Best Metal Lathes – 2020 Round-up Review

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With all the metal lathe options you have at hand, it can often feel challenging to pick the best one.

And since they don’t come for cheap, either, you’ll want to give it a good thought before choosing the best metal lathe for your requirements. 

Coming up next, we’re going to help you narrow down your choices with ease.

Hoping to cut right to the chase? Below are the best metal lathes:

  1. Best Overall: Techtongda Precision Metal Lathe
  2. Runner-up: Grizzly G8688
  3. Best Metal Lathe Under $1000: Central Machinery Precision Mini Lathe

Comparison of the Best Metal Lathes

Product

Specs

Price

Techtongda Precision Metal Lathe

  • 50 - 2500 RPM
  • Precision taper roller bearing
  • Extra large

Grizzly G8688

  • Adjustable speed
  • Chip tray and backsplash guard
  • Chip tray and backsplash guard

Central Machinery Precision Mini Lathe

  • Best Metal Lathe Under $1000
  • Variable speed control
  • 0 - 2500 RPM

Erie Tools Mini Metal Milling Lathe

  • Best Mini Metal Lathe
  • Variable speed up to 2500 RPM
  • 5-piece kit

Jectse Mini Metal Lathe

  • Best Benchtop Metal Lathe
  • 12,000 RPM
  • 6-piece kit

Grizzly Industrial G0768

  • Best Grizzly Metal Lathe
  • Variable speed
  • Reverse feed

Jet 321378

  • Best Jet Metal Lathe
  • Tapered roller bearings
  • Chuck guard included

Are All Metal Lathes The Same? 

Metal lathes must manipulate and deform metal parts with aggressiveness. Consequently, the main difference between models targets the motor. There are mini metal lathes with 1/2 or 3/4HP motors, really large lathes with 3HP motors, and many others in between.

Then, there are differences in terms of weight and stability. Manufacturers are well aware that the more solid the base of the lathe, the more you can count on it to sit tight even when dealing with hardened metals.

Last but not least, the operation capabilities vary, mainly in terms of swing over bed and distance between centers. The domestic use metal lathes come in small to average sizes, with quite a few variations. If the SOB can be 7-12-inches, the DBC can go even up to 30 inches.

What Size of Metal Lathe Do I Need? 

As discussed above, there’s a wide range of sizes that buyers can choose from. The right answer comes down to the size of the projects you anticipate undertaking. Consider a smaller lathe if you’re aiming to turn pens or knobs or other miscellaneous, a mini lathe for mid-sized projects, or a midi, even a full-sized metal lathe for large projects.

When looking after metal lathe sizes and capabilities, know what the numbers mean. Specifically, consider the swing over bed – the maximum diameter of a workpiece that rotates on the spindle without hitting the bed. And the distance between centers – the maximum length of a workpiece you can secure between the headstock and the tailstock.

Review of the Best Metal Lathes 

Eager to take a look at some of the best metal lathes you could buy? Start with this round up that includes the most important categories and top choices from reputable manufacturers!

Best Overall:
Techtongda Precision Metal Lathe

PROS

  • Can handle an impressive range of machining tasks
  • Supports extensive processing with simple operation
  • Designed with an extra-large DBC, for increased versatility
  • Includes sturdy all-metal gears with precision taper roller bearing
  • Built with straightforward mechanisms for easy speed adjustments

CONS

  • No rotation direction switch
  • Comes with only a metric scale

Our Review

If you’re looking for a metal lathe that ticks all the right boxes and doesn’t break the bank, consider the Techtongda Precision model. With its powerful 750W, 110V brushless motor, it can certainly deliver the power you need, while connected to a standard power outlet. And the 31.5 inches DBC coupled with an 8.3 inches SOB will easily accommodate a wide range of metalworking projects.

As it weighs a solid 165lb, you can truly count on its stability. And it only takes one look at it to notice its durable, wear-resistant construction. Featuring optimal size and overall construction for hobbyists, it is particularly appealing to modification enthusiasts.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

For an average price on the metal lathes market, this Techtongda boasts all the right features. It can make an excellent choice for turning or facing, but also for boring, drilling, or turning heads. This versatility is particularly supported by a special feature. The main shaft’s speed, which varies from 50 to 2500 RPM, is divided into two gears, so you can adjust it however you need.

Runner-up:
Grizzly G8688

PROS

  • Available for a moderate price tag
  • Designed with variable speed controls
  • Features a compact, yet sturdy construction
  • Supports both forward and reverse operation
  • Powerful-enough motor for hassle-free metal turning

CONS

  • Comes with some plastic parts
  • Won’t fit the tougher, heavy-duty works

Our Review

The runner up has a motor nearly as powerful as the best overall, rated at 560W, same 110V. And even though this Grizzly metal lathe is actually a mini model, it does come with lots of useful features for most hobbyists. The DBC is set to 12 inches, and the SOB to 7 inches.

