Last Updated on February 27, 2023 by Charles Wilson
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Picking up the perfect metal lathe that will best serve your projects is complicated sometimes. You have to have a clear vision of what you’re buying and what project you want to work with.
You have to keep in mind what types of projects you’re going to design, the machine’s versatility, and many other elements. I mean you can’t just go out with a handful of money and expect to buy the perfect machine every time.
Metalworking is a process that creates satisfying results out of the most ordinary materials. It is not only for professionals either! You can do metalworking as a hobby or for academic purposes teaching students.
Regardless of what your goal is, the best way to turn the metals is through a metal lathe.
Today, I will go through the different lathe types and what they do and help you pick the best one to start working on your due projects.
So let’s jump in with a quick chart of the top metal lathes:
Quick Chart of Top Metal lathes at a Glance
Last update on 2023-11-03 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Short Reviews on Three of The Best Metal Lathes
Enough of introduction and waiting. Now let’s jump onto the main part of this article. I am bringing to the table the top-notch metal lathes you could get depending on your needs out there in the market. Here you go.
1. BestEquip Metal Lathe 7″ x 14″: Great for budget machinists
- 7″ swing and 14″ between centers
- Motor: 550W DC Single Phase
- Spindle Speed: 0-2250 RPM
- Infinitely Variable Speeds
- Swing Over Cross Slide: 110mm
- Tailstock Taper: Mt2
- Spindle Taper: Mt3
- Cross Slide Travel: 65mm(2.53″)
- Chuck Diameter: 100mm(3.94″)
- Inch Thread: 12-52 T.P.I
- Spindle Accuracy: 0.01mm
- Weight: 101.9 lbs
- Warranty: Contact seller
When you are working with metals, your best ally is a tool capable of working with them. This tool needs to have a powerful energy source, constant rotations per minute, and variable speed.
Herein, the BestEquip lathe meets all of those requirements effectively. It features a 0.75 horsepower motor working at 550W and 110 volts.
The motor is powerful enough to distribute the energy across the machine making it very easy to work the metals. For higher versatility, you can change the working speed from 50 to 2500 rotations per minute with its variable-speed motor.
The motor and its many benefits allow you to work on different materials. Of course, the main purpose of this tool is to work with metals, but you can use it for wood and jade as well as other materials.
That versatility makes this item a reliable tool to use for experts and amateurs. For example, you can use it in the laboratory, in particular workshops, and for educational purposes. It also features a unique chuck with adjustable jaws.
This chuck allows the machine to hold asymmetrical materials while also enabling a precise configuration for cylindrical materials as well.
The machine’s pieces are easy to adjust, and you can adjust them to work on different projects. This particular lathe is one of the best metal lathes for machinists who like to have accurate results.
For the tool’s maintenance, it takes a couple of simple steps to follow. You should clean every surface with a commercial solvent. Nonetheless, products like thinner or gasoline could damage the product’s functionality.
This is why you have to follow the maintenance instructions strictly.
✅ The exclusive chuck has four adjustable jaws
✅ It is a multi-function machine
suitable for professional and amateur purposes
✅ Delivers high precision and quality results
✅ Features a turret capable of rotating in multiple directions
❌ Requires you to check its pieces constantly to see if they are well adjusted
2. Jet BDB-1340A: Best for heavy construction
- 13″ Swing and 40″ between centers
- Motor: 2 HP, 230V, 1Ph
- Swing Through Gap (In.): 18-3/4
- Length of Gap (In.): 8
- Spindle speeds: 12; 60 to 1,240 RPM
- Spindle Taper with Sleeve: MT-5 (MT-3)
- Taper in Tailstock Spindle: MT-3
- Carriage Travel (In.: )35
- Width of Bed (In.): 7-3/8
- Low voltage motor controls
- Weight: 1175 lbs
- Warranty: Limited 2 Year (Mechanical), Limited 1 Year (Electrical)
In my first spot, I am going to talk about a powerful tool. The lathe’s motor is the most important element, and sometimes metal lathes do not have the motor you need.
This problem can cause many incidents in a chain reaction.
A weak motor for working metal is not ideal, and it becomes an unpleasant experience quickly. Its weakness translates into a deficient performance from the machine.
This creates vibrations or noises and it ruins the total experience.
However, there are options to topple those problems. A great example of that is the Jet 321360A. With the two horsepower motor capacity, you will complete your many projects without functionality issues.
