Have you ever been intrigued by an intricately beautiful wooden object?
Wood has a unique elegance – whether it is used for home decor, personal accessories, ornaments, or anything else. What makes it even more interesting is the evident absence of joints or screws holding these wooden objects together. So how does a block of wood turn into pots, bangles, rings, furniture legs, goblets, and more?
The answer to that question is a wood lathe! If you ask a professional wood craftsman today, they will most likely tell you that they cannot even imagine a woodwork shop sans one of these machines.
There are a plethora of wood lathes available in the market, and it can be challenging to find the best option. That’s where these recommendations of ours come into the picture!
Best Wood Lathes
- Best Wood Lathes
- 1. PSI Woodworking KWL-1218VS Turn Crafter Lathe
- 2. SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe
- 3. Powermatic Wood Lathe with RPM Digital Readout
- 4. RIKON 70-100 Mini Lathe
- 5. Jet JWL-1440VSK Wood Lathe
- 6. WEN 3420T Variable Speed Bench-top Mini Wood Lathe
- 7. Delta Industrial Variable-Speed Midi Lathe
- 8. NOVA Comet II Variable Speed Mini Lathe
- 9. RIKON Power Tools VSR MIDI Lathe
- 10. Jet JWL-1221VS Variable Speed Wood Lathe
- 11. Laguna Tools MLAREVO 1836 Revo Lathe
- 12. Grizzly H8259 Bench-Top Wood Lathe
- 13. Mophorn Bench-Top Wood Lathe
- Best Wood Lathes Buyers’ Guide
We have used each of these 13 wood lathes extensively for a range of projects to get firsthand experience and identify the pros and cons of each of them. Be sure to check our informative buyers’ guide after the reviews.
Without further ado, let’s get straight to all the details!
We are starting our recommendations list with the most powerful and easy-to-use lathe of its class. The KWL-1218VS from PSI Woodworking is an exceptional product with some top-notch functions that will simplify and accelerate all of your woodturning projects.
- KWL-1218VS replaces TCLC12VS. ETL Listed and...
- Powered by 1hp Variable Speed high performance...
We wanted to keep a midi lathe as our first pick because of its more significant consumer base – you are less likely to use a mini or full-sized lathe. And when it comes to midi lathes, few machines come close to the KWL-1218VS in terms of functionality and powerful performance.
It features a powerful 1hp motor that has variable speed (120V-60HZ). We especially liked its digital readout as it allowed us to monitor and work at precise speeds. What sets this lathe apart from its competition is its dual belt positions – 500 to 1800 RPM and 1950 to 3800 RPM.
A bench-top lathe is an ideal choice for beginners, students, hobbyists, and DIY’ers. This version of a wood lathe is portable, reasonable, and can be used only for turning small pieces of wood. Our first bench-top lathe recommendation on this list is the impressive W1704 from Shop Fox.
- Motor: 1/3 HP, 2 Amp, 110V, Single-phase, 60 Hz
- 12-inch distance between centers
If you are looking for a portable, lightweight wood lathe to keep on a desk or bench, you should go for the W1704. It packs a decent punch with its 1/3 hp motor. The variable speed ranges from 700 to 3,200 RPM. You can rest assured that this machine will excel at turning pens, rings, and small bowls.
We especially liked the thoughtful inclusion of a 5.75-inch faceplate that threads on to the headstock. It allows you to turn objects like bowls that cannot get the support of the tailstock.
After reviewing a midi lathe and a bench-top lathe, it is time to talk about a full-size commercial lathe. When it comes to the big leagues, professional woodturners are ready to pay extra dollars but will not compromise on quality. Powermatic understands that and offers one of the best full-size lathes in model 3520B.
- Wood turning lathe with digital RPM readout,...
- Powered by a 2-horsepower, 220-volt, variable...
First of all, you will not find a more powerful lathe easily; this beast of a machine from Powermatic features a two hp motor. You can choose from two speed ranges – 125 to 3500 RPM or 50 to 1500 RPM. While the variable speed settings of this lathe aren’t extraordinary, its capacity is!
With a center-to-center distance of 36 inches, you can rest assured that this lathe can tackle even massive projects. We especially liked its wing capacity – 17 inches over tool rest and 20 inches over the bed.
What’s more? It comes equipped with a digital readout, so you always know the exact speed of turning.
Going back to the other end of the spectrum, our next pick is an exceptional mini lathe from the reputed brand of RIKON. It is the “largest mini lathe” out there in terms of its swing capacity. So, it is apparent that we had to include this machine in our list – it allows you to do more while occupying less space.
- Easy Access Speed Change: Provides ample room to...
- Self Ejecting Tail Stock: No need to use the...
One of the critical aspects of woodturning is the speed – you need different speeds for different kinds (sizes) of projects. With this RIKON lathe, you can easily and quickly change the speed and select one of the six settings – 430, 810, 1,230, 1,810, 2,670, or 3,900 RPM.
