Best Wood Lathe for the Money 2021 | Reviews and Buyers Guide

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wood lathe

A wood lathe is a vital power tool for any carpenter, whether a beginner or professional. Wood lathes date back to the industrial revolution era and have come a long way in advanced technology in the 21st century with quality, features, capacity, and performance. Without a wood lathe, woodturning projects are challenging to accomplish, are very time-consuming, and are labor-intensive. You can produce beautiful woodworking creations on a woodturning lathe.

Lathes come in three sizes; full-size lathe, mini wood lathe, or midi lathe size, depending on how small or large your projects are. One of the most important features is it must have an excellent solid bed, which is the main horizontal beam across the lathe base. 

This bed is usually cast iron and needs to be heavy to stop the lathe from vibrating when the wood is spinning on the motor. However, there are several other features and technical specifications to look out for, so buying a wood lathe can be complex and confusing. With this in mind, we have compiled a comprehensive review of 5 good, solid wood lathes to help you to decide which one is right for your next wood project!


Here’s a rundown of what we’ll provide in this wood lathe review article:

  • First, we’ll showcase our top 5 picks in an easy-to-read comparison table
  • Next, we’ll discuss their features and benefits that you’ll find useful
  • Then, we’ll take a good look at any drawbacks we think you should know about
  • And finally, we’ll take a good look at the technical specifications of a decent wood lathe to give you a better insight into the range

Sound good?  Let’s get to it!

 

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Our Favorite Wood Lathes – Comparison Table:

CLICK on any image below to see Ratings and Reviews on Amazon

 


Best Wood Lathe | 5 Reviews

 

1. Grizzly Industrial (Model G0462) Wood Lathe (Best Overall)

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Powerful 2-HP motor
  • Digital readout
  • Quick-lock & release tailstock and headstock
  • Excellent speed change settings
  • 46″ distance between centers
Cons
  • Heavy

2. WEN 3421 Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe (Best Value)

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Ideal for intricate pieces
  • Max 3200 RPM
  • 12″ long
  • 8″ swing
  • Tool rest
  • Excellent customer service
Cons
  • Not suitable for heavy-duty work

 

3. JET Variable Speed Midi Wood Lathe

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Max 3600 RPM
  • Forward & reverse
  • 5-year warranty
  • 12″ swing
  • 21″ long and can be extended
Cons
  • Sketchy customer service
  • Very heavy

 

4. Delta Industrial (Model 46-460) Variable Speed Midi Lathe

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Powerful
  • Excellent speed control
  • 12.5″ swing
  • Patented belt tension system
  • Forward and reverse
Cons
  • No digital display
  • Short center-to-center distance
  • Extension required for pieces longer than 16″

 

5. RIKON Power Tools Mini Lathe

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • 10″ swing
  • 18″ between centers
  • 5-speed range
  • Self-ejecting tailstock
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • Carving tools extra
  • Lacks power

 

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Video: How To Turn Wood on a Lathe

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Buying a Wood Lathe – Buyers Guide

 

Factors to Consider When Buying a Wood Lathe:

Budget

One thing about wood lathes is that they come at a higher price range than other woodworking tools. Most full-sized options tend to carry a heftier price tag, which is why you need to set your price range not to overspend. Low-cost wood lathes fall between 200 – 400 dollars, mid-range lathes cost between $400 and $800, with high-end models demanding thousands of dollars. If you are just a hobbyist learning the basics, a low-cost option is ideal for you.

But for a pro-level with a workshop for home and commercial use, a mid-range option could suffice. For woodworkers who need a wood lather for commercial use, a high-end option is what you need.

Type of Lathe

There are two main categories of wood lathes – mini wood lathe and full-sized. A mini wood lathe is more portable with a bench-top design that’s lighter. While a full-sized woodworking lathe takes more space, it is more stable and sturdier with a center-to-center distance and swing. It’s essential to consider your space and woodworking project to decide which one to go for.

