Trying to fit a standard-sized lathe into a small woodshop is difficult. Shared woodworking spaces, like a garage or spare room, compound the problem.
Midi lathes incorporate the features of standard-sized models and offer you a potential solution. But which one should you buy? To help you answer this question, this article features a helpful buying guide as well as a review of the 6 best midi lathes.
What Are Midi Lathes Good For?
Mini lathes will limit you to smaller projects, such as turning pens or tool handles. The MIDI lathe can handle the projects the best mini lathes are designed for while offering you the ability to turn small and medium-sized bowls. You will also be able to produce spindles and other furniture pieces for beginner and intermediate projects.
If you become serious about woodturning, you might find the MIDI lathe limits your ability to produce large bowls. The smaller bed size can also put a hard cap on the length of material you can turn. Decorative posts and similar projects may require a larger lathe.
Who Will Benefit From Having A MIDI Lathe?
Woodworkers who have a dedicated working area, such as a shop, will benefit from selecting this type of lathe over a smaller mini design.
Those looking for maximum capacity who also have limited resources will find the MIDI lathe’s size a reasonable compromise between price point and capabilities.
Hobbyists who are new to turning items, as well as intermediate woodworkers, can use a MIDI lathe to learn woodturning. The advantage here will be its ability to meet a woodworker’s needs as their woodturning skills increase and the size of their projects grow.
Who Will Not Benefit As Much From MIDI Lathe?
Advanced woodworkers could find themselves requiring the depth and length of a full-sized lathe. Buying a MIDI would prevent them from pursuing their interests in turning larger items, forcing them to upgrade to a bigger lathe.
Casual woodworkers are going to find a mini lathe a better investment. If you have no interest in turning furniture pieces or medium-sized bowls, the smaller benchtop designs will work just fine for making hand-tool handles, pen sleeves, as well as smaller bowls.
Busy woodshops and manufacturers will likely require a full-sized lathe unless they lack the room. Shared space woodshops might find the medium-sized beds too large for cabinet storage.
What Features Should You Look For?
Motor Power – Most products on today’s market will come with at least a one Horse Power motor. Smaller motors will prove insufficient for turning the larger projects that you can make on a MIDI lathe. You will not find an electric motor rated over two H.P. on a MIDI design.
Weight – You might be surprised to find that heavy is better when it comes to this type of power tool. The extra weight provided by materials like cast iron will help to reduce vibrations.
Welded steel is a popular choice with many MIDI lathes. The weld points help to eliminate the transfer of vibrations. That can reduce the overall weight without increasing the vibrations you feel if the design accounts for this.
Spindle Diameter – Industry standards have this at one-inch for the mini and MIDI lathe models. Larger spindle sizes are unnecessary and would be a gimmick costing extra money.
Swing Measurement – This rating represents twice the distance of the lathe’s center height (the distance from the spindle to the top of the bed). It can be misleading, as the tool rest’s support (called the banjo) often has less clearance.
Look for a rating that takes the banjo into account when possible.
Center to Center Measurement – This number gives you a maximum length for the piece you can turn. It is the distance from the nose of the spindle to the tailstock nose (the nose is where the center of your stock is placed). A Longer rating equates to longer pieces the lathe can hold.[lyte id=’YErqYGRQTtY’ /]
6 Best Midi Lathes: The Reviews
1. Delta Industrial 46-460 – Best MIDI Lathe for the Money
- Powerful 1 hp max, 1,725 rpm motor
- Large 12-1/2-inch swing capacity provides the largest capacity in its class. Drive spindle: 1 inch -8 RH TPI thread
- Electronic variable Speed with three-pulley speed ranges provide the required speeds needed to turn a project without changing belt position
Delta’s 46-460 MIDI represents a mid-priced design. Its simple design will cost a bit more for the capacity that this lathe offers you.
It uses a standard one H.P. electric motor. That will generate up to 1,725 RPMs at its highest settings.
The motor is a single-phase design, but Delta Industrial has included reverse controls, allowing users to operate in two directions. That feature stands out, as many lathes only move in reverse when turned by hand. You can produce great finishes when sanding in both directions.
