Have you been searching for the best wood lathe? You are in the right website. I know how hard it is to do research online, so I have done the reviewing for you. I took a look at the top five wood lathes, their features and pros and cons. I also have a detailed guide for buyers and other essential information so you can make the right decision. Before we go to the reviews, we need to examine the reasons why you may want a wood lathe.
- 1 Why need a Wood Lathe
- 2 Types of Wood Lathe
- 3 Things To Consider Before Buying a Wood Lathe
- 4 Best Wood Lathe Brands in Market
- 5 Our Pick For Best Wood Lathe
- 6 Short Review Of Each Best Wood Lathe
- 7 How to Use a Wood Lathe
- 8 Accessories for a Wood Lathe
- 9 Usage Tips
- 10 Maintenance Tips
- 11 Frequently Asked Questions
- 12 For Those Of You Who Are Still Unsure: My Recommendations
- 13 Final Word
Why need a Wood Lathe
Buying the best wood lathe is a good investment for a lot of reasons:
Versatile: You can use it for drilling, knurling, sanding, cutting and other woodworks
Precise: These machines are built for accuracy
Boost Productivity: A wood lathe increases your productivity
Quality level: Is improved especially when you’re working with cylindrical or round shapes like bowls and bolts
Cost Effective: Today’s wood lathes are more affordable than ever, and their power has increased
Easy to Use: In spite of the power in today’s lathes, they are surprisingly easy to use
Many Safety Features: Today’s wood lathes have several safety features built in
A Good Investment: The bottom line is these tools are a good investment, so if you’re into DIY projects it makes a lot of sense
Now that we have established the reasons why you need a lathe, let’s examine the purchase factors that you should consider.
Types of Wood Lathe
If you’re shopping for the best wood lathe, you have two choices:
These are used for making wood sculptures as well as furniture pieces. Most are made from iron and have adjustable features for precision work. By far these are the most widely used, and in terms of features the most packed.
- Widely available.
- Can be used for various woodworking projects.
- Made for heavy duty use.
- Have lots of features.
- More expensive than mini wood lathes.
Mini Wood Lathes
Also known as benchtop units, they don’t have as much power as standard wood lathes, but they do make up for it by being more compact. Due to their design, mini wood lathes are ideal for small projects.
- Easy to use.
- Not as powerful as standard wood lathes.
Things To Consider Before Buying a Wood Lathe
If you want the best wood lathe for your money, it must suit your requirements and then some. Here are some pointers:
Design: The switches must be easy to reach, in particular, the power. If the switches are difficult to reach it could pose safety risks.
Power and Motor: Most motors range from 1/8 horsepower to 2 horsepower or higher. ½ HP is fine for small tasks, while for general all-purpose, ½ to 1 HP is necessary. More HP – ¾ and up – are required for large projects.
Speed: At the very least the wood lathe should be able to do 600 to 4000 RPMs. Remember, most projects require you to start at slow speeds and go faster as you’re about to complete the task. This, along with the horsepower, tells you what the lathe can do.
Size & Weight: Most are around 8” to 43” long with a swing of 3” to 20”. Most lathes have extension capabilities, but make certain the unit has the specs to match your needs so you don’t have to buy anything else. With regards to the weight, the standard ones all weigh several hundred pounds, but there is assistance provided during delivery.
Sturdiness: The bed must be stabilized. Most users also opt for single than a two-piece, but if you’re going for a two-piece it must have support and bolts to ensure stability.
Vibration: The less vibration the better, and your best option here is to go with proven brands. This is where design comes in because a well-designed wood lathe doesn’t vibrate a lot.
Noise: All wood lathes generate noise, so if this is a concern, read the product specs to find out the exact level.
Capacity: If the wood lathe length capacity is 36 inches, that is the maximum wood piece length you can use. If the swing is at 12 inches, it signifies the distance from the drive center to the bed is 6 inches, meaning the maximum diameter you can turn for a bowl is 12 inches. Before buying a wood lathe, make sure it meets your capacity needs.
Price: The cost depends on the features, power, brand and where you buy among other factors. Get price quotes in different online retailers as well as the official website to get maximum value for your money.
Warranty & Support: Good wood lathes have at least a 1-yearr warranty and reliable customer support, and they are essential.
