8 Best Beginner Wood Lathes of 2021: Great For The Money

Last Updated on June 11, 2021 by Charles Wilson

There is a large community of beginner woodturners around the country, and no matter the experience, we all share this common ground. I also struggled to choose the opening wood lathe that can grow with me on my woodturning journey.

As soon as I was outgrowing my skills, I felt that I needed to upgrade it with a powerful one from a half HP underpowered motor.

So, being in the same vein and pondering to begin a wood-turning business, you must require a wood lathe with adequate HP, weight, and a good swing capacity. Something within the budget and with a great resale value as well.

But, as there are a plethora of them in the market, it can get tricky to find the desired one that gives you the best value with as much torque and durability as possible.

As you need to plan the budget considering the essential woodturning tools, a little research could save you some money on the table.

And to fix that dilemma, I made this compact list of the best beginner wood lathes so you can start your woodturning business easily without wasting money on inferior machinery.

I will discuss such eight wood lathes in three different size categories, including three alternative options. You must have seen these small powerhouses used by the mentors in clubs (except for the Wen minis).

Let’s start with the quick top 5 charts, and then we will talk about the alternative options.

Interesting Topic: I surveyed almost 400 real woodturners for my next lathe.

Disclaimer: As an Amazon affiliate, I may earn a small percentage from qualifying purchases. This means no extra cost to you.

Top 3 Starter Wood Lathes at a Glance

For life time investment
Laguna Tools Revo Lathe 220v 2HP 18"/36" Induction 1725RPM Motor w/Variable Speed Frequency Drive - Model MLAREVO 1836, Black
Best bang for the buck
JET JWL-1221VS 12"x21" Variable-Speed Wood Lathe (719200)
Cheapest with good value
WEN 3421 3.2-Amp 8" by 12" Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe
2 HP
1 HP
3.2 Amp
18″ x 36″
12″ x 20.5″
8″ x 12"
Variable Speed
441 lbs
121 lbs
44.7 lbs
2 years
5 Year
2 years
For life time investment
Laguna Tools Revo Lathe 220v 2HP 18"/36" Induction 1725RPM Motor w/Variable Speed Frequency Drive - Model MLAREVO 1836, Black
2 HP
18″ x 36″
Variable Speed
441 lbs
2 years
Best bang for the buck
JET JWL-1221VS 12"x21" Variable-Speed Wood Lathe (719200)
1 HP
12″ x 20.5″
Variable Speed
121 lbs
5 Year
Cheapest with good value
WEN 3421 3.2-Amp 8" by 12" Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe
3.2 Amp
8″ x 12"
Variable Speed
44.7 lbs
2 years

Last update on 2021-06-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Short Reviews on 5 Starter Wood Lathes For Beginners

"a beginner woodturner turning spindle on a wood lathe with a chisel"

Let’s start with the wood lathes taking over the market for ages with their qualities and sturdiness. Therefore, thousands of turners have given them the credibility for maintaining the excellence of quality of the lathes to date.

Now without further intro, let’s jump over to see the possible best starter wood lathe for beginners.

1. Laguna Revo 1836 Review: With High Horsepower

"Full black colored Laguna-1836 Wood full-size wood lathe in a white background"
  • 18″ swing and 36″ between the centers
  • Motor: Induction, 1725 RPM, 2HP, 220V, 60Hz
  • Phase: 1-Phase Input, 3-Phase Output
  • RPM: High: 135-3500 Low: 50-1300
  • Spindle taper: #2MT
  • Spindle thread: 1¼” X 8 TPI RH
  • Spindle Index #: 14/36/48 with Lock
  • Max. Outboard Swing: 32″
  • Swing over Banjo: 13½”
  • Tailstock Quill: 4½”, Engraved, Self-Ejecting
  • Shipping Weight: 570 lbs
  • Warranty: 2 years

For whom

If you have read my survey, you must have seen that about 46.67% of the woodturners use the standard full-size lathe for their projects. And so many of them were beginners.

That tells us if you are not tight in budget and workspace, then going for a full-sized lathe with more space available for the swing is always the smartest move.

That’s because you will outgrow your skills very soon and will want to upgrade to a full-sized wood lathe anyway.

