One of the most important pieces of equipment that a woodworker can have on hand is a wood lathe. While sawing and planing are both important, so is the ability to turn wood while you turn on it. A wood lathe offers the option to create beautiful work that would not be possible in any other way.
However, choosing the right wood lathe to buy can be a challenge. There are a lot of lathes on the market and each of them comes with different features. You can choose to spend a ton of time studying and researching all the options out there to find the right lathe for your needs. However, it’s a lot easier to look at a compiled list of the best options where the homework is already done for you.
We offer a guide to the top 10 wood lathes so you can see what to expect when buying one for your workshop. We’ll also offer some insight into the things to think about when purchasing a wood lathe in case you aren’t sure where to start. Either way, you will end up with the equipment you need to get your work done quickly and efficiently.
Table of Contents
- 1 The Best Wood Lathe
- 2 Jet JWL-1221VS Variable Speed Wood Lathe
- 3 Shop Fox W1704 Benchtop Lathe
- 4 Delta Industrial 46-460 Variable Speed Midi Lathe
- 5 Wen 3420T Variable Speed Benchtop Mini Wood Lathe
- 6 Jet 719500 JWL-1640EVS Lathe
- 7 Wen 3424T 5-Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe
- 8 Grizzly Industrial T25920 Variable Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe
- 9 Jet JWL-1015 Wood Working Lathe
- 10 Rikon 70-100 Mini Lathe
- 11 Grizzly H8259 Benchtop Wood Lathe
- 12 Buyer’s Guide to Wood Lathes
- 12.1 Types of Wood Lathes Available
- 12.2 Wood Lathe Power Level
- 12.3 Motor Size of the Lathe
- 12.4 Speed of the Wood Lathe
- 12.5 Build & Size of the Lathe
- 12.6 Lathe Stability and Sturdiness
- 12.7 Wood Lathe Weight
- 12.8 Lathe Level of Vibration
- 12.9 Noise Level with a Lathe
- 12.10 Wood Lathe Capacity
- 12.11 Simplicity of Use
- 12.12 Wood Lathe Pricing
- 13 Conclusion
The Best Wood Lathe
|Jet JWL-1221VS Variable Speed Wood Lathe||60 to 3,600 RPM||129.8 pounds||CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON|
|Shop Fox W1704 Benchtop Lathe||700 to 3,200 RPM||48.5 pounds||CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON|
|Delta Industrial 46-460 Variable Speed Midi Lathe||700 to 1,725 RPM||97 pounds||CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON|
|Wen 3420T Variable Speed Benchtop Mini Wood Lathe||750 to 3,200 RPM||43 pounds||CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON|
|Jet 719500 JWL-1640EVS Lathe||40 to 3,200 RPM||300 pounds||CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON|
|Wen 3424T 5-Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe||520 to 3,400 RPM||70.3 pounds||CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON|
|Grizzly Industrial T25920 Variable Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe||650 to 3,800 RPM||80 pounds||CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON|
|Jet JWL-1015 Wood Working Lathe||500 to 3,975 RPM||77 pounds||CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON|
|Rikon 70-100 Mini Lathe||430 to 3,900 RPM||88.5 pounds||CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON|
|Grizzly H8259 Benchtop Wood Lathe||826 to 3,337 RPM||77 pounds||CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON|
Jet JWL-1221VS Variable Speed Wood Lathe
This wood lathe by Jet is a popular buy for intermediate and expert woodworkers. It is a bit more expensive than some models, but it also has the features to back up the price. The main thing that sets it apart is the continuous speed control for better versatility. There is also a digital readout so you can see the speed whenever the machine is working.
This machine has a center to center distance of 21 inches, which is likely to be plenty for most people. For those who it isn’t, a bed extension can be used for longer projects that need to be turned. This is also a seriously heavy machine, which could be a problem for some. On the other side of things, this means it’s going to be very stable.
● Offers continuous speed control from 60 RPM to 3,600 RPM
● Features a smooth transition from forward to reverse and back again
● Comes with a five-year warranty for peace of mind
● One of the more expensive wood lathes on the market
Shop Fox W1704 Benchtop Lathe
The W1704 benchtop lathe by Shop Fox includes an eight-inch swing and is very well-built. Another perk of this machine is that it comes at an inexpensive price compared to some others. It offers a variable-speed 13 horsepower motor which provides a high level of control over speed. It also offers an analog interface to keep up with how things are going.
