Your source for information on the 7x10, 7x12, 7x14 and 7x16 mini-lathes
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1999 Central Machinery 7x10 mini lathe from Harbor Freight
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 makers.
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.
One of the best sources of information on the mini lathe and related topics has been the Yahoo group 7x10minilathe, a very knowledgeable and experienced group of guys who are always ready to welcome and help newcomers. Discussions are by no means limited to the 7x lathes so feel free to ask any question even remotely related to machining and you will get plenty of good advice. Unfortunately, at times over the years since the group began in 1999, the subject matter has degenerated into political harangues, making it much less approachable for the new mini lathe owner. A spinoff Yahoo group, 7x12minilathe, with more closely monitored content, also is an excellent source of information. You'll need to join the group to participate. There also are Yahoo groups that focus on specific mini lathe interests such as horology (clock-making), modifications, and little engines.
For discussion en Espaņol visit this group: