Whether you are a professional carpenter or a serious DIY person, having a wood lathe is a must, if your works require to shape the wood into bowl, spindle, and vase form. This machine comes really handy when it’s about making creative and artistic woodwork.
However, choosing the right one is a bit difficult as there are so many options that come with different specs and features. So, considering your working requirement, you need to get the best wood lathe for the money.
This article is packed with top 10 wood lathes that you can buy along with a buying guide section that will make it easy to focus on some specific features.
What Does a Wood Lathe Do?
A wood lathe is a machine that gives round and carved shapes to wooden pieces. It's a must for making furniture and tableware. Wooden curved and rounded things that we see around us, such as a bat, baseball bat, are required to turn through a wood lathe.
You can make carved wooden vessels as well as other items using such a machine. It works efficiently and saves precious time. You cannot carve and give a proper finish to an object by hand manually. A lathe ensures the wood is properly carved, and the finish is top-notch.
Best wood lathes feature variable speed control that allows you to select a suitable speed for various types of work. You can choose a low speed for finer tasks, and high speed for a comparatively aggressive task.
Our Best Wood Lathe Reviews
We have come up with the list of wood lathe reviews considering top and popular models, real user reviews, and top recommendations from the experts.
1. Delta Industrial 46-460 Midi Lathe
The first product on the list is from Delta. Their midi wood lathe is one of their finest creations. It offers lots of features with some attractive specs, and it seems perfect for professional woodworkers or carpenters.
This tabletop wood lathe comes with 12-1/2 -inches swing capacity, which is one of the largest within its class. You will hardly find other mini wood lathe offer this much capacity.
For efficient operation, the lathe is powered by a 1-horsepower motor with 1725-rpm. The power is more than enough for works that require a more delicate finish without spending much time and effort.
If a variable speed wood lathe is all you want, its three-pulley speed ranges will provide you with the necessary speed to turn any project. There is no need to change the belt position to change the speed; having a variable one is more convenient.
If you are a woodworker or have some experience in the field, you would know that when you sand a turned piece with the grain, it will cause the wood fibers to lay down while making them rough.
But if you have this wood lathe, there will be no such issue. Its forward and reverse functions give a superior finish to the turner. It's easy to achieve a smooth finish with a flip of the switch.
To make the most out of your work, the lathe also offers a convenient belt tension system that allows you to change the speed much quicker. Furthermore, it also ensures that the belt is at its correct tension.
As far as the durability is concerned, its cast iron construction makes it very durable, and enough stable with the faceplate, tools rest other turning applications.
2. Shop Fox W1704 Benchtop Lathe
This benchtop lathe performs best when it comes to tackling pen turning or shaping objects or other small cutting. Like most other durable lathes on the market, Shop Fox manufactured the machine with cast iron, which assures you of its durability.
With 1/3 horsepower and 700 rpm to 3200 rpm speed, you can rely on the machine for smooth and optimal performance.
Although 1/3 horsepower might seem less convincing, trust me for doing smaller projects, you will find this one more than enough. You will be able to turn both hard and soft pieces of wood smoothly.
The lathe features a safety paddle switch, MT No. 1 live center, MT No. 1 spur center, 7 -inches, and 4-1/4 -inches tool rest, ¾ by 16 -inches TPI RH spindle, and 5-3/4 -inches faceplate for delicate operation.
Like the previous one on our list, this lathe also offers a capacity of 12 -inches between its centers. The capacity is pretty much a standard one compared to other products similar to it. Furthermore, an 8 -inches swing over the bed is also there as well.
Both the tool rests of this lathe come very handy when you do pen turning and other small projects. It's designed this way to make the lathe an ideal one for doing such projects.
If you are looking for the best lathe for bowl turning, with the 5-3/4 -inches faceplate, the lathe works great for making bowls or objects of similar shape that you cannot get support from the tailstock.
Like most advance wood lathe, the W1704 model comes with a variable speed motor that allows you to adjust the speed according to your project’s requirement without re-adjusting the belt position.
3. JET JWL 1221VS Wood Lathe
Among other models from the JET, this one is a bit different than others in terms of design and features. If you previously used one of their lathes, this one will enhance your working experience for sure.
The most exciting feature of this lathe is its variable speed control. Although most lathes today come with variable speed control, you will not have the option to set extremely low speed. Its unbeatable speed control allows you to adjust the speed between 60 to 3600 rpm. You get the most appropriate speed for every project.
Not all the lathes available in the market feature a spindle lock. The manufacturer was kind enough to integrate a spring-loaded spindle lock for more convenient operation. You can also locate controls as well as DRO in a more efficient way.
