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Best Wood Lathe 2021 – Top Picks + Buying Guide

In this article, we’ll review the best wood lathe for 2021, including a buying guide to help you choose the right lathe.

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Best Wood Lathe 2021 – Updated by Burbro Editors on February 3rd, 2021

If you enjoy woodworking, you’ll want to add a wood lathe to your workshop so that you can work on a broader range of wooden projects. A wood lathe can carve, shape, form, cut and sand wooden objects, making it the ideal machine for woodworking.

However, when you look for wood lathes, you’ll notice that there are a lot of lathes from which to choose for your projects. While there are many wood lathes, it doesn’t mean that they’re all high-quality, built to last or capable of fine woodworking.

In this tool review, we’ll look at the best wood lathes of 2021. We’ll also provide a buyer’s guide to help you understand the features you should look for when choosing a wood lathe for your woodworking shop.

Best Wood Lathes of 2021

We’ve reviewed the best wood lathe tools and compiled a list of the top products so that you can quickly find what you’re searching for and get a wood lathe that’s right for your woodworking shop and your projects. We’ll also provide a list of the runner up lathes that are good products but didn’t make our top list. 

Here are the best wood lathes of 2021.

Runner-Ups


1. JET JWL-1221VS Lathe

The Best Wood Lathe for the Money.

This is a product image in our Best Wood Lathe 2021 article. It is a JET JWL-1221VS Wood Lathe overlaid on a minimalistic white background with a Burbro logo.

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If you’re looking for a high-quality wood lathe that you can add to your woodworking shop, you’ll want to look at the JET JWL-1221VS Wood Lathe. While this lathe may have a higher price point, it’s one of the best wood lathes for the money. The JET JWL-1221VS Wood Lathe features a 12” swing over bed, 21” between centers, ⅜ inch spindle bore, 1” spindle with 8 threads per inch (TPI), and a 1HP motor, which gives this machine enough power for a lot of woodworking projects. One of the things we love about this JET wood lathe is that it comes with a 5-year warranty. This warranty will provide you with buyer’s protection to ensure that your machine is well-built and doesn’t come with manufacturer defects.

2. Delta Industrial 46-460 Midi-Lathe

The Best Wood Lathe for Beginners.

This is a product image in our Best Wood Lathe 2021 article. It is a Delta Industrial 46-460 Midi-Lathe overlaid on a minimalistic white background with a Burbro logo.

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As a beginner, you may not want to use a lathe that’s too expensive. One of the best wood lathes for beginners is the Delta Industrial 46-460 Midi-Lathe. This midi-lathe is a mid-range lathe that can be used for various projects and has an affordable price point, making it perfect for beginners. The Delta Industrial 46-460 Midi-Lathe features a 12 ½ inch swing, 1-inch spindle drive with 8 threads per inch (TPI), and a 1HP motor that can drive up to 1,725 RPMs, which is more than enough power for your projects. It also comes with a 10-inch tool rest so that you have a comfortable place to rest your wools while you’re working. With the Delta Industrial 46-460 Midi-Lathe, you’ll be able to enjoy the 5-year warranty that comes from Delta. This warranty is designed to protect you from any manufacturer defects on your wood lathe for up to 5 years.

3. Nova 71118 Comet Midi-Lathe

One of the Best Wood Lathes for Woodworking.

This is a Nova 71118 Comet Midi-Lathe overlaid on a minimalistic white background with a Burbro logo.

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If you’re a serious woodworker, but you don’t want to spend the money on a full-sized wood lathe, you may be interested in the Nova 71118 Comet Midi-Lathe. This wood lathe is one of the best wood lathes for woodworkers and can be used for various woodworking projects. The Nova 7118 Comet Midi-Lathe features a 12-inch swing, 1-inch spindle with 8 threads per inch (TPI), and a ¾ HP motor with 3 varying speeds such as high, medium and low speed so that you can control the speed of the lathe. With the Nova 71118 Comet Midi-Lathe, you’ll get a 1-year warranty on the motor and a 5-year warranty on the frame, structure and other parts of the midi-lathe. This will provide buyer protection for your new wood lathe and ensure that you have a working tool for the years to come.

4. Rikon 70-100 Mini-Lathe

The Best Wood Lathe for Home Shops.

This is a product image in our Best Wood Lathe 2021 article. It is a Rikon 70-100 Mini Wood Lathe overlaid on a minimalistic white background with a Burbro logo.

