5 Best Mini Metal Lathes (How to Choose The One for You)

Last Updated on August 28, 2022 by Barry Gray

If you work with metal regularly, then a mini metal lathe may prove invaluable as a tool. Not only does it have the added bonus of taking up little space, but it can also allow you to make those more delicate alterations to various metals while working on your project.

Personally, I find a mini metal lathe to be a valuable tool to have at my disposal. I may not use it as much as a wood lathe, but it has undoubtedly come to my rescue on various occasions.

From being easy to set up to having the ability to deliver outstanding results, I want you to feel that you are in a position to choose the best mini metal lathe for your own individual needs. However, I know that’s not always easy.

So, that is where I’m going to be able to help.

What I have done is I have taken my experience of working with tools for many years and used that experience to identify five of the best mini metal lathes available to buy right now. I know you will have probably noticed that a number of these tools exist on the market, so my intention is to narrow things down.

Oh, but I’m not going to only tell you which versions I think you should purchase. I’m also intending to provide you with several tips at the end to make the entire process of choosing your new tool much easier.

benchtop mini metal lathe

How I Made My List

When choosing the five different mini metal lathes, I wanted to ensure each tool met some specific criteria. After all, I would hate for you to end up with a lathe that falls short of being capable of producing the type of end results you were hoping for.

The main areas I looked at focused on how easy it was to set up the lathe in the first place and the ease with which you could control everything. I also looked at how you could adjust the lathe to fit your requirements and whether or not it produced consistent results.

Finally, I also considered the views and opinions of people who have already bought the metal lathe. I love discovering what others have experienced regarding a tool before recommending it to others. It simply delivers a more balanced opinion.

After all that, I ended up with these five different mini metal lathes that I feel confident recommending to you.

Best Value – Grizzly G8688 Mini Metal Lathe

  • Power: ¾ HP
  • Weight: 74 lbs
  • Speed: 0 – 2500 RPM

I’m always searching for tools that represent value for money, and when it comes to a mini metal lathe, I feel that the Grizzly G8688 does precisely that. It comes with a lot of power thanks to a motor producing ¾ HP, so that’s more than enough to cope with whatever you throw at it, but that’s not why I love this model so much.

Instead, I like the variable speed aspect of this model. It comes with two speed ranges, with you being capable of choosing between low and high. The low range varies from 0 to 1,100 RPM, while the high range goes from 0 to 2,500 RPM.

I like the fact you can control the speed so easily. That is an absolute key aspect for me with a lathe, as there are times when you just need to slow things down for the more delicate parts. This model allows you to do exactly that.

But here is another massive bonus with this model, the speed works in both directions. You see, some lathes only work in one direction, meaning you need to adjust how you work on your project. This model allows you to utilize the speed without constantly stopping and changing what you are doing.

This model ranges from 12 to 52 TPI for the thread dial indicator. I find adjusting this to be very easy to do, meaning you get that consistency from the lathe while working on that piece of metal.

But I also need to mention the size of this mini metal lathe. It has a 12-inch DBC, 7-inch bed, 2 ⅔” cross slide travel, 2 ½” tailstock travel, and a 20 mm spindle bore. That all translates into this model’s ability to work on several project sizes without running into too many problems.

Overall, I find this mini metal lathe to be very easy to set up and use while it’s capable of performing exceptionally well without much fuss.

Pros

  • The motor is more powerful than you expect
  • The variable speed option is easy to use
  • The entire lathe is very easy to set up
  • It’s easy to reverse the direction via the press of a button
  • It’s actually very good even for beginners

Cons

  • It would be better if it had a dial telling you the speed of the spindle

Best for Features – BestEquip 7” x 14” Mini Metal Lathe

  • Power: ¾ HP
  • Weight: 110lbs
  • Speed: 100 – 2,500 RPM

While some people want a simplistic mini metal lathe that covers just the basics, I know some people prefer power tools with a multitude of options to play around with. If that sounds like you, then you may be drawn to this model by BestEquip.

It comes with a ¾ HP motor, but that’s just where the fun starts in this instance. It does have a variable speed option, and this allows you to move between a speed of 100 RPM all the way up to 2,500 RPM. I find that range more than enough for a mini metal lathe since it allows you to slow things down and maintain absolute control when required.

Changing direction with this model is also very easy to do. I love that you can change direction since it means your dominant hand remains in control. That means you get better end results, more aligned with what you hoped for.

While this ability to change direction is better from a safety perspective, I also find this model safe to use in general. It comes with an automatic shutdown should anything go wrong, which is excellent. Also, that on/off button stands loud and proud and is always within easy reach.

From a thread perspective, it comes with 18 threads, while there is also an adjustable and automatic feed. I feel this mini metal lathe operates well and doesn’t require much setting up or adjustment on your part.

