Best Wood Lathes For The Money

Best Wood Lathe

Last Update: September, 2019

Whether you’re new to woodworking or have been turning your own pens for years, you probably know how important it is to find a good wood lathe.
There are many options out there and many different sizes to choose from, even within the small lathe world.
And while wood lathes may all seem to blend together after hours of searching, you should pay attention to small features of each wood lathe to find the perfect one for you.
These options each have different features, levels of control and size options so you can be choosy about which qualities are important to you.

Wood Lathe

Summary

WEN 3420T

WEN 3420T

Perfect for small wood projects, this wood lathe is the perfect power tool for the small-scale woodworker. It would even be a great option for a beginner exploring woodworking.

Mophorn 12 X 18 inch Wood Lathe

Mophorn 12 X 18 inch Wood Lathe

This medium-sized wood lathe would make a great addition to any bench top. It is well made and praised for being an all-around good lathe and a bang for your buck.

JET JWL-1221VS

JET JWL-1221VS

If speed control is a must for you, this is the wood lathe to go with. While this lathe is a bit more expensive than some other options, you are getting some of the best speed control available on the market.

SHOP FOX W1704

SHOP FOX W1704

This lathe is another great tool for small projects. It measures 8 by 13 inches and is a great affordable lathe for turning pens.

JET JWL-1015

JET JWL-1015

For the beginner woodworker, this lathe from JET is pretty cut-and-dry. It is easy to use, comes with six set speeds, and has some really great design features.

Pros:

  • Durable and well made construction
  • Perfect for beginners
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Not ideal for an experienced woodworker

More About The WEN 3420T

If you enjoy turning your own pens and only want a wood lathe for small projects, look no further than the WEN 3420T. At only 8 inches by 12 inches, this wood lathe is small, compact and perfect for a beginner who is looking to learn how to do small woodworking projects.

The lathe is equipped with a 2A motor and variable speed controls so you can slow it down or speed it up as you need. It also has an MT1 spindle and tailstock taper to tightly grip workpieces with a lever-clamping system to make adjustments easy. This lathe is small and extremely easy to use, so a beginner can enjoy turning pens and other projects.

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Jet 719115

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Goplus 1/2HP 4 Speed 40

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RIKON 70-100

RIKON 70-100

Pros:

  • Gears and shafts have been specially hardened
  • Solid and strong
  • Runs quietly

Cons:

  • Not as good for long turnings such as spindles

More About The Mophorn 12 x 18 inch Wood Lathe

This lathe from Mophorn is built to be high quality and last a long time. All the gears and shafts in the headlock have been specially hardened for longevity and it is made from durable cast iron. It is also built with an extremely powerful 550W motor.

This Mophorn lathe would be perfect for an education setting, workshop or lab. So if you teach a woodworking class or need to stock up on lathes in your workshop, this is a great option.
It is easy to use with variable speed range controls and a digital speed display to show you exactly how fast it’s going.

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RIKON 70-100

RIKON 70-100

Pros:

  • Easy to control the speed
  • Comes with lots of features
  • Option for a bed extension

Cons:

  • Poor quality control

More about The JET JWL-1221VS

A slightly larger lathe, this lathe is the option to go with if you're looking to use it for larger tasks. The entire goal behind this lathe's design controls is to give you the maximum speed control possible with variable speed between 60-3600 RPM.

Its controls are also very conveniently located, so you can easily get that speed control you desire. This lathe also has some really great features, including a spring, loaded spindle lock, 24 indexing positions, and a ratchet style belt tension system.

It is definitely a little pricier than some other lathe options, but the price comes in exchange for quality, durability and unbeatable speed control.

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RIKON 70-100

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Pros:

  • Two tool rests
  • Constructed well
  • Great small lathe that performs well

Cons:

  • Issues with parts breaking

More About The SHOP FOX W1704

If you’re looking for an overall good quality lathe but aren’t looking to spend a lot of money, this is the lathe for you. This Shop Fox lathe is truly bang for your buck, as it is affordable but comes with great features and is very well build. With a 2 Amp, ⅓ Horsepower motor, this is an extremely powerful small-project lathe.

