Best Mini Lathes of 2020 (Round-up Review)

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DIYers love a good mini lathe because of its versatility, the smaller space it takes up in a workshop, and its portability. If you’re looking to buy one yourself, don’t take out your credit card just yet.

Better take the time to learn the nitty-gritty of choosing the best mini lathes out there!

​Snapshot​! Best ​Mini Lathes

​In a hurry? Here are our top picks​:

Be​st Overall
Runner-up
Best for the Money

Comparison Chart of the ​Best Mini Lathes

Product

Our Rating

​Price

Delta Industrial 46-460

​Best Overall

Rikon 70-100

​Runner-up

Wen 3421

Best Mini Lathe for the Money

Erie Tools Mini Metal Milling Lathe

Best Mini Metal Lathe

Nova 71118 Comet II DR

Best Mini Wood Lathe

Rikon 70-105

Best Mini Lathe for Pen Turning

Top-Tool Mini Lathe Micro Milling Machine

Best Mini Lathe Mill Combo

Grizzly Industrial G0768

Best Grizzly Mini Lathe

Jet JWL-1015

Best Jet Mini Lathe

What Can a Mini Lathe Be Used For? 

A mini lathe can carve different pieces. Operations include, but are not limited to: drilling, grooving, layouts, straight fluting and sanding, etc. Turning can be used to make bowls, platters, cutlery, or pens. But you can also make hollow vessels and drawer pulls, table legs, or chair spindles.

Through it all, the working material can vary from wood to all kinds of metals. Below, you’ll find the three most common applications of a mini lathe:

Turning

Turning down a workpiece’s diameter is one of the most common uses. You keep removing the material from the outer diameter of the workpiece, usually a cylindrical one. And you can do it manually, with a tool bit, or with a power feed if your mini lathe has a power carriage feed.

Facing

This process implies cutting the face (or the end) of the workpiece. You machine the ends and the shoulders of a piece, both flat and perpendicular, on the axis of the lathe. By doing so, you can cut the work to a specific length and make sure you’re getting a smooth, accurate surface.

Threading

A mini lathe comes with lots of mechanisms designed to help you cut threads. Thread cutting is the process that gives you a helical ridge with a uniform section. You’ll have to choose a threading tool bit of the shape you want your thread to have and perform successive cuts with it.

What Makes a Great Mini Lathe? 

With so many models on the market, pay attention to the following features when you choose yours:

Size

Size is given by the swing over bed and distance between centers. The SOB defines the maximum diameter of the material it can work on. It is measured in inches and, if you want to make the best of this tool, look for something close to the maximum value, 12-1/2-inches.

The DBC defines the maximum length of the material a mini lathe can work on. It is also measured in inches, with a maximum around 20 inches. You should make sure that your mini lathe can accommodate a bed extension, for longer spindles.

Solid Construction

A good mini lathe must be stable and generate low vibrations. The material and its weight will have a direct impact on these particularities. For your reference, some of the best models currently on the market are made of cast-iron and weigh between 80 and 100 lbs. You can also find models that go up to almost 200 lbs, but those are exceptions.

Powerful Motor & Variable Speed Control

Mini lathe motors usually vary from ½ to ¾ HP. This power is more than enough for the work they are intended for. Yet the spindle speed range is even more important, showing the RPM that the motor can handle.

Low RPMs are from 50 to 250, whereas high RPMs are from 1.500 to 2.000, sometimes even 4.000. Featuring variable speed control for these RPMs is a comfort-related feature. Newbies appreciate it, but the more experienced operators don’t really need it.

Quick Take: Best ​Mini Lathes

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

  1. ​Best Overall: Delta Industrial 46-460
  2. ​Runner-up: Rikon 70-100
  3. Best for the Money: Wen 3421 

Review of the Best Mini Lathes 

We’ve taken a look at some of the best mini lathes out there, taking into account all the details that make a difference. From brand reputation to price tags, we’ve pondered all the aspects. And here’s what we’ve found:

​Best Overall:
​Delta Industrial 46-460

PROS

  • Boasts a powerful engine
  • Works with variable speeds
  • Comes with a 5-year warranty
  • Generous swing over bed size
  • Allows a significant bed extension

CONS

  • No digital speed reader
  • Reverse/forward function set backward in some units

Our Review

The Delta Industrial 46-460 mini lathe measures 36 x 11 x 17.75 inches and weighs 97 lbs. It relies on a strong 2HP motor. And it works at 250 - 1.725 RPM, with a three-pulley system for variable speed. The 12-1/2-inch SOD and 16.5-inch DBC are giving it an outstanding size. What’s more, it comes with 6-inch and 10-inch tool rests, plus a 3-inch face plate.