Best Wood Lathe Brands in Market
If you Google best wood lathe you’re going to find a lot of brands that claim to offer just that. However there’s a big difference between making claims and being able to prove it. I have used a lot of these wood lathes and their accessories, and I have to say the most reliable are PSI Woodworking, Grizzly, Nova and Delta. Other brands that I would recommend are Rikon, Jet and Powermatic. The bottom line is when it comes to these products you cannot go wrong, so if you’re looking for names you can trust, these are the ones you should turn to. In the meantime, let’s take a look the top wood lathes.
Our Pick For Best Wood Lathe
Let’s takes a look at our best five picks.
Short Review Of Each Best Wood Lathe
Here is the short review of each best Wood Lathe that we selected for you. These reviews definitely help you to choice the best Wood Lathe that is best suited for you.
1. Jet 708359 JWL-1642EVS Woodworking Lathe
If you’re searching for the best wood lathe, this is one product that you will want to look into. The JWL-1642EVS is equipped with an 115-volt motor packing 1 ½ HP. The unit can also go from 0 to 3200 RPM so you have full control over the operation. This wood lathe diameter spindle nose has 1.25 x 8 threads per in. and the rest base is made from heavy-duty cast iron. In addition, the JWL-1642EVS has a specially designed wire guard to ensure it is safe to use. It is also equipped with an electronic inverter which takes care of changing the phase from 1 to 3. In addition, the converter makes the necessary adjustments to the motor frequency and the speed.
- Three-Phase Motor with Electronic Inverter for Powerful Performance.
- Cast-Iron Castings for Stability and Smooth Operation.
- Large-Diameter Spindle with Built-in Indexing for Drilling, Fluting, and More.
- Heavy-Gauge Wire Guard for Safety.
- User-Friendly Controls, LED, and Toggle Switch.
- Large Tailstock for Stability.
- Ball bearing Live Center and Cast Iron Tool Rest Base for Versatility.
- Cast-iron bed and legs.
- Includes lathe, tool rest, face plate, spur center, live center, knockout bar, tool storage rack.
- 16-inch swing, 42-inches between centers; variable speed (0-3,200 rpm).
- 410-pounds for reduced vibration; 63-1/2 by 20 by 50-inches.
- Has a powerful three-phase motor.
- Easy to use.
- Tailstock adds stability.
- Variable speed options.
- Versatile and durable.
- 5 year warranty.
- Motor may have trouble handling very large bowls.
- Tool handle and guard could have been better placed.
Summary of Customer Reviews:
2. Powermatic 1352001 Model 3520B 20×35-Inch Wood Lathe
If we’re talking about the best wood lathe the 3520B will be right up there in the discussion. It comes with a 20-inch swing and space of 34-1/2 inches along the centers, and the lathe also has a pin that you can set in the spindle for making decorative designs and hole patterns in your drills. The 3520B runs on a 6.2-amp, 2-horsepower and 220 volt motor. The unit also has an inverter that allows it to run on either a one or thee phase output. A close look at the unit also shows that it has a couple of multi-groove pulleys. These pulleys are hooked onto a poly V-belt to ensure there is no surging.
- Powerful motor with inverter for 3-phase or single-phase input.
- Built-in spindle indexing for drilling hole patterns and routing flutes.
- Sliding headstock with electronic variable speed and digital RPM readout.
- Tailstock offers internal storage.
- Optional dust assembly can travel with the toolrest.
- Made of heavy-duty cast iron, Assembly required.
- Includes guard, tool rest, face plate, wrench, knockout rod and spindle lock.
- Cleverly Designed Headstock for Easy Adjustments.
- Powerful Motor for High Torque.
- Good storage capacity for various projects.
- Has a built in spindle for routine flutes.
- Easy to read digital readout.
- Variable speed.
- Vibration resistant.
- Assembly is required.
- Faceplate is a bit difficult to remove.
- 1-year warranty.
Summary of Customer Reviews:
3. JET JWL-1221VS 12-Inch by 21-Inch Variable Speed Wood Lathe
The JWL-1221VS is considered by some as one of the best wood lathe owing to its superior feature set. Equipped with a powerful motor, the JWL-1221VS offers 60 to 3600 RPM variable speed so you can work on different projects. Since most of your lathe related projects require you to start slow and finish fast, having these options is necessary.
