of reference with a DRO.
Where you started is where zero is, and that won’t change. T
he potential for errors and mishaps is way higher when you’re operating on just your wits.
Having a DRO saves time, saves money in the long run, and saves timber.
One of the main problems that machinists have - in terms of wasting working time - is the need to repeatedly stop and start the lathe in order to take measurements.
They do this because they can’t rely on the built-on scales, especially when it comes to finishing cuts and accurate work.
Not only does a DRO eliminate this, it also means you don’t have to have so many expensive measuring tools - calipers and micrometers and the like - around to get great results.
Which features make a DRO perfect?
Sensors on carriage and the slide:
The fact that the measuring is done like this eliminates machine wear and backlash from the measurement equation. Eliminating associated errors.
This not only gives you a starting point, but you can also use a DRO to make repeat cuts and holes in a work piece - time and time again.
Further reducing the space for error.
Your DRO will work a lot of stuff out for you - saving time. And oh yeah, you guessed it - reducing even more errors!
5 BEST DRO FOR LATHE - REVIEWS
1. Taishi Precision DRO - Best Overall
This DRO fully deserves its place at the top of our top five list.
It’s great value for money and does everything that you’d want it to do - and more.
Good customer service is one of the best things about Taishi -
So if you do have a small problem, you know you’re going to get good help, and that’s a great feature of any machine!
2 Axis DRO for lathe
Zero clearing and reset
Works on metric or imperial
Layout - no doubt!
I love the calculator on this Taishi DRO. It makes working out complex layouts a dream.
This feature saves a lot of time transferring the readout to your own separate calculator, therefore improving accuracy.
This model comes with all the options, and you really won’t go too far wrong when you buy it.
There’s way too many to list here, but we’re highlighting the important ones. The spec sheet is very good - and long…
This is a great DRO all-in-all. The Taishi also has a really useful power outage memory, so you won’t lose your calculations and settings if there’s a power cut.
The scales here are glass, and super accurate by all accounts, so there’s no problems there either.
A decent buy.
2. TPACTOOLS DRO - Premium pick
The TPACTOOLS DRO is a really useful piece of kit.
You can say goodbye to many of the errors you’re currently making if you buy this DRO.
Nice big display
Splash the cash:
Let’s be clear here.
This is by far the best device on this list for measuring on a lathe. Hands down!
There’s no denying that this is an amazing deal.
The unit performs perfectly and if accuracy and quality are higher on your list than price - this is the DRO for you
The readout is beautiful on the TPACTOOLS effort. It’s large, clear and everything is really nicely designed to give you a great user experience - and great work results
Theis DRO comes with a wide selection of brackets and fixings, but the chances are that unless you’re very lucky.
You may have to make up some brackets to attach it to your lathe. But you own a lathe - so that should be ok!
The jury is out:
The TPACTOOLS DRO is a great measuring tool with lots and lots going for it. It’s accurate, user friendly and nice to operate and work with.
The cost is going to be a factor for some.
But not for others. Stick it on your Christmas list...
3. Generic DRO LCD - Best for the money
This is an interesting inclusion on our list.
Why? Well, it’s super cheap and it remains accurate.
You can also spend a lott more money for a lot more features and scales - but why do that if you’re keeping stuff simple?
Easily transferable between machines
Cheap as chips
Nice aluminium construction
Bang for buck:
You get what you need with the Generic DRO LCD unit.
Nothing much more, but enough to do a job.
You’ll find this harder to get lined up than with more expensive units, but if you’re on the tightest of budgets - this might be the DRO for you
So, this is not a glamourous device, but how could it be for the cost?
The screen is going to be hard to read at times, but it will do a basic job - and it’s a basic readout to match. Expect no frills.
Not here. The aluminium scales are oil and water proof, so you’ll stay accurate even on the messiest of jobs.
There’s not much to the mounting system, but get it right and you’ll get good results.
Expect to sacrifice cutting time fiddling, to compensate for the cash still in your pocket.
The cons list seems a little picky on a device that costs as little as this one does, and manages to still do a decent job.
It can get done what it’s supposed to get done - and that can’t be argued with.
A superb DRO if your budget is almost non-existent, and a good entry model if you want to see if DROs are for you.
4. Best DRO for mill - Vevor DRO
The Vevor DRO is made for milling machines, so it gets a place in our top five.
It’s a nicely made unit, for not much money at all, and it’ll get you milling accurately and easily once set up.Key features:
- Zero clearing and reset
- Power-off memory
- Nice display
Vevor very good?
Well, a lot of this is going to come down to what you want to use it for.
It seems a fairly priced device for my money, and it will do a nice job - if you get it installed and adjusted right.
You can do a lot worse than the Vevor, and it deserves its place here - no doubt about it.
5. iGaging DRO
Wildcard today is the iGaging DRO.
This is more three self contained devices than a standard DRO but it will do a job.
There are some drawbacks but again - this is a very, very cheap option. And it’s flexible, as we’ll see:
- Great budget option
- Tonnes of flexibility
- Three large readouts
The iGaging DRO has one massive advantage - apart from the cost. You can use this measuring device, or rather devices - on just about any table or slide based tool in the workshop.
Use it on router tables, lathes or mills - and it will improve your experience.
The iGaging DRO comes with brackets, but I have heard it said that the easiest and best method of installation is to carefully drill through the scales and use spacers to mount this to the place that you need to install it.
The manufacturer has cleared that method.So, what’s not to like?Well, there are many reports of this DRO arriving with bent or non functioning parts.
Which would be a problem if you were in a hurry, but if you can wait - then the replacement parts and service seem to be fine. Reports also suggest that the display readouts lag a bit and it also arrives set up for battery use - which will grate after a short time…
Is the iGaging? Engaging?
It is and it isn’t. Again, it depends what you want and what you want to spend.
For the money, and if you’re prepared to fettle a bit rather than spend more money, it’s a goer, for sure.
Also, be prepared to wait a bit longer for replacement of damaged parts before you get working. If you can stomach all that - then it’s worth a shot.
So, what measures up as the best DRO?
The stand out winner here was definitely the Taishi precision DRO. It had all the stuff you’ll need to get working accurately on your lathe and it certainly doesn’t cost the Earth either. It’s a lovely little unit and it’ll work fine.
Calculate the benefits:
The other units here just couldn’t compete - for one or more reasons and
I loved the calculator that is built into this unit and all of its other features. It’s also really well made and installs very easily.
It’s a winner all around.
Backlash? Or back in business?
In short, the Taishi is going to get you working far more accurately and quickly on your lathe, and it fulfills all the things we talked about at the beginning of this article, like stopping and starting and eliminating backlash measuring issues.