Through it all, it makes an excellent choice for handling large materials and cutting with variable speeds. Consistency and precision are also easily achievable, with useful forward and reverse functions for creating smooth finishes.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

For starters, it comes with a surprising swing over bed size, well above the standard 9.25 inches for this class of tools. The bed can be extended up to 42 inches. So, you’re getting the option of working with long pieces of material. Plus, this unit features Delta’s patented belt-tensioning system. Thanks to it, you’ll change speeds quickly and adjust the tension correctly.

​Runner-up:
​Rikon 70-100

PROS

  • Features self-ejecting tailstock
  • Allows working on large pieces
  • Includes lots of user-friendly features
  • Works with many different extensions
  • Designed with an easy-access speed change

CONS

  • Only a 2-year warranty
  • Some shipping damage complaints

Our Review

Half an inch and half horsepower behind the best overall, the Rikon 70-100 makes the second-best mini lathe choice. Powered by a 1/2HP motor, it features a 12-inch SOD and 16-inch DBC. Changing speeds is easy with its smart-positioned controller, letting you choose from 430/810/1.230/1.810/2.670/3.900. It is sized at 33.75 x 18 x 11.5 inches and weighs 88.5 lbs.

The tool has a self-ejecting tailstock. It features a laser-engraved ram that can travel 1-1/2 inches. And it comes with an indexing head with 12 positions. For your convenience, the handle has a flip-up design. And the accessories can sit on a face plate washer made of nylon, so they won’t stick to the spindle.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

This mini lathe is sized at the upper-tier and allows you to work on a wide range of projects. It is versatile and supports multiple extensions. And you can pair it with various tool rests and face plates. If you need even more flexibility, you can attach it to a stand and adjust it to your ideal work height.

​Best for the Money:
​Wen 3421

PROS

  • Great for small woodworks
  • Facilitates simple operation
  • Powerful motor for this size
  • Excellent value for the money
  • Easy to use by beginners, too

CONS

  • Requires some maintenance
  • Not suitable for heavy-duty works

Our Review

This wood mini lathe from WEN works with a 3.2-Amp motor and features an 8-inch SOD and 12-inch DBC. It measures 28 x 13.3 x 7.6 inches at nearly 45 lbs. And it features a minimalist design for lots of simple small workpieces. The cast-iron frame makes it sturdy, while the 2.3-inch face plate will always come in handy.

Compared to other 8-inch wood mini lathes, this one has a more powerful motor (50% extra power). And it lets you adjust the soft start speed from 750 all the way to 3.200 RPM. Apart from the face plate, it also has an MT1 spindle, two tool rests you can swap, and a tailstock taper.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

The WEN 3421 mini lathe isn’t just giving you the best value for your money. It is also a great option for beginners. And it surprises its buyers with the unexpected ease of use and truly reliable customer support. Especially if you’re planning on working with wood, it makes a top choice wood mini lathe, with a hard to beat price.

​Best Mini Metal Lathe:
Erie Tools Mini Metal Milling Lathe

PROS

  • Cuts metal with good precision
  • Engine built with bi-directional rotation
  • Sturdy and heavy design with enhanced stability
  • Comes with five-piece cutter kit, carbide-tipped
  • Features variable speeds ​with an included digital readout

CONS

  • Only a 1-year warranty
  • Most of its gears are plastic-made

Our Review

If you’re particularly looking for a mini metal lathe, this 36 x 17.3 x 14.6 inches, 104.2 lbs from Erie Tools will catch your eye. It is powered by a single-phase 400W motor with variable speed, at 0.53 HP. And it has a 7-inch SOB and a 14-inch DBC that shrinks down to 8 inches, as needed. Robust and stable, it does a great job for its size, and it comes with an attractive package.

Unboxing it, you’ll find not just the mini metal lathe, but also an MT2 dead center tailstock taper, and an MT3 spindle taper. You’ll be getting a full set of plastic change gears and, perhaps the most attractive accessory, a 5-piece cutter kit, carbide-tipped. All these, along with the digital readout for RPM adjustments, will give you a pleasant working experience.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

The Mini Metal Milling Lathe comes with a variable speed motor that can rotate in two directions. Thanks to this feature that you don’t get with many mini lathes out there, it can also work with left-handed threads. Adding the effective carbide tip cutters, you’re looking at a great quality, versatile tool that is well worth the investment.

