The best wood lathe options currently on the market not only make the whole woodturning process more manageable but ensure better precision and more efficiency when sculpting wood. Regardless of whether you own a wood processing shop or enjoy woodturning as a hobby, investing in a wood lathe is essential. The device enables you to make controlled cuts and deliver a more polished final product, whether you’re working on a table leg, wood decoration, door handle, wooden bowl, or whatever else you feel like experimenting with. Read on as I go over the basic features you should look out for when shopping around and offer some quick lathe reviews of my favorite models.
What to look for in the best wood lathe?
A wood lathe is a vital device for your wood-related business, as well as for any DIY project that involves sculpting wood. Versatile and practical, a wood lathe is, simply put, a woodturning machine. It rotates a piece of wood so that you can sculpt it by using a cutting tool, grinder, or sandpaper.
While some enthusiastic woodworkers prefer to rely on old-fashioned tools with a hand crank, a lot of mishaps can occur when manually forcing a sharp blade against a piece of wood. As a result, most of today’s turners rely on the best wood lathe machines to do the heavy lifting. If you’re just starting to dabble in the craft, a quality lathe is a solid investment – it reduces the risk of accidents and increases the chances of you becoming a skilled wood turner in record time.
That being said, there are plenty of lathe options on the market, ranging from heavy industrial-sized machines to hobby models you can easily fit into your garage. Depending on your specific needs, here are a few factors to consider when researching the best wood lathe options on the market:
- Quality materials – ideally, your wood lathe should be made of sturdy materials like cast iron, which give it stability and make it less susceptible to vibration.
- Purpose – if woodwork is a hobby and you only plan to take on smaller projects like door handles, you don’t need a big machine – a mini wood lathe should work just fine. However, if you plan to take on bigger tasks in the future, it’s wise to get a wood lathe able to handle bigger pieces of wood. The bigger the machine, though, the higher the price.
- Spindle speed – the best wood lathe models will offer you the chance to experiment with a wider range of speed settings, making it a good fit for a variety of projects.
- Size – if you have a wood shop in your home or garage, make sure the machine will fit. Bigger lathes tend also to be heavy, so you won’t really be able to move them around. A mini machine, on the other hand, will be more portable.
- Ease of use – industrial-sized machines are targeted towards professionals. If you’re turning wood as a hobby and just starting out, check the product specifications carefully to make sure you’re getting a user-friendly model that will be easier to manipulate.
Finding the Best Wood Lathe for You
Now that the basics are out of the way, let’s take a look at the best wood lathe machines money can buy. There’s plenty of choice out there, so finding the right one for you can seem overwhelming. With that in mind, I’ve reviewed my favorite four models to give you a head start.
Check the list below – you’ll find a variety of lathe reviews for machines from different manufacturers, most of them brands that are already established on the market. Keep in mind that a bad quality item can break easily, so it’s best to spend a little extra cash to ensure that your wood lathe will last for decades to come.
JET JWL-1221VS 12-Inch by 21-Inch Variable Speed Wood Lathe
While the JET company first came to life in 1958 as a small dealership of various industrial accessories, it only grew into a global enterprise in the ‘80s. Now, they offer some of the best woodworking tools on the market, like this powerful lathe that’s sure to catch the eye.
The machine comes with several amazing features:
- Speed range from 60 to 3600 RPM
- Easy to use digital speed control
- Quill with markings in cm and inches
- Quick change belt
- Spring Loaded Spindle Lock
- Great design
The only downside would be the 21-inch length of the product. It’s fairly small, which qualifies this as a mini wood lathe. Still, it’s an excellent choice for projects that aren’t big in scope. I would also note that I would have preferred it if the machine came with the 3mm Allen wrench required to loosen the screws. A lot of similar products include essential tools as a bonus.
Overall, however, I couldn’t be more pleased with this. If you’re looking for one of the best wood lathe models on the market, you can’t go wrong with this one. Don’t believe me? Check lathe reviews from other Amazon customers. They tend to agree.
Powermatic 1352001 Model 3520B 20×35-Inch Wood Lathe with RPM Digital Readout
If you’re after quality above all else when shopping for lathes, this model from Powermatic should be at the top of your wish list. Made of heavy duty cast iron, the machine sports a stylish design and comes equipped with a wide range of accessories that will come in handy. Here are the technical specifications:
- Totally enclosed fan cooled motor with 2 horsepower and 6.2 amperes
- 34-1/2 inches distance between the centers
- 20-inch swing
- 8 spindle threads
- 14-inch tool support
- Variable speed settings
- Accessories include guard, tool rest, face plate, wrench, knockout rod and spindle lock
At over 300 lbs, this machine is no mini wood lathe. It will be more difficult to assemble and move around – you’ll likely need help from at least two other people to put it together. But if you’re serious about woodworking, this Powermatic model is a thing of beauty, featuring a powerful motor and a sliding headstock with electronic variable speed and digital RPM readout. It surely deserves a spot on any list of the best wood lathe models currently available.
NOVA 46300 Comet II Variable Speed Lathe
Another mini wood lathe recommended for beginners, this NOVA model is versatile and compact. Made from cast iron for stability, the machine is durable and offers a great range of speed. Here are the specifications:
- Speed range from 250 to 4000rpm
- 12″ swing over bed and 16.5″ between centers
- 3 Step Pulley System to dial in low, medium and high-speed ranges
- 3/4HP Electronic Variable Speed Motor
- Quick action cam controls
If you plan on going full-time professional, you will likely need a bigger lathe with more horsepower. For those who enjoy turning wood as a hobby, though, this model is a solid investment that won’t break the bank. According to lathe reviews from Amazon customers, the product seamlessly does the job.
Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed Midi Lathe
At 36 x 11 x 17.8 inches, this is somewhere between a mini wood lathe and a full-sized one. The Delta Industrial machine features a patented belt tensioning system for easy and quick speed changes, as well as powerful motor. Here are the specs:
- 1-horsepower max, 1,725-rpm motor
- Cast iron construction for durability and strength
- Electronic variable speed with three-pulley speed ranges
- Large 12-1/2-inch swing capacity
- Patented belt-tensioning system for fast speed changes and longer tool life
- Accessories: 6-inch and 10-inch tool rests, chrome 3-inch face plate, tool rest base, knockout bar, live center, wrenches
This lathe also comes with forward and reverse functions which allow the turner to achieve a superior finish, boosting precision. Backed by a five-year warranty, this Delta Industrial lathe is surely worth your hard-earned cash.
That’s pretty much it. I hope these lathe reviews will make it easier for you to find the best wood lathe for your needs. If you have any experience with wood turning, sound off below – I’d love to hear about what equipment you’re currently using!