Last Updated on April 25, 2021 by Charles Wilson
As the intention was to affirm what mini wood lathe can give a woodturner the best output without being stalled in the middle of the road, I extracted the info I needed from my recent survey while forming a compact list of best wood lathes for different level turners.
What I found was 13.33% of the woodturners are using small wood lathes to turn miniatures. It helped me compose this list of Nine best mini wood lathes from 10” to down to 5” swings over the bed.
I made a draft of nineteen lookalike machines and found these nine to be most idyllic for hobbies and DIY projects. The upshot is based on how convinced are the turners with the performance and the concerns they have so I can review them accordingly.
You may also check my comprehensive buying guide for any wood lathe and then start choosing from here. But, if you are ready to go, let’s start with a quick chart to make it faster for you.
Disclaimer: As an Amazon affiliate, I may earn a small percentage from qualifying purchases. This means no extra cost to you. I will only promote products that give the best values.
Quick Chart of Top 3 Mini Wood Lathes
I am starting with a quick chart to give you a glimpse of what I will be reviewing today. So, these are some of the best mini wood lathes that deserve to be on the spot.
Last update on 2021-05-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Is Mini Wood Lathe Any Good?
They are until you push them too far. They are cheaper but will last longer if you go with #2 mt and refresh the parts from time to time, and that goes for any lathe you end up buying.
I am with my Rockler for about three years now, and I am happy with the overall performance.
Now for the shipping and factory defects (although they are replaceable), sometimes buyers do have hard times.
But they hardly come faulty like loose or broken parts, as they are very lightweight.
It is a common issue regarding heavyweight lathes.
Also, try n keep your turning chisels and gouges as sharp as possible so you get the extra support. Turning smoothly without catches is essential.
Mini Wood Lathes That Are Best in 10” Swing Category:
To make things more well-defined, I classified the lathes by their size and performance. The lathes listed in this category are not just my two cents.
They do last longer and have satisfied so many turners, including local club mentors.
1. PSI Turncrafter Commander KWL-1018VS Review: The Overall Best
- 10” swing X 18” between centers
- Motor: ¾ HP, 110V
- MT2 Headstock and Tailstock Taper
- 1” x8 TPI
- Speeds: 2 position belt Variable speed A (500-2000), B (1500-3600) RPM
- Weight: 84 lbs
- Only Forward
- Warranty: 3 years
Worth the price
A bit pricier compared to other mini lathes, but I had to convince by the delivery it is producing for the turners.
Besides, it got a Variable speed motor. Although no matter the price, mini lathes are always within the limit.
Why choose Turncrafter Commander
Personally, I use the Excelsior mini, but let’s not be biased here.
Pen state is pretty solid with their production from the beginning, especially about mini lathes.
The Penn State Industries lathe is among the best deals for the money for a variable speed mini wood lathe that I have seen.
Some folks consider this unit as Midi lathe for the power and the sturdiness this small motor produces.
I’ve talked to almost 15 owners of this PSI directly. The average using age, I would say, is one year.
Most of them turn pens, bottle stoppers, and tiny Christmas ornaments. This lathe has held up well, doing absolute justice to them.
One of my friends from Cary, NC, has been with this 10” version for about two years now.
He had turned over a thousand pens for his local business and got no plan to upgrade it with another. All he does is refreshing the parts every once in a while.
Price on the higher end, unlike the rest of the models in 10” category, but make no mistake that it’s #2 MT variable speed with a ¾ HP motor- the reason for putting it over the Excelsior 10” that I am currently using.
I found people complaining mostly about the quality controls for bad shipping, not the quality of the performance. This can happen to any lathe you buy.
The most common problem everyone talks about is the attached lamp becomes sloppy when speed goes high.
But, a strong gooseneck would support holding it up. I mean, you can manage that.
You can’t go reverse with most of the minis, but with a DC motor like this one, adding a switch is possible.
Just be cautious about the accessories locked over the spindle when sanding in reverse.
Altogether Turncrafter Commander will give you the finish you need for the smaller projects like pens, chess pieces, bottle stoppers kinda stuff.