But I did have this mini metal lathe listed here because of its features, and my favorite feature is the four-way rotating turret. What I love about this is how you can add in four different 5/16” bits at the one time and just how it operates. It produces perfect results and makes you feel like you are progressing with your project.

Overall, add in a whole host of cutting features, bit options, and easy use, and what you get is a fantastic lathe that pretty much anybody can use. Oh, and at 7” by 14”, it’s also capable of helping you out with many sizes of projects.

Pros

  • It has more than enough power to get through different metals
  • I love you can change direction so easily
  • The variable speed comes with a large enough range
  • It has an adjustable and automatic feed leading to a smoother operation
  • It makes you feel you have made progress with your project

Cons

  • You can get a bit overwhelmed with the options if new to a mini metal lathe

Best Overall – BestEquip 8” by 16” Maintenance-Free Mini Metal Lathe

  • Power: 1 HP
  • Speed: 0 – 2,500 RPM

When I found this mini metal lathe by BestEquip, the first thing I noticed with the power because at 1 HP, this machine should never struggle with any project. Also, this lathe can work with wood and metal, so versatility is not an issue. 

I also find this model very efficient, while the entire tool is clearly robust and capable of withstanding a lot of use. This is backed up by it coming complete with a brushless motor, which improves efficiency, power use, and less maintenance.

In addition, the size of this mini metal lathe is impressive. It does push the boundaries a bit regarding dimensions, with the DBC coming in at 15 ¾” while the SOB measures some 8 ¼”, which means this can easily cope with some reasonably sized projects.

Controlling the speed will also prove easy on this model thanks to the variable speed dial allowing you to move between 0 and 2,500 RPM. The four-way turret post will also prove effective since you can quickly change between bits without a struggle.

Overall, the robust nature and efficiency make this model stand out. You can use it for so many different projects that versatility is never an issue.

Pros

  • The motor is massive at 1 HP
  • The variable speed dial is straightforward to use
  • The DBC size is impressive, allowing for larger projects
  • The entire model feels very sturdy
  • Its efficiency is exceptional

Cons

  • This model is really aimed at the more regular user rather than a beginner

Best Compact – Mophorn Precision Mini Metal Lathe

  • Power: ¾ HP
  • Speed: 2,500 RPM

I know there are times when you just don’t have much space available in your workshop, so size becomes even more critical. Well, that’s where this model by Mophorn can really come into play.

I find this one of the smallest mini metal lathes on the market, but I don’t think it means you will miss out on either power or features. Instead, Mophorn has managed to pack a lot into this machine, which actually over-delivers in line with its size.

First, you get a ¾ HP motor that churns out more than enough power. The model also comes with a maximum speed of 2,500 RPM, which is the maximum you tend to get with mini metal lathes. So, there’s no sense of disappointment in that department. Also, it’s effortless to vary the speed, so you feel in absolute control all the time.

For size, you get a DBC of 14”, while the swing bed comes in at 7”. That does mean it’s more compact than other models, but it’s still good enough to cope with a whole host of projects.

Other features I like regarding this model include the 4” three-jaw chuck capable of holding ⅜” bits and also the fact there’s a large button to indicate when power is on. 

Overall, this model is compact but comes with all the features you would like to see in a mini metal lathe. It performs well, is robust, and can deliver the types of results you were hoping for.

Pros

  • It has a powerful motor for such a small tool
  • The variable speed dial works very well
  • The DBC is larger than you expect on a tool of this size
  • It’s robust and easy to set up
  • There is minimal vibration

Cons

  • The slightly smaller DBC may influence some projects

Best Micro Lathe – Shop Fox M1015

  • Power: ⅕ HP
  • Speed: 100 – 2,000 RPM
  • Weight: 78lbs

While this micro lathe comes with a smaller motor, it can still be a handy tool for people only working on the smallest projects. At ⅕ HP, along with providing 1.2 Amps, it is the smallest motor on my list by some distance, but don’t let that put you off.

Instead, you need to understand the limitations associated with this lathe before you buy it. The size in this instance is a 6” swing bed and 10” DBC, so you can see why I listed this as a micro lathe.

However, it still comes with a variable speed dial allowing you to move between speeds of 100 RPM up to 2,000 RPM. I know that’s lower than the average, but we are talking about smaller projects where the key may very well be on the finer aspects. So, offering better control in this way is certainly more beneficial.

You should also know that the thread cutting ability with this model is also reduced between 16 -24 TPI. Yet I still don’t see this as a problem when you know in advance what the machine is capable of, so you aren’t hit with any surprises.

Overall, I find this lathe easy to use thanks to an excellent control panel, making it easy to adjust. I know it has limitations due to its size, but it still performs to a high standard, even in a reduced size.

