Wood lathes, as the name suggests, are used for machining wooden workpieces to shape them into objects like bowls, spoons, utensils, and other decorative items.
As a result, these lathes are highly popular in furniture and other woodworking industries.
They come in three sizes: mini, midi, and full. The mini lathe is ideal for small projects, while the full size is best for large projects.
This article reviews some of the best lathes for woodworking applications and provides an overview of the factors to consider when buying a wood lathe.
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Best Wood Lathes
1. WEN LA3424 - Best Benchtop Wood Lathe
(520, 900, 1400, 2150, and 3400 RPM)
A quick overview of WEN 3424T
LA3424 from WEN is a mini lathe with cast-iron structure that provides a sturdy configuration and wobble-free operation.
It has a 30.25" x 8.75" x 16.25" footprint and weighs around 70 lbs. Note that it is a benchtop lathe and is meant to be placed on a workbench.
LA3424 can house workpieces up to 18" long and 12" wide. It is best suited for hobbyist projects such as customized rings, pens, and bowls.
Its five different speed settings (520, 900, 1400, 2150, and 3400 RPM), provide flexibility to adjust the speed for different applications when working different types of wood.
LA3424 uses an MT2 tapered spindle and tailstock that is compatible with many different accessories.
Its headstock is mounted with a 3.125" face plate, allowing secure work holding of non-spindle workpieces like bowls.
A 4.5A 1/2hp motor drives the headstock. The headstock and motor are connected using a belt drive.
You need to manually loosen the belt and adjust it between the spindle pulley and motor pulley to shift its RPM settings.
For supporting the tools, WEN LA3424 uses a 7.8" tool rest. You can move it along the bed and tighten it using the locking lever.
LA3424 is shipped as a DIY kit with a detailed user manual that provides all the necessary instructions for its assembly.
WEN has their manufacturing plant in the USA and you can contact them for technical support via phone or email.
They provide a 2-year standard warranty on all LA3424 wood lathes.
Has different speed settings that you can switch between.
It is powered by a 4.5A 1/2hp motor.
Comes with a 2-year warranty
2. RIKON 70-105 - Best for Pen Turning
|3.7A 1/2hp 1,700 RPM
(500, 1,175, 1,850, 2,225, and 3,200 RPM)
A quick overview of RIKON 70-105
RIKON 70-105 is a benchtop wood lathe with a cast iron construction. It's specifically designed for pen-turners working on wood.
It has a maximum working length of 18", and can safely house workpieces up to 10" wide. In addition to pens, its 10" swing is ideal for turning larger woodworking projects such as bowls.
The overall footprint of RIKON 70-105 is 35.5" x 10.5" x 14.75," and it weighs around 75 lbs.
RIKON 70-105 has five switchable speeds, 500, 1,175, 1,850, 2,225, and 3,200 RPM.
You need to manually loosen the belt drive and adjust it between the spindle pulley and motor pulley to shift its RPM settings.
It uses an MT2 tapered spindle and tailstock mounted with a spur drive and live center. Note that it doesn't come with a face plate.
A Totally Enclosed Fan Cooled (TEFC) 1/2 hp motor drives the spindle and has a maximum rated speed of 1,700 RPM.
RIKON 70-105 houses a 7.5" tool rest that you can move along the length of its bed.
In case of requirement for part replacement, you can buy the spares and accessories from their official website.
RIKON 70-105 ships as a DIY kit with a user manual, that provides detailed instructions to assemble the lathe.
RIKON offers a 5-year warranty for this machine, and you can contact them for technical assistance via phone or email.
Has different speed settings that you can switch between.
It is powered by a 3.7A 1/2hp motor.
Comes with a 5-year warranty
3. JET JWL-1640EVS - Best Overall
|4.6A, 1.5hp, 1720 RPM
|40 - 3,200 RPM
Quick overview of JET JWL-1640EVS wood lathe
JET JWL-1640EVS is an Electronic Variable Speed (EVS) midi wood lathe.
1640EVS has a cast iron construction, including the iron legs that provide 38" clearance from the floor to the bed.
The leg has a tool holder mounted on its side and a 4" riser block attached at the bottom.
JWL-1640EVS can handle workpieces with a maximum length of around 39" and a maximum width of 16.5".
The overall footprint of JET JWL-1640EVS is 73" x 52.5" x 20", and it weighs around 375 lbs.
It uses an MT2 tapered spindle and tailstock. Note that the spindle is made of steel, and the tailstock is cast iron.
Both provide the flexibility to slide along the bed, allowing it to house workpieces of variable lengths.
JWL also provides an optional upgrade that extends the bed by 20".
A 1.5hp 1,720 RPM motor drives the spindle. You can adjust the spindle speed to anywhere between 40 to 3,200 RPM.
The enclosure that houses the spindle has a digital readout (DRO) that displays the current working RPM of the spindle.
Along the bed, JET JWL-1640EVS houses a 14" tool rest that you can move along the axis.
JET JWL-1640EVS comes unassembled, and you must assemble each part to make a working lathe.
They have provided detailed assembly instructions in their user manual.