The motor produces enough energy and distributes it successfully across the machine.
Naturally, every machine needs the right pieces to withstand the power. In order to do that, this metal lathe includes a suitable gearbox.
This gearbox features helical cutting gear that reduces unpleasant factors, like noise. By keeping the noise low, it allows you to have full concentration which is necessary to get the best result possible.
Like any other tool, this machine seeks to assist you for an extended amount of time. To achieve that, it features bigger splash guards that maintain the machine’s integrity intact.
You also get a durable tool because of its resistant building materials.
In case you want to do changes and adjustments, the gearbox allows you to have a faster and easier changing process. It is a quality machine with a solid performance in different types of projects.
✅ Reduces the noise to a very low level providing you a more comfortable experience
✅ The gearbox is easy to understand and allows you to make changes or adjustments quickly
✅ Helical cutting delivers a smoother experience overall
✅ Includes a gap bed extension suitable for bigger diameter work
❌ The price makes this product unreachable for some budgets
❌ It is not a recommended item for beginners
3. BestEquip Metal Lathe 8×16: Professional quality at a medium budget
- 8-1/4″ swing and 16″ between centers
- Motor Power: 750W, 110V, 60HZ
- Phase: Single Phase
- Swing Over Cross Slide: 15-3/4″
- 4-way Tool Rest
- Spindle Bore:0.83″
- Spindle Taper: MT5
- Tail Stock Taper: MT2
- Spindle Speed Ranges: Low 0-1250, High 100-2250 RPM
- Travel: compound rest 2-1/8″ (54mm), cross slide 3″ (76mm)
- Metric Threads: 0.5-3.0mm(8-44 TPI)
- Weight: 170 lbs
- Warranty: Contact seller
This product uses a brushless motor good enough to produce larger torque. The lathe’s motor can also provide the right amount of energy-reducing any energy bursts and increase the machine’s lifespan overall.
The motor works at 750W and produces a variety of spindle speeds. From a low range of 50 to 1250 rotations per minute to a more powerful high range of 100 to 2500 rotations per minute.
Its different working speed allows you to design and create a variety of projects effectively.
Another important benefit of this model is the fact that it does not require external help. Metal lathes often need external tools to adjust their pieces, but this particular model does not.
You will receive all the machine needs, and the manual helps you set it up.
Naturally, this type of work demands highly resistant lathes, and this product from BestEquip does not disappoint when it comes to resistance.
It is a highly wear-resistant machine which means you will have the option to use it as much as you need it, and it will maintain its durability over time. This durability comes in handy for people who spend a high amount of time using the lathe.
If you are someone with multiple projects in mind, this product will become a great supportive tool. Nonetheless, it does require a detailed adjustment process.
To get it to work properly, you must follow the instructions clearly, as it will allow you to understand its different pieces and the limitations they have.
✅ Durable product; you could put it through high demanding tasks and it will keep its functionality over time
✅ Worthy product for both professionals and hobbyist
✅ Offers high precision and versatility for multiple applications
❌ The setting up takes some time
Best Alternative Metal Lathes You Can Check Also
As you have seen the metal lathes that are best in business, it’s time for some other alternative options as well.
1. Grizzly G8688 Metal Lathe
- 7″ swing and 14″ between centers
- Motor: 3/4 HP, 110V, single-phase
- Speed range: 0-1100 (low) , 0-2500 (high) RPM
- Forward and reverse at all speeds
- Bore Size of Included Chuck: 16mm
- Spindle bore: 0.78″
- Spindle nose taper: MT #3
- tailstock taper: MT #2
- Tailstock travel: 2-1/2″
- Cross-slide travel: 2-3/4″
- Maximum tool bit size: 5/16″
- Shipping weight: 90 lbs.
- Warranty: 1-year
But perhaps you are not looking for a big machine that takes too much space.
Your projects do not require bulky and extravagant tools. Instead, you want to have a metal lathe that allows you to place it almost everywhere, especially if you are using it from the comfort of your home.
If that is the case, then let me tell you that this is probably the product you need.
While it is true that it does look small in comparison to other models, but let’s not doubt its capabilities.
It is powered up by a capable 3/4 horsepower motor which provides the necessary energy for your projects. The motor is responsible for the multiple working speeds in this machine, and they have multiple ranges.