Besides, you can turn small things on a larger lathe, but you cannot turn a large workpiece on a small wood lathe.

Worth the price?

Unlike the big 20” swing heavyweight Powermatic 3520C, the budget for Laguna Revo 1836 is very considerable, being an 18” full-sized wood lathe if you compare the price with the Powermatic 3520B units, a big difference with a similar 2HP motor for each (Powermatic feels beefier though).

But I must say it’s a hell of a lathe.

There is only a 100 bucks difference between 100 volts and 220 volts.

Why choose Laguna 18/36

The question should be, why won’t you? This 450lbs sturdy beast is an American class entirely manufactured in California. A robust, heavy-duty machine like the old Delta 16-42 steel bed lathe but with a different headstock design.

It takes just 50 rpm for this beast to take off after you kick it on. So, that means safer turning and more versatility working with irregular and unbalanced big chunks.

Laguna cut above any Jet or Nova heavyweight out there. Apart from the regular turners, Jet is always better for beginners—a kind of classroom lathe. As a result, we see a lot of people starting with Jet for their user-friendliness and price. And that’s why I put the 1440VSK and 1221VS on the list.

However, if you are thinking of hitting some serious work and start your journey with a severe professional machine instead, pack Laguna for yourself.

The 18” swing inboard with an extra 32 inches for the outboard is eye-catching for any professional turner at this price point. So, It’s a class in every way.

Now, do I own one? No. Currently, I have three lathes, including a metal one. Besides, I am more into the Powermatic 3520C (see on Amazon) as I think it’s worth the extra money. I wish they had this black panther outlook as well.

But as many beginners might not be comfortable putting another thousand dollars on the table for almost the same features and motor power, the Laguna Revo 1836 would be the best match overall. Save the extra bucks for some handy accessories later.


To be honest, I didn’t see any negative reviews anywhere that are legit. Everyone seems to be very satisfied with this unit. You can do your own research also.

I’ve even seen many turners complain about the Powermatic with the banjo and tool rest that they somehow wanted to replace that. But no one seems to bother by this Laguna Revo 1836 unit. So far, so good.

The only concern is that you might have to work like a trojan to shift them from their place when needed. These lathes are damn heavyweight. So, plan your workspace smartly before they deliver it to your door. This goes to any full-sized lathe you end up with.

2. Jet JWL-1221VS Review: Best Beginner Midi Lathe

"White colored Jet-1221VS midi wood lathe in a white background"
  • 12″ swing and 20-1/2″ between centers
  • 1 HP, 115V, Recommended Circuit Size (Amps.)10
  • Spindle Taper: MT2
  • Spindle Bore: 3/8″
  • Indexing position: 24
  • Spindle Thread: 1″/8 TPI
  • 60-3600 RPM variable speed
  • Forward to reverse
  • Weight: 136.4lbs
  • Warranty: 5 years

For whom

If you don’t want to spend a load right away in the beginning and have a workspace limitation also but still want all the qualities and sturdiness like a full-sized lathe. Midi benchtop lathes are here to play the role.

Worth the price?

Considering all the other lathes, Jet JWL 1221VS got almost everything, even a professional bowl turner needs. Moreover, with only 2 inches difference in the swing, it’s half the price of 1440VSK (see the price) on Amazon.

Why choose Jet 1221vs

Honestly speaking, the Delta 46-460 could easily beat up this lightweight monster if it were a few years back. As all the functions working actively, like the 1220VS (old one), the Delta gave some extra features like variable speed and reverse option at a minimum price range.

But since Jet felt that they were being outperformed, they immediately came up with the new 1221VS adding up –

  • Variable speed control for turning bowls
  • Reverse for sanding
  • Beefier and fairly clean cast than before
  • Dead-on alignment
  • Digital RPM readout (not necessary but still)
  • Wider bed rails, beefier headstock belt pulleys
  • Two useful tool rackers.

They started performing better with the large bowl chunk. A bit pricier than the Delta version but worth every penny.

They even have an upgraded version- 1221SP (step pulley). But I like the Variable Speed over the Step Pulley as it doesn’t have the reverse option.

So you can go either way, and it’s worth it.


