If you’re working in a fabrication shop, a metal lathe is a helpful tool for you. However, not all shops are as big as factories and therefore, may not accommodate large-scale units. That’s why there are mini metal lathes on the market today so you can work with ease even in small spaces.
In this article, I’ve looked for some great choices for the best mini metal lathes to get you started. Check them out as I review each one and list their features, specs, pros, and cons.
My top pick is the Grizzly G8688 7 x 12-Inch Mini Metal Lathe, which is a versatile tool that has a 16 TPI reversible lead screw for flexibility with the materials that you will be working on. The inclusion of a reverse mode at every speed will help on different kinds of projects. Its chuck diameter is about 11/16 inches, but it’s usually better to stick around 5/8-inch stocks for regular use.
Because it has variable speed, the mini metal lathe is ideal for a wide range of projects. This tool runs on a 3/4-HP motor, and has a 5/16-inch max tool bit size. The speeds run from 1,100 RPM to 2,500 RPM. It has a 12 to 52 TPI thread range that also adds to its versatility, and sports 18 (inches) and 10 (metric) thread pitches for usability.
With a 7-inch swing-over-bed and a 12-inch center distance, this 90-pound lathe has a threading dial indicator to help with accuracy on your workpiece while the chip tray and backsplash guard will keep your work area nice and clean. After all, having to clean up metal debris created on your workspace is additional work that needs to be done.
Things I Like About This Product: It has a reverse feature, which will save time and effort for the operator.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: The compound slide could be better, to make the tool holder easy to use.
Made with a 4-inch 3-jaw self-centering chuck, the BestEquip 7 x 14-Inch Mini Metal Lathe is a machine that has variable speeds from 50 to 2,500 RPM, allowing easy adaptation to different materials. It also has forward/reverse mode at all speeds to make the job easier. In addition to that, you have two choices for speed control: the auto-feed rate adjustment or the manual method.
In cases of mistakes or errors, there is an emergency stop button to help you out. The mini metal lathe has v-slideways that were designed with accuracy in mind, thanks to hardening, grinding, and quality raw materials.
Tapered roller bearings are used for this unit, making maintenance less of a hassle. Alongside that, it has a spindle accuracy of 0.0004 inches. Using a DC motor, this mini metal lathe has a thread range of 12 to 52 TPI, while including a threading dial indicator for both standard and metric measurements.
This 3/4-HP mini metal lathe has a center distance of 13.78 inches and it has a 4-way toolpost in the compound slide, which makes it easy to change. What’s more, angle adjustments made on the compound rest allows for bevel cutting jobs with less frustration.
Things I Like About This Product: It has a reverse feature at all speeds and it has an emergency stop button. The center distance is also quite good.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: You have to adjust the tailstock before you operate the machine.
For those looking for a suggestion on a budget, you’ve got to check out the Eleoption Mini Metal Lathe Machine. Bearing a 3-jaw chuck with a clamping diameter of 13 mm (0.5 inches) for the forward mode and 45 mm (1.7 inches) for reverse mode, this 4-pound mini metal lathe has a center distance of 110 mm (4.3 inches), since it is a smaller unit compared to my other picks.
With a length of about 10 inches, this mini metal lathe is applicable for soft metals such as aluminum and copper, so it’s great for casual or weekend jobs. It has speeds of 1,600 to 10,000 RPM (low) and 3,000 to 20,000 RPM (high) due to being a smaller unit compared to the other mini metal lathes. Nonetheless, I like that this unit is a dual-voltage lathe (100V~240V 50/60 Hz) for international use.
Aluminum alloy makes up its construction, keeping it durable for most light to medium-duty uses. The 24-watt motor and small capacity make it ideal for students who are just learning how to use a metal lathe, such as those who are studying engineering or working on science projects.
Things I Like About This Product: The size is sufficient for simple jobs and it’s space-saving design. It has a high speed and it is also lighter in weight compared to most mini metal lathes.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: The user’s manual isn’t completely clear due to poor language translation.
If you want a low-maintenance tool, I’d recommend the Techtongda Brushless Motor Precision Mini Metal Lathe. This unit uses a 110V brushless motor and has a spindle bore of 0.8 inches. It has a 12-inch center distance. Because the gears and bearings are all made of metal, it is much more durable than those that have plastic or nylon parts.
