Best Wood Lathe Illustrated Buying Guide: Top 3 Picks

The best wood lathe

Woodworking is an art that requires skills, passion, and the right tools. So considering a lathe to be the “Best” is not a joke. There are so many brands out there with their lucrative ads that it’s easy to get confused.

So what will be the Best Wood Lathe for you, and how do you choose one?

Whether you are a turning veteran or an occasional DIY’er, the answer always relies on three major aspects-
1. Your turning project (bowl to spindle)
2. Workspace
3. What amenities and durability you can get from a lathe at your budget.
This is where lathes like Delta 46-460 shines.

Considering all the demands, we are here to bring a shortlist of top picked gears that can make it easier for you to decide, and we won’t disappoint you.

You can do your research and compare them to our list. I bet you will agree with us in the end.

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 I trusted for years.

Scroll down to the buying guide if you are a beginner or you can start with Our Top 3 winners for the Best Wood Lathe category based on their feature, performance, price, and user satisfaction!

Brand Name Customer Rating Weight Product Price Reason For The Value
Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Wood Lathe 4.1/5.0 97 lbs Check today's price on Amazon Based on the overall performance and affordable price range. It's been there in the market for 10 years now with an 80% top user rating. Still has the 5-years warranty offer.
JET 719115 JWL-1221SP 4.5/5.0 121.2 lbs Check today's price on Amazon 79% of the user rated it 5 out of 5! Almost the same as the popular 1221VS but with 6-speed step pulley. Upgraded version.
WEN 3420 8" by 12" Benchtop Wood Lathe 4.0/5.0 44.1 lbs Check today's price on Amazon Beginner turners found it really handy when it comes to performance even with the low price range.

10 Best Wood Lathes You Can Choose In 2020

It is time we dive a little deep into the details of what we have chosen and why. We have listed our top 10 best wood lathes that are currently banging the market.

We’ll be giving some genuine customer reviews and the detailed feature you definitely need to read before buying.

1. Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Wood Lathe:
(The all-rounder)

Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed Midi Lathe
Check the latest price and reviews on Amazon

As you can see, it’s holding first place on our top list. We call it “The All-Rounder,” and we have every reason for that.

A lathe should deliver an easy to use structure allowing the user to learn its functionality quickly for the starter. The other main requirement it should meet is providing power.

These two elements are specifically made to get the user’s attention, and that is what this wood lathe has done successfully.

It uses a powerful and strong motor with a maximum of 1 horsepower capacity. This motor is capable of working at high speeds reaching 1.725 RPM which translates into a more productive working session.

Furthermore, this motor delivers a swing capacity of 12-1/2 inches, making it one of the largest among its type. It controls the speed’s variation through three pulleys. This design allows the users to choose which speed best suits their project.

Thanks to this system, you will have the possibility to decide what you want; a more calm and relaxed working speed, or a quick operation.

This product features a system for both forward operation and a reverse direction. It is an option that gives you the freedom to work on the materials you want. Taking full advantage of this system and using both directions has many benefits.

First, it is a great way to produce smoother results. Working the materials in both directions allows you to have a perspective you would not have any other way.

The other benefit is that the forward/reverse system provides is the benefit of time. You are not going to need the disassembly and re-assembly of the pieces to change the working direction. Instead, it only requires you to hit the switch.

As a final note, it is worth mentioning its durability. This product uses cast-iron for its design and construction which ensures it has a longer lifespan.

Pros

✅ Allows the user to control the working speed.
✅ Highly functional product at an accessible price range.
✅ 1 hp motor capacity
Forward/Reverse switch.
✅ Cast-iron construction ensures durability.

Cons

Needs extra bed extension for bigger materials.

2. Jet 719115 JWL-1221SP Step Pulley Wood Lathe: (Upgraded version of Popular 1221SP)

Jet 719115 JWL-1221SP Step Pulley Wood Lathe, White
Check the latest price and reviews on Amazon

Sharing all the qualities, features, and durability of the popular 1221VS, here comes the JWL-1221SP that many DIYers are talking about. As you may know, VS stands for variable speed, and SP is for Step Pulley.

