Even on the small side, lathes can be a dangerous piece of equipment.
Although you use them to make beautiful jewelry, they also have the ability to seriously injure you. And that might prove fatal.
Picking an appropriate mini lathe is vital. Failure to choose a reputable brand or a quality product and you could lose more than a cash investment. Either you or this expensive machine is going to get hurt.
Don’t worry: we’ve done all of the essential research for you.
Today we’re proud to present five of the best mini lathes on the market, sure to make breathtaking rings, last for years, and let you keep all of your fingers. A win-win situation!
Short on time? Here are the best mini lathes for rink making in 2021
OUR TOP PICK
Ideal for making bowls, cups, pens and other small workpieces - up to twelve inches long and eight inches wide - the WEN Mini Benchtop lathe is fantastic for beginners.
It could help you produce some seriously beautiful wooden rings!
Providing more than 50% more power than traditional wood lathes of this size, the 3.2 amp motor is a beast.
The stunning build quality, using cast iron, ensures that this bad boy is worth the investment and should last you for years to come.
An MT1 spindle and tailstock taper grip your projects tightly and keep everything working as it should, whilst two useful tool rests offer plenty of places to rest your chisels and other tools during work.
Whether you prefer to take things easy or run as fast as you can, the versatile nature of the variable speed motor is very convenient.
Move between 750 and 3,200 rotations per minute, being careful when you need to and quick where you can.
Thanks to the simple and easy to use level clamping system, you can very quickly adjust either the tool rest or the tailstock, precisely and as you need.
As part of your purchase, you’ll also receive additional accessories, including a knockout rod.
👍 Quieter than average, adjustable soft start motor allows you to work at your own pace
👍 Outshines other lathes of this size with more power at 3.2 amps
👍 Two year warranty and access to a nationwide network of service technicians
👍 Perfect for beginners - an excellent starter lathe
👎 Unsuitable for experienced machinists
Packing a half motor with ample power for all of your turning needs, this mini lathe from Rikon is sturdy and durable.
Designed specifically for pen turners seeking the most dependable machine possible, beginners will love this budget friendly option.
Constructed from high quality cast iron, as a basic scaled-down model, vibration is not going to be a problem; unlike aluminum lathes, you’ll have a much more stable experience not dampened by unwanted movement.
With a five speed range, whether you’re boring barrel holes, turning to shape, roughing out a billet or finishing something off, you can adjust this lathe to suit your needs.
It’s certainly a small but mighty package!
Other handy features include a self ejecting tailstock, a live center, integrated tool rest and knockout bar; you’ll also receive a set of wrenches as part of your purchase.
As we said, it makes a great gift for someone looking to start machining brand new.
Heavy enough that you don’t need to bolt it down for secure usage, it requires less fuss to install and you don’t require a dedicated workshop space to set it up.
That said, we do recommend you use it in a quiet, well ventilated area!
👍 Quiet thanks to a powerful yet miniature 1/2 motor - work in peace!
👍 10 inch swing offers plenty of room for sizeable small projects
👍 Durable, cast iron construction for a long-lasting product
👍 Accessories included so you can get started straight out of the box
👎 Speed must be altered manually by adjusting the belt, which may be tricky if you’ve not done so before
Especially created for at home DIY enthusiasts, this impressively tiny and surprisingly portable mini lathe is perfect for tiny woodworking projects.
It’s stable, way more precise than you’d expect, and produces very little noise.
The ball-bearing motor with plenty of torque can go as fast as 8000 RPM, offering stronger than average cutting power for such a small lathe!
For turning, drilling, sanding and smoothing, this baby does a fantastic job.
An integrated slot at the bottom of the device allows you to attach the device to a bench, but this can prove tricky if you’re not an experienced DIYer - beginners might need to seek assistance with setup of this device, as no instructions are provided.
Both transparent and dustproof, the glass cover shields you from flying debris, whilst a highly convective cooling hole prevents overheating.
Covered with a heat-protected shrinkable tube, the welding line is well protected.
