When working with wood, investing in good tools and machinery can take you a long way. Occasionally, people may not want to invest in heavy machinery if woodcraft is a hobby. However, if you are looking to invest in your carpentry business then purchasing wood lathes is highly recommended.
So in this article, we bring to you the best wood lathes that money can buy in the market now. These products were carefully researched to provide the best for all types of consumers. Read on to get a comprehensive idea about which product would best suit your needs.
7 Best Wood Lathes Reviews
There are so many products to choose from in the market of wood lathes. Each has its own specialties. The following products are a few are of our top picks.
1. Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch
With a powerful 1 HP motor, this product is a very capable machine. Having the ability to run at around 1750 rpm, any job will be completed in no time. It has a decent-sized swing over bed. Being a compact ‘midi’ lathe, this product does not fall short on any abilities.
The lathe has a swing size of 9.25 inches. For your kind information, you can extend the bed to a staggering 42 inches. This means that you can use this lathe to turn long pieces of wood. One good thing about this product is that the manufacturer has not sacrificed any aspects.
This is a very powerful lathe in comparison to most others in the market. Although it will lack on heavy load, it is good enough to do moderately heavy work. The torque on the headstock spindle is adequate to turn heavy materials smoothly and with great consistency.
Having a 3-speed motor allows you to fine-tune the spinning force on this lathe. The first gear can take up to 250 to 750 rpm, 600 to 1350 rpm, and lastly, the smallest gear from 1350 to 4000rpm. It also has an electronic speed controller knob on the side with which you can set the speed while in operation.
- Compact form factor
- Extendable working area
- Powerful motor
- Variable speed controller
- Easy to use
- Not for beginners
- Needs frequent maintenance
2. JET JWL-1221VS
The JWL-1221VS is a great all-rounder in the market for lathes. Being a top pick for professionals, this product has a lot to offer for its price. With a functional cast iron build, this product screams business. It is small and compact, making it a great table-top lathe for your personal workshop.
This product has a powerful 1 hp motor with a digital speed controller. Thus you will get precision and great control over the work you do with the lathe. It has a variable speed motor that can supply speeds between 60 to 3600 rpm. The speed can then be controlled digitally through dials.
Its swing over the bed is pretty large coming in at 12 inches, whereas the end-to-end size is about 21 inches. This is enough to work on large wooden blocks similar to the ones industrial lathes can accommodate. With an easily adjustable tool rest, the machine will never feel clunky.
An often overlooked feature is the reverse and forward controlling motion. It is very effortless to control this feature making fine-tuning your work a dream. When you can run a cutting tool through 9 inches of working space, you can truly birth a masterpiece.
- Precise speed controlling feature
- Flexible rpm setting
- Durable cast iron build
- Compact for any workshop
- Simple to use
- Additional accessories are difficult to find
- Hand wheels can lose color over time
3. NOVA 46300 Comet II
Coming with a powerful 3-4 hp motor, this lathe is a must-have for people who are looking to do more professional work. The motor can handle immense pressure and is a great choice from minor to major projects.
This product can reach speeds of up to 4000 rpm. The lowest speed achievable is 250 rpm. With a digital adjustment screen, you can put in all the necessities before the work and get down to it. It also has a nifty motion altering switch giving you the flexibility to fine-tune your project mid-job.
The lathe has a swing capacity of 12 inches over the bed and a 16.5 inch capacity down the center. This allows the user to turn a moderately large sized piece of wood, leaving behind enough space from the bed. An additional 41 inches of space can be added with the optional bed extension accessory.
With a 3 step pulley system, the lathe has great control over how much speed it can output. You will get maximum flexibility at high speeds. Just remember to cover your ears with something before attempting to reach such speeds. A great addition to the lather is its fine indexing mechanism.
- Compact lightweight design
- Variable speed setting
- Versatile speed controlling the user interface
- Two-way motion feature
- Expandable bed size
- Too small for industrial work
- Extensions are paid additions
4. WEN 3420 8″ by 12″
This product is a great example of an entry-level budget-friendly lathe. It is the perfect choice for beginners for its competitive pricing. The best part is that this machine does not skimp out on any necessary requirements from being a great product overall.