The only exception you will find with the JWL-1221SP is the drive mechanism, which is a one-directional, 6-speed step pulley. The rest is the same as the VS one. 1221VS had three different speed variations.

Jet always offers consistency with a simplistic design. This one features a 3/4 HP motor capable of providing steady energy. The users will have an efficient motor strong enough to complete a variety of projects.

It also includes a comfortable design for smoother sliding and is effective enough to work on the materials and maintains them in their place.

All of these features allow the users to work for longer periods of time, and the wood lathe will not lose any of its functionality.

You can also add accessories and tools to enhance its performance. It is not necessary that you do, but using additional tools improves the result’s quality greatly.

Nonetheless, this product is among the heaviest of this list. Weighing 121.2 pounds, the best thing to do is find a suitable place and set it up there, especially if you are going to work around your house.

Pros

✅ Upgraded with 6-speed step pulley.
✅ Includes additional tools like tool holders, two tool rests, live center for tailstock, drive center for headstock, center removal rod, small face plate, and manual.
✅ Can held up-to 16 inches of work-piece in diameter.
✅ Offers a smooth sliding for the work-piece.
✅ Easy to use.

Cons

A little Heavyweight.
Does not go in reverse.
Little bit pricey from the previous version.

3. WEN 3420 8″ by 12″ Benchtop Wood Lathe:
(Gem for new turners)

WEN 3420 8" by 12" Variable Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe
Check the latest price and reviews on Amazon

If you are someone who enjoys woodworking, then you are probably someone who likes to experiment with the materials as well. These experiments often produce amazing results, and it is very satisfying.

However, to attempt to do this, you need a highly resistible machine. This product is capable of following your work and producing what you want without a problem.

Just to let you know that you can get the full review here for this 3420 model by WEN.

It features a resourceful 2 AMP motor. The motor has a gradual start-up, keeping the burst of energy from damaging it. Because of this starting system, you don’t have to worry about energy spikes, whether they come from the motor or the house power system.

This machine allows you to change the speed as well. It has a great knob that does not require any effort at all. With only a small hand movement, you are capable of adjusting the working speed, which can vary from 750 up to 3200 RPM.

On top of that, you can add different accessories for better performance. Obviously, this is not necessary for the machine to complete your projects perfectly. Nonetheless, the multiple accessories are a welcomed feature. It is the best wood lathe for the money without a doubt.

The use of accessories like the tool rests, the faceplate, and many others are great for people who like to get the best result possible. These accessories increase the machine’s performance and allow you to create fine and smoother results.

If you are about to get a lathe to design projects as a hobby, then this is a clear option to pick. It is a very user-friendly machine that does not require prior experience to use. The addition of the speed knob, the on and off switch, and its parts are easy to understand and operate.

Pros

✅ The motor has a gradual start-up system.
✅ Easy to use knob to change the speeds.
✅ You can adapt multiple accessories to the machine.
✅ On/Off switch includes a safety lock.

Cons

Could have problems with the locking mechanism.

4. Grizzly Industrial G0462-16″ x 46″ Wood Lathe with DRO

Grizzly Industrial G0462-16" x 46" Wood Lathe with DRO
Check the latest price and reviews on Amazon

The Grizzly G0462 model is a heavy-duty machine with a precise and solid cast iron legs. These legs maintain the machine in its place ensuring you have a solid performance with no vibrations.

These cast iron legs, as well as the iron bed’s design, deliver a performance for the slightly smaller project. Many people buy it for the horsepower it can produce.

It features a 2 h/p motor that produces the amount of energy you are going to need when turning new woods. The motor is suitable for multiple operations and materials of different sizes.

It comes with a spindle tachometer and a digital readout. The machine is capable of working at 10 different speeds, and they go from 600 up to 2400 RPM.

If you are working on a project that requires a low speed, or someone that needs high working speed, this one provides both.

To change the speed, it does not require more than using the handle. The featured handle to change the speed removes the use of belts which were both a problem and a big headache.

Now to be honest with this one, pro turners tend to find some issues with the tool rest even with the banjo that holds the tool rest. Try to turn a bowl that is over 12″, you could see the tailstock might get in its own way.

So this lathe is not for a bigger project that’s for sure.

