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How to Find the Best Metal Lathe for Your Project
A metal lathe is one of the most commonly used tools in manufacturing. A metal lathe machine works by rotating a workpiece on a fast spinning spindle so that it can be shaped with a cutting tool. It can be used to create anything from candlestick holders and bowls to tools and smaller items such as screws and bolts. There are lots of different lathes available to buy, so today we are going to talk about how to find the best metal lathe for your project.
A metal lathe is a great item to have in your workshop, and there are a lot of fun projects you can do with one, even as a beginner, but before you go ahead and buy a metal lathe there are a few things to think about.
In this article, we are going to talk about the difference between a wood lathe and a metal lathe, as well as the things you will need to consider when you are choosing a metal lathe.
We will review six of the best metal lathes available so you can see the pros and cons of each one for yourself and make an informed decision based on your needs. We will also share some safety tips for when you are getting started and getting used to using your new lathe.
Wood Lathe vs Metal Lathe- What’s the Difference?
While a wood lathe works in the same way as a metal lathe, metal lathes are typically much more powerful, as well as sturdier and heavier, due to the fact that the machine needs to have more strength to cut through metal than wood. Metal lathes also run slower than wood lathes. Wood lathes typically have a maximum RPM of 3400, whereas a metal lathes maximum speed is usually around 2500 RPM.
With a metal lathe, the tools are mounted to the machine to ensure very precise cuts and threads. A wood lathe, on the other hand, is a much more simple machine that is generally used to create decorative features rather than structural components, with the tools usually being handheld by the operator.
Things to Consider When Buying a Metal Lathe
There are a couple of things for you to think about when you are choosing your first metal lathe because you want to be sure that you are buying the right one for the projects you plan to work on.
How Big is Your Workshop?
This one might seem kind of obvious, but workshops can get crowded with other machinery and tools, so you will need to consider how much space you have available. Lathes are generally quite large machines so you should think about where you will put it, and whether there is a power source nearby for you to use.
You will also need a strong and sturdy workbench for your lathe to rest on, so before you make a purchase it’s a good idea to make sure you have this in place.
How Big is Your Project?
Metal lathes come in different sizes, so you should have a think about what sort of projects you will be working on to determine what size you will need. The main size specifications for lathes are Swing over distance and distance between centers.
The swing over distance is the maximum diameter (or width) of the workpiece you will be using, and the distance between centers is the maximum length of the workpiece that the lathe can accommodate.
If you know that you will be making very long items such as table legs, then you may need to look at buying a larger lathe. Make sure you check these measurements when you are shopping around.
What is Your Budget
How much do you want to spend on a metal lathe? The price can vary quite a lot depending on the size you need, as well as the brand. You should work out your maximum budget before you start shopping, as this will narrow down your options and help you to find one within your ideal price range.
The Best Metal Lathes Reviewed
Now that you have decided where you are going to keep your new laithe, and how big it needs to be, you can start shopping! To help you decide we have reviewed some of the best metal lathes around. We are going to look at the features of each one, as well as the pros and cons, and reviews from other customers, so you can see which one is best for you and your project.
BestEquip Mini Metal Lathe
- Variable Speed Gear: Plastic Nylon
- Distance Between Centers: 14″ (350mm)
- Swing Over Bed: 7″ (180mm)
- Chuck Diameter: 3.93″ (100mm)?Spindle Bore: 0.8″ (21mm)
- Cross Slide Travel: 2.56″ (65mm)?Top Slide Travel: 1.38″ (35mm)
- Range of Metric Threads: 0.5-2.5″
- Accuracy: 0.0004″ (0.01mm)
- Speed: 100-2500 RPM Infinitely Variable
- Power: 0.75HP/550W/110v
- Weight: 50kg
BestEquip Mini Metal Lathe Review
The BestEquip Mini Metal Lathe is perfect for working on smaller projects such as making parts, models, spindles, and samples. It is suitable for use in a workshop setting, as well as labs, engineer and educational settings, and it is ideally suited to hobbyists and modelers who need to make small precisely engineered pieces to finish a construction project. The lathe has 18 threads along with an automatic feed, and there is also a chuck guard with a micro switch.
This mini metal lathe is perfect for beginners as well as more advanced users since it’s very easy to operate and use. The machine switches on and off with large color-coded (red and green) buttons, and there is also a large red emergency stop button, so in an emergency, you can quickly hit the red button and everything will shut down.
