October 4, 2023
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.
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:
Last update on 2023-11-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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) Laguna Tools Model MLAREVO 1836-110
Another excellent wood lathe for beginners is the Laguna Tools Revo Lathe. It features a bed wrought in stainless steel. This bed provides a tender rail for the headstock to move smoothly. Moreover, this feature lessens wear and tear and lengthens the device’s lifespan.
The Laguna Tools Revo Lathe features an electronic speed dial that allows easy conversion from one phase to another. With this dial, you can enhance the efficiency of your work. This tool offers a two-speed range. Its RPM, however, ranges from 135 RPM to 3,500 RPM, and low operation, ranging from 50 RPM to 1,300 RPM, allowing you to wood turn soft and hard materials.
The Laguna Tools Revo Lathe showcases a considerable distance between its two lock centers, enhancing reliability. It also features a spindle lock (spring-loaded) that showcases up to 32″ maximum outboard swing for improved rigidity and flexibility.
- Features a self-expelling floor to its spindle center
- Comes with a 2HP induction motor
- Exhibits 1-phase input and 3-phase output
- Offers only two-speed range
3) Delta Industrial 46-460
Another great option if you’re looking for a wood lathe for beginners is the Delta Industrial 46-460. This one comes with a 1Hp motor that can handle challenging tasks. Using this wood lathe, you can get the hang of the use of the lathe machine quickly.
It features a 12-1/2″ swing, which is wide enough for any type of project. You can also extend its bed length using an extension up to 42″ to have enough room for your larger projects.
The Delta Industrial 46-460 offers variable speed. It comes with three-pully speed ranges that provide the needed speed to wood turn projects sans altering the belt position.
It also has forward and reverse spinning functionality, enabling the turner to produce a superior finish. Besides, it is capable of 1,725 maximum RPM. The kit also comes with 6″ and 10″ tool rests.
- Has a powerful motor
- Offers wider swing
- Stretchable bed length up to 42.”
- Comes with a five-year warranty
- Speed is limited to 1,725 RPM
- Manual variable speed
4) 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.
5) 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.
6) 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.
7) 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.
8) PSI Woodworking KWL-1018VS
Although MiDi lathes usually don’t come with many accessories and features, this one is an exception. The PSI Woodworking KWL-1018VS has a 3/4 HP motor with variable speed, allowing you to adjust your speed accordingly. It features an SBC microprocessor that delivers a more advanced setup for this midi lathe.
Its swing-over bed is around 12 inches, and the distance between centers is about 18 inches. Yet, you can extend it up to 42 inches for more extended materials. Besides, it comes with rubber feet to reduce movement and lessen vibrations.
- Offers variable speed
- Comes with a work light
- The kit features decent accessories
- Work light can be flimsy
9) Powermatic 1352001 Model 3520B
If you’re looking for a top-range and powerful wood lathe, check out the Powermatic 1352001 Model 3520B. It comes with a 2HP motor. This lathe is perfect for beginners and experienced users of wood lathes. It features a solid and stable machine whose base is carefully constructed with machined walls made of cast iron. This heavier base enhances stability, preventing the device from vibrating and moving.
The Powermatic 1352001 Model 3520B features a 20″ swing with expansive capacity, allowing you to turn a wide array of project sizes. This lathe machine can work either in a single-phase or three-phase power supply.
The Powermatic 1352001 Model 3520B comes with conveniently situated controls located on its headstock front. It also comes with a speed control dial for regulating unlimited RPM. Besides, it also with a toggle switch for reverse and forward.
This wood lathe also features an easy-to-read LED display. It also comes with an On and Off Switch for easy turning on and off. Moreover, it comes with a built-in inverter that includes a safety feature to prevent sudden starting up. It also comes with Poly V-belt that is resistant to surging. This belt connects two pulleys.
- Features a powerful motor
- Exhibits sterling stability with its heavier base
- Features conveniently situated controls
- Comes with an easy-to-read LED display
- A bit expensive
10) Excelsior Mini Lathe
The Excelsior Mini Lathe is a pretty impressive lathe for its price. You will find this the perfect lathe to get the hang of woodturning. You can engage in woodturning using this lathe with a maximum diameter of ten inches. Moreover, you can work on any workpiece with a maximum spindle length of 17-3/40.” Thus, you can use this lathe for making chair legs, small table legs, etc.
You can quickly access its belts for easy adjustments. You can also set this lathe in variable speed with its five-speed range. Besides, this lathe features a cast-iron construction, providing this machine with well-balanced stability, reducing vibrations and movements.