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When you have a home-based shop for woodworking, you may not want to have a full-sized wood lathe or a midi-lathe because they’re larger than the mini wood lathes and will require more space. A mini lathe may not be large enough for you because you can only create objects up to 16 inches in height. However, one of the best wood lathes for home shops is the Rikon 70-100 Mini Wood Lathe. The Rikon 70-100 Mini-Lathe features a 12” swing with 16” between centers, a 1-inch spindle with 8 threads per inch (TPI), and a ¾ HP motor that provides enough power for over 1,700 RPMs, which is enough power for most home-based woodworking projects. With the Rikon 70-100 Mini lathe, you’ll also be able to enjoy a two-year warranty from Rikon. This warranty is a manufacturer warranty designed to protect you from getting a faulty or defective tool from the factory.

5. Grizzly Industrial Lathe

One of the Best Benchtop Wood Lathes.

This is a Grizzly Industrial Wood Lathe overlaid on a minimalistic white background with a Burbro logo.

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When you’re working in a smaller woodworking shop, you’ll likely need to go for a wood lathe that’s designed for a benchtop. This will save you time, and you can move the lathe around when you’re using it and store it in the corner. One of the best benchtop lathes is Grizzly Industrial Wood Lathe. The Grizzly Industrial Wood Lathe features a 14” swing, 20” from centers, and a 1-inch headstock spindle with 8 threads per inch (TPI). It also comes with a ¾ HP motor that provides variable spinning speeds from 30 RPM to 3,300 RPM. With the Grizzly Industrial Wood Lathe, you’ll get a one-year warranty for manufacturing defects from the manufacturer. While this warranty isn’t as long as we’d prefer, it’s still a well-priced wood lathe, and the warranty should be long enough to protect you from the majority of defects.

6. Shop Fox Benchtop Lathe

The Best Cheap Wood Lathe.

This is a Shop Fox Benchtop Wood Lathe overlaid on a minimalistic white background with a Burbro logo.

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If you want to begin woodworking with a lathe but don’t want to spend a lot of money on a new lathe, you’ll want to look at the Shop Fox Benchtop Wood Lathe. This lathe is one of the best cheap wood lathes and is a budget-friendly option for any woodworker or hobbyist. The Shop Fox Benchtop Lathe features an 8-inch swing with 12-inches between the center, ¾ inch spindle with 16 threads per inch (TPI). It also comes with a ⅓ HP motor that provides variable speeds ranging from 700 RPMs to 3,000 RPMs. It also comes with 7-inch tool rest, making it easier for you to use your lathe for woodworking. With the Shop Fox Benchtop Lathe, you’ll get a 2-year warranty from the manufacturers. While this warranty isn’t as long as some of the other company’s warranties, it’s still a good deal considering the lower price point.


Wood Lathe Buying Guide 

We want you to find the best wood lathe for your woodworking project, so we’ve created a buyer’s guide that you can use to help you find the right lathe for your shop or projects. When it comes to wood lathes, there are many features to consider when choosing a lathe to ensure that you get the right tool for your needs.

If you’re new to owning a wood lathe, you may find this buyer’s guide helpful, and you can use it to walk you through the process of choosing a lathe for your projects.

What is a Wood Lathe?

A wood lathe is a type of lathe that’s designed for woodworking. They can be used to cut wood, drill wood, sand wood, face wood, turn wood and even deform wood. A lathe uses a rotating axis, making the piece of wood spin to carve into the wood or easily create your work of art. The lathe is the ideal tool for any woodworkers that want to take a piece of wood and turn it into a masterpiece.

Benefits of Using a Wood Lathe

If you’re working with wood, you’ll understand how difficult it is to form, shape and carve wood when you’re doing the cutting by hand. With a wood lathe, you’ll be able to quickly carve, shape, cut, sand and form pieces of wood by using sharp woodturning tools.

How to Choose the Best Wood Lathe

Now that you understand the benefits of using a wood lathe, it’s time to help you choose the right lathe for your woodworking shop. In this section, we’ll cover the basic features that you should consider before selecting a lathe for woodworking.

If you’re new to woodworking and using a lathe, you’ll want to read through this buyer’s guide to help you through the process of choosing the right lathe for your woodworking projects. Here are the key features to consider when choosing a lathe. 