The gears are made of strong nylon, and so are extremely durable and long-lasting. There is also a four-way rotating turret. This machine is highly accurate, with a spindle accuracy of 0.0004”. It has a 7” swing over bed, and the distance between centers is 14”, so although this is a mini lathe, you can still make some good-sized projects.
- Small size which saves a lot of space in the workshop
- Highly precise
- Comes with all the tools and spares you need to get started
- Well made
- Quick and easy to assemble
- Very good for beginners
- Very good value
Needs lots of tuning and cleaning before you can start using it
Customer Reviews of the BestEquip Mini Metal Lathe
We’ve been checking out the reviews from other customers to see what they are saying about the BestEquip mini metal lathe…
- Outstanding customer service, nice machine
- Needs a lot of adjustment before you can start using it
- Good value for the money
- Good for beginners and intermediate users who don’t want to spend too much
- Needs tuning and cleaning before use
Overall the reviews for the BestEquip mini lathe are very good, and it’s clear people think it’s a great value product. There were a few reviews saying how it was annoying that you have to clean and tune the machine before the first use, but at this price who can complain?
WEN 3455 Variable Speed 7 by 12” 2 x Speed Metal Lathe
- Variable Speed Gear:
- Distance Between Centers: 12”
- Swing Over Bed: 7″
- Spindle Bore: 0.79″ (20mm)
- 5/16” capacity tool post will take up to 4 tools at one time
- Cross Slide Travel: 2.56″ (65mm)?Top Slide Travel: 1.38″ (35mm)
- Speed: 100-2500 RPM
- Weight: 81.6kg
WEN 3455 Metal Lathe Review
The WEN 3455 is a mid-range mini lathe from the well-known brand ‘WEN’. Although this is not the most sophisticated lathe, it still offers good value for money, and so is ideal for a beginner, or for use in a home workshop.
Variable speed allows you to easily change speeds to anything between 100 and 2500 RPM in either direction. With a swing of 7” and a distance of 12” between centers, this machine allows you to work on pieces of up to 84 cubic inches in size. There is also an onboard thread indicator, allowing you to turn screw threads of anywhere from 15 to 52 TPI.
The chuck has three jaws, so it can hold workpieces tightly and securely as you are working on them, and there is an optional auto feed as well. Up to four cutting tools can be used at once, so it’s very easy to work with on either larger or small projects.
- Compact design
- Variable speed from 100-2500 RPM
- Adjustable auto feed
- Thread indicator to help turn screw threads
- 2-year warranty
- Good for beginners and hobbyists
There have been complaints that some machines are arriving with missing parts
Customer Reviews of the WEN 3455 Mini Lathe
Here’s what other customers are saying about the WEN 3455 Mini lathe…
- Arrived with missing parts, but were replaced quickly by the manufacturer
- Poor customer support
- Cheaply made
- Good for a hobbyist creates precise pieces
- Very precise machine
- Breaks easily
The reviews of the WEN 3455 are very mixed. For every good review, there is another bad one. While some say that this lathe is unreliable, its is clear to see that it is very good value, providing you can sort out any problems with missing parts, which seems to be the main issue.
Grizzly G8688 Mini Metal Lathe
- 16 TPI reversible lead screw
- Threading dial indicator
- Swing over bed 7”
- Distance between centers of 12”
- Bore size of included check 16mm
- Spindle bore 20mm
- Tailstock travel 2-½ inches
- Cross slide travel 2-¾ inches
- Speed range – 0 to 2500 RPM
- Range of threads: 12-52 TPI
- Motor: 3/4HP, 110V
- Net Weight: 74lbs
Grizzly G8688 Mini Metal Lathe Review
The Grizzly G8688 mini metal lathe is one of the best mini-lathes around, although it’s along the higher end of the price range for mini metal lathes, for the money you will get a high-quality machine that is perfect for beginners and semi-professionals alike. Grizzly is known for their high-quality lathes, so you can be sure you will get years of use due to the quality of the machine and parts.
Due to its small size, this lathe is perfect for use in the home or in a workshop, as it is portable and easy to move around if you need to.
The gears are made of tough durable plastic, which at first may sound like a negative, but it’s actually a great thing. The plastic gears mean that if you make a mistake the gears will break, instead of a more expensive part of the machine. Replacement gears are not expensive, and they are easy to replace and don’t worry- they are very strong, so definitely shouldn’t break with normal use.