- Offers five variable speeds
- Allows easy access to belts
- Comes with rubberized feet
- Features a six-foot tool rest
- Comes with an 18″ center distance
- Features a bit lower center distance
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:
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.
Types of Wood Lathe
When selecting a wood lathe, it will help if you know the different wood lathe types. Wood lathes come in mini, midi, and full sizes. Mini lathes have a range of 8 to 10 inches swing-over-the-bed. Their distance between centers is about 15 inches, though some may even reach eighteen inches.
The mini lathes, of course, are the less expensive ones, ranging from $100 to $600. These lathes are perfect for beginners but most suitable for use by pen turners. They also offer a higher speed range than larger models.
MiDi Lathes, however, offers around 12 to 14 inches of swing. You can also use an extension to extend it. Such lathes are perfect for beginners who still can’t decide which projects to engage in.
The last type of lathe is the full-size lathe. These lathes are best for professional use and come with a 22″ swing and maximum extension of ten feet. These are the best lathes if you want to raise your lathing activities a notch higher.
Lathe machines come in different designs and sizes. So, when choosing a lathe machine, you will need to decide which size is best for your workshop and needs. A suitable dimension for a lathe is somewhere between 60 inches to 70 inches long. Its width should be about 18 to 23 inches, while its height should be about 12 to 18 inches.
If you get something with the appropriate dimensions for your needs, you can comfortably finish your projects. Besides, you should consider if the lathe you choose would fit into your workshop.
Another essential factor to consider is rotation. The wood lathe machine’s headstock rotates at tremendous rotational motion. The tailstock grasps the wood tightly. Moreover, the chuck of the headstock can rotate at different angles. So, you need to know these rotational angles and use these rotational angles to your advantage.
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.
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.
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.
When using a lathe, you need to prioritize your safety. Many accidents have already happened with the use of a lathe. So, it will be good not to add to the statistics of those injured using the lathe. So, when selecting a lathe, go for something with many safety features.
Besides, you should also know the safety protocols when using the lathe. Wear your safety gear like earplugs and safety goggles. Ensure that you are safely away from the spinning edge.
Some accessories can make the use of wood lathe more convenient, safe, and easy. Some accessories provide you with a work light that illumines your workpiece while working on it. Besides, you will find lathes with onboard storage. This storage can make the storage of your tools easy and convenient.
Similarly, some lathe machines come with digital display systems. These systems can make monitoring the lathe’s speed and other factors easy and convenient.
Machines will indeed undergo wear and tear over time. Besides, not all devices are perfectly made. So, it will be best to consider the warranty that comes with the lathe you will buy. Such a warranty can guarantee protection as a consumer if the lathe you buy becomes defective within the warranty period. Go for products with a decent warranty. A five-year warranty is a reasonable warranty period.
Frequently Asked Questions
Aside from knowing the best lathes for beginners and the essential factors to consider when selecting a lathe for beginners, it will also help to understand the following FAQs about the wood lathe, for these might also be the questions you have in mind:
What Must-have Wood Lathe Features for Beginners?
The best wood lathe for beginners should be too small or too big. So, the MiDi wood lathes have the best size range for beginners. They got the correct dimensions for beginner’s projects. They can also accommodate extensions, allowing you to raise your wood-turning projects higher by engaging in larger projects.
Experts would recommend ShopFox and JET wood toolsets for beginners. These machines offer variable speed and better controls. Moreover, they are versatile for beginner’s use.
Which Wood Lathe Sizes Should You Get as a Beginner?
If you got ample space in your workshop, you could always go for larger wood lathe machines. Yet, if your area is limited, you can opt for lathe machines whose sizes range from 29″ to 36.”
Is It Hard to Use the Lathe as a beginner?
The use of the lathe is not that hard. Yet, you need to practice and undergo a particular learning curve to master its use. Remember that wood lathe machines belong to the most straightforward woodworking machines to learn.
Besides, lathe machines are intuitive. Moreover, there are plenty of tutorial videos online that could provide you with the rudiments of using the lathe machine.
How Much Would a Lathe Machine Cost?
Wood lathes come in a wide price range. The price, of course, depends on the model you will buy and the size of the model. The mini lathe comes with the lowest price range from $200 to $600. On the other hand, the MIDI lathes range between $600 to $1,500. Full-size lathe machines, however, range between $1,500 to $10,000.
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.
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker, carpenter and author who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.