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DIY & Tools Reviews, Home DIY

6 Best Mini Lathes for Metal and Wood Reviewed in 2020 (UK & USA)

What is the best mini lathe? Browse tested product reviews of the best mini lathes on the market below

Last updated on 9th Jan 2020 by Paul

Quick Comparison: Product reviews of the best mini lathes

Product reviews

After testing more than 20 mini-sized metal and wood lathes over the past three months, comparing their speed, checking their precision, and gauging their power, we’ve ended up with the six best mini lathes for metal and wood.

Of the six, we can say with certainty that the Steel Metal Working Mini Lathe and Jet JWL-1015 are the best mini lathes on the market.
Both these lathes provide great power for their size, have a brilliant build, and contain a myriad of useful features to meet your requirements.
Check out our comparison table and reviews of the best mini lathes below.
  1. 1
    96%
    96%

    CJ18A Mini Lathe 7x14 Machine with DRO & 4" Chuck

    Despite being on the smaller size, the CJ18A provides adequate power and is also super-fast.

    For instance, its 550W HP motor provide up to 2,500 revolutions per minute.

    Sure, among the mini lathes it’s on the heavier side (though you may find some heavier products in the list as well), but its sheer power and quality design set it apart.

    We believe that this is one of the best mini lathes for metal and wood.

    The CJ18A comes with an abundance of useful features. For example, you don’t have to bend over a gauge to check its spindle speed, as this lathe boasts digital display.

    And to let you utilize its 4’’ Spindle plate to the maximum, a 20mm spindle bore is also included in the package.

     

    The Good
    • Powerful motor for a mini lathe
    • Digital Display
    • Comes with a lot of useful features.
    The Bad
    • Some users have reported belt slippage issues.
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  2. 2
    94%
    94%

    Steel Metal Working Mini Lathe Review

    The Steel Metal lathe justifies its otherwise lofty price tag with two features, the first of which is its variable speed. You could adjust it from 0 to all the way up to 2500 RPM.

    Second, there is no knob to adjust the speed. Instead, this lathe contains digital display for the same.

    Supplementing the abovementioned features is a chuck guard which protects the user not only from the chuck’s upper part but also from the lathe’s built-in coolant spray.

    Then there is the forward/reverse switch which make it extremely flexible and allow you to achieve a great finish.

    Finally, while other lathes in this review provide only variable motor speed, the Steel Metal Working Mini Lathe also provides 2 gear speeds.

     

    The Good
    • Digital Variable Speed
    • Automatic feeding mechanism
    • Chuck Guard
    • Forward/reverse switch
    The Bad
    • Expensive
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  3. 3
    84%
    84%

    Sealey SM3108 Wood Lathe Review

    Powered by 370W motor, this lathe has been provided with a no-volt release switch which doesn’t allow it to restart on its own when/if the mains power is interrupted.

    Supplementing the solid head and tail stock is the twin bar construction of the lathe bed which allows it to withstand any sort of abuse.

    It provides four speed options starting from the 850 RPM which is suitable for handing hard wood as it breaks easily.

    However, if you’re handling soft wood which normally requires extra power from the lathe, the 1250, 1750, and 2510 RPM speeds might come handy.

    What’s more, to suit the length of the workpiece, this lathe allows you to not only adjust the tailstock spindle but also move the tailstock along the lathe bed.

    The Good
    • Very well-built.
    • Great power, especially considering its weight.
    • Easy to use.
    The Bad
    • Not suitable for heavy duty tasks
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  4. 4
    80%
    80%

    Draper 60988 300 mm Mini Wood Lathe - Black Review

    If you’re just getting into the woodworking craft and are looking for a lathe that will be perfect for small projects – look no further than the next on our list of the best mini lathes.

    The Draper 60988 Mini Wood Lathe is very easy to set up and use. Its cast iron build makes this lathe sturdy and allows it to fit any bench or table with ease.

    While it isn’t the most powerful machine you may get, the W17-4 still provides a variable speed option in the package. To switch speed on this lathe, all you have to do is to just turn the knob.

    Also, ensuring the safety of its user is this lathe’s no overload safety switch which turns it off on the first hint of trouble.

    The Good
    • Variable speeds
    • Fits perfectly on almost every bench or table.
    • No-overload safety switch
    The Bad
    • Not very powerful.
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  5. 5
    80%
    80%

    Jet JWL-1015 Wood Working Lathe Review

    If you know anything about wood lathes, you probably knew that a Jet lathe would crop up at some position on this list.

    The JWL-1221VS justifies the brand’s reputation, as it’s easily one of the best mini lathes for metal and wood around.