1. The Type of Wood Lathe

When you’re choosing a lathe, you’ll need to determine the type of lathe you’ll want to use. There are three types of lathes, such as mini lathes, midi lathes and full-size lathes. The lathe size that you choose depends on the type of woodworking projects you’ll be doing and the amount of space you have in your woodworking shop.

Here are the differences between the three types of lathes.

Mini Lathes

Over the past one to two decades of the 20th century, the mini-lathes were introduced to the general public so that beginners would have a chance to use a lathe without having to spend thousands of dollars on an expensive wood lathe just to see if they wanted to use the lathes.

The mini lathes have grown in popularity over the years because they’re an affordable way for general woodworkers to try out the lathes without spending lots of money on new tools for their woodworking shops. Mini lathes are also smaller, which means that they can be easily stored in a shop without taking too much room.

The mini lathes will generally have a 1” spindle with 8 threads per inch (TPI), 8” to 10” swings and about 12” to 15” between centers. When you’re working with cheaper mini-lathes, you’ll have about 4 to 5 pulleys for speed control, while better lathes will have a DC motor and a controller so that you can adjust the speed of the lathe.

With the mini-lathes, you’ll be able to mount this machine to a solid turning table or the top of your workbench so that the machine won’t move around as you’re turning the wood and working on your woodworking projects.

Midi Lathes

Since the mini-lathes were so popular, the machine manufacturers decided to beef up the lathe’s bed and create a lathe called the Midi Lathes. The Midi Lathes have become even more popular because they’re a heavy-duty machine that’s not too big or too small, and they can be used for almost anything. They also have an affordable price point for most woodworking shops, making them the ideal lathe for woodworkers.

“…many manufacturers beefed up the bed of their mini lathes and raised the 1″ – 8 spindle height to yield a 12″ or better swing. The delineation of mini being 10″ or smaller and midi being 12″ and bigger is now part of the popular lexicon. A midi lathe would be Goldilocks’ pick: not too big, not too small, enough center to center distance with a bed extension, adequate variable speed power and a reasonable cost. A recent trend is to also step the banjo and tool-rests up to 1″, which adds rigidity and allows swapping of tool-rests with bigger machines.” – Woodworkers Journal

Because the midi lathes are more affordable and capable of being used for a wide range of woodworking projects, they’ve become the standard lathe for most woodworking shops. They’re perfect for creating furniture and doing larger projects, but they can also be used for small woodworking. This is because you can also turn smaller wooden projects on a large lathe, but you can’t turn large items on a mini lathe.

Full-Sized Wood Lathes

The full-sized lathes are often found in the millworks or larger woodworking shops for serious woodworkers. These lathes are quite large and take up a lot of space in workshops, so they’re not ideal for all woodworkers.

However, they are the choice of serious woodworkers because they offer more power, larger beds, and longer swings, which makes it ideal for all woodworking projects, whether it be larger projects or small projects.

With the full-sized lathes, you’ll also have more horsepower in the motor, so that it can turn larger wood items. You’ll also get better controls with the lathe so that you can easily adjust the spinning speed of the lathe and have more control while you’re turning the wood.

2. The Rigidness and Weight

Before you choose a lathe, you’ll also want to pay attention to the lathe’s rigidity to ensure that it’s a sturdy build. After all, if the lathe is rigid and sturdy, you’ll never have to worry about the machine shaking once you’ve added wood for turning.

When you’re choosing a wood lathe, you’ll want to choose a lathe that has some weight behind it to ensure that the turning tables won’t move while you’re working. If you’re using the machine for heavier wood objects, you’ll find that there will be vibrations that can cause problems when you’re turning the wood.

We recommend that you find a heavy wood lathe, or find a lathe that can be bolted to the ground or the top of a heavy workbench. Both these methods ensure that the lathe is grounded and won’t move about as you’re turning the wood. If you’re looking for a machine that has weight, look for a woodturner that’s made from cast iron because they’ll have more weight behind the machine.

3. Power and Speed Control

When you’re choosing a wood lathe, you’ll need to pay attention to the power of the lathe. While companies often state the motor’s power, these ratings are often overstated, so you’ll want to multiply the power ratings by 75%, and that will be the accurate power of the machine.

With the mini-lathes, you’ll have about a ½ HP of power, which is more than enough power for the machine’s size. When you’re using a midi lathe, you’ll have about 1 HP of power, with a DC motor. Once you get into the larger lathes, you’ll have between 2HP to 8HP of power, depending on the size of the machine that you’ve purchased. These will be good for larger projects and commercial grade millwork.