  • Many of the pro-turners have witnessed a bad quality control of this lathe. But in 90% of cases, it’s happening for bad shipping rather than I don’t see any significant issues to talk about.
  • The speed delays a bit to pick up. But that’s good for safety, and you will get used to it very quickly. It’s even good for turning bowls.
  • You need to move the tools from the left side tool rack to get access to the side door to the motor.
  • The white paint quality is not that cool.

I got my 1221vs just fine back in 2015. Nothing loose or broken, no switch problems, even the Styrofoam was fresh. I have my bench, so I didn’t call for an extra leg, still solid as a rock.

But if the need should arise to replace it, if you see something broken or noticeable damage, you can return it immediately. They have a good return policy as well.

It’s a fantastic machine for the bowl turners who love making pieces from small to medium ranges. You can turn anything under the 12” wide in diameter.

Anything from bowl to different crafts projects, this lathe will serve you great before you finally move up to something even more significant. You can also check my guide with 9 robust midi wood lathes to buy within the price range.

3. Excelsior 5 Speed Mini Lathe: Best Starter Mini Wood Lathe

"Full black colored Excelsior Mini Wood Lathe by Rockler brand in a white background"
  • 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

For whom

Only if you want to stick with smaller crafts, pens, beautiful tiny resin bowls, acrylic duck or goose calls, bottle stoppers, and things like that, then you might want to go with a mini wood lathe.

Now, you can do that with the full-sized wood lathe, but the main difference here will be the price, motor power, and machine size.

But there are up to scratch Mini wood lathes like this robust one from the mighty Rockler to handle small projects. You can later buy your dream lathe after you accomplish something precisely and become more motivated.

Worth the quality?

Something under 300 dollars is already compromising with the budget, but will it compromise its class for the price? How it performs in its proper condition. That’s my concern here.

As long as the shipping goes right and all the parts are in good shape, I can bet you will be delighted with the Excelsior mini lathe by Rockler unless you mount severe hardwoods on it.

This works excellent for anything under the ranged of diameter. And far better than the Wen minis.

Why choose Excelsior Mini lathe as a Beginner

Turners are satisfied with the quality that Rockler lathes are producing, even with the mini-lathes. You might have seen Mr. Carl Jacobson from Oregon working with this particular unit in his workshop.

I am trying to say that a professional always avoid these so-called “mini-lathes” and plays with the big birds instead. But when they do, they can be very picky and won’t take just anything for granted.

Ever seen our club mentors turning happily with Wen mini? Not really. They are good for beginners, not great.

Rockler always rocks and has been crushing it with this Excelsior Mini lathe. They are taking over their contender in this category from the beginning.

The best part is that this ½ HP lathe comes with MT2 drive spur/center, whereas most minis come with MT1. So, you can pretty much use any MT2 accessories. You can extend the bed to 38-1/2” for spindle work with five different speeds starting from 760 to 3200 RPM. A bit faster for bowls, but that’s okay to me.

Kudos to this great little lathe. I still have it, and I have no plan to get rid of it even if I end up buying the Powermatic giant.


It’s been 3 years since I have been using this lathe, and it’s doing pretty well. Boundaries are the same for any mini lathes. Don’t push it too far. That’s the rule.

Though it gave me a hard time leveling the bed extension, to be honest. I wish it has four bolt holes instead of two. Now, this is something you need to take care of. Always align the ways to get it done right before turning.

But once set, you are a happy turner.

Many people are not happy with the belt changing system, but I hope you will get used to it very soon. Not that big deal to talk about.

Okay, now let’s go for a brand that offers the cheapest wood lathe possible that is also ideal for beginners. But unlike the Chinese mini-lathes, you can have the parts available with a warranty and enough quality.

4. Nova 71118 Comet II DR: Best Around $500

"Silver colored midi wood lathe Nova-Comet-II-DR in a white background"
  • 12″ swing and 16.5″ between centers
  • HP: 3/4HP, 230v single phase, 60Hz,
  • Speed range: 250 – 4,000 RPM Variable Speed
  • Tailstock: 2MT hollow
  • Quill travel 1.6″/40.60mm.
  • Spindle Thread: 1″ x 8TPI RH.
  • Forward and Reversing
  • Weight: 82.4lbs
  • Warranty: 1 Year Motor and Controller, 2 Year Mechanical and parts

For Whom

As the title goes, it’s for the person who has a budget of $500 for only the lathe itself without any attachments. I won’t talk about other accessories like the chuck (btw it’s the investment you won’t regret).