In case you need to add heavier materials, you can adjust the leg’s shelf support. It allows you to customize the machine with the tools you want, and adjust it to suit your work perfectly.

Overall, this is a solid product that delivers what it promises. It is capable of producing results only the best full-size wood lathe can create.

Pros

✅ Heavy-Duty design with cast iron legs and bed.
✅ 10 different working speeds, from 600 to 2400 RPM.
✅ Reduces vibration to its minimum.
✅ Includes an easy to use handle to change the different speeds.

Cons

Aligning the headstock and the tailstock is tricky; for professionals, this could be an issue.
Not for the bigger project.

5. WEN 3424T 12-Inch 5-Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe

WEN 3424T 4.5-Amp 12-Inch by 18-Inch 5-Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe
Check the latest price and reviews on Amazon

Mini wood lathes could become an issue when they have too many pieces and accessories. When this happens, setting up the machine is an overwhelming experience, and beginner turners lose their interest.

To avoid that, you need something that is easy to assemble without major complications. And this wood lathe can give you that comfort.

The main power source of WEN 3424T’s is a 4.5 Amp motor. Thanks to this engine, you’re going to operate the machine at a steady speed on different materials.

It works at five different speeds. These speeds are a low 520 RPM, going up to 900 RPM, a middle working speed of 1400 RPM reaching to 2150 RPM, to a final and steady 3400 RPM.

As no machine is perfect so you may find some difficulties while moving the belts to different sizes of pulleys cause that’s the way to change the speed with this wood lathe.

These different working speeds and the functional switch allow you to change between projects and materials in case you need to do it. It also features a 3-1/8 inches faceplate.

This faceplate is a great addition for turning bowls, working around cups, and multiple other workpieces.

As a final observation, with 70.3 pounds, we can consider it a lightweight wood lathe.

So we recommend that you put it in a plain solid base to get rid of unnecessary vibration while working with a relatively larger work-piece.

The free-rolling style tailstock can be removed and changed as needed.

Pros

✅ Easy to set up.
✅ Light-weight construction still produces fewer vibrations.
✅ The faceplate is suitable for different size projects.
✅ Great tool for beginners and professionals as well.

Cons

Stops turning when there is overpressure on the machine.
Can get overheated sometimes.

6. NOVA 1624 II 8 Speed Wood Lathe

NOVA 1624 II 16 x 24" 8 Speed Wood Lathe, Black (SKU 24221)
Check the latest price and reviews on Amazon

When you are looking for a machine, one of the first elements you consider is durability. After all, durability will prove its worth in the long run, giving you the possibility to have extended periods of work.

It allows you to understand what it can do and its limitations.

It is no different from the wood lathes. They have to endure many working hours to take plenty of abuse as well. So you require the most optimum and resistant machine, and this is where the NOVA 1624 comes into play.

It is a powerful machine with plenty of versatility to work for many years. This product features 8 different speed ranges starting from 215 RPM.

The 215 RPM allows you to have a constant performance which is decisive while working on projects like bowl turning.

These different speeds also give you a wide range of possibilities. You can work on small pieces with more accuracy and precision, but you could use the machine to create bigger projects as well.

The capacity to work on different materials is possible because of the tool’s construction. It uses strong steel and great quality cast iron materials. These two elements combine to provide a solid wood lathe.

They reduce the vibration and the noise significantly creating a comfortable experience.

Nova 1624 II uses a 1.5 horsepower AC motor, capable of delivering energy to make accurate and smooth results. The 360° Swivel head will give you the freedom of work from any position that will save significant space in your workplace.

You can change the speed by opening the large access panel and changing the belt position on the step pulleys.

The only common complaint you might hear sometimes from the user is about the customer service they provide.

Readout my complete review of Nova 1624 II, so you can have more info before you finally taste one!

Pros

✅ Quality materials for design; like the cast iron.
✅ The reversible motor is great for finishing especially for left-handed turners.
✅ Swing capacity of 16 inches
Durable tool.
✅ very sturdy lathe with plenty of power and torque.

Cons

Pulleys could get damaged earlier sometimes.
Might find it difficult while changing the belt.
Should have a bit less pricy.

