The Lathe machine is an ancient versatile mechanical tool invented in 1751 by Jacques De Vaucanson. However, the earliest evidence of lathe dates back to Ancient Egypt in 1300 BC. Known as the “mother of machine tool”, the lathe was an important development of the Industrial Revolution.
A lathe is primarily used for shaping metal or wood. It removes unwanted metal from a workpiece to give the desired shape and size. Functions like cutting, knurling, sanding, drilling and facing are performed on a lathe.
It rotates the workpiece on an axis of rotation i.e., the work is held securely and rigidly on the machine and then turned against the cutting tool.
Metalworking lathe has evolved. The functioning, parts, size and power source has become advanced categorizing it into different types. During the industrial revolution, a Lathe was powered by steam engines.
Electric motors replaced mechanized power in the 19th and mid-20th centuries. By the beginning of the 1950s, a lathe was then operated by servomechanisms via numerical control.
Parts of a Lathe Machine
The Bed- It is a horizontal beam, the base of the lathe machine. The headstock and tailstock are attached to the ends of the bed. The bed ought to be rigid and sturdy to resist twisting, vibration and prevent deflection. The motor is located on the underside of the bed.
The Head Stock- Attached inner ways, almost always of the left, the headstock contains high precision spinning bearings. Within the bearings is the horizontal axle hollow spindle. There is a mechanism to alter the spinning speed.
The Tailstock- Counterpart of the headstock is tailstock. It supports the other end of the workpiece. It also secures the hardened steel centre while it supports the long shafts during turning.
Carriage- The carriage of a lathe is composed of several parts to support the move, feed transfer power and control the cutting tool. It includes saddle, cross slide, compound slide, tool post and apron.
Feed Mechanism- Feed is the movement of the tool concerning the workpiece. It may be longitudinal, cross or angular.
What is the difference between mini and midi Lathe?
The mini lathe, also referred to as the micro lathe is the smallest of the lathes. It is a lightweight unit. The Mini lathe is ideal for smaller turning workpieces like ornaments, ice cream scoops, pens and bottle stoppers. Because of its size, the lathe can be transported and stored conveniently.
The midi lathe is relatively new. It came into use during the 90s. A midi lathe combines the power and performance of a full-size lathe with the size of a mini lathe. The compact lathe includes all the components of a standard lathe It has optional bed extension. Interested to get a Midi Lathe? Read our detailed guide on the best midi lathe.
Hence, it can operate at the turning capacity of the full-size model. The attributes of the compact lathe are-
DC motor that means most motors can adjust the spin on the workpiece with electronic variable speed control.
- Directional control from forward to reverse
- Headstock spindle
- Tailstock spindle
- Quick change belt pulley
- Morse 2 spindle taper
- Readout meter digitally operated
- External bed extension
The accessories incorporate drill presses, lathe duplicator, tailpiece extension. The bed swings range from12 to 14 inches. The swindle speed range is between 60 and 4000 rotations per minute.
The midi lathe is slightly larger than the standard mini-lathe. It is befitting for home-based workshops as well as large scale factories. The midi lathe specializes in turning objects like stool legs, doorknobs, small wooden bowls, baseball bats and furniture spindles.
Midi and Mini lathe have significant differences-
Maximum Turning Diameter
10” or less
12” going up to 14”
Maximum Distance Between Centers
20” or less. Can be as little as 12 to 15
20”. Can extend up to 40” with bed extensions
½ HP or lower
¾ to 1 HP
Turns small objects
Robust Motor. Capable to turn large bowls and spindles
5-6 speeds (using step pulley)
3 speeds(using step pulley)
Cast Iron or Steel
Less than 70lbs
Between 100 and 125 lbs
150-500 US dollars
400- 1000 US dollars
Size of Workpiece
Small workpiece like pen pet calls and bottle stoppers.
Can support larger work piece
Available. For instance, tailpiece extender
Thus, the midi lathe is stronger in swing and centre to centre distance. A midi lathe is an effective tool to make items at a lower price. It saves the space of a full-sized lathe while giving the same efficiency. These are differences between a midi and mini-lathe.
Midi or mini lathe may come with accessories and attachments that contains-
- A faceplate
- A wrench
- Knockout Bar
- Drive and Live Centers
- Tool Rest ( small and large)
- Safety Working Tips
While working on a machine, the brain switches to robot mode due to repetitive motion. Therefore, it is necessary to be sure of the safety.
While operating a mini or midi lathe always be equipped with protective glasses with side protectors. A face shield is another requisite too. Avoid long sleeves, rings, watches or gloves lest they might get stuck in the spindle.
Ensure that all the components and gears are in place before working on the lathe. Label anything out of service for the welfare of the unaware second person.
The tools should be sharpened before use. The blunt or damaged tool is dangerous and inefficient.
No adjustments should ever be made while the lathe is running or connected to power. If you want to move or perform maintenance cut the lathe off from the source.
We have explored the differences between midi and mini-lathe. Each one has its functionality and size. There are various other types of lathes too available for voluminous production and other major jobs.
However, with extensions midi lathe would be effective for large work purposes as well. If the objects are small, mini lathe comes exclusively handy.