11/14/2020 Update: Due to stock out, you may not find it on Amazon or anywhere (US) right now. But you can still ship it from a Canadian store. The link will take you to Amazon CA. You can also wait a few days or try going for the Delta 46-460.

2/7/2021 Update: The price of this machine has got way too upward during the pandemic on Amazon. So definitely, “Jet or Delta” would be the best call. However, you can also buy it from other stores as well.

4/9/2021 Update: The previous version is now available on Amazon for around 500 dollars.

Worth the price?

Absolutely worthy for the best around 500 dollars category. As my research went, the Nova Comet II, Rikon 70-100, Jet JWL 1015, and Delta Midi 46-460, all four of them were compatible with each other.

But we want something that doesn’t exceed the price giving the possible best finishes. So, you have the reason for choosing this unit over them.

Why choose Nova Comet II over them

It beats the Delta for the price. Delta crossed the price line here. But if you are not bothered by the extra 100 bucks, I strongly suggest you go with 1 horsepower Delta 46-460. High motor power, more ability to turn. So, your call.

Now for the others, Nova beats all of them by the power of the motor. Rikon and Jet both have ½ hp motors, whilst Nova got a ¾ hp giving you more on the table.

Nova also wins the race for having the lowest rpm of 250 as an advantage for turning bowls. It’s not only better for roughing blanks but also a great option for power sanding on a lathe. Jet and Rikon got 500 and 430 rpm each as their lowest speed.

Moreover, you can’t go reverse with Jet and Rikon units. Nova also added the reverse. Not that important, but a nice feature for sanding. It’s always better to have something than nothing.

Talking about the variable speed, they all are, but you don’t need to change the belt manually as Nova is featured with an electronic DC VS motor. Good for lazy turners like me.

They all are cast iron made and around 80lbs, so sturdiness is well maintained.

A little tricky with the warranty policy of Nova here as they have divided it into two services. 1 year for the motor and controller and 2 years for the parts and accessories.

So, the answer is detailed here. Now the call is yours. As far as I am concerned, based on my experience, it is an excellent $500 midi lathe with a powerful DC motor for you to start your journey.

5. WEN 3421 Variable Speed Review: Best For Low Budget

"Black body with orange tool rest, Wen-3421 in a white background"
  • 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

About the price

The Shop fox W1704 unit that I mentioned as an alternative could easily fit in this category, but I want something cheaper like super less expensive for someone to gain everything but lose nothing.

For whom

If variable speed is something you are looking for, but you don’t have the 400 or 500 dollars budget for a Jet or Delta midi, Wen has this unit for the budget problem.

About the quality

Not that much of horsepower but enough to handle lighter projects like acrylic pen blanks, small mallets, duck calls, chess pieces, 5 inches tiny bowls, etc.

Harbor Freight used to sell the same lathe but now has gone into the manual speed and mt2 option so, priced up.

Getting variable speed at this cost is also a pretty cool feature to have, which is the only advantage it has over Harbor Freight mini even at a low price. But to be honest, they are not compatible.

The only difference it has with Wen 3420T unit is the size of the faceplate and motor. I think they came up with 3421 unit after getting negative reviews on motor sustainability.

With not that much of a difference, I would say that you should move with this Wen 3421 unit instead. Having a little more power to the motor is absolutely an extra advantage.

It is a 1/3 Hp nice little lathe til you push it beyond its capability.


Keep in mind that this is an MT1, so you can’t use your tools when you move up to an MT2 lathe in the future. You can turn the small spindle, but you won’t be able to make any table legs as the company advertises, unless that’s a table for your cats.

It doesn’t have any digital readout either, so you have to guess the speed yourself, but learning classic and traditional way is always good.

As it’s just under 45lbs, so you might notice the lathe is sliding or moving when turning at a higher speed. Secure the lathe with your benchtop before working.

The final and most significant problem I want to address here is the stalling out of the motor. This 1/3 underpowered motor gets overheated, sometimes handling the hardwoods or bowls, which is not recommended though.

