If you’re here just to find the best mini lathe and can’t afford to take the time to read the reviews and buying advice prepared by our researchers, this concise paragraph should highlight all the vital info. We have gathered more than enough information about these products by looking into data provided by expert review sites and by doing product evaluation subjectively through an analysis of the owner feedback garnered by hundreds of choices. Out of the alternatives that we have looked into, the Nova 46300 Comet II is both innovative and versatile, as it allows you to save some space in your workshop, yet it is entirely capable of doing what it is designed to do. Given that it’s been equipped with a 3/4 HP motor and comes with a speed range ranging from 250 to 4000 rpm, it’s safe to say that this mini lathe can be a friend in need. The adjustability you’ll get if you go for this option will be something you’ll appreciate as you can set just the right speed and expand the swing and bed capacity per your project. If the Nova 46300 Comet II is no longer available, we suggest considering the Rikon 70-100.
Despite having a lot of potential, the mini-lathe also comes with shortcomings that you should be aware of. This means you should pay attention to the unit’s entire value in terms of functionality before deciding to purchase one. To ensure a good buy that won’t present plenty of limiting factors on how to use the machine, we recommend looking into the following aspects.
During the late 19th and early 20th century, mini lathes were primarily made for wood working tasks. They were driven by either a round leather ‘rope’, which resembled today’s small V-belt grooves. Other models were driven by flat belts. The flat belt had become the industry standard by 1914. During the 1930s, although V belts had caught up in popularity, flat belts still persisted in use. Delivering smooth, vibration-free running, flat belts are fantastic to have around small-diameter pulleys despite the need for them to be set some distance apart to ensure efficient power transmission.
V belts offer better grip on short centers, far outweighing the shortcomings of vibration round small pulleys at higher speeds, no matter how infrequently they were used. Today’s mini lathes carry V belts, but flat belt models are still around. Even large geared head lathes employ flat belts to cut vibration while transmitting power from the motor to the headstock.
Mini lathe adjustments
The accuracy of your mini-lathe depends on how well you can do proper modifications on its essential components including the cross slide, compound and saddle. Once the mini lathe is tuned optimally, you should not be able to move it too much so everything stays in place during operation. This is really important for gunsmithing projects where you have to make custom parts and work on projects such as threading barrels and blueprinting actions. Those jobs require minimum chatter with as little play as possible.
Adjustments can be made on the gib screws, so any slop or slack is not felt on the dovetail slide, which should be snug and smooth. There should be minimum backlash in the cross slide. To ensure this, you will have to adjust the middle screws plus the two mounting screws, which allows you to also adjust the brass nut.
The compound slide should move smoothly. Do not tighten the gib screws too much. You should tighten the set screws slowly while doing back and forth cranking of the compound till you feel the gib begin to snug up against the dovetail, giving you a good enough sense on the tightness of the screws. This procedure will have to be done periodically since the gib and dovetail do wear down a bit with use.
Without binding, the saddle should easily move along the way as you turn the carriage handwheel but still be tight enough with very little play or slop. Very little movement should be noticeable once everything has been adjusted properly, even when you rock the carriage back and forth. You can’t achieve a smooth, clean cut when there’s too much slack.
Lathe beds and headstock bearings
On mini lathes, the lathe bed profile doesn’t really matter much. You can go for either an American V or an English flat lathe bed. Performance-wise, there is no noticeable difference between the two. As to headstock bearings, the roller-bearing headstock seems to have a clear advantage over the plain-bearing types. Lighter lathes made before 1945 presented marginal bearing capacity along with the rest of the machines. Since then, most units feature a headstock and spindle assembly that can handle any speed or load required by the specific application.
One clear advantage for taper or ball roller bearings in the headstock is how easy it is to replace those components. Wear on both the spindle and bearings can happen in a heavily-used plain-bearing setup, and contributes to expensive repair. On the other hand, ball and roller bearings only require minimal costs along with meticulous mechanical work to have the stock reverted to good-as-new condition.
