7 Best Small Wood Lathes – Reviews & Buying Guide
Woodturning is an interesting craft, and while some woodworkers will do it for fun, for many others it is a full-time profession.
If you are just starting out or are a woodworker that wants to focus more on this woodworking form of art, it is obvious that a wood lathe is one of the first things you will need. And for a start, this often means finding the best small wood lathe.
A small, mini or what some woodturners refer to as the benchtop wood lathe, is the most preferred woodturning lathe for small projects like turning pens, small bowls, boxes, and birdhouses.
These wood lathes are significantly less powerful than the midi and full-sized wood lathes as they will feature engines that are less than 1 HP. But they make up for what they lack in power with convenience by being compact.
Small wood lathes will also have less than 12 inches of clearance above the bed and will measure less than 18 inches (in most instances) from center to center.
But, like any other power tool, they are available in several models from different brands. In this piece, we help you narrow down your options with an informative buying guide, and by reviewing 7 of the best small wood lathes out there.
7 Best Small Wood Lathes - Reviews
With a good small wood lathe, all your small woodturning projects will be faster and much easier. In our table below, we compare 7 best-rated small wood lathes using power, speed, dimensions and a few other factors to help you find the best wood lathe to suit your needs.
1. Wen 3420 Small Wood Lathe
750 - 3,200 RPM
8 x 12 in
2. Nova 46300 Comet II Small Wood Lathe
250 - 4,000 RPM
12.0 x 16.5 in
3. Jet JWL-1221VS Small Wood Lathe
60 - 3,600 RPM
12 x 21 in
4. Shop Fox W1704 Small Wood Lathe
700 - 3,200 RPM
8 x 13 in
5. Rikon 70-105 Small Wood Lathe
500 - 3,200 RPM
10 x 18 in
6. Shop Fox W1752 Small Wood Lathe
480 - 4,023 RPM
10.0 x 15.5 in
7. Grizzly H8259 Small Wood Lathe
826 - 3,337 RPM
10 x 18 in
#1. Wen 3420 Small Wood Lathe
Editor's Rating: (4.5 / 5)
- Power: 2 Amps
- Speed: 750 - 3,200 RPM
- Dimension: 8 x 12 inches
- Weight: 43.6 lbs
Wen 3420 is a highly affordable wood lathe that will be a great buy for those looking for a good small wood lathe on a tight budget.
It runs on 2-Amp soft start motor that will start slowly to help prevent motor damage and to maximize safety. And it will deliver a variable speed of between 750 and 3,200 RPM, and all you need to do is turn a knob to change the speed.
The wood lathe comes with MT1 spindle and tailstock with threads that measure 1-inch by 8 TPI to allow the lathe to accommodate a variety of accessories. You will also get a variety of these accessories on your purchase and they include a knockout rod and a couple of tool rests.
With the easy-to-use clamping system on the Wen 3420, adjustments to both the tailstock and tool rest are simple and precise. This is also quite a lightweight small wood lathe, and this makes it easy to move around the workshop and carry along.
#2. Nova 46300 Comet II Small Wood Lathe
Editor's Rating: (4.3 / 5)
- Power: 3/4 HP
- Speed: 250 - 4,000 RPM
- Dimension: 12 x 16-1/2 inches
- Weight: 82.4 lbs
The compact Nova 46300 Comet II will be a great buy for the woodturners that have a small workshop or are looking for something they can carry when traveling for their hobby.
Its 3/4 HP motor is one of the most powerful on our small benchtop wood lathe reviews, and so you can also be sure that it will produce more than enough power for all your small turning projects.
And with a wider speed range of between 250 and 4,000 RPM, it can handle a variety of turning projects as you can get both super low and super high speeds.
For the turning capacity, it has a swing over bed capacity of 12 inches and 16.5 inches for the between center capacity but you can extend it to an impressive 41 inches with the bed extension accessory.
With a solid cast iron finish throughout, this is also a highly durable wood lathe that will serve you for many years. And it also has a forward and reversing switch to offer additional flexibility and for a superior finish.
