Your source for
information on the 7x10, 7x12, 7x14 and 7x16 mini-lathes
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Copyright 2000-2020 by Frank J. Hoose, Jr. Home
06-10-2000 to 06-10-2020
I'm no longer adding new content to mini-lathe.com.
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Measure carefully - it's easier to
remove metal than to put it back
There's always one more source of error...
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Resources Safety Premium Content
Mini-lathe: Accessories Adjustments Capabilities Chucks Dial Indicators Features Getting
Introduction Materials Modifications My Shop Operation
Factory Tool Grinding
Troubleshooting Tuning Versions
If you have not already done so, please read the Disclaimer (last updated 10/18/09)
Mini-lathe.com is an extensive information resource for the
7x10, 7x12, 7x14 and 7x16 mini lathes. This site is intended primarily to help new and
prospective owners understand the capabilities, limitations and frustrations of these
tools and how to modify and fine-tune them to get results you might expect only from a
much more expensive lathe.
During the years since I began this site in 2000, I have
also used and written reviews on some larger lathes and related equipment. See the Reviews page for much more info. Check out Mini-mill.com for information on the small milling
machines that make an ideal companion to the mini-lathe.
1999 Central Machinery 7x10 mini lathe from Harbor Freight
Sold by a number of vendors for around $500 to $900, these
versatile small lathes are a good choice for model makers, experimenters, inventors and
just about anyone else who is interested in metalworking or has a need to fabricate small
precision parts. These lathes are miniature versions of industrial metal-working lathes
and are quite different in design and use than wood-working lathes, but they can certainly
be used for shaping wood, plastics and other materials, especially if very accurate
dimensions are required. If you follow the links on the navigation bars above, you
will find a great deal of information about these lathes and related topics.
The designations 7x10, 7x12, 7x14 and 7x16 refer to the maximum diameter and length
(in inches) of a workpiece that the lathe can work on. All four lathes can rotate a
7" diameter workpiece up to approximately 10, 12, 14 or 16 inches long, depending on
the model. In practice though, the workpieces usually are limited to 4" diameter or
less, due to various factors described throughout this site. It is possible to machine the
ends of shafts longer than the lathe if the diameter is 3/4" or less so that it will
pass through the hollow lathe spindle.
Fundamentally, a lathe is used to make components such as
shafts and bushings that are basically cylindrical in shape. While that may not seem like
much, the fact is that nearly all mechanical and engineering devices rely on components
made on a lathe. So if you have interests such as RC cars, planes, boats or helicopters;
robotics, atronomy, microscopy, horology are an inventor or just like to repair cars,
motorcycles, household fixtures and appliances, a lathe is a great tool to have. Lathes
are also used by artisans to make beads, bangles and other items for jewelry.
If you have never run a metal lathe before, or it's been
many years since you last did in your high school shop class (back when high schools still
had shop class!), you can find some helpful information on the Introduction, Getting Started, Operations, Tool Grinding and Adjustments pages. Be sure to read the Safety page for important safety tips.
The mini-lathe has a lot of potential but has some
shortcomings that you should be aware of before you decide to buy one - see the Reviews for more information on specific
models. Fortunately, there is now a great deal of information available about this
lathe on the internet, so you are not on your own if you encounter a problem, and LittleMachineShop.com has become well established
as the place to go for parts and accessories in the U.S.
I'm happy to report that the quality of these lathes has
steadily been improving. Back in 2000, when I started this site, the variable speed motor
controllers had a high failure rate, but the newer ones are much more reliable. Similarly,
the overall quality of worksmanship is better on the newer lathes. While you still may
find some minor defects, nearly all of them are now ready to use out of the box after a
brief cleanup and performing some minor setup and adjustments. See the Getting Started page for
details. The onerous cleaning off the
packing grease is no longer necessary as the lathes being shipped since around 2010
have just a light coating of rust-inhibiting grease.
If you are considering purchasing one, the Product Review pages will give you some detailed
comparisons among various models. You may also find my thoughts on Which Lathe
to Buy helpful in making your decision.
The great majority of mini-lathes sold in the U.S. and
worldwide are made by Sieg
in Shanghai, China. They are re-branded by several vendors, painted in a variety of colors
and sold with various combinations of accessories and with four bed lengths: 8",
12", 14" and 16", but all are basically the same lathe (Well, ok, the Micro-Mark version
is kinda unique...). A very similar lathe,
made by Real Bull in China, makes up the rest of the market.
While this site focuses mainly on the Chinese mini-lathes,
be sure to check out the slightly smaller, but very capable and high-quality lathes made
in the U.S. by Taig and Sherline; they're very popular among precision model
When I began this site, I was using the 7x10 version of the mini-lathe, shown above.
While the 7x10's are still available, the 7x12 is more common nowdays, and for good
reason: it's actually 4" longer than the 7x10 (a result of overly optimistic
marketing of the 7x10; which is really only 7x8). Since the mini-lathe is now
available in four lengths (8", 12", 14" and
16"), you will find references to all four models throughout this
site. Most of the features and capabilities are very similar, other than the maximum
working length. You may also see references to "7x" lathes where I am referring
to all four sizes generically.
Specific features of these lathes are continually being
improved by the manufacturer. Therefore, some of the older information on this site may no
longer be relevant. For example, the lathes made before 2000 had a somewhat crude motor
speed control with a minimum speed of about 100 RPM. The motor speed controls have been
continually improved since then and the newer ones are much more sophisticated and
reliable than the the very early ones.
Beginning around 2007, Sieg introduced the "S"
series of machines which have brushless DC motors. These
new motors have much more torque than the prior motors, so that the internal HI-LO range
gears are no longer needed. The result is a quieter, more powerful and more reliable
machine. The newer lathes also include some improved safety features over the older ones.
Check the Home Shops
links on my Links page and you will find lots of great tips from other mini lathe owners.