One of the perks of this machine for many is that it weighs only 45 pounds. This makes it one of the lightest options so you can transport it easily wherever you need to without a lot of trouble. This lathe has both a faceplate and two tool rests, which is excellent considering the price. Those looking for a simple lathe that can do the job for less will want to consider this model
● Created from cast iron for durability and strength
● Offers several spindle speeds between 700 and 3,200 RPM
● Versatile with a 13-inch distance between centers and an eight-inch swing
● Some experience damaged components are months of use
Delta Industrial 46-460 Variable Speed Midi Lathe
The Delta Industrial Midi Lathe is one that can compete with any others on the market. It comes with continuous speed control, which is still fairly uncommon on lathes today. The speed can be set between three ranges: 250 and 750 RPM, 600 and 1,800 RPM, and 1,350 and 4,000 RPM. It offers a lot of range at the top level which makes it the ideal choice for finishing up large pieces of stock wood.
The belt-tension system makes it easy to choose the right range, but it does not come with a digital readout. It also has a great swing but a moderate center to center length. Those who don’t need a long tail bed will find that this machine lets you work on pieces that other lathes may not. This is a good choice for someone who wants a high-end model without the expensive price tag.
● Great performance at an affordable price point
● Features a patented belt tension system
● Lathe offers a five-year warranty for peace of mind
● Will require an extension for wood that is longer than 16 inches
Wen 3420T Variable Speed Benchtop Mini Wood Lathe
This mini lathe by Wen is perfect for making small items like pens and offers a large variety of speeds to do your work. It can go from 750 to 3,200 RPM and all it takes is a turn of the variable speed knob to make an adjustment. This machine also features an M1 spindle and tailstock with threads that measure at one inch by eight TPI. These parts offer the option to use all sorts of different accessories.
The lathe has a two amp motor to ensure things keep turning even when working for longer periods of time. It also offers a level clamping system that allows you to make changes to the tailstock and tool rest in a simple and easy way. The lathe comes with a headstock spur center, flat wrench, knockout rod, tailstock cup center, and a five-inch faceplate to use for turning workpieces that are non-spindle.
● Perfect size for creating chess pieces, pens, and other small projects
● Features a variable speed motor that ranges from 750 to 3,200 RPM
● Offer a two-amp motor, two tool rests, and an MT1 spindle and tailstock taper
● The machine does not tighten well on the headstock location
Jet 719500 JWL-1640EVS Lathe
This wood lathe is a great option for many woodworkers out there. Some people consider it the sturdiest lathe they have ever worked with. One of the perks of this lathe is that it was designed for both small and large projects through a 42-inch capacity and a 16-inch swing. In addition, it has a cast iron bed that will last for ages and offer top accuracy. The machine is created with construction that suppresses excess vibration from the large motor.
This device has a two horsepower motor for the toughest of jobs. When you consider the motor is 220-volt and fan-cooled, you can see this is a machine meant to go the distance. It also offers a variable speed control so you can get the exact cut you want. This lathe has a spindle locks with 36 positions for a variety of options.
● Features a sliding headstock for maximum versatility
● Offers smooth movement using Acme threads
● Positive locking wedge system is used to secure tool post
● Some have experienced components cracking over time
Wen 3424T 5-Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe
This lathe by Wen offers five different operating speeds so you can easily handle various projects without needing a different machine. It can be used at 520, 900, 1,400, 2,150, or 3,400 rotation per minute depending on your need. This wood lathe also has a powerful 4.5 amp motor for the ultimate performance. Thankfully, it has a sturdy build that prevents wobbling and walking while the machine is in use.
The MT2 tailstock has threads that measure one inch per eight TPI and is a great option for adding needed accessories. Speaking of which, this lathe comes with accessories that include a tool rest, tailstock live center, headstock spur center, and onboard accessories holder. The tool rest is 7 7/8 inches, while the faceplate is 3 1/8 inches.