Feel, finish and fit
The controls on the machine, even after it has been used rather heavily, should consistently feel silky smooth. Any backlash on the feed screws and any perceptible play in the cross and top slides and between the bed and carriage should be treated with suspicion. The headstock spindle should rotate smoothly. Knobs, even if they are plastic, should be substantially made and not fragile, and be able to deliver dead tight winding without falling apart.
An inferior quality cosmetic finish may not seem to matter but if you consider how the manufacturer blatantly overlooks this element, there’s no telling what they could’ve done to the innermost components that lie beyond sight. To check the quality of the machining, try to take the tailstock and cross slide apart. Shoddily finished slides and irregular contact patches are red flags that hinder smooth movement and secure lockdown.
Top rated mini lathes in 2018
There are plenty of mini lathes on the market. Although that should easily overwhelm the first time buyer or any consumer for that matter, the buying guide above should be able to guide you towards a more educated purchase. We highlight the best mini lathes on the market below.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this tool is so popular with buyers, and that’s because it comes with a full set of features that are useful, convenient, and make it a great choice for every woodworker.
Based on the info that we’ve found about it, the Comet is stable when in use, but that’s probably due to its all-metal construction and its solid iron components. The fact that it has been outfitted with four large feet made of soft rubber is another reason for the mini lathe being so stable.
This model has been equipped with a 3/4 HP variable speed direct current motor. You have three ranges you can choose from depending on your requirements.
It is among the most compact mini lathes in this line considering that it has a footprint of about 7” by 30”.
Because it’s been outfitted with four soft rubber feet, it’s extremely stable when in use.
The 3/4 HP motor that the product comes with is an advantage in itself as it allows you to benefit from an excellent performance and choose from the three available speed ranges.
Switching from one-speed range to the other is easy as all you need to do is release the motor lock handle and use the handle to lift the motor upward.
Some owners report that the plastic levers on the tool rest lock, tailstock quill, and tailstock lock appear to be a tad flimsy.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($444.95)
Do more with less thanks to the Rikon 70-100. The device offers increased capacity with its impressive indexing head that lets you handle detail work by enabling you to lock the stock in place both securely and efficiently. This way, you will be able to perform a variety of tasks ranging from drilling to grooving and fluting.
The indexing head lets you lock the spindle in place so as to remove chucks, face plates, and other accessories with ease. The tailstock is self-ejecting, so you won’t have to utilize the knockout bar to detach the center, thus saving time and minimizing frustration.
This smooth-running machine offers plenty of options that facilitate multiple extensions, and the fact that its capacity and performance are undeniable are two other things you should take into account.
This model comes with a 6-step motor and spindle pulleys that can allow you to change the speeds conveniently.
The position and location of the dual purpose indexing lock is a pro in itself as you will be able to use it easily.
The self-ejecting stock enables you to save a bit of time.
You can add a lot of extensions to the primary unit, which is something that many of its competitors might fail to offer.
Although a mini lathe, this is one of the largest devices in this life.
It’s way heavier compared to other models, and some owners say that the tailstock is a bit weak.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($479.99)
This model is designed to be used for any task you throw at it, whether it’s counter facing, turning, making bushings, spindles, models, or prototypes. It has eighteen threads plus variable speed control to facilitate any task in the workshop or a variety of education and engineering settings.
This ETL-listed machine features automatic feed and a chuck guard with a microswitch to save you time and energy. Expect low speeds from 0 to 1100 and high speeds up to 2500, so you can choose the suitable one that fits your needs and the application. There’s a distance of 10 inches between the centers to accommodate various workpieces.
The usability, precision, and effectiveness of this product are all praised by those who have taken the time to provide feedback on the way it helps them with their tasks.
The model has been equipped with an automatic feed, a variable speed control knob, and a chuck guard with micro switch.
Best of all, this choice comes with low and high speeds. The first range from 0 to 1100 RPM, and the second range from 0 to 2500 RPM.
The metal components of this model have people raving about them.