Whilst you’re not going to be able to use this in the same way as a proper lathe machine, for a starter device or projects on the small side, it’s a very budget-friendly investment.
Read the customer reviews and decide for yourself!
👍 Speed adjustment is straightforward and automatic, via the power supply - no need to fiddle with the belt
👍 8000RPM from such a small motor - some full size lathes can’t run that fast!
👍 7 levels of power to choose from, adjusting to suit the project you’re working on
👍 Build from pure steel and high quality aluminum alloy; durable construction
👎 Tools provided aren’t of the best quality, but this is to be expected from such an affordable lathe and they can easily be upgraded
Ready to help you tackle small cutting and shaping projects with ease and finesse, the Shop Fox bench tom lathe from Woodstock International is built to last.
A rigid quality control system and high attention to detail ensure only the best products.
With a 1/3 horsepower, variable speed motor, the spindle speeds of this bad boy are adjustable between 700 and 3,200 RPM.
Protected by a safety paddle switch, you’ll never be at risk of injury and can perform an instant emergency stop.
As part of your purchase, you’ll also receive a 5.75 inch faceplate, threading simply onto the headstock spindle and allowing you to turn other items that aren’t compatible with a tailstock. You could even make bowls!
Including both a 4.5 and 7 inch tool rest, each serving various turning applications, the sizeable working area (13 inches between centers and an 8 inch swing) means you can take on numerous projects with ease.
Thanks to three carefully bored holes in the base, you are able to bolt this machine securely to any workbench or stand for a stable working environment.
This allows you to install and uninstall with ease - no need to pick a permanent spot!
👍 Comes with a tailstock AND faceplate for versatile turning projects
👍 Solid cast iron construction so you can practice machining for years to come
👍 2 year, no questions asked warranty for a guilt free purchase
👍 Weighs 52lb, which is especially lightweight for a lathe!
👎 Limited to wooden projects only
Looking to add a full-featured mini lathe to your woodworking setup?
This sturdy, smooth running 15 inch unit from JET is a fantastic choice. Recently improved, the new tensioning system is superior AND offers easier belt access.
Choose between six spindle speeds: 500, 840, 1240, 1800, 2630 and 3975 RPM are all easily accessible, depending on what you’re working on.
A live center in the tailstock ensures your projects never become wonky or off balance.
Wider than average bed ways reduce vibration and increase rigidity; a ten inch swing over bed offers plenty of space for working, whilst 24 indexing positions offer you plenty of versatility whether you’re turning, boring or finishing.
Dependable and strong, the 5 Amp, 1/2 horsepower motor won’t let you down.
You can keep churning out projects one after the other and the Jet lathe shows no signs of slowing down - ideal for commercial use in a workshop.
You can also pick this lathe up in a variable speed version, which offers three adjustable speed ranges if you would prefer to work outside the rigidity of predetermined rotation speeds.
Either way, this is a fantastic beginner’s machine!
👍 Small and conveniently sized for a variety of workbenches
👍 15.5 inches between centers, 10 inch swing over the bed - plenty of room for all sorts of projects
👍 Brand new and improved tensioning system; easier to adjust speeds and fix belt issues, plus longer lasting overall
👍 Impressive five year warrantly offers peace of mind
👎 Lower speed isn’t low enough for some more careful and precise finishing work
Best Mini Lathe for Ring Making - Things to Know Before Buying One
Wood vs. Metal Lathe - Which Is Best?
That depends on which material you’re looking to work with!
As their names suggest, a wooden lathe is designed for using various woods, where the metal lathe can also manipulate much stronger substances like steel, iron and aluminum.
To clarify, you can use wood on a metal lathe, but not vice versa: the metalworking lathe is designed to be much harder and far more powerful.
Unfortunately, wooden lathes only support materials that come from trees!
However, if you’re open to working with wood, you’ll be pleased to know that these lathes are much more budget friendly.
This is because they’re smaller and utilize less complex mechanisms, so there’s less production to pay for.
