Our Top 6 Wood Lathes [The Ultimate Guide]

Wood turning is probably one of the more addictive parts of woodworking. Getting the right amount of detail and symmetric takes time, effort, and is definitely tricky.

Getting the perfect smoothness and level of detail without a lathe is practically unimaginable. The right lathe will save you time and get you the perfect finish in your spindles, bowls, dowels, and even pens.

Yes! You can even design a unique wooden pen if you have the right lathe.

If you are interested enough why not take a look at our pick for the Best Wood Lathes.

We even took the liberty of creating a small comparison chart you can glimpse through to get a general idea.

Best Wood Lathes Review In This Year

1. JET Wood Lathe Review


A wood lathes job is to give you precise and symmetric cuts on your preferred wooden objects. This requires a lot of focus and control.

The JET 1221 thrives on these two abilities. The sleek design combined with some high-tech features adds more to its quality.

Speaking of control, on the bottom right side you will find a speed control system with a digital reader. The machine comes with forward and reverse spin ability and 2 buttons to enable it.

The flipper switch is a nice touch and just by flipping, you will see the digital reader light up that shows the speed of the spin.

As for performance, the 1 HP motor will give you three different speed ranges that go from 60, all the way up to 3600 RPM. Any speed below 1500 RPM makes very low sounds which makes working easier. When you turn it on the machine will steadily rack up speed to the set point instead of just hammering down to full speed.

The tail stock is also pretty easy to move and stays firm when locked on the wide bed.

By opening the magnetic latch, you will see a 24 point indexing system for different sized carving, and the bed lets you work with anything below 21 inches. This lathe comes at a higher price range but its long-lasting construction and hefty features make this one worth a shot.

What We Liked

  • Very quiet when under 1500 RPM
  • Slowly picks up speed when turned on
  • Very easy to operate the tail-stock and tool rest
  • The tail-stock remains solid once locked
  • Smooth and quick transition from forward to reverse and vise-versa

What We Didn’t Like

  • Might feel a bit awkward to control the back lever in the tail stock
  • Will be needing bed extension for pieces longer than 21 inch

Highlighted Features

  • Digital reader for quick navigation
  • Awesome speed control with the turn of a dial
  • Forward and reverse options for a smoother transition
  • Quick flip switch to activate and deactivate
  • Variable speed of 60 to 3600 RPM
  • 3 ranges being L(60-900), M(110-1800), L(220-3600)
  • Standard 1-inch, 8 thread per inch head
  • Center to center difference 21 inches
  • Swing size over bed is 12 inches
  • Spring-loaded spindle lock
  • 24 Point indexing system

2. Delta Midi Lathe 46-460 Review


Comparatively smaller, lighter in size and budget our next entry is also very useful when it comes to woodworking and wood turning.

The 1 HP motor makes this a lean, mean spinning machine. The motor is well calibrated and puts it’s 12.5-inch swing to good use.

Beside the head stock, you will find a knob labeled from 1-9. This is an electronic controller that allows controlling the Delta’s impressive speed from 250 to all the way up to 4000 RPM. The speed range is divided into 3 parts being low, medium, and high.

The belt which allows the speed change can easily be adjusted. You will also find a spindle lock that allows you to lock between 24 points of the indexing system.

The machine sounds extremely quiet at low speeds but as you crack it up the sound will gradually increase.

The delta is also equipped with forward and reverse functions and it can be easily toggled with a switch on the head stock. The tail stock can be smoothly moved and operated thanks to the polished crank attached to it and can be firmly attached to the bed with a tail stock lock.

The bed can only work with objects 16.5 inches and below. For longer pieces, you will need an extended bed. The machine does not offer a digital reader for speed and most people are fine with it. If you are a beginner, however, you may need some time to get used to it but considering the price range and the features it offers, the delta clearly outclasses a lot of other products in the market.

