Last Updated on January 17, 2023 by Charles Wilson
A lathe is extremely useful when it comes to wood turning and working. It’s even called the mother of machine tools, as it helps cut, deform, and shape metals and wood, among others.
With this, it is essential to search for a durable lathe that is smooth for both beginner and pro woodworkers.
In my search for the best lathe, I chanced upon the Rockler Excelsior Mini Lathe, which I want to share through this review to help you see if this is the machine for you!
- The Rockler Excelsior mini lathe is the best choice for newcomers in the woodwork industry as its design is straightforward and simple to navigate.
- It has a 5-speed spindle change, up to 38 & 1/2 inches of bed extension, a #2 Morse for the headstock and tail stock, and more essential features for $279.99.
- This 30 inches (L) by 7 & 3/4 inches (W) by 15 inches (H) lathe is powered by a 1.5 horsepower and a 370-watt motor that is efficient for any small-time wood-turning deals.
Rockler’s Excelsior Mini Lathe Overview
The Rockler Excelsior mini lathe offers solid cast iron construction, ensuring stability and durability. It can hold the weight of other accessories and withstand any tension or vibration.
True to this, the lathe creates zero to minimal vibrations. This is thanks to its efficient and stable tail stock live center.
The Rockler Excelsior mini lathe has a staggering five spindle speed changes. Here are the variations in revolutions per minute (RPM) it offers:
The speed changes are helpful in efficiently adjusting for every project. Thanks to its 1.5 horsepower engine, it’s powerful enough to process any woodwork smoothly.
It also features cam-locking ratcheting adjustment levers, which secure the banjo and tail stock and make it easy to navigate the screws without going through the machines’ tool systems.
Rockler Excelsior mini lathe producers are keen on details because they also added a slip-resistant rubber on the feet for better contact with the tabletop or the floor.
REMEMBER: It is essential to reach for, move the drive belt, and secure the drive belt on the appropriate pulleys for the speed change to commence.
- 1.5 horsepower
- 1″ x 8″ threads per inch spindles
- 10-inch turning diameter
- 3″ face plate
- 3mm, 6mm, and 8mm hex keys (included in the box)
- 6″ tool rest
- 78-pound weight
- Bed extension turning max. of 38 1/2 inches
- MT2 drive spur center
- Power switch
- Precision-machine live center
- Safety pullout key
- Slip-resistant rubber feet
- Solid cast iron base material (i.e., lathe bed)
- Spindle washer (in the box)
- Sturdy knockout rod
- No vibration
- Easy to use; on and off key
- Easy access to belts for speeding changes
- Sturdy build; long-lasting
- The size is too small for some
- Tendency to get hot
Full Review of the Excelsior Mini Lathe
To give you a fuller perspective on my understanding and experience with the Rockler Excelsior mini lathe, here is a complete review of its construction, size, ease of use, and price.
The Excelsior mini lathe has a heavy-duty base, solid cast iron bed construction, and excellent damping capacity.
The damping cap results from the addition of graphite, particularly their shapes, with the lowest of the variants having 26% damping capacity.
Having a good damping capacity means a higher ability of the woodworking machine to absorb vibration produced by internal friction.
With this, the excelsior mini lathe will not give off unnecessary vibration or noises.
Other than that, the dual ball bearings from this lathe model also contribute to its quietness.
Additionally, the Excelsior mini lathe provides an effective 1.5 or 1/2 HP motor with 370W. This horsepower is enough to mow through smaller projects like pens, bottle stoppers, and chair spindles with little to no bogging down.
What made me marvel at the Excelsior mini lathe was its manual speed. Although it is not a variable speed mini lathe, it takes just a little effort to change rates from 760, 1100, 1600, 2200, and 3200 RPM.
The Rockler Excelsior mini lathe has the following dimensions:
- Length: 30 inches
- Width: 7 & 3/4 inches
- Height: 15 inches
The length, width, and height are suitable for beginners in this field. Yet, for those with extensive turning activities, larger and wider lathes may be preferred.
Nevertheless, a bed extension with a maximum turning project of 38 & 1/2 inches can be the solution, as it fits perfectly into the headstock and tailstock live center.
It is capable of turning woodenware with a diameter of at most 10 inches.
Another exciting thing about this Rockler Excelsior mini lathe is its 6-inch tool rest, which is specifically helpful when I turn bowls and other smaller projects. Yet, since it is a mini lathe, it only has a 3-inch face plate.
