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Best Wood Lathe Reviews of 2020 – Top Wood Turning Lathes

Woodturning is an art and a craft that allows you to produce beautiful objects like pens, bowls and much more from rough pieces of wood – but even for experienced practitioners, choosing the right lathe can be a challenge.

Whether you are an experienced wood turner or a curious amateur buying a machine for the first time, here, we bring you our top picks for best wood lathe to help you choose the right model for you.

Best Wood Lathe Reviews of 2020

1. WEN 3420T Variable Speed Benchtop Mini Wood Lathe (Our Top Recommended)

 

This is a compact and lightweight mini wood lathe from Wen. With its small footprint, it is ideal to set up in even smaller workshops, and since it’s not too heavy, it’s easy to move around if you want to change where you work or pack it away when not in use.

It features a soft start, which is designed to enhance safety while limiting the chance of damaging what you are working on. It also offers variable speed settings from 750 RPM to 3,200 RPM, allowing you to adjust the speed according to what you are working on.

One thing we like about this lathe is that it comes with several useful accessories, giving you greater freedom over what you create with it.

You can use it to work on anything up to 12” long and 8” wide, but it excels when used to make smaller items like pens, chess pieces, knobs and handles.

However, having said that, if you try to use it for anything larger, it begins to struggle, so if you are hoping to use it to turn bowls or anything bigger, you might be better off looking elsewhere.

Similarly, the engine is not particularly powerful and may begin to labor or cut out if you try to push it too hard.

That said, this is not designed to be a heavy-duty wood lathe – it is supposed to be an affordable entry-level tool that is ideal for beginners.

If you are looking for a basic wood lathe that will allow you to try your hand at this art without breaking the bank, this could be an excellent option. For anyone looking for something in this category, this lathe comes highly recommended.

What We Like

  • Light and mobile – easy to move around your workshop
  • Small and compact – won’t take up too much space
  • Very low price point – few lathes cost less
  • Comes with a variety of accessories – allows you to get creative
  • Ideal for beginners – makes a good entry-level unit

What We Don't Like

  • Lacks power – can stall if you try to push it
  • Limited use – not made for creating bigger pieces

2. SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe

 

If you are looking for a high-quality yet reasonably priced benchtop wood lathe that is ideal for creating smaller pieces, this could but just the unit you need.

It is lightweight and compact, making it ideal for smaller workshops – although it can be screwed into place for more permanent installations.

It benefits from features like an infinitely variable speed control that lets you work at anything between 700 RPM and 3,200 RPM, allowing you to adjust the speed precisely according to your needs.

We also like that this comes with two tool rests, one of 4 ½” and one of 7”, giving you more flexibility to work on a greater range of projects.

Furthermore, it is made of tough and durable components, meaning it is built to last – this is a wood lathe you will be able to use for years to come.

With a maximum center-to-center length of 12” and a bed swing of 8”, this tool is ideal for working on smaller pieces like pens, chess pieces or anything up to the size of small bowls.

However, if you need something for larger pieces, you will need to look elsewhere as this machine won’t be able to handle the work you want to do. It also struggles when faced with harder wood and is best used to work with softer woods.

Despite these limitations, overall, this is an excellent option for novice or intermediate woodworkers who don’t need anything too big or too powerful. If this sounds like what you are looking for, this is a machine that is well worth checking out.

What We Like

  • Infinitely variable speed control – runs at 700 RPM to 3,200 RPM
  • 2 tool rests – 4 ½” or 7” allows for more applications
  • Excellent value for money – high-quality unit at this price point
  • Made to last – constructed with high-quality, durable components
  • Benchtop model – ideal for smaller workshops

What We Don't Like

  • Only designed for smaller work – can’t turn much more than a small bowl
  • Struggles when used with hard wood – only has the power for softer woods

3. Jet JWL-1015 Wood Working Lathe

 

This wood lathe from Jet is a well-made, high-quality tool that is nevertheless user-friendly, easy to use and suitable for wood-turning novices.

It measures 15 ½” from the center to center, allowing you to work with longer stock than the two lathes above. The 10” swing over bed also allows you to create larger pieces, and it has integrated 24-position indexing for increased precision and versatility.

It features five different spindle speeds, 500 RPM, 840 RPM, 1,240 RPM, 2630 RPM and 3,975 RPM. This range means you can work very slowly when required but also at much higher speeds when the work you are doing calls for it.

We like how this machine is very intuitive to use – even for beginners, it won’t take long to learn the fundamentals of the craft as long as you have the required basic set of tools.

On the downside, whenever you want to change the spinning speed, you need to shut the machine off to reset the belt – you can’t adjust the speed while the machine is in operation.

Other than that, there are very few negatives with this machine – the only other major downside is the price. This lathe is significantly more expensive than entry-level machines, although if you want a premium-quality tool, you have to pay the price.