7. Jet JWL-1440VSK Wood Lathe

Jet JWL-1440VSK Wood Lathe
Check the latest price and reviews on Amazon

Okay, so what makes this slightly heavyweight lathe machine a bit expensive? We’d say versatility. Versatility is a great highlight of any machine.

The capacity to work on diverse materials is what makes a great tool, especially when it is a wood lathe.

One day you might need the lathe for table legs, but your next project could require a suitable lathe for bowls. Naturally, you are going to need a tool capable of performing on both projects, and it is there when this model from JET becomes a worthy option.

It features a motor with a different working speed which goes from 400 to 3000 RPM. The motor ensures the energy is distributed effectively around the lathe, providing a quality working experience and a solid performance.

While the pieces are heavy, assembling the machine is not difficult at all. Any user could mount the pieces and set it up quickly which is great for a wide range of users, especially beginners.

However, it is important to understand how the pieces work. Aggressively tightening the parts like the headstock will damage the soft materials, particularly the bushing.

Make sure you read through the guidelines and manuals if it is necessary. Or a bunch of youtube tutorials might help too.

This product also includes an extension bed. It is an optional addition but is highly efficient for bigger outboard turnings.

All these features seek to improve the quality of the results, and they succeed at it effectively.

In general, we would say that this product meets the expectations for it to be called the best wood lathe. It is a powerful tool, easy to operate, and can work on different projects, both big and small.

And one more interesting part is that all the customers who used it gave it a full 5-star rating.

For more clear views, you can read this full review of 1440 VSK if you like.

Pros

✅ It is powerfully versatile.
✅ Includes a sliding headstock with 7 effective locking degrees.
✅ Features an additional extension bed for a larger turning.
✅ Variable working speed.

Cons

For some projects, the variable speed at 400 rpm is not low enough.

8. Grizzly T25920 Variable-Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe

Grizzly Industrial T25920-12" x 18" Variable-Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe
Check the latest price and reviews on Amazon

The Grizzly T25920 is a worthy product suitable for beginners who want to initiate their way woodworking. It features an effective and powerful motor, working at 110 Volts during a single-phase and 5.3 Amps.

Furthermore, this motor is capable of producing enough energy allowing the machine to work at 650 rotations per minute and able of reaching up to 3800 RPM.

With this motor, every user has the comfort of knowing the machine will keep up with their ideas. It is a great power source to complete a variety of projects regardless of their type.

The machine also features a speed indicator, both a live center and a spur center. It includes a 3-1/4 inches faceplate. All of these highlights make up for a solid performance, and it gives the users the control they need.

We all know that one of the best qualities of a wood lathe is the capacity to shape materials on our own accord. By far, all the control this machine gave is quite impressive.

Pros

✅ Can work at different speed rotations.
✅ Great machine for beginners.
✅ Can adapt extra tools to have a better performance.
✅ Powerful motor at an accessible price.

Cons

Not recommended for bigger projects.

9. NOVA 46300 Mini Lathe 12-Inch x 16 1/2-Inch

NOVA 46300 Comet II Variable Speed Mini Lathe 12-Inch x 16 1/2-Inch
Check the latest price and reviews on Amazon

One of the main disadvantages of mini-lathes is the fact that they lose power. Mini models cannot compare to full-size machines, but that is understandable.

In order to have more power, you’re going to need a bigger and heavier construction to endure it. Even so, the barrier between what a full-size and a mini lathe can do closes with this product. With a 71% rating of 5-star here comes the mighty mini wood lathe Nova Comet II.

For starters, it uses a highly capable electronic motor. It is a 3/4 horsepower motor that provides a different speed range. This lathe is capable of working at a low 250 RPM and a more powerful but steady 4000 RPM.

These working speeds are adjustable by a 3 pulley system and are easy to control. As it is only about 80 pounds, the lathe is easy to pick up and move but it stays put while working on it.

It features a swing capacity of 12 inches over the bed and even over the optional bed. Cutting or shaping different size materials is an easy task to do in general. The spur in the headstock and the live center in the tailstock come together perfectly.

Overall it meets quite the requirements that any mini lathe should deliver. It is a portable tool that saves a considerable amount of space. The machine’s mini design made this a great option to buy and use in the house.