You’ll also want to be mindful of the speed controls on the lathe that you’ve chosen. If you go with a mini-lathe, you’ll likely need to unplug the lather, remove the Headstock cover, and place the pulley on another pulley wheel to adjust the woodturner’s speed manually.

If you choose a higher quality woodturner or a larger woodturner such as the midi lathe or the full-sized lathe, you’ll have access to control buttons that can be used to adjust the speed of the lathe. All you’ll need to do is press a button or flip a switch, and the speed of the lathe will automatically adjust.

4. The Bed and Swing

As you’re choosing the right wood lathe, you’ll also want to consider the bed of the lathe and the swing capacity of the lathe to ensure that they’re well suited for your woodworking project. As you’re choosing the swing of a lathe, you’ll want to be careful to ensure that you get the right-sized lathe. If the lathe swing is too small, you’ll have trouble working with larger projects.

Manufacturers list the “swing” measurement as twice the center height — what the machine will swing over the bed. The true swing of a lathe, however, is center height over the banjo, because this base for the tool-rest has to be under all spindles and most faceplate work. Two lathes with the same swing could have different banjo heights. Many manufacturers now list swing over banjo as well as over the bed, but it pays to check.” – Woodworkers Journal

If you’re choosing the bed of the lathe, you’ll want to go with a cast iron bed because there’s more weight, and the iron will dampen the machine’s vibrations, making it easier for you to work. If you were to go with a pressed steel bed, then this may not be heavy-duty enough for some projects, and you’ll feel vibrations on the machine while you’re working.

5. Additional Features

When you’re choosing a lathe, there are other features that you should consider to ensure that you get the best wood lathe for your woodworking shop. While not every lathe will come with these features, they make it easier to use your lathe as you work on woodworking projects.

Here are the additional features to consider when choosing a lathe.

  • Tool Rest – The tool rest is the plate that slides on the arm so that you can rest your tools against the place for carving or forming the wood. You’ll want to avoid tool rests with lightweight swing arms because they can break if you apply too much pressure or if the tool gets caught in the lathe. Instead, you’ll want to find a tool rest that comes with a cast iron plate and spans about 8 inches or more to ensure that you can work on various projects.
  • Spindle Diameter“All mini and midi lathes have a 1″ spindle with eight threads per inch. While this is more than adequate for turning furniture spindles and bowls up to about 12″ in diameter, it is not adequate for heavy faceplate work. That is because a 1″ spindle can flex between the headstock bearings with the high forces exerted during heavily laden faceplate work. Therefore, most large lathes use either a 1-1/4″ or a 33 mm spindle (still with eight threads per inch). Converted to decimals, these spindle sizes are 1.250″ and 1.299″ — very close. What the .049″ difference does is to increase the rigidity over 1″ from 2.44 times to 2.85 times, because the stiffness of a round bar increases by a power of four as diameter increases. Small increases in diameter noticeably increase strength.”  – Woodworkers Journal
  • Bench and Floor Mounts – If you get a full-sized wood lathe, you won’t need to worry about the mounting for the lathe because it’ll come with a custom-sized floor mount that you can use. If you get a smaller lathe, you’ll need to decide if you want to mount the machine to your workbench or a floor mount. A workbench may work, especially if the table has wheels so you can move the lathe around your shop. The floor mounts are also a good option because it adds weight to the lathe so that the lathe doesn’t vibrate while you’re working.
  • Noise Levels – Most lathes will be quiet, except when you’re carving the wood. You’ll want to search for a quiet lathe to ensure that your workshop is quiet while you’re working. If the motor on the lathe is loud, it’ll get tiring fast because they can become loud if they’re not designed to reduce noise.

These are some of the extra features you should look for and consider when choosing a wood lathe. While all these features may not be on the lathe that you prefer, you can always add them to your machine once you’ve set up your lathe.


Summary

We hope this tool review has helped you find the best wood lathe for your woodworking shop. If you’re new to using lathes, you may want to use our buyer’s guide to help you find the right lathe for your needs and woodworking projects.

Since the price point for lathes can vary, you’ll want to set a budget for your lathe and find a wood lathe within that budget. You’ll also want to find a lathe that comes with a warranty so that you can protect yourself from any defects.

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Our Burbro Editors make it their goal to curate and publish the best content for our readers. We cover topics ranging from home and garden to tech and gaming and aim to provide the most up-to-date information on our chosen topics.