Best mini Wood lathes in 2020: Reviews & Buying Guide

Best mini lathes

Are you in a hurry and want a quick answer? WEN 3421 is the best mini wood lathe you can get. If you want a high-tier mini lathe then JET JWL-1221VS might be the better option. Keep on reading to find out why.

As any woodworker advances in skill, there will come a time that they need to learn how to use a lathe– but there are many options to choose from. For less advanced woodworkers, in particular, this can be a difficult choice as there are many different types and styles to choose from.

However, starting out with a small lathe and working your way up is a good way to develop your skills while also saving some money– and space in your workshop. This article provides a list of the 7 best mini lathes in 2020, highlighting what each one does best as well as providing a helpful buyer’s guide.

Top-Rated Small Wood Lathes of 2020 Compared:

Top Pick
WEN 3421 3.2-Amp 8" by 12" Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood...
The Runner-Up
SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe
Premium Choice
JET JWL-1221VS 12-Inch by 21-Inch Variable Speed Wood Lathe
Title
WEN 3421 3.2-Amp 8" by 12" Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood...
SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe
JET JWL-1221VS 12-Inch by 21-Inch Variable Speed Wood Lathe
Reviews
-
-
-
Client Rating
Prime
Top Pick
WEN 3421 3.2-Amp 8" by 12" Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood...
Title
WEN 3421 3.2-Amp 8" by 12" Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood...
Reviews
-
Client Rating
Prime
The Runner-Up
SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe
Title
SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe
Reviews
-
Client Rating
Prime
Premium Choice
JET JWL-1221VS 12-Inch by 21-Inch Variable Speed Wood Lathe
Title
JET JWL-1221VS 12-Inch by 21-Inch Variable Speed Wood Lathe
Reviews
-
Client Rating
Prime

Guide to buying the best small lathe

What exactly should you be looking in a mini wood lathe? This buying guide will dispel all the confusion.

Power

While some lathes may need to rely on plenty of power, mini benchtop lathes generally do not require as much power as others— depending on the kind of projects you have in mind. That said, it is important to consider that all the best wood lathes perform differently depending on whether or not they are under load.

In terms of raw power generated, a mini lathe’s motor works at a given horsepower which represents its maximum amount of power generated. However, once the tool meets wood, you want to make sure that the mini lathe also pushes plenty of amps to maintain its power under load.

Speed

Despite what it may seem, the speed of a mini lathe is the more important factor, depending on the work material you use. If you use harder woods, then you want to make sure that the mini lathe spins quickly, while softer woods or even softer materials altogether should spin at a slower speed.

Keep in mind, many manufacturers provide 2 different speeds in the motor and spindle, but the spindle speed is the one that determines how the tool performs. Of course, more experienced woodworkers will also want to make sure that their mini lathe offers multiple speed settings for different materials.

Capacity

Regardless of your experience or intentions, it is generally a good idea to get a mini lathe with larger capacities as it is better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. That said, there are a couple of different capacities to consider in the maximum workpiece length and the swing over.

The maximum workpiece length is fairly obvious, though the larger this capacity is the larger the mini lathe is liable to be. The swing over capacity determines the maximum diameter of the workpiece and tends to have less of an impact on the overall size of the mini lathe, making it arguably more important for beginners.

Dimensions

Given that our list focuses on mini lathes, the size of the power tool should at least be considered one of the mid-ranked considerations. Granted, this aspect will weigh more heavily depending on the size of your workshop, the size of your workbench, and where the lathe sits.

Generally the more important of the dimensions is the overall size of the mini lathe as this will determine how much space it takes up in your workshop. However, if you do not plan on leaving your mini lathe out on the workbench, you might also want to consider how much it weighs putting it up and taking it out.

Stability

One of the reasons that wood lathes can be difficult to master is that it takes a steady hand to properly shape the wood without making mistakes. Of course, you cannot learn anything if your mini lathe shakes and rattles as you use it, throwing off the accuracy and precision of your tools.