JET provides a warranty of 5 years for this machine. For queries, you can contact them by phone or email.
It allows you to switch speeds anywhere between 40 to 3,200 RPM.
JET JWL-1640EVS is powered by a 4.6A 1.5hp motor.
It comes with a 5-year warranty
4. Powermatic PM2014 - Best for Turning and Sanding
|3A, 1hp, 1,720 RPM
(900, 1800, and 3600 RPM)
A quick overview of Powermatic PM2014 wood lathe
Powermatic PM2014 is a midi wood lathe with a cast iron construction.
It also has cast iron legs that provide an adjustable clearance of 34" to 46" from the floor to the lathe bed.
The working distance between the centers is 20", and it can house workpieces up to 14" wide.
Powermatic also has an optional 13" bed extension that you can use to house large-diameter workpieces.
With legs extended to their maximum height, PM2014 lathe has a footprint of around 52" x 25" x 48.5" and weighs around 285 lbs.
It uses an MT2 tapered spindle and tailstock. You can slide the headstock and tailstock across the cast iron bed.
You also have the option to purchase an adjustable light that helps reduce shadows and provides better visibility.
A 1 hp 1720 RPM powerful motor drives the spindle using a Poly V belt system. You can adjust the spindle speed using its 3-step pulley (900, 1800, and 3600 RPM).
It has a movable magnetic control box displaying speed and 24 indexing positions. Indexing positions come in handy when carving designs on the mounted workpiece.
Along the bed, PM2014 houses an 8" tool rest that you can move along the axis and uses a bushing locking mechanism.
PM2014 ships as a DIY kit, and you need to assemble each part to make a working lathe. Powermatic provides detailed assembly instructions in their user manual.
Powermatic provides a 5-year warranty for this machine. In addition, they offer 24/7 support, and you can contact them via phone or email.
It allows you to switch speeds between 900, 1800, and 3600 RPM.
PM2014 is powered by a 3A 1hp motor.
It comes with a 5-year warranty
5. Delta Industrial 46-460 - Best for Professional Woodworkers
|Delta Industrial 46-460 Lathe
|1-hp, 1725 RPM
(50 - 700, 600 - 1,800, and 1,350 - 4,000 RPM)
A quick overview of Delta Industrial 46-460 Lathe
Industrial 46-460 from Delta Machinery is a midi wood lathe. Its cast-iron construction provides rigidity for a wobble-free operation.
It has a 36" x 11" x 17.75 footprint and weighs around 106 lbs. Although it is a benchtop lathe by default, but Delta provides an optional iron stand that you can include in the kit at the time of purchase.
46-460 can house workpieces up to 16.5" long and 12.5" wide. It is best suited for professional woodworking on small workpieces.
It uses an MT2 tapered spindle and tailstock, which is a universal design and is compatible with many different accessories.
A 1hp motor powers the spindle through a belt drive system. You can switch the belt between three pulleys to change the spindle speed.
The possible speed ranges are, 250 - 700 RPM, 600 - 1,800RPM, and 1,350 - 4,000 RPM.
It provides 6" and 10" tool rests to support the cutting tool. Using the locking lever, you can move it anywhere along the bed and constrict it at a point.
Delta 46-460 ships as a DIY kit, and you must assemble each part to make a working lathe. The assembly details are provided in the user manual.
For technical support, you can contact Delta through their dedicated support lines. They also provide a five-year warranty for the Industrial 46-460 wood lathe.
Allows you to switch between three different speed settings.
It is powered by a 1hp motor.
Comes with a 5-year warranty
6. - Best Value for Money
|Shop Fox W1758
|2 HP, 14A, 1725 RPM
(600 - 2400 RPM)
A quick overview of Shop Fox W1758 wood lathe
Shop Fox W1758 is a full-sized lathe with a cast iron construction. It has a 72.5" x 19" x 48" footprint and weighs around 338 lbs.
It also has a cast-iron stand with a fixed height that cannot be adjusted.
The working distance between centers is 46", and it can safely house workpieces with diameters up to 16".
Shop Fox W1758 uses an MT2 tapered spindle and tailstock. You can slide the headstock and tailstock across the cast iron bed.
It also includes an MT2 live center, MT2 spur center, and a 6" faceplate.
A 2hp 1,725 RPM motor drives the spindle using a V‐Belt drive system. Unfortunately, the motor only rotates in one direction.
Its spindle speed can be varied from 600 to 2400 RPM, and it comes with a digital readout to help you easily set the exact RPM required for your application.
W1758 uses a 12" tool rest that you can move along the axis. It is a three-way adjustable tool rest and provides much more flexibility in placing the tool relative to the rotating workpiece.
It ships as a DIY kit that needs to be assembled by the user.
Shop Fox provides a user manual with step-by-step assembly instructions to guide the user to assemble the lathe.
They provide a 2-year warranty for this machine. Note that Shop Fox is a sub-brand of Woodstock International, and you have to contact Woodstock for any queries.
You also have to register your warranty with Woodstock Inc, and you can do so by visiting their website.
