Welcome to my review article about the best wood lathes! Below I’ll go through the different types of wood lathes available, reviews of my top 7 wood lathes, and then a bit of a buyer’s guide at the end of this article to give you more information about what to look out for when selecting a wood lathe.
But first, to get the ball rolling, let’s discuss what a wood lathe actually is.
What is a Wood Lathe?
A wood lathe is a tool that spins a length of wood on a horizontal axis, which allows you to shape, cut, sand, or even drill the wood to create the shape you want.
These woodworking machines are commonly used to make items like table legs, bowling pins, bats, pens, and many other items that you can use or sell. The higher your skill level with the lathe, the more intricate your projects will be.
Types of Wood Lathes
Before we get into the types of wood lathes, there are two terms that you will need to know:
Distance Between Centers (DBC): The maximum length of wood that can be used in the lathe.
Swing Over Bed (SOB): The maximum diameter that can rotate in the lathe without hitting the bottom of it and stopping the machine from spinning.
Ok, now that you’re an expert on wood lathes, let’s discuss the different sizes available!
Mini Wood Lathe
A mini-sized or benchtop wood lathe is a compact model that fits into even the smallest workspace.
They have specific features, including a distance between centers (DBC) range of up to 20 inches and a swing over bed (SOB) of up to 12 inches.
Mini wood lathes are perfect for more small and intricate pieces such as pens, bowls, vases, bracelets etc, plus they are cheaper than larger models, making them a great option for beginners.
Midi Wood Lathe
Midi-sized wood lathes are somewhat larger than mini lathes, offering more power and the ability to work on larger pieces.
Their DBC is about the same as a mini lathe, though their SOB is higher at 12 inches or more.
They are a bit more expensive than the smaller models but allow you to work on larger pieces, expanding the projects you can work on.
Full Sized Wood Lathe
Full-sized wood lathes are the largest home option available, giving you much more power to work with, though they take up a great deal more space.
They often have an extremely wide DOB length of 45 inches or more and an SOB of over 15 inches.
You can use a full-sized lathe for larger projects, like table legs and baseball bats, though you’ll be paying a much higher price for these capabilities.
The 7 Best Wood Lathes Are:
- Grizzly Industrial T25920 Benchtop Wood Lathe
- WEN 3424T Benchtop Wood Lathe (Best Value & Highest Rated)
- WEN 3421 Mini Wood Lathe (Most Affordable)
- PSI Woodworking KWL-1218VS Midi Lathe
- Jet JWL-1221VS Woodworking Lathe (Best High-End)
- Shop Fox W1704 1/3 HP Benchtop Lathe
- Delta Industrial 46-460 Midi Lathe
Out of all the lathe’s in this article, the WEN 3424T has to be the best one overall. Not only is it extremely affordable, but it’s easy to use, durable, and performs superbly for the price. It’s a great option for beginners looking to purchase their first woodworking lathe while avoiding a huge initial investment, and for experienced woodworkers looking to add to their collection of carpentry tools.
Other notable mentions are the WEN 3421 which is the most affordable of the list. This wood lathe is another great option for beginners.
In addition, the Jet JWL-1221VS is the best high-end lathe available today. It has a number of features that show that Jet have really thought about the user experience of this tool. It’s also made of high quality materials and will last a lifetime. I’d recommend the Jet for experienced carpenters who are looking to make a quality investment in their lathe.
With that said, you can’t really go wrong with any of the lathes in this article, as they’re all top of the market for their price range. Read on to find out how they compare to each other.
Best Wood Lathe Comparison Chart
Here is a quick table outlining the most important specs of each lathe, and how they compare to each other.
If you’re on mobile, scroll across the table with your finger!
The 7 Best Wood Lathes Reviewed
Let’s now dive into my detailed reviews of each of the 7 best lathes for woodworking!
Grizzly Industrial T25920 Benchtop Wood Lathe
The Grizzly Industrial T25920 wood lathe is a heavy-duty cast iron benchtop model with a ton of great features.