That is why it is important to make sure that your mini lathe uses cast-iron for its construction while also bolting down to the workbench, if possible. It is also a good idea to consider what type and size of tool rests the mini lathe offers with these components generally influencing which shaping tools you will use.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Mini Lathe


7 Best Mini Wood Lathes: The Reviews

1. WEN 3421 – Best Mini Lathe For The Money

WEN 3421 3.2-Amp 8" by 12" Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood...
  • Perfect for pens, bowls, cups, chess pieces, and other small workpieces
  • Fits workpieces up to 12 inches long and 8 inches wide
  • 3.2-Amp motor provides over 50% more power than most 8-inch wood lathes

OVERVIEW

When it comes to consumer-grade power tools, WEN has a solid reputation for offering well-made products at budget-value prices. The WEN 3421 Mini Benchtop Lathe is no exception to this rule, but its consumer focus places it in a spot that makes it ill-suited for heavier workloads.

Specifically, if you need a mini lathe that can stand up to constant use throughout the day, this is not the best option– though it is not necessarily fragile. One of the biggest issues with this mini lathe is that it does not generate as much power as some of the competition with a motor that only pushes 3 ⅕ amps.

On the other hand, if you are looking for an option that fits in most workshops, the WEN 3421 Mini Benchtop Lathe’s compact profile of 28” x 10” x 12” is perfect. On top of that, you can quickly transition this mini lathe from one spot to another thanks to its lightweight design that comes in at 45 lbs– the lightest on our list.

Most of the WEN 3421 Mini Benchtop Lathe’s other specs are fairly pedestrian, though none of them are substandard. However, this mini lathe is ideal for smaller projects with its MT1 tapers and even comes with dual tool rests of 4 ½” and 7” to accommodate any kind of shaping tool you might use.

Pros

  • Has dual tool rests
  • Is a lightweight lathe
  • Is more compact
  • Is less expensive

Cons

  • Not the most powerful
  • Not for professionals

2. SHOP FOX W1704 Benchtop Lathe

Sale
SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe
  • Motor: 1/3 HP, 2 Amp, 110V, Single-phase, 60 Hz
  • 12-inch distance between centers
  • 8-inch swing over bed

OVERVIEW

Shop Fox has been around for a little over 3 decades and produces mid-tier to light commercial-grade power tools. This positions the SHOP FOX W1704 Benchtop Lathe at a lower price point than you might expect given its affiliation with Woodstock International Inc.

Given that this mini lathe seems to target consumers more than professionals, it is nice to see a 5 ¾” faceplate– the largest on our list– to help protect the chuck contact points. Even better, the SHOP FOX W1704 Benchtop Lathe also comes with dual tool rests at 4 ½” and 7” for a variety of shaping tools.

However, this mini lathe definitely sits in the consumer-grade market as its motor is the weakest on our list, generating only ⅓ hp and pushing just 2 amps. Granted, this may not be as much of an issue given the SHOP FOX W1704 Benchtop Lathe employs MT1 tapers which work best on smaller workpieces.

It also should not come as much of a surprise that this mini lathe is compact with a profile of 29” x 10 ½” x 13”– the second most compact on our list. As if that were not enough, the SHOP FOX W1704 Benchtop Lathe travels well within your workshop too as it only tips the scales to 52 lbs– the second-lightest on our list.

Pros

  • Has dual tool rests
  • Has a 5 ¾” faceplate
  • Is more compact
  • Is less expensive

Cons

  • Not the most powerful
  • Not the easiest to use

3. JET JWL-1221VS – Best Professional Mini Lathe

Sale
JET JWL-1221VS 12-Inch by 21-Inch Variable Speed Wood Lathe
  • Unrivaled speed control
  • 60 to 3600 RPM variable speed
  • Optimally designed speed ranges

OVERVIEW

JET is not only an experienced and reputable power tool manufacturer but has focused on professional-grade products since its inception. The JET JWL-1221VS Wood Lathe shows its capability in the mini lathe category with specs that generally dominate the rest of the competition.

For starters, this mini lathe comes with the most powerful motor on our list, able to generate 1 hp and pushing 6 amps for plenty of power under load. As if that were not enough, the JET JWL-1221VS Wood Lathe also boasts the widest speed range of 60 to 3600 RPMs with the lowest speed and second-fastest speed reviewed.

This speed range allows you to work on a wider range of different woods and materials without having to worry, though it comes at a high cost. It is also worth noting that the JET JWL-1221VS Wood Lathe may be a benchtop model, but once you find a spot for it, you will likely leave it there as it is large and heavy.

