How Do I Choose the Best Small Lathe?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 July 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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A lathe is a device that spins material so it can be cut or otherwise altered into a different shape. A small lathe, sometimes known as a mini lathe, is a smaller version of the full-size machine that is useful for hobbyists or professionals looking to machine small parts. Choosing the best small lathe starts with determining how you are likely to use the machine on a regular basis. This will usually dictate how large of a machine you will need, how powerful the motor needs to be, and what types of parts you will be capable of creating with the machine.

Think carefully about the amount of space you have to spare for the small lathe as well. The machine can vary in size and weight, so you will need to figure out where in your workshop you will place the machine to get an idea of how large of a machine will fit. Use this information to find a small lathe that will fit your machining needs as well as your space constraints. A small lathe does not necessarily translate into a powerless or useless one, but remember that smaller motors may mean limits on what the machine can accomplish.


The small lathe will also be limited on how large of a piece can be machined. The material being machined will be secured between the headstock and the tailstock, and the distance between these two components will dictate how large of a piece of material will fit. Be sure to measure this distance carefully and consider whether it will allow you to machine the parts necessary to make the items you intend to make. While hobbyists making pens or other small items may benefit from an extremely small lathe, others may need something larger to accommodate projects like baseball bats, furniture legs, and so on.

Consider the materials you will be machining as well. Many lathes are designed to accommodate wood only, while others may accommodate metal only. Some other models may be able to accommodate both metal and wood cutting, but the cost of such machines is likely to be higher. If precision cutting is necessary, or if you intend to make the same precision cut over and over again on several pieces of material, it may be necessary to consider a CNC, or computer numeric control, lathe. While these are far more expensive, they will cut down on set-up time, thereby increasing your productivity and, in most cases, profitability.



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