2. Excelsior Mini Wood Lathe 10×18: The Runner-Up
- 10″ swing/ 18″ between centers
- Horsepower: ½
- MT2 Spindle Taper
- Speed Ranges: 760, 1100, 1600, 2200, and 3200
- Weight: 83 lbs
- 1” x 8 TPI spindle
- Only forward
Worth the price
Absolutely. It’s a heavy-duty for a little benchtop. #2 morse taper with 1” x8 TPI with the extended bed option, everything under the range for this ½ HP, 83 pounds little beast.
Why choose Excelsior Mini
It’s been almost three years with this lathe, and still impressive.
There was almost the same lookalike unit from HF, but I found Rockler with much more positive reviews of enjoyable user experiences from many miniature woodturners.
I don’t have any biased opinion for Rockler, nor will they pay me, but I had my homework done before settling down.
I have seen celebrity woodturners like Carl Jacobson using this same unit for his workshop.
That ticked one more box for me to rely on it. Mentors don’t lies, remember. Follow them, and you won’t have hard times.
You can use pretty much any MT2 accessories from the aftermarkets as this one #2MT. I have the bed extension for the longer spindle work.
The highest period I ran the motor was like 2 hours or less to test it, and it didn’t stall out.
But the motor went way too hot to touch, so I stopped it there.
I’ve heard that the motor bogs down after a short run. Maybe I got lucky that mine one is a healthy one, but these are all underpowered motors, so I respect their limitations.
The only drawback for me that it’s not variable speed, but if you want, you can change the factory motor with variable speed.
I changed mine from Pen State. But honestly changing belt is not that of a big deal to many turners. Learning something traditional way is always classic.
As mini wood lathes are not ideal for bowls, so I use my Jet midi to handle the bowls instead.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t. It means they don’t have the ideal low starting speed for turning bowls. In that case, I would suggest you go for the Jet 1015 I listed below.
As for the bed extension, it took some time for me to level that up properly. I would be delighted if it were four bolt holes instead of two.
Everything rest is very impressive as I said. Go for it, and you won’t regret it.
3. Shop fox W1752 Review: Alternative Option 1
- 10” swing and 15” between centers
- Motor: ½ HP, 120V, 6AMP, single phase
- MT2 Spindle and Tailstock Taper
- 1” x 8 TPI right-hand spindle
- Spindle Speed: 480, 1270, 1960, 2730, 3327, 4023 RPM
- Weight: 92lbs
- Warranty: 2 years
My 2 cents about the price
Shop fox mini is pretty famous among the beginners, and they are offering almost everything possible for the price. But still, I think a little lower would have been great.
Why consider Shop Fox W1752
I think you won’t regret it if you are happy to stick with a 10” swing lathe. Absolutely a good idea to start with.
I haven’t heard anyone saying they got any buyers remorse unless they have grown big in the profession.
Things that interest me are like-
- The only lathe in 10” category you can sand in reverse mode. A nice handy addition to work with bowls.
- Parts and accessories are available in the aftermarket.
- The belts can handle tensions pretty reliably.
- Accurate for detailed work like lidded boxes.
- Good low speed helps to turn with non-round blanks.
I like the design and the finish that a mini wood lathe should have, nothing fancy.
They did have some negative reviews for bad quality controls and parts unavailability, but they have upgraded.
You won’t find anything significant about the performance.
The most brutal review caught my attention from a woodturner was like 11 years ago—nothing significant in the past few years.
Most of the recent complaints are related to shipping.
The manufacturing faults are the exception in some particular products as they are all human-made.
I have turned on W1704, not this one, but as far as I talked with other owners, they seem to have no contrition for what they have.
Take the Mophorn 10 x 18 with variable speed and other lucrative features, for example. Almost 50 percent of the users have got critical reviews on Amazon alone in 2020.
4. Rikon 70-105 Mini Wood Lathe Review: Alternative Option 2
- 10″ swing/ 18″ between centers
- Motor: ½ HP, 3.7A, 120V
- MT2 Taper for headstock and Tailstock
- 1″ x 8 TPI
- Speed Ranges: 500, 1175, 1850, 2225, 3200
- Weight: 75lbs
- Only forward
- Warranty: 5 years
Talk about the price
Price is very good for the quality. Besides, five years of warranty for a machine at this low cost is pretty surprising for me. Can’t expect more.