This basic wood lathe makes any small project easy and fun. A great feature is the lathe’s two tool rests at 4 ½ inches and 7 inches, so you’ll have plenty of room for your tools while you work. It also comes with a 5 ¾ inch faceplate for making items that can’t be supported by the tailstock.

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Pros:

  • Great for beginners
  • Simple design and easy to use
  • Easy access to belts

Cons:

  • Only six spindle speeds

More About The JET JWL-1015

This reliable lathe is perfect for a beginner woodworker who wants a lathe that is ready to use straight out of the box. It measures 15 ½ inches long between centers. This makes it perfect for small projects and it has a wider swing over bed to increase rigidity.

It is relatively simple to use, with set spindle speeds of 500, 840, 1240, 1800, 2360 and 3975. While this does offer a great range, it can be frustrating if you need a speed somewhere between the set speeds.

However, for a beginning woodworker who is unfamiliar with setting their own speed, this may be an advantage.

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What is a Wood Lathe?

In the simplest of terms, a wood lathe is a highly efficient woodturning machine. It involves spinning or rotating a piece of wood and using a handheld cutting tool, grinder, or sandpaper to sculpt and shape the piece of wood into a finished product.

Depending on the type of wood being used and the desired finished product, you will use a spindle type wood lathe or a faceplate turner wood lathe.

Using wood lathe machines on your projects allows for greater user control and versatility from the movement of your own hands. This is better in comparison to relying on the blade that the wood piece is laying against.

Wood lathe machines are designed to provide various speeds in order to produce different effects on your wood pieces. This speed control also helps to shape the wood quicker.

There is not just one type of wood lathe on the market. There are actually various wood lathes. Some are even specifically designed to create a specific type of wood items.

Common woodturners use wood lathes in their arts and crafts as well as designing furniture and other functional items.

Many popular wood lathes are extremely powerful and efficient as manufacturers strive to meet the needs of dedicated woodturners. Some of the best wood lathes on the market are those that are extremely stable in order to match the high power that is running through the machine.

These machines can also easily shape the types of wood items that the user primarily shapes. A good wood lathe machine won’t be a struggle to use. If it is, you are using the wrong kind of machine.

A Glimpse of The Parts of A Wood Lathe

A wood lathe consists of eight main components:

  • Bed - the base of the machine
  • Headstock - located on the left-hand side of the lathe bed
  • Carriage- serves as the cutting, controlling and moving part of the tool
  • Feed Mechanism - it is shaped like an H and is what fits over the bed
  • Tailstock -located on the right-hand side of the lathe bed
  • Screw or thread cutting mechanism - used to move the tool along the workpiece
  • Feed rod - from where the power is transported from to get to the lathe spindle
  • Lead screw - the number of tools that are relevant to the workpiece

Factors to Consider To Buy the Best Wood Lathe

Size of Your Project

If you are working on small projects such as pens or door handles, you do not need to purchase a big wood lathe machine. A tabletop machine would do well for this type of project.

If you are planning to work on larger projects like furniture, you will need a larger and more powerful machine. A floor lathe would need to be considered. These types of lathes are powered electronically via a power outlet.

Available Workshop Space

You also want to consider the amount of space you have in your workshop. Sure, you might want to buy a bigger lathe because you desire to work on huge projects. But if your workshop at home is too small, it won’t be suitable.

A good way to know how much space you have is to measure your workshop and the designated space for your wood lathe. Make sure you account for moving room as well.

Ease of Use

Be sure to purchase a wood lathe that is in your skill set range. Some wood lathes are made strictly for professionals and others are made for beginners.

In considering ease of use, you want to make sure that there is no excessive vibration while using your wood lathe. If you are having to stabilize your machine while it is running, your final product will become compromised.

Spindle Speed

Woodturners work at different speeds. The ideal wood lathe would be one that has a wide range of speed so you will be able to use it for numerous projects.