For smooth and hassle-free operation, the lathe offers forward to reverse option. You will be able to give a superior finish to the working object effortlessly.
The lathe also features an innovative ratchet style belt tension system. You can easily go for various speed ranges by changing the belt. It also ensures that the tension is in the correct position.
For convenience, the manufacturer includes an Acme thread in the tailstock. Both the tailstock and banjo, slide pretty smoothly without putting much effort. This is something that not all lathes have.
Construction-wise, the lathe feels pretty solid, which means it can last you for years or even more. And as far as the stability is concerned, you will find it very stable and not making any disturbance when you work on it.
4. Nova 46300 Comet II
If a compact and portable lathe with great stability and features is what you are looking for, this one from Nova might grab your attention.
The machine offers variable speed control ranges from a very low to a high-speed option. Its 250-4000 rpm speed allows you to work effectively on both large and small turnings. Also, the ability to forward and reverse switching allows you to achieve a superior finish on the objects.
Its 3-step pulley system allows you to maximize the ability to work. The middle step will effectively deal with most woodturning applications. And rest 2 steps for more demanding applications.
You will have a 16.5-inches gap between both centers with 12-inches swing over bed. The capacity allows you to work on above-average objects very easily. The tailstock is very easy to adjust to accommodate various project lengths. On top of that, you can expand the lathe up to 41-inches with a bed extension accessory.
The furniture makers find the 12-point index very convenient to use. They are easy to adjust and very accurate. It also has a locking system to make the head firmly locked into the position.
This lathe got cast iron construction for maximum strength. The machine feels pretty rigid and stays very stable while working. It’s designed to absorb vibration, as well.
5. WEN 3420 Variable Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe
Another wood lathe for turning bowls, non-spindle workpieces, and cups. With the variable speed anywhere between 750 to 3200 rpm, the lathe is able to handle your turning projects at ease.
You can adjust the speed with a simple speed knob whenever you need it. Whether you are making chess or something bigger than that, you will find this feature very convenient for your purpose.
WEN 3420 comes with a 5-inches faceplate for making your turning projects more convenient. You can attach your workpieces of 12-inches long and 8-inches wide in between the centers.
This benchtop lathe comes with an MT1 and a tailstock taper that tightly hugs your workpieces and makes them more stable. It allows you to use a variety of accessories such as two tool rests, knockout rod, a tailstock cup center, a faceplate, a headstock spur center, and more.
Also, both of the tool-rests provide enough support to chisels and tools when you operate the machine through a 2A motor.
The 2A motor is powerful enough to turn most small to medium projects easily. It's a slow start motor; this smart feature of the motor ensures your lathe starts safely and prevents damages.
When it’s about adjusting tool-rest and tailstock, you will find its lever clamps very easy to use to make the adjustment precise.
This is the best wood lathe for beginners on the list. If you are looking for a machine to turn small projects such as pens, chess, bowls, and goblets, you can consider getting it. As the price is hard to beat, it will add great value to your woodwork or hobby.
6. Mophorn Bench Top Heavy-Duty Wood Lathe
This heavy-duty benchtop lathe is powered by a 550W motor, which is powerful enough to deal with turning works at ease. Like most other advanced lathes, this one also features a variable speed that ranges between 500 to 3800 rpm.
There is a digital reading display that helps to run your work with precise speed. This feature qualifies the machine to handle more delicate tasks that require precision.
The motor goes easy when you start it to ensure safety as well as minimize damage. You will find many reviews that state motor burns out with moderate usage. Such incidents happen due to a lack of safety measures. As this one starts slowly, there will be no motor burning issue because of it.
With this one, you will have 18 -inches distance between two centers and a 10 -inches swing capacity, 6 -inches tool rest, and 3 -inches faceplate that allows you to load high capacity work without any trouble.
Most powerful lathes don’t provide enough stability, which can be a huge drawback for those who require to do more delicate work. Its sturdy cast iron construction and rubber feet provide superior stability and allow you to perform operations very smoothly.
Besides, all gears, as well as shafts within the headstock of this lathe, is securely grounded; thus, providing more stability and longer service life.
All the specs, as well as features, make it an excellent benchtop wood lathe to have to use in labs, engineering institutions, and workshops.
7. PSI Woodworking KWL-1218VS Midi Lathe
Powered by a 1-horsepower high performing induction motor along with SBC microprocessor, this midi lathe from PSI Woodworking is made for handling automotive applications. The lathe is able to deliver the user an exact control with reliable operation.