So, you need to start really slow with this lathe. Don’t push too far with hardwoods. Stop the motor, let it cool down then start again. Finally, I would say to respect its limitations as it is doing with your wallet.

I would say Nova Comet II DR would be a great deal under $500. 250 RPM is quite impressive at the slowest speed. Besides, it’s a variable speed and you cannot get any better at this price point.

3 Other Worth Mentioning Wood Lathes For Beginners

Okay, the lathes that I listed above were wood lathes for beginners according to their sizes and price. If you want to see other potential options, here goes my recommended picks for alternative options.

Wrapping up without mentioning these wood lathes, would be unfair as they also are a good bet for a beginner skill. I am going by their size again.

1. Jet JWL-1440VSK Review: Alternative for Leguna 1836

"Mat white colored Jet-1440VSK lathe in a white background"
  • 14-1/2″ swing and 40″ between the centers
  • Motor: 1 HP, 115/230V, 1 phase
  • RPM: 400-3000 Variable
  • Sliding Headstock
  • Acme threaded tailstock
  • Indexing Position: 36
  • Outboard Turning: Yes
  • Spindle taper: #2MT
  • Spindle thread: 1” X 8 TPI RH
  • Swing over tool rest: 11”
  • Tool Rest: 14″
  • Weight 400 lbs
  • Warranty: 5 year

For whom

Maybe, you don’t wanna spend that much as the Laguna is costing, but definitely want another good option for a full-size wood lathe, and this might be it.

Worth the price?

I have a little concern here. I am getting a 14” bed swing with 1 HP motor in compared to Laguna 1836, and only two inches more from the Jet 1221VS midi version.

They should have lowered the price further down. I mean no disrespect for the quality, but if I could save at least 200 dollars here, this could be a real winner.

Why choose Jet 1440VSK

I am certainly not rating Jet 1440vsk over the Laguna Revo 1836. It is for the possible best alternative option for that.

But it is a sturdier mighty lathe out there with good positive reviews altogether. So, choosing a wood lathe made of solid cast iron with a weight of 413 lbs, and one hp power motor at the very beginning is a worthy decision.

One good thing is that the speed dial opens and closes the driver sheave, so you don’t need to move the belts to change the speeds.

My complaint was just for the price they are taking. They could have given it 16” swing at least for bowl turning.

You can read all the fancy features on Amazon like cast iron legs, extra bed options, and staff like that, so I am not wasting your time here (mine also.)


Now, every machine has its capabilities and limitations. You cannot expect to put a 20” work on a 14” lathe.

  1. Their lower speed of 400 rpm can be an issue while turning large or imbalanced wood chunk. A little slower rpm and reverse for some situation would have been excellent.
  2. It does not come with chisels or chuck, only faceplate. So large bowl turners need to add some more accessories to that.
  3. You gonna have to need one or two people as the pieces (legs, table, motor, etc.) are quite heavy to assemble. Separate the tool rest, banjo first. It will make it easier.
  4. Lastly, I was reading a review, meanwhile, on Amazon. Someone named Nancy Carlsmith from Medway, MA, found some issues while assembling the headstocks. Later after calling their customer service, they came and fixed that.

If you are overthinking too much, finding out what could go wrong in the worst case, in a worst-case, a machine could stop working.

No one guarantees a lifetime.

Jet is providing a five years warranty so you can call them and set the issues you are having with your wood lathe anytime. They have an excellent customer service reputation also.

That’s why it is always great to go with a brand that has its values. And Jet always keeps promises.

2. Delta 46-460 Review: Alternative For Jet 1221VS

"Black and light ash colored Delta-46-460 Midi Lathe, facing front in a white background"
  • 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

For whom

Definitely a worthy pick for the midi lovers, a top-notch alternative to the Jet 1221VS. They are quite a similar thing, but Delta goes an extra step with their price.

Should you consider Delta 46-460 instead?

I don’t know if I have underrated this big name in the midi lathe industry. Delta has a history of introducing the first Midi lathe in the market probably in the early 90s, so they are the pioneer.

This variable speed unit of Delta has always been my favorite though I sold mine to a club member years ago then got the 1221VS. But I didn’t notice much of a difference between these two.