If you purchase a wood lathe that has a manual speed operator, it means that you need to use both of your hands to control the speed. This makes your projects a little longer. Electronic speed operators can move the wood much faster, making your projects easy to do. 

Weight of Lathe

The weight of your wood lathe will matter if you are someone who rearranges their workshop often. If you purchase machinery that leans on the heavy side, you will have a harder time moving your things around.

Height of Lathe

Many people often forget to check the height of their lathe. If you are going to be sitting down while working, you want to be sure that the middle of the lathe hits right at or near your elbows. A lathe that is too tall or too short can impede your ability to work easily and comfortably.

Sturdiness

The speed at which your wood lathe turns will also affect the stableness and sturdiness of your machine. A good wood lathe will be able to withstand strong blows and stay securely in place without creating any gaps in your project.

Essential Tool Accessories for Wood Lathe

Because a wood lathe is not a standalone tool, there are a number of accessories that you will need in order to operate it.

Mini Lathe

This would be perfect for those wanting to turn something as small as a pen or a tiny bowl. What makes a wood lathe a mini lathe is when it features engines that are less than 1HP. They also have less than one inch of clearance from above the bed, and they measure less than 18 inches from each center.

Midi Lathe

This would be considered right in the middle, hence the name. This wood lathe offers more length, horsepower, and swing than a mini lathe does. They can either drop onto a workbench or sit on a pair of legs.

Furthermore, unlike the traditional pulley and belt style, midi lathes are typically electronic variable speed. With these, you will not only be able to turn over more wood more quickly, but you will also be able to deal with larger projects.

Full-Sized Lathe

This type is very large and is typically used for turning really large workpieces. They are also indispensable for turning things like table legs and large round pieces.

Factors to Consider when purchasing a Wood Lathe

Motor

The motor is very important because it is what determines how quickly the wood can be cut. If the motor is much too miniscule to cut heavier items, it could lead to the product being damaged.

Size & Build

The size and build of the wood lathe that you get should depend solely on the nature of your projects. Smaller projects will require a bench-top or what is also known as a mini lathe.

Power

The power that a lathe has can be analyzed through a number of features. It can best be summed up as the abilities of motor accompanied by the speed that it can efficiently operate at.

This is what contributes to its overall power. The more powerful a wood lathe is, the more it can complete complex projects.

Speed

Sometimes, in order to get the desired results, the products must be rotated. For example, while bowl lathes rotate slowly, table legs require much faster rotations.

Many lathes have adjustable speeds, making them easier to use for beginners. For beginners, the highest speed they would most likely need is no more than 2,000 rpm.

Weight

The weight of a wood lathe is very important to consider. The heavier the lathe is, the more stable it tends to be. If a wood lathe is too lightweight, it can potentially shift out of place during higher speeds.

Sturdiness

A lathe’s sturdiness and stableness can be affected by the speed that it is going. A quality wood lathe should be rugged and have weight to it in order to withstand blows so it can stay securely in place. Sudden movements will cause mistakes.

Vibration

Excessive vibration is typically present among wood lathes that are not stabilized properly. With this, the machine becomes difficult to control. The final product may not be great quality due to this.

Ease-of-Use

A wood turner should search for a wood lathe that can easily handle the necessary task while still remaining easy to use. It a great idea to test out a variety of machines in order to locate one that is easy to use, adjust, and is comfortable to use.

Noise

A wood lathe that is good quality should not make noise. This allows the woodturner to hear how the lathe and cutting tool are interacting to make sure they are both working perfectly.

Price

Wood lathes are a very expensive investment. Many who are newer users may be unprepared for newer models. However, it is important to consider that some lathes compromise quality due to their lower price range.

Conclusion

These are many of the factors that go into choosing the right wood lathe for you. You might be an experienced woodturning pro or perhaps you’re a beginner trying to find a good lathe to start with. Taking time to do your research will certainly pay off. Have a look at any of the good quality wood lathes we have recommended in our guide for a start.

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