These speeds vary from 0 to 1100 rotations per minute at a low range, but it also features a higher range with speeds going from 0 to 2500 rotations per minute.
The different speeds work great for both forward and reverse directions. This means you will acquire a versatile tool and more control over the metals in the machine.
Other specifications from this product are a 7-inch swing and a 12-inch distance from the center. It also features a dial indicator to keep track of the machine’s functionality and standard handwheels for better graduation.
As a final observation, I want to mention its weight. This tool weighs 74 pounds making it one of the metal lathes with lesser weight in this list.
The weight and the lathe’s size make this product worth considering.
You can get the full review of this gem right here. Just to let you know everything I know about this model and I hope it is well worth your time.
✅ Multiple speed ranges
✅ Works forward and in reverse effectively
✅ Lightweight than other models
✅ Features a dial indicator for the threading
❌ Not suitable for big projects
❌ Takes some time to get used to the machine’s functionality
2. Erie Tools 7 x 14 Precision
- 7″ swing and 14″ between centers
- Motor: 400 W, 0.53HP, 120 V, 60 Hz
- Variable-Speed Motor
- Spindle Accuracy: 0.0004 in. (0.01 mm)
- Thread Range: 12 to 52 TPI
- Spindle Taper: MT3
- Tailstock Taper: MT2
- Chuck Diameter: 4 in. (80 mm)
- Spindle Bore: 0.79 in (20 mm)
- Cross Slide Travel: 2.56 in. (65 mm)
- Top Slide Travel: 1.38 in. (35 mm)
- Weight: 104.2 lbs
- Warranty: 1 Year
The product’s efficiency is possible because of its energy source. It features a single-phase motor with different speeds.
You can adjust the speeds up to 2500 rotations per minute capacity. This speed produces quality in both rotational directions, whether it is forward or reverse.
It also features many pieces that support the lathe during its operations. These pieces are the chuck, a five-piece cutter set, the internal jaws for the chuck as well as the external jaws, a very helpful 11 feed rate gears, and of course, the manual for the owner which provides the tool’s information.
It is because of all these elements that this machine is very effective. Not only does it provide an incredible experience for the user, but also a productive performance no many other tools can deliver.
For that reason, this lathe is suitable for drilling, cutting and turning a diverse amount of materials. These materials are metals naturally, but it also works great with wood and even plastic elements.
Regardless of the material, the lathe will deliver smooth and quality results.
In case you need to adjust the RPMs, you can always check out the digital readout. It has all the information you need, and it is very easy to read which allows everyone to use it regardless of their past experience.
Overall, this is a very efficient tool at an accessible price.
✅ Not only does it work great for metals, but you can use it for wood and plastic as well.
✅ Different speeds deliver high precision and smooth results. They also work in both rotational directions.
✅ It is easy to adjust, thanks to its digital readout.
❌ The included three-jaw chuck does not have enough quality.
Try making some time to see this awesome review of the Grizzly G0602 model. It’s a different one but you can see the differences before making any decision.
3. Central Machinery Precision Lathe
- 7″ swing and 10″ between centers
- Motor: 3/4 HP, 120V AC
- Speed Max: 0-2500 RPM
- Speed Min: 0-1100
- Tailstock taper: MT2
- Spindle Taper: MT2
- Thread Size: 12-52 TPI
- Automatic feed
- Weight: 87.05 lbs
- Warranty: 90 Days from the date of purchasing
When you are initiating your way into the metalworking field, you definitely need the proper tools to assist you.
Getting a professional heavyweight machine is not recommended for a machinist who’s new to metalworking, especially because they feature too many accessories that you won’t need in light projects.
On the other hand, buying an easy-to-use and cheap metal lathe is probably your best choice because it will allow you to work on easy projects while learning your way around the machine.
It features a 3/4 horsepower with a 2500 RPM maximum capacity which you can control through a knob successfully. The machine includes an automatic feed for better operations as well. Additionally, it features a chuck guard to keep it secured.
Thanks to the lathe’s great performance as it allows you to turn, shape, and make bushings, prototypes, and design your own models.
However, setting up for this tool is not easy, and it could become an issue quickly.
To get it to work properly, it requires you to disassemble the pieces, like the carriage, compound, and cross slide to make a quick maintenance process and clean them up.
It is very important that you follow the manual and the instructions clearly, especially when it comes to setting it up and its maintenance process.