The 46-460 MIDI lathe measures 36-inches in length and stands approximately 17.75-inches tall. You will find that this model does not take up a lot of space on your bench (should you mount it there).
It weighs 97-pounds. That should help dampen normal vibrations generated during turning. The steel is thinner than some designs, and some non-metal components will vibrate more while also creating more noise.
Including two tool rests is a nice feature, offering more versatility between projects. These connect solidly to the banjo, and the lever provides adequate locking power when engaged.
- Includes a six and 10-inch tool rest
- Reversible motor direction
- Small footprint takes up less space
- Fewer features for the price tag
- Design trasfers more vibration than others
2. Jet JWL-1221VS MIDI Lathe
- Innovative Design: Ratchet-style belt tension system (patent pending)
- Optimal Speed: Choose from three speed ranges (60-900/110-1,800/220-3,600)
- Convenient Controls: Easy-to-reach controls and digital readout
The JWL-1221VS MIDI lathe from Jet comes at a higher price point than most of the other lathes on this list. Jet has become an established brand in the North American power tool market, and a five-year warranty on this model displays the manufacturer’s confidence in this build.
It employs a one H.P. electric motor, like most MIDI lathe designs. Jet’s design generates up to 3,500 RPMS, however.
That is a significant increase over Delta’s 46-460 and will provide more passes under your tools as the stock spins. The increase in rotations will decrease your work time as well.
Jet uses a three-torque pulley design. This set up does feel smooth during transitions, which should provide less wear as you change settings. A toggle switch provides direction changes, but a lack of labeling means you need to remember the direction when you turn on the lathe.
It ships at 137 pounds. While this includes both tool rests and extra tools, that is a significant increase over other designs on this list. That weight helps with reducing vibrations.
- Heavy body eliminates a lot of vibration
- Control location is ideal for right-handed users
- Design provides good motor ventilation
- Levers can work loose more easily than on other designs
- Some controls are not clearly marked for users
3. WEN 3424T MIDI Lathe
- Attack work pieces up to 18 inches long and 12 inches wide
- Switch between five different speeds: 520, 900, 1400, 2150, or 3400 RPM
- Includes 3-1/8 inch Faceplate for turning bowls, cups and other non-spindle work pieces
WEN offers users a low-budget MIDI lathe option with the 3424T. That might be a deciding factor if you have limited resources or are unsure if you want to invest lots of money into a lathe.
A 4.5-amp electric motor drives the spindle on this lathe. It rates equally with other one H.P. designs, providing the torque needed for small and medium-sized woodturning projects.
A stand out feature on this lathe is the five-speed gear system. It is not a variable speed but offers settings for 520, 900, 1400, 2150, and 3400 RPMs. You will not have the same flexibility, but novice woodturners will find pre-set speeds easy to adjust.
It weighs just under 70-pounds. That is a bit light, and you will be able to tell with more vibration transfer as well as an increase in noises generated. You will find it easier to move, and the weight puts it just above most mini lathes.
- A budget-friendly price tag
- It offers five speed settings
- The feet offer a good grip on your bench
- You will notice more noise and vibration transfer through the metal
- This product lacks the durability of higher-priced lathes
4. PSI’s KWL-1218VS MIDI Lathe
- KWL-1218VS replaces TCLC12VS. ETL Listed and certified by Intertek.
- Powered by 1hp Variable Speed high performance induction motor(120V-60HZ) & an SBC microprocessor. Two belt positions: 500-1800 RPM & 1950-3800 RPM.
- Headstock Thread 1" x 8tpi. Headstock/Tailstock Taper #2MT. Distance between Centers 18". Swing over Bed 12". Cast iron base.
Penn State Industries offers the KWL-1218VS at a mid-range price point. The sticker price includes a few features that stand out when compared to other models on the list.
A one H.P. electric motor provides standard torque to the spindle. The stand out here will be the two pulley positions. That is limited compared to other products in the same class.