- Small and easy to move around
- Large speed range of 0-2500 RPM
- High-quality components
- Very durable
- Good for both beginners and semi-professionals
- Tough plastic gears
- Can be tricky for beginners to learn to use
- More expensive than similar mini lathes
Customer Reviews of the Grizzly G8688 Mini Metal Lathe
We’ve been looking at the reviews to see what other customers have to say about the Grizzly G8688…
- Great product
- Great for beginners as well as more experienced users
- Takes some getting used to
- Poor packaging
- Good customer support from Grizzly
- Great lathe for home hobbyists
Overall the reviews for the Grizzly G8688 mini metal lathe are really good. There are a few negative reviews saying that the packaging that the machine was delivered in was inadequate, but also plenty of reviews saying that the customer service is excellent, so if you do have a problem you can rest assured that it will be handled quickly.
Other Grizzly Metal Lathes to Consider:
BestEquip Maintenance Free Metal Lathe
- Brushless Motor
- 750watt Motor, 1 HP
- Adjustable spindle speed from 50 to 2500 RPM
- Distance between centers 15 ¾ inches
- Swing over bed 8 ¼ inches
- Travel: Compound rest: 2-1/8″ (54 mm), cross slide 3″ (76 mm)
- Inch threads 8-44 TPI
- Spindle Accuracy: 0.0004-0.0012″
- 4-way turret tool post
- 4” 3 jaws and 4 jaw chucks
- Gross Weight 128lbs
BestEquip Maintenance Free Metal Lathe Review
Another contender from BestEquip, only this one is bigger and better! The BestEquip maintenance-free metal lathe has a brushless motor. Brushless technology generates less heat, which means it will have a longer lifespan, be more energy-efficient, and need almost no maintenance, which is one of the main selling points here.
While this is still considered a ‘mini’ lathe, the size is larger than most other mini lathes at 8 ¼ x 15 ¾ inches, so it can handle larger workpieces than its competitors. It is also highly accurate, and the speed can be changed very precisely to any amount between 0 and 2500 RPM
A powerful 750-watt motor drives the spindle, which is more powerful than similar models which generally come in at around 500 watts. This extra power means you can be sure that whatever you are working on will be crafted in the best way possible.
This machine has been designed with precision in mind making it the perfect choice for anyone who wants to work on precision tasks such as mini model making, small detailed pieces, and fabricating mini parts.
- No maintenance required
- Larger capacity than other mini lathes
- High-quality machinery
- Brushless motor
- Accurate speed changes from 0 to 2500 RPM
- More expensive than other mini lathes
- Needs some adjustments and checking before the first use
Customer Reviews of the BestEquip Maintenance Free Metal Lathe
We’ve been looking through reviews from other customers to see what they are saying about the BestEquip maintenance-free metal lathe…
- Outstanding customer service, nice machine
- Well crafted
- Needs a lot of checking and adjusting before it is usable
- Quick to assemble
- Lots of power
- Easy to use
Overall this lathe has great feedback from customers on Amazon, with the only bad reviews being about having to make adjustments before the first use, which seems to be a common issue with metal lathes.
Erie Tools 7 x 14 Precision Benchtop Mini Metal Milling Lathe
- Motor: 400 Watts, 0.53HP
- Spindle Accuracy: 0.0004 inches
- Thread Range: 12 to 52 TPI
- Distance Between Centers: 14 inches. / 8 inches. (350 mm / 200 mm)
- Swing Over Bed: 7 inches
- Chuck Diameter: 4 inches
- Spindle Bore: 0.79 inches
- Cross Slide Travel: 2.56 inches
- Top Slide Travel: 1.38 inches
- Longitudinal Feed Rate: 0.0039 in. to 0.00787 inches
- Weight 104.2lbs
Erie Tools 7 x 14 Precision Benchtop Metal Lathe Review
The Erie Tools precision benchtop mini metal lathe is one of the most accurate machines around, with a spindle accuracy of 0.0004 inches. The size is fairly average for a mini metal lathe, with a swing over bed of 7 inches and distance between centers of 14 inches.
It has a ¾ HP motor, and a variable speed of 0 to 2500 RPM in either direction, allowing you to create both right-handed and left-handed threads, and the thread sizes are adjustable from 12 to 52 TPI. The medium-sized motor means that this machine is suitable for both hobbyists and professionals who don’t need a larger machine, as it offers a high-quality machine for a reasonable price.
This tool has a 5/16 inch capacity tool post which allows you to add up to four cutting tools at a time, so switching between tools when you need to is easy. The gears on this machine are plastic, which means that they can break under pressure (if you make a mistake) but this is usually to save something else on the machine breaking, so you can see it as a good thing.
