There may be close to a dozen brands of quality wood lathes in the market today. To select the best one requires 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 the right choice, it would be a good idea to visit furniture factories or any woodworking establishments or facilities to find out what the best wood lathe. 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, multiple functions depending on the woodworking projects. Essentially, most wood lathes are used in woodturning 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 rated wood lathes, you need to know what kind of work you want to accomplish. Although most wood lathes can be used whatever woodturner jobs you have in mind
Wen 3421 Mini Lathe – best for low budget
Laguna Revo 1836 – overall best for beginners
Table of Contents
- Top 6 Best Wood Lathes on the Market
- What is a wood lathe?
- Tips for Choosing a Wood Lathe
- Lathes Buying Guide
- Bottom Line
Top 6 Best Wood Lathes on the Market
1. Delta 46-460 Midi Lathe – Best for the Money
Compared to the noisiest, generic wood lathes in the market, the Delta 46-460 Midi Lathe is a winner and great value for money. In terms of the power, quietness, and speed variation it provides despite being compact, which is advantageous for easy transport.
Speaking of power, the Delta 46-460 runs on 1HP. That is enough to handle all your heavy woodturning projects while providing consistent speed all through without skips or hiccups that could ruin your work. So your crafting experience will remain smooth.
Another great feature is speed control. The Delta 46-460 midi wood lathe has methods for changing speed. Automatically (10-speed settings) and manually (3-speed settings). The manual method requires you to fit the belt onto any of the three few, which vary in size and the speed it makes. For instance, The smallest gear produces 1350 – 4000 RPM. While the biggest gear produces 250 – 750 RPM.
On the other hand, the automatic method controls via a knob on the side of the headstock. It has up to 10-speed settings, with the lowest being 250 and the highest being 4000rpm. This sort of control helps a lot by ensuring flexibility. So you can get that perfect finish.
- Delta is one of the top brands
- Consistent speed
- Two modes for adjusting the speed
- Comes with lots of accessories
- Easy to use
- Great for beginners
- It could be too small for your workpiece
- No stand
2. JET JWL-1221VS Variable Speed Wood Lathe
The idea behind this wood lathe unit’s design is to ensure the user doesn’t lose work momentum while maintaining complete control. Evidence of such can be seen in its power, speed control, and ability to make a smooth forward-to-backward transition.
Speaking of power, the lathe is a 1HP unit that generates a speed of up to 3600RPM (from 60rpm). Which is enough to handle all your heavy projects. Additionally, there are two methods for controlling such speed. One of which is manual and the other automatic. The manual consists of 3-speed settings. All of which have varying speed ranges.
Another convenient feature to look at is the smooth transition from forwards to backward with just a flip of the switch. You can’t easily find such a feature in many professional wood lathes. As most of them will require you to completely turn off the machine tool before switching. Thus hindering your work momentum.
Also, the lathe’s overall design is perfect. As the controls and DRO are quite easy to reach. Even when work is too intensive to lose concentration.
- Enjoyable experience, try to get it when it’s on sale
- No or minimal vibrations
- Smooth reverse transition
- Effective digital speed control
- Possesses ratchet-style belt tensioning system
- Up to 3 variable speed settings
- It offers up to 24 indexing positions
- A Stand is present
- Great value for the money
- Jet is part of the top wood lathe brands
- It could be too light for a lathe
- Handles rust easily
3. Jet JWL-1440VSK Bench-top Wood Lathe
If you seek a heavier unit that can handle longer workpieces, you should consider this benchtop wood lathe. This machine is great for beginners. It’s a very heavy piece that weighs about 325lbs, which is enough to keep the unit fixed to the ground throughout every work session. And don’t worry about vibrations as it’s made of iron casting. So you won’t feel enough of it to disrupt your handling.
Looking at the design, you can tell it’s very convenient. For instance, the headstock is movable like it’s 12-inch long machine rest. Additionally, the controls are all in the right places. Just like the knob, which is used to set any speed within the range of 400 – 3000RPM to achieve that fine finish.
Another feature you’d like is the wide 40-inch inboard rest. Which can be extended with an additional board rest. This way, you can work easily on a longer workpiece without having to divide it.
- Iron cast construction makes woodturning vibration-free
- It possesses a long inboarding rest (40 inches), which can also be extended
- Easy to use
- Very stable
- Good for beginners
- Too heavy to move around
- The least RPM (400) might be too hard for beginners
4. RIKON Power Tools 70-220VSR
This is a heavy-duty wood lathe machine that can comfortably turn wood that’s no larger than 12.5″ across. Which is great for most making woodcrafts except certain projects like a 50″ bowl. Given the distance from the lathe bed to the swing is 6.25″.
Upon looking at the model, you can tell it does have a straightforward design. A beginner would find it easy and intuitive enough to use.
Rikon’s power tool is a 1HP unit that generates 250 – 3850 RPM. You can access such speed via electronic variable speed control, which has 3-speed ranges. 250 – 750 RPM (low), 550 – 1,650 RPM (medium), and 1,300 – 3,850 RPM (high).
Also, the spindle can rotate backward as well. And the speed settings would work the same way. Additionally, there’s a safety feature such as a motor lock to which you’ll use a specific lock key to open. This will prevent accidental activation.
- Up to 24 position index head present for improved accuracy in pattern design
- Straightforward design
- It has a big swing size
- Great speed control
- Supports backward and forward rotation
- Easy to carry around
- Can’t do wider soup bowls (50″)
- It could be too expensive, but you can find it on sale sometimes
- Too lightweight
5. NOVA 1624 II
If you’re looking to invest big on a professional wood lathe, then you should get the NOVA 1624. It has all the features you need to perform better at wood turning. You can say it’s a very versatile unit for something with such a price range.
The first feature you’d like is its power. The Nova 1624 II is a 1.5 HP unit that tops most wood lathe units in the market. It generates 250 – 3,600 RPM. It has up to 8-speed ranges that’ll ensure you get that fine and perfect finish. Also, given its lowest speed, 250 RPM, then it’s great for certain projects such as bowl turning.
Its swing capacities are also top rated. As it can work on a 16″ long workpiece across the bed. Its outboard swing is up to 29″, which is great for making wider bowls. Also, If the workpiece is longer, there’s an optional 20″ swing bed extension available.
Another great feature is the material it’s made from, which is an iron cast. This means you don’t have to worry about jerks caused by vigorous vibrations. As well as no sporadic shaking of the unit, given, there’s a stand.
- Speed is easy to change and view
- Swing bed is extendable
- Lots of accessories
- The motor is reversible
- It has superior bowl turning performance
- It could be too expensive
6. Grizzly G0462
If you’re after more power, then you should consider the Grizzly G0462 wood lathe. As it’s a 2HP unit that is quite powerful compared to most wood lathes in the market.
Over 600 – 2400 RPM (10 speeds) is generated consistently by the 2HP motor with no disruption. So work experience will remain smooth All through. Additionally, you can control the speed via an automatic system (knob). To which you can set the perfect speed to achieve this fine finish. As there are up to 10-speed settings.
Another reason why it’s a high-end unit is the 16″ swing over the bed, which is great for handling a long workpiece. Also, the original distance between the two centers is 46″. But that can be changed due to the headstock being adjustable.
You shouldn’t worry about interruptions due to vibrations because the whole unit is made of cast iron. Such a material hinders the build-up of vibrations. The stand itself can be fastened onto the ground. And lastly, its overall design is quite intuitive as it gives a ready-to-use look and feel.
- Easy to use
- 16″ swing over bed
- Access to 10-speed settings
- Vibrationless construction
- Speed readout available
- Not easy to carry around
- Not cheap. You should look for it when it’s on sale.
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. Unlike the cordless compound miter saw, 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 wood turning lathe is motorized, 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, 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 and professional opinions on different types, as well as read about other people’s experiences.
Tips for Choosing a Wood Lathe
Decide What You 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 you want to turn writing pens and pencils and similar small items like many people, 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 woodworking lathe’s size 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 a 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 size compatible with your woodturning lathe. The main two sizes you should be looking at regarding accessories are the head and tailstock tapers and the headstock spindle thread. The thread size for beginner lathes is most commonly one 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 are 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 candlesticks, pens, or chair legs, you will require a higher speed than turning salad bowls. Either electronic or mechanical speed drives or moving belts along with pulleys usually adjust the turning speed. The former is more expensive, and the other is cheap, but either works well enough. Much more important than the adjustment process is the adjustment range that matters. You should be looking for a low level of 600 rpm and a high level of 2000 RPM for a beginner.
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.
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 woodworking. You should look for a motor that’s between 1/2 and 2 horsepower.
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.
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.
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.
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.
An RPM readout makes it easy to track the speed that the bench-top 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 product’s quality. 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 need.
Your best choice is one of the wood lathes on our list if you are looking for a portable or bench-top wood lathe. Whether for turning intricate designs into artwork or small home projects, these six best wood lathes on the market can help you have the job done. It would help if you considered several things, and you can read that in this article.
If you are looking for a mini lathe for intricate small wood projects, you want a lathe that offers the versatility you require and the freedom of motion you need. Each model on our list has its pluses and minuses, but based on power and versatility, our top choice is the 46-460 Midi Lathe machine from Delta.