What We Liked

  • Smooth operating tail stock with easy rotation crank
  • Easy to change the belt
  • Cast iron-construction enhances its durability
  • Perfect alignment of head stock and tail stock without adjustments
  • Extra weight in the bed to dampen the vibration

What We Didn’t Like

  • No digital reader to give exact speed detail
  • Center to center capacity is only 16.5 inch

Highlighted Features

  • 1 Horsepower motor
  • 3 different speed settings 1(250-750 RPM), 2(600-1800 RPM), 3(1315-4000 RPM)
  • Knob labeled 1-9 for variable speed control
  • 24 point indexing with a spindle lock system
  • Has 16.5 inches of difference between centers
  • The swing allows turning bowls up to 12.5 inches in diameter
  • Forward and reverse spin ability
  • Standard TPI(thread per inch) which is 1inch  and 8tpi.

3. Powermatic 20×35-Inch Wood Lathe Review


If a significant portion of your income comes from wood turning then maybe it’s time to get a heavy-duty wood lathe that might come at a heftier price range but will suit all your needs.

Just by taking a simple look, you will understand that this cannon like wood lathe is for professional purposes only. Due to the size, it also can’t be moved around easily. Now that we got that cleared up. How does the powermatic 3520B  compare to the other heavy-duty professional lathes?

For starters, the 2 HP motor allows for a 20-inch swing and 34-inch spindle capacity. The machine has a spindle speed range from 50 to 3000 RPM.

You will find all the controls, belts, and pulleys right up front which is easy to navigate. The controls come with a push/pull activation button, forward, reverse buttons, and a variable speed dial to control the spindle speed. It also comes with a digital readout.

A sliding head stock allows you to work anywhere between 34 inches and the tail stock has an extra storage compartment. The heavily wired cage protects the user from flying debris.

The comparator feature allows you to align a sample piece right behind the one being turned for accurate measurements. This makes visually identical pieces much easier.

If you are looking for a professional lathe that lasts up to a decade then the Powermatic 3520B may just be the right tool.

What We Liked

  • Tool rest and base are very easy to maneuver
  • Hefty storage compartment in the tail-stock
  • Allows to attach a sample piece
  • Safety cage offers protection

What We Didn’t Like

  • Heavy weight makes it hard to move around
  • For professional use only

Highlighted Features

  • Powered by a 2 horsepower, 220-volt motor
  • Comes with a unique comparator feature
  • Center to center distance is about 34 inches
  • Swing over bed is 20 inches
  • Digital readout for specific RPM
  • Variable speed dial
  • Forward and reverse spin option
  • Comes with a safety cage
  • Tail stock has 4.5 inches of ram travel and 1 inch-⅜ diameter ram

4. RIKON Mini Lathe Review


Here is a nice addition to the list. As the name suggests the mini lathe is best-used for turning bowls or short stocks. Despite the name mini, the lathe looks rather big. It does offer a 16-inch center to center distance which perfectly suits its purpose as a mini lathe.

A half horsepower motor runs the entire lathe which is very impressive. Another interesting part is that the mini-lathe offers six speed ranges which are 430 to 810, 1,230, 1,810, 2,670, and 3,900 RPM.

The speed can be adjusted by changing the belt which you will find after opening the access cover. The belt can be easily changed just by using the locking lever to unlock and adjust by hand.

There is a 12 point indexing system that can be locked by the spindle lock on top and then can be used for fluting or grooving.

The tool rest and the tailstock can easily be moved along the polished bed and adjusted accordingly. The headstock, however, can’t be moved but you won’t need it to move anyway and besides the headstock, you will find another attachable tool rest.

The speed range can easily be changed by adjusting the belt but a dial or knob would have made things much easier. For this one, you will have to change the belt whenever you want to go to a different speed range. You also would not find a digital reader with this mini-lathe.

Weighing about 90 pounds you can use a little help while moving this around.

If you are solely into light turning like pens, bowls, and others alike you will certainly be pleased with the RIKON mini lathes features and performance.