​Best Mini Wood Lathe:
Nova 71118 Comet II DR

PROS

  • Powerful motor for heavy-duty works
  • Designed for easy adjustment of speeds
  • Works well with metal, wood, and plastics
  • Great size-to-weight ratio & quality materials
  • Facilitates great finesse with forward & reverse switch

CONS

  • Quill has limited travel
  • Somewhat soft tool rest

Our Review

When looking for a mini wood lathe, Nova’s Comet II DR simply can’t go unnoticed. It looks well, nicely sized at 8.9 x 17.8 x 32.9 inches and 82 lbs. It works well, with its maximum work capacity of 12-inch SOB and 16.5-inch DBC. And it delivers well, with a 3/4 HP single phase motor with variable speed ranging from 250 to a whopping 4.000 RPM.

The bed can be extended up to 62 inches with an additional accessory. And you can always rely on the 3-step pulley system and digital readout. Whether you want to work on pens or bowls and spindles, it’s always intuitive. The wide variable speed range and the forward/reverse switch will make it all super-easy.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

Comet II, just like its name suggests, is an upgraded version. The digital display and the dial-in speed control it received will provide the operator with extended control. Plus, it will facilitate maximum convenience. What’s more, this mini lathe is versatile and portable. And so, it makes a great choice either for workshop projects or for those who travel and use it on the go.

​Best Mini Lathe for Pen Turning:
Rikon 70-105

PROS

  • Ample swing over bed distance
  • Specifically designed for pen turning
  • Good power motor for turning works
  • Sturdy and compact, made of cast iron for low vibrations
  • Practical, 5-speed range for the different stages of pen turning

CONS

  • No electronic speed control
  • Customer support could be better

Our Review

One of Rikon’s best mini lathes, the 70-105 model is particularly suitable for turning works. It is sized at 35.5 x 10.5 x 14.75 inches and weighs 74 lbs. And thanks to the cast-iron bed, tailstock, and headstock, it works smoothly, with minimal vibrations. Its swing over bed distance of 10 inches, coupled with the 18 inches between centers, make it a reliable choice.

The 1/2 HP motor works with 5 different speeds, each one ideal for a particular task. Boring barrel holes, crafting pen billet, turning pens, and finishing the work can all be done easily. And while you won’t be able to change speeds automatically, you’re paying a lot less for an otherwise effective mini lathe.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

First, this mini lathe for pen turning comes with a 5-year warranty. Then, it also provides great value for the money. And it makes an easy to use tool that even beginners will get a grasp on. It’s a scaled-down mini lathe with basic features designed for superior turning and finishing performances.

​Best Mini Lathe Mill Combo Top-Tool Mini Lathe:
Micro Milling Machine

PROS

  • Budget-friendly tool
  • Option to extend motor power
  • Versatile tool with a milling cutter
  • Handles a wide range of materials
  • Features hand wheel for extra precision

CONS

  • No variable speed
  • Somewhat small for certain DIY projects

Our Review

This combo tool, mini lathe and mill cutter, from Top-Tool can make an interesting choice with various DIY or teaching uses. Its 60W motor with adapter can reach up to 12.000 RPMs. So, it’s a two-edge milling cutter slightly dangerous, especially for the less experienced users.

From plastic and acrylic to soft metals, there’s a lot of working material it can handle. Just pay attention to its 2-inch size for the working material. That’s the maximum that the vice of this machine can clamp. After all, it is a micro milling machine, the manufacturer clearly states its limitations.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

This combination of mini lathe and milling tool features a 60W motor that can reach 144W. For safety reasons, it comes limited to the 60W power, and it can be used to its full potential if you purchase a special adapter. The option to get loads of extra power from the same tool is appealing to anyone who can handle it!

​Best Grizzly Mini Lathe:
Grizzly Industrial G0768

PROS

  • Excellent customer support
  • Well sized to fit large working materials
  • Designed to cut both right- and left-handed threads
  • Generous package with loads of accessories in the box
  • Comes with many interesting features for easy & secure operation

CONS

  • A bit on the pricey side
  • Somewhat heavy compared to other models

Our Review

With an impressive weight of 186 lbs and measuring 36.25 x 19 x 17.75 inches, the G0768 mini lathe is worth of the Grizzly Industrial name. It comes with a 600W, 4/3 HP motor with variable speed control for low operation (50-1000 RPM) or high operation (100-2000 RPM). While its swing over bed is sized to 8-1/4-inches, and the distance between centers is 15-3/4-inches.