REMINDER: Bed extension is sold separately.
Ease of Use
Of all the things that make the Rockler Excelsior mini lathe a good buy, the standout characteristic will always be its ease of use, including its uncomplicated setup.
As I have established in the previous sections of this review, this lathe is beginner-friendly, which means it is simple to set up and works with any wood pieces.
For starters, it only takes the following steps to setup:
- Get it from the packaging.
- While unplugged, put the socket crew into the Quill handwheel handle and secure it using a Hex key.
- Assemble the MT2 live and drive spur centers in the lathe.
- Put it over a desirable work area (i.e., uniform, preferably smooth, and spacious) and make sure the place is wide enough to manage turning projects.
Most importantly, the lathe holds the following characteristics which make it easy to work around:
- Power switch
- Safety pullout key
- Easy manual speeding changes
- Self-extracting #2 Morse headstock and tailstock taper
The Rockler Excelsior is extraordinary because it is already assembled out of the box. That said, you will need to manually assemble the MT2 live center and MT2 drive spur center.
NOTE: The middle of the live and spur centers is where the workpiece is placed, and the two centers are used as security to keep the piece on hold parallel to the base.
You can buy the Rockler Excelsior lathe for $279.99, which is a reasonable price for starter lathes, as with its price, it gets things done directly.
Although a mini lathe does not have a similar overall length and power as a full-size lathe, it can still work efficiently for such projects as:
- Chair spindle or the symmetrical cylinder shaft
- Drawer or wire pulls
- Platters or charcuterie boards
- Table legs
Alternatives to Consider
If you want alternatives for instances where the Excelsior mini lathe goes out of stock on the market, or if you wish to have a fuller perspective on your lathe choices, here are some lathe machines you may want to consider:
1.) Delta Industrial 46-460
The Delta Industrial 46-460 is a midi lathe that comes with 1 HP and electronic variable speeds, which makes the machine adjust and adapt the speed without needing to change the belt position. It hits the following RPM ranges:
Moreover, it has a ball-bearing live center, a -8 RH TPI thread, and a 120 V with other features like:
- 36-inches L
- 11 inches W
- 17 3/4 inches H
- 106 lbs
- 6-inch and 10-inch tool rests
As elaborated on the Delta Machinery official website, you can buy this midi lathe from 11 different stores with a price range of $899 to $1399.99.
2.) Jet JWL-1221VS
Next in line for the alternatives is the Jet JWL-1221VS with a 1-horsepower and 115 motor voltage powering the machine, and the following variable changes in speeds (RPM):
To give you a clear perspective, here are the dimensions:
- 39.3 inches L
- 17.7 inches W
- 17.7 inches H
- 121.25 pounds
This lathe machine falls under the pricing range of $999.99 to $1160.32 and offers a reliable machine made of cast iron, except for the headstock tooling and tailstock, which are made of steel.
It also has a belt tension system designed with the ratchet style. This style makes the tension lower than other systems making it a long-lasting machine with efficient woodwork results.
Yet, be wary, as this machine has a loose headstock that can alter the lathe’s rotational power.
3.) Rikon 70-100
The last alternative I recommend is the Rikon 70-100 mini lathe, priced at $489 to $524.69. This lathe has a 1.5 HP of motor for turning, which is a bit higher than the previous lathes.
In terms of speeds, the Rikon 70-100 can also be at par with the others as it flaunts its six-changing speeds options (RPM):
However, changing the tempo for the Rikon lathe mini model may be slower than the previous two.
Nevertheless, this lathe from Rikon offers an impressive self-ejecting tailstock that travels for 2 and 1/2 inches. It also complements the iron bed by ensuring secure and smooth turning.
Final Verdict: Is the Rockler Excelsior Mini Lathe Worth It?
With all the facts and information in this article, it all points to one thing: the Rockler Excelsior mini lathe is worth it, especially if you are a novice in using woodworkers’ machines.
For a quick post-article recap, the Rockler Excelsior mini wood lathe offers the following features and specifications:
- Cast iron’s built and chrome handwheel
- Cast iron bed extension, which accommodates a small wood-turning project to a 38 1/2-inch one
- MT2 drive spur center in driving wood pieces
- Tail-stock for efficient hold and support
- Lightweight and efficient overall system out of the box
- 10-inch turning diameter
Now that you have a clear perspective on this lathe, don’t hold back and get one (especially if there’s a sale!) to jumpstart your woodwork journey!