October 4, 2023
You might have seen an experienced woodturner transformed a raw block of wood into a magnificent bowl, and I am pretty sure that you were amazed by the skill of that woodturner. Well, the sight of him—woodturning—might have taken you aback likewise, thinking that woodturning is difficult. But woodturning, as a form of woodworking, is not that difficult. As long as you perfectly understand how to use the lathe properly and are cognizant of the techniques in using the different tools, you can become an efficient and effective woodturner.
As you begin to hone your skill as a woodturner, you will indeed use wood lathes for turning bowls. It is easy to do. You simply need to suspend your block of wood between the headstock and the rear spindle. Then, turn along the wood piece length while you use your different tools, and this process is called spindle turning.
With this process, you can create beautiful pieces like long and ornate table legs and other wood-turning crafts. You can even produce ornate bottle stoppers and pens using this method. Another way of using your lathe is to connect the wood piece to the headstock. You can create wooden bowls using this method. With this method, you can shape the inside and outside of the wood piece to make those exquisite bowls.
However, choosing the best wood lathe for bowl-turning is not easy, given the myriads of wood lathes in the market today. Hence, you need to know the essential factors to consider when buying a wood lathe for bowl turning.
Which Components You Should Look for in Wood Lathe for Turning Bowls
When selecting a wood lathe, besides looking at the factors to consider, you also need to look into the essential components that a wood lathe should have for turning bowls:
The Bowl’s Bed: The lathe comes with many components, and these components rest on the bed. The bed, of course, is a rectangular frame on which the carriage moves. It plays a special function in figuring out the tool’s swing. So, when selecting a lathe, you should choose something that provides the best bed.
The Tailstock: The tailstock is the bed’s end that holds the wood piece. You can slide or adjust it to deal with various workpieces. Take a look at the tailstock of the lathe before you buying it.
The Tool Rest: The tool rest is a wood lathe component that you can move along the bed. It holds the tools that you are going to use to shape the workpiece. The size of the tool rest, of course, depends on your preference and your needs.
The Chuck: It is attached to the lathe’s spindle. Its primary function is to hold your workpiece in place as it spins. It features three jaws or more depending on the type of machine you are using.
Spindle: The spindle turns the workpiece so that you can work on it. It is connected to the lathe’s motor through the long shaft that turns it. The chuck is attached to the spindle, and it also holds your wood piece.
Lathe’s Speed Gauge: The speed gauge is an essential part of the lathe. It provides you enough freedom to adjust the turning speed of the spindle. It also lets you have an easy way of figuring out the speed of the lathe.
The Best Wood Lathes for Turning Bowls
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Besides knowing the essential factors to consider and the important components of the wood lathe, it will be best to know the following most recommended wood lathes for turning bowls to facilitate the choosing process for you:
1) Delta Industrial 46-460
The Delta Industrial 46-460 is a highly recommended wood lathe for bowl turning. It features a powerful one-horsepower motor that produces around 1,750 RPM. Thus, it has enough speed and torque for handling your different bowl-turning projects. If you want to slow it down, you can slow it down to 250 RPM to engage in large creations.
The Delta Industrial 46-460 features a reversible electronic variable speed along with a pulley system to minimize chatter and vibration. It also comes with a patented belt-tensioning system for easy and quick changes of speed.
This wood lathe features a 12-1/2″ swing capacity that offers the largest capacity in this class. It also comes with a one-inch spindle -8 RH TPI thread. Moreover, its forward and reverse function lets the turner achieve an excellent finish. It is indeed a perfect choice for bowl turning.
2) JET JWL-1015 Wood Lathe (719100)
The JET JWL-1015 is a compact woodworking lathe that you can use when bowl-turning anything below 10 inches in diameter workpieces. Its 15-1/2″ center-to-center length is enough for any type of bowl-turning project. With the JET JWL-1015, you can even take some mid-sized projects.
The JET JWL-1015 also features 24-position indexing. It also features an improved tensioning system with easy access to its belts. Moreover, it offers increased rigidity and broader bed ways. Its maximum speed is 4000 RPM, while it can slow down to 500 RPM. Besides, its six-speed settings will be enough for most woodworkers.
3) WEN 34027
The WEN 34027 features an MT1 spindle with tailstock taper that has an essential function in gripping your workpieces. It also comes with 4-1/2 and 7″ tool rests to support your tools while working on your projects. Moreover, it has a 2A motor that enables its spindle to turn.
The WEN 34027 is relatively easy to adjust. Its tool rest, as well as its tailstock, is movable, because of its lever clamping system. It also comes with a flat wrench, a knockout rod, a headstock spur center, and a tailstock cup center.