The JWL-1221VS provides you with full control over the speed, and the changes in speed don’t negatively affect its performance. You can go reverse or forward easily. Another thing we should mention about this lathe is how quiet it is. Compared to other wood lathes it isn’t as noisy, and the digital readout is a nice touch.
- Runs on a poweful 1 HP Motor.
- Unrivaled speed control.
- Optimally designed speed ranges.
- Forward to reverse is a smooth transition.
- Innovative ratchet style belt tension system (patent pending).
- Integrated, spring loaded spindle lock.
- Conveniently located controls and DRO.
- Acme thread in tailstock.
- 24 integrated indexing positions.
- Comes with an indexing head.
- Variable speed controller.
- Stable and built solidly.
- Comes with a knock out bar and Allen wrench.
- Vibration free.
- 5-year Warranty.
- Length is only 21".
- Manual could have been more detailed.
Summary of Customer Reviews:
JET wood lathes have received good feedback and this is no exception. Most customers say it is quick to set up and easy enough for newcomers to use. Another customer says it offers plenty of power and as has been pointed out, doesn’t make a lot of noise. When you consider all these reviews, it is not hard to see why it is very much in demand.
4. RIKON 70-100 12-by-16-Inch Mini Lathe
The Rikon has entered the conversation of the best wood lathe because of its many features. Among the most important is its easy speed change from 430 all the way to 3,900. The wood lathe comes with a chart that helps you set the right speed for the spindle, and it is bundled with an indexing head so you can do more intricate work.
The Rikon tail stock is self-ejecting, so there is no need for a knock out bar, and that alone makes it an attractive option for a lot of people as it’s easier to use. The ram can move 2 ½ inches, and its controls are our friendly too.
- Easy Access Speed Change: Provides ample room to change speeds quickly.
- Self Ejecting Tail Stock: No need to use the knock-out bar to remove the center.
- 1/2HP Motor.
- Maximum Swing 12 in.
- Swing over tool rest base 9-1/2″.
- Working distance between centers 16″.
- Features a headstock with a 12-position indexing head to assist when marking.
- Reliable motor.
- You can add several extensions.
- Tailstock is easy to remove; no knock out bar required.
- Change speed easily.
- A convenient handle is helpful when moving.
- Has a two year warranty.
- Power users might find its specs lacking.
- Not as feature packed as other wood lathes.
Summary of Customer Reviews:
Customers have awarded the Rikon some of the highest possible ratings for any mini wood lathe. A lot of them are in agreement that it’s easy to operate and increases their productivity. Many customers have also spoken about its longevity, with many saying they have owned the Rikon for years and it works just fine.
5. Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed Midi Lathe
The Delta wood lathe makes a case for the best wood lathe by virtue of its significant and practical features. It has a 1 HP 1725 RPM motor, and its swing capacity is the best among its class. You can also rotate an object without tweaking the belt position thanks to its variable speed options.
There is a reverse and forward function built in so the finish looks better, and we also have to point out the Delta wood lathe has a proprietary belt tensioning mechanism that makes it easy to change the tension settings. Last but not the least, the wood lathe is constructed from a solid cast iron so it’s built to last.
- Best-in-class speed range from 250 to 4,000 RPM.
- Electronic variable Speed with three-pulley speed ranges provide the required speeds needed to turn a project without changing belt position.
- Forward and Reverse Provides a Superior Finish.
- Over headstock on/off switch for easy access.
- Patented Belt-Tensioning System for Fast Speed Changes and Longer Tool Life.
- 6 groove belt provides superior power to turn large objects.
- Indexing pin to lock the head stock spindle in 24 different locations for fluting and other decorative applications.
- Ball-bearing live center.
- On board storage for easy access to adjustment tools.
- With a maximum distance between centers of 42 in, the midi lathe turns objects as long as a chair leg or as short as a thimble.
- Extension bed (46-463) is a 25-1/2 in. long cast-iron bed that increases the overall bed length of the midi lathe to 42 in.
- 6 in. and 10 in. tool rests provides tool support in a variety of turning applications.
- Swing capacity is 12-1/2-inches, the best in its range.
- Has a five year warranty.
- Comes with a faceplate and tool rests.
- Electronic variable speed.
- Reverse and forward function.
- Some customers say the balance could be better.
- There are a few complaints about customer service.