My 46-460 was smooth and quiet with adequate 1 HP motor power to turn bowls up to 11.” It says twelve inches, but I don’t like working on the edge.

The significant difference between these two is the motor power. Delta machined with one HP motor max, whereas the Jet is ¾. Delta runs and speeds up very quiet and smoothly than Jet while turning reverse and forward.

If you put them on the same bench, Delta sits about two inches taller, which is a plus point for cleaning the chips off the motor.

This is one of the most capable midi in the wood lathe market, no doubt about that. It’s been serving many skill level woodturners. So yeah, you can choose Delta 46-460 as an alternative to the Jet 1221VS.

Again, do your own research. Take a closer look at all the features. Compare them with your needs then make your decision.

I went with the Jet 1221vs anyway for the extra 50lbs weight.


Delta started getting some negative reviews mainly for the switch problems and the unavailability of its parts after the shifting of the company. This caught the eyes of many. Jet took advantage and nailed it.

Delta weighs almost 50lbs less than the Jet. The extra weight is always beneficial for bowl turnings. Cause you definitely want to grab something that’s promising you more sturdiness.

The banjo is not the standard one inch, so aftermarket tool rest will not match (amazon customer review and that’s true).

Some people complain about their customer service, but I know things can get adverse sometimes with any CS department of the world.

So, this is pretty much it—all I can say that it’s a class in its category in every way.

3. Shop Fox W1704 Review: Alternative For Excelsior Mini

"White colored shop fox W1704 8 inch bed lathe in a white background"
  • 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

For Whom

First of all, this is not something a pro-turner would consider over a professional wood lathe, because of their under-powered motors.

They are ideal for smaller things and always considered excellent for the entry-level.

So, starting with a mini lathe as Shop Fox W1704 won’t be a wrong determination at all, alternative to the one made by Rockler.

Why choose Shop Fox W1704

I don’t own this lathe, but I have used it several times. A friend of mine has a small antique shop here in North Vermilion Street. He somehow has a fetish for smaller lathes (I don’t know If he is reading this). I helped him with some of his projects.

So I tested the Wen 3420T, Harbor Freight 8” x12”, and this Shop Fox W1704. He bought the shop fox from Craiglist, and the rest of them were fresh.

I turned some bangles and small acrylic pens, I turned all three of them but liked the Shop Fox most because of its sturdiness. (I don’t know some may have a different opinion)

It was less vibrating than the harbor freight 8” x12.” Had a nice finish, no curved texture on the tool rest, pretty smooth. Besides, the variable speed control at that low price is also worth mentioning for Shop Fox.

The HF tool rest was way too high at its lowest position, and that’s a problem to be perpendicular to the center of the piece.


Don’t be so obsessed with the limitations. Yes, I am telling you. You won’t know what you like till you try it anyway.

Something of 8” swing and 12” in centers with everything limited can’t free its wings like the big birds that’s pretty obvious, right? Of course, it is.

  • Shop Fox W1704 one is a morse taper 1 unlike the excelsior mini (most of the minis are). Rest is just fine unless you experience bad shipping.
  • Watch for the alignment of the headstock and tailstock. Call them instantly if needed to replace it. It can happen with any lathe you buy.

Once again, don’t expect the quality you see in a full-sized lathe from these mini wood lathes. But for the price it takes and the quality it delivers, absolutely go for this one.

Basic Beginner Tips for Buying a Wood Lathe

"Man's hand with a chisel turning small door knob on a wood lathe"

Turners like Colin Furze, Richard Raffan, Keith Rowley, Barry Gross, and many others have said more or less the same when advising first-time buyers. These are fundamentals.

  1. What do you want to turn?
  2. Your workspace.
  3. Choose the lathe according to the HP, Variable Speed, and part’s availabilities.
  4. Don’t spend everything just on the lathe cause you need other accessories also.
  5. Always try to go for the larger lathe possible.

To make things more elaborate let’s get to the exact point as I don’t want to make this long.