If you want to use it for hobbies or even as a pro pen turner, then this a clear contestant for the best mini wood lathe spot and it will deliver what you need effectively. We talked about its high performance, and there are a few reasons that make this product a powerful machine.

Pros

✅ Runs quiet and has plenty of power.
✅ 3 Pulley System allows you to control the different speeds.
✅ Speed changes are easy and quick.
✅ You can turn in reverse with the help of the reversible chuck.

Cons

Toolrest and spindle mount mechanisms can be a little rough for some people.

10. Goplus 1/2HP 40″ Power Wood Turning Lathe

Goplus 1/2HP 4 Speed 40" Power Wood Turning Lathe 14" x 40" Benchtop Wood Lathe
Check the latest price and reviews on Amazon

The last and the cheapest on the list is Goplus though it won’t have the fancy features but still very proficient.

Because of its high stability, you are going to work without the unpleasant vibrations, making this tool very comfortable to use.

Speaking of its uses, you can put it through different applications as well. It is an ideal tool to work on wood projects and other general handiwork; like drilling and grooving among others.

The lathe’s great performance for different applications is possible thanks to its adjustable speed. It features 4 different speeds: going from 1100 to 1600, reaching 2300, and finally delivering a steady and consistent 3400 RPM.

The users could add extra accessories as well. An adapter will be needed to use the chucks. You can buy an adapter from 3/4″ 10 TPI to 1″ 8 TPI to use the self-centering chucks which is recommended by many turners.

The product’s different working speed along with its 1/2 horsepower engine allows you to design and produce quality results for different tasks.

This means that not only beginners and amateurs will get the best out of this lathe, but also professionals who use it as a hobby.

You could face some problems with the alignment later on but that can be handled. Just loose the 4 bolts on the motor-side and then tighten it. It will be fixed.

Last but not least, we will mention the fact that this tool does not require much space. From the center to each side, the lathe has a distance of 40 inches.

You are going to have the freedom to place it almost everywhere around the house, and it won’t consume much storage.

Pros

✅ 4 different working speeds easy to adjust.
✅ Ideal for beginners
✅ Does not consume much space
✅ So cheap in price.

Cons

Adjustments are pretty time-consuming.
Need some modification and upgradations.

Wood Lathe Buying Guide: What Should You Look For

Before you decide which one to buy, you should make a few considerations first along with the price.

The machine’s powering, functionality and overall market experience are decisive elements to consider before choosing one.

So these are the components you should check first.

The Power and The Motor

The power required depends on different elements. The speed and the motor also contribute to the tool’s efficiency, and they are a decisive factor as to how much power you are going to need.

If you want to work on high demanding projects, you should focus on getting a powerful machine.

A powerful machine needs an effective motor. The motor and its specifications are responsible for the operation’s speed and efficiency, especially when cutting.

Small and big motors work better depending on the material, and selecting the wrong motor for the work you require will not produce the expected results.

In the worst-case scenario, the tool’s lifespan decreases.

Build and Weight

The quality of your project will determine the size or build you’re going to need. When you’re working on smaller tasks that do not require high power, then the mini lathe is what you want to buy.

However, if you are working on high demanding projects, the standard lathe’s power is the optimum choice. The tool’s weight also comes into play here.

Heavier structures offer a steady performance, and you know they will remain in their place.

On the other hand, a lightweight model might move if you’re putting it through an intense task.

It does not mean that a lightweight tool is a disadvantage, but it does require you to put more attention when you’re using it.

Comfortable Tool

Vibration is one of the most unpleasant experiences while working. It is a disadvantage that most lightweight lathes have to carry because they don’t have enough stability.

When the vibration gets to an extreme point, you will lose control over the machine, and you’re not going to receive the result you wanted.

It can distract you from working. When you’re not focused, not only will it affect your final result, but it could also create dangerous situations.

Check out this article where I talked briefly about wood lathe vibration and what to do if this happens.

A quality wood lathe keeps the vibrations low, and it is a quiet tool as well.

Accessible

You should always look for an easy tool to use. This is not an issue if you are a professional, but you’re going to need as much help as necessary when you’re starting out.

Besides, it really says a lot about a product when even the most inexperienced people can use it.

