In this article, I will be writing about some of the best midi lathes I have seen in the woodturning industry from the last couple of years. Lathes that have been in a continuous process of upgrading as the industry evolves.
The price of these machines is not that significant from the minis, and most of them are 12” to 14” in bed swing giving you more torque, speed, horsepower, and much more efficiency than the Mini lathes.
If you could add up a wooden riser block, get an extra tool rest to reach the sides, get a bed extension, you can build your alternative premium option for any standard lathes. The only thing that will be lacking here is HP but just imagine.
The lathes I have enlisted here are not the size of a real standard full-sized lathe but much beefier than the typical pen making mini-lathes. You can easily fit them in one cabinet bench, won’t take much of your space.
It might end up being a very long post if I talk briefly about all the specifications, so I’ll keep them limited to the main point.
See the latest deals on amazon for Jet JWL 1221vs
Worth the price
It’s half the price of 1440VSK, having 2 inches difference in the swing. I could have picked anything between Rikon or Delta or even a Comet for myself. But after reading all the reviews and talking to other owners, I paid the extra cost, and I’ve got no remorse as yet.
They even upgraded now with the 1221sp (step pulley) costing a little more than this unit but still fair-priced.
Jet JWL 1221vs short review
It’s a one-horsepower lightweight monster from Jet. Best among all the machines in this size range, especially when it comes to turning bowls.
The main reason I picked it over the Rikon 70-220vsr or the Delta 46-460 is their slowest speed is 60 rpm for turning irregular bowl blanks, which is even lower than any other contender out there. Just like the powerful Laguna Revo 1836 with a low 50 rpm.
Jet made this with everything to satisfy a professional bowl turner considering all the other lathes. I am using mine from 2015 and have no plan to get rid of it.
If you are wondering why it comes with pulleys if it’s a variable speed lathe, well, it’s because of the torque. The pulley settings will give you the extra torque you need for the motor to stay awake while turning at the lower speed. The lower the pulley setting goes, the more torque you will get turning the relatively bigger and heavier workpieces.
I like the fact that the control panels are on the right side of the lathe. I mean, it can get very dangerous if something happens while turning bowls, and you need to go near the control knob. Having them on the right side away from the motor gives me a feeling of safety.
I can go back and forth to the same speed in an instance with the help of the digital readout where I was getting in the mood—quite a luxury feature.
In a nutshell, I would highly recommend this Jet unit to anyone likely to start turning or have been thinking about upgrading their mini-lathe to a beefier one.
Sometimes description from the manufacturers contradicts the reviews from a user point of view.
- The tool rack gets in the way of the pulley door, which can be annoying. But if you have a separate tool holder setting, this won’t be a big deal.
- Some of the professional turners don’t like the fact that it picks up speeds slowly, but I think that’s very good for safety.
- The forward and reverse switch is a bit confusing as it looks like a toggle, and you may need to give a closer look every time to make sure if it’s in reverse mood or what.
Apart from these minor issues, I would say this the most compact bowl turning Midi Wood lathe in the 12” swing category I have turned or seen so far.
- 12.5″ swing and 16.5″ between centers
- 1-HP, 1-Phase, 120V, 60-Hz, 1725 rpm motor
- Speed: 250-700, 600-1,800 and 1,350-4,000-RPM
- Electronic variable
- Head and Tailstock Taper: #2 MT
- Drive spindle: 1 inch -8 RH TPI thread
- Forward and Reverse
- Weight: 97 lbs
- Warranty: 5 years
See the latest deals on amazon for Delta 46-460 midi lathe
Worth the price
With almost the same quality, power, and features as the Jet midi, Delta 46-460 is relatively cheap, I would say. It’s been a go-to pick for any level turner for many years now.
Let’s head over for the overall view now.
Delta 46-460 short review
Delta is a big name in the woodworking industry. 46-460 is their most popular unit from Delta and the most selling as well. They are one of the most pioneers and doing business for a long time now.
