Best Wood Lathes for Beginners

Beginner woodworker learn how to use basic wood lathe in workshop.

Do you spend time figuring out how those overwrought and elaborate wooden legs, columns, bangles, pots, goblets, plates, and other decorative wooden figurines were crafted? I guess you do, and you’re not alone in doing so, for even I and those countless wooden art lovers have also been perplexed and bemused by elaborately designed wooden crafts. Well, the obvious thing is that these wooden crafts won’t be possible without the use of wood lathes. 

So, if you want to dabble in elaborate woodworking jobs, you should have a wood lathe at your disposal. A wood lathe is an indispensable tool in wood making and woodcraft. With the wood lathe at hand, you can quickly smoothen the edges of your workpiece, cut and sand it, and drill elaborate holes on your wood piece. Wood lathes operate by spinning your wood piece while you shape it into the desired design.  

Factors to Consider When Selecting Wood Lathe

As a beginner who is desirous of engaging in wood-crafting, you might as well get the best wood lathe for beginners. Not all wood lathes are the same, and not all are for beginner’s usage. So, if you want to zero in on the best wood lathes for beginners, you better check the following points to consider when choosing a wood lathe for beginners:

Applications

Since wood lathes come in wide varieties and applications, it will be useful at the onset to know the applications you will have for your wood lathe. If you would use it for small projects, you can go for smaller lathes. For larger projects, you need to get a versatile and durable wood lathe that could do various types of projects. 

Moreover, you will notice that some lathes come with better features for specific applications. It will do you well if you know the tasks you would often dabble in before selecting a wood lathe.

Consider the Weight, Height, and Available Space in Your Shop

At the onset, it will also help if you know exactly the space that you can allot for your wood lathe. Since lathes come in a wide range of sizes, it will be preposterous to buy a huge lathe that your shop can never accommodate. 

So, make sure you know the available space’s dimensions in your shop for your lathe. If you work on small items, you can choose a benchtop-style wood lathe that doesn’t take much floor space. If you got ample space in your workshop, you could always go for a 42-inch bed. 

You should likewise consider the height of the wood lathe. Choose something that affords you more comfort when working on it. Since you will be standing more often when working on your wood lathe, you need to choose a lathe with a convenient height. 

Moreover, it will also be useful to consider its weight, especially if you intend to use it as benchtop equipment. Bench-style lathes are usually installed on the tabletop.

Motor Size

When selecting a lathe, it will also help to check out the motor size of the lathe. The motor power will determine the range of speed of the lathe. Moreover, it will determine the needed horsepower and voltage of your lathe. 

The speed range is valuable because you can get the best speed for a given project with a variable and wider range of speed. Moreover, with a variable speed rate, you will have more flexibility in determining the appropriate speed when working on your project.

Budget

Your budget will likewise have a bearing on your choice of a wood lathe. In fact, it will determine the range of wood lathes that you can buy and the features of lathes that you can buy. In a way, your budget will determine what you will get.

If your budget is within the range of $200 and $500, you can only buy something like a mini lathe within that price range. Yet, if your budget is higher than that, you can always choose according to your whims and fancies.

Wood Lathe’s Accessories

While a wood lathe may not break the bank, the accessories and essential tools that should come with the wood lathe may add up to your expenses, especially if you become more engrossed in woodturning and delve deeper into this craft. 

Moreover, wood lathes come with specifications, and these specifications will usually dictate the types of accessories that you will be buying for your wood lathe.

5 Most Recommended Wood Lathes in the Market for Beginners

The market is awash with varied types of wood lathes, and this makes choosing a bit confusing. Nevertheless, to jumpstart your woodturning career, you can check out the following most recommended wood lathes for beginners:


1) SHOP FOX W1704

If you are a professional craftsman, you will indeed not consider this model. Yet, if you are a beginner, you will love to have this one for a start. This one features an under-powered motor that is not suited for more advanced and demanding projects. Nevertheless, it is excellent for beginners. 

The SHOP FOX W1704 features a 1/3 HP, 2-amp motor. It also features an 8-inch swing over the bed and has a cast-iron construction. Furthermore, it offers variable speed control. It also has a 12-inch distance between centers. 