Why consider Rikon 70-105
Rikon is a trustworthy brand among turners. To be honest, it was quite tough not to give this unit a place over the Excelsior and PSI.
I heard some saying that this is just a glorified Harbor Freight tool, and I don’t agree with that either.
HF has a grumble about their motor that it gets hot very soon, but it looks like Rikon 70-105 got a better motor on it. One thing you will notice if you shop around, this one goes on sale a lot.
To me, it’s kinda will give you quite the same feel as the 70-100, which has 2 inches of advantage in the bed swing.
But, if you only wish to turn miniatures, especially pens, I suppose 2 inches is not that bigger, and they both got almost the same motor power (70-100 with a little more).
So you will want to go with 70-105 unless you want to focus on bowls. It will do the job perfectly for you.
I know people using it for more than five years now and still want to stick to it.
Again, it’s not a variable motor. If you are getting tired of changing belts and don’t want to do it anymore, I suggest you either go with the Turncrafter or install the PSI variable speed motor. Easy solution.
There isn’t much to talk about the cons as they act individually. Things happen when you are actually on the field and working on the machine.
Some minor manufacturing defects could be there with any brand you go with, and that’s normal.
Say, for example, the bolts for the rubber feet are not appropriately tapped, and you are having trouble mounting it during assembly.
If you see some troubleshooting that you don’t understand, try searching in manualslib.com or call your manufacturer.
5. Jet JWL 1015VS Mini Wood Lathe Review: Alternative Option 3
- 10” swing and 15-1/2” between centers
- Motor: ½ HP, 115 V, single-phase, 4A
- MT2 Quil and Spindle Taper
- 1″ x 8TPI
- Speed Ranges: 200-1050, 300-1750, 600-3600
- Weight: 77 lbs
- Only Forward
- Warranty: 5 years
Talk about the price
The price is pretty high for a mini to consider as they have upgraded the motor with variable speed.
But I think I would go for a midi like the Delta 46-460 (amazon link) instead, at this cost point.
Why consider jet jwl 1015
Talk about the qualities; they absolutely nailed it. Jet is the go-to choice for many beginners, as well as the pro-level turners.
I don’t know if you noticed that a wide range of clubs is taking classes with Jets around the United States. They have built trust.
Jet 1015 is very much able to give your wood chunks the treatment it needs. Suitable speed for bowls under 10”, dead-on headstock and tailstock alignment, allows MT2 accessories with five years of warranty.
You can lock the workpiece into 24 positions. The motor doesn’t have a heating-up problem like the others. At least I haven’t heard anyone saying that to date.
It’s a pretty solid Mini wood lathe to go for.
They tend to keep the price high for their tools. Now for a Jet lover, you will still pick Jet as your mini, and I am not saying you shouldn’t.
Even I have the 1221VS Midi to handle my small bowls also (I said bowls, not balls).
If you want to turn only small bowls, then the side cost for other accessories would be much lower.
But if Pen is something you want to focus on, the total cost might get pretty high as you might need more accessories.
I suggest you go with the Excelsior mini if you don’t wanna hurt your bank.
Mini Wood Lathes That Are Best in 8” Swing Category
Let’s talk about the lathes that are in the 8” bed swing category. They are smaller in size and power from their immediate seniors.
But you can fit them easily in your RV as they are half the weight of the 10”.
1. Shop Fox W1704 Mini Wood Lathe: The Overall Best
- 8” swing and 13” between centers
- Motor: 1/3 HP, 4 AMP, 110V
- MT1 headstock and Tailstock Taper
- 3/4-by-16-inch TPI (Buy a 3/4” 16 TPI to 1” 8 TPI adapter.)
- Spindle Speeds: Infinite Variable from 700-3200RPM
- Weight: 41 lbs
- Only forward
- Warranty: 2 years
Worth the spending
Very well made for any novice as well as regular turners who likes the small spindle works. Almost all the 8” swing lathes are below 1/2 HP motor.