For your convenience, it includes some of the most important and useful accessories in the package. Other manufacturers won’t offer you an MT#2 dead center, a 6-1/4-inch faceplate, a Jaw chuck and external jaws, a resting tool, and a guard. But Grizzly puts in all the effort to make this small-sized metal lathe really mighty.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

The G8688 features everything you’d want from a large lathe, but in a compact, more accessible format. The 3/4HP motor makes operation smooth, and apart from not handling heavy-duty chores, it delivers excellently. Whether for a first-timer or for a beginner, operation is always intuitive.

Best Metal Lathe Under $1000:
Central Machinery Precision Mini Lathe

PROS

  • Powerful motor for a wide range of tasks
  • Features a knob for variable speed control
  • Chuck guard is designed with micro switch
  • Packed with features that any hobbyist needs
  • More than decent capacity for an affordable cost

CONS

  • Forward/reverse switch design could be better
  • One may experience increased vibrations at a certain RPM

Our Review

Do you enjoy tinkering with metals, or your job involves small metal turning projects? Then this precision mini lathe from Central Machinery would make a great choice both in terms of features and affordability. The 3/4HP motor is ready to provide enough power for such jobs. And the 10-inch DBC with 7-inch SOB also leave room for light metalworking.

Thanks to the variable speed control, the spindle speed can be adjusted from 0 to 2500 RPM. And the common threading chores are easy to perform, as long as you’re aiming for anything between 12 and 52 TPI.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

For a mini metal lathe with such a motor and variable speed control that facilitates automatic feed and comes with a chuck guard with micro switch, this is a winner. Of course, not only the features are making it stand out, but also the price tag. Without a doubt, it is one of the best budget metal lathes you can find, and it is well worth the attention.

Best Mini Metal Lathe:
Erie Tools Mini Metal Milling Lathe

PROS

  • Speed shows on a digital readout
  • Works with metal and most woods
  • Motor adjusts in either rotational direction
  • Features variable speed and thread indicator
  • Comes in a generous package, with useful accessories

CONS

  • Somewhat loud during operation
  • Plastic gears might need replacement

Our Review

This model from Erie is our choice for the best mini metal lathe, as it is perfectly sized for lots of small to medium metalworking projects. It comes with a 0.53 HP single phase motor at 400W. And the DBC varies from 8 to 14 inches, whereas the SOB is set to 7 inches.

In the package, you get an MT3 spindle taper, an MT2 dead center tailstock taper, and a cutter kit with 5 carbide tipped tools. All these, plus a spare set of change gears, plastic-made, just like the ones from the lathe. Everything you need to slowly start out with a mini model built for the best possible performances.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

This mini metal lathe is nicely sized at 7 x 14 inches, and it comes with many practical features. It has a reverse switch and can be operated both with the right and with the left hand. It boasts a wide threading range. And the digital display and variable speed options are guaranteed to make your job a breeze.

Best Benchtop Metal Lathe:
Jectse Mini Metal Lathe

PROS

  • Available for an attractive price
  • Works well with soft non-ferrous metals
  • Powerful motor for a benchtop metal lathe
  • Supports central block extension if needed
  • Sturdy, metal construction for increased stability

CONS

  • No variable speed control
  • Only one metal cutting tool included in the package

Our Review

If you’re particularly looking for a metal lathe that will sit perfectly on a benchtop, consider this option from Jectse. Made of solid metal parts and with a belt protection cover, it is powered by a 60W motor with up to 12000 RPM.

Size-wise, it has a 3-inch center height and a 5.3-inch distance between centers. The mini lathe comes with an adapter and a power cord, one accessory package, and a machine bottom plate. For what it does and considering the budget-friendly price, you will want to add it to your shortlist.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

This Jectse mini metal lathe comes with a high-speed turning tool made of solid steel. It can manipulate precious metals, anything non-ferrous, without any effort. And thanks to the central block, one can expand the diameter up to 2 inches. In the package, you may have only one cutting tool, but it’s a top-quality HSS one!