The one HP motor runs quiet and smooth, and the 12½” bed swing is durable enough for any medium-size bowls. If you are more into the spindle work, this becomes more than heaven.
Delta first came up with a ¾-HP model, the 46-450, which they later upgraded it into a 1 HP for this 46-460 unit. The vibration-free and quiet run of Delta is something that can impress any turner.
The easy to adjust tool rest position, tailstock position, and spindle speed are the three things that differentiate how you will feel working with a lathe. Delta showed what a compact lathe is capable of maintaining all three of them, and now there are so many lathes out there following their footsteps.
The handwheel and indexing pin is usually a full-size lathe feature, and not all the compact lathes have it, but Delta raised the bar for a compact lathe.
You know how much torque a lathe can produce with a three-step pulley system and a 1 HP motor, right? You can turn big blank up to 11 inches in diameter (advertise says 12 inches but not recommended).
Altogether it’s an excellent lathe for anyone looking to start turning with a low-key investment.
Many woodworking shops consider Delta 46-460 as their occasional lathe over a full-size, not wanting to dedicate the floor space to another full-sized unit.
If you can add a bed extension, this lathe will do the job of what a big lathe is capable of.
- Along with some switch problems, Delta got some negative reviews earlier due to the unavailability of the parts.
- The significant criticism it gets for the small 5/8” tool rest, which makes it difficult to turn the outside edges of a bigger workpiece.
- The live center and spur center might not feel sturdy enough for a serious woodturner, but suitable for handling most of the work.
- 12″ swing and 18″ between centers
- 4.5 Amp, 110V
- Five speed: 520, 900, 1400, 2150, or 3400 RPM
- Non variable
- Head and Tailstock Taper: #2 MT
- 1 inch -8 RH TPI thread
- Only forward
- Weight: 70lbs
- Warrabty: 2 years
See the latest deals on Amazon for Wen 3424T
Worth the price
Wen is always the first thought for woodturners with an insufficient budget. If you are very tight on your pocket but still want to start with a midi lathe over a mini, then you can go with this one.
The price has already been compromised, so not much to talk about.
Wen 3424T short review
Features are nice, just what you could expect at that minimum price point. Not a great motor power but capable of hitting some serious spindle works. I’ve watched a few people turning softwood bowls on it and were happy with the overall performance.
If you’ve got no problem changing the belt manually, this 70lbs sturdy lathe could support you with your amateur work pretty well. I like the fact that it’s that much heavier.
Well, one thing I am still not sure is what the HP rating is, but I am assuming a 110V and 4.5A is somewhat equivalent to about half hp. So lighter work is recommended.
Things it comes with are- A headstock spur center, tailstock cup center, a flat wrench, two hex wrenches 3 mm and 5 mm, knockout bar, 3-1/8 inches faceplate for non-spindle works, and an accessory holder.
You don’t have to remove the faceplate in order to use the spur chuck as it’s a morse taper 2, and it will fit in just perfectly into the faceplate.
You can get yourself a Jacob or Nova Chuck for the headstock if you need some drill bits to work the inside stuff. You can also search for #2 MT drill bits or something like this.
Don’t shove too far. Work gently, and you can bring the maximal output.
- Motor powers are not as great as other Midis.
- Not a good option for bowls, but still can handle some.
- Motor overheats more frequently in comparison to other Midis.
- I am not too fond of the sound it makes after kicking it on.
- The drive belt seems very small.
To be honest, I would probably go on Craiglist for a better deal if I’m tight on budget but not recommended for a rookie turner cause you might end up buying crap for you.
See the latest deals on Amazon for Grizzly T25920
Worth the price
Many of us want to stay under 500 dollars for a wood lathe, and Grizzly T25920 is a smart option for that. You can find a few units at this range but not compatible with this unit from Grizzly.
