What Is The Best Small Metal Lathe To Buy In 2020?

If you require a small metal lathe, you will (most probably) already be aware of how expensive these can be, which is why when it comes to choosing the right lathe for your needs, you need to make sure that you are clued up about which the best small metal lathe is for you and your specific needs.

How lathes work is that they can be used to shape a piece of metal through a rotating device. They can be used for commercial, industrial or for personal use. The reason that lathes are such a popular tool is because they can come in all manner of shapes and sizes. While medium and large lathes are often used in commercial or industrial settings, smaller lathes are ideal for use at home.

Using large lathes than is necessary can be unnecessarily expensive, which is why finding the best small metal lathe for your needs is so vital.

Wondering which small metal lathe is best for your needs? Below we have reviewed four of the best small metal lathes and a specialist dust collector to pair with the lathe of your choice, to make cleaning up after using your lathe, that little bit easier.

Top 5 Best Small Metal Lathe On The Market

1. PROXXON 37110 - Ideal For Anyone Who Requires A Precision Lathe Ideal For Jewelry, Electronics And Model Building

Last update on 2020-05-06 PST - Details

Designed to be small and compact, the Proxxon 37110 Micro Mill MF 70 lathe offers accuracy that is ideal for labs, opticians, jewelry making, dealing with electronic components, and model making. 

Complete with a cast iron base, this small unit has a vertical column and table that incorporates high-quality aluminium, play-free axes, adjustable sides, and a headstock made of die-cast aluminium of a high quality. All axes on this lathe are also ‘play-free’. The headstock houses the 24 pole motor which provides stability, even when being used at the highest speed. 

The aim of this stability is to facilitate the use of even the finest cutters.

What’s Bad About It?

When being used, this lathe can vibrate a lot, which can make it noisy and difficult to use. These vibrations mean that it does not feel like a precision tool.  This lathe is advertised as being able to turn out 80% lowers, however it is not anywhere near as effective as it’s advertised as being, which is a shame. Unfortunately, due to this tools small size, it has a limited range of uses.

  • This mill is well built and accurate
  • This is an ideal machine for craftsmanship due to its small size
  • This machine can fabricate parts up to 2x4” in size and no larger, making it ideal for using for craft activities
  • Ideal for using to create models for casting jewelry, as well as for hobbies like steam train model building
  • This machine has an unsettling rattle when being used at various speeds
  • This lathe vibrates a lot, which makes it noisy and difficult to use
  • This is not a precision tool
  • Because this tool is so small, it has a limited range of uses

This is a good lathe for craftsmanship but doesn’t suit professional or commercial use due to its small size. The number of vibrations that this lathe creates makes it loud to use and prevents it from being a precision tool.

2. JET JMD-18 - Great For Larger Projects That Require More Space And Flexibility

Last update on 2020-05-05 PST - Details

This milling machine comes with a 1-pc cast iron column for added support, an extra-large table for working on, a quick-stop knob, and an internal depth gauge that’s been designed to be easy-to-read. This lathe is designed to be suitable for larger projects that require more space, flexibility and precision. 

What’s Bad About It?

One of the downsides to this machine is the fact it comes wired to 110, not 230. However, this is something that it is fairly easy to change so that it works on either voltage. When moving the head of the machine to make it higher or lower, it can change the alignment of other parts of the machine, meaning that you then need to take the time to realign them once again. This mill is designed to be a starter mill, which means that at some point, most users will want to upgrade to a larger model. 

  • Extra large work table making it ideal for larger jobs
  • This is an ideal machine for craftsmanship due to its small size
  • You can use this lathe to tackle larger projects that require more space and flexibility
  • A work lamp is included with this tool, which is designed to make working in all lights simple and effective
  • This tool operates with a powerful UL-listed, 2 HP, one phase, 230-volt motor that gives the tool a range of 12 spindle speeds from 15 to 3,000 RPM
  • The motor has a hinged belt cover that allows for faster speed changing
  • Cast iron column and heavy-duty roller bearings for support and stability, allowing you to use and handle heavier materials
  • The heavy-duty tapered roller bearings offer support for the spindle that allows for greater tolerance and more accurate drilling depth
  • East-read depth gauge and 360-degree swivel head for precision
  • Comes with a two-year warranty
  • This machine comes wired for 110, not 230, but you can change it to work on either voltage
  • Moving the head can cause the position of the drill to change, meaning that users then need to recenter their work
  • This is simply a starter mill - at some point, most users will want to upgrade

Overall, this is a great lathe that is not only ideal for smaller metal projects but also for slightly larger ones, or for people who like to have a lot of room while they work. A work lamp is also incorporated into the design of this tool, which is something that not every lathe design includes, making it a desirable feature to have.

3. SHOP FOX M1111 - Ideal For Anyone Who Wants A Drill That Has Been Built To Last

The M1111 Milling Machine has all of the same features as its predecessor, the M1110, but it also incorporates a few additional time-saving luxuries.  Complete with a quick-tilt headstock for use when doing horizontal milling, a 1HP brushless motor, a multi-functional digital depth scale, push-button speed control, and a digital spindle tachometer, this machine is designed to make milling quicker and easier.