The all-metal gear construction makes it ideal for machining in job sites or heavy-duty work. With a swing diameter of 7 inches, it has a 2-inch towing trip and an MT3 spindle taper. It has a 3.9-inch chuck diameter while its two gears produce 50 to 2,500 RPM of spindle speed.
With a thread range of 0.5 to 3 mm, this mini lathe runs quietly due to its brushless motor. The metal lathe has a 600-watt motor that makes it ideal for heavy operations, while still being a mini-sized lathe for small spaces. It is backed by a 3-month warranty and a lifetime service.
Things I Like About This Product: I like that it has a brushless motor so it will be easier to maintain versus lathes that still use traditional carbon brushes. The brushless motor also runs quieter than its older counterpart.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: The lathe only has a metric scale, so you’d have to convert it manually if you want the imperial system measurements.
Made with HSS (high-speed steel) cutting tools, the Eastwood Benchtop Mini Metal Variable Speed Lathe is ideal for a home workshop or small area. Powered by a 3/4-HP motor, it has an inner and outer 3-jaw chuck set for flexibility, and its gear train components can be selected manually, aside from the auto-feed mode.
This mini metal lathe has a size of 7 x 12 inches and comes with adjustable gibs. Common materials that it will process include aluminum, composites, and steel. Due to the tailstock having a quick-locking mechanism, it will help secure your workpiece. The MT#2 headstock taper is also widely-compatible with common tools.
With a 7-inch swing-over-bed, this mini metal lathe has a 4-way indexable tool post for simple adjustments. Bearing a 12-inch center distance, it has 2-3/4-inch cross travel and compound travel respectively.
The mini metal lathe has speeds of 1,100 to 2,500 RPM. Moreover, to keep the machine safe and stable, it has 4 rubber feet. It has a 5/16-inch maximum tool bit size and has carriage travel of 10-1/2 inches. Like with most of my picks above, it has a thread range of 12 to 52 TPI (inches) and 0.4 to 2.0 mm (metric).
Things I Like About This Product: It has a quick-locking mechanism for the tailstock for workpiece security. Moreover, it has both metric and inch thread ranges.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: The drive gears are made of plastic as compared to metal gears.
If you want an alternative to plastic gears then the CO-Z 600W Mini Benchtop Metal Lathe with Metal Gears is for you. This unit has a 3-jaw self-centering chuck that makes the job easier when working with cylindrical stock. To keep your work area nice and clean, it has a backsplash guard.
Moreover, this mini metal lathe has a spindle accuracy of 0.0006 inches and has a set of precision tapered roller bearings. With a 600-watt 3/4-HP DC motor, it has a compound rest that’s easy to adjust and a tool post that’s simple to tweak when it comes to the angle. What’s more, it has spindle speeds of 50 to 1,250 RPM (low) and 100 to 2,500 RPM (high), with a 10 to 44 TPI thread range (0.5 to 3 mm for metric).
It has a 4.7-inch swing-over-cross side and an 8.3-inch swing-over-bed. Bearing a 13.8-inch distance between centers, it will take 0.08 to 0.16 mm of longitudinal feeds while having a 20-mm spindle bore (with an MT3 taper). The entire machine measures 32.7 x 14.2 x 18.3 inches so it is ideal for working on slightly larger materials.
Things I Like About This Product: This mini metal lathe is ideal for larger stock and bigger projects for your shop due to its 8 x 14-inch construction and 13.8-inch distance between centers.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: It appears to have no reverse function.
Yet another machine on a slightly larger scale is the Erie Tools 7 x 14-Inch Precision Benchtop Mini Metal Milling Lathe. This unit has up to 2,500 RPM of speed and comes with variable speed control on its motor. I like that it allows both directions so left-handed threading is possible. With a thread range of 12 to 52 TPI, it allows the selection of either imperial or metric measurements for flexibility.
The mini lathe comes with a 5-piece carbide-tipped cutter kit that’s relatively easy to install. What I like about this machine is that it has a digital readout that’s going to be convenient to the operator due to the large display. This will assure you’re on the right track with your workpiece when it comes to choosing the right speed.
