10 Best Wood Lathes for Easy Wood Turning: Review & Buyer’s Guide

Best wood lathes

Are you in a hurry and just want to know what is currently the best wood lathe? WEN 3421 3.2-Amp Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe is a great choice. Read on to find out why.

As a woodworker, some of the more difficult tasks involve shaping a cylindrical workpiece with cuts, grooves, and designs, but a wood lathe can make that process easy. That is why I put together a list of the 10 best wood lathe reviews, highlighting what each one does best, as well as provide a helpful buyer’s guide.

Top-Rated Wood Lathes Compared:

Top Pick
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
Grizzly Industrial G0462-16" x 46" Wood Lathe with DRO
Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed Midi...
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
Grizzly Industrial G0462-16" x 46" Wood Lathe with DRO
Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed Midi...
Motor
3.2-Amp
1/3 HP, 2 Amp, 110V, Single-phase, 60 Hz
1 HP, 115V
2 HP, 110V, Single-phase
1 HP, 120V, Single-phase
Size
8" x 12"
8" x 13"
12" x 21"
16" x 46"
12-1/2" x 16.5"
Reviews
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Client Rating
Prime
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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...
Motor
3.2-Amp
Size
8" x 12"
Reviews
-
Client Rating
Prime
Learn More
SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe
Title
SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe
Motor
1/3 HP, 2 Amp, 110V, Single-phase, 60 Hz
Size
8" x 13"
Reviews
-
Client Rating
Prime
Learn More
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
Motor
1 HP, 115V
Size
12" x 21"
Reviews
-
Client Rating
Prime
Learn More
Grizzly Industrial G0462-16" x 46" Wood Lathe with DRO
Title
Grizzly Industrial G0462-16" x 46" Wood Lathe with DRO
Motor
2 HP, 110V, Single-phase
Size
16" x 46"
Reviews
-
Client Rating
Prime
-
Learn More
Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed Midi...
Title
Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed Midi...
Motor
1 HP, 120V, Single-phase
Size
12-1/2" x 16.5"
Reviews
-
Client Rating
Prime
Learn More

Wood Lathe Buying Guide

To choose the best wood lathe for your workshop, you first have to know what specifications you have to consider to make the best buying decision possible.

Wood Lathe Types

  • Benchtop Lathes – Also known as a mini lathe, benchtop wood lathes are small enough to fit on top of a workbench and often have holes drilled into the feet to be bolted onto the bench for added stability. More often than not, benchtop lathes are not the most powerful models available but can still surprise. What benchtop lathes lack in size and power they make for in portability, able to be more easily transported from place to place if you need it.
  • Midi Lathes – While there is technically a larger size than this, my list only covers benchtop (mini) and midi lathes. A midi lathe tends to offer more power than a mini lathe but is still small enough to comfortably house in a standard residential workshop. While these wood lathes are a bit smaller than a cabinet lathe, they are still not all that mobile and can usually be bolted into a concrete floor for additional stability.

Power

The power of a wood lathe may not be quite as important as with some power tools, but it is still one of those specs you do not want to low-ball and regret later. More often than not, wood lathes rate the power of their motor with a couple of different specs, but the two most important ones are horsepower and amps.

Horsepower is better understood as the maximum amount of power that the lathe can generate without a load, that is without you shaping the wood by a tool. Amps, on the other hand, are a better representation of how much power the lathe can maintain under load while shaping the wood with a tool.

Speed

This is easily one of the more important factors to consider, though it is not necessarily a one to one where a faster speed automatically equals a superior lathe. Instead, different speeds work better or worse depending on the material being shaped with harder materials requiring faster speeds and softer materials needing slower speeds.

The speed of a lathe is measured in rotations per minute or RPMs and refers to how quickly the spindle rotates, though some manufacturers will also provide the RPMs of the motor. The best wood lathes allow for multiple speed settings, allowing you to shape different types of wood or materials as needed.

Capacity

Depending on the type of projects you intend to make, the capacities of a wood lathe are either extremely important or just a nice bonus to have. The most obvious capacity is the distance between the headstock and tailstock as this will ultimately determine the maximum length of your workpiece.

That said, unless you plan on only shaping pins or other such thin projects, you will also need to consider a wood lathe’s swing over capacity. The swing over capacity refers to how many inches from the center of the workpiece a lathe can accommodate, but it is a measurement of the radius – not the diameter.

