The 7 Best Wood Lathes – Reviews & Buying Guide

Best Wood Lathe

That beautiful wooden bowl, pen or table with some unique legs does not just happen as it takes a lot of effort to make. And the wood lathe is one of the most useful tools for making these pieces.

Wood lathes are one of the vital tools for anyone that is into woodturning. But just like with any other power tool, all are not made the same.

You can get anything from a small benchtop lathe to the large and more powerful industrial style ones. Hence picking the right one for your crafts is not always easy.

These machines will differ in various aspects such as motor power, swing over bed, speed range and weight.

In this guide, we review 7 of the best wood lathes out there and also highlight the important things you need to know about these handy machines to make it easier for you to pick the best for your workshop.

You can also read other product reviews such as small wood lathe, Delta Industrial 46-460 midi lathe, Rikon 70-220VSR midi lathe, Rikon 70-100 mini lathe

7 Best Wood Lathe Reviews

Whether you want the best lathe for turning bowls or something for making parts for furniture, you will have plenty of brands and models to pick from. But we try to make the choice easier for you by comparing 7 of the best wood lathes in the market.

Product Name

Motor Power

Swing Over Bed

Between Centers

Rating

Current Price

1. Rikon 70-105 Mini Lathe

1/2 HP

10 in

18 in

4.4

2. Delta 46-460 Variable-Speed Midi Lathe

1 HP

12-1/2 in

16-1/2 in

4.3

3. Rikon 70-100 Mini Lathe

1/2 HP

12 in

16 in

4.1

4. JET JWL-1221VS Variable Speed Wood Lathe

1 HP

12 in

21 in

4.3

5. Jet JWL-1015 Wood Working Lathe

1/2 HP

10 in

15-1/2 in

4.2

6. Shop Fox W1704 Benchtop Lathe

1/3 HP

8 in

12 in

3.8

7. Nova 46300 Comet II Variable Speed Mini Lathe

3/4 HP

12 in

16.5 in

4.2

#1. Rikon 70-105 10x18 1/2 HP Mini Lathe

Editor's Rating: (4.4 / 5)

Rikon 70-105 10x18 1/2 HP Mini Lathe
  • Motor Power: 1/2 HP
  • Swing Over Bed: 10 inches
  • Distance Between Centers: 18 inches
  • Speed Range: 5 speeds (500, 1,775, 1,850, 2,225, 3,200) RPM
  • Warranty: 5-year

Rikon 70-105 is a 1/2 HP mini wood lathe that still has what it takes to handle most of your woodturning needs in the workshop whether you are a hobbyist or professional.

This handy lathe comes with a swing over bed of 10 inches and the distance between the centers is 18 inches which makes it great for turning small bowls and pens.

Also, it gives you more speed options as it is a 5-speed lathe that allows you to choose from 500, 1,775, 1,850, 2,225, or 3,200 RPM depending on the project requirements.

You will also not have to worry about vibrations when using this benchtop lathe as it features a heavy-duty cast iron bed, headstock, and tailstock. And it will also not scratch the bench or table where you place it as it has rubber feet.

Pros:

  • Heavy-duty cast iron bed
  • 5-speed ranges
  • Machines bed with matching components
  • Relatively lightweight and portable
  • 5-year warranty

Cons:

  • Replacement belts are hard to find

#2. Delta 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed Midi Lathe

Editor's Rating:  (4.3 / 5)

Delta 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed Midi Lathe
  • Motor Power: 1 HP
  • Swing Over Bed: 12-1/2 inches
  • Distance Between Centers: 16-1/2 inches (42 inches with extension)
  • Speed Range: 1,725 RPM
  • Warranty: 5-year 

With the powerful 1 HP motor on the Delta 46-460 turning should be relatively easier for you regardless of what piece you are working on.

The wood lathe comes with a swing over bed of 12-1/2 inches and with 16-1/2 inches distance between the centers which you can expand to 42 inches using the extension.

This lathe uses an electronic speed control, and it provides a maximum speed of 1,725 RPM that will provide a robust performance. And there is also a patented belt-tensioning that makes speed changes fast and also makes the tool last longer.

With this wood lathe, you can always be sure of getting a superior finish as it has forward and reverse functions that ensure accuracy and precision when turning.

Stability should also not be a concern when using this tool as it has an all cast iron construction that not only makes it highly stable but also highly durable.

The lathe will come with a 3-inch faceplate, and both 6-inch and 10-inch tool rests to provide support for your turning tools in a variety of positions. And the manufacturer will back it with a 5-year warranty.

