When you desire to create elegant wood pieces and legs, you want the best wood lathe on the market. Yes, it’s true that some people still use those old-fashioned tools featuring a hand crank, but why not enjoy the speed that comes from an electronic lathe.
With this one machine, it is simple to make the controlled cuts you need plus add finished designs to a wood post. Not only that, but you’ll be able to create table legs and exquisite wood decorations to give as gifts.
When searching through the options for the best wood lathe, you could find yourself overwhelmed at the choices available to you. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide to present you a varying spectrum of machines. There is something for every skill level in this list at a variety of price points as well.
We’ve sorted the wood lathe reviews by the size of the machine. They are classified into three categories: mini lathe, midi lathe and full-sized lathe. In addition, we break down the motor size, weight, features and warranty information to help you make the ideal choice for the best wood lathe.
Table of Contents
- Table of Contents
- Best Full-Size Wood Lathe Reviews
- Best Midi Wood Lathe
- Best Mini Wood Lathe
- Best Wood Lathe Buying Guide
Best Full Size
Shop Fox W1836
SHOP Fox W1704
Best Full-Size Wood Lathe Reviews
Full-size lathes are rarely used by the average home user because the machines are beasts. They are capable of numerous applications from turning oversized workpieces to rounding out intricate details. You’ll notice that they are large machines featuring their own legs and a powerful engine.
You’ll also notice that these full-size lathes offer more options and features than a typical wood lathe. In exchange, you’ll need to be prepared to spend a little extra cash.
1. Jet JWL-1440VSK Wood Lathe
Sliding headstock pivots 360 degrees with 7 positive locking positions at 0, 30, 60, 90, 120, 180, and 270 degrees for maximum variability and optimal user comfort
To look for the best wood lathe means heading into the Jet brand. That’s because they are a leader in the industry and this machine is by far the most extravagant.
While it isn’t cheap, this unit does feature a powerful 1 HP variable speed motor capable of producing 400 to 3000 RPM, seven locking positions on the head stock and a huge 14 ½-inch swing over the bed.
Featuring cast iron legs and a base, this Jet lathe features the stability and precise accuracy you need when performing commercial tasks. There is also little to no vibration which makes work a breeze.
The 115-volt motor produces 1 HP which is plenty of power for most woodturning tasks, sanding, cutting or drilling. While you might think that the Reeves drive pulley is old and out of date, you need to know that it does do an exceptional job of maintaining speed control.
This lathe does weigh 400 pounds, so it isn’t portable or an efficient use of space. The spindle on the lathe features positive lock indexing with stops set at 10-degree intervals. On the head stock, you’ll find positive stops as well as a full range of motion for ease of use.
With cam lock features on both the tail stock and head stock, you can easily make adjustments without the use of tools.
Want to see this lathe in action? Check out this video:
What Customers Say:
The customers have been pleased with the overall power and stable build of the Jet. One person wrote, “It’s perfect for me. I bought the extension bed too for the large outboard turning of wooden bowls. It is perfect in every way. Way better than the two green ones I’ve had.”
- Horsepower: 1
- RPM: 400 to 3000
- Weight: 400 pounds
- Warranty: 5-year
- Powerful 1HP motor
- Variable speeds
- Clear display
- No vibration
- Has an optional extension bed
- Knobs are tight
2. Grizzly G0462 Wood Lathe with Digital Readout
Heavy-duty precision ground cast iron bed and cast iron legs ensures stability and minimal vibration
While this Grizzly is a full-size wood lathe, it features a significantly lower price than the Jet reviewed above. It features a 110-volt 2HP motor with ten speeds varying from 600 to 2400 RPM. There is a 16-inch swing over the bed and a digital readout to make things easier.
There are no belts to fiddle with which makes changing the speeds a breeze. If you are a novice woodturner, you’ll especially appreciate the handle for easy adjustment. This unit weighs slightly less at 350 pounds and is also made from cast iron.
There is a reduction in vibration, but not as much as the Jet wood lathe features. You’ll likely notice the vibration at lower speeds. Some users simply built a shelf into the legs to offset this vibration.