 

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Type of work

Woodworkers are engaged in different kinds of woodworking projects. Generally, smaller ones are ideal for smaller pieces, but the bigger ones can do OK there if you want to work on more oversized items.

You need to ascertain your particular use and then find a wood lathe that works best for you. First, determine the maximum thickness of your wood to know the swing over tool rest and bed. For those dealing with smaller pieces, a midi lathe is enough. Then, consider the maximum length of the wood to know the center-to-center distance. Of course, if you plan to work on more significant projects in the future, you need to get a powerful machine with a bigger center-to-center and swing capacities.

Required Lathe speed

There is an unspoken rule of thumb regarding the speed of a wood lathe: when you multiply the RPM with the thickness of the stock, a good unit should have a figure between 6000 and 9000. The higher the RPM, the finer the cuts. It all depends on the size of the stock you intend to turn. Turning a 4-inch stock, for instance, would need speeds of between 1500 rpm and 2250 rpm. For ultimate woodturning control, opt for a variable speed wood lathe.

Safety

As with any woodworking equipment, it’s crucial to consider the safety of the wood lathe you choose. Wood lathes are notorious for inflicting hazards on operators, especially when placing the tool on a fast-moving stock. A wood lathe must come with in-built tool rests and faceplates for safety.

Technical Factors

Motor Power 

Motors can range from 1/8 horsepower to 3HP with speed variables ranging from 500-4000 RPM or more. The size of the engine determines the size of the piece it can turn. The higher the HP power rating, the faster it will rotate even under a large load. Keep in mind that the more influential the motor is, the higher the power consumption.

Power Supply

Does your power socket match the supply characteristics of the wood lathe? To know, pay attention to the voltage, phase, and full-load current. This will help you choose the best wood lathe that matches those characteristics.

Swing over bed

This value indicates the thickness of the stock the machine can turn without hitting the tool rest. If you work on items such as bowls, then this specification is essential for you.

Swing over tool rest

While the swing over bed determines the diameter for the bowl, the tool rest determines the diameter for spindle turning. A tool rest minimizes errors by providing you with a surface to balance the tool. Ensure that it’s adjustable to different positions and should be lockable to a place for precision and stability.

 

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Center-to-center distance

This value stands for the maximum length of the stock you can turn when spindle turning. Choose a model with a more considerable distance between centers than what you need so that you won’t have to buy another one when you require a larger space.

Headstock speed

The headstock is designed for a variety of accessories, e.g., chucks. Ensure that the thread in a unit is standard to fit different threaded accessories as you upgrade your wood lathe. The speed of the headstock may range from discrete values to ranges.

Tailstock characteristics

The tailstock is a rotating pin located on the end of a wood lathe that keeps the spindle centered and rotating evenly. According to the Morse Taper scale, tailstock characteristics show the tailstock’s whole diameter and quill travel.

Material

We mean the material used to make all significant parts like the bed, tool rest, headstock, and tailstock. Most wood lathe models are constructed using stainless steel and cast iron.

Dimension and weight

Your choice of wood lathes depends mainly on the space you have. Measure the length, width, and height to ensure you love clearances for convenience and safety. Weight is a consideration if you intend to move from place to place. Heavy machines tend to be quiet with a better turning precision.

Spindle

It indicates data regarding the bore diameter and thread per inch.


Conclusion

Buying a wood lathe can be daunting as there is a lot to consider! We’re conscious we have given you a lot of information, which we have tried to condense into bite-sized pieces. The Grizzly Industrial G0462 won our Best Overall award. It has a ton of features and is ideal for experienced and professional woodturners. It’s made to last and is built by a skilled toolmaker.

Our Best Value pick is WEN 3421.  This lathe is a perfect starter lathe and for precision woodturning of small pieces, such as cups, bowls, and chess pieces.

Prices for wood lathes vary, and you will see a lot of models at every price point. Therefore, you cannot solely rely on price as a factor when buying. Our advice is to read our buyer’s guide, establish what features you need, and then seek a suitable model within your budget.


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Walter Snyder