● Offers a total of five different operating speeds between 520 and 3,400 RPM
● 4.5 amp motor offers a substantial amount of torque for big jobs
● Comes with several accessories at no additional cost
● Some have experienced parts failing after less than a year of use
Grizzly Industrial T25920 Variable Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe
Among the top wood lathes you can buy is the Grizzly Industrial T25920, which also happens to be one of the most inexpensive options on our list. This is a variable speed lathe that comes in two different sizes so you can choose the one that best meets the needs of your workshop.
This lathe is ideal for making cups, bowls, pens, and other similar items. It also includes a digital spindle speed indicator so you can keep an eye on how things are going. In addition to that, there is a tool rest that makes it easy to store and organize all your tools while working. This is a great beginner’s lathe that will also work well for most intermediate woodworkers. This lathe is 12 x 18 inches with 16 ¾ inches between the centers.
● Offers three different speed ranges for specific sorts of projects
● Features a digital spindle speed indicator for watching a job
● Comes with a tool rest for organizing and storing tools as you work
● May not be as powerful as other lathes on the market
Jet JWL-1015 Wood Working Lathe
For novice woodworkers and intermediate users, the Jet JWL-1015 offers the precision and powers you need to handle all sorts of projects. It has a wide range of versatility through the six different speeds you can choose, including 500, 840, 1,240, 1,800, 2,630, and 3,975. This is a smooth-running and sturdy mini lathe that has the power you need for all sorts of projects.
Among the reasons this is considered a top beginner wood lathe is because it is extremely user-friendly. All the adjustments and features are easy to understand, even for someone who hasn’t spent much time around a lathe in the past. The machine also comes with an improved tensioning system with easy access to belts as well as integrated 24-position indexing.
● Features an improved tensioning system with easy access to belts
● Comes with six spindle speeds from between 500 and 3,975
● Increased rigidity courtesy of wider bed ways on the wood lathe
● Must shut off and reset belt to change between speeds
Rikon 70-100 Mini Lathe
Those looking for a mid-range wood lathe will appreciate the Rikon 70-100 Mini Lathe. It offers a great swing over bed and swing over tool rest. Those who are using work with short and thick stock will find this machine is the best option. It also happens to be an affordable choice. The speed options are 810, 1,230, 1,810, 2,670, and 3,900 RPM. It doesn’t have a very low-speed option but plenty of higher speeds for those who prefer that.
This budget lathe has a center to center distance of only 16 inches. However, that can be dealt with using an extension bed if you have one on hand. This is the great thing about a short bed as opposed to a swing. The former can be overcome while the latter cannot. This lathe also has a five-year warranty, which is above and beyond what most lathe manufacturers offer.
● Offers a total of six different speeds for high versatility
● Fairly portable and budget-friendly wood lathe
● Features a five-year warranty for peace of mind
● Does not come with a bed extension for longer pieces of wood
Grizzly H8259 Benchtop Wood Lathe
Those who want a great wood lathe that doesn’t cost a fortune should make sure to take a look at the Grizzly H8259. It offers a lot of features for the price point. Looking at the price, you might expect to compromise quality but that isn’t the case. This lathe has a ½ horsepower motor and five different speed controls including 826, 1,205, 1,713, 2,422, and 3,337 RPM.
The swing over bed is completely reasonable as is the center to center distance. It stands up to much more expensive models while having a much better price. This lathe also comes with a single year warranty so you know it’s going to work well for at least 12 months after purchase.
● A huge amount of value for the money you will spend
● Offers a large capacity when considering the price
● Portable and lightweight for use anywhere
● Offers only discrete speed control
Buyer’s Guide to Wood Lathes
A wood lathe is a machine that turns wood by rotating or spinning it in place. The wood can then be shaped and sculpted using sandpaper or a cutting tool to create the project you are interested in. Most wood lathes are faceplate turners or spindle types, and which is better will depend on the type of wood and what the final product will be.