With a 16-inch swing over the bed and the 13-inches available over the tool rest, you have plenty of room to accomplish your tasks. The head stock fully rotates 360 degrees which makes your outboard turning simple.
This unit is not designed to be used in a fast-paced turning shop but would be ideal for a home hobbyist. If you are in need of something more professional, it is wise to save up the money for the Jet wood lathe. Otherwise, you might be disappointed with this purchase.
For those that just want a simple, full-size wood lathe for your home shop, this is a great way to save a little money and get the features you need.
Listen to the Grizzly run with this video:
What Customers Say:
The customers who understood what they were purchasing were pleased with the machine. Unfortunately, many users wanted to get the top of the line wood lathe for a fraction of the price, so inevitably, they were disappointed. One customer did respond to the others by saying, “If considering a lathe purchase under $1,000.00, I believe this is the clear choice.”
- Horsepower: 2
- RPM: 600 to 2400
- Weight: 354 pounds
- Warranty: 1 year
- Powerful 2HP motor capable of handling most projects
- Variable speeds
- Handle for easy speed changes
- Plenty of space over bed and over the tool rest
- Stable, cast-iron design
- Some vibration at lower speeds
- Not as equipped as Jet model
Best Midi Wood Lathe
Midi wood lathes take a step down from the full-size lathes mainly based on size. They still feature strong horsepower, plenty of length and swing. Most designs feature the ability to set on a workbench but there are several that sit on legs.
Midi lathes feature electronic variable speeds instead of the pulley-belt design. They are a great option for anyone seeking to turn wood rapidly with large projects.
1. Shop Fox W1836 Bench Top Wood Lathe
Electronic variable-speed spindle control with digital RPM readout
This 110-volt 3/4 HP unit features all the components and settings you need to get the job done right. The digital readout shows you the RPM setting that is currently being used and makes it easy to adjust higher or lower. There are two RPM settings: 500 to 1800 RPM or 1000 to 3800 RPM.
It also features 12-inches swing space over the bed and 24 index positions with increments of 15 degrees. This allows for evenly spaced cutting or marking with the headstock in the locked position.
The weight on the Shop Fox is reasonable at just 82 pounds. In addition, the live center fits into the tailstock quill featuring a tapered fit plus oversized precision ball-bearing design. This ensures that you receive optimal turning operations with little resistance and maximum stability.
The Shop Fox also features a tool holder to easily store your extra centers, chisels and various tools when they aren’t being used.
The rubber feet which are provided, offer vibration dampening and an increase in overall stability. There is also an optional bed extension to give you a larger lathe without spending too much money.
Watch one customer’s review here:
What Customers Say:
There were some users that seemed to receive their lathe with defects. For those that received the product in good working order, they were well-pleased with the power and performance. One person stated, “I bought this lathe for a beginners lathe when I got it I knew absolutely nothing about lathing. But this lathe made turning easy and simple. The build and design of this lathe is top quality.”
- Horsepower: ¾
- RPM: 500 to 1800 RPM or 1000 to 3800 RPM
- Weight: 82 pounds
- Warranty: 2 year
- Powerful motor to complete most projects
- Two variable speed settings
- Optimal tuning ability
- Additional storage
- Stable and sturdy
- Some users report defective machinery
- Learning curve for beginners
2. JET JWL-1221VS 12-Inch by 21-Inch Variable Speed Wood Lathe
Innovative ratchet style belt tension system (patent pending)
You knew there was going to be another lathe from Jet thrown into the list of best wood lathe machines. The 1 HP motor features variable speeds ranging from 60 to 3600 RPM. There are two additional tool rests, 24 indexing positions and a scale that reads both metric and imperial.
This is the perfect piece of equipment for those that don’t have room for a full-sized lathe. While some people consider this unit to be a mini, most people find that it has the capability of a midi lathe.
One reason it’s hard to see this as a midi is because of the hefty 129.8-pound weight. That does make it less portable but increases the stability.