Regardless the minimum speed is a bit fast for turning bowls. I couldn’t find any 12 inches lathe is doing better either at this price range.
Grizzly T25920 short review
As I mentioned that 650 rpm is a bit fast for turning out of shape bowl blanks, but you can do it anyway as the motor has the torque it needs, and that’s the most important thing. Try n keep your tools very sharp in that case.
Apart from that, you can hit some serious spindle work like a baseball bat or table legs, tampers, and so on.
The three-quarter HP motor takes it anywhere from 650 rpm to 3800 rpm as they advertise, but the interesting part is the digital readout will show you 4000 rpm as the highest pick.
I like the sweet and easy knob for changing speed, unlike the older super-heavy adjustable knobs that I’ve had to do or even changing belts altogether. It’s got a #2 MT spindle and tailstock taper, so yeah, it pretty much seems breeze to use.
You can also get yourself bed extension and the stand to make a complete setup for your workshop if you don’t have any bench to mount it on firmly. But that’s optional.
I haven’t found any negative reviews like motor bogging down or lack of longevity of the machine or something noticeable.
It’s a good budget wood lathe that I won’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone.
- The lower rpm is a bit fast to turn non-round bowl blanks but still manageable.
- The main problem with speed is when rough turning on a wet bowl blank.
- Give the lathe a thorough inspection out of the box.
- Check the alignment properly, or you’ll have a tough time with drilling.
- Only one year warranty.
The man behind Grizzly, Mr. Shiraz Balolia, has been maintaining a top-notch customer service since 1983, so if anything goes wrong with the shipping, they will respond warmly, I believe.
The Best Alternative and worth Mentioning Midi Lathes
Okay, now so you have the Best Midi lathes for the business, it’s time for some other worth mentioning alternative options. There are so many turners with different opinions as well. So sometimes the best for others won’t necessarily be the best for you.
Let’s check out some other well worthy units.
- 12-1/2 Swing and 20″ between centers
- Motor: 1 HP TEFC, 6 A, 120V, 60 HZ, 2900 rpm
- Electronic variable from 250-3850
- Speed ranges: 250 – 750, 550 – 1,650, 1,300 – 3,850
- Forward and Reverse
- Tool rest post: 1″,
- Swing over tool rest: 9-5/8″
- Headstock and Tailstock: #2 MT
- 24 Indexing position
- Spindle Nose Inch x TPI: 1” x 8
- Weight: 115lbs
- Warranty: 5 years
See the latest deals on Amazon for Rikon 70-220vsr
Worth the price
Clearly, the upgraded version of the ¾ HP 70-100. With much more torque and power to the motor and beefier in size, Rikon 70-220vsr successfully brought a lathe that can stand toe to toe with other 1 HP midi lathes out there.
It’s even cheaper than the Jet 1221vs.
Rikon 70-220vsr short review
Rikon made this lathe to stay one step ahead in the Midi lathe business, and they know how to keep the momentum going in the race.
This unit has got all the features a standard midi lathe could come up with, so you are meant to be given a second thought before ignoring it.
Weighing around 120lbs, this 1 HP (250-3850 rpm) electronic variable speed lathe comes with a LED display and Forward/Reverse function with 24 position index head, allowing this sturdy beast to last till the end.
Not to mention that the lowest 250 RPM is very lucrative and ideal for any bowl turner.
The 1” diameter tool rest has me over the moon as opposed to the typical 5/8”, adding up a significant amount of strength and stability to this crucial component of any lathe.
Another thing I found very satisfying is their customer service acts in a timely manner, unlike the other mainstream brands.
You may have heard the complaints about getting parts takes too long from Delta that sometimes people end up replacing it with another lathe. But this won’t be the case here.
I won’t hesitate a bit to say that this is by far the most “positively reviewed” compact lathe I’ve ever come in contact with.
In the earlier days, something was going on like the failure of the controller circuit board and indexing mechanism. Rikon took actions very promptly, either solving the issues or exchanging that with a fresher one.