The KWL-1218VS has an RPM range between 500 and 3,800 rotations each minute. It does move as slow on the low end, but the top speed will help to produce a smooth finish on your stock.
Knob controls allow you to roam between RPMs. Its digital readout is clear and provides accurate speed readings.
Electronic controls, including a microprocessor, maintain proper speeds as you work. That prevents bogging down as you remove material, a feature that helps with keeping a consistent texture.
Another component worth mentioning is the tailstock on this lathe. It is robust, unlike some included out of the box on MIDI lathes. The hand-turn is easy to use as well.
- SBC microprocessor maintains speed
- Turn knob provides complete variable speed control
- Uses a beefy tailstock
- The light would be better if mounted on the front face
- It does not run in reverse
5. Rikon Power Tools 70-220VSR MIDI Lathe
- Powerful 1HP DC Motor provides ample power for all turning needs
- Electronic variable speed controls, wider range of operating speeds, digital RPM readout for forward and reverse rotation speeds
- Pivoting belt cover for easy access when changing belt speeds
Rikon Power Tool’s 70-220VSR is a higher-priced MIDI lathe. The shorter bed might seem underwhelming for the cost, but Rikon has built this model to last.
The standard MIDI-sized one H.P. motor provides similar power as other models. This lathe has three different speed ranges of 250 through 3,850 RPMs. The top rotational speeds are great for making extremely smooth surfaces on your projects.
A swing size of 12.5-inches is more clearance than some of the other models on this list. You will still get 9 5/8 inches of space at the tool rest.
The 70-220VSR has a center to center spacing of 20-inches at maximum. That will not be an issue with small projects, but you will need to purchase an extension if you are planning to make reasonably sized furniture pieces.
The lathe weighs 115-pounds. That does provide enough weight to dampen most vibrations caused by rotation and your woodturning tools.
A safety lock covers the switch and prevents you from accidentally bumping it before you are ready to start.
- An LED speed display
- A lock key prevents accidental start-ups
- A well-constructed design
- You have only 20-inches from spindle center to tail center
- A higher price point for the shorter length
6. Grizzly Industrial H8259 MIDI Lathe
- Motor: 1/2 HP, 110V, single-phase
- Speeds: 826, 1205, 1713, 2422, 3337 RPM
- Includes tool rest, live rolling center, spur center and wrenches
Those familiar with Grizzly shop tools will be surprised with the medium-priced sticker. The lathe is made to usual Grizzly standards, making it a well-constructed power tool.
One reason for the price point is the smaller electric motor. A rating of 1/2 H.P. is a bit underwhelming for the MIDI lathe range. That can become evident with projects approaching the maximum size of stock that you can load on this product.
The swing over the bed might be 10-inches, but it only offers 6 1/4 inches of clearance over the tool rest. That puts a limit on your project dimensions that other MIDI lathes can surpass.
You will also find the 18-inches between centers to be limiting. Furniture components are limited to items that can break down into pieces of this size or smaller.
A weight of 78 pounds provides decent support on your bench, but more weight would prove beneficial for vibration and noise reduction.
A one-year warranty covers parts and labor. That is limited when compared to the five-year coverage provided for other lathes in this review.
- A thin and low profile
- Operates at five speeds
- Strong spindle and tailstock components
- Limited swing over tool rest
- Under-powered for a MIDI lathe
The No-Spin Winner
You will come across fans of each model reviewed above, but I feel that the Delta Industrial 46-460 is the best MIDI lathe.
You can turn all of the projects that a mini lathe can, as well as larger diamter parts. Its features fit well with both novice and intermediate woodworkers. The entire lathe is compact enough to place on your table and still offer room to work.
A standard one H.P. is standard (also larger than the Grizzly) drives the spindle. You will get 12-inches of clearance over the bed, something that mini lathes struggle to provide.
A solid tailstock will last the lifetime of the lathe and an SBC microprocessor maintains RPMs as you turn.
Finally, this package is within range of all but the tightest shop budgets.
Didn’t find what you were looking for? Also check out our review of the best woodworking lathes, which also includes reviews of mini and full-size lathe models.