Types of Wood Lathes Available
Most of the wood lathes you see will be similar but different models can also have very different features. Some machines also have a specific purpose you should be aware of. The following are the most common types you will run into:
● Standard Lathe – These lathes were created to make functional items like baseball bats and table legs but can also be used for things like wood sculptures. Most of the time, this sort of wood lathe is going to be made of durable and strong cast iron. It will also likely have an adjustable rail that helps you with shaping wood. Of all the lathes on the market, this is the most common.
● Mini Wood Lathe – This is a lathe that is much smaller than a traditional one. They are typically used for small intricate items to promise a high level of precision. These lathes are typically going to have less power but are also going to take up much less space when compared to a regular wood lathe. Mini lathes are benchtop units that can be transported easily.
● Specialty Wood Lathes – Some wood lathes are specially made to create wider items like plates and bowls. Unlike other lathes, this version does not have a horizontal rail so there is next to no limit on the width of the wood you are using with a project. This lathe uses a faceplate turning which rotates the grain of the wood in relation to the axis of the equipment.
Wood Lathe Power Level
There are several features to consider when deciding how powerful a specific lathe is going to be when in use. The horsepower of the motor and the speeds it offers are both things that relate to its power. A motor that is more powerful is going to be capable of handling larger projects. However, some people will find that a less powerful motor is just fine for their needs.
Motor Size of the Lathe
When looking at the size of a motor on a lathe, the information you find gives an idea of how quickly the machine can cut wood. If you end up choosing a lathe with a less powerful motor, this can lead to problems dealing with large projects. The tool may chatter as it goes through the motions and the piece might bog down the machine which can lead to damage.
Speed of the Wood Lathe
With a wood lathe, faster isn’t always better by default. It’s crucial to consider what you are making to determine what the best speed is to get the result you want. As an example, making a bowl requires far less speed than creating a leg for a table. The good thing is that many lathes are variable speed, which gives versatility depending on the project. Most beginners will not need speeds any higher than 2,000 RPM.
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Build & Size of the Lathe
As with other factors we’ve talked about when deciding on the size and build of a lathe, it’s important to be aware of what projects you are going to be doing. If the projects are going to be smaller, a mini lathe is more than enough to handle it. A floor lathe is useful for extensive, large projects, but these machines also take up a lot more space in the workshop.
Lathe Stability and Sturdiness
Another thing to consider is how sturdy a particular lathe is as additional speed can cause more vibration. The best lathes out there are going to be heavy and rugged enough to stay in place even if sudden shifting occurs. It should also be capable of handling interruptions to cutting and uneven blanks.
Wood Lathe Weight
In most cases, the heavier a lathe is, the more stable it will be when operating. A lathe that is too lightweight can experience more shifting with a large job or when operating at a higher speed.
Lathe Level of Vibration
Vibrations are most likely to occur when using a lathe that is not properly stabilized or one that is too lightweight. The issue with excess vibrations is that it can cause a machine to be harder to control. Because of that, the product may not be as high-quality as desired when it is complete.
Noise Level with a Lathe
The best wood lathes should be fairly quiet for a couple of reasons. The first is what it can prevent excess noise that can be frustrating when working near it. The second is because the person using the tool needs to be able to hear the cutting tool and lathe interact to determine they are working the way they should be.
Wood Lathe Capacity
The capacity of a lathe can be determined by the maximum swing and the distance between centers. When there is a large distance between centers, larger pieces of wood can be turned using a lathe. A greater swing means that larger diameter wood blanks won’t run the risk of contacting other components of the lathe.
Simplicity of Use
Any good wood lathe should be effective for all the projects you plan to do, but it should also be relatively simple to use. Sometimes finding the right machine involves testing a few of them to see how easy they are to adjust and use over the course of a project.
Wood Lathe Pricing
There are wood lathes of all different price points, but some can be quite expensive. Those who are beginners to woodturning may not want to make such a serious investment to get started. Some lathes will have fewer features but come at a lower price point. Anyone who plans to spend money on a top of the line lathe should be someone who is already excited about woodturning and ready to upgrade their experience.
Knowing what kind of wood lathes are available is a good start to choosing one for purchase. Take heed of the things that are more important to you and look for them when browsing different lathes that you might purchase. Taking a look at our suggested lathes and the guide to choosing one of your own will set you on the right track. Woodworking can be a lot of fun so take time to choose one that fits your needs!