This was back in 2014 or 15. They merely got any negative reviews after that.
So, It’s clear that Rikon 70-220vsr hasn’t come here to take part but to take over.
See the latest deals on Amazon for Nova Comet II
Worth the price
Its pretty much a club lathe along with the Jet midi. Not as pricy as Jet but has been in the top list for so many turners. People frequently upgrade their wood lathes to this Nova Comet II unit, and the cost is still very reasonable, just as before.
Nova Comet II short review
The most noticeable advantage for me is the 250 rpm at the lower speed, making it the right choice for bowl turners. The mid-speed range is reasonably well to work inside of the bowls.
As a standard DC motor runs at a 90% efficiency, to me, this is a genuine ¾ HP as the manual states 550W and 5.7 amp with 90 percent efficiency. Some lathes state 1 HP with 6 amps, and that’s not correct as long as my knowledge goes.
So, you won’t have any complaints about motor efficiency unless you shove it to the limit.
Some may have confusion seeing the motor being dc, but the voltage says 110, why is that? Well, the motor is DC, and the unite plugs into an AC outlet, which is 110 volts.
But if you are in the UK, I would suggest you reduce your input voltage to about 110v as you might witness a loud bang.
This lathe had a tailstock casting problem, which they later solved with the new units, and as the day went by, they kept coming back with fresh production.
The powerful electronic variable speed with three-step pulleys for additional torque along with the reverse option for sanding keeps it as a mighty contender in the business.
- The quill travel is only about 1 ½ inch.
- The handwheel and the banjo could have smoother edges.
- Motor sits a bit low even with the feet.
- The surface finish could be a lot better.
Apart from these, the rest of the negative reviews you will find about the QC are basically based on the shipping damages.
I hope I have touched all the critical elements you need to know before heading for a Comet II.
- 12″ swing and 16 between centers
- Motor: 3/4 HP TEFC, 5.7 A, 115v, 60Hz
- 1720 RPM
- 6 Speed: 430, 810, 1,230, 1,810, 2,670, 3,900
- Tool rest swing: 9-1/2″
- Tool Rest Post Diameter: 5/8″
- Spindle Nose: 1” x 8 tpi
- Headstock and tailstock: #2 MT
- Indexing position: 12
- Weight: 89lbs
- Only forward
- Warranty: 5 Years
See the latest deals on Amazon for Rikon 70-100
Worth the price
The immediate senior of the small 70-105 mini lathe, the Rikon 70-100, is another class in the midi wood lathe community. You can undoubtedly go for a variable speed lathe at this range, and that is something totally up to you, but the price range is very reasonable for a midi lathe.
As its knack of attacking wood, it’s more than the “get what you paid” lathe, an excellent midi lathe for the money.
Rikon 70-100 short review
I first saw this lathe in a woodworking show running in Collinsville about five years ago. The machine was so fresh, motor hardly had any noises, and the outfit looked solid as it is a cast iron built. I was impressed with the overall design and specifications.
The guy was doing some faceplate turning. I was standing there and watched the lathe performing with about a 10” bowl blank mounted on it, no vibration at all. I didn’t try to give a test run on it, but this unit caught my eyes for sure.
Rikon’s official website says it’s a ¾ HP 5.7 amps motor. You will get to turn only forward with six-speed ranges as it is not electronic variable speed, so you’ll need to change the belt manually.
If shifting belt is something you aren’t bothered by, you’ve gotta admit this is a well worthy lathe. The 430 rpm is about the lowest non-variable speed lathe that I have seen as yet.
One thing to remember is no matter what Midi you opt for yourself, don’t turn to its maximum diameter capacity. With a 12 inches lathe like this one, you will only feel comfortable staying under 10 or 11 inches.
- The biggest problem is the belt. Try to keep some spare belts as they are very thin.