We especially liked the unique indexing head that comes with 12 positions. It allows you to lock the workpiece in several positions for better accuracy of detailed work like layouts, grooving, drilling, straight fluting, and so on.
If you want a versatile wood lathe that can help you accomplish a wide range of woodturning goals, you should get the 1440VSK from Jet. It is a premium product that commands a high price and is accordingly packed with many features that the majority of its competitors do not offer.
- Sliding headstock pivots 360 degrees with 7...
- Variable speed from 400-3000 RPM; improved...
The sliding headstock is perhaps the first thing you will notice about this wood lathe. It pivots a full 360 degrees and locks in seven different angles – 0, 30, 60, 90, 120, 180, and 270 degrees. This enhanced range of headstock positions coupled with its variable speed settings, ranging from 400 to 3,000 RPM, provides optimal user convenience.
A special mention goes to its optional extension bed that can be attached in three different positions and used to extend the center-to-center distance up to a massive 60 inches!
Bench-top wood lathes are designed for small projects that require limited power and spindle/swing capacity. The 3420T Bench-top Wood Lathe from WEN comes with a flat wrench, two hex wrenches – 3mm and 5mm, an accessory holder, a knockout rod, a headstock spur center, and a tailstock cup center.
- Perfect for pens, chess pieces, and other small...
- Soft start variable speed motor adjusts anywhere...
Unlike the majority of midi and full-size lathes that offer continuous speed control, the WEN 3420T lathe offers five discrete speed settings – 520, 900, 1400, 2150, and 3400 RPM. We especially liked the thoughtful inclusion of a 3.125-inch faceplate that can be used for non-spindle workpieces like cups and bowls.
You will not have to worry about power capabilities with this machine as its 4.5A motor provides optimal torque for a bench-top lathe. Also, its durable build and 70-plus pound frame ensure that there is no wobbling or vibration during operation.
And it is one of the most reasonable lathes you can find, so it is perfect for beginners.
Perhaps the best midi lathe on this list, this product from Delta certainly deserves considerable praise. It comes with a knockout bar, tool rest base, wrenches, live center, chrome 3-inch face plate, manual, and 10-inch and 6-inch tool rest. Let’s see what makes this wood lathe tick!
- Powerful 1 hp max, 1,725 rpm motor
- Large 12-1/2-inch swing capacity provides the...
You should know right off the bat that the Industrial Variable Speed Midi Lathe from Delta is perfect for professional woodworkers. Although it is a midi lathe, you can efficiently complete some heavy-duty projects with this powerful machine. Beginners should preferably get accustomed to using a mini lathe before switching to this machine.
A 1hp motor powers it. Having the most significant swing capacity in its class (12.5 inches) gives it a significant competitive edge. We especially liked how the required speeds can be selected without changing the belt position, thanks to its three pulley-speed ranges.
You will not have to worry about inaccuracy while using this lathe, as it has both forward and reverse functions.
Nova offers the Comet II Variable Speed Mini Lathe, which is an innovative and versatile machine. Unlike the majority of 1/2 hp mini lathes, this machine has more power with a 0.75 hp motor. Its unique three-step pulley system offers various speed ranges without compromising the flexibility.
- Speed range from 250 to 4000rpm - best in the...
- 12" swing over bed and 16.5" between centers
A mini lathe that can compete with the stability and power of its larger alternatives? You read that right – the Comet II from Nova offers some unique features that make it a must-have. First of all, it has an excellent speed range of 250 to 4,000 RPM. And to top that, it comes with a 12-point index function.
Having a solid cast-iron build, this machine stands the test of time by quickly absorbing standard vibrations. And its self-ejecting tailstock saves your time. Its swing capacity is 12 inches, and spindle capacity is 16.5 inches but can be increased up to 41 inches with an optional bed extension.
The next wood lathe on this list of recommendations is the bigger version of a mini lathe that made the top five. RIKON’s Power Tools VSR Midi Lathe is very much like the 70-100 Mini Lathe – not only in terms of design but also the functionality.
- 1HP motor delivers all the power you need for...
- Big turning capacity of 12-1/2" diameter swing and...
Compared to its smaller version, this midi lathe packs in double the power with a one hp motor. Its swing capacity of 12.5 inches and spindle capacity of 20 inches are adequate to allow you to create large platters or bowls.
It is not just the motor that is twice as good as its mini version. It features an impressive 24-position index head, which offers unbelievable accuracy for creating patterns and designs. We especially liked its dual functions of forward as well as reverse turning.
You need not worry about the turning speed as it offers electronic variable speeds ranging from 250 to 3,850 RPM.
We have already recommended a full-size lathe from Jet, and now it is time for the best bench-top lathe that comes with the same brand name. The 1221VS is the crème de la crème of mini lathes for people who need to work on small projects and have a better-than-average budget.
- Unrivaled speed control
- 60 to 3600 RPM variable speed
The first thing we noticed while installing the 1221VS is its weight – at 120 pounds, it is one of the most massive bench-top lathes out there. Thankfully, our bench is very sturdy and could easily withstand it, but you might want to look into that before getting this machine.