Features to Consider
Size and Weight
Just because it’s called a ‘mini’ lathe doesn’t mean it’s not going to weigh a tonne! Not only do you need to ensure you have enough space for it on your workbench, but also that you’ll be able to lift it up and install it properly.
Be sure to measure up your space accurately and then opt for a lathe that’s going to fit in a way that will allow you to work effectively.
If you opt for a machine on the heavier side, make sure there’s somebody around to help you do the carrying!
Remember, you need to be able to put the lathe on a solid, stable surface, and remember it’s going to be moving and vibrating a lot.
Plus, being positioned near an outlet is also imperative for obvious reasons - make sure there’s one in proximity!
Quality of Gears
A lathe is only as good as the gears that it relies on. You should avoid any machine that utilizes plastic gears, as these are likely to wear down incredibly quickly.
Though they can last longer if cared for properly, it’s best to opt for metal right off the bat.
As a middle ground, you could always opt for Nylon gears. That might sound counterproductive, but the synthetic material is actually incredibly strong and able to take far more of a beating than the plastic varieties.
That said, if you can’t afford a machine with appropriate gears, you could always buy a cheaper one and then pick up some new ones to modify with.
It’s fairly easy to switch them out, but you could always consult a Youtube vid or get an expert to help.
Even the most experienced machinists can have accidents from time to time! Making sure your new lathe is kitted out with the necessary precautions is a key priority.
First things first, you want an emergency stop button if possible. Those are a must have.
You’ll also benefit from splash guards, but again, those can be purchased separately or taken with a more Do It Yourself approach if stumping for a machine that comes with them is beyond your budget.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do with a mini lathe?
There’s so many projects to take on! Your material manipulating possibilities are far vaster than you might have anticipated!
Depending on which materials you’re working with, you’ll find they’re phenomenal for making rings and turning pens.
Beyond that, you could turn chair legs, drawer and cupboard pulls, plates and platters, bowls and other hollow items - pretty much anything you can make on a regular sized lathe, but in a miniature format!
Specific activities you can perform with a lathe include cutting, turning, knurling, drilling, shaping, deforming and sanding.
That’s a whole lot of DIY for one small machine - never judge a book by its cover, as they say.
It’s worth checking out Youtube and machining blogs out for inspiration, as this can help you get started and also avoid an artistic block. Pick a project you dream of doing, and make that your goal to accomplish!
Are lathes dangerous?
Not inherently, but they can be if used incorrectly! Like any big, heavy machine with incredibly fast moving parts, they have the potential to be incredibly dangerous when not used with the right safety precautions.
First things first, you should NEVER wear loose fitting clothes when you’re using a lathe, as the fabric could very easily become caught. For the same reason, jewelry should also be taken off, and long hair tied back and kept out of your face.
Many would recommend a face shield, as tiny little bits of material are flying around whilst you work, which could blind you if they hit in the right way.
There’s also a very slim chance your project could shatter, firing wood or metal at you. No thanks!
Dust masks are also beneficial, unless you want to inhale a bunch of tiny particles and give yourself a sore chest afterward.
Safety glasses and a dust mask could work in place of a full face shield if you don’t have access to one.
When you’re turning, it’s very much recommended you wear a pair of gloves - if the scraper was to catch one of your fingers or any part of your hand, it could result in a very deep cut, or worse, sever a digit. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
What is the best lathe for beginners?
A wooden lathe is probably your best bet for just getting started!
They are smaller and less complex; featuring fewer parts and accessories, you’ll probably find it a lot easier to get to grips with than the metal variant.
Similarly, wooden lathes are also much cheaper to invest in. If you’re the kind of person who picks up a hobby but has a tendency to drop it very quickly, or you’re not wanting to spend too much, then it’s the best bet.
Don’t worry about when you get better - you can always invest in a more extravagant, expensive metal model once you’ve completely mastered the wooden machine. Plus, it gives you a goal to work towards!
That being said, if you want to work with materials outside of wood straight away, you’re going to need to invest in a bigger and better model right off the bat.
Otherwise, you’ll end up turning your new lathe into a very small coat rack.