- Using a plastic washer is highly recommended before putting on your chuck if you don’t wanna end up breaking the spindle lock.
- Don’t go too much near the max diameter as the tool rest also won’t extend far enough to turn the outside edge.
- The tool rest should be a little tougher.
Nonetheless, there is no perfect tool for all jobs. This midi lathe is truly a great setup that covers most areas pretty well. If you are a guy who loves everything plain and simple, Rikon 70-100 is your lathe.
- 12″ swing and 15″ between centers
- Motor: 3/4 HP, 110V, universal, single-phase 7.4A
- Speed: 500-1800 RPM & 1000-3800 RPM
- Electronic variable-speed
- Tool rest swing: 9″
- Spindle thread: 1″ x 8″ TPI
- MT#2 live center
- Outboard Spindle Thread Direction: Left Hand
- Outboard Spindle Size: M20 x 1.5 TPI
- Indexing position: 24
- Only forward
- Weight: 85 lbs
- Warranty: 2 years
See the latest deals on Amazon for Shop Fox W1836
Worth the price
Shop fox W1836 looks pretty much like the pen-making PSI Turncrafter but with more power on the motor and large swing. Despite all the features it comes with, I still think the price could have been lower (just my two cents.)
Shop Fox W1836 short review
The features are useful, digital readout, DC electronic variable speed motor with two spindle speed pulley changes, attached LED light. There are two nice convenient handles to lift and carry this 85 pounds lathe easily, which comes real handy.
Although the manual says it’s 15 inches between centers, you can squeeze another 1 inch on this three quarter hp lathe to work.
Another interesting thing is if you turn the lathe at full speed, the tachometer will show 4300 rpm, whereas the manual says it’s 3800. So I am not sure about it. I also noticed the digital readout that shows the rpm is a little slow on response time.
I like the safety switch that works like a bump switch. It’s located in a flexible position, so if something goes wrong and both your hands are busy working close to your lathe, you can bump your hip and shut it off.
A belt cover protects the belt pulleys while the lathe is turning, so you don’t get any sleeves or parts of stuff into it. But when you are rotating it by hands or need indexing, you’ll have to flip out the cover to use the wheel. So it comes handy and inconvenient both at the same time.
I would say It’s an okay lathe overall,
- The RPM screen often pops out during shipping.
- The gooseneck of the LED light is sloppy and could have been longer.
- I don’t like the position of the readout screen as my left hand could block the screen while standing close and working on the faceplate.
- The tool rest is not smooth and full of sharp and rough edges. So, grind it a little bit if you don’t want to buy a new tool rest so early with a new setup already at your shop.
- Don’t freak out finding out it’s not an outboard turning lathe, as the official website says. I really have no idea.
- 14″ swing and 16-1/2″ between centers
- 1HP TECF Induction motor with high-quality frequency converter, 115V
- Speed: 80-100, 170-1700, 560-3700 rpm with 3 pulley system
- Digital RPM Display
- Headstock and tailstock taper: #2 MT
- Headstock spindle: 1″ x 8 TPI
- Indexing position: 24
- Swing over banjo: 10-3⁄8″
- Shipping weight: 103.65 lbs
Image source: colt-tools
Worth the price
With a real one horsepower, three-phase induction motor, and fully designed for professional woodturner, the price might be a little high for a newbie but worth every penny. It appears to be priced against the Nova 1624.
Colt SML-350 short review
Having the largest swing over the bed from all the Midis mentioned in the article, this Taiwan made Colt SML-350 is the only lathe to have a three-phase induction motor and frequency drive. You will hardly find a 1 HP lathe with a frequency drive like this one.
All the parts and components are top quality, no compromise on that. The one-inch diameter tool rest is larger than the typical 5/8”.
You can save more space by removing the leg extension (if you buy one) as it is not tied permanently to the rest of the stand with a cross-member. But I would like the bed itself to be long enough as it is already pricy.
