Mini Lathes – A Complete Buying Guide

Mini lathes are a great option if you are a DIY enthusiast, a hobbyist or even a professional machinist. They are versatile tools that offer a varied material range as well as products.

What is a Mini Lathe?

A mini Lathe often referred to as a micro lathe or pen lathe is basically a smaller bench top version of the full-size industrial lathe.

Nonetheless, versatile it is a power tool that is used for smaller and more intricate projects. It is powered by an electric motor and can be used for turning small pieces of metal or wood.

A mini lathe can perform many functions such as:

  • Turning
  • Cutting
  • Sanding
  • Drilling
  • Facing, etc.

Mini Lathe Size and Dimensions

Mini Lathe

Mini Lathe

Mini lathes have a maximum turning diameter of 10 inches. This means they occupy limited space which allows them to sit on tabletops.

For mini lathes, the distance between the centers is a maximum of 18 inches only. Cast iron mini lathes which are most common can weigh up to 2700kgs.

How Full-sized Lathe Machine compares to Mini Lathe

The main difference between a full-sized Lathe and a mini lathe is the size. The later can essentially fit on a bench top and takes very minimal floor space.

This makes Mini lathes convenient for small workspaces such as home set-ups and garages. On the other hand, full-sized lathes are larger and heavier.

Another significant difference between these two lathes is the cost. Mini lathes are quite affordable with prices being as low as a few hundred or thousand dollars.

Full-sized lathes, however, are quite expensive and new ones can cost as high as a hundred thousand dollars. Used lathes retail for as much as tens of thousands of dollars.

Full Size Lathe Machine

Full-size Lathe Machine

Advantages of Mini Lathe

· Compact Size

Mini lathes are much smaller compared to full-size industrial lathes. This makes them simpler to operate and to store. This is especially convenient if you have limited space. Mini lathes can easily fit on a tabletop or bench top.

· Affordable

Mini lathes are relatively cheaper compared to full size lathes. New ones retail from 800$ to 1800$, this is only a fraction of what full size lathes cost.

Upgrade parts and replacement components for mini lathes are considerably cheaper than those of their larger counter parts.

· Precision

Regardless of its small size and low costs, a mini lathe can still produce accurate and detailed results. Mini lathes are designed to provide you with the amount of control you require for your operations.

These machines have variable speed options allowing you to work with a pace that best aligns with the project you are working on.

In addition, mini lathes come with special attachments and cutting tools allow you to create very detailed and intricate designs.

· Versatile

Mini lathes can be used to turn various materials including wood, metal, glass, plastic, and resin in some cases. This allows them to be used for a wide range of projects especially those that require precision and accuracy.

· Safety

Mini lathes are generally safer and easier to use than full- size ones. This can be attributed to the safety features and guards that come with mini lathes. Their small size and power can also contribute to mini lathes being safer.

It is however important to note that the recommended safety precautions should be observed even so. This may include mounting it on a stable and flat surface or even wearing the appropriate protective gear while operating.

· Low Power Usage

Most mini lathes run modest power requirements on about 110V. Apart from cost saving and efficiency, this is a crucial way of conserving energy and in turn saving the planet.

Factors to Consider when Buying Mini Lathe

There are a few important factors to consider when buying a mini lathe machine. There are many variations of mini lathes on the market, so it is important to select one that best suits your needs.

Motor power- Different mini lathes are equipped with varied motor powers. Motor strength is a primary determinant on the type of material to use and the size of your work.

Softer material such as wood and plastic do not necessarily require a powerful motor. Tougher   materials, however, such as metal, hard wood, and epoxy need a high strength motor for smoother and durable finishes. For easy turning, the Horsepower for such material should be at least 1/3.

Variable Speed or manual belt-driven- Although rare, manual driven belt mini lathes are controlled by hand. They consist of buttons or levers for controlling the speed and direction. Manual mini lathes are, however, slow to operate and are quite labor intensive.

Variable speed mini lathes on the other hand work with high speed and precision. This makes them slightly expensive but that is a small price to pay. They are also time saving as they come with a knob to control the speed without necessarily having to stop operations.

Controllable speed can is a major determinant in the quality of the products. For instance, during the initial stages start with a slow or moderate speed and increase it towards the end for smooth and accurate results.

Durability– When selecting a mini lathe, consider buying one made of durable materials such as cast iron, this way it can last you for years.

Additionally, mini lathes made from cast iron offer more stability and do not wobble even at high speeds.

Accessories-When looking to buy a mini lathe, consider one that comes with the necessary extra accessories. This includes dust guards, face plates, flat wrench, drive center, two different size tool rests, etc.

Mini Lathe Capability in Machining Operations

Mini lathes are adaptable tools that are capable of a wide range of operations such as:

  • Grinding
  • Turning
  • Threading
  • Polishing
  • Facing
  • Drilling
  • Reaming
  • Parting
  • Chamfering
  • Sanding, etc.

Cost of Mini Lathe

Mini lathes are quite affordable and cost just a fraction of their full-size counterparts. Their prices range from 500 dollars hundred to a few thousand dollars.

These costs can be influenced by factors such as motor power, size, stability, material, etc.

Where to use Mini Lathe

As mentioned earlier, mini lathes are versatile tools that can be used for both a variety of projects, both simple and complex. Some of these projects include:

  1. Turning small parts- This is the most common use of mini lathes. They are excellent in creating small projects into your desired shape and design. Mini lathes have cutting tools and variable speed that enable you to small intricate parts such as dowel pins, bushings, or threaded rods.
  2. Jewelry- Mini lathes can be used to create jewelry pieces such as lockets, bracelets, rings, pendants. They have different cutting tools and adjustable settings with accurate measurements that help with precise shaping and polishing of different materials.
  3. Tool handles- This yet another popular use of mini lathes. It is important to have durable, comfortable or even aesthetic tools handles as a craftsman. With mini lathes you can create custom handles for your tools from different materials such as wood, metal, or plastic. Using the cutting and sanding tools you can turn blank material into tool handles of your desired specification, shape, and finish.
  1. Repairing components- Mini lathes are practical tools for creating and repairing components, especially those made of for metallic material. They can help bring back to life damaged or worn-out metal parts such as bearings and shafts.


In summary, mini lathes for sale are not only affordable but also space saving tools.  This makes them ideal for machinists with limited working space and tight budget. It is important to do extensive research when considering buying a mini lathe to find the one that best suits your needs.

More Resources:

G-code for CNC – Source: TSINFA

Lathe Machine – Source: TSINFA

Lathe – Source: WIKIPEDIA