The quick reversing tapping feature that this mill has, makes it even simpler to use.  All you have to do is put it into ‘tapping mode’, start the tap, and then when the thread is completed, push the button at the rack levers and the spindle easily reverses, withdrawing the tap from the hole. There’s even a backlit digital tachometer that can tell you the precise spindle speed being used.

What’s Bad About It?

One problem with this mill is the fact that the adjusting gib for the head can be somewhat sloppy, which means that it can require some work if you need to get precision out of this tool. Unfortunately, the quill travel is small, which means that it cannot drill a deep hole. This can make it ineffective for use for certain projects.  This machine does lack some capacity, which can limit users in terms of what it can be used for. 

  • More robust than a normal ‘mini mill’
  • The motor offers a good amount of torque and runs fairly quietly, even at higher speeds
  • This machine can be plugged into a 110v instead of needing a 220v to deal with it
  • This tool runs very smoothly
  • It is good quality for the price
  • The adjusting gib for the head is somewhat sloppy and needs work if you want any precision out of this mill
  • The quill travel is small so it cannot drill a deep hole
  • The capacity of this machine isn’t as good as it could be

This machine is much more robust than most regular ‘mini mills’, and can be used for larger and heavier objects. It runs smoothly and is good quality for the price. However, there are a few minor issues that impact how easy and effective this machine is to use.

4. SIGNSWISE 24W - Great For A Range Of Processing Tasks Including Turning, Drilling, Boring And Threading

The Signswise 24W 2000rpm Motorized Mini Metal Working Lathe Machine DIY Tool Metal Woodworking for Hobby Science Education Modelmaking is a mini desktop lathe that can be used for a range of processing activities, from turning and drilling to boring and threading.

It is designed to be able to process a range of soft metals, including aluminium and copper, as well as various other soft metals. 

This mini mill is designed for DIY, science education, general crafts, and model making, it is not designed for high accuracy machining or industrial use.

What’s Bad About It?

Unfortunately, the quality of this lathe is not as high as it could be. However, this could be because it’s designed for a set purpose - DIY and hobbies - and it’s being used for other tasks. This machine does not always spin true which can have a serious impact on the precision of this tool, making it much more difficult to use than it needs to be.

  • Highly durable design due to the machine’s main parts having a full metal structure
  • The connected l-shaped connecting blocks mean that the machine has a more durable metal slider
  • This tool has a tailstock special design and built-in bearing for more comfortable use
  • It also has built-in heat protection to ensure that the device is always able to operate safely
  • Integrated design of the spindle box and motor
  • Motor support stepless speed regulation and positive and negative rotating
  • Designed for a set purpose - DIY, hobby, student model main, and small parts and crafts processing
  • Good for the price
  • Ships fully assembled
  • This lathe does not always ‘spin true’
  • Chuck jaws aren’t always centralized - they may need realigning before use

This lathe is designed to be a small, hobby lathe, which is why it is designed the way that it is. It is ideal for smaller projects, DIY, hobbies, and school projects, but it isn’t made for any professional or industrial work. It’s good quality for the price, it’s designed to offer a safe experience, and ships fully assembled for ease of setup.

5. SHOP FOX W1685 - Powerful And Effective For Collecting Dust From Lathe Use

For anyone wanting to keep their workspace free from dust and debris, the Shop Fix W1685 dust collector is ideal.

When working with metal milling machines, this dust collector offers 1-½-horsepower, has a single-phase motor that runs at 3,450 revolutions per minute, a heavy-duty steel impeller that moves 1,280 cubic feet of air per minute. 

This machine comes with a powder-coated finish that is scratch-resistant, chip-resistant, and fade-resistant.

What’s Bad About It?

While this unit does work well, the quality is not as high as it could be and it shows when it’s being used.  Another issue is that the motor can be somewhat loud when being used, which can be irritating and off-putting. 

  • This unit is super strong and durable
  • It is made of steel that makes it more durable
  • It is an excellent dust collector - it works wonderfully well and is highly effective
  • The bottom dust collection bag can be somewhat tricky to install and can require more than one pair of hands
  • The motor does run somewhat loudly
  • The quality is slightly lacking in some areas

This unit offers adequate dust collecting - it is strong and durable. However, when it comes to quality, it does leave a little to be desired. The motor starts off running quietly but over time gets louder and louder, which can be quite disturbing.


Out of these four lathes, the M1111 Milling Machine is the largest, more durable and most robust machine. It can cope with larger sized projects in a much more effective way and is ideal for metal work. However, the Signswise 24W 2000rpm Motorized Mini Metal Working Lathe Machine DIY Tool Metal Woodworking for Hobby Science Education Modelmaking is also highly effective for smaller projects - this machine is designed only for small projects (is says so on the box) - and it works wonderfully for doing them.

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