The best advantage for a 3 PH induction motor where the cycle rate controls the speed is, you’ll get close to zero drops in torque when turning at a lower speed of 80-100 rpm. Great for turning bowls.
So if the price is not something that holds you back, you got every reason to go for Colt SML-350.
Colt is not the first company that made this lathe. Axminster was actually the first to bring this in the European market. Later many German brands like this one ordered them with their brand name on it.
There are few companies like Surplus Center, are selling them with a choice of 115/220V variable frequency drive at a much lower price point than Colt, but I have a doubt about the QC. So the price may drop in the near future as for the rising competition.
It’s a pity that the official website doesn’t seem to sell this directly, and you won’t find it on Amazon either. You may check for Arizona Silhouette or Craft Supply. Check their website or call them and ask if they could ship it here.
People Also Ask
What is a midi wood lathe?
Midi wood lathes are between the pen-making minis and the Standard full-sized wood lathes. They are the possible alternative for the full-sized bowl making lathes. Some people say Midi is just a marketing tactic, but there are apparent differences and advancement in the making of these lathes.
For more info, you can check my article about the classification of Midi lathes, where I have demonstrated the differences between the Midi vs. Mini lathes.
How to choose a wood lathe?
I would suggest you start with a good Mini or Midi as you don’t know yet what you might like about woodturning. As you would grow with your skill time by time, accelerating would be much wiser.
Choose something that makes the journey fun. Not like something that stalls out in the middle. Stay with a good brand like Jet, Delta, or Rikon. They are primarily for rookies with the lack of experience needed to handle the big guns.
Check if it’s a genuine HP, as stated by the manufacturer. If you can make the purchase physically, that would be great. But, if online is the option here, then see what other turners are discussing about the lathe. Read the reviews from a personal blog. Look for the brands with excellent customer service ratings overall and are offering more extended warranty periods, so if something goes wrong, they have your back. If replacing parts takes forever for a company, it can get very frustrating.
Don’t go with lathes that have #1 MT for the tapers as you may not find them available in the aftermarkets.
What kind of lathe do I need to turn bowls?
First, see how much torque the motor can create at the lowest rpm, so the motor doesn’t give up. Standard lathes are the first priority if you are not in a shortage of money and floor space. They can produce substantial torque as the motors usually have more HP with multiple pulley options.
Decide what size bowls you intend to turn. Generally, if you want to turn something smaller in dimensions, then a lathe with a 12” swing over the bed can handle it. There are lathes like Jet 1221vs Midi with accurate 1 HP motor and adequate torque to take control over the mid-sized blanks.
Cheap wood lathes: What is the best wood lathe for the money?
It doesn’t have any direct answer as there are varieties in sizes and capabilities accordingly to our projects.
Mini lathes from 8 to 10 inches swing over bed come really cheap and can produce enough power for small projects like pens or bottle stoppers. If you select the right lathe, it can last long. Take the Excelsior mini from Rockler, for example. I’ve been using this for three years now.
If you are tight on budget but have been wanting to turn small bowls, then you can go for a non-variable speed lathe. Focus more on the HP and how lower the rpm can go. Rikon 70-100 can be a good example.
Now for the standard size, I think a good deal on Craiglist might do it for you. Local clubs near you often sell their used lathes so you might check that up too. Brand new will cost you over 1000 dollars.
What is a good beginner wood lathe?
I have already done complete research on this, where I listed some go-to wood lathes for a beginner. I think it has all the information to help you to hit the bulls-eye.
What is the best lathe for pen turning?
Choosing a wood lathe is like choosing your car. You don’t get to buy cars every month. So, It’s okay to be skeptical. Wait for the perfect time, and the ideal deal is my way to go.
Let me know which unit you think you are going to test for yourself. I will love to hear about your thoughts on this. Ask anything you want to know. I’d be happy to answer.
Turn Safe, Turn Big. Welcome to the turning world!