Furthermore, it comes with a 5-inch faceplate for bowl-turning projects. It also comes with a two-year warranty. Moreover, you can increase its capacity up to 12 x 39 inches using the WEN 34027EX Table Extension that you can buy separately.
4) RIKON Power Tools 70-220VSR
The RIKON Power Tools 70-220VSR features a powerful 1HP motor that provides you with enough power to allow you to engage in a wide array of woodworking projects that include the creation of large bowls and platters. It features a turning capacity of 12-1/2″ swing and 20″ between centers.
The RIKON 70-220VSR has 24 position index that lets you make accurate patterns and designs on your wood pieces. It also offers electronic variable speeds from 250 RPM to 3,800 RPM. Moreover, it features a LED display and features reversible functions of forward and reverse. With its sterling features, this lathe machine is an ideal choice for bowl-turning projects.
5) NOVA 46300 Comet II
The NOVA 46300 Comet II is a portable and space-saving wood lathe that delivers the capacity that you will need to perform your woodturning activities. It also exhibits a rugged stability characteristic of larger lathes. Besides, it is ideal for performing a wide array of woodworking projects.
The NOVA 46300 has a digital display along with a dial-in speed control for optimum use and convenience. It also has a bowl-turning capacity of 12,” and between centers of 16.5″, which you can also extend to 42″ with its optional bed extension that is sold separately.
The NOVA 46300 features a powerful 3.4HP motor with a speed range of 250 to 4,000 RPM. Its spindle thread is 1″ x 8TPI RH. Its tailstock is 2MT hollow with quill travel of 1.6″. With its 42-inch extension kit, it sets itself apart from other desktop lathes. This extension gives its users enough elbow room for working and actualizing your woodworking ideas.
Factors that Make a Lathe Perfect for Bowl Turning
To zero in on the ideal lathe for bowl turning, you need to know the characteristics and factors that make a lathe excellent for bowl turning. Here is a rundown of the elements you need to consider when selecting a lathe for bowl turning:
The Spindle Diameter
The main feature you need to consider when choosing a wood lathe for bowl-turning is the spindle diameter. You will find a 1-inch spindle in small and in the mid-size lathe with eight threads each inch. This feature, of course, will be enough to turn bowls up to 12 inches in diameter. As you go up in size, you will also need a lathe with a larger size. So, make sure you choose a lathe that has the appropriate spindle diameter for your needs.
You can use lathes of different sizes and still end up doing great with your bowl-turning activities. Yet, it will be helpful to use a lathe appropriate for the bowl size you would like to create. If you don’t intend to make 10″ diameter bowls, you can get by with a smaller lathe. Nevertheless, with a larger lathe, you can create large bowls at whim.
Moreover, larger lathes tend to be sturdier and more durable. Besides, they can handle a substantial amount of bowl-turning jobs without caving in or shaking much.
Distance from Center to Center
It will also help to consider the distance between the center of the tailstock and the spindle nose. This distance also dictates the bowl’s maximum size you can create and work on. If you intend to engage in bowl turning, you will not need a considerable center-to-center distance. In fact, you can almost do anything if you have a 16″ length. You will also find lathes with extension kits to augment the center-to-center distance, and it will be great to have that option.
Another factor to consider is the swing size or the center height that goes over the tool base. This factor will also help you determine the bowl size you can work on. The swing is essentially the measurement of the diameter of the bowl. It is also the lathe’s width capacity.
You should look for 12″ swing capacity or more if you intend to make larger bowls. But most people can indeed get by with a 10″.
Speed and Power
Your power requirement will usually depend on several factors like the type of material you are working on, the material’s wetness, and many other factors. It will be best to remember that the wood lathe’s power should be commensurate to your requirement.
Of course, the wood lathe’s power rating is best pegged at 75%, for more often, the lathe’s power is overstated. If you are only kickstarting your woodworking activity, it will be advisable to get an entry-level lathe.
Your choice of wood lathe would usually boil down to your bowl-turning needs. If you are only jumpstarting your career as a bowl-turner, it would be best to choose a beginner’s lathe—something small that can address your beginner’s need. You can then transition to a larger and more powerful lathe as you get more experienced in your craft and become desirous of raising your bowl-turning skills a notch higher.
An excellent lathe is indeed a worthwhile investment as a woodworker, yet the choosing process is a bit confusing. Nevertheless, given the abovementioned recommendation of experts about the most recommended lathes in the market today, you can indeed zero in on the ideal lathe for your bowl turning needs.
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.