#3. Jet JWL-1221VS Small Wood Lathe
Editor's Rating: (4.1 / 5)
- Power: 1 HP
- Speed: 60 - 3,600 RPM
- Dimension: 12 x 21 inches
- Weight: 129.8 lbs
For the woodturners that prefer to use small but powerful wood lathes, the Jet JWL-1221VS is a perfect choice as it runs on a relatively more powerful 1 HP motor.
Besides being the most powerful wood lathe on our list, it also has one of the widest speed ranges. The optimally designed speed range will deliver a super low speed of as little as 60 RPM which can be very useful for some turning projects.
Even without an extension bed, this small wood lath still has an impressive capacity as it has an over bed swing capacity of 12 inches and up to 21 inches for the center to center capacity.
Transitioning from forward to reverse is also super smooth on this wood lathe which minimizes the risk of damaging the motor or even your workpiece. And with the conveniently located controls, it is also quite convenient to operate.
However, this is also the heaviest and priciest small benchtop wood lathe on our list, and so it will be a better option for professional woodturners.
#4. Shop Fox W1704 Small Wood Lathe
Editor's Rating: (4 / 5)
- Power: 1/3 HP
- Speed: 700 - 3,200 RPM
- Dimension: 8 x 13 inches
- Weight: 50.8 lbs
Although the 1/3 HP on the Shop Fox W1704 is the least powerful on our list it still generates enough power for small turning projects like pen turning.
This variable speed small wood lathe provides infinitely variable speed that ranges between 700 and 3,200 RPM to make it versatile enough for a variety of turning projects.
And with a durable cast iron construction, it is tough enough to withstand the abuse that comes with regular turning and serve you well for many years.
The wood lathe will come with two tool rests to increase its versatility and with 5-3/4 inches faceplate that will be very handy for non-spindle turning.
There is also a safety paddle switch on the Shop Fox W1704, and it has an 8-inch swing over bed and a 13-inch distance between centers.
#5. Rikon 70-105 Small Wood Lathe
Editor's Rating: (4.4 / 5)
- Power: 1/2 HP
- Speed: 500 - 3,200 RPM
- Dimension: 10 x 18 inches
- Weight: 74 lbs
Given the affordable price tag, relatively powerful motor and variable speed range, this is the best small wood lathe for the money as you would need to spend at least a couple hundred more dollars to get something better.
The wood lathe runs on a 1/2 HP motor and with a speed range of between 500 and 3,200 RPM. And this makes it very useful for making wood toys, turning pens and for many other small projects.
Easy access speed change ensures almost no downtime when you need to alter the speed and the heavy cast iron construction almost eliminates vibrations completely.
This small wood lathe also has the ability to accommodate more extensions to improve its capacity and for more versatility, and it also has a self-ejecting tailstock.
#6. Shop Fox W1752 Small Wood Lathe
Editor's Rating: (4.2 / 5)
- Power: 1/2 HP
- Speed: 480 - 4,023 RPM
- Dimension: 10 x 15-1/2 inches
- Weight: 99 lbs
Any mini wood lathe that features a cast iron construction like the Shop Fox W1752 is always highly durable and convenient to use as it produces minimal vibrations.
This small wood lathe runs on a 1/2 HP motor and with six speeds that range between 480 and 4,023 for a more versatile performance.
There is also an adjustable tool rest that you can adjust to the desired height and distance from the workpiece using the easy-to-use locking handles.
Shop Fox W1752 uses a paddle switch to provide a higher degree of safety than the regular switches as it is more visible and with a removable lock-out key to prevent unauthorized use.
Quick access makes the speed easy to adjust, and with the quick and easy tailstock adjustment, this wood lathe will accommodate workpieces that are up to 15-1/2 inches long.
#7. Grizzly H8259 Small Wood Lathe
Editor's Rating: (4.2 / 5)
- Power: 1/2 HP
- Speed: 826 - 3,337 RPM
- Dimension: 10 x 18 inches
- Weight: 77 lbs
Almost every woodturner that uses the Grizzly H8259 will love its solid and heavy-duty construction as it is one of those that you can be certain of having around for many years.