You can start off your speeds as low as 60 RPM and go all the way up to 3600 RPM with ease. Just turn the handy dial and watch the digital readout to customize your speeds appropriately. If you run into a problem, the digital readout gives you an error code so you can make adjustments.
As with most products that Jet makes, comfort is important. That’s why they put all the motor controls into one easy to use panel. This includes the on/off button, spindle speeds and the forward/reverse motions.
You can also switch between the reverse and forward modes without turning the unit off. This allows for continual motion and helps to get the job done faster. The belt tensioning system has a ratchet design ideal for those awkward belt changes.
There have been a few complaints about vibration, but overall the machine feels sturdy and solid. It also comes with an outstanding 5-year limited warranty to offer additional peace of mind.
Check out some of the features of the Jet with this video:
What Customers Say:
Over 70 percent of customers have given this machine a 5-star review showing they believe it to be the best wood lathe on the market. One user stated, “I’ve owned a couple of cheaper lathes from Harbor Freight before biting the bullet and getting this one. It’s worth every penny and a quality machine. The turnings I produce have a much smoother cut now.”
- Horsepower: 1
- RPM: 60 RPM to 3600 RPM
- Weight: 129.8 pounds
- Warranty: 5 year
- Ample power with 1HP motor
- Compact benchtop
- Don’t need to turn off to switch between forward and reverse
- Solid build
- Generous 5-year limited warranty
- Some users report loose head stock
- Doesn’t come with accessories
3. Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed Midi Lathe
Large 12-1/2-inch swing capacity provides the largest capacity in its class. Drive spindle: 1 inch -8 RH TPI thread
As the final choice for the best wood lathe in the midi range, we have this bigger model from Delta. This 12 ½-inch lathe is quite sturdy and heavy duty but still simple enough for the beginner woodturner to use. It’s a great option for ornaments, bowls, pens and spindles.
With a 1 HP motor, 1725 RPM and a variable speed motor featuring a 3-pulley system, you’ll find this to be perfect for most woodturning projects. In addition, it offers a 12 1/2-inch swing plus a forward and reverse function.
Rotating your piece without having to remount means you can achieve the finish you want in less time. There are three-speed settings: 250 to 750 RPM, 600 to 1800 RPM and 1350 to 4000 RPM. With the electronic control knob, it is easy to fine tune the speeds while working. There are even micro-adjustments you can make while turning.
Unlike many of the other options for the best wood lathe, this model comes with some accessories. You’ll receive a 6-inch plus 10-inch tool rest and a 3-inch faceplate. It also comes with a knockout bar, live center and some wrenches. This combined with the lathe itself make it an even better value for the money.
Another perk is the limited 5-year warranty. It would be important to take note that there have been reports that Delta’s customer service is lacking, so it’s something to consider before making a purchase.
Watch one user’s thoughts on this lathe:
What Customers Say:
With almost 80 percent of customers giving this wood lathe a 4-star review or higher, it’s easy to see why this is a contender for the best wood lathe. Most people are happy with the smaller size this Delta lathe offers with the power of a full-size model.
- Horsepower: 1
- RPM: 1725 RPM
- Weight: 97 pounds
- Warranty: 5 year
- Powerful performance
- Compact design
- 3-speed settings
- Comes complete with accessories
- 5-year limited warranty
- Users report issues with customer service
- Quality control is lacking
Best Mini Wood Lathe
For those interested in working on little pens or bowls, a mini wood lathe is a great option. While some people refer to mini lathes in different specs, most have an engine of less than one horsepower. In addition, they’ll tend to have less than 12-inches of room above the head.
1. SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe
Motor: 1/3 HP, 2 Amp, 110V, Single-phase, 60 Hz
This mini wood lathe features a cast iron base which is heavy duty and offers great durability. Even in the busiest of shops, you’ll find that this provides years of use. Even though it only weighs 45 pounds, it has the design you need while still remaining portable.
The Shop Fox features a 1/3-horsepower motor, a 12-inch distance between the centers, 8 –inch swing over the bed and it comes with two tool rests. In addition, there is a simple paddle switch designed with safety to keep the unit from turning itself on or shutting down.