Stability

Regardless of the type of lathe you choose or the type of projects you intend to work on, stability is generally one of the most important factors to consider. One of the most vital qualities when shaping a workpiece is the ability to apply force with precision as an unstable wood lathe will ruin your workpiece.

Thankfully, most of the wood lathes I came across use cast-iron for the base and as many components as possible to help absorb vibration generated by the motor and spindle’s rotation. Outside of the general build, the ability to bolt the lathe down to a bench or floor as well as the inclusion of non-slip feet also improves stability.

Wood Lathe and Woodturning Safety Tips | Rockler Skill Builders
Source

10 Best Wood Lathes: The Reviews


WEN 3421 – Best for Beginners

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

Wen may not be the biggest name on my list and is generally understood better as a consumer-grade brand, but it has been around for over half a century. That said, the WEN 3421 Wood Lathe still fits squarely within the company’s purview as it is not the most powerful model on my list, its motor generating ½ hp and 3 ⅕ amps.

That said, this is almost the ideal wood lathe for beginners as it comes with dual MT1 morse tapers which are perfect for securing smaller workpieces. On top of that, the WEN 3421 Wood Lathe is extremely stable, all things considered, thanks to its ability to be bolted down to a benchtop or rest atop non-slip feet.

Keep in mind, this wood lathe’s lack of power really shows up if you try to use it all of the time, and it will likely fail if pushed due to not being professional-grade. Still, when you consider that the WEN 3421 Wood Lathe is an inexpensive model that also comes with 2 different sizes of tool rest, it is a solid value all-around.

Pros

  • Is extremely portable
  • Better for smaller workpieces
  • Has two tool rests
  • Is less expensive

Cons

  • Not the most powerful
  • Not professional use

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

Though Shop Fox positions itself as a professional-grade power tool brand, it is better understood as a mid-tier brand – but that can work out in your favor. The SHOP FOX W1704 Benchtop Lathe is a perfect example of this, though it is one of the least powerful options I encountered with a motor that only pushes ⅓ hp and 2 amps.

On the other hand, this wood lathe is fairly inexpensive and is another cheaper model that comes with 2 different tool rests of 4 ½” and 7” to increase its value. As if that were not enough, the SHOP FOX W1704 Benchtop Lathe also comes with a 5 ¾” which is one of the largest on my list and perfect for irregular designs.

It is worth noting that this wood lathe is not as easy to work as some of the others on my list with its adjustments requiring more work to set properly. Still, the SHOP FOX W1704 Benchtop Lathe is fairly lightweight at 52 lbs and its dual MT1 morse tapers make it ideal for a smaller space to work on smaller projects.

Pros

  • Is more powerful
  • Has a 5 ¾” faceplate
  • Has twol tool rests
  • Is less expensive

Cons

  • Not the most powerful
  • Not the easiest to use

JET JWL-1221VS Wood 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 may have started as a company focused on aircraft heavy machinery, but it has since become a solid professional-grade power tool manufacturer. The JET JWL-1221VS Wood Lathe is a great example of this, though it is also an expensive option – but you get more for your buck.

For starters, this is the first wood lathe on my list with a little bit more power, its motor able to push 1 hp and 6 amps – both of which allow it to work better under load. On top of that, the JET JWL-1221VS Wood Lathe comes with one of the widest speed ranges I encountered between 60 to 3600 RPMs.

While the maximum RPMs is nothing to get excited over compared to the competition, the minimum RPMs of 60 is perfect for the softest materials. The only real downside of the JET JWL-1221VS Wood Lathe is its substandard quality control, but it does come with 2 large tool rests.

Pros

  • Has a 12 ½”x20 clearance
  • Is more powerful
  • Has two tool rests
  • Spins at 60-3600 RPMs

Cons

  • Is more expensive
  • Not the best QC

Grizzly Industrial G0462 – best full-size wood lathe

Grizzly Industrial G0462-16" x 46" Wood Lathe with DRO
  • 1" x 8 TPI RH headstock spindle
  • 10 speeds: 600 - 2400 RPM
  • Distance between centers: 43"

OVERVIEW

Grizzly is another professional-grade power tool brand that has a bit of an up and down reputation but generally still performs reasonably well. In this instance, the Grizzly Industrial G0462 Wood Lathe ties my list as the most powerful model with a motor that pushes 2 hp and 14 amps.

Granted, the motor required to generate that kind of power makes this wood lathe extremely heavy and not one that you can move around – even within your workshop. However, this weight makes the Grizzly Industrial G0462 Wood Lathe more stable than most and it also comes with its own stand.