Built this way, you can easily use it for all kinds of works, with RH & LH threads included. It works forward or reverse in any of the available speeds. It boasts electronic spindle control for variable speed with digital readout. And it has a practical emergency stop button.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

While a bit pricier, this one does bring a lot to the table. You’re getting 4-inch scroll chucks, the 3-jaw type with two sets of jaws, and 4-inch independent chucks, the 4-jaw type with reversible jaws. It also has a 4-way turret tool post, follow and steady rests, 6-3/4-inch faceplate, MT2 and MT3 dead centers, plus a tool box with service tools!

​Best Jet Mini Lathe:
Jet JWL-1015

PROS

  • Good size for larger works
  • Simple and intuitive to use
  • Convenient 5-year warranty
  • Affordable and user friendly
  • Decent motor power for its size

CONS

  • Designed with some plastic parts
  • Requires shut off for speed adjustments

Our Review

If you enjoy Jet’s power tools, this woodworking mini lathe is something you will want to look into! It weighs a little under 80 lbs and measures 35 x 18.1 x 14.56 inches, with a 1/2 HP single-phase motor. The swing over bed size is set to a maximum of 10 inches, and the distance between centers is set to 15.5 inches.

You will probably notice it is a bit more expansive compared with products in the same range from other manufacturers. But it does stand out as a user-friendly tool, ideal for beginners and not only. And most buyers will agree that it provides great value for the money.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

The JWL-1015 mini lathe from Jet is advertised as a woodworking lathe, though it can also handle brass. The already generous distance between centers can be upgraded with a bed extension accessory. And even though it isn’t particularly heavy, it was designed with a wider bed that makes it more rigid and stable.

Types of Mini Lathes 

The main differences between different types of mini lathes come from the cutting power and the rotation speed. You’ll find various categories of mini lathes, each one designed to better cut a particular material, in a certain way:

​Mini Wood Lathe

A mini wood lathe is usually lighter than those for metals, and it requires manual operation and monitoring. Some models can polish or shape soft metals, but won’t cut hard metals. They have a simpler functionality and more flexibility in designing the workpieces.

Mini Metal Lathe

A mini metal lathe has a heavier, more complex structure. It includes more electronic components in its structure. And it can cut and shape both hard metal and wooden objects. Aluminum, iron, or steel can be easily manipulated and deformed with a mini metal lathe.

Mini CNC Lathe

A mini CNC lathe is computer-controlled. It requires designing the final part and programming the tool paths. Once set and trialed, it will produce metal parts with excellent precision, in large batches, working 24/7 with minimal supervision.

Mini vs Midi Lathe 

If a mini lathe is a smaller lathe, the midi sits at the intersection of these two. With a midi lathe, you can enjoy the power and the performances that you typically find in full-size machines. Yet you will still enjoy the convenience of a mini lathe design.

​Pros and Cons of ​Mini Lathes

​​As versatile and reliable mini lathes can be, they won’t necessarily spare you from certain shortcomings. It all comes down to your expectations and how you can deal with what you’re getting for what you’re paying.

​​​Mini Lathe Pros

  • ​Takes Up Less Space
    Unless you really need the heavy-duty full-size lathe, you will appreciate how little space a mini lathe will take up in your workshop. Just like its name suggests, a mini model is downsized to a minimum, with as little compromise on effectiveness as possible.
  • ​Excellent For Small Projects
    Knowing the maximum SOB and DBC of a mini lathe, you can make yourself an idea of what kind of works you can carve on it. Small projects will work smoothly on a mini. And if you anticipate you won’t need to use a bed extension too often, you have all the reasons to go for it.
  • ​Provides Good Power
    A 1/2HP motor is more than enough for small turning projects. But you might also find a couple of models with a slightly more powerful motor. Through it all, a mini lathe gives you enough power for a decent range of applications.

​Mini Lathe Cons

  • ​Requires A Work Bench
    The optimal position for correct operation requires having its center with approximately 2 inches above your elbow height. Placing it on a dedicated workbench at a suitable height for you is a hassle you just can’t avoid.
  • ​Changing Belts Speed Control
    The simplest mini lathes have a changing belt system for speed control. Those with variable speed controls are on the pricey end. And since for many people the price does matter, if you have to choose while on a budget, you might have to settle for one without a variable speed controller.