The machine is wholly made up of cast iron. It is compact and lightweight, making it an easy fit in the most limited space. You will get around 2 feet if distance across the lathe with a height of about 1 foot. Weighing in at 44 pounds, it is definitely one of the lightest lathes in the market.
With the ability to adjust the speed manually, this lathe can run from 750rpm to 3200 rpm. It has a 2 amp soft-start motor. This means that you cannot run it at full speed right away. The increase in speed will occur gradually as the machine runs for a while.
Out of the box, you will also get a tailstock cup center, a knockout rod, a headstock spur center, and a 5-inch faceplate. This lathe can handle stocks up to 12 inches long and 8 inches wide. You can reduce the length by adjusting the tailstock.
For safety purposes, the lathe also includes a circuit breaker button for quick stops. You also should be conscious of the woodworking safety rules while working with lathe machine.
- Full control on operation
- Has a variable speed control
- Powerful 2 amp motor
- Sturdy cast iron build
- Expandable bed area
- Not suitable for large stock
- Reported stability issues
5. Jet JWL-1440VSK
When it comes to affordability and versatility, the JWL-1440 is a very capable machine. It has a powerful motor to turn large bowl turning capabilities. Coming in with a 1 hp motor, it is not the top product in the market but it will do pretty well for beginners
This product can reach speeds of up to 3000rpm. The speed can be controlled with a Reeves Drive. With a knob on the side of the lathe, precise speed can be achieved. A rotating headstock is also included to provide high versatility. It is capable of rotating in 7 positive locking positions.
As this product is not a benchtop lathe, you will get great height off the ground. It has an ergonomic design and will reduce fatigue when working for long hours. Weighing in at a decent 400 pounds, it is not really that portable. However, you can always work with heavier stock with this lathe.
The lathe also comes with an optional extension capability, which allows the user to extend the bed mount. There is an easy to read display which shows the speed and power ratings. It has a speed adjusting knob and improved tailstock quill locking mechanism.
- Variable speed settings
- Rugged cast-iron build
- Minimum vibration at high speed
- Clear information display
- Powerful high rpm motor
- Not portable
- Pretty heavy for a compact lathe
6. PSI Woodworking KWL-1218VS
The KWL-1218VS is a very capable lathe when it comes to heavy workloads. It is very powerful and a must-have for any beginner. Many top-class functions come with this lathe, including power controls, expandable bed size, and a high rpm motor.
Being a midi lathe, the product is very light and compact. It is solely made up of cast iron. So rest assured that your lathe will be of high quality. The use of this material is highly sought after since it gives it a bit of weight in order to handle high vibration levels.
It comes with a powerful 1hp motor capable of running at variable speeds. The dual belt construction allows you to control how fast the lathe runs. At the first belt, it can run from 5000 to 1800 rpm. On the second belt, you can push that speed up to 3800 rpm.
There is a digital readout screen clear enough for the user to monitor the lathe to achieve precise speed. It has a speed controller on the side with which you can set the desired speed to get a perfect finished product. The bed size comes with a 12-inch swing capacity enabling it to handle large stock.
- Built-in handles for grip
- 18 inches of distance between centers
- Durable cast iron build
- 12-inch swing capacity
- Clear speed displaying a digital screen
- Could have had more durable flex shaft
- 3 gears would have been a better combination
7. Laguna Tools Revo 18/36
Coming in with a powerful 2hp motor, this product is a wood turner’s dream. A great improvement from its previous model, the Revo can handle both spindle work and bowl turning. It is a benchtop lathe, therefore it is very compact and lightweight. Portability is another great trait for this machine.
It has great power delivery due to the motor that it comes with. When in operation, the lathe is very quiet and runs extremely smooth. You will get a variable speed controlling abilities making the lathe more versatile than most others in the market. Having a 220v motor, this lathe is a beast of a machine.
With a low speed from 50 to 1300 rpm you can fine-tune your work to the centimeter. If you are aiming for high speeds, you need not to worry as this lathe handles an upwards of 3000 rpm. The speed can be controlled with a nifty controller set on the side of the machine.