Using MT3 for its spindle taper and MT2 for its tailstock, this mini metal lathe has a 4-inch chuck diameter, a 0.79-inch spindle bore, and a swing over bed of 7 inches. What’s more, it has a 14-inch center distance while having cross-side travel of 2.56 inches and 1.38-inch top slide travel. Its longitudinal feed rate goes from 0.0039 to 0.00787 inches.
Things I Like About This Product: It allows speed control in either direction, which allows you to work on left-handed threading. It has a good center distance of 14 inches.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: The left-hand gear cover could be better to improve its durability.
Yet another small machine for light-duty use is the Jectse Mini Lathe, which is powered by a 60-watt motor. It runs up to 12,000 RPM and will drop to 2,000 RPM if you’re working on metal since this machine is used for wood as well.
Weighing 176 ounces (11 pounds), this mini lathe runs on 12V DC at 5A. It accepts machined materials with up to 100 mm of diameter (3.9 inches) with an x-axis travel of 32 mm (1.2 inches) and z-axis travel of 145 mm (5.7 inches). Materials that it will process include aluminum, copper, silver, and gold. That’s because HSS (high-speed steel) is used for the turning tool.
The center height of this lathe is 75 mm (2.9 inches) and it has a center distance of 135 mm (5.3 inches). Additionally, a diameter expansion of up to 50 mm (1.9 inches) can be made using the central block. When you order the mini metal lathe, it comes with an adapter, a power cord, a machine bottom plate, an accessory package, and a user manual.
Things I Like About This Product: This mini lathe has a reasonable speed based on its motor power. What’s more, the center distance is just right based on its size. If you work on both metal and wood stocks, this is a lathe you will find useful.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: It is only made for soft aluminum so it is not ideal for heavy-duty use.
If you are looking for a mini metal lathe that has a long center distance, you’d like the Shop Fox M1049 9-Inch by 19-Inch Bench Lathe. This lathe gives you the best of both worlds – it has features similar to the larger units while having a generous 19-inch distance between centers.
Measuring 40-1/2 x 23-1/2 x 15 inches, this unit has a 4-way tool post and a threading dial. What’s more, the cast iron bed is hardened and ground for durability while its chip and splash guard keep your work area clean. It has a cross slide travel of 4-1/4 inches, 1-7/8-inch compound travel, and 16-inch carriage travel.
Weighing 293 pounds, this mini lathe has a manual feed option using the three handwheels: longitudinal, crossfeed, and compound slide handwheel. With a 9-inch swing over bed and 5-inch swing over side and saddle, it has six speeds, ranging from 130 to 2,000 RPM.
I like that this mini metal lathe has two chucks: a 3-jaw chuck at 4 inches and a 4-jaw chuck at 7-1/4 inches. Along with the steady and follow rest for material support, it uses standard MT2 and MT3 for the dead centers.
Things I Like About This Product: This mini lathe has a generous 19-inch distance between centers.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: It doesn’t come with safety limit switches on the auto-feed. It also would be better to have safety guards installed in the mini metal lathe.
The Methodology: What I Considered When Picking the Mini Metal Lathes Featured Above
Choosing the mini metal lathe for your needs may sound a bit difficult at first, but here’s what I considered when making my choices above:
1. Spindle speed
The spindle speed depends on the size of the mini metal lathe that you have. Most of these lathes have a speed of up to 2,500 RPM if they are around 12 to 14 inches. Typically, you can choose between low and high modes, which both offer different speed ranges.
Knowing the spindle speed is important so you’ll know the capabilities and the limits of your mini metal lathe. That’s because most of us are aware that different metals have certain speed ratings to avoid burning or ruining the material.
Either way, if you encounter a mini metal lathe that has maximum speeds of more than 10,000 RPM, those are smaller units and that size makes them capable of faster RPMs. Such lathes are often dual-purpose for both wood and metal workpieces.
2. Distance between centers
Typically, you will get a center distance of about 12 to 14 for most mini metal lathes. However, this also depends on the machine size.
The distance between centers is loosely based on the machine length. Therefore, longer and bigger metal lathes have a farther distance between centers, which means you can work with larger materials. Mini metal lathes that have a smaller distance, such as those around 4 to 5 inches, are typically made for beginners or smaller items.