Another great quality about with wood lathe is its capacity which again ties my list for accommodating the longest workpiece at 46” and has a 16” swing over capacity. As if that were not enough, the Grizzly Industrial G0462 Wood Lathe also comes with a large tool rest and a 6” faceplate.

Pros

  • Has a 16”x46” clearance
  • Is more powerful
  • Has a large tool rest
  • Comes with a stand

Cons

  • Is more expensive
  • Is extremely heavy

Delta Industrial 46-460 Midi Lathe

Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed Midi...
  • 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

OVERVIEW

Of all the brands on my list, Delta is likely the most reputable thanks to its high-end Unisaw and is easily a professional-grade power tool manufacturer. The Delta Industrial 46-460 Midi Lathe is an interesting option with plenty of great features, though it tends to sit a bit on the pricier side of things.

Still, this wood lathe packs more than enough punch with a motor that can push 1 hp and 8 amps, meaning it handles work under load better than most. Unfortunately, the Delta Industrial 46-460 Midi Lathe often runs into electrical issues that the company often does not honor under warranty.

Still, this wood lathe is one of the few I encountered with automated controls, making it much easier to use than most – though that is often where the electrical issues come from. On top of that, the Delta Industrial 46-460 Midi Lathe boasts the largest speed range on my list between 250 to 4000 RPMs.

Pros

  • Is more powerful
  • Spins at 250 to 4000 RPMs
  • Has two tool rests
  • Has automated controls

Cons

  • Is more expensive
  • Has electrical issues

Nova 71118 Comet II DR Midi Lathe

Nova 71118 Comet II DR - Midi Lathe Flexible Woodworking...
  • Speed Range: 250 - 4,000 RPM with its powerful electronic variable speed motor.
  • Digital Readout: Quickly dial-in the correct speed for the job, material and conditions. you’re not limited to potentially dangerous fixed-speed steps.
  • Forward and reverse switch: Forward and Reverse Switch offers additional flexibility with the Nova Lathe and allows you to achieve a superior finish

OVERVIEW

Nova power tools may not be the most well-known on my list, but they have plenty of experience and are noted for innovations particular to wood lathes. The Nova 71118 Comet II DR Midi Lathe is a touch expensive, but the company will also nickel and dime you with optional components that allow you to get the most out of the lathe.

In terms of its raw performance, this wood lathe ties my list for the widest speed range that can move from 250 to 4000 RPMs – perfect for any kind of material. On the other hand, its actual power rating is a bit difficult to determine given the company does not provide an amperage rating and states the ¾ hp can be raised higher.

One thing to keep in mind is that this wood lathe works well when assembled, but that can be a bit trickier than with some of the competition thanks to shoddy quality control. Still, the Nova 71118 Comet II DR Midi Lathe is the only option on my list with a digital readout which makes its precision significantly better.

Pros

  • Has a 12”x16 ½” clearance
  • Has a digital readout
  • Spins at 250 to 4000 RPMs
  • Can be upgraded

Cons

  • Is more expensive
  • Not the best QC

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 is another company that may not be the most well-known but it has been around for over a decade and a half and focuses on consumer-grade power tools. The RIKON Power Tools 70-105 Mini Lathe is an odd model in that it uses parts for large and small projects without committing to one or the other.

For example, this wood lathe is nothing special in terms of the power it generates with a motor that pushes ½ hp and 3 ⅓ amps. On the other hand, the RIKON Power Tools 70-105 Mini Lathe also employs MT2 morse tapers which are designed for larger workpieces than you would expect for that size motor.

This wood lathe also gooses its capacities a bit above its motor’s general expectations with a maximum length of 18” and a swing over capacity of 10”. While the maximum speed is average, the minimum speed of 500 RPMs expands its versatility a bit, though this is one of the few wood lathes I encountered that does not include a faceplate.

Pros

  • Has a 10”x18” clearance
  • Has a minimum speed of 500 RPMs
  • Is somewhat portable
  • Is less expensive

Cons

  • Not the most powerful
  • Does not have a faceplate

Shop Fox W1758 Wood Lathe

Sale
Shop Fox W1758 Wood Lathe With Cast Iron Legs And Digital...
  • Motor: 2 HP, 110V, single-phase
  • Heavy-duty, precision ground cast iron bed and cast iron legs ensure stability and minimal vibration
  • Lever speed adjustment, 10 speeds: 600 - 2400 RPM

OVERVIEW

Though Shop Fox may nominally be considered a mid-tier brand, that does not preclude the company from stepping into professional-grade water on occasion. The Shop Fox W1758 Wood Lathe does just that with some of the best specs on my list, but that also comes with a fairly high price tag.