The feed gears are made out of plastic.
It appears that this machine is mostly destined for beginners.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($599.99)
This model appears to have all of the characteristics of a well-made machine that can help you work better and perform your tasks in a timely fashion. It’s compact, portable, easy to use, and versatile, and it works great if what you plan to make are chair legs or small table legs.
The belt can be accessed conveniently via a door. This particular product comes with five speed ranges you can choose from depending on your application. These are 760, 1100, 1600, 2200, and 3200 RPM. Select the one that works best for what you plan to create in your workshop.
Another reason for you to consider this choice is that it comes with a cast iron body. On the one hand, this ensures that the durability of the product is up to par, and on the other, it gives you a pointer as to whether or not this machine is stable.
The cast iron body enables you to benefit from smooth performance as the machine remains stable when in use.
If making chair or small table legs is what’s on your mind, this product can definitely help you complete these tasks.
A door that the model has been outfitted with can give you convenient access to the belt.
You can choose from any of the five speeds made available by this product, which range from 760 to 3200 RPM.
The motor gets hot, which is a concern for some consumers
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Since it is equipped with a 3/4 HP motor and comes with a speed range of 0 to 2500 RPM, this product is an excellent candidate for the list of alternatives discussed in this article. The threading dial indicator makes it easy to use and adds convenience to the user.
The model has it all from a compact design to a good deal of features that you wouldn’t expect from a machine that doesn’t cost a fortune. It’s considered one of the top choices for beginners, so you might have to consider it if you’re in the market for something that’s usable, yet budget-friendly.
The small size of the machine enables you to make the most of the space in your workshop. You can also take the unit with you wherever its services might be required.
Portability is an innate feature of this alternative as it will allow you to use the space in your workshop as efficiently as possible.
Despite the many accessories that it comes with, it appears that the Grizzly G8688 is particularly easy to work with.
Since it has been outfitted with a 3/4 motor, it goes without saying that you have nothing to worry about in terms of performance.
You can choose the speed you prefer in the range of 0 to 2500 RPM.
This machine is mostly destined for amateurs and beginners as using it for professional projects, or heavy-duty work is not recommended.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($515)
Products that are no longer available
As othermodels mentioned in the best mini lathe reviews, this unit is known for its mastery in providing users with the advantage to select from variable speeds, the one preferred and needed to complete a certain task. Not more than one hour is enough time to get the whole kit assembled and ready to be used. Furthermore, ease of assembly is not only apparent, but also enjoyed by many people when used in its various applications.
“The Rikon 79-100VS Mini Lathe is the product I bought 3 years ago. This is essential in my activities because it makes my tasks easier and faster. The product is really durable and authentic. It is also fashionable and stylish when it comes to appearance. The product is just affordable.” Fay McDonald
Jet JML 1014VSI
One of the key features that make thistop rated mini lathe worth considering is its delivery of superior performance, a direct result of the ½ HP motor. Moreover, its motor operates with 6 variable speeds, which can be used depending on the task in hand. The user can rest assured that overheating will not be a problem as this motor is fan-cooled, no matter the range of jobs it is expected to accomplish.
“I am happy that I have the Jet JML 1014VSI Mini Lathe in our home. It is convenient it use and easy to handle. When it was delivered at home, the product can be easily assembled and install. The product is best for my undertakings which help me to the task faster and even better.” Teresa Nelson
Jet JML 1014I
If you value a lathe that is stable, string and rigid, best mini lathe reviews recommends you this model, which is sure to satisfy every requirement that you may have. What makes this possible is an intelligent design of the unit and also the premium material that it uses, which is cast iron. A notable function of this product is the quick- release lever, which is believed to be the reason why this top rated mini lathe is accurate and easy to use.
“I believe that making this Jet JML 1014I Mini Lathe in the top 5 best mini lathes provides me with the instinct that this product is a good investment. I never think of this product before but when I come to experience its abilities and performance, I am eager to have this product for the rest of my life.” Carol Green