If you are working with metals not just in construction but also for other metalworking activities, then you know that a metal lathe should be part of your arsenal. But for some with a limited space in their workshop, they think that getting one is out of the question.
But this doesn’t have to be the case – you can simply opt for the best mini metal lathe for the money. While it may be more compact in size, it doesn’t mean that it will not meet your needs. In fact, even the more experienced metalworkers have them.
Are you looking to buy one? You’re in the right place! We can also help you if you’re looking to buy a plasma cutter or the consumables for it.
Here we review our top picks for mini metal lathes that we believe offer the best value for your money.
What to Look for in a Metal Lathe?
It is easy to be overwhelmed when looking for a metal lathe because there are just so many options out on the market. That is also why the buyer’s remorse is quite common in this case. People would immediately go for what is either cheap or high-end models without thinking about if it meets their needs. And when they start using it for their projects, they realize that they bought the wrong one.
You don’t have to be one of them. To avoid this situation, you need to know the essential features or characteristics that you need in a metal lathe and choose the model that meets them. They may all look the same to you but they also have unique features that you may or may not find useful.
Before purchasing a metal lathe, take note of the following features and options available:
- Size – metal lathes come in mini or full sizes. Mini lathes are suitable if you are only working on small projects, but you will need a full size one if you need to work on larger projects.
- Weight – in a lathe, weight matters. It is a matter of preference whether you prioritize portability or ease of use because the heavier the lathe, the better it can handle vibrations. And if you are not aware, vibrations can affect its operations, especially in terms of accuracy.
- Power feed – different metal lathes have different power feed options available and you need to choose one that offers convenience for you when in use.
- Measurements – the center and the swing are what you need to take note of. The bigger the swing measurement, the more you can do with your lathe. Also, longer distances between centers allow you to work with longer workpieces.
- Bed – metal lathes traditionally have flat beds made of cast iron, but there are also models equipped with beds in the form of metal tubes or bars. It is also just a matter of preference but you need to make sure that no flexing occurs when the tool rest and tailstock are in place.
- Headstock – considered as the most essential part of any lathe, you need a headstock that can effortlessly handle your turning projects. A headstock made of cast iron is the most ideal because it is completely solid, while fabricated headstocks usually cannot handle larger workpieces. Also, note that a pivoting headstock offers more flexibility as you work.
- Gearbox – this can either be manual or automatic. Manually changing the gears of your lathe offers you better control and better speed accuracy, while those that automatically do it for you offer convenience but at the expense of more limited speed changes.
- Spindle – opt for a spindle that has a standard thread so that you can use it with different accessories. A standard spindle is also ideal if you plan on using your metal lathe for a long time because upgrading means you only need to buy new accessories and not completely replace your unit.
There are also other considerations that you need to keep in mind, but what we have listed here are the most important features or characteristics you need to look for in a metal lathe.
What Do You Use a Metal Lathe For?
Contrary to popular belief, a metal lathe is not only used for working on metals. In fact, you can even do a bit of woodworking with it, although not as intensive as compared to using a wood lathe, and even use it for plastics. That is how versatile a metal lathe.
But, did you know that there are different uses for a metal lathe? If not, don’t worry because you are not alone. And since people are not familiar with its uses, they fail to maximize the use of their lathes.
To address this, we have come up with the following list of the different uses of metal lathes that you may or may not be aware of:
- Metal turning to craft even small objects like chess pieces, bowls, cups, etc.
- Filing and polishing round parts
- Create round or partially rounded objects or parts
- Cut off or trim materials, including both male and female threads
- Key-way cutting
- Align pieces before they can be repaired
- Drilling and boring holes
- Gear cutting
- Beveling, especially on edges
- Tapering or taper turning
- Facing rough materials
- Powering up motorless equipment, such as a hydraulic pump
The versatility of a metal lathes makes it such a practical tool in any workshop, especially once you master how to use one. And with the right metal lathe, you can quickly do just that.
Best Mini Metal Lathes
Now that you are aware of its various uses and the features or characteristics that you require, it is now time to choose the mini metal lathe that gives you the best value for your money. And if you don’t know where to start your hunt for one, look no further because we have rounded up the highly rated and popular models that you should consider.
Consistently top-rated, the Grizzly G8688 is renowned for its power despite being a benchtop metal lathe. It features a 3/4 HP motor that offers speeds up to 2500 RPM and with variable speed settings available.
