Adding to your woodworking collection? Maybe you need something that warms up quicker during winter months, or you’re low on space, but you can’t quite justify a standard lathe. Selecting the best mini metal lathe isn’t just about finding the smallest body and going with it. Instead, there are a few things you should consider before you decide.
If you aren’t sure where to begin, we’ve got you. We’ve put together a list of our top ten best mini metal lathe models to get your inspiration going, plus answered a few questions you may have about what you need. Let’s take a look.
Ten Best Mini Metal Lathe Reviews
The Grizzly is a mini lathe that’s easy on your wallet and packed with features you’d need for all your DIY and hobby tasks. It measures about 10 x 22 inches, so it should fit easily where you have space.
It has generous thread ranges despite its size and variable speeds and can handle 33-inch threads from eight to up to 72 TPI. Its best feature is its versatility. It has a lower amount of power at just a single horsepower, but that should be very comfortable for most hobbyists and casual tinkerers. It’s a single phase, so you can even plug it into a standard outlet.
It has a four-way tool post, which you might find a little much. If that’s the case, a quick change tool post might be a better choice for you.
- Wide range thread capability
- Best for small, casual workshops
- Four-way tool post might be inconvenient
Erie Tools’ mini lathe is a variable speed, 0.53 horsepower machine with a single phase motor. You can use a standard household plug for power. It uses a digital readout to tell you the rpm output, and you can rotate it left or right.
The range of threads is 12 to TPI. The chuck has an auto feed, adjustable feature, and the tool post holds up to four cutting tools at a time so you can task switch easily. A pivoting plastic shield covers the chuck.
It’s a useful tool for smaller jobs that require some versatility, and it comes with a five-piece cutter kit so you can get started as soon as it arrives.
- Comes with five cutters
- Chuck is shielded
- Has some plastic gears buried in the box that might need replacing fairly quickly
BestEquip’s lathe isn’t exactly a budget option, but it’s going to give you the functionality that rivals much more significant pieces of equipment. It’s made of high-grade iron and has a variable rpm setting between 50 and 2500.
The gears are metal, which isn’t cost-saving but it’s durable. It has a thread range between 8 and 44 TPI. It’ll take your tool bits up to 3/8 inches. It’s suitable for small-scale professional setups and for serious hobbyists who have some cash.
It ships with two chucks, accessories, and a tool storage box. It’s more precise with that low thread range, but the downside honestly is the price. If you only do a few small projects, it might be out of the budget.
- Very precise thread range
- Ships with two chucks
- Versatile rpm settings
- Might be prohibitively expensive for small-time hobbyists
The Central Machinery lathe is similar to the first Grizzly on the list. It’s highly versatile, doesn’t take up a lot of space, and is lightweight (considering how much metal lathes weight). It has an automatic feed system for straightforward work, and you control the speed with a knob.
The chuck has a microswitch, unlike the Grizzly, but it has some plastic gears that might need to be changed out for metal later on. Replacement pieces aren’t easy to find for this particular machine. It has a thread size of 12 to 52 TPI.
This precision mini lathe has 3/4 speed peak horsepower and variable rpms up to 2500. It doesn’t have a lot of torque, so it’s best suited for very light jobs that don’t require a heavy hand.
- Lightweight (relatively)
- Automatic feed system
- Chuck cover with micro switch
- Low torque
This one is even less friendly on your wallet, but it has plenty of versatile features for someone looking to expand a hobby or task. It’s a belt-driven lathe with a peak two horsepower capability and 60 to 1240 rpms.
It uses a quick change gearbox with helical cut gears. This cuts down on the noise tremendously. You can carry out larger diameter work with the gap bed section, and the main spindle controller is carriage mounted.
It’s still a one phase machine so you can use a standard outlet for power. No finagling.
- Lots of horsepower but still single phase
- Variable rpms
- Gap bed section for larger diameter work
- Very expensive
The Shop Fox is a little bit smaller than the Jet, but it still produces results suitable for intermediate to advanced metal workers. Although it’s labeled for gunsmithing, it’s excellent for many types of precision jobs.
You can adjust the rpms from 70rpms to 1400 rpms. The bearings are high tolerance, and it features a quick change gearbox. It has a cast iron base, so it’s sturdy, and it has full operational controls with an extra fine longitudinal feed rate.
The removable gap bed makes large diameter projects possible. The on switch is located directly on the carriage, plus there’s a built-in coolant system.