You will get a clear control panel with nicely set dials for your convenience. The necessary information is displayed on a digital screen with real-time updates. With a motion reversing capability, you can flip a switch to have the motor operation in the opposite direction.
- Powerful 2hp 220v motor
- Cast iron build
- Motion reversing feature
- High bed space
- Digital readout display
- Intended for beginners
- Might be hard to accommodate large stock
What to Look for Before Buying?
There are a few things you need to consider before purchasing your first wood lathe. These include the size of the tool and your workspace. Keep the following points in mind before you make the purchase.
If you are limited in space in your workshop, it is highly recommended to invest in a lathe that is not too large. Having a compact lathe will make sure you have enough room to move around without knocking anything over.
According to your workspace, you can choose to either buy a benchtop lathe or a full-sized one. The table-top ones are lighter and much more portable. However, you will be restricted to the size of wood or furniture you can turn on it. Thus measure the space you have and purchase a lathe accordingly.
Simplicity of Operation
For a beginner, it is recommended that one should invest in an entry-level compact lathe. As they get larger, they become more and more complicated to use. Take baby steps into the market and fully understand the craft before going big. When starting out, it is important to invest in a user-friendly product.
Woodturning requires different speeds for different projects. Any good lathe will be able to handle a wide speed range. The faster you go, the more fine-tuning you can do to your project. Additionally, the option to set the forward and reverse motion of a lathe is an important part of a capable lathe.
The heavier the lathe, the more pressure can be applied to it. However, heavy machinery can need a bit of rearranging when it comes to tight spaces. Valuing profitability over speed can make you go a long way. Most small lathes nowadays are just as capable as a large industrial lathe.
Moreover, the weight of a lathe also depends on the type of material used in its build. Typically, a cast iron or steel will be fairly heavy, but it will ensure that the machine will be rugged and long-lasting.
The swing capacity is the maximum diameter of a wooden stock that a lathe can accommodate. This can be measured by checking the distance between the spindle and the underlying mounting rail.
Lathes nowadays come in a number of motor sizes. They can range from 1 hp and upwards of 4 hp. This is only for compact lathes. The more industrial ones have much more powerful motors inside.
When purchasing a lathe, try to get one that has a horsepower rating between 1-4 hp. That way, you can fine-tune your work without having to push the lathe to its limits. This also enables you to control the amount of power the lathe can supply very precisely.
Additional Accessories and Tools
A few additional extras can really improve your experience with your lathe. These things include a two-way motion switch or even digital screens to control your lathe electronically.
There are a few manufacturers that even supply bed extenders so that the lathe can accommodate larger stock. This is a great addition as it bridges the gap between a compact lathe and a larger industrial one.
Frequently Asked Question
Q: Which is better steel or cast iron?
Ans: Most lathes nowadays come with a cast-iron build. It is better at absorbing vibrations on heavy use. However, budget-friendly lathes come with a steel build which is no slouch
Q: How much assembly is required for a lathe?
Ans: Benchtop lathes require minimal assembly. They come pre-assembled from the factory. This is common for midi lathes that do not require much space. Larger lathes require a fair bit of assembly.
Q: What kind of lathe is perfect for spindle work?
Ans: There are specific lathes intended for certain jobs. When buying a lathe, make sure to review what it specializes in.
Q: Do I need extra help to assemble a lathe?
Ans: Heavier lathes will definitely need extra help to assemble. If needed, get professional help as one mistake can cost you a lot of time.
Q: Can you fit wheels on a lathe for greater portability?
Ans: It is not recommended to add items to a lathe that are not manufacturer-approved. Most large lathes weigh over 400 pounds that can be difficult to move around on plastic wheels.
This is our review of the top wood lathes available in the market currently. Picking one from the list will definitely serve your needs, be it for your personal hobby or a professional job. Hopefully, this guide will be comprehensive enough when deciding to purchase your first lathe.
I must remind you one more thing and that is since lathe is a heavy-duty tool you must wear necessary safety equipment before starting work with a lathe machine.