There may be close to a dozen brands of quality wood lathes in the market today. To select the best one, it requires a considerable research and some forms of actual handling the equipment themselves. Since it is not a practical way to test all the available types and models of wood lathes to ensure a right choice, it would be a good idea if you visit furniture factories or any woodworking establishments or facilities to find out the best wood lathes in 2018. Try to talk to the manager and persuade him if you can get a glimpse of how their wood lathes work. Chances are, they would not object to your request most especially if you buy a few pieces of their products as a reciprocating gesture of courtesy.
Wood lathes come in various types or shall I say, various functions depending on the woodworking projects that you have. Essentially, most wood lathes are used in wood turning applications to create objects or items which are cylindrical in shape and require symmetrical sides such as baseball bats, pool cue sticks, candle holders, newels, tool handles, chess pieces, furniture legs and many more. To find the top wood lathes, you need to know first what kind of work you want to accomplish. Although most wood lathes can be used whatever wood turner jobs you have in mind.
- 1 Top Pick
- 2 What is a wood lathe ?
- 3 Tips For Choosing The Best Wood Lathe
- 4 Lathes Buying Guide
- 5 Wood Lathe Reviews
JET JWL-1221VS 12-Inch by 21-Inch Variable Speed Wood Lathe
What is a wood lathe ?
A lathe is a vital tool for anyone interesting in trying woodturning as a hobby or to branch out your existing DIY skill set. These ingenious tools have been around since the days of the Ancient Egyptian Empire. Originally they consisted of 2 sides that held the wood in place. One person turned the wood using rope, while the turner himself cut the shapes into the wood using a sharp tool. Today’s lathes are to some degree automated and made from either cast iron, steel or a combination of the two. The turning is motorised, but the basic design and look owes a lot to the ancient varieties and still holds the wood between two sides.
If you are new to lathes, then you may find that buying your first one is a tricky job. Don’t despair as we will look at 3 main things to consider when you are looking for the best lathe for you. You can also look at our lathe reviews where you can read expert opinions on different types, as well as read about other peoples experiences.
Tips For Choosing The Best Wood Lathe
Decide What Your Want To Use The Lathe To Turn
It is important to decide at this point what you want to use a lathe to turn. If like many people you want to turn writing pens and pencils and similar small items, you should opt for a machine big enough to handle those jobs and nothing bigger. Whereas if you intend on getting adventurous and want to try larger items like salad bowls, table legs, lamps and even quirky wooden hats, you will need a larger machine. The size of the woodworking lathe directly relates to the size of the piece of wood it is capable of holding and turning. 12 by 36 is the most common size on the market, which means it can hold a piece of wood with a maximum diameter of 12 inches and maximum length of 36 inches.
Ensure The Lathe Is Compatible With Accessories
Imagine how frustrating it would be to want a particular accessory only to find that it is not available in a size compatible with your wood turning lathe. The main two sizes you should be looking at with regards to accessories are the head and tail stock tapers and the head stock spindle thread. The thread size for beginner lathes is most commonly 1 by 8 inches tpi, along with 3/4 by 16 inches tpi models. A large number of accessories are available for machines of these sizes. Spindles and Morse taper, sized together that is compatible with many different accessories. It is best to look for one with a number 1 or number 2 tapers.
Choose A Lathe With The Speeds Suited To Your Turning Needs
As well as finding one that is the right size and is compatible with the accessories you need, you also need to consider the variable speed wood lathe. If you are looking to turn candle sticks, pens or chair legs you will require a higher speed than turning salad bowls. Either electronic or mechanical speed drives or moving belts along pulleys usually adjust the turning speed. The former is more expensive, but either work well enough. Much more important than the adjustment process, is the adjustment range that really matters. For a beginner you should be looking for a low level of 600 rpm and high level of 2000 RPM.
Hopefully this guide will help you find your first lathe. Be warned that once you get into woodturning you won’t be able to stop.
Lathes Buying Guide
OK, so now we’re going to be listing the features that a good lathe will come with. This should be a good learning experience for people who are new to lathes, and the products we’re listing are good for both newbies and seasoned professionals alike. So let’s get going with this buying guide.
1. Motor Horsepower
The motor horsepower of your lathe will determine the abilities of the lathe itself. A stronger motor can knurl, sand, and drill harder materials and won’t bog down in the middle of wood working. You should look for a motor that’s between 1/2 and 2 horsepower.
2. Max RPM Speed
The RPM speed should be between 1,500 and 5,000 RPM. This provides an adequate spinning speed that’s capable of a great variety of project types.
3. Variable Speeds
The motor on your lathe should be variable speed wood, allowing you to change the speed. The motor should be able to power through your jobs without bogging down or breaking.
4. Locking Detents
The ability to lock your lathe into place for specific angled cuts will allow you to make precise angled round shapes with your lathe. Look for detents that lock into place for easier use.
5. Cast Iron Construction
This can help your lathe last a lot longer than plastic construction. Unless your lathe is a mini-size, you should opt for an all cast iron construction. Not only is it worth more, but you’ll be surprised by the durability. The bed of the lathe especially should be made of cast iron for increased strength.
6. RPM Readout
An RPM readout makes it easy to keep track of the speed that the benchtop lathe is spinning at. Specific RPM speeds are needed to cut certain material and to make the best possible angled cuts. Look for RPM readouts on any lathe that you consider purchasing.
Amazon Review Score, Manufacturer, And Warranty The Amazon review score of the lathe you’re considering can tell you a lot about the quality of the product. Only opt to purchase a lathe that has at least a 4 star rating. Secondly, some great manufacturers of lathes these days are Jet, Powermatic, and Delta. These are all solid companies to buy from. Lastly, the warranty should be long enough to protect you from any possible defects from the factory.
Remember, midi lathes and mini lathes are very similar. They’re both very compact and don’t take up a lot of space. The mini or midi lathes may not be as full featured as a full size lathe, but it all depends on what you really need.
Wood Lathe Reviews
RIKON 70-100 12-by-16-Inch Mini Lathe (Tools & Home Improvement)
The Rikon 70-100 makes our choice for the best mini wood lathe. The tool has a big strength of versus the rest of its competitors in this category. This biggest strength of the Rikon 70-100 is the extra 2 inches of swing over the bed. These two extra inches will go a long way in terms of the flexibility when you have to work on larger wooden pieces.
The Rikon 70-100 is the heaviest from the three top choices and also has the best reviews. A heavier tool it’s a good indication of quality construction and quality materials. The Rikon brand name has a good reputation on the market and the Rikon 70-100 model has a 12 position index head that gives it more flexibility and convenience in your wood jobs.