Now you know your projects as well as the limitations. But for the category, it’s among the best selling lathes of all time, a solid unit among all the other machines.
Why choose Shop Fox W1704
My experience has overall been positive. I have turned plenty of acrylic pens and some tiny bangles for my friend’s small shop here in Vermilion Street.
He had three units in total, including HF and Wen. I found the Shop Fox much better in action (some may have a different opinion, and they are welcome).
It was way less vibrating, even in the used condition. I’ve heard complaints that the tool rest does not stay in position, but I found mine very well-aligned.
The variable speed control was easy to use and convenient, which is something we all want to have nowadays, to get rid of the belt changing pain.
In a nutshell, an excellent choice for beginners, but just to remind you that this is not something a professional would go after.
But it can handle things under its limit.
The common dissatisfaction that people have is the way they designed the tailstock that makes it difficult to get a real negative rake angle.
Sometimes the shipping causes severe damage.
Almost 20 percent of the users were not happy with this unit. But the catch is most are turners that are in this profession for years now. I am trying to say that this is not something that can excite serious woodturners.
If you have had the taste of the real lathe, this is not for you because it might not meet your expectations. The motor power won’t satisfy you.
These are absolutely for the people who just started their journey. My recommendation would be to go with the 10”.
2. Wen 3421 Variable Speed: Good Option for Low Budget
- 8” swing and 12” between centers
- Motor: 3.2 Amp (1/3 HP), 120V
- MT1 Spindle and Tailstock Taper
- 1″ x 8 TPI
- Spindle Speed: Variable speed from 750 – 3200 RPM
- Weight: 45lbs
- Only forward
- Warranty: 2 Years
If you are new in the turning world and want something that won’t cost you much, allowing you to sharpen your ability, then go for it.
It’s a variable speed lathe but with an underpowered motor. So very limited but enough for the beginner to take off.
Why choose Wen 3421
Not for the high quality but the great price. No brand will give you such an affordable rate when you’re going for a new machine.
Getting variable speed at this range is worth mentioning. In the previous model, 3420T had an unsustainability problem for the motor.
The size of the faceplate and motor with this one is the main difference.
If you want to choose within Wen mini, then go with this one, not the 3420T. It will have more motor power.
Motor bogs down pretty often. Try not to push too far beyond its limit. Don’t go for bowls. It’s suitable for lighter spindle works.
They say you can do table legs, but that’s not the picture here. Stay with the lighter smaller works.
I saw people turning mallets with this lathe, even 5” bowl.
The thing is you have to be very gentle with this machine as they are kinda fragile in nature.
Cheap Portable Micro Wood Lathes For Pen Turners
Okay, time to talk about the portable mini wood lathes that are designed to work precisely on pens.
If making pens is something that you are getting interested in, then these two are definitely credible.
These are collet lathes with no morse taper on either end. They are lightweight and consume so little space that you can easily travel anywhere with them.
They will make your road trip fun.
1. PSI woodworking penpal review: The Overall Best
- 5-1/2” swing and accepts 7” mandrel
- Motor: 1/5 HP, 110V
- MT1 Tailstock
- ¾ x 16 TPI
- Speed: Variable speed from 0-4300 RPM
- Weight: 15lbs
- Only forward
Worth as the alternative to the standard mini wood lathe?
I am not saying that you can’t make pens with the 10” minis. It’s like they are not made explicitly for turning only pens. They have features that allow you to do more.
Besides, not all the pen turners only make pens. So, think before you choose one.
If I were you, I would have asked myself three questions before making any decision.
- Am I planning to make money with turning only Pens? – Yes
- Am I ready to spend a ton of money right off the bat? – No
- After making some money, am I prepared to upgrade my lathe now? – Yes
There you go. You get the idea, right?
As they are significantly low powered, you might not be able to free your arms like a standard lathe. But this will do the job perfectly for you as it is doing for many pen turners.
If you have any problem like the shortage of motor in the very earlier days, call PSI, and they will return as they have always been great at serving their customers.