What We Liked

  • Very easy to assemble
  • Adjustable tool rest allows adjusting the height
  • Ideal for turning bowls, short stocks, pens
  • Multiple extensions can be added
  • Offers a large center to center space
  • A bit heavy but can be portable

What We Didn’t Like

  • Can not easily change the spindle spin
  • Doesn’t offer a digital readout
  • No reverse spin option

Highlighted Features

  • 1/2 Horsepower motor to run everything
  • 6-speed range from 430 to 3900 RPM
  • Center to center distance is 16 inches
  • Swing size is 12 inches
  • 12 point indexing system
  • Laser engraved ram that travels 1.5 inch
  • Auto ejecting tail stock saves a lot of time
  • Dual-purpose spindle lock

5. SHOP FOX Benchtop Lathe Review


Benchtop wood lathes have become quite popular these days as a lot of people have taken woodworking as a hobby and benchtop lathes are perfect for small-scale projects.

Keeping that in mind we have chosen the SHOP FOX W1704 as our go-to benchtop wood lathe and here is why.

For starters, it is durable and has a strong build. It can also be moved around easily since it weighs only about 50 pounds which is considerably lighter than a lot of other benchtop lathes

Moving on to the specs, the 1/3 horsepower does a pretty decent job in regulating the spindle speed which ranges from 700-3200. The lathe has a dial to control the variable speed ranges which makes it very easy to adjust to your desired speed.

This lathe includes a 5-¾ inch face-plate which is attached to the head-stock and allows non-spindle turning for making circular objects like bowls that normally don’t get the support from the tail stock.

Right out of the box you will see the head-stock and tail-stock align perfectly without any adjustments which indicate the machine’s precision when it comes to precise turning.

You will mostly be doing small scale turnings that fit the 14-inch bed and 8-inch swing size. Since you will be working on small projects a more precise spindle speed indication through a digital reader would have been nice but is absent in this lathe.

But in terms of budget, portability, and features, the SHOP FOX W1704 will definitely be a bang for your buck

What We Liked

  • Cast iron construction enhances its longevity
  • Durable but comparatively lightweight
  • Centers of tailstock and headstocks perfectly align
  • Does not vibrate at high speeds
  • Spur center is very easy to change

What We Didn’t Like

  • Numerical speed control dial would be better
  • The motor is not powerful enough
  • Does not provide a digital readout
  • No reverse spin option

Highlighted Features

  • 1/3 horsepower with a 120-volt ac motor
  • Speed ranges from 700-3200 RPM
  • Center to center distance is 14 inch
  • Swing size over the bed is 8 inch
  • Electronic speed control dial
  • 9 feet long power cord
  • Interchangeable tool rest
  • A fully adjustable tool rest base

6. NOVA Mini Lathe Review (12″)


We have finally reached the end of our list and we would like to end it with what we think is the best budget mini-lathe currently available. Now that’s a strong assumption but the nova 46300 comet II is certainly packed with features.

This small 82-pound lathe is powered by a 3/4 or 0.75 horsepower motor that enables its spindle speed range from 250-4000 RPM in 3 different speed ranges. Which you will find after opening the sturdy cover.

One noticeable thing about the lathe is, how wide the space is after opening the cover. You can very easily fit your hand in the space and change or adjust the belt.

The Comet II provides a dial for speed control, forward and reverse buttons, and magnetic on, off switches. When you want to turn to reverse you have to first press the off switches then flip the reverse switch.

The reason why this is useful is that if you accidentally bump the reverse switch the motor will instead stop because of the magnetic switches.

With 16.5 inch bed, 12-inch swing size, adjustable, and self ejecting tailstock you will find this mini lathe very comfortable for all your small scale turning needs.

All that’s missing is a digital readout to provide a more precise speed but the dial is labeled with speed ranges.

The Nova Comet II checks out most of the boxes regarding specs, durability, and price making it a very impressive wood lathe.