What helps this lathe be a notch above its peers is its exceptional variable speed range. You can select a speed as low as 60 RPM and as high as 3,600 RPM, which is something you will not see with any other recommendation of ours!
We are down to the last three recommendations, and it is time to introduce the most expensive and most potent full-size wood lathe on this list. The MLAREVO 1836 from Laguna Tools is a top-notch product that we recommend to experts and professionals who have a lavish budget.
- Electrical: 2HP, 220 volt, 60 Hz, motor:...
- Spring loaded spindle lock, Max; outboard swing:...
Spending close to three thousand bucks on a wood lathe is not a matter of joke! But if you are willing to spend that much, we can assure you that 1836 from Laguna is your best bet. It features a powerful two hp, 220-volt electric motor.
With a swing capacity of 32 inches and a 41.5-inch distance between centers, you will not have to worry about any extensions even for large projects. Also, you can choose from two speed ranges – 50 to 1,300 RPM or 135 to 3,500 RPM.
Our penultimate recommendation comes in the form of an excellent bench-top lathe for woodturning beginners, enthusiasts, and DIY’ers. If you are looking for a low-budget machine sans compromised quality, you should look at the H8259 Bench-Top Lathe from Grizzly.
- 1" x 8 TPI RH headstock spindle
- 10 speeds: 600 - 2400 RPM
First of all, it is vital to establish that, like all bench-top and mini lathes, Grizzly’s H8259 is meant for small projects. It is the ideal machine for anybody who is just getting into woodturning. Professionals and experts can keep it only as a standby machine.
We especially liked the five discrete speed settings of this lathe – 3337, 2422, 1713, 1205, and 826 RPM. It offers excellent spindle and swing capacity for its price. The 1/2hp motor packs enough power to tackle small projects.
The only issue we had with this machine was that the motor got very hot after using it for an extended period. Also, the tailstock does not lock down as tightly as we would have liked. However, these are minor snags that do not significantly affect the operational efficiency of this wood lathe.
The final recommendation on our list today is a budget-friendly bench-top wood lathe. Mophorn offers this exceptional machine in three variants – 10 x 18 inch, 10 x 18 inch with digital display, and 12 x 18 inch with digital display. We have used and reviewed the 10 x 18 inch with the digital display model.
- VARIABLE SPEED - This 10 x 18" wood lathe is...
- WORK CAPACITY - Swing over bed 10" (254 mm). 18"...
This wood lathe from Mophorn features top-notch build, which ensures long-lasting performance. It comes packed with a powerful 550W motor with variable speeds and digital readings to give you an unparalleled woodturning experience. Its speed ranges from 500 to 3,800 RPM.
The package consists of the lathe, a toolset, and a manual. You will get a swing capacity of 10 inches over its bed and an 18-inch distance between centers, which is better than most bench-top lathes. We especially liked its cast-iron, heavy-duty construction coupled with rubber feet to provide enhanced stability and eliminate operational inefficiency.
Best Wood Lathes Buyers’ Guide
Now that we have reviewed the best wood lathes, it is time to understand the thought process that should influence your decision. You will have to select one of our recommendations, and this guide will help you do just that!
Although the utility derived from each of our recommendations are going to be subjective, you can use some generic determining factors to select the machine that would work best for you (given your requirements and budget constraints).
As we have already mentioned during our detailed reviews, you can choose from three types of wood lathes – mini or bench-top, midi, and full-size. Based on the space in your workshop and your requirements, you can go for any of these three types.
Go for a mini lathe if you have limited space and you want to turn small objects like pens, rings, and bowls. Go for a full-size lathe if you have a huge workshop and you turn wood for a living. If you do not get a resounding yes for either of these two options, you should look at a midi lathe.
Your budget will differ significantly based on the purpose of woodturning. For beginners and hobbyists who do not derive substantial income from this craft, a mini lathe is ideal as it costs between 200 and 500 bucks on average.
For people with some experience in the field who have a better budget, a midi lathe in the range of 500 to 900 dollars would be ideal. Experts and professional woodturners will likely have thousands of dollars to spare for a full-size lathe.
How do you know if the wood lathe you want to buy has the optimal speed range? There is a general rule of thumb that has something to do with the stock’s thickness. If you get a number between 6,000 and 9,000 on multiplying the width of the stock with the RPM, you can buy that machine.
So the ideal speed depends significantly on the size of the wood stock you will be working with.
Buying the best wood lathe will not take you to the end of the line – you also need to purchase top-notch tools that complement your machine. Woodturning is a very specific skill that cannot be mastered overnight. There is a gradual, yet coherent learning curve to this craft, so persistent effort will help you improve.
We hope our recommendations and buyers’ guide helped you select the ideal wood lathe. Do not forget to wear protective gear while turning wood and ensure that there is enough clearance on all sides of the lathe.
Till next time!