2. Proxxon 37020 DB 250 micro wood lathe Review: The Runner-Up
- 1 3/4’ from floor to center of spindle and 10” between centers
- Motor: 110-120V AC, 1/8 HP (100W)
- Headstock spindle bore of 13/32” (10mm)
- Tailstock travel 1 3/16” (20mm)
- Speed: Variable speed between 1000 and 5000 RPM
- Weight: about 6lbs
- Warranty: 2 years from the manufacturer
The criteria for consideration are the same as above. Pen state has a better return policy and trustworthiness than Proxxon.
But Proxxon DB 250 is a well worthy opponent.
This small lathe has a variable speed motor, unlike the PSI. It’s a German-based company, and most of the tools are produced there.
So definitely not a Chinese, I guess.
They got a good number of positive reviews from the pen turners. I haven’t heard anyone complaining about the motor running out too fast, as some of the PSI users claimed.
I suggest you use super-sharp tools while turning acrylics as the motors are not that robust.
It does not have morse tapers. You can’t put a mandrel on it.
Some people addressed that the collet it comes with are not strong enough to hold a relatively bigger workpiece, so grips are not great.
Motor powers are only adequate for turning pens or tiny dollhouses out of softwood only. The tool rest is also small.
So go for it if you want nothing more than pens out of it. It will do the job.
Questions People Also Ask
A mini wood lathe can cost you from $150 to up to $500 based on the features and the horsepower.
Take the wen 3421vs as an example. You are getting the variable speed but not the torque like the PSI Turncrafter can produce.
If you want something for your causal DIY hobby, where you might not need to change the speed frequently, a belt-driven mini-lathe could be a good option.
You can get yourself a brand new one for under $250.
I don’t think anyone would consider this. I mean, you cannot go big with a mini lathe like the larger one.
If you are entering into a woodturning world for the first time, spending that much right away without knowing what you might like about woodturning wouldn’t be a great idea in some cases.
So the question should be, what aspect should you consider first? And, in my opinion, you should consider the price first.
A full-size wood lathe can cost you a couple of thousand dollars, whereas a mini can get you started within a minimum price point.
But make no mistake, these mini lathes I mentioned above can do some serious jobs within their ranged diameter.
You don’t need to compare them with a full-size lathe.
Mini lathes are popular among pen makers mostly. Being capable of turning lighter projects successfully is a great choice for any entry-level and budget turner.
You can make pretty much everything but under the scope. Many professionals keep them as their second option for sanding or more focused finishing.
Things you can make: Pens, wine/bottle stoppers, small bowls, chess pieces, tiny furniture legs, Christmas ornaments, beautiful dragon eggs, small pepper mill, flower vases, pots, jars, duck, or goose calls, and the list goes on and on.
So, Sky is the limit. You can do pretty much everything that a real lathe does, but there are apparent limitations within the range for a mini.
However, midi lathes are more potent in making large-sized bowls, as they allow you more space on the swing with much more torque.
But, I know people running online businesses with just one strong mini-lathe like PSI or Jet.
As the mentors say, you need to decide what project you are willing to work on. Choose your machine according to your capability (pocket and workspace both).
If you have strong plans to turn big, you have been into the woodturning classes, then starting with a full-size lathe would be a good idea.
But if the budget gets in the way, then you have options for Midi and Minis.
Regardless of what you buy, the checklist should be-a good brand with enough HP motor, MT2 standard taper, and variable speed.
Brands ensure quality tech support, a much-needed thing to consider.
Watch this tutorial from PSI before buying a mini wood lathe.
My Last Words
Woodturning is an addictive hobby. The more you turn, the more you become addicted to it.
You’ll discover yourself scoring woods everywhere. It gets into the head right after you start to realize it is fun.
As lathe will be your best friend down the road, so always choose your lathe with care.
Take your time; don’t rush. Buy something that will allow you to grow, I always say this to others.
The mini lathes will give you the time and opportunity to test yourself.
Don’t spend everything just on the lathe. You will need other tools too, and don’t forget to get a face shield for safety.
Turn Big, Turn Safe. Welcome to the turning world!