Most users find this to be a great unit when shaping or cutting small projects. It fits easily on your workbench and had spindle speeds varying from 700 to 3,200 RPM. In addition to the tool rests, it comes with an MT No. 1 spur center, MT No. 1 live center, a 5-3/4-inch faceplate, and a 3/4-by-16-inch TPI RH spindle.
The price on the Shop Fox is perfect for the hobbyist or occasional users, but surprisingly, this lathe also comes with a 2-year warranty for your protection. It’s important to note that this unit will not perform like a $1,000 model would but is geared more toward the hobbyist working on smaller projects.
See a YouTube video of an unboxing:
What Customers Say:
Most people were happy with the price they paid considering this unit is made of sturdy, cast iron. One customer stated, “My mini workhorse does its job precisely from head spindle to tailstock on point out of the box I didn’t have to adjust anything on it but just clean it.”
- Horsepower: 1/3
- RPM: 1725 RPM
- Weight: 45 pounds
- Warranty: 2 year
- Sturdy cast iron base
- Comes with two tool rests
- Low price
- 2-year limited warranty
- Not geared toward larger projects
- Handwheel is difficult to spin
2. Excelsior Mini Lathe
The Excelsior 5-Speed Mini Lathe can turn bowls of almost 10
This Excelsior is a 5-speed mini lathe that is built from cast iron and powered with a ½ horsepower motor. It is a small machine but still ideal for smaller or larger projects by hobbyists and DIYers. In fact, this machine can turn bowls that are up to 10 inches in diameter.
You have a choice of 5-speed options with this lathe: 760, 1100, 1600, 2200 or 3200 RPM. Thanks to the cast iron design, vibration is minimal. You’ll also love the knock bar in the spur center and the included 6-inch tool rest plus 3-inch faceplate.
Users have found this to be the ideal lathe for small table legs, decorative turnings and more. It also allows for easy access to the belt and ball-bearing live center. With the non-slip feet, you won’t have to worry about the unit moving from its position.
This unit does feature a higher price tag than the Shop Fox listed as the best wood lathe and it weighs 81 pounds. It’s also important to note that beginners found the instructions to be vague and hard to understand.
Watch a video review of this unit on YouTube:
What Customers Say:
Over 85 percent of customers have been able to give this lathe a 4-star review or higher. One customer stated, “This was my first lathe. Great for small to medium projects. I’ve never had a problem with it. Going on two years now.”
- Horsepower: 1/2
- Weight: 81 pounds
- Features 5 speeds
- Durable cast iron construction
- Comes with tool rest and faceplate
- Turns bowls up to 10 inches in diameter
- Easy access to belt
- Instructions are hard to understand for beginners
- Heavy for a mini lathe
Best Wood Lathe Buying Guide
Before you decide on the best wood lathe for your needs, it is important to understand what you are looking for. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive buying guide to help you make the best decision.
What is a Wood Lathe?
Wood lathes are efficient woodturning machines. Your work is rotated or spun as you sculpt it with the cutting tool, sandpaper or grinder. The turning function of a wood lathe is not possible with any other woodworking machinery.
It’s true that you can perform the same actions by hand, but a wood lathe offers additional speed. On top of that, you are prone to more injuries when working by hand as you force the sharp blade against your wood manually.
Are There Accessories that I Should Have?
It’s important to know that a wood lathe is not meant to be a standalone machine. It’s a facilitator of a larger job. With that being said, it’s important to know what accessories are needed to make the job easier.
To get started, you’ll want a face place, spur center and live center. Most wood lathes come with these items in your box. If you want to take things up a notch, you’ll want to invest in a chuck as well, especially if you are coring boxes or turning bowls.
Who Uses Wood Lathes?
Woodturning is a skill that isn’t used by everyone. While most home workshops need the use of a band saw or table saw on a regular basis, that simply isn’t the case with a wood lathe. Consider this machine to be more for a specialist.