Best Grizzly Metal Lathe:
Grizzly Industrial G0768

PROS

  • Works with reverse feed, too
  • Really heavy, providing excellent stability
  • Above-average motor that powers at 110V
  • Supports both right- and left-hand thread operation
  • Comes with variable speed control and two speed ranges

CONS

  • Only metric threads
  • Compound rest locking screws could be better designed

Our Review

Grizzly Industrial has a reputation for building quality lathes. And the G0768 is conveniently powered by a 3/4HP motor with variable speed. Sized at 8 x 16 inches, it’s a benchtop metal lathe, without a doubt, but it has a lot to offer! The variable speed control works between 50 and 1000 RPM at low speed and between 100 and 2000 RPM at high speed.

It comes with both 3- and 4-jaw chucks sized at four inches. And it is designed with a heavy-duty tailstock you can secure in a snap, thanks to the quick-lock mechanisms. To top it off, it comes with a 4-way turret tool post that you’ll certainly appreciate having at hand.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

When thinking about purchasing this Grizzly Industrial metal lathe, you’ll be looking at a long list of accessories included. Apart from the two types of chucks we already mentioned, and the turret tool post, you have a 6-3/4-inch faceplate, MT#2 and MT#3 dead centers, and follow and steady rests. Moreover, it comes with its own toolbox with service tools!

Best Jet Metal Lathe:
Jet 321378

PROS

  • Comes with a chuck guard
  • Solid bench lathe with a compact body
  • Features precision tapered roller bearings
  • Includes easily accessible emergency stop
  • Designed with an induction hardened bed

CONS

  • Can hardly be moved around
  • Not the most accessible lathe, price-wise

Our Review

A top of the best metal lathes will inevitably include a product from JET. Take a good look at this model, and you won’t help but want to give it a try. Sized at 41 x 22 x 20 inches and with a whopping 269 pounds weight, it features a 9-inch SOB and 19 inches between centers.

As it comes with the common 1-1/2-inch x 8 TPI spindle mount, you will be able to pair it with lots of accessories. And the induction-hardened and ground bedway will support pretty much anything you throw at it. Add the chuck guard and the emergency stop, the options of forward and reverse threading, and you’ll see just how much value this JET metal lathe can provide.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

As a belt-driven bench lathe, the JET 321378 tool provides a more efficient operation compared to the gear-driven ones. Its stylish, professional look makes it particularly appealing. And knowing there’s an emergency stop within the hand’s reach is particularly reassuring when it comes to putting this powerful lathe at work.

In summary, here are the best metal lathes:

  1. Best Overall: Techtongda Precision Metal Lathe
  2. Runner-up: Grizzly G8688
  3. Best Metal Lathe Under $1000: Central Machinery Precision Mini Lathe

How Do I Choose a Metal Lathe?

Investing in a metal lathe is a big decision. Consider the following factors to make sure your choice will meet your requirements with ease.

Your Available Workspace

There’s nothing worse than paying a small fortune for a large metal lathe that won’t fit your limited workshop. Consider both the space it occupies, and the free area it must have around it.

The Projects You Intend To Work On

Knowing what kind of work you’ll perform on it will tell you what type of lathe you need. This anticipation isn’t just about the size of the work, but also about the power you’ll need.

The SOB And DBC

The SOB and DBC will tell you the maximum size of the workpiece the lathe can handle. A mini model is generally more versatile, as it has a wide utility you can enhance with a bed extension.

The Ease Of Use

There are industrial and domestic use metal lathes. The latter are more common and make a top choice among the buyers. Since hobbyists usually purchase them, ease of use is essential.

The Accessories It Comes With

All metal lathes work the same. The differences are given by their physical capabilities. And the more accessories you can associate with them, the more versatility you get.

Wood Lathe vs Metal Lathe - Comparison Overview 

You’d think that wood lathes are for wooden workpieces, and metal lathes are for metal workpieces. But the truth is that the latter can actually handle both wood and metal. Wondering about the other differences, apart from their applications?

Design

Wood lathes come in smaller sizes and with a simpler construction, compared to metal lathes. When turning metal, you also need to work with a hardened cutting tool that you secure to a mounting, rotating surface. Because of this, even the setup is more complex on a metal lathe.

Capabilities

Wood lathes are specifically effective at handling wood workpieces. Metal lathes can handle anything from wood and plastic to aluminum, iron, and even steel. However, the majority of lathes designed for domestic use fall in either the small or the mid-sized category.

Speed

Given how hard it is to deform metals, a metal lathe will work with fewer revolutions per minute. It takes more time to finish a metal workpiece because of the slower RPM the machine comes with. On the other hand, a wood lathe works with higher RMP because it can shape wood much easier.

Metal Lathe Cutting Tips, Tricks, and Hacks for Success

It takes a good metal lathe for smooth metalworking, for sure. But that’s not everything! Consider the following tips: 

Know Your Tool 

There are different ways to get the job done. Some will take less effort on your side, however. Familiarize yourself with the features of the metal lathe, so you’ll be able to work smarter. 