    While this tiny wood lathe takes up the least space out of all the entries we mentioned so far, it’s capable of producing as much as 3975 RPM, which places it at a close second when it comes to power.

    However, this machine really stands out as a very light, easy to use, and powerful tool. It also has an improved tensioning system that provides easier access to belts.

    The Good
    • Very small and easy to fit on work surfaces.
    • Produces great power for its size.
    • Easy to handle.
    The Bad
    • The user manual may be confusing for some.
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  6. 6
    70%
    70%

    Metal Lathe CL300M Variable Speed Review

    “Precision” is the name of the game for Clarke’s CL300M, as it has 300mm distance between centres and a 180mm turning capacity.

    Its 0.4 HP motor is capable of producing up to 2.500 RPM, which is a solid number for a metal lathe, although it’s nothing to get excited about.

    In addition to its precision, the CL300M also stands out in its build. It’s bulky and tough, and looks like it’ll serve you for a long time.

    It also has some interesting safety features like the chuck guard and the prominent emergency stop button.

    The Good
    • Very precise and efficient.
    • Sturdy and durable.
    The Bad
    • Expensive for the features
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Side-by-side: Product reviews of the best mini lathes

96%

CJ18A Mini Lathe 7x14 Machine with DRO & 4" Chuck

  • Powerful motor for a mini lathe
  • Digital Display
  • Comes with a lot of useful features.
Check price on amazon
94%

Steel Metal Working Mini Lathe Review

  • Digital Variable Speed
  • Automatic feeding mechanism
  • Chuck Guard
  • Forward/reverse switch
Check price on amazon
84%

Sealey SM3108 Wood Lathe Review

  • Very well-built.
  • Great power, especially considering its weight.
  • Easy to use.
Check price on amazon
80%

Draper 60988 300 mm Mini Wood Lathe - Black Review

  • Variable speeds
  • Fits perfectly on almost every bench or table.
  • No-overload safety switch
Check price on amazon
80%

Jet JWL-1015 Wood Working Lathe Review

  • Very small and easy to fit on work surfaces.
  • Produces great power for its size.
  • Easy to handle.
Check price on amazon
70%

Metal Lathe CL300M Variable Speed Review

  • Very precise and efficient.
  • Sturdy and durable.
Check price on amazon

Frequently asked questions

What's a mini lathe?

A lathe is a tool that rotates a workpiece on its axis. The purpose of a lathe is to drill, sand, cut, and deform a piece of metal or wood in various ways.

Lathes help us create symmetry, whether for functional or artistic purposes, and they are one of the most important machines in woodworking and mechanics.

If you’re interested in cars, motorcycles, boats, or robotics, chances are you’re going to need a small metal lathe at some point.

As for the mini lathes, they are smaller, cheaper versions of industrial lathes.

That said, their performance is nothing to scoff at, as some of these models pack quite a powerful punch.

The key difference is that mini lathes are used by hobbyists and in smaller workpieces.

What's the best mini lathe for woodworking?

In our opinion, the Jet JWL-1015 Wood Working Lathe is the best wood lathe on the market.

It’s reliable, easy to use, and has enough speed range to handle both soft and hard wood with ease.

What’s more, it also has forward and reverse switches which make it extremely flexible and allow you to achieve a great finish.

 

What's the best mini lathe for metalworking?

If you’re interested in a small lathe that can give you a lot of speed, we can’t think of a better option than the Steel Metal Working Mini Lathe.

It’s very reliable, easy to use, and it’s much more than a hobby lathe. It can be used to create high-quality work.

You can even use it for commercial purposes like artwork or gunsmithing.

Also, of all the metal lathes provided in this review, the Steel is the only which which boasts a combo of digital display, variable speed, forward/reverse switch and a chuck guard.

Its great design and compact dimensions will help you completely utilize the little space you have on your disposal.

What's the best tabletop lathe for beginners?

Specially designed to sit atop a table top or bench, the Draper 60988 Mini Wood Lathe Benchtop Lathe is the best tabletop lathe in our opinion.

You can easily change the speeds by just turning a single knob without having to swap belts.

This is a great feature that you can only find in some of the expensive models out there.

While it’s on the lighter side, the Draper hasn’t compromised on its stability.

So, if you are just learning the trade and looking for a lathe for small tasks, the Draper would meet all your requirements.

What are the best benchtop/tabletop lathes with variable speeds?

The Draper 60988 Mini Wood Lathe is really our favourite benchtop lathe, so our answer here is the same as the previous one.

In addition to all the sweet features we mentioned above, this lathe can easily switch speeds by turning a single knob.

Not only is that easy and efficient, but it also helps when switching between soft and hard wood, for you don’t have to constantly swap belts to change speeds.