The machine comes with a complete set of replacement gears, a 5 piece carbide-tipped cutter kit, as well as an MT3 Spindle taper and an MT2 Dead Center Tailstock Taper, so it has everything you need to get started on your first project.
- Highly accurate
- Great for beginners and hobbyists
- Solid performance
- Compact enough to fit in a garage or home workshop
- Reverse switch
- High threading range
- Some customers have complained about poor packaging
- Occasional missing parts upon delivery
- The users manual is difficult to read
Customer Reviews of the Erie Tools Precision Benchtop Metal Lathe
Here’s what other customers are saying about the Erie Tools Precision Benchtop Metal Lathe…
- Good quality for the price
- Great customer service
- Suitable for beginners
- The owners manual is difficult to understand
- Powerful motor and relatively quiet gearing
This lathe has mixed reviews, with quite a few complaints about missing and broken parts upon delivery. People also said that the owners manual was difficult to understand, but overall the reviews were good, saying the machine is good quality at a great price, and the customer service is good.
Mophorn Precision Mini Metal Lathe
- Variable Speed: 50 to 2500 RPM
- Motor: 0.75 HP /550W / 110V
- Spindle accuracy: 0.0004″(0.01mm)
- Swing Over Bed: 7″
- Distance between centers: 14″ (350mm)
- Chuck diameter: 3.93″ (100mm)
- 12-52 TPI Thread Range
- Top slide travel: 1.38″ (35mm)
- Cross slide travel: 2.56″ (65mm)
- Emergency Stop Switch
- Power-On Indicator Lamp
- Net weight: 83.78LBS
Mophorn Precision Mini Metal Lathe Review
The Mophorn precision mini metal lathe is a great budget-friendly option for anyone who is looking to get started with their first metal lathe. It has all the basic features of a good benchtop metal lathe and everything you need to get started with your first projects.
With variable speeds from 50 to 2500 RPM and a TPI range of 12-52, this machine allows you to precisely turn, drill and create threads in your workpieces. The size is very average for a mini metal lathe, with a swing over bed of 7” and a distance between centers of 14”, so it will be able to take good-sized workpieces.
This is a well-constructed machine and it performs very reliably. It comes with a double-headed wrench, oil can, nylon gears, chuck, hexagon bar wrench, check wrench, protective mask, and 4 shockproof foot cushions, so the only thing you will need to buy is the tools you want to use.
- Well constructed
- Good value
- Easy to read digital display
- Good for beginners
- Good speed range
- Easy to assemble
- Easy to use
- Shipped from China so it can take longer to get replacement parts in you to need them
- Doesn’t come with any tools
Customer Reviews of the Mophorn Precision Mini Metal Lathe
Let’s see what customers are saying about the Mophorn precision mini metal lathe…
- Arrived damaged due to poor packaging
- Good value for the money
- Needs a lot of tuning and cleaning before first use
- Mophorn provide very good customer service in the case of any problems
- Highly accurate
Overall the reviews for this product are pretty good. There were just a couple of reviews about the product arriving damaged, but no poor reviews about the quality of the product itself.
All of these lathes are suitable for beginners in a home workshop, and some are slightly more advanced than others and suitable for semi-pros who need a metal lathe but don’t need industrial-scale equipment.
These are all small enough for use in a home workshop, school, or lab, and will enable you to precisely engineer small parts and models for your projects. We have chosen a few different winners from these lathes to help you decide which one is best for you based on your needs.
Overall Winner for Best Metal Lathe
We have chosen the BestEquip Maintenance-Free Metal Lathe as our overall winner for the best metal lathe. This lathe is slightly larger than most mini metal lathes, so while it is still small enough to fit into a home workshop, it can allow you to work on larger pieces which can give you a lot more versatility. It is the most expensive option from our choice of metal lathes, but we feel it’s definitely worth paying a little more for if you can afford it.
It has a brushless motor, which means it will have a longer life, and it will also require very little maintenance over the years you own it. It’s well crafted, quick to assemble and easy to use, so if you have money to spend then this metal lathe is definitely worth shelling out for.
Runner up for Best Metal Lathe
For the runner up for best metal lathe, we have chosen the Erie Tools Precision Benchtop Mini Metal Lathe. We chose this lathe for the runner up because not only is the machine excellent quality, but it is also one of the most accurate machines around for its size. It’s not the cheapest of the mini-lathes by any means, but it’s worth spending a little more to know that the machine you are buying will be reliable and easy to use.
It has lots of great features such as a reverse switch, so it can turn threads and screws in either direction, and there is also a high threading range. This lathe is easy to use and is well suited to beginners and hobbyists, as well as professionals who don’t need an industrial machine.
