If you work with wood a lot, you’ll know how important a wood lathe is to your work. Carving out round corners on wooden prices has never been easier with the help of wood lathe machines.
Whether you’re making stools, tables, or chairs, as long as there’ll be a round corner in the design, you’ll struggle to find a better woodworking tool to work those corners than the wood lathe. If you’re a woodworker, you’ll probably be better off getting your wood lathe machine as you’ll be needing it often. This machine may be easy to use but choosing the right one is no easy task, not before this guide anyway.
Our Top Recommendation for Wood Lathe!
Shop Fox W1758 wood lathe sports a powerful 2 HP capacity, extremely durable parts and comes with its stand saving you some money in the process. Considering its price, this just feels like a steal.
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This guide makes the job of finding the best wood lathe machines easier as it does the hard job for you. After perusing tons of different pieces, reviews, and testing a few also, we’ve come up with the best wood lathe machines you should be looking at if you want to buy.
These lathes on the list have varying price ranges, sizes, and more.
Best Wood Lathe
|Shop Fox W1758 Wood Lathe
• 500 to 3600 RPM
• Two belt positions
|JET JWL 1221VS Wood Lathe
|• Smooth forward and reverse transitions
• Spring-loaded spindle lock
• 60 to 3600 RPM
|PSI Woodworking KWL-1018VS
• 500 to 3600 RPM
• Two belt positions
|RIKON Power Tools 70-105
|• Fitted with MT2 taper
• 5-year warranty
• 500 to 3200 RPM
|Shop Fox W1704 Lathe
|• Extremely affordable
• Lightweight and compact
• 700 to 3200 RPM
|WEN 3420 Lathe
|• Compact and lightweight design
• Fixed speed rate and variable speed from 750 to 3200 ROM
• Slow start safety feature
1. Shop Fox W1758 Wood Lathe
This wood lathe made by shop fox is a popular woodworking brand. It tops this list of the best lathe to buy because it is competitive everywhere, including in its price.
The motor has a rating of 2 horsepower, which is powerful for lathes. The power further enables 10 different speeds in the Shop Fox W1758 wood lathe, with the lowest being 600 RPM and the highest being 2400 RPM. The lowest available speed here is decent for most people, but some may want a lower speed.
The spindle diameter is 1-inch, while the spindle sports a swivel head that makes carving the outward corners quite easy. The spindle size is 1-inch by 8 threads per inch.
Shop Fox W1758 wood lathe is quite the lathe measuring 76.5″ × 19″ × 48.75″. For its size, Shop Fox did a lot to make it as stable as possible when working with it, such as proving its stand was made from quality materials. Its stand is not the only part made to last a long time. Parts like its leg, headstock, and tailstock, omg others, are made from durable cast iron material to prolong its life and increase stability.
Preventing excess vibration is quite important, and Shop Fox ensures the machine does not excessively vibrate when working with it as long as you’re using the right speed and you’ve centered your pieces correctly.
Shop Fox includes a 2-year warranty on the W1758 wood lathe parts to show the belief it has in its durability and ease the minds of people considering this lathe. This way, you can easily get it handled if it develops certain faults. The parts may be bulky and cumbersome, but it is easy to set up.
Pros and Cons
- It comes with its stand
- Durable parts made from cast iron
- Swivel spindle head to make outward bowl cutting easy
- Powerful 2 HP rating
- 10 available speeds
- Good price point
- No motor reverse option is available
2. JET JWL 1221VS Wood Lathe
When it comes to popularity, this JET wood lathe stands tall among the lathes on this list, with many woodworkers jumping on the opportunity to use it. Its power rating is smaller at 1 HP, but it still provides a better speed range from 60 RPM to 3600 RPM. This is perfect for users that would want lower RPMs to chop off pieces of wood. The higher RPM range here allows users to make finer curves.
Known as the variable speed model, this JET JWL 1221VS lathe has a 12” by 21” size that allows it to easily make forward or reverse transitions when turning wood. You have the option of choosing from the three available speed options with variable speed and controlled using an easily accessible knob. The control system shows the speed at each point in time, so you have total control.
It is a durable lathe with a bed made of cast iron to not only improve durability but also reduce vibration. The size of this lathe makes vibration worries a thing of the past as it weighs 129 lbs which is quite heavy considering it does not come with a stand.
Locking in place doesn’t get any easier with the Acme thread in its tension. There’s an integrated spring-loaded lock with controls that are placed conveniently so the operator can easily reach them. The overall dimensions of this lathe are 33.6” x 11 x 35.8. With a 5-year warranty, this JET wood lathe becomes an easier buy as users are protected for a longer time.
Pros and Cons
- Patented ratchet style belt tension system
- 24 integrated indexing positions
- Variable speed with a digital control system that shows you the speed at each point in time
- Smooth forward and reverse transitions
- 60-3600 RPMs
- Spring-loaded spindle lock
- Too heavy at 129 lbs
- The motor is inconveniently placed
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3. PSI Woodworking KWL-1018VS
Sometimes, expensive is not always the best, as this PSI wood lathe has shown. Being affordable and exceptional is possible with the PSI woodworking KWL-1018VS spearheading the school of thought.
Its ¾ HP rating may not be the most powerful, but it is decent enough to do a lot of work on woods of different materials and sizes. It is a variable speed lathe machine with two belt positions covering speeds from 500 RPM to 3600 RPM.
It sports a 10” turning diameter and an 18” swing hanging over the bed. They allow you to carve and turn your circular shapes on different wood types without splintering the wood.