Pros

  • Its compact size is perfect for tight spaces
  • It has a variable speed dial
  • It’s straightforward to set up and adjust
  • It’s manufactured to a high standard
  • It’s ideal for smaller projects

Cons

  • The motor is on the small side

How to Choose the Perfect Mini Metal Lathe

metal lathe

The five options on my list can perform exceptionally well in their own right, but I know it can be challenging to decide which one to choose. So, here are a few tips that I hope will make life easier for you.

Power

The more power, the easier the lathe will find it to perform the desired tasks in a shorter period of time. I would suggest going for ¾ HP as a minimum for a mini lathe, or you could come up short in the power department.

The only exception is with a micro lathe. Everything is reduced on micro lathes, so too much power would also prove difficult. 

Speed

You need to have a variable speed dial to make life easier regarding keeping control of what’s happening. Most mini lathes will vary between 100 RPM and 2,500 RPM, and I would certainly stick with those limits.

But I have one other tip when it comes to speed. It is often easier if you can reverse the direction as well. That means your dominant hand remains in control while it stops you from going through the entire setup of the tool once again just to turn things around.

However, not every mini metal lathe comes with that option, but it’s something to look out for.

DBC Size

DBC stands for Distance Between Centers, and I would be looking at a distance of around 15” for a mini metal lathe. Anything over 15” is starting to push closer to a more normal-sized lathe, and you are then talking about a bigger machine in general.

The DBC translates into the size of metal you can work with at any given time, directly relating to the project you can work with. But if you find a mini metal lathe with a DBC of 14”, then I wouldn’t stress too much about the 1” difference.

SOB Size

SOB stands for Swing Over Bed, which relates to the maximum diameter of the metal you can work with. You should be aiming for around 6” as a minimum, but it does work better if it’s 7”.

This is where knowing the size of pieces of metal you plan on working with will prove helpful. If you know you will be working with wider material, you need to increase the SOB size to accommodate it.

I would also pay attention to things such as build quality and the maintenance side of things. Also, is the mini metal lathe easy to set up, and what are the safety features?

Overall, the power, speed, and those sizes remain the most important aspects to consider when looking at a mini metal lathe.

Overall Conclusion

The five different mini metal lathes listed above are all fantastic tools in their own right. I believe that, if you are in the market for this tool, you will indeed find the perfect one for your needs.

These tools can help you to just put those finishing touches to your projects and allow you to get the type of results you were hoping for. However, run over the tips I’ve listed above on what to look out for when purchasing a mini metal lathe. By doing so, you should hopefully make the entire process much easier.

Photo of author

Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.

10 thoughts on “5 Best Mini Metal Lathes (How to Choose The One for You)”

  1. two questions – from their names these sound like American machines. Are they easily available in Great Britain?

    You don’t show the prices. Have you any ideas as to their costs?

    Reply
    • Hi John,

      Many are US companies, however, you can still import them. Regarding pricing, all you have to do is click on the links in the article above (orange) for the specific model you want to look at and the price will show for you 🙂

      Cheers,
      James

      Reply
    • They are all Chinese. However, quality depends on the company specifications especially as regards the motor, circuit board and related electronics. I personally have one identical to them which I purchased from Amadeal UK. I find it very helpful for my needs as a hobbyist.

      Reply
  2. Hi James,

    One of the questions that I continue to struggle with is the value of buying a metal Lathe vs buying a mini mill. Any thoughts on why to choose one over the other?

    Reply
    • Hi Terry,

      I personally would rather a lathe over a mini mill. Some people do find a mini mill more than sufficient, but one thing the lathe does better is long shafts.

      Cheers,
      James

      Reply
  3. I have worked with friends on their lathes to make what I need, but never have been able to do it myself. With that in mind and knowing that I consider myself a beginner I have 2 questions:
    1. Do you think that even the Grizzly is something for me to consider? Most of what i need this for is automotive. I have to make precise tools for working on cars, which includes threaded pieces and Bearing press tools.

    2. What do I need in addition to buying the lathe so I can get an accurate budget before pulling the trigger?

    Thank you for your time,
    Russel

    Reply
    • Hi Russel,

      Thank you for getting in touch. In regards to your questions, please see below:

      1. Do you think that even the Grizzly is something for me to consider? Most of what i need this for is automotive. I have to make precise tools for working on cars, which includes threaded pieces and Bearing press tools.
      To be honest, for what you require it for, the Grizzly would be a perfect fit. You can honestly make anything you want with it, all depending upon your skill level.

      2. What do I need in addition to buying the lathe so I can get an accurate budget before pulling the trigger?
      You could look at Vernier Calipers, Way Oil (to keep it clean), bench grinder, high-speed steel bits and shim stock, Boring bar/bars, Cutting oils, Parting blade, lathe filing (wet & dry) to name a couple.

      Cheers,
      James

      Reply
  4. For UK customers, I found that the BRUSHLESS motor Mini lathe (WBL1835) from AMADEAL to be really reliable and well made. Worth a look at it.

    Reply

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