Best Metal Lathe For Those on a Budget
If you are on a tight budget but still want a great quality metal lathe, then the BestEquip Mini Metal Lathe 7” x 14” is definitely the one for you. This mini lathe offers an excellent product for a shockingly low price. It has almost all of the same features at the more expensive lathes and still offers high accuracy and variable speeds.
The BestEquip Mini metal lathe comes with all the tools you need to get started, and it is easy to use, so it’s perfect for beginners. This model does need a bit of tuning and cleaning when you get it out of the box, but this is quite normal for a new piece of machinery like this, and it will help you get to know the machine before you get started with your projects.
Safety Tips for Using Your Metal Lathe
Whenever you are using tools or machinery you should always take safety into consideration, not only for yourself but for anyone else who might walk into your workshop.
A metal lathe is a large motor-powered machine, so if something does go wrong it could be fatal. We have some safety tips to share with you so you can make sure that you are always using your metal lathe safely.
Read the Manual Carefully Before you get started
Any metalworking machine can be dangerous if you don’t know how to use it properly, so the first step for safety is to read the instruction manual carefully so you fully understand how the machine works. M
ake sure you understand each part of the machine, and what it does, and how it is put together so you can easily understand what has happened if something goes wrong. Make sure you do all of this before you turn the machine on for the first time.
Wear Safety Glasses
Before you switch the machine on, make sure you are wearing adequate safety glasses. Since metal is being cut at high speeds, small fragments can fly off and could land in your eyes. We highly recommend the DeWalt Safety Goggles, as they are wide, and completely cover the eye area. They are also anti-fog so you won’t need to worry about your goggles getting misty while you are working.
Remove any Jewellery or Loose Items of Clothing
Jewelry like bracelets and necklaces, and any ribbons or loose clothing have the potential to get caught up in the machine, and this could potentially cause a serious injury or even be fatal. Before you start working with you lathe make sure that you have removed anything that could get caught. If you can’t remove your jewelry, use microporous tape to secure it to you so that it won’t dangle near the machine.
Tie Back Long Hair
As with the previous point, long hair could easily get caught in the machine, which could be disastrous. To prevent this from happening tie long hair back with an elastic band.
Make Sure You Have Easy Access to The Emergency Stop Button
The user manual will tell you where the emergency stop button on the machine is. It will be easy to see as it is usually big and red. Make sure you not which button this is before you start working, and then in an emergency (such as is something has become caught in the machine) you can quickly hit the button and safely stop the machine.
Keep Your Workshop Floor Free From Obstructions and Slip Hazards
Keeping your work area clean should be something you do anyway, regardless of whether you are working with machinery or not, but when you are working with a machine like a lathe this becomes even more important. If you or someone else in your workshop should slip and fall while the lathe machine is on it could cause a serious accident or injury. Make sure your work area is always tidy and that any spills are cleaned up straight away.
Regularly Inspect Your Machine For Signs of Wear and Damage
Some parts of a lathe machine can wear out or become damaged over time, such as the gears and chucks. If a part is damaged and it is used anyway, it has the potential to break completely which could cause damage to the machine or injury to you. This can be avoided by regularly inspecting the machine for signs of wear and damage, and replacing parts when they are worn out.
Turn off the Power Before Mounting or Removing any Accessories
Turning off the power before mounting any accessories can prevent any accidental injuries to your hands. For this reason, you should always ensure the machine is off before you make any adjustments or take any measurements.
Make Sure All Cutting Tools are Clean and Sharp
Making sure that all of your cutting tools are clean and sharp will help prevent any injuries while you are using your metal lathe. Some tools need sharpening before the first use, so make sure you check before you get started.
FAQ’s About Metal Lathe
What is the main difference between a lathe and a mill?
While both mill cutter and lathe are cutting machines, they differ in the way they work. Milling machines spin the material and provide several cutting options, and lathes use the outside and inside cutting tools to spin and cut the material.
What is a CNC?
A CNC machine is a type of lathe that is controlled by computer interface and this type of machine is usually used in bigger industries for the creation of parts, in the metal and glass industry, thermal spraying and more.
What are the different types of lathe machines?
There are four types of lathe machines which are used to shape materials in a safe way and these are the following:
– Speed Lathes (are is used for metal polishing and woodwork etc.)
– Engine Lathes (are used for high and low power operations etc.)
– Tool Room Lathes (are used for drilling, producing screw threads, etc.)
– Turret Lathes (are used for repetitive production of duplicate parts, etc.)