For anyone desiring to hollow out boxes, turn spindles or bowls or make baseball bats and table legs, the best wood lathe is an essential addition to the workshop. Trying to accomplish these tasks without a wood lathe would be time-consuming at best.
Considerations Before Deciding on the Best Wood Lathe
When you are searching for the best wood lathe, here are some features and thoughts you’ll want to consider.
Purpose of the Wood Lathe
Analyze what woodturning projects you’ll be working on. This helps to determine the size and power of a wood lathe that you need. If you think that you’ll work on bigger projects as time goes on, purchase a larger model than you need right now.
For the smaller projects, you’ll want a mini lathe to fit right on your tabletop. They are small, lightweight and offer plenty of functions for the small tasks. If you’re working on large pieces of wood, a full-size or midi lathe are going to be best. Of course, you will pay a little more for either of these, so it needs to be something that is often used for it to be worthwhile.
Motor and Head Stock
You’ll find a large range of motors available to choose from. With selections starting at just 1/8 horsepower, you’ll see options for even the smallest jobs. There are also high-powered machines totaling three horsepower for the commercial and enterprise customers.
With variable speed controls, you can adjust your work pace from low RPM up to 4,000 RPM with some models. This allows for more customization of your projects. Some units even feature a way to adjust the levels while the machine is running.
The general rule of thumb is that the larger your motor, the easier you’ll be able to turn projects. Of course, that also comes with a higher price tag.
With an interchangeable faceplate, you’ll be able to hold your workpiece during turning without the tail stock. If you need to rotate larger bowls, watch for the head stock to rotate well away from your base. This will give you the clearance you need while you use the tool rest.
Simply put, tail stock refers to the rotating pin opposite of your head stock. The function of a tail stock is to ensure that the spindle remains centered while rotating evenly. You want to choose a unit with a tail stock that locks in position on the bed. This gives you additional adaptability during turning.
Weight and Height
Wood lathes are available in many sizes and weights. You have to consider the ergonomics of your unit if you want to work comfortably. When looking for the best wood lathe, you want to pick a machine that doesn’t make turning wood a chore.
When setting up the wood lathe, you’ll want the middle to sit at your elbow height. If you get this wrong, it will be uncomfortable while working.
Consider the weight is another option when shopping for the best wood lathe. Most people think that lighter is better, but that isn’t always true. When you purchase a heavy wood lathe, you’ll notice more balance and less vibration of the unit. The only time you want a lightweight model is if you desire portability.
Aside from the height and weight of your unit, you need to choose the best wood lathe with a solid foundation. The bed on a wood lathe features a horizontal beam that runs across it. Normally, this is made from cast iron. This design prevents the lathe from unnecessary vibration while turning.
Even a small vibration makes the job harder and could even lead to an accident. Simply put, the heavier your unit and more solid your base is, the easier working becomes.
Each job is going to require a different speed for the best results. That’s why it’s ideal to choose a unit that features varying speeds for customization. Then, you can tailor your pace for maximum versatility.
When you have limited room in your workshop, you’ll need to find the best wood lathe with a compact bench design. For those with large workshops, purchasing a midi or full-size lathe shouldn’t be an issue. Remember, that the smaller, compact mini lathes don’t offer as much power and features, so it is a trade-off.
One of the most important parts of your wood lathe will be the tool rest, so don’t overlook this feature. While you are turning, your piece is going to rest against this area. Because of this, you want something completely adjustable and is capable of being locked into place for safety.
Some units come with a tool rest already, or several. It isn’t abnormal to purchase several sizes to use during varying projects. Each piece requires the use of something different, so it’s wise to make this investment. Then, you can easily swap out the tool rests within the mount for more flexibility while turning bowls and spindles.
For quality woodturning projects, you want the best wood lathe on the market. With a wide selection of highly rated machines to choose from, there is something for everyone. Whether you need a mini lathe at a low cost or you are ready to invest in a full-size wood lathe, our reviews have highlighted the best in every category.
Get ready to complete your bowls, spindles and other woodturning projects with ease. You’ll save yourself time and energy with this innovative piece of machinery. All that’s left to do is get working creating projects you can be proud of.