Take Time For Setup 

Getting the right settings from the first time will allow you to work without interruptions once you’re ready for the actual metalworking. Turn off the tool and set it up right from the first time. 

Safety First 

Apart from learning how to operate safely on your metal lathe, take the time to make your workspace safe, too. Remove dangling objects. And never wear loose clothes. 

Take It Slow 

With metals, working at a slower speed will increase the quality of the cuts. Don’t hurry, start at a lower speed and adjust it upon the particularities of the material you’re cutting.

Pros and Cons of Metal Lathes

The pros and cons of metal lathes often haven a lot to do with the specifics of the work. Powerful tools that aggressively deform the toughest metals, metal lathes are perfect for some jobs, but not always necessary for others. Here’s why:

Metal Lathes Pros

  • Most Powerful Lathes For Domestic Use
    Sturdy, with stable constructions, and powerful motors, metal lathes give you the highest working capability for domestic operation. If you need a powerful lathe, whether a mini or a full-sized model, pick a metal lathe, and you’ll get all the power you need, if not more!
  • Handle Pretty Much Any Material
    If you have to choose from the many types of lathes, one specifically made for metalworking will cover all bases. With a wood lathe, you’re more limited, but with a metal lathe, you can work on pretty much any material.
  • Minimize Material Wastes
    Turning round stock on your lathe will help you make the most of any workpiece. It will save you time and bring the amount of wasted material to a minimum. Since metals are usually more expensive than other working materials, it’s always great to be able to work with minimal wastes.

Metal Lathes Cons

  • Takes A Longer Learning Curve
    A metal lathe may take more complex settings than a wood lathe. Learning the ins and outs of the tool itself and what you can do with it may take extra time. And, in some instances, it may prove challenging, especially for those who are just starting out.

How to Use a Metal Lathe 

Using a metal lathe implies setting up the tool for the job, securing the workpiece, and start feeding the tool into the workpiece. Depending on what model of metal lathe you own, the setup or the part where you secure the workpiece might differ.

Some metal lathes have a three-jaw chuck where whatever jaw you adjust will automatically adjust the other jaws, too. There are also metal lathes with four independent jaws that let you adjust them separately. That way, you can secure workpieces with odd shapes.

But assuming you’ve taken the time to read the user manual and know how to set up yours the right way, here are the general steps of using a metal lathe:

  • Make sure the metal lathe is turned off and place your workpiece between its centers.

  • Secure the chuck by locking its jaws and bring the tailstock with the live center to secure the other end of the workpiece.

  • Put on your safety glasses and skip the gloves, as you don’t want any extra parts that the machine can catch while rotating.

  • Position your insert to ensure a larger contact surface with the workpiece.

  • Turn on the lathe and start feeding the insert into the workpiece, either manually or with the auto-feed.

  • Adjust the speed as you see fit.

Simple in theory, but not too sure how that looks in practice? Refer to the video below, and you’ll see the exact steps from above applied to a full-size metal lathe.

Conclusion 

A metal lathe may seem intimidating for a beginner. It is, indeed, a more complex tool. But it only takes a little bit of patience and the curiosity to know your options. With that in mind, even the first-timers can enjoy researching, purchasing, and starting to use one of the best metal lathes on the market.

People Also Ask

When it comes to familiarizing yourself with a metal lathe, some questions pop up more often than others. Here’s what you might want to know, to begin with:

What Is a Metal Lathe?

A metal lathe is a lathe specifically designed to machine hard materials, simple metals, or alloys. While mostly used in mechanical manufacturing, a lathe machine can still be designed for domestic use. Just like a wood lathe, it consists of a bed, a headstock, a carriage, and a tailstock.

What Can You Do With a Metal Lathe?

From a simple metal bowl to more complex parts for different mechanisms, perhaps even for an old car, there’s a lot you can do with a metal lathe. Think about turning metals, but also facing metal parts. Drilling and boring can also be easily performed on a metal lathe.

Where Can I Get a Chuck Key For a Metal Lathe?

A chuck key is a machine tool accessory that you can find in any specialty shop or at the largest online retailers. If you have a metal lathe from a manufacturer that ensures reliable customer support, you can contact them and ask for specific indications as to what type of chuck key you can buy for your metal lathe and from where.

How Much Does a Metal Lathe or Mini Metal Lathe Cost?

Metal lathes are known to be more expensive than wood lathes since they need to deliver more power and often come with heavier construction. From around $200-$300 for a mini metal lathe to over $3000 for a full-sized metal lathe designated for domestic use, you’ll find plenty of offers.