Otherwise, if you make even a small mistake, your general experience will have unpleasant consequences like malfunctioning and a poor quality result.
Other than that, it is a good option to consider. You could put it under different applications as well, either in a workshop or in a lab environment.
✅ Comfortable knob to control the different speeds
✅ Features an automatic feed
✅ The chuck guard includes a micro switch
❌ For better functionality, it requires maintenance before using it
Last update on 2023-11-03 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Things To Consider Before Choosing One
So, you finally decided to go ahead and buy a metal lathe, but the many options available on the market are confusing to sort out. After all, every model and brand offer different features, and each model seems suitable for your project, but this is not always the case.
Before you make any decision, you have to make sure the item you buy meets certain requirements.
These requirements not only make the product a great acquisition but will also provide you with a more pleasant experience while working.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the considerations you should have in mind before buying the metal lathe.
The tool’s design may seem like something not important, but that is far from the truth. Through its design, the lathe is capable of giving you very important information about what it can or can’t do.
The main highlight I get from the design is whether or not it is an easy tool to use.
I encounter two types of products in the market, one with an easy to understand design and other products with a more complex design.
When you are starting your way as a machinist metal turner, you will need a user-friendly product that does not require high technical knowledge.
Sure, you can always learn and use more complex machines, but even the cheapest and simple machine can produce great results sometimes.
For that reason, getting a product with a simple design is the best action to take as you learn your way around the lathe. The other option is, obviously, machines with a more complicated design.
Now, these types of tools are great for experienced users because they can benefit from all the advantages it offers.
A more complex machine allows you to add multiple tools to increase its performance, and you’ll produce a more quality result in the end.
Another important element to consider is the machine’s structure. Ideally, the best metal lathe should have a solid structure with great support.
Not only will it provide a more comfortable machine to use, but it will also have better functionality by maintaining its positioning.
When the machine does not have a solid structure, it is likely that the user will encounter issues like vibrations, loud noises and will produce results with poor quality.
For that reason, considering the machine’s structure is always an important thing to do. Look for tools with quality materials like steel, because they will offer you the stability not many products have to offer.
A solid tool produces quality results, a highly comfortable experience, and it also maintains the tool’s lifespan by reducing impact risks and other malfunctions.
Another great benefit of a great quality structure is versatility. These metal lathes often have different applications like labs or home workshops, and that is possible because of the steel and materials in their structure.
The machine’s functionality is another decisive factor to keep in mind. Of course, every brand out there will tell you their product is the best option, but remember, nobody knows what you need better than yourself.
If your job requires you to work with metals in particular, then all of the products in this review are a great option for you. However, if you work with a variety of materials, there are specific products that give you that possibility.
These machines are incredible to work on metals, but some of them have enough versatility to work on wood or other materials as well.
However, it is not only about the materials, but you have to consider its other applications too.
For instance, a good metal lathe will produce great results under certain circumstances, but a great machine delivers quality results in multiple scenarios.
Not only does it work at a professional level, but it is also ideal if you use it for educational purposes.
For all of those reasons, make sure you get the best metal lathe capable of operating in a wide variety of applications.
So all of these features are worth considering when you decide to buy a metal lathe. Every aspect of the tool, even if it seems minimal and unimportant, will determine your project’s success.
Every piece counts and every little detail is important for creating a pleasant working experience.
For a more comprehensive yet easy buying guide, check this post.
Few Cutting Tools You Need Besides the Lathe
Metal lathes include all the pieces you need to have a good performance. Nonetheless, there are additional cutting tools that enhance your experience, and the main purpose of these tools is to produce the best result possible.
Among these tools you can find the following;
The Boring Bar
A boring bar is a tool for metal and woodworking applications. Boring is a popular technique that focuses on building processes, and woodworkers continue to use that technique to this day, even though it dates back many decades ago.
For metalworking purposes, the boring bar is different from its woodworking counterpart.
You can use this tool to create asymmetrical channels, but it works great to create circular holes. It all depends on which direction you use are using it.
Drill chucks are capable of locking the materials to keep them in their place. Through the use of a drill chuck, the worker will have a comfortable operation without worrying about a soft grip.
This tool proves its worth by allowing you to have a successful working session. It also provides you with a satisfying and smoother result.