The main attraction is the variable speed control, which gives you a range of 650 to 3800 RPM, with a digital RPM readout so you’re never guessing how fast your wood is turning.
It also features a 5-7/8-inch tool rest, 18-inch DOB, 9.5-inch SOB, and MT2 spindle and tailstock tapers. Both the tool tailstock and tool rest include quick-release handles for easy adjustments whenever needed.
The powerful motor is more than enough to handle a variety of small projects.
There have been some quality control issues with this wood lathe but Grizzly’s customer service is top-notch, sending out replacement parts quickly to ensure their customers are getting exactly what they need to keep the T25920 running.
- Variable speed control
- Cast-iron construction
- Powerful motor
- Some quality control issues
WEN 3424T Benchtop Wood Lathe
Best Value & Highest Rated – Our #1 Recommendation!
The Wen 3424T Benchtop Wood Lathe is a compact machine with a high-quality build and great features to keep you working as long as you like.
This lathe weighs 70 pounds, generating minimal vibration, even on larger pieces. The 4.5-amp motor offers maximum torque to speed up your progress on every piece.
There are 5 operating speeds, ranging from 520 to 3400 RPM, so you always have control and can tailor the speed to suit the specific project you’re working on.
It also features a 3-1/8-inch face plate, MT2 spindle and tailstock tapers, and a cutting capacity of 18-inches in length and 12-inches in width.
A few handy accessories are also included with the Wen 3424T model, including a headstock spur center, tailstock live center, 7-7/8-inch tool rest, and a built-in holder for all of these extras.
- Great low price
- 5 speeds
- Large cutting capacity
- Excellent value for money
- No reverse
Wen 3421 Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe
Most Affordable Lathe!
Beginners on a budget who still want a great lathe will love the Wen 3421 Mini Benchtop model.
It has a great low price and a compact size that makes it easy to fit into any space you have available.
This wood lathe features a 3.2-amp motor and a capacity of 12-inches in length and 8-inches in width, so it is perfect for small items like pens, chess pieces, and cups, though the motor can’t handle larger pieces.
It also includes a 2.3-inch face plate, MT1 spindle and tailstock tapers, a variable speed motor that offers a range of 750 to 3200 RPM, and 2 interchangeable tool rests.
One small drawback is that the tailstock doesn’t always stay tight, so it may need monitoring while you work.
- Perfect for small pieces
- Extremely affordable
- 2 tool rests
- Motor isn’t very powerful
- Hard to tighten tailstock
PSI Woodworking KWL-1218VS Midi Lathe
This midi wood lathe from PSI is easy to set up and use, despite all of the advanced features included to make your woodworking projects a breeze.
These features include a 1 HP variable speed motor, a digital readout for precise speeds, SBC microprocessor technology for increased control, and 24 indexing positions.
There are also some heavy-duty aspects to consider, including the cast iron base for minimal vibrations and a ball-bearing tailstock center, though this piece may come loose at times.
The tool rack storage keeps everything you need close at hand.
To keep your work area well lit, there is also a handy work light built into the machine, though the 18-inch flex cable can be a bit flimsy, so it may need some delicate handling.
- 1 HP variable speed motor
- Digital readout
- Cast iron base
- Tailstock may come loose
- Flimsy flex shaft for light
Jet JWL-1221VS Woodworking Lathe
Best High-End Lathe!
This wood lathe by Jet has a sleek design, with innovative features that make it a great choice for beginners and pros.
It has 3 speeds to choose from, each with a range of RPMs to give you the perfect speed for every job, all of which are displayed on the digital readout.
The controls are easy to use and well within reach as you work, plus it includes a removable on-off safety key to avoid accidental start-up of the lathe.
It also offers smooth transitioning from forward to reverse, 24 integrated indexing positions, a spring-loaded spindle lock, an Acme thread-in tailstock, and a handy storage caddy on each end of the lathe to keep your tools close at all times.