Finally, we get to the price. It is true that a higher price does not mean more quality necessarily, but the price is a standard you can use to consider your options.

Let me explain. Cheaper products can be good for small products sometimes. Just like the Wen 3420 wood lathe. Specially designed for lighter woodworking projects.

However, if you are embarking yourself in a complex project, you’re going to need a tool capable of producing what you want.

In that case, the tool’s price goes higher.

Essential Equipment You Need While Working With Wood Lathe

In order to provide a more optimum result, there are a few gears to consider adding to your machine. These parts are designed to assist during your work hours, and their purpose is to enhance the tool’s functionality.

To sum up, they will make your life easier, and you should look into them. These parts are the following;

Turning Chuck

Most machines have a system to keep the materials secured and in its place. However, this addition takes it to another level.

It is a special part designed with an anti-release lock, meaning the materials will stay at their place no matter what. You will have more control when you’re using this attachment.

By maintaining the material under a firm grip, the woodworker is able to cut and shape it as much as needed without any complication.

It is suitable for both square and rounded wood which gives the users a wide range of materials that they can use to cut or shape.

On top of that, a great quality chuck turning also features strong security measures, like automatically stopping if the work requires it.

Overall, this accessory is something that every woodworker must-have. If there are tools to help you have better results, ignoring them is not the wisest thing to do.

Chisel Turning Set

This set of tools is ideal for someone who is starting up as a woodworker. It features a set of blades with different sizes, and each one has a unique design and purpose.

Nonetheless, they all share the same goal which is to assist you with your projects.

While these tools are not necessary, you will find that the benefits of getting them are worth the investment you make.

The Face Plate

The faceplate is another equipment gear designed for more stability. It is a useful accessory that helps you have a smoother experience.

This item is capable of holding the materials securely, and you will not have to worry about problems while cutting.

The tool is also responsible for reducing high vibrations which means the users will have a more comfortable operation.

For that, and many other reasons, you should always put particular attention to the quality of the faceplate you get.

A Worktop Grinder

Now, this is not a necessary tool to have, but it could save you when you least expect it. After a while, you will notice that your lathe tools will start losing their cutting edge.

Even the highest quality tools face this issue eventually. But there is no need to worry.

Using a worktop grinder will give your tools the edge they need. In no time, you will have your tools back in action, with the quality sharpening the grinder provides.

The best thing about worktop grinders is that they are not expensive. Naturally, there are very expensive models, but even the cheapest one can do the trick for you.

These are the top equipment gears you should consider. Regardless, there are plenty more available.

Make sure you look into the wide variety of equipment to find what you need exactly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best type of wood lathe?
It depends on what type of work you will be doing. If you’re looking for a wood lathe with high power, a full-size machine is what you need.

However, the mini-lathes are capable of delivering more accuracy and precision, creating a more quality result.

What is the lathe’s maximum RPM capacity?
There are products in the market that can operate from 500 to 4000 rotations per minute capacity.

The speed can vary depending on the projects, which is why you are going to need an easy to adjust lathe, especially when it comes to the working speed.

Is there any difference between the mini-lathes and midi lathes?
It is about size mostly. The midi lathe is a mid-size tool that has a bigger engine and structure but in a more compact and suitable design.

Check this article to know more about the midi lathe terms.

Can these tools work with different materials other than wood?
There are lathes that specifically work with other materials like metals. However, the products in this article are ideal for woodworking.

You can always research the product you buy to understand its limitations.

As a beginner, how easy are these lathes to use?
No matter what profession you are in, it will create some limitations at the beginning. The lathe is no different here. The more you spend time, the more you get to know your tool.

But To make life more easier you can easily pick one of the wood lathe we reviewed above.

Wrapping Up

Whether you are a professional or a beginner, our best wood lathe for the money will assist you in completing your task.

Make sure you go through all of the options available because it will allow you to choose the most effective tool for your work.

But of course, you are obviously welcome to go out on the web to see what’s really happening!

We have tried our best to give you all the knowledge of lathes that we have so you could find it a bit easier while choosing the best wood lathe for you!

Rock on fellas and wishing you the very best of luck with your work.

See you in another episode!

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