Pros:

  • Powerful 1 HP motor
  • Electronic variable speed
  • Reversing function
  • Onboard storage
  • 5-year warranty

Cons:

  • Relatively expensive

#3. Rikon 70-100 12x16 Inch Mini Lathe

Editor's Rating: (4.1 / 5)

Rikon 70-100 12x16 Inch Mini Lathe
  • Motor Power: 1/2 HP
  • Swing Over Bed: 12 inches
  • Distance Between Centers: 16 inches
  • Speed Range: 6 speeds (430, 810, 1,230 1,810, 2,670, 3,900) RPM
  • Warranty: 2-year limited 

For the turners that do a lot of detailing work often, Rikon 70-100 will be an excellent choice, and this is because it comes with a unique 12-position indexing head that is very handy for detailing.

It is larger than most mini wood lathes and with more capacity. And it will also allow for multiple extensions so that you can work with large pieces.

The 12-inch swing over bed lathe offers 6 speeds options (430, 810, 1,230 1,810, 2,670, 3,900 RPM) which makes it even more versatile and it also has self-ejecting tail stick to save you time.

The easy access speed change is also a great feature as it ensures you never have to waste time trying to change the speed. Also, you can use various tool rests and faceplates with this wood lathe which helps to make it even more versatile.

Pros:

  • Self-ejecting tailstock
  • 12-position indexing head
  • 6-speed ranges
  • Allows for additional extensions
  • Easy access speed change

Cons:

  • Relatively short warranty

#4. JET JWL-1221VS 12x21 Inch Variable Speed Wood Lathe

Editor's Rating:  (4.3 / 5)

JET JWL-1221VS 12x21 Inch Variable Speed Wood Lathe
  • Motor Power: 1 HP
  • Swing Over Bed: 12 inches
  • Distance Between Centers: 21 inches
  • Speed Range: 60 to 3,600 RPM
  • Warranty: 5-year 

JET JWL-1221VS has one of the most powerful motors on our wood lathe reviews and so you can be confident it has all it takes to handle most of your turning projects.

Also, it has an impressive 24-position indexing head which is higher than what many other wood lathes will offer, and so it will make detail work way much easier for turners.

And it also allows you a wide speed range as you can vary the speed between 60 and 3,600 RPM. The mechanism for changing the speed is also quick and easy to understand even for beginners.

You will also not have to worry about noise when using this lathe as it is super quiet and runs smoothly. And with the 5-year warranty, you can be sure that your investment is safe.

Pros:

  • 24 position indexing head
  • Wide speed ranges
  • Super quiet and smooth operation
  • 5-year warranty

Cons:

  • Relatively heavier and harder to move around

#5. Jet JWL-1015 Wood Working Lathe

Editor's Rating: (4.2 / 5)

Jet JWL-1015 Wood Working Lathe
  • Motor Power: 1/2 HP
  • Swing Over Bed: 10 inches
  • Distance Between Centers: 15-1/2 inches
  • Speed Range: 6 speeds (500, 840, 1,240, 1,800, 2,630, 3,975) RPM
  • Warranty: 5-year

Whether you are a novice turner looking for an affordable and reliable wood lathe to buy as your first or a pro looking to add a mini lathe to your collection, the Jet JWL-1015 will be a great choice.

This lathe runs on a 1/2 HP motor which might not be as powerful as other models on our list but it should be enough for most small and medium size turning projects.

The spindle provides for 6 different speeds which are 500, 840, 1,240, 1,800, 2,630 and 3,975 RPM which makes this lathe suitable for a variety of turning application. But, adjusting the speed takes more time as you have to switch off the tool first.

It is also a great tool for detail work thanks to the 24-position indexing head. And it has a sturdier and wider bed that promotes rigidity to keep the lathe in place when working.

The manufacturer will back this turning tool with a 5-year warranty which is long enough to give you some peace of mind.

Pros:

  • 6 spindle speeds
  • Easy belt access
  • 24-position indexing head
  • Sturdier and wider bed
  • 5-year warranty

Cons:

  • Speed adjustment takes long

#6. Shop Fox W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe

Editor's Rating: (3.8 / 5)

Shop Fox W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe
  • Motor Power: 1/3 HP
  • Swing Over Bed: 8 inches
  • Distance Between Centers: 12 inches
  • Speed Range: 700-3,200 RPM
  • Warranty: 2-year 

Here is the best wood lathe for the money for any craftsperson that is into pen turning and other small projects. It is the most affordable wood lathe on our list but it still offers a decent quality.

This lathe comes with an 8-inch swing over bed and a 12-inch distance between centers which are just perfect for small turning projects. And the small 1/3 HP motor will provide more than enough power for this.

And with a total weight of just over 50 lbs, this compact lathe is also lightweight enough for easy transportation from one worksite to the other.