Still, you do not have to worry about a lack of power with this wood lathe as its motor ties my list, pushing 2 hp and 14 amps. As if that were not enough, the Shop Fox W1758 Wood Lathe also boasts a 6” faceplate, though the size of the motor makes this one of the least mobile options as well.

Thankfully, you can put that power to good use as this wood lathe ties my list for capacities with a maximum length of 46” and a swing over capacity of 16”. To make sure that it can handle this kind of power, the Shop Fox W1758 Wood Lathe also comes with its own stand, though it has a smaller speed range of only 600 to 2400 RPMs.

Pros

Has a 16”x46” clearance
Is more powerful
Has a 6” faceplate
Comes with a stand

Cons

  • Is more expensive
  • Is extremely heavy

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 easily the newest company on my list only having been founded last year, though it at least focuses on woodworking power tools. Still, Bachin is a bit of a mystery as most of its specs are not provided with anything resembling the kind of detail that you find from its competitors.

One thing that is known is that it is not the most powerful wood lathe I encountered with a motor that can only push 3 amps – one of the weakest on the list. That said, the Bachin Mini Wood Lathe surprises a bit with its capacities as it boasts a maximum workpiece length of 22” and a swing over capacity of 11”.

It is also worth noting that this wood lathe is more portable than most, weighing in at only 57 lbs – though this comes with its own issues. Specifically, the Bachin Mini Wood Lathe is one of the few models I found that does not include non-slip feet nor can bolt down, though it is easier to use than most.

Pros

  • Is easy to use
  • Has a 11”x22” clearance
  • Is fairly portable
  • Is less expensive

Cons

  • Not the most powerful
  • The brand relatively unknown

Mophorn Wood Lathe

Sale
Mophorn Wood Lathe 10 x 18 Inch,Bench Top Heavy Duty Wood...
  • 【550W POWERFUL MOTOR】- The powerful motor starts softly ensuring motor's maximize safety and low noise. 370W provide great power for the lathe operation.
  • 【UNRIVALED SPEED CONTROL】- Turning speed control knob clockwise or counterclockwise to adjust the speed freely within 760-3200 RPM. MT2 Spindle.
  • 【LARGE WORK CAPACITY】- 18" (460mm) distance between centers, swing over bed 10" (254mm). High concentricity. Moving tailstock to adjust proper distances for workpieces.

OVERVIEW

Mophorn is another company without that much experience, founded a few years ago and does not even specialize in power tools – let alone woodworking tools. Still, the Mophorn Wood Lathe surprises by offering a relatively average product that does not come with some issues found with more prestigious and experienced brands.

The main issue with this wood lathe is that if you do have issues, you will have a devilishly difficult time getting customer service to assist you in any meaningful way. Thankfully, being a relatively unknown company pushes the Mophorn Wood Lathe towards the lower end of the pricing range.

While it is not the most powerful wood lathe I came across, this option still meets the average standards for both the motor’s power and the lathe’s speed. It is also worth noting that the Mophorn Wood Lathe is reasonably stable with non-slip feet and the ability to bolt down – not to mention it is easy to use.

Pros

  • Has a 10”x18” clearance
  • Is fairly stable
  • Is easy to use
  • Is less expensive

Cons

  • Not the most powerful
  • Has poor customer service

The Best Wood Lathe for the Money

Ultimately, the best wood lathe will heavily depend on the type of projects you have in mind, but I think the WEN 3421 Wood Lathe is the perfect option for beginners and advanced woodworkers alike. It also does not hurt that this wood lathe is inexpensive while still coming with enough specs to justify its price.

Keep in mind that the WEN 3421 Wood Lathe is better for smaller woodworking projects, but the MT1 spindle and tail tapers are perfect for this. While it is not the most powerful wood lathe that I came across, it is still more than powerful enough for most smaller projects, offering excellent value.

You also do not have to worry about stability with the WEN 3421 Wood Lathe as it comes with sturdy non-slip legs or the ability to bolt it down to your workbench. If you do leave it unbolted, this wood lathe’s cast-iron build will help reduce any wobble, making sure that you can accurately shape the wood.

Its smaller size also allows you to take the WEN 3421 Wood Lathe anywhere, including other job sites, as it is the lightest model on my list. Finally, this wood lathe provides multiple tool rests, so you do not have to feel locked into a single size of tool, though they will still likely be smaller in size.

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