It is lighter at 82 lbs, with easy-to-grip handles that will enable you to move it around your workspace without any accidents easily. Its dimensions are 32” x 9” x 17”, further proving its more compact design. This is perfect for people with smaller work areas and people working predominantly in small woods. However, smaller lathes like this have higher vibrations, affecting your accuracy and safety.
Pros and Cons
- Easy to store due to its compact size
- Affordable lathe for people on a budget
- Variable speed ranging from 500 RPM TO 3600 RPM
- Two belt positions are available
- 24 indexing positions to give you added variety when working
- Spindle locking system
- Small power
- A small lathe increases vibrations and may struggle to carve larger pieces
4. RIKON Power Tools 70-105
This is a mini lathe made specifically for people working on small wood pieces and in small spaces without a decline in quality, as evident by its cast iron parts. This ensures that even though it is small, vibrations do not occur.
Talking about its size, it weighs only 75 lbs and comes with dimensions of 35.5” x 10.5” x 14.75”. Its compact size allows for easy storage in your small garden shed. The distance between the centers is 18” while the swing over the bed is 10”.
Its speed ranges from 500 to 3200 revolutions per minute, and 5 variable speed options to select. This gives you a wide range of small wooden pieces.
The tailstock used here is self-ejecting, so you don’t have to do much to remove the wood after working on it. With the MT2 Taper fitted in this wood lathe, you’ll struggle to find a better wood lathe for pen mandrels.
The power of the motor is rated ½ HP, which is decent for a mini lathe and sports an on and off switch for improved safety when using the lathe. The spindle is 1’ x 8 threads per inch while the headstock moves on a ball bearing that is lubricated permanently, thereby improving the durability of this wood lathe.
Pros and Cons
- Mini lathe for pen turners and small wooden pieces
- Speed range from 500 to 3200 RPM
- Fitted with MT2 taper
- Cast iron parts improve durability and reduce friction
- Tabletop design
- 5-year warranty
- Is only effective for small wood pieces
5. Shop Fox W1704 Lathe
Another Shop Fox wood lathe machine makes this list, and it is not surprising seeing that Shop Fox is one of the leading brands in this space. The Shop Fox W1704 wood lathe is the most affordable option on this list but this does not make it the worst.
It comes with a ⅓ horsepower motor which is not the biggest and would only handle small tasks. Its variable speed ranges from 700 to 3200 RPM. The distance between the centers is 13” while the swing over the bed is only 8”. The total dimensions of the lathe are 7.1” x 27.9” x 13.7”. It weighs only 48.4 lbs making it easy to move its position around. All these go to show its compact size.
This benchtop wood lathe caters to users handling small woodturning and carving needs. Seeing that it is placed on the table, it can save a lot of space in your work area. It is also perfect for beginners as they slowly integrate into the woodworking space without having to commit a lot to purchasing a wood lathe.
The Shop Fox W1704 benchtop lathe comes with a 2-year warranty from the date of purchase, like most Shop Fox lathes. This lathe provides all the basic features you need for your small wood carving needs and at an affordable price point too.
Pros and Cons
- Extremely affordable
- Variable spindle speed from 700 to 3200 RPM
- Lightweight and compact size making it easy to move and store
- Perfect for turning pen mandrels and small wooden pieces
- Durable and stable even for its size
- Can only handle small tasks
- There’s no handwheel
6. WEN 3420 Lathe
This is another affordable option you should not look down on because of its price. The WEN 3420 lathe comes with a fixed rate speed and variable spindle speed of 750 to 3200 RPM and includes a faceplate that makes turning bowls and other unorthodox spindle working materials more effective.
Its most prominent safety feature is the soft-start system that enables the lathe to slowly enter full gear when put on, thereby giving people around it enough time to adjust.
It focuses on small pieces that are 8” wide and 12” long or smaller, and with the help of its 2a motor and MT1 spindle, smaller pieces get smoother carvings. Its motor is powered by ⅓ HP. The overall lathe weighs 45 lbs with dimensions of 26” x 10” x 12”.
Pros and Cons
- Compact and lightweight design
- Perfect for small tasks
- Fixed speed and variable speed from 750 to 3200 RPM
- Slow start safety feature
- 5-inch faceplate for turning cups and bowls
- Two-year warranty
- It does not have reverse turning
- Motor easily gets overheated
Users Guide – How to Use a Wood Lathe?
Buying a wood lathe is one thing and knowing how to use the lathe is another. Using this machine the right way will allow the machine to last longer and save you from injuries.
Here’s how to use a wood lathe to carve and turn your wood:
Best Size for You
Wood lathes come in various sizes, and choosing the right size is the first step to getting it right. Get a size that fits the type of work you’ll be doing on it. A small benchtop lathe is perfect for pen mandrels and small pieces, while you will need larger lathes when dealing with large wood slabs.
Setting it up
Ensure the lathe is off before attempting to set it up. Follow the manufacturer’s manual and put it in a location where there’s room for the operator around it. You also want to avoid placing it along the path of tight walkways, so it does not snag at the clothes of people passing.
Bear in mind that some of the parts would be heavy, so you may want to have a helping hand nearby.
Centering the wood will ensure you get a perfect carve after working and would also improve your safety. Wood not centered correctly will be wobbly and may even come off if not sacred properly too.
Choose the Right Speed
The major factors that determine the speed you’ll use while working with your wood lathe are the type of wood and the size. It is best to start slowly and then move to a higher speed if you’re unsure about the right speed to use.
Wood lathes are important woodworking tools to have if you do a lot of carvings and turnings to make circular shapes. Getting the best wood lathe is easier now, with this list showing you a combination of some of the best lathes. The good thing is that they are of different brands, sizes, and even price points, so there’s something for everybody.