The 700- 3,200 RPM variable speed is also quite useful for the functioning of this tool as it makes it possible to work on both hard and soft material.

Pros:

  • Durable cast iron construction
  • Relatively affordable lathe
  • Compact and highly portable
  • Safety paddle switch

Cons:

  • Significantly less powerful motor

#7. Nova 46300 Comet II 12x16 1/2-Inch Variable Speed Mini Lathe

Editor's Rating: (4.2 / 5)

Nova 46300 Comet II 12x16 1/2-Inch Variable Speed Mini Lathe
  • Motor Power: 3/4 HP
  • Swing Over Bed: 12 inches
  • Distance Between Centers: 16.5 inches (expandable to 41 inches)
  • Speed Range: 250-4,000 RPM
  • Warranty: 2-year limited 

The Nova 46300 Comet II is the priciest lathe on our list and also one of the strongest structurally. It features a solid cast iron construction which makes it strong and rigid while also absorbing most of the vibrations.

It also has a wide speed range as it allows for both super low speed (250 RPM) and super high speeds (4,000 RPM) depending on the project. The wide speed range makes this one of the best lathes for bowl turning and also for other projects like turning pens.

The distance between centers on the lathe is 16.5 inches but you can expand it up to 41 inches with the bed extension accessory, and the swing over bed diameter is 12 inches.

Other things that make this a great wood lathe include the space-saving design and the forward and reverse switch that offers flexibility so that you always get a superior finish. The manufacturer backs the wood lathe with a 2-year limited warranty.

Pros:

  • Solid cast iron construction
  • Up to 4,000 rpm max speed
  • Space-saving design
  • Forward and reversing switch

Cons:

  • Relatively pricier lathe

How to Buy the Best Wood Lathe

How to Buy Wood Lathe

A wood lathe is one of the essential tools for craftspersons and carpenters who are into turning. And while seasoned carpenters already know how to pick the best from the many options, things are not always obvious to most other woodworkers.

While many will settle for a wood lathe from their favorite brand, there is always much more to consider than the manufacturer. And below are some of the vital factors to consider when buying a wood lathe for your workshop.

1. Motor Power

Power is always one of the first and most essential factors to consider when shopping for any power tool, and the wood lathe is not an exception.

And when it comes to the motor power, most will have anything between 1/8 and 2 HP. However, the most common ones are 1/2 and 1 HP motors.

If you want a wood lathe for turning wider and longer pieces the 1 HP motor will be the best option for you.

2. Capacity

The wood lathe capacity determines what you can use it to make. Hence, it is always an important factor to consider when choosing the best wood lathe.

If you choose a lathe with a capacity of 36 inches it means that is the longest piece that you can turn on it. However, it is still possible to turn longer pieces but you will have to do it in sections and then join the pieces afterward.

Also, some types will allow you to increase the spindle capacity by building on to the end of the bed.

3. Swing Over Bed

Swing bed is a term that you will come across a lot when shopping for a wood lathe and it determines the largest bowl diameter that you can turn.

If a wood lathe has a 14-inch swing bed it means that the distance from the distance to the center of the drive is 7 inches and so the maximum bowl diameter that you can turn on the lathe is 14 inches.

Some lathes will also have drive head that swivels up to 180 degrees or an outboard spindle to make it possible to turn boards with any diameter.

4. Speed Range

The more the speed that the wood lathe can generate the better. But, the right idea is always to go for one that allows you to choose from a wide speed range

A wide speed range means that the lathe will be ideal for both tasks that require more speed like roughing and turning large diameter pieces and also those that require less speed like finishing and working on small diameter pieces.

When choosing your lathe you should go for something with at least 4-speed options which should be between 500 and 4000 RPM.

However, there are also some models that use electronic speed control that can start from zero going upwards.

5. Weight

Generally, the heavier the lathe the better, as it will offer a more consistent performance and also you will not have to use sandbags to keep the machine in place.

Although lightweight wood lathes are easier to carry around and store, they are also more prone to moving when working on more complex jobs and at higher speeds. And they will also be more susceptible to vibrations.

Conclusion

If you are a craftsperson or carpenter that is into woodturning you probably already know the importance of a wood lathe to your trade. But what is even more important is getting the best or at least something that suits your needs.

Our wood lathe reviews above showcase some of the best in the market and so they will give you some idea of the brands and models to buy.,

However, to choose between them you need to keep the five points above in mind. But, there are also other things like price and warranty that you need to consider when shopping for a wood lathe.

Lastly, once you find that perfect wood lathe you should also take good care of it by checking the drive belts for wear and tear often and by vacuuming the dust off to keep it in peak working condition.