  1. Decide what do you want to turn. Then Consider your workspace.
  2. You need some bigger place if you are going for a full-size unit.
  3. No matter what you buy, always go for a good HP motor with a variable speed option and #2 morse taper.
  4. Check if the parts are universal so you can find them in aftermarkets also. Don’t go for Chinese.
  5. You know your budget, so choose the lathe according to the budget. If tight, then go for a quality mini or midi.
  6. Remember, this is not going to be your last lathe forever.

Here is my comprehensive guideline for buying any wood lathe with more details to help you understand the rule of thumb.

People also ask

How fast should the wood lathe run?

It depends on the work. You need to go as low as you can if you are working with round unbalanced blanks. Most of the minis don’t have that power in the motor to produce that torque.

The headstock motor can’t sustain that load it needs. As a result, it bogs down.

But for the spindle work, the metric goes higher. The typical maximum rate remains under 4000 RPM on the high end.

Which woods are relatively easy to turn for the first-timers?

First of all, whatever woods you will be turning on, the chisels must be sharpen as much as possible.

However, if you start with some softwoods instead of hard, you will like to get fewer hard times turning them. Let me name some of the easiest woods you should try on-

1. Walnut
2. Boxelder
3. Red Elm
4. Cherry
5. Rosewood
6. Maple, of course
7. Beech
8. Ebony
9. Hickory
10. Rosewood and many more

But remember that softwoods don’t mean easy turning. It’s mainly the soft and wet nature of the wood. So whatever you are working on, it will take some time to master it.

Should I start with a mini wood lathe as a beginner?

Of course, you can. You will get the opportunity to know the machine as well as the work. Choose any of the mini-lathes from the list above.

But always remember to check the alignment of the head and tailstock first after you get one in your home.

If you think you are interested in going for one, I suggest giving a final look at some other options available for mini wood lathes before the final decision.

What would be an ideal beginner wood lathe for turning bowls?

Any wood lathe with durable Horse Power and maximum swing over the bed with a low variable speed start is ideal for turning bowls. In other words, the more swing the machine has, the big it can turn.

That is why I put the Laguna Revo 1836 on the top of the list. If you are serious about woodturning and can afford the cost right away, you should go for one.

On the other hand, Midi lathes can also produce high range torque with good swing capacity to turn bowls up to 14″ in diameter. So, machines like the Jet, Nova Comet, or Delta with variable speed can give you the possible outcomes.

Are wood lathes expensive?

Not all the wood lathes are expensive, but in a nutshell, it is. I mean, you can find one for a $150 range, but that goes up to $7-8k for Lathes like Powermatic 4224B, Oneway, Robust American; depending on how heavy-duty machine it is.

The whole thing varies on the motor, well-built machinery, and how precise mechanisms involved in making the Lathe.

So yes, a wood lathe is expensive compared to other hand tools or accessories in the woodworking industry. But you can’t find an alternative machine to turn the woods so precisely that a wood lathe can.

Say, for example, in Japan, they still use the traditional wood lathe machine, where they mount the workpiece in the headstock and then began cycling like a treadmill to rotate the.

Not everyone can build a lathe. So if you can’t afford a new one, you may have to search for a used lathe within your local community.

Should I start with a used wood lathe as a beginner?

Buying a second-hand or cheap Chinese lathe from Craiglist or Facebook marketplace to save money could be an option.

But if this something you are feeling passionate about and wanna give your best shot, then starting with a mint quality lathe should be the priority.

As the machine will be in a fresh condition, so it will easily outperform an older or cheaper one. Besides, there is always a risk of the wrong inspection due to the lack of experience.

What size lathe would be ideal for me?

Even if the percentage is higher when it comes to the full-size users, about 40% of woodturners that I talked about are using midi lathes as their primary lathe. Most importantly, the majority of them are amateurs.

That is to say, it always creates a win-win situation for a wood-turner from novice to skill leveled. Here is a video that for you to understand the basic.

Final Thoughts

I need you to remember one thing before wrapping up. These are all human-made machines, and we make mistakes.

That’s why you see some users having a complaint, whereas others are living happily with the same machine. It’s because that particular lathe has got some issues within the parts throughout manufacturing.

So, no matter what wood lathe you are going to buy, take enough time to check all the parts and accessories carefully after shipping. If you find something odd, let them know instantly and make everything clear.

Turn Safe, Turn Big. Welcome to the turning world!

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