More often than not, you will find, the material exceeds the size of the machine. Therefore, you cannot work on it as comfortably as you would want.
For these scenarios, the parting tool is a great problem solver. It allows you to cut those unnecessary pieces shortening the material and making it more suitable to control it.
You can use this tool if you have the need to add knurling for your stock. It is an effective tool for knobs when you require a stronger and solid grip over the pieces.
The Types of Lathes
To help you decide which one is the best option for you, I am going to go through the different types of lathes. They have different sizes, structures, and functionality. Let’s take a look at the different types below.
Typically called a benchtop lathe. They are smaller in comparison to other professional models such as full-size wood lathes or gunsmith metal lathes like the Shop Fox M1112.
You can mount it over your benches or cabinets depending on the task you are performing.
The bench lathe is the best option when you want to accomplish fine and quality results within budget. The size is one of the best benefits because it provides more accuracy and precision for your projects just like any professional lathe.
This type of lathe shares similarities with the bench models. For instance, you will find that most of the accessories for other models work great for speed lathes as well.
However, this particular type does not have a gearbox, and it also lacks other standard pieces.
Nonetheless, they are efficient at what they do. You can use it for regular woodturning, but you can also polish materials successfully.
Engine lathes are the most popular among all the lathes. It is similar to the speed lathe and shares most of the same features, but the engine lathe has a more heavy construction.
A clear example of their difference is the headstock, which is a bigger size than other lathes.
It also differentiates in other elements, like the motor, the system to change speed, and the gears you can use in it.
Tool Room Lathe
The tool room lathe is almost an exact copy of the engine lathe. However, the big difference relies on the extra equipment gear it uses. These extra items enhance the machine’s performance.
They increase the lathe’s accuracy and precision as well as the working speed.
Its extra attachments are the taper turning, chucks, and collets among other additions.
A turret lathe is highly effective for mass production projects like commercial and industrial applications.
They are capable of performing for many projects of different sizes, which makes them a trustable and reliable tool for everyone regardless of their expectations.
These models are very user-friendly as it does not require any skill to use it. Part of its easy-to-use quality is because of the machine’s semi-automatic features.
These products are the optimum choice when you want a great working experience and quality results.
It can complete every part of the project automatically, and it does not require the operator to take part in it except for supervision purposes.
The automatic lathe is one of the most effective types of a lathe, mainly because of its automatic process. It will deliver a satisfactory result without needing your involvement in the operation.
Lathes for A Particular Purpose
There are few lathes with a specific goal. These lathes won’t work on other applications besides their main purpose.
While you could perceive it as a disadvantage, the truth is that it provides more efficiency as it is designed to work on a particular material.
People Also Ask
Can the metal lathe work with other materials like wood?
Yes, they can work with different materials other than metals. However, this is not recommendable. There are specific lathes for woodworking, and while the metal lathes can operate over wood, their main goal is to work with metals.
After all, the woodworking results will not have the same quality.
For a full discussion of this topic, check out my article Can You Turn Wood on a Metal Lathe.
Who can use the metal lathe?
Students, professionals, DIY enthusiasts, and anyone who is interested in turning metals.
Thanks to their higher versatility, you can use these machines for diverse applications. These are especially great for professional gunsmiths at a highly demanding job.
On top of that, students can also use it for learning purposes.
Does it require maintenance?
Yes, it does. Like any other tool that uses steel in its structure, the metal lathe requires maintenance to keep it in a good state. Proper maintenance is necessary if you want to keep away from issues like rust.
Nonetheless, you must use the right tools to maintain it and make sure you keep it from receiving unnecessary damages. If you do, it will definitely work for you for many years.
Is the metal lathe easy to use?
Most of them are easy to use. Obviously, if you are going to work on bigger and complex projects, it will require certain knowledge and proper preparation to produce a quality result.
Check my basic guide to how to use a metal lathe in this article.
Do I need extra accessories like an optional bed?
Not necessarily. You can add extra accessories if you want to, but they are mainly for people who want to achieve the most perfect and professional results.
That’s all, I gave it all to you. Now that you know all the details of the best metal lathe for the money should have, selecting the right one is an easier task.
Remember, this is a tool you will use for longer periods of time. Because of that, it is recommendable that you pick the option that makes you feel more comfortable.
Wishing you very happy metalworking with your own satisfaction. Comment if you want to know more or some specific. Well then, see you next time!
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