All in all, this is an excellent wood lathe that will be a joy to use for beginners and advanced operators alike. It is relatively compact, and you won’t be able to produce larger pieces on it, but for working on smaller items, it’s one of the best options available.

What We Like

  • 5 different spindle speeds – from 500 RPM up to 3975 RPM
  • User-friendly operation – a good option for beginners
  • 15 ½” between centers – allows you to work on larger pieces
  • 10” swing over bed – lets you create thicker pieces
  • Integrated 24-position indexing – for precision and versatility

What We Don't Like

  • High price tag – although you pay more for top quality
  • Need to stop to change speed – can’t change speed during operation

4. Delta Industrial 46-460 Variable-Speed Midi Lathe

 

If you are looking for a near-professional-grade lathe that will allow you to turn all kinds of objects – from pens to medium-sized bowls – of superior quality, this could be a machine that is worth investigating.

It features a 12 ½” swing over bed – said to be the largest in its class – to give you extra capacity to work on larger wood lathe projects.

One of the highlights with this lathe is the adjustable direction function. This allows you to change the direction of rotation, meaning you can carve or sand in both directions without resorting to remounting the piece in the other direction.

It is powered by a 1Hp, 1725 RPM motor, giving you plenty of power, even for tougher jobs. The six-groove belt also improves the power and efficiency, making light work of stubborn wood.

Another big positive is the heavy-duty, cast iron construction – this is a tool that is designed to last. It is also backed up with a five-warranty to give you peace of mind in case anything goes wrong.

However, the company itself does have something of a poor reputation when it comes to customer service, and you may find it a little difficult if you need to replace any parts.

Also, this may be a larger machine than the small-scale lathes we’ve already looked at, but if you need something at the largest end of the scale, you might find this doesn’t quite fit the bill.

We like this lathe. It does what it was designed to do extremely well and will allow you to create a wide range of beautiful wooden objects. If you don’t require anything larger than this and you are willing to meet the price tag, you are unlikely to be disappointed.

What We Like

  • 12 ½” swing – said to be the largest in its class
  • 6-groove belt – delivers extra power for tougher jobs
  • Cast iron construction – this unit is built to last
  • 5-year warranty – reliable product backed up by the manufacturer
  • Forward and reverse function – allows you to change the direction of the spin

What We Don't Like

  • Hard to find replacement parts – the company doesn’t have a good reputation
  • Not a large lathe – but will handle any small to medium-sized jobs well

5. RIKON Power Tools 70-105 Mini Lathe

 

This lathe is a very reasonably priced machine that is ideal for turning pens and making other similar-sized objects. At 10” x 18”, it’s the ideal size for making objects of this kind.

It has a heavy cast-iron machine bed, headstock and tailstock, and the extra weight helps minimize vibration, making it smooth to operate. It is also very quiet when in use.

It features five different speed settings, 500 RPM, 1,175 RPM, 1,850 RPM, 2,225 RPM and 3,200 RPM – the lowest speed of 500 RPM is less than many other lathes are able to produce.

Another big plus here is the price – while this is not the least expensive option, it is well-built and high-quality, representing excellent value for money. This would be a good option for someone who is interesting in woodturning but who doesn’t want to spend too much money.

One negative to mention is that although it includes a five-speed setting, you need to readjust the belt to change the speed. This hardly takes a moment to do, but it means you can’t change the speed as you work.

Also, this is a mini lathe – as with some of the other models we’ve looked at, while it’s perfect for turning pens and other objects of a similar size, if you want to make larger objects, you would be best advised to look elsewhere.

This is an excellent choice if you are looking for something in this category, and the reasonable price point makes it a very attractive possibility.

What We Like

  • 5-speed operation – adjust the speed according to your project
  • Heavy machine bed, headstock and tailstock – helps minimize vibration
  • Quiet operation – doesn’t make much noise when in use
  • Affordable option – very reasonable price point
  • 10” x 18” – ideal for turning pens and other small objects

What We Don't Like

  • Need to adjust belt to change speed – can’t do while in operation
  • Not ideal for larger objects – need to choose a larger unit

6. Generic 4 Speed Power Wood Turning Lathe

 

This is a budget-friendly, entry-level lathe that is perfect for someone looking for a simple machine that will allow them to get into woodturning and learn the basic techniques.

It features a 14” diameter over bed and an extra-long 40” maximum distance between the centers, something that is hard to find on many other lathes. This makes it suitable for working on even some of the larger projects you may have in mind.

It offers four different speed settings – 1,100 RPM, 1,600 RPM, 2,300 RPM and 3,400 RPM.

It easy to assemble out of the box, and most people will have it set up and ready to go in no time. It is also a very simple machine, meaning it requires only minimal care and maintenance.

On the downside, the speeds are particularly awkward to adjust. It’s only a case of changing the belt manually, but it isn’t particularly easy to access quickly.

Also, for some people, the simplicity of its design will be an issue since it doesn’t allow the range of adjustments some other machines can offer. This may end up limiting what you are able to produce on it.