Thankfully, this bulk comes in handy in other ways as the cast-iron build combined with the heavy weight of 121 lbs helps reduce vibration better than most. On top of that, the size of the JET JWL-1221VS Wood Lathe also allows for larger capacities with a maximum workpiece length of 20 ½” and a 12 ½” swing over capacity.

Pros

  • Has a powerful motor
  • Spins at 60 to 3600 RPMs
  • Has a 12 ½” x 20 ½” capacity
  • Is more stable

Cons

  • Is more expensive
  • Is a large lathe

4. Bachin Mini Wood Lathe

Mini Wood Lathe Benchtop 11-Inch by 22-Inch Variable Speed...
  • Variable Speed : 400-3200r/min , Optimally Designed speed ranges ,
  • Three jaw chuck, Chuck diameter : 80MM , easy to tighten workpiece . 22 inches distance between the center, the lathe give you enough space to do wood work while maintaining a low profile on your...
  • Overall Dimensions of 39.4" X 6.1" X 10.2" and complete accessories, the lathe is compact, allowing fit in tight space, which can be perfectly set at your house to do some wood pattern projects and...

OVERVIEW

Bachin is an interesting company in that it actually specializes in laser engraving products over woodworking tools, though this at least affords some experience with machinery. On the other hand, that also leaves the Bachin Mini Wood Lathe in an uncomfortable position of being difficult to gauge as there is not much information on it.

The information we do have is hopeful given the product category as this mini lathe offers one of the larger capacities on our list with a maximum workpiece length of 22” and a swing over capacity of 11”. On top of that, the Bachin Mini Wood Lathe may be a tad long at 39 ⅖” but is otherwise compact at only 6” x 10 ⅕”.

Even better, you should not have any issue transferring this mini lathe from one spot in your workshop to another as it only weighs 57 lbs. Unfortunately, one thing we do know about the Bachin Mini Wood Lathe is that it is not that powerful with a motor that only pushes 3 amps and an unknown horsepower.

One thing to keep in mind when using this mini lathe is that its steel frame is not as dense as other materials and will not help reduce vibrations as much. On the other hand, you have to roll the dice a bit with the Bachin Mini Wood Lathe as it is an inexpensive option that comes with some surprising qualities.

Pros

  • Has an 11” x 22” capacity
  • Is a lightweight lathe
  • Is more compact
  • Is less expensive

Cons

  • Not the most powerful
  • Bachin is not a well-known brand

5. NOVA 46300 Comet II Mini Lathe

NOVA 46300 Comet II Variable Speed Mini Lathe 12-Inch x 16...
  • Speed range from 250 to 4000rpm - best in the market
  • 12" swing over bed and 16.5" between centers
  • 3 Step Pulley Systemto dial in low, medium and high speed ranges

OVERVIEW

Nova is a brand of Teknatool which may not be the most well-known company but has plenty of experience and specializes in woodworking power tools. The NOVA 46300 Comet II Mini Lathe puts this experience on full display as one of the most all-around powerful options that we reviewed.

In terms of raw power, this mini lathe has the second most powerful motor on our list, generating ¾ hp and pushing an incredible 20 amps for consistent power under load. On top of that, the NOVA 46300 Comet II Mini Lathe also boasts the widest speed range of 250 to 4000 RPMs, making it perfect for any kind of material.

Outside of its power, the footprint is also notable as it is more compact than most at 33” x 9” x 18”– though it is not especially lightweight at 88 lbs. However, that relatively compact profile does not seem to impact the NOVA 46300 Comet II Mini Lathe’s capacities too much as it can support a 16 ½” long workpiece with a 12” swing over capacity.

That said, this mini lathe is somewhat disappointing in the durability department with the electrical wiring causing the most problems rather than component failure. This would not necessarily be the worst issue, but the NOVA 46300 Comet II Mini Lathe is an expensive option to suffer from wiring quality control issues.