This lathe also comes with a 7-inch swing and 12-inch distance between its centers, making it ideal for use with small to medium workpieces. Despite its small frame, it can easily handle different thread ranges and comes with a spindle bore measuring 20mm and a four-way tool post. Because the Grizzly G8688 has a single-phase power system, you can simply plug it into your standard electric outlet and immediately use it.
- Durable despite its low price
- Relatively easy to use for both beginners and experienced users
- Thread present has a wide range
- Considered as among the most powerful and versatile
- Installed tool post may be a hit-or-miss for users
- Insufficient for advanced metalworking
- Familiarity is needed before you can smoothly use it
Central Machinery Precision Mini Lathe
Another popular choice is the Central Machinery Precision Mini Lathe, and for good reasons. At the forefront are its precision and ease-of-use, which is important in any lathe. It also has a user-friendly design that makes its operation uncomplicated for most users.
It is often compared to the Grizzly model we reviewed earlier because it is also equipped with a 3/4 HP motor that offers variable speeds that can reach 2500 RPM when operating at high speed. At low speed, it can run from 0 to 1100 RPM. This mini metal lathe is also equipped with other notable features, like a control knob for setting the variable speed, an automatic feed, and a chuck guard.
- Inexpensive but has great quality
- Features a chuck guard, which is not common in its price range
- Has an automatic feeding system
- Relatively easy to use even for beginners
- Inconsistent operation
- Gears are made of plastic
- Finding spare parts can be a challenge
Erie Tools Benchtop Mini Metal Lathe
The Erie Tools Benchtop Mini Metal Lathe is one of the most highly-rated mini metal lathes around because of its reliability at a relatively low price. This model is not just efficient at metalworking but it can also be used on wood and plastic with no difficulty, even for beginners. What also makes it one of the crowd-favorites is that it already comes with a five-piece cutter kit right out of the box.
The straightforward design of this model makes its operation uncomplicated for everyone without compromising its precision and flexibility, unlike other metal lathes of its class. Aside from that, it is also equipped with an emergency stop switch, power indicator, digital speed readout, variable speed knob control, chuck guard, and an automatic feed.
- Operation is easy for anyone
- Has a chuck guard
- Straightforward design makes it suitable for all kinds of users
- Can be used on metal, wood, and plastic
- Among the most durable in its price range
- Has plastic components
- Not ideal for larger workpieces
For those who need the most compact but fully functional mini metal lathe, the Shopfox M1015 is right for you. Its size already falls into the micro metal lathe territory, that is why it is not as powerful as the other models in our list. But, it still gets the job done.
Because of its size, it is only suitable for small workpieces but you can easily transport and use it anywhere you want. The 1/5 HP motor offers variable speeds ranging from 100 to 2000 RPMs, which is almost at par with its bigger counterparts. Plus, it has an easy control mode and a chuck guard to ensure safe operation.
- Very portable
- Has various safety features
- Equipped with both manual and automatic feeds
- Ideal for beginners
- Ships with various accessories that help you save money
- Can only be used on small projects
- Not-so-seamless operation
- Parts are not that durable but they can easily be replaced
Mophorn Small Metal Lathe
While the Mophorn Small Metal Lathe is known as the best mini metal lathe for beginners, experienced users also find it a joy to use. Not only is it equipped with a digital display but it also has a motor that has variable speeds ranging from 50 to 2500 RPMs, which is enough for most users. In fact, you get more than what you pay for because it is one of the most budget-friendly models around.
One of its standout features is the chuck with three jaws because its size is more than what you would expect for such a compact unit. The components of its gear system are also welded, which means it is quite durable even for heavy-duty use.
Make sure to visit our page with engine driven welders, too.
- One of the cheapest models around
- Known to be hard-wearing despite its low price
- Can be easily used even by beginners
- Components of the gear are welded
- Users have complained about the quality of the motor, even if it is replaceable
- Versatility is not at par with others
- No tool bits included
Always consider your budget when choosing a metal lathe. Even if you intend to buy one for long time use, like a Monarch, you don’t have to buy the most expensive one loaded with the most features; you must be practical. Choose the one with all the features you need and will not hurt your budget too much.
BestEquip Metal Lathe
The BestEquip metal lathe is a relatively affordable option that is great for metal turning, while being constructed in sturdy aluminum, while the bed is made of iron to provide the necessary stability. With variable speeds between 50-2500, you are able to get exactly the amount of speed that you want, while being highly adjustable. Whether you want your piece of metal to be turning one way or the other, this speed range is available, and can offer infinite adjustment, giving you the type of control you are looking for. No matter if you are looking for something that is either manual or with an adjustable auto feed rate, this is a machine to look into!