Summary of Customer Reviews:
How to Use a Wood Lathe
1. To use the best wood lathe, position the stock between the lathe’s centers, and place the tool rest so it is parallel to the work piece’s length. It should be as near as possible but with space for the work piece to rotate.
2. Turn your wood lathe on, starting at the lowest speed setting.
3. Move the cutting edge so it’s parallel to the rotation and keep pushing. Pause every now and then to assess your progress.
4. As you progress, increase the speed slowly to smooth the finished product. If necessary, sand the workpiece and you’re done.
Accessories for a Wood Lathe
You can get more out of your wood lathe by equipping it with accessories. Here are some of my favorites.
PSI Woodworking LCHSS8 HSS Wood Lathe Chisel Set
Uvex Bionic Face Shield with Clear Polycarbonate Visor and Anti-fog Hard Coat
Grizzly H5600 6-Piece Measuring Set
PSI Woodworking Products TM32 1/2-Inch Diameter Drill Chuck
NOVA 48111 1-Inch 8TPI Direct Thread Precision Midi Wood Turning Chuck
PSI Woodworking CSC3000C Barracuda Wood Lathe Key Chuck System
NOVA IDNS 1-Inch 8TPI Thread Chuck Insert/Adaptor
PSI Woodworking LCENTSS22 No. 2 MT
- Works with #2MT spindles.
- Design makes spindle centering easy.
- Solid construction and designed for long term use.
PSI Woodworking LCTEN HSS Wood Lathe
- Ideal for making pens.
- Designed for sensitive turning.
- Comes with a solid wood handle, making for a solid yet comfortable grip.
- For the best wood lathe to work, make sure the tool is set properly on the tool rest prior to touching the turning wood piece. As long as it is touching the rotating wood, it mustn’t come off the
- Make sure the bevel is touching the wood as the cutting is in progress.
- If you’re going to use scraping tools, make sure the cutting point is under the workpiece centerline when working on the exterior. If you’re working inside, the cutting point has to be above the centerline.
- Cut from the largest to the smallest diameter, i.e. downhill.
Keep the following in mind:
- Even the best wood lathe needs lubrication, so lubricate the necessary levels and sections as indicated in the user manual. Follow the instructions given.
- Over time your lathe will be filled with fillings and chips. Remove these from the chip tray before problems arise.
- Wipe your wood lathe clean following each use. A clean, dry cloth will do, and never use liquids that are petroleum based because it will damage the unit.
- A grinder can be used to sharpen the blades, and if the blades still don’t respond, a replacement may be required.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why is my wood lathe vibrating?
Answer: The most likely reason is you didn’t center the wood piece, so make the proper adjustment. Another possible reason is the RPMs are too high.
2. What is the right speed for my lathe?
Answer: Wood lathe speed depends on the wood piece you’re working on, but usually the bigger the diameter the slower your lathe must be. Refer to your user manual for more details.
3. What safety precautions should I take when using a wood lathe?
Answer: First, check your user manual for a detailed safety guide. Second, work in a well lit environment, and third make sure the fittings are secure before activating the machine.
4. What should I avoid when using a wood lathe?
Answer: Don’t wear gloves, jewelry or loose apparel, and make sure the stock doesn’t have defects.
5. How do I stop wood splintering?
Answer: Reduce the RPMs.
For Those Of You Who Are Still Unsure: My Recommendations
The five products I reviewed above are good choices for the best wood lathe, but if I had to make a recommendation, I would choose the Jet 708359 JWL-1642EVS Woodworking Lathe, as it has plenty of horsepower and comes with a lot of essential features.
However, my choice for best value is the JET JWL-1221VS 12-Inch by 21-Inch Variable Speed Wood Lathe, for the money it’s hard to find a better option, as it comes with powerful speed control and it is fully optimized for different speed ranges. Both of these are solid purchases, and you really can’t go wrong with them so you can pick either one.
As you may already know by now, every brand can and do say they have the best wood lathe, but only a few actually belong to that category. The products I have reviewed here are among those that deserve to be labeled the best, in particular the two I recommended above. At the same time I know you can’t just buy a product without doing research, which is why I provided these tips. When it comes to purchasing wood lathes, knowledge is crucial. Bottom line: if you want maximum value for your money, try these as they’ll increase your productivity.