Each lathe on the list so far offers variable speed control with dual belt positions. With 500-1800 rpm, position A handles smaller tasks more efficiently. Similarly, position B with 1950-3800 rpm allows you to do a heavier task with great precision.
Therefore, whether you have to work on a small turning project or a larger one, it's one lathe that enables you to do both without compromising the performance.
There is a digital readout that tracks the speed. When your working requirement needs more precision, this feature is convenient to have.
As the lathe is able to deal with a heavier task, it also provides you with more working space to fit your working object between the centers. There is an 18 -inches space between the centers with 12-inches swing capacity.
Construction-wise the lathe feels pretty solid and stable due to its cast-iron base. No matter what you are dealing with, the stability will be there to support your effort.
Besides, you have the option to expand the bed up to 42 -inches for giving space to larger turning projects at ease. However, it may cause the motor to run a bit slower. But having this extensive option is very handy.
Another wood lathe from Jet. The machine is a floor-standing model from Jet with a sturdy cast iron frame construction.
This one offers more power than the one we previously reviewed the same brand. Its powerful 1HP motor allows you to work on wide bowl turnings, long and thick spindles, and aggressive cuts with ease.
With 400-3000 rpm variable speed control, it allows you to deal with a wide range of turning projects. You need to turn a knob to choose your preferred speed. However, there is no digital readout in the lathe that keeps the price relatively low compared to similar models.
There is an Acme thread on the tailstock, which you can quill lock using an anti-rotation key.
The sliding headstock is able to pivot 360 degrees and offers 7 convenient locking positions that ensure its variability as well as optimal user comfort. This allows you to work on smaller projects as well.
It also features a 14 -inches swing bed with a length of 40 -inches. The space it offers is perfect for turning table and chair legs and stair railing spindles. Also, you have the option to extend the bed up to 60 -inches between its two centers. So, for both small and large turning project, it’s the best wood lathe for turning bowls.
As the machine is designed for turning bowls, there is no reverse switching feature within it.
If you want a more powerful wood lathe without compromising the price as well as most of the useful features, this lathe from Laguna tools can be a groundbreaking deal for you.
Let’s talk about its construction first. Laguna tools made no compromise with the material and made the lathe of sturdy and durable steel, which is an exception to all our previous wood lathe reviews. It allows the cast iron headstock to travel very smoothly.
The design will easily attract any passionate bowl turner. It's ergonomic angled anodized aluminum made control panel will enhance your woodturning experience. The blue hue display, along with the beautifully designed knurled knob with rubber grip, looks absolutely stunning.
Its 2HP induction motor is able to handle some serious turning projects with high efficiency. You have the option for variable speeds. For big turning projects, it offers 135-3500 rpm; and for low projects, it's about 50-1300 rpm. You can do both small and precise projects as well as larger ones using the lathe.
The mechanism of the lathe is able to convert 1 phase input to 3 phase output, which is obtained through a VFD. It provides some incredible amount of torque even at pretty low settings.
Furthermore, DRO provides an accurate rpm readout, which is a must for making finer adjustments. You can change the setting using the quick release handle very easily.
This 1HP midi lathe from Rikon Power Tools has everything you need for turning bowls, spindles, and platters of large size. Most of the best lathes run on 1 horsepower motor. You don’t need to go for something higher than this in most cases.
Design and construction-wise, the lathe is heavier and more stable than a conventional mini-lathe. The stability of the machine is also very impressive.
You can work for turning larger objects with this lathe. With 20 -inches distance between centers and 12 ½ -inches swing bed, there will be no issue to fit a mid-size wood on the machine. Its 24 position index head makes it very convenient to cut the pattern of various projects.
Some lathes offer great variable speed while lacking reversible function. This isn’t the case if you get this 220VSR lathe. With its 250-3850 rpm variable speed, you can do both delicate and aggressive turning projects. Also, the forward and reverse drive of the machine allows you to turn more than bowls and spindles.
There is an LED display that shows exact information about the speed; this also helps a lot while doing finer work. You can quickly switch between different speeds with easy access.
Tools the lathe include are, spur center, 3 -inches faceplate, live center, tool rest, wrenches, knock-out bar, and tool holder, will enhance your bowl or spindle turning experience.
What to Look for before Buying?
Depending on your project type and your working requirement, you need to consider many factors when it comes to getting a wood lathe.
The very first consideration is to determine the type of project you are involved in. There are primarily two types of the wood lathe: smaller ones and larger ones. If you work on smaller objects such as bowls, chess, candle holders, etc. a small size wood lathe will serve your purpose the best.
On the flip side, larger lathes are for projects that involve larger objects such as table-chair legs, baseball bats, etc.