The SHOP FOX W1704 also comes with two tool rests, a 4-1/2 and a 7-inch tool rest for different turning applications.


2) JET JWL-1221VS 12″x21″

JET JWL-1221VS 12 “x21” is a lathe that you can use as a benchtop or a floor standing lathe along with a base (optional). It offers a better design and features that could make your woodturning experience even better. Its main focus is better control.

It offers variable speed from 60 RPM to 3,600 RPM. It also comes with a spring-loaded (integrated) spindle lock. Moreover, it features conveniently located controls as well as DRO. 

It features a forward to reverse smooth transition. It also offers a belt tension system (ratchet-style) that is very innovative. Moreover, it offers 24 (integrated) indexing positions. 

This wood lathe also comes with a three-step pulley that lets you toy with a variable speed controller to easily adjust its speeds from 60 RP to 900 RPM for the low step, 110 RPM-1800 RPM for the medium or second step, and 220 to 3600 RPM for high-speed range. You simply change the belt to transition to a different speed range.


3) Nova 71118 Comet II DR – Midi Lathe

One of the most distinguished brands in lathe manufacturing is Nova, and one of its best products for beginners is the Nova 71118 Comet II DR – Midi Lathe. It features a speed range of 250 to 4,000 RPM and offers a powerful electronic variable speed motor. It has a great design with its digital readout that lets you dial-in the right speed for a task, conditions, and material, allowing you greater flexibility with the lathe’s speed. 

Nova 71118 also features a forward/reverse control or switch that lets you achieve a superior finish. With this lathe, you can work well with projects like bowls, pens, and spindles. This switch, of course, offers extra flexibility. It also features a 3-step pulley system that offers varied speed range while letting you have maximum flexibility. The extra two steps provide additional torque for use in more demanding applications.


4) RIKON 70-100 Mini Lathe

The RIKON 70-100 Mini Lathe—as the largest mini-lathe when it comes to swing capacity—is perfect for beginners. It lets you engage in more tasks without using a bulky lathe machine. It has easy access to speed change that provides you with more elbow room for speed change. 

It features a self-ejecting tailstock that does not need the knock-out bar for removing the center. It also comes with a laser-engraved ram with 2-1/2″ travel. Besides, it allows for multiple extensions, and a 1/2-hp motor powers it.

It comes with six-speed settings from which you can quickly select the desired speed. It has a unique indexing head with 12 positions. It also lets you lock your workpiece in different positions for more improved accuracy of works like layouts, straight fluting, drilling, grooving, etc.


5) WEN 34018 Variable Speed Wood Lathe

The WEN 34018 Variable Speed Wood Lathe is a bench-style wood lathe designed for small projects, and for this reason, it is perfect for beginner’s use and for projects that require spindle/swing capacity and limited power. 

This wood lathe features a flat wrench and two hex wrenches, measuring 3mm and 5mm. It also comes with an accessory holder and a headstock spur center. Moreover, it comes with a knockout rod and a tailstock cup center. 

The WEN 34018 offers variable speed from 450 RPM to 3500 RPM. It can handle workpieces up to 12″ wide and 18″ long. It also provides soft startups that prevent damage to its 4.5-amp motor and your workpiece. 

Furthermore, it features a digital speed display and 8-inch tool rest. It also comes with a faceplate, a spur center, and a live center. Moreover, it comes with a two-year warranty. You can increase its capacity to 12″ by 41″ using the WEN 3424EX table extension that is sold separately.


Conclusion

As a beginner in woodturning, you may find yourself struggling to choose the right wood lathe that can kickstart your woodturning career. Given the plethora of wood lathe brands and models in the market today, choosing becomes a bit tricky and confusing. Yet, if you are cognizant of the above-mentioned essential factors when choosing a lathe for beginners and the most recommended wood lathes for beginners, you can indeed zero in on the most appropriate model for your needs. 

The right wood lathe for beginners will enable you to learn the basics of woodturning. Later, when you have learned the rudiments of this craft, you can transition to more expensive and feature-packed wood lathes to raise your skills in woodturning a notch higher.

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