- Powerful single phase motor
- High precision gearings
- Extra fine longitudinal feed rate
- Replacing the chucks can be difficult
The Mophorn is a (relatively) budget metal lathe that isn’t as versatile as some of the higher budget items on our list. It features just under a horsepower motor with variable speeds of 50 to 2500 rpms.
It has an easy to read digital display, and there’s high-quality welding between crucial parts of the gear system so that it has some durability.This mini metal lathe has a TPI range of 12 to 52. The chuck has three jaws and is larger than what you’d think for this size of the machine. It supports bits of up to 3/8 inches.
The Mophorn mini metal lathe comes with wrenches and nylon gears, plus a mask and oil can. It doesn’t come with any tool bits. It’s relatively reliable, but it ships from China, so be aware of that if you come across issues in needing a replacement.
- Digital display
- Welding in gear system
- Lower investment
- Ships from China, so it’s difficult to address issues with the machines
Shop Fox’s micro lathe is a seriously tiny metal lathe for workers who have minimal space but still want to complete lathing tasks. It measures just six by ten inches and can fit nearly anywhere.
It has a variable speed of 100 to 2000 rpms, and it weighs just 78 pounds. The Shop Fox M1015 has a manual feed hand wheel that moves the carriage to the left or right, but you can quickly disengage from manual to automatic feed. It can cut threads from 16 to 24 threads per inch in predefined increments.
It has a full range of accessories and isn’t difficult to find appropriate parts for replacement and augmentation. It’s a little pricey, but if you’re to the point in your work where you can’t go without a lathe, this might be an option for your small workspace.
- Micro-sized lathe with excellent capabilities
- Both manual and automatic feeds
- Expensive for the size and best for a particular type of hobbyist
The OrangeA is another micro sized lathe for those who need a lot of functionality but have minimal space. It has just under a single horsepower and a variable speed of 100 to 2500 rpms.
It’s a fully automatic tool with spindle speed adjusted by MCU and a key change rotary direction. It has an automatic feed. Torque is reasonable considering the size, but the tailstock is a bit out of alignment and might need to be adjusted when it gets to you.
It’s another low cost, ultra-small option, but you might not have full customer support like you would with local lathe companies.
- very small footprint
- all automatic design
- just under a single horsepower is better for beginners.
- no support after purchase
The Shop Fox combo mill is a single phase lathe that’s just under a single horsepower. Despite this, it’s designed for serious hobbyist because it’s extremely heavy. It has metal gears so you won’t have to replace them as soon or as often, and while it isn’t exactly “mini,” it’s still small enough that you could use it in a small shop.
The power is suitable for intermediate hobbyists though advanced workers might still appreciate the smaller horsepower for more delicate work. It’s also a bit cost prohibitive, but if you know that you want to invest in a tool that will last a long time and get the job done, it might not be a much of an issue for you.
You have a wide range of diameters, so you have more freedom in your work. It accepts cutting tools of 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2 inches.
- Very durable
- A wide range of options
- A wide range of diameters
- More substantial than “mini” lathes
Best Mini Metal Lathe Buyer’s Guide
So how do you choose a metal lathe? You might know lathes from shop class that were the size of a couch, but mini lathes are very different.
If you need to get jobs done quickly and powerfully, a higher horsepower is necessary. The average horsepower for a mini lathe is about one, but some more expensive machines can be as much as three.
If you’re a beginner, too much horsepower may be uncomfortable. It also makes it difficult for you to do precision work because your gears move too fast for your body to adjust.
If you do a lot of delicate, small work, less horsepower may be better for you. If you need to churn out a lot of necessary pieces in a small amount of time, more horsepower may work.
When you’re working with metal, lighter isn’t always better. You want a stable machine with a good base, so you don’t bump the machine and injure yourself or ruin your work.
Many of these machines are cast iron or heavy aluminum. The lightest one on the list weights 78 pounds and the heaviest weights nearly 500, so you should be ok here. Keep in mind the type of work you’re most likely to do as a secondary consideration to your space.
Some machines come with chucks, but what you want is for the machine to thread from the outside. These can accept a range of high-quality chucks, with three or four jaws and in different sizes.
You also want machines that have readily available parts so you can change out things like chucks fairly easily. You don’t want to be stuck with something that’s impossible to find and causes you to replace your entire machine. Same also for products shipping directly from overseas.
If your hobby is getting serious, it might be wasting your time to try to work these things by hand. Mini lathes make it possible to handle these types of jobs without taking up vast amounts of space or worrying about how you’re going to power your machine. If you’re a real beginner, some even come in a price range that won’t blow your budget.