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7. - Best Full-Sized Wood Lathe
|2hp, 14A, 1725 RPM
(600 - 2400 RPM)
A quick overview of Grizzly G0462 wood lathe
Grizzly G0462 is a full-sized wood lathe. Its design and configurations are similar to Shop Fox W1758.
G0462 has a cast iron construction, providing a sturdy, wobble-free setup. It has a 72.5" x 19" x 48" footprint and weighs around 354 lbs.
It has a tabletop design and comes with a set of iron legs. The legs have shelf support, and you can customize it with your own shelf for more storage.
You can even add more weight to it to reduce any possible vibrations.
G0462 can house workpieces up to 43" long and 16" wide. It is best suited for working on table legs, chair legs, lamps holder, and spindles.
Grizzly G0462 uses an MT2 spindle and tailstock taper. You can slide the headstock and tailstock across the cast iron bed.
The lathe also has a 6" faceplate, spur center, and cup live center.
A 2hp 1,725 RPM motor powers the spindle and drives it using a V‐Belt drive system. Unfortunately, the motor only rotates in the anti-clockwise direction (towards the tool rest) and can't perform reverse turning.
Its spindle speed is variable from 600 - 2400 RPM. The working RPM of the lathe is displayed in a digital readout placed on top of the headstock.
G0462 uses an 11.8" three-way adjustable tool rest which is much more adaptable.
Grizzly G0462 comes unassembled, and detailed assembly instructions are available on Grizzly's website.
They provide a one-year warranty for this machine. For queries, you can contact them by phone or email.
Grizzly has dedicated teams for orders, accounts, and technical support.
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Factors to Consider When Buying a Wood Lathe
The Distance Between Centers (DBC) is equal to the distance between the tailstock and headstock of a lathe.
As DBC increases, you can house lengthy workpieces on your lathe. Generally, Wood lathes have a DBC ranging from 12" to 50".
Maximum Workpiece Diameter
Manufacturers use the term "Swing Over Bed" (SOB) to denote the maximum stock diameter you can house on a lathe's workbed.
In the case of wood lathes, it can vary depending on the machine configuration you choose.
|Distance Between Centers (DBC)
|20" or less
|swing over bed (SOB)
|12" or less
Mini, Midi, and Full-size wood lathe comparison
A good mini wood lathe can house a workpiece with a maximum length and diameter under 20" and 12" respectively.
Whereas a full-size lathe can be used for machining workpieces having length and diameter above 45" and 15" respectively.
For wood lathes, a horsepower of 1 hp is the gold standard. It provides enough torque to handle most woodworking jobs.
With a higher torque, you can speed up the process and can significantly cut down the work cycle.
Revolutions Per Minute (RPM) is an important parameter when selecting a wood lathe. A good lathe will have variable speed control, allowing you to adjust the speed depending on the job.
For machining workpieces with a large diameter, you must work with a lower RPM setting, which provides enough torque to spin the workpiece at the cost of surface finish.
Conversely, higher RPMs are needed for machining small parts with high surface finish.
A lathe with reverse turning gives much more flexibility to your workflow, allowing you to turn the workpieces in forward and reverse directions.
It comes in handy when the wood has a complex grain structure or if you want to sand a workpiece.
Stability and Safety
A wood lathe's size, weight, and build largely influence its performance. Irrespective of the type of lathe you buy, make sure it has enough stability and is safe to work with.
Lathes with a rigid and stable base help reduce vibrations and allow accurate machining.
The ones with safety pedals and switches are safer to work with, as you can easily break the circuit and halt the lathe's operation if anything goes wrong.
The wood lathe is one of the most versatile and useful machines in any workshop. They are used to turn different types of wood.
Woodwork enthusiasts and professionals use wood lathes to turn logs into various shapes and sizes.
You can use it to make bowls, plates, spoons, pens, rolling pins, dippers, chopsticks, spindles, baseball bats, etc.
The spindle on a wood lathe is typically powered by an electric motor that dives it using a belt drive.
A high-powered motor with variable speeds and reverse turning capability is the ideal configuration for flexible machining capability.
The tools you use, the sturdiness of the machine, its work area, and your machining skills as a woodworker decide the quality of your machined products.
In addition to wood, if you want to work on metals with complex shapes, you can go for CNC lathes. These lathesprovides computer-controlled operation with better adaptability to different applications.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is it difficult to use a wood lathe?
No, it is not difficult to use a wood lathe. However, if you struggle to get good outputs, you are doing something wrong, or the lathe you are using is not built for your job. Even if you are a beginner, you'll be able to get into woodworking on a lathe. You can try machining some simple parts on a lathe using various types of wood, as it will help you better understand the machine and the material.
What is the average price for a wood lathe?
The average price of a wood lathe is around $600. Price varies with manufacturers and depends on the machine's configuration and size. The average price point of mini wood lathes is $350. For midi lathes, it's $1500, and for full-sized wood lathes, it ranges from $1500 to $2300.
What is the easiest wood to turn?
The easiest wood to turn is a matter of opinion, but some factors can make it easier. A woodturner should look for wood that is neither too hard nor too soft, and has a straight grain structure. To name a few, beechwood, walnut, cherry, rosewood, and maple are some of the easiest types of wood to turn.