Suppose you are working with metals not just in construction but also for other metalworking activities. You know that a metal lathe should be part of your arsenal. But for people with limited space in their workshop think that getting one is out of the question.
But this doesn’t have to be the case – you can opt for the best mini metal lathe for the money. While it may be more compact, it doesn’t mean that it will not meet your needs. 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 the best mini metal lathes that we believe offer the greatest value for your money.
What to Look for?
It is easy to be overwhelmed when looking for the best mini metal lathe. There are just so many options out on the market! That is also why buyer’s remorse is quite common in this case. People would immediately go for 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 you need 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 one, take note of the following features and options available:
- Size – they come in mini or full sizes. Mini options are suitable if you are only working on small projects, but you will need a full size one if you work on larger projects.
- Weight – with these machines, weight matters. It is a matter of preference whether you prioritize portability or ease of use. The heavier the model, the better it can handle vibrations. And if you are not aware, vibrations can affect its operations. For better accuracy, get a heavier one.
- Power feed – different options 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 machine. Also, longer distances between centers allow you to work with longer workpieces.
- Bed – they 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 handle your projects. A headstock made of cast iron is the most ideal because it is completely solid. 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 offers you better control and better speed accuracy. 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 it for a long time. 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. We have listed the most important features or characteristics you need to look for.
Best Mini Metal Options
Now you are aware of its various uses and the features or characteristics you require. It is time to choose the right one 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. We have rounded up the highly rated and popular models you should consider.
Grizzly G8688 – Great Benchtop Option
Consistently top-rated, the Grizzly G8688 is renowned for its power despite being a benchtop option. It features a 3/4 HP motor that offers speeds up to 2500 RPM and variable speed settings.
This comes with a 7-inch swing and 12-inch distance between its centers, making it ideal for small to medium workpieces. Despite its small frame, it can easily handle different thread ranges and comes with a spindle bore measuring 20mm. It has a four-way tool post. Because the Grizzly G8688 has a single-phase power system, you can 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
Another popular choice is the Central Machinery Precision Mini Lathe, and for good reasons. Its precision and ease of use are at the forefront. It is important in any model. 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. 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 model also features other notable features, like a control knob for setting the variable speed. You’ll appreciate its automatic feed and 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 Model
The Erie Tools Benchtop Mini Metal Lathe is one of the most highly-rated mini options because of its reliability. It still comes at a price you’ll like. This model is not just efficient at metalworking. Still, 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. Precision and flexibility are still key with this model, unlike other models of its class. Aside from that, it is also equipped with an emergency stop switch. Enjoy its power indicator and digital speed readout. At the price, you usually get very limited variable speed knob control or chuck guard. It also has 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 option, the Shopfox M1015 is right for you. Its size already falls into the micro option territory. That is why it is not as powerful as the other models on our list. But, it still gets the job done.
Because of its size, it is only suitable for small workpieces. You can easily transport and use it anywhere you want. The 1/5 HP motor offers variable speeds ranging from 100 to 2000 RPMs, 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
The Mophorn Small Metal Lathe is 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. That is enough for most users. 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. Its size is more than 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
- It is known to be hard-wearing despite its low price.
- It 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 the right one for your shop. You may intend to buy one for a 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 not hurt your budget too much.
The BestEquip metal lathe is a relatively affordable option for metal turning while being constructed in sturdy aluminum. At the same time, the bed is made of iron to provide the necessary stability. With variable speeds between 50-2500, you can get the speed you want while easily adjusting. Whether you want your piece of metal to be turning one way or the other, this speed range is available. It 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, look into this machine!
Safety is also a feature that has been taken very seriously. An easy-to-hit emergency button ensures the ability to stop the machine at your desire. It is a sturdy model that provides an impressive 7-inch swing over its bed while having the weight that makes it sturdy. It is still comfortable to use. This 550W DC single-phase motor will power those metallic creations you have always wanted to show off. It still provides easy-to-use functionality.
Customers report having great customer service when working with BestEquip over damaged parts or other issues. Various customers have reported that this machine is better than expected and can cut in 6061 aluminum.
Should you be using a metal lathe? Is a mini metal lathe better?
Some of them may be great for you, while others would be a waste of money if you were to end up buying them. These spinning machines are no different. At some point, you will need to figure out what your needs are. Whether or not you are going for one of the smaller options, or whether you will want to choose something bigger.
It is tempting to go for a smaller option as it could save you money. Buying the wrong model would mean you cannot work on projects of the size that you were hoping for.
It is always important to note the size of the projects you will be spinning to work comfortably on the piece of metal!
The term metal lathe covers a couple of different tools found in metal workshops. It covers center lathes, turret ones, gang-tool options, and others. It is an individual decision if the smaller model can do the things you need it to.
Before you start making the machine spin any metal object, you must test out the piece of metal that you are working on. It’s the same way that you would test out any piece of wood before turning it on a wood lathe.
Ones classified as mini options will have swing radiuses of somewhere between 3 and 7 inches. Other types of machines are more forgiving when you choose a capacity smaller than what you would have ideally picked. It is not the case with this type of machinery. These smaller models may be great for home use. You won’t simply be able to alter the way you use the tool if you are working on a bigger piece of material than what it is rated for.
The typical swing radius is no more than 7 inches. There are still exceptions to that rule, like the BestEquip 8×16, which allows for an 8-inch swing radius.
The budget will likely also be something that you are considering. There is another important thing to consider when you are faced with which model to get. These machines take up a decent amount of space, so it’s important that you already know where you will be placing it. Make sure you won’t end up with a piece of machinery that you may have spent $1,100 on without knowing where to put it. You can’t simply ignore the fact that these machines are heavy.
If you are buying the BestEquip 6×18, it is an object with the dimensions 36x19x17 once unpacked. It has 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.
Metal turning and crafts are the most common thing it’s used for. Contrary to popular belief, they’re not only used for working on metals. You can even do a bit of woodworking with it, although not as intensive as using a wood lathe. That is how versatile they are.
But, did you know that there are different uses for these machines? 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 unit.
To address this, we have come up with the following list of the different uses 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
Align pieces before they can be repaired
Drilling and boring holes
Beveling, especially on edges
Tapering or taper turning
Facing rough materials
Powering up motorless equipment, such as a hydraulic pump
The versatility of this machine makes it such a practical tool, especially once you master how to use one. And with the right one, you can quickly do just that.