Pros

  • Has a powerful motor
  • Spins at 250 to 4000 RPMs
  • Has a 12” x 16 ½” capacity
  • Is more compact

Cons

  • Is more expensive
  • Not the best QC

6. RIKON Power Tools 70-105 Mini Lathe

RIKON Power Tools 70-105 10" x 18" 1/2 hp Mini Lathe
  • Rikon mini lathe: This Rikon mini lathe features a ½ motor that provides ample power for all turning needs. With a 10” swing and 18” between centers, this mini lathe also has a self ejecting tail...
  • Sturdy and Dedicated: Designed specifically at the request of pen turners who wanted a sturdy, dedicated machine for their craft. This scaled-down, basic mini lathe is made from cast iron, so...
  • 5 speed ranger: This mini lathe has a 5 speed range that covers the bases for boring barrel holes, roughing out pen billets, turning to shape and finishing.

OVERVIEW

Rikon Power Tools may only have a little over a decade of experience, but the company accurately positions itself as a high-quality consumer-grade power tool manufacturer. The RIKON Power Tools 70-105 Mini Lathe live up to this billing as it is a less expensive entry with some limitations.

However, you can shape softer materials with this mini lathe than you can some of the other consumer-grade options thanks to a minimum turn speed of 500 RPMs. It is also worth noting that the RIKON Power Tools 70-105 Mini Lathe gooses the workpiece capacity a bit with an 18” length capacity and 10” swing over capacity.

On the other hand, this mini lathe is nowhere near powerful enough for professional tasks as the motor only generates ½ hp and pushes just 3 ⅓ amps which may pose issues under load. On the other hand, consumers will appreciate the ability to use virtually any shaping tool thanks to the 7 ½” tool rest.

One surprising quality of the RIKON Power Tools 70-105 Mini Lathe is its absence of a faceplate other than the nylon washer which is a bit lackluster. However, this mini lathe is solid for pen projects as its cast-iron build and rubber feet help reduce the modest amount of vibrations generated by the motor.

Pros

  • Spins at 500 to 3200 RPMs
  • Has a 10” x 18” capacity
  • Has a large tool rest
  • Is less expensive

Cons

  • Has no faceplate
  • Not the most powerful

7. Grizzly Industrial H8259 Benchtop Wood Lathe

Grizzly Industrial H8259-10" x 18" Benchtop Wood Lathe
  • Motor: 1/2 HP, 110V, single-phase
  • Amps: 7
  • Swing over bed: 10"

OVERVIEW

Grizzly is easily the only company on our list known primarily for professional-grade power tools with more than 3 ½ decades of experience. The Grizzly Industrial H8259 Benchtop Wood Lathe is certainly professional-grade in many respects, but it also comes up a bit short in some other aspects.

One spec that meets professional-grade standards is this mini lathe’s raw power which might seem low at ½ hp but more than makes up for it under load by pushing 7 amps. On the other hand, the Grizzly Industrial H8259 Benchtop Wood Lathe has an odd speed range of 826 to 3337 RPMs which is a narrower range without adding anything special to the mix.

It also does not help that this mini lathe’s motor is noted for getting hot, though that does not necessarily translate to electrical failure– but it is still a bit disconcerting. To make matters worse, the Grizzly Industrial H8259 Benchtop Wood Lathe leans on its name and reputation and is an expensive entry.

However, this mini lathe performs well all things considered, and can handle a full workday of constant use without showing any signs of slowing down. The Grizzly Industrial H8259 Benchtop Wood Lathe also employs a cast-iron build and solid design to help reduce vibrations generated by the motor.

Pros

  • Has a powerful motor
  • Has a 10” x 18” capacity
  • Is more durable
  • Has a solid build

Cons

  • Is more expensive
  • Motor gets hot

The Final Spin

Ultimately, inexperienced woodworkers have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to finding the best mini lathe, but we think the WEN 3421 Mini Benchtop Lathe is a great start. For one, you do not have to worry about the initial investment as this is an inexpensive entry to learn how to shape wood on.

While it may not be the most powerful, this mini lathe comes with MT1 tapers, providing the best components to learn your craft making smaller projects. It also does not hurt that you can put the WEN 3421 Mini Benchtop Lathe virtually anywhere in your workshop thanks to its compact profile.

Of course, if you do need to move this mini lathe to another spot in your workshop, its lightweight design of only 45 lbs makes that an easy task for one person. Finally, the WEN 3421 Mini Benchtop Lathe also provides 2 different tool rests, providing plenty of options for tools to shape the wood as you practice.

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