The only issue is with the minimal packaging used to deliver it, which could result in damage if mishandled.
- Directional control
- Removable safety key
- Quiet operation
- Lots of useful features
- High durability
- 5 Year warranty
- Minimal packaging
Shop Fox W1704 Benchtop Lathe
The Shop Fox W1704 wood lathe is an inexpensive and compact model that fits nicely in any workspace, allowing you to complete small projects like pens, wine bottle stoppers, and small cups.
The cast iron construction and base mounting holes help keep in in place as you work.
The 1/3 HP motor offers variable speed control with a range of 750 to 3200 RPM.
This benchtop model also features a 5-3/4 faceplate, 8-inch SOB, 13-inch DBC, MT1 spur center and live center tapers, a ¾-inch x 16 TPI RH spindle, and two tool rests sized 4-1/4 and 7 inches wide.
- Cast iron construction
- 2 tool rests
- Variable speed motor
- Lock nuts may occasionally come loose
Delta Industrial 46-460 Midi Lathe
This midi wood lathe from Delta Industrial is a powerful model with a 1HP motor and electronic variable speed that gives you up to 1725 RPM for completing those larger projects on your list.
The patented belt tensioning system is easy to use when you need to alter the speed, even for beginners.
There are 24 indexing positions to choose from, plus forward and reverse functions, though the switch for these functions has been known to be installed incorrectly, so it is something to check before you get started.
The on/off switch is on the headstock, which makes it easy to reach as you work.
This cast iron lathe also includes 6-inch and 10-inch tool rests, a 3-inch chrome face plate, a 12-1/2-inch swing capacity, a live center, and various tools to get you started.
- Large capacity
- Forward and reverse functions
- Patented belt-tensioning system
- No digital readout
- Occasional forward/reverse switch issues
Wood Lathe Buying Guide
Still unsure which wood lathe is right for you? Here are some important aspects of a wood lathe that you need to consider when selecting one.
Power and Speed
A wood lathe’s power is measured in horsepower. The smallest wood lathes on the market usually have an output of around ¾ HP, while the largest models can have an output of 2 HP.
The more power a wood lathe has, the higher the speed will be, which means more rotations per minute, which is essential when working on those intricate and delicate pieces.
Larger items should be cut at lower RPMs to maintain control of the cutting instrument at all times.
Space in Your Workshop
When choosing a new wood lathe, one of the most important considerations is how much space you have in your workshop that you can dedicate to one of these machines.
Smaller areas won’t fit a full-sized wood lathe without sacrificing space for other tools and limiting the space you have to move.
For the perfect fit, I recommend measuring the space you have available and purchasing a model with the features you want that matches this area.
The lathe’s capacity depends on the DBC and SOB.
As mentioned at the start of this article, the DBC is determined by measuring the space between the headstock and tailstock, which determines the length a piece of wood can be to fit in the machine.
The SOB refers to the largest diameter the wood used in the lathe can be without hitting the bottom of the lathe.
Both of these measurements are important to consider before making a purchase. Think about the size of wood you expect to work with the most, and use this to gauge what size lathe you need.
The base of a wood lathe keeps the machine steady with minimal vibrations as its running, which is why cast iron is a popular choice. This material is heavy, adding stability to the machine to keep it in place.
Many models can even be bolted the surface it rests on, though this isn’t always an option, and might not be ideal if you have a benchtop lathe that you want to move around your workshop.
Best Wood Lathe – Conclusion
As you can see, there are a number of wood lathes available, all with different features, purposes and sizes. I hope this article has helped you find the best wood lathe for your woodworking projects!
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About The Author: Hi There! I’m Dave. I’m a certified millworker and carpenter, and have been working in the industry for over 10 years. I created this website to pass on my knowledge so that other enthusiasts, no matter what their skill level, can enjoy the craft as much as I do. I hope you enjoy!