Also, consider whether you will expend your work field later when your skills improve, or you will stick to smaller objects. Smaller lathes have limited expansion feature.
Always remember, for lathes, bigger is better. Don’t fall for portable and compact models if you need to turn big projects. Having a large lathe allows you to turn both small and big objects. However, if you get a small lathe, you only have to work with smaller objects.
If you have to work with heavier and thicker wood, then consider getting a larger lathe for superior support and strength.
Having a smaller lathe as a secondary turning machine seems fine. But don't make a smaller one as your primary equipment.
If you are certain about your work that you will only deal with smaller objects and not go further, then you can get a smaller one.
There are lathes offering manual and electronic speed option. The manufacturer restricts manual ones only to a few speed options. On the other hand, electronic ones provide a variety of speed for simple and heavier tasks.
Best lathes allow you to control the speed electronically, offer finer speed adjustments, and ensures you don't ruin the wooden object.
Lathes are powered by a motor of different horsepower. It's very simple and straightforward to understand that more horsepower is able to do operation more swiftly.
Most small to medium size lathes run on 1HP motor. As far as the larger machines are concerned, they mostly have 2HP motor. More horsepower will allow you to do more turning work within less time.
If you are not professional and usually deal with light turning projects, 1HP will be sufficient for you. 2HP suits the best for industrial projects.
Lathes are either of table/bench top or free-stand. If you don't have enough space to accommodate another machine in your workshop or garage, consider getting a table or benchtop lathe.
Tabletop lathes are great for easy and quick storage. If you are a person who occasionally uses a wood lathe machine, the tabletop is for you too. This type is the best beginner wood lathe.
For a professional craftsperson, a heavy-duty, sturdy, and free-standing lathe suits the best. They are much durable than the bench ones. You can run a free-standing lathe for extended hours without worrying about durability and stability.
Some lathes shake a lot while operation, which feels very annoying. Look for a lathe that has solid heavy-duty, cast–iron construction. The heavier the metal, the more stable the machine will be.
Lathes made of steel material are the best ones to get for stability. However, the price of such a lathe is much higher than the cast-iron ones. In our wood lathes review section, you will find both the type of machine.
The distance between two centers and swing over the bed; these two are very crucial features for any wood lathe. Swing over the bed determines the maximum thickness of stock that you can turn without striking the bed. On the other hand, the distance between the centers determines the maximum length of the stock.
Looking for a convenient tool, the rest feature is also crucial as it's associated with reducing the risk of injury in the workplace. You need to lock the tool rest to minimize the chance of possible danger.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How to Sharpen Wood Lathe Tools?
The easiest way to sharpen your wood lathe tools is by using a grinder. You need to grind the cutting edge of the tools. Put the tool in the socket to make it firm while sharpening, and move the edge back and forth to sharpen the edge evenly. Do the same on the opposite side of the tool, as well.
However, if the tool has a rolled cutting edge, you need to sharpen the outer side of the edge. When you are done, take a 220 sandpaper to remove the burrs from the inner edge of the tool.
2. How to Use Wood Lathe Chisels?
Mount the stock you want to turn. Then, bring the tool rest close to the stock; it shouldn't touch the stock. Set a slow speed for a finer finish. Put the chisel on the tool rest while holding the handle with your hand. Gently touch the stock with the edge of the chisel and do it back and forth until you get your desired shape.
Different chisels are used for giving different shapes. But this is, basically, how you should use a chisel.
3. How to Make a Wood Lathe With the Drill?
You can use a drill machine like a lathe. To do that, you need to construct a mini lathe using wood. There needs to be a place where the drill machine rests firmly, and you also need to make a tailstock to hold the object that you want to turn. To control the drill speed, you can use a dimmer switch and link it to the drill.
You will find tutorials on YouTube with a diagram of the wooden lathe frame if you are interested in making one.
4. What Size Wood Lathe do I Need?
Depending on your project's requirement, the size of the lathe will vary. If you have to handle larger projects and heavier woods, then consider getting a larger machine.
But, if your projects require you to use small wood stock, a small size lathe will suffice.
5. Can a Wood Lathe Be Used for Metal?
It’s possible to turn a wood lathe into a metal one. If you don’t have any mechanical lathe, you can turn small pieces of metal brass, aluminum, and steel in your wood lathe.
Before you start turning, make sure you don't wear loose clothing. Prepare the place near the lathe neat and clean so that nothing catches on the spinning area. Also, wear a dust mask and safety glasses if necessary.
Hopefully, after reading our wood lathe reviews, now, you know which one to pursue to bring the most out of your work.