What We Liked

  • Very easy to assemble
  • Takes minimum space
  • Wide access to easily change belts
  • Perfect alignment of both stocks right out of box

What We Didn’t Like

  • No digital readout
  • Requires runtime before the first use

Highlighted Features

  • 3/4 Horsepower DC motor for high performance
  • Variable speed range of 250-4000 RPM
  • 3 step speed ranges
  • Allows forward and reverse spin feature
  • Distance between centers is 16.5 inches
  • Swing over the bed is 12 inches
  • 12 point indexing system
  • Labeled spindle speed control dial
  • A standard 6-inch tool rest
  • Self ejecting tailstock

Buying Guide For Best Wood Lathes In This Year

Choosing the right wood lathe is no doubt a tough job considering all the little features. Not to mention, it’s easy to get confused when there are so many brands to choose from.

To make this hefty task easier and get the Best Wood Lathes For The Money we are going to show you some very important features that you need to look out for while buying a wood lathe

Size of wood lathe

Based on size there are generally 3 types of lathes which are-

Mini Lathe: These are the smallest of the bunch and best used as a pin lathe for turning pens, small bowls, and small hollow forms. Mini lathes are also portable and can be moved around easily compared to other types

Midi Lathe: These are your average-sized lathes that are perfect for creating baseball bats, canes, table legs, and any furniture spindles. These are the most sought after lathes. These are heavy

Full-Size Lathe: These are the largest ones and mostly used for professional usage for turning large planters, large spindles, and heavy hollowing.


The DBC or distance between centers is the distance between headstock and tailstock. This indicates the length of the wood that will fit. SOB means swing over bed and indicates how wide(diameter) of wood can fit.

  • Mini lathes have 8-10 inches of SOB and 12-15 inches of DBC
  • Midi lathes have 12-14 inches of SOB and 16-21 inches of DBC
  • Full-size lathes can have a whopping 20 inch SOB as for DBC they can be extended up to 10 feet.

Spindle speed range

Different speed ranges can be used for different wood projects. A minimum spindle speed range from 400-3000 RPM is recommended. The lower speeds are used for large diameter works and the higher speeds are used for smaller diameter works.

For doing rough cuts you will need about 1500 RPM and for doing fine cuts, 2250 RPM will suffice

Choose the lathe that offers different speed ranges and a dialed speed controller to increase or decrease speed. Having a reverse spin feature is also incredible

Weight & Stability

Wood lathes are generally heavy. Moving around even the midis are sometimes difficult. So if you are going to be moving it around then its best to look for something lightweight. The best lathes are made of cast iron for better durability and longevity. 

The weight and construction material enhances stability and dampens the vibration levels.

Features and simplicity

Wood lathes offer a lot of features. Like indexing systems, variable speed controller, digital readouts, and bed extensions. The features come very handy but will increase the price range. 

You would also want a wood lathe that is fairly easy to operate. One that has controls up front and one that is easy to access and adjust whenever needed.

frequently asked questions

Q: How long do wood lathes last?

Ans: Wood lathes are designed to take a beating and last a while. An average wood lathe lasts about 5-10 years or more.

Q: How much does a wood lathe cost?

Ans: Mini lathes cost about $200-$600, midi lathes can cost around $600-$1500 and full-sized ones go around $3000-$9000

Q: What are wood lathes made of?

Ans: Wood lathes are generally made of cast iron to provide durability.

Q: How to stop the grinding noises of the wood lathe? 

Ans: If you have lube all the parts that stay in motion while working. Meaning the bearing, seals, belts, and pulleys.

Bottom Line

We really hope that you can be benefited from all the information put together here. As for our favorite, we nominate the JET 1221VS as the best quality wood lathe. Despite a hefty price tag, this machine is made to fulfill all your turning needs.

We also shared some important buying tips so you can get the Best Wood Lathes and start working on all those wood projects you have been meaning to do.

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