All in all, an ideal option to learn on if you are interested in taking up woodturning but don’t have a lot of cash to spend on your new hobby. If you accept it for what it is and understand that it isn’t supposed to be a high-end machine, this could be a great way to learn a new skill.

What We Like

  • Very simple design – easy care and maintenance
  • 14” diameter over bed, 40” max between spindles – allows you to work larger pieces
  • 4 speed settings – adjust the speed to your project
  • Easy to assemble – most people will have it ready in no time
  • Budget-friendly price – an entry-level machine aimed at beginners

What We Don't Like

  • Awkward to change speed setting – need to change belt manually
  • Limited range of adjustments – but good for someone to learn the basics on

7. NOVA 46300 Comet II Variable Speed Mini Lathe

 

The Nova Comet II is a high-quality yet affordable lathe in the middle of the price range that comes with a whole range of useful features.

It has adjustable speed settings, ranging from 250 RPM to 4,000. 250 RPM is much lower than almost any other lathe you will find in this category, making this unit ideal for working with larger pieces of wood.

The 12” swing over bed and 16.5” between centers also give you plenty of scope for working on medium-sized projects.

Much of the unit is made of cast iron, with the extra weight helping to dampen any vibrations, and another great feature is the reversible spin direction. Again, this is not common on machines of this class and is especially useful for sanding work.

It is also compatible with the Versaturn Coupler Accessory, making this lathe an even more versatile tool with many extra uses.

To add a couple of negatives, although this lathe has adjustable speed settings, they require you to stop and adjust the belt manually – variable speed adjust systems that don’t require this are a more practical way to go.

The motor is also slightly lacking in power – although this might actually be better for beginners, this lathe may struggle a little when dealing with harder woods.

Overall, this is another excellent option that is especially suitable for beginner or intermediate users who can afford a mid-range lathe but who can’t quite justify paying for one of the top-end models. Great value for money and a highly recommended product.

What We Like

  • Reversible direction – especially practical for sanding work
  • Cast iron build – helps minimize vibration
  • Adjustable speed settings – from 250 RPM to 4,000 RPM
  • 12” swing over bed and 16.5” between centers – allows for decent sized projects
  • Compatible with Versaturn Coupler Accessory – gives even greater versatility

What We Don't Like

  • No variable speed – need to adjust manually
  • Motor slightly weak – mostly fine, but sometimes can struggle with tougher jobs

Buyer’s guide

wood lathe reviews

If you are looking for a wood lathe, you are probably wondering which factors to consider when buying the right model for you.

Here we look at some of the most important points you should be looking at when deciding which one to buy. 

Also, Check our guide if you want to diy lathe plans at home.

1. Size of wood to be worked

wood lathe sizeProbably the most important thing you should be looking at is the size of the lathe since this will determine what kind of project you can use it to work on.

If you are only interested in turning pens or perhaps other small objects like chess pieces, a mini lathe should be sufficient. However, if you are interested in turning larger bowls or making furniture, something larger will be required.

The most important specs to look at are swing over bed and distance between centers. The former is a guide to the thickness of the stock you can work while the latter gives you an indication of how long a piece of wood you can turn.

Make sure you know what kind of projects you want to work on and be sure to choose a lathe that will allow you to do it.

2. Types of lathe

small wood latheRelated to the size of the wood you want to work is the overall size and weight of the lathe itself. Wood lathes come in two type – benchtop and full-sized.

Benchtop lathes are lighter and easier to move and also have smaller footprints. If you only have a small workshop, this might be a better option.

However, if you want to turn larger pieces and have space, a full-sized, free-standing lathe might be a wiser choice.

Tips: Heavier lathes also tend to have less vibration.

3. Speed

wood lathe speedThe speed of a lathe is measured in revolutions per minute (RPM). For larger pieces, you want a low minimum speed whereas, for smaller, more detailed work, you need a higher maximum speed.

For the upper limit, multiply the thickness of the wood you need to turn by the RPM rating on the lathe – a score of 6,000 to 9,000 is about right. For the lower limit, anything below 500 RPM is very respectable – although even lower than this is sometimes possible.

4. Adjustable speed

wood lathe Adjustable SpeedMost lathes allow you to adjust the speed. Check to see how many speed settings there are as well as how the speed is adjusted. Some lathes require that you stop working to adjust the belt while others allow you to adjust the speed as you work.

Also, some lathes offer infinite speed adjustment – this means you can adjust the speed by turning a knob rather than choosing from predetermined RPM speeds.

5. Reverse spin function

wood lathe Reverse SpinSome lathes allow you to reverse the direction of spin.

This is particularly useful when sanding since sanding against the grain gives you a much smoother result.

Without this ability, you may have to switch the whole piece around – which in some cases may be impossible.

Many solid options on the market

As we have seen, there are many options to choose from of all different sizes and with a broad range of specs. If you are looking for a lathe but are unsure which is the right one for you, any of the options in our review would be a great place to start.

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