3. Protective features
Having a mini metal lathe that has a guard for chipping and splashes not only reduces work debris to be cleaned up, but it will also keep you safe. Having an emergency stop button is also a plus point, such as with BestEquip 7 x 14-Inch Mini Metal Lathe.
If you work in an environment where safety is a must, such as a job site or a shop where deadlines need to be met, a mini metal lathe that has a lot of security and protective features will save you trips to the ER in the long run.
4. Reverse feature
If your mini metal lathe has a reverse feature for all its speed options, it will allow left-handed threading, which is ideal for fabrication shops and job sites with more than one user for the machine.
Unfortunately, not all mini metal lathes have this feature. Therefore, if you want flexibility and additional productivity, having a reverse feature is a plus point. Even if you aren’t left-handed, by using your hands alternatively, you will get less user fatigue after a long day’s work.
We always prefer tools and machines that are easy to use. That’s why it is important to look for usability in a mini metal lathe as well. For instance, quick adjustments, locking mechanisms, and such are going to help increase your productivity and save time.
When it comes to feeding, mini metal lathes function like their bigger counterparts, offering you two ways to insert the workpiece: manual and auto-feed. The manual feed option usually offers three handwheels that allow you to position your material to your liking. This is more suitable for advanced users.
Although not necessarily an issue since a metal lathe is meant to be stationary, knowing the weight of the whole unit is still important when you’re setting it up for the first time (and if you’ll need the buddy system for that).
With that said, in general, having a balanced weight makes the mini metal lathe more stable as compared to a lightweight yet wobbly unit.
7. Chuck construction
Most mini metal lathes I mentioned above have a 3-jaw chuck, which usually has a size of 4 inches. However, special units, such as the Shop Fox M1049 9-Inch by 19-Inch Bench Lathe, has an additional 4-jaw chuck for tougher materials.
8. Security of the workpiece or stock
Metal is difficult to clamp and secure as compared to wood. Therefore, having a machine that has all kinds of security features to keep the material in place, especially if it is curvy, is important not just for safety, but also for accuracy when shaping your workpiece.
9. Gear construction
Most mini metal lathes in the market have nylon or plastic gears, which, in my opinion, are okay for light-duty jobs. However, if you intend to work on tougher materials, I’d suggest you go for a unit that has metal gears, such as the CO-Z 600W Mini Benchtop Metal Lathe.
While plastic or nylon gears do the job just fine, in terms of durability, I would prefer metal gears if you want to consider your machine a valuable investment. Metal gears and ball bearings are also more applicable for the job site and industrial uses to avoid frequent wear and tear.
Many of the mini metal lathes I mentioned above, which have a 12-14-inch distance of centers, are powered by a 600-watt 3/4-HP motor. It would also be useful if your machine runs on a brushless motor, which not only avoids excessive noise but also lengthens the motor lifespan. I would suggest going for a brushless motor if you want a mini metal lathe that’s easy to maintain.
Last but not the least, durability should be considered when choosing the best mini metal lathe. I did mention above that ball bearings and gears that are made of metal are more advisable for long-term use or industrial needs.
Overall, my top pick is the Grizzly G8688 7 x 12-Inch Mini Metal Lathe, which has sufficient center distance while having a reverse feature. Another similar option with that bi-directional feature is the BestEquip 7 x 14-Inch Mini Metal Lathe, which also comes with an emergency stop for safety. The Erie Tools 7 x 14-Inch Precision Bench Top Mini Metal Milling Lathe is also a reverse-capable unit.
For those who are still starting, I’d recommend the Eleoption Mini Metal Lathe Machine, which is small but powerful. Alongside that, I also suggest the Jectse Mini Lathe. These two mini lathes may not be in the 12 to 14-inch zone but they are great for beginners, especially engineering students or weekend warriors.
If you want less maintenance and motor noise, you’ll like the Techtongda Brushless Motor Precision Mini Metal Lathe. For those who work with difficult stock or workpieces, the Eastwood Benchtop Mini Metal Variable Speed Lathe has a quick-locking mechanism for the tailstock.
However, if you want a bigger machine, I would suggest the CO-Z 600W Mini Benchtop Metal Lathe with Metal Gears and the Shop Fox M1049 9-Inch by 19-Inch Bench Lathe. These mini metal lathes are ideal for larger workpieces.