Safety is also a feature that has been taken very seriously and an easy to hit emergency button ensures the ability to stop the machine at your desire. It is a sturdy lathe that provides an impressive 7 inch swing over its bed, while having the weight that makes it sturdy and comfortable to use. This 550W DC single phase motor will power those metallic creations you have always wanted to show off, while still providing easy to use functionality.
Customers of this machine report having great customer service when it comes to working with BestEquip over damaged parts or other issues, and various customers have reported that this machine is a lot better than they expected, being able to cut in 6061 aluminum.
Should you be using a metal lathe or a smaller version like the ones that we feature here?
Whether you are looking to buy a fuel transfer tank, a wide belt sander, a waste oil heater, or a metal lathe, there are a number of options available in the market that you can look at. Some of them may be great for you, while others would simply be a waste of money if you were to end up buying them, and these spinning machines are no different. At some point you will need to figure out what your needs are, and whether or not you are going for one of the smaller options, or whether you will want to choose something bigger.
While it may be tempting to go for a smaller option, because it could potentially save you a relatively significant amount of money, there’s no denying that buying the wrong metal lathe would simply mean that you aren’t actually able to work on projects of the size that you were hoping for. It is always important to note the size of the projects that you will be spinning so that you can comfortably work on the piece of metal!
While the term metal lathe covers a couple of different tools that can be found in the various metal workshops, such as center lathes, turret lathes, gang-tool lathes, and others, it is really an individual decision as to whether the smaller options are able to do the things that you would hope they can do for you.
Needless to say, before you start making the machine spin any metal object, it is crucial that you test out the piece of metal that you are working on, the same way that you would test out any piece of wood before turning it on a wood lathe.
What is a common feature among the tools that can be classified as mini lathes is that they will have swing radiuses of somewhere between 3 and 7 inches. While there are other types of machines that may be more so forgiving when you are choosing some level of capacity that is slightly smaller than what you would have ideally picked, that is not the case with this type of machinery. These small metal lathes may be great for home use, but you won’t simply be able to marginally alter the way you use the tool if you are working on a piece of material that is bigger than what it is rated for.
Although the typical swing radius is no more than 7 inches typically, there are still exceptions to that rule, like the BestEquip 8×16, which allows for an 8 inch swing radius.
While the budget will likely also be something that you are considering, there is another important thing to consider when you are faced with whether you should be going for a bigger or a smaller option, and that is where in the shop you will be placing the metal lathe. These machines take up a decent amount of space, so it’s important that you already know where you will be placing it, ensuring that you won’t end up with a piece of machinery that you may have spent $1,100 on without knowing where to put it. In addition to that, you can’t simply ignore the fact that these machines are heavy.
For instance, if you are buying the BestEquip 6×18, you will need to find the space to place an object that is 36x19x17 once unpacked, with a fighting weight of 128 lbs. While you can place that on a worktop bench, you wouldn’t be placing it on your grandma’s vulnerable coffee table.
While we all want the best at the lowest price possible, you are still talking about a substantial piece of machinery that will at the very least end up costing you several hundred dollars, however, if you are looking at buying a full blown metal lathe, you are at least looking at spending a couple of thousand dollars. For instance, a Baileigh Industrial lathe that ahs a 8.75 inch swing over bed will end up costing you somewhere between $2,500 and $3,000 depending on where you get it from, and as you can probably imagine, you will only be going up in price as your needs increase.
Did you like this article?
You may have seen that we linked to a couple of other articles in this article, and we wanted to let you in on a little bit of what it is we’re trying to achieve here at Atlantic Aspiration. For too long, we have been thinking that the content market for the professionals has been far too underdeveloped, and with this article on mini metal lathes, we are one step closer to changing that. However, you may not have known that we have a bunch of other articles available also including one on wood lathes, one on wide belt sanders, and a whole bunch more. In fact, if you are curious, you should check out our blog section and save it somewhere convenient so you can easily return to it on occasion. Here’s a cool article where we’ve combined the best mini wood lathes we could find.
If you are either an expert who has a lot of experience with various tools, we also encourage you to reach out to our team if you have a topic you would like to contribute. We are continuously working on expanding our offering, and we hope to see you again in the future when we will have grown our number of articles even more.