The weight distribution throughout the wood lathe also seems optimal to allow for high precision work, and this is also a relatively quiet wood lathe with almost no vibrations.
It runs on a 1/2 HP motor that generates enough power for turning small wood objects such as pens, bowls, and spindles. This motor also delivers a variable speed between 826 and 3,337 RPM to make this mini wood lathe ideal for various turning projects.
And although like most other wood lathes in its class the speed is adjusted manually, it can be quite a fast and relatively easy process once you get used to it.
Another thing that also makes this one of the best mini wood lathes out there is that it also comes with a large enough faceplate for your non-spindle turning projects. And there are also other things that you get such as a tool rest, spur center, live rolling center and the wrenches.
How to Buy the Best Small Benchtop Wood Lathes
Unless you are a seasoned woodturner that has been using small wood lathes for many years, the different models in the market will all look the same. But, they are not.
If you are planning to buy a small wood lathe and want to make sure that you choose something highly useful for your woodturning projects, you need to keep the following things in mind.
While the small wood lathes are smaller and more compact than the full-sized ones, all are not the same because different models come with different dimensions.
When it comes to choosing the right size the first thing is always to consider how much room you have in your workspace. A good wood lathe is one that not only fits this space but also leaves enough work room for you.
Also, make sure that your small wood lathe is still large enough to handle your turning projects as you do not want to end up with something you can only use to turn pens only.
The more powerful the small wood lathe is the better as it means that it will have what it takes to turn hard materials.
However, you should not expect to get small wood lathes with highly powerful engines because for most models 3/4 HP is as good as you can get.
And so anything with 1/2 or 3/4 HP should be good enough for a small wood lathe as it will be powerful enough to handle most small woodturning projects.
Like with most other power tools, many new woodturners will have the notion that wood lathes that generate the highest speeds are the best but this is not entirely true.
For most woodturning projects you will need to start at slow speeds and finish at high speeds when giving the piece the final touches. And so when it comes to a small wood lathe, you should always go for one with variable speed
A variable speed small wood lathe is more versatile and efficient. But the maximum and minimum speeds that it can attain are also important as they determine what the lathe can do.
Small wood lathes come in two broad types which are the benchtop and floor models. Generally, the benchtop models are the most popular as they are not only more affordable but also compact and very useful for the small woodturning projects.
The floor wood lathe models are more powerful and if you are going to be doing any relatively large turning projects they are your best choice.
However, the large and more powerful floor wood lathes take up a lot of space, are expensive and may not very convenient for small turning projects which are what most woodturners do a lot.
A mini wood lathe can have all the good features that you are looking for, be the right size and have a powerful enough motor but still fail to perform well.
Before you settle on any small wood lathe you should make sure that you have some idea on its actual performance by reading reviews and feedback by other woodturners that use or have used it.
Seeing some of the pieces created by the wood lathe or watching videos of it in action can also provide valuable information on its performance.
There are many things that determine how convenient a small wood lathe will be for a wood turner. And they will range from the ease of setup to the ease of use.
A small wood lathe that comes fully assembled or requires minimal assembly is the most convenient one. Also, those that come with the variety of accessories that you need for turning will be very convenient as this means they will be ready for immediate use.
No matter what you are going to be using your small wood lather for, you need to make sure that you get something high-quality, convenient and reliable.
Luckily, there are many models in the market from various brands that fulfill all three requirements. All you need to do is consider things like the size, power, and speed to choose one that best suits your particular needs.
And you will not need to look at dozens of different models because our 7 best small wood lathe reviews above will help you narrow down your options.
Also, remember to work on your woodturning skills because even with the best wood lathe you still need enough skills to produce high-quality and attractive pieces. And do regular and routine maintenance on your wood lathe to ensure it serves you well for long.
Read More: Rikon 70-100 Mini Lathe Review