C3 Mini-Lathe Metalworking Beginners
What is a mini-lathe?
So you want a lathe? Lots of people do - but what exactly is a mini-lathe? The mini-lathe is the outcome of several years of cheap chinese imports into countries like the UK and the USA. People wanted a small lathe, which didn't take a forklift truck to move and which can be easily accommodated in the home or garden shed. They wanted to to do small jobs on simple materials, usually for the hobby. Such a simple lathe did not exist many years ago - you had to buy a hideously expensive UK or US built lathe that weighted many hundreds of pounds.
The chinese managed to fill this niche in the market with the mini-lathe. This simple lathe only weighs a few tens of pounds, and can be lifted by one person. It comes with a 3 inches chuck, and assortment of tools, and, perhaps most importantly, a variable speed controller for the motor.
It is this variable speed controller that really made the mini-lathe. Users who are just starting out in the world of mini-lathes find the instinctive feedback offered by a variable speed controller much easier to get along with as opposed to the fixed speeds and manual belt changes required to change the speed on a conventional lathe.
Although a mini-lathe is a far inferior product to the large lathes made in the West, it allow people who previously could not afford or accommodate a "proper" lathe to own something that actually does 95% of the tasks they actually need to do.
These small lathes gained a huge following. With this following came advances in the basic quality of the product - these days a variable speed mini-lathe is quite an advanced machine, yet still manages to come in at a price point around $500.
Owners of proper lathes will still make nasty comments about mini-lathes, however, they are missing the basic point behind the success of the mini-lathe. A mini-lathe will allow people who could not normally afford a lathe to own one.
A mini-lathe is better than no lathe at all.
The mini-lathe has become a world wide success now. Although you won't find one in your average local hardware shop along side the drills and grinders, it is easily available without resorting to expensive specialist suppliers. LArge numbers of companies supply many different accessories and add-ons for the mini-lathe - the market is huge.
Another less obvious fact - second hand mini-lathes do not appear on Ebay very often. Although people will graduate to larger lathes, they rarely want to get rid of their mini-lathes because they are so good and easy to use for the sort of jobs they are designed to handle.
I've owned a mini-lathe for about 5 years, and I've never regretted the purchase.
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