​How to Use a Mini Lathe 

Assuming it’s your first experience using a mini lathe, it might be helpful to practice on a piece of Delrin. You can start with a simple carbide tool, followed by a file, a spot drill, and any other accessory you have at hand.

So, here’s what you should do, assuming you’re properly equipped and sitting at your benchwork:

  • Attach the Delrin piece to the chuck and secure it in place;
  • Use the rolling center to fix the carbide;
  • Adjust the speed control knob a little bit;
  • And bring the carbide as close to the moving Delrin as possible;
  • Start facing the workpiece moving the toolpost;
  • Repeat the process, this time with the toolpost locked;
  • After facing the Delrin workpiece with the carbide, remove it and bring in a file;
  • You’ll use the file to take off the arris of your faced Delrin, meaning to take off its sharp edge;
  • You’ll place the file on the edge of the workpiece and manually push it down against the workpiece multiple times, until all edges are nicely rounded;
  • Next, you can use a 900 spot drill with a mill attachment, to drill a hole inside the Delrin;
  • Then, remove the drill end, put in a regular drill chuck with a stubby drill, and feed it in for up to 1/2-inch.

And you can continue shaping your workpiece with as many accessories as you need. Take a look at the following video for a visual demonstration of the steps outlined above.

Mini Lathe Tips, Tricks, and Hacks for Success

While a mini lathe is supposed to offer you a pleasant experience, you’ll be more than happy to know that there are some shortcuts. Here’s what you should mainly consider if you’re just starting out:

Tailstock Positioning & Force

When adjusting the position of the tailstock, never push its edge all the way to the end of the bed. If you do so, the clamping surface will be significantly reduced. And there will be a higher risk of not securing the workpiece properly.

Operation Speed

If you have the workpiece mounted, you must always turn on the mini lathe at the lowest speed. Once it starts spinning, you can gradually adjust the speed to the desired value. It’s pretty much the same as with changing gears while driving your car.

Turning Tools

For this type of operation, it is important that you rely on quality, high-speed steel turning tools. You’ll notice how those are more expensive, but rest assured that it will serve you much better than the regular carbon steel turning tools.

Stock Selection

When working with wood, note that the green wood is the easiest to cut, but it will also check and crack. For these reasons, it is best if you work your hand on dry wood, so you don’t have to worry that it will dry or distort.

Motor Brushes Maintenance

To avoid premature wear and tear, periodically inspect its two carbon brushes sitting on the sides of the motor. If one of them is deteriorated and requires replacement, make sure you replace them both, so they will have the same efficiency.

Conclusion

​A mini lathe can make a great choice for anyone looking for a well-designed machine to fit in a relatively small workspace. Delta, Rikon, Wen, and Jet are only a few of the reputable manufacturers you can consider. Knowing if you need a wood or metal mini lathe, along with all the information provided in this guide, will help you invest your money wisely.

People Also Ask

Before you move on to ordering your mini lathe, perhaps you’d like to take into account the following questions on the topic.

How Much Does A Mini Lathe Cost?

Prices can vary a lot. Brand reputation, available features, and design particularities add up to the final cost. So, a tool for beginners, with minimum features, could be around $200. Moving up the ladder, heavy-duty tools can easily reach the $1,500 price tag.

How To Remove Chuck From Mini Lathe

The chuck is secured with three nuts that hold it onto the spindle. You’ll see those nuts behind the flange. First, loosen the nuts with a spanner. Then, with a set of small fingers, you can completely undo the nuts off the chucks. Finally, you can remove the chuck.

How To Lubricate Mini Lathe

A mini lathe has lots of points and parts that require lubrication daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. Some parts require oil lubrication, whereas others require grease lubrication. For details on how often, with what kind of lubricant, and exactly how, you must always check the user manual.

How Much HP Do I Need For A Mini Lathe?

Most mini lathes feature a 1/2HP motor, more than enough for the average user. Occasionally, you might find one with a 3/4HP motor, and you will appreciate the extra power. The best overall selection in this guide, for instance, has a 1HP motor, which is quite impressive for a mini lathe.

Can Wood Be Turned On A Mini Metal Lathe?

Built to handle a wide range of metals, from the more malleable aluminum to the sturdy steel, a mini metal lathe will have no problem in turning wood. Just make sure you’re using the right turning tools and protection equipment!

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