Take A Mini Lathe For A Spin

[This Old Tony] is no stranger to quality tools, but he started on a mini lathe. Nostalgia does not stop him from broadcasting his usual brand of snark (actually, it is doubtful that anything short of YouTube going offline will stop that). He rates the lathe’s ability to machine different materials and lets you decide if this is an investment, or a money pit.

Lathe parts range from a chintzy start/stop button assembly that looks like it would be at home on a Power Wheels restoration project to a convenient cam locking mechanism on the tail stock which is an improvement on the lathe with which our narrator learned. We see the speed tested and promptly disproved as marketing hoopla unless you allow for a 40% margin of error. It uses a 500 watt DC motor, so don’t try correcting for mains power frequency differences. The verdict on the lead screw and thread dial is that you get what you pay for and this is demonstrated by painstakingly cutting threads into aluminum. Finally, we see torture tests on cold rolled steel.

Maybe someone from the mini lathe community will stop by with their two-cents. If you appreciate this introduction to lathes, consider [This Old Tony]’s guide to CNC machines or injection molding. But for us, [Quinn Dunki’s] series of machine tools has been a real treat this year.


24 thoughts on “Take A Mini Lathe For A Spin

    1. Great timing as I’ve been researching off and on what to do with the 7×10 mini-lathe Dad left along with some brass stock. I’ve been thinking some cool electronics projects are on the order coupled with RF designs.

      Lately, I’m thinking to use for making the disc and cone connector pieces for the ski pole discone antenna I’ve been working on.

      I recall him mentioning there would need to be some significant improvements to use for steel and not to until then… however, I’ve found a few reference websites and videos that note upgrades so I can… this article site being one vlog that does an enjoyable job presenting.

      Aluminum I’m guessing will be OK, as is, since the tolerances aren’t going to have to be critical. However, as a goal to tighten tolerances and use as a mini-mill… I want to do the bearing upgrades to Timkin 30206 bearings, a wider and lockable carriage and wider and lockable cross slide as well as a right angle plate to mount a mini vise perpendicular to the end mill instead of the compound slide.

      Probably are some other improvements that can be made as This Old Tony notes like metal gears, metal spacer as well as other have noted like collet I.D. diameter increase, collet chuck (thinking just making an ER-32 style), drill mount on compound slide, hand crank attachment for opposite of collet/chuck end for tapping and an indexing head.

      The above improvements will turn the mini-lathe into a mini-mill literally and should improve tolerances if careful when machining. I’m thinking the tapered bearings will be the first item that needs to be replaced and if the gears hold… maybe will be able to machine the rest without metal gears. Might need to invest in metal gears also and maybe a set for threading to increase the thread capabilities when that need arises.

      I was also thinking about updating with a treadmill motor and speed controller potentially… though more-so the speed controller since I’ve read the potentiometer goes bad. Seems a RPM sensor and meter will be handy also, though thinking an optical sensor will be easy and more cost effective compared to a Hall Effect sensor. I think these last two improvements can be made from salvaged components I already have.

      What are anyone with experience thoughts on order of upgrades to improve performance capabilities of the 7×10 mini lathe? Thinking there is a logical order of operations to make more accurate and expand utility.

    1. I have that mental disorder that makes me print PDF’s which are supposed to be informative – but I don’t like to waste paper. So I download them to read later. My PDF collection is so big that I don’t remember what is there so I don’t read any of them. This one however is printing right now.


  1. I’ve had a 7×10 for over a decade; it’s easily been the best tool I’ve bought to date. While I would love a larger lathe and routinely could stand to have something a little longer the little 7×10 has still been a handy tool. The funny bit is while it is good for 7″ over the ways, you can only realistically cut up to about 3″ due to limitations in the cross-slide support and travel.

  2. People should consider watching any of [This Old Tony]’s videos. They’re not only informative and easy to understand, but the guy’s an absolute hoot. Even if you already know everything he’s talking about, you’ll still be entertained.

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