If you’re looking for helpful tools to add to your shop, you have to consider buying the best wood lathes for your woodworking projects. From wood turning up to cutting, this equipment will deliver enough power and speed to handle small to large projects. But not all are made with equal efficiency and durability. With this in mind, our resident craftsmen share their top picks for wood lathe. 

Premium Option
Laguna Tools MLAREVO 1836-110
Editor’s Choice
JET JWL-101 Wood Lathe
Budget Option
PSI Woodworking KWL-1218VS
Laguna Tools MLAREVO 1836-110
JET JWL-101 Wood Lathe
https://www.sawinery.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/PSI-Woodworking-KWL-1218VS.png
• Digital RPM readout
• Durable cast iron construction
• 32-inch swing capacity
• Induction-type motor
• Full-length headstock spur center
• 24 indexing positions
• Speed range: 500-3975 RPM
• Reliable tensioning system
• Optional lathe accessories
• Easy access belt tension system
• 1 HP variable speed midi lathe
• Speed range of 500 to 3800 RPM
• Solid cast-iron base & rubber feet
• Dual belt position
• 12-inch swing over bed
Premium Option
Laguna Tools MLAREVO 1836-110
Laguna Tools MLAREVO 1836-110
• Digital RPM readout
• Durable cast iron construction
• 32-inch swing capacity
• Induction-type motor
• Full-length headstock spur center
Editor’s Choice
JET JWL-101 Wood Lathe
JET JWL-101 Wood Lathe
• 24 indexing positions
• Speed range: 500-3975 RPM
• Reliable tensioning system
• Optional lathe accessories
• Easy access belt tension system
Budget Option
PSI Woodworking KWL-1218VS
https://www.sawinery.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/PSI-Woodworking-KWL-1218VS.png
• 1 HP variable speed midi lathe
• Speed range of 500 to 3800 RPM
• Solid cast-iron base & rubber feet
• Dual belt position
• 12-inch swing over bed

Reviews of the Best Wood Lathes

1. JET JWL-101 Wood Lathe

Among all JET wood lathe models tested by our woodworking experts, JET JWL-101 takes a place in this roundup for its large swing capacity, 21-inch bed extension, and easy to access patented belt tensioning system. 

This benchtop lathe has a flexible range, allowing any user to choose from its six spindle speeds from 500 RPM, 840 RPM, 1240 RPM, 1800 RPM, 2630 RPM, and 3975 RPM. Considering that this mini lathe has 24 indexing positions and broad bed ways, our DIY enthusiasts can proudly say that this is also the ideal wood lathe for new woodturners. 

Pros

Cons

2. Laguna Tools MLAREVO 1836-110

They said looks could be deceiving, but Laguna Tools MLAREVO 1836-110 definitely lived up to our high expectations with its cast-iron legs, digital readout, and impressive spindle speed ranges of 50 to 3500 RPM. 

Although it can be more expensive than getting a regular mini lathe for your workshop, its cast-iron construction and anodized aluminum control panel will surely stand the test of time and save you more money in the long run. Its sturdy table legs also dispel any workflow interruptions, and its digital readout feature is exceptionally accurate too. 

Pros

Cons

3. PSI Woodworking KWL-1218VS

If an affordable midi lathe is what you seek, then we highly recommend purchasing PSI Woodworking KWL-1218VS. Equipped with 1 HP high-performance induction motor and two belt options of 500-1800 RPM &1950-3800 RPM, these midi lathes deliver accurate variable speed controls and long-lasting reliability. 

We’re also pleasantly surprised with the delightful inclusions of this mini wood lathe, such as its six and 12-inch tool rests, knockout rod, storage for wood stock, and work lights. It also has #2MT Headstock and Tailstock Taper. 

And did we mention that its base is highly compatible with an extension bed? Through this, your wood lathe can handle 42-inch wood turning projects. 

Pros

Cons

4. JET JWL-1221VS Variable-Speed Lathe

The best wood lathes for your woodturning projects must have a flexible variable speed option and innovative ratchet-style belt tension system — and that’s exactly what JWL-1221VS gave us during the series of tests we conducted. 

With its three-pulley speed ranges of 60 to 900 RPM, 110 to 1800 RPM, and 220 to 3600 RPM, users of this wood lathe tool can expect optimum performance and better variable speed control. It also has a smooth forward and reverse function that makes the entire woodworking production easier.

Pros

Cons

5. WEN 3421 Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe

Another affordable option you can consider if you don’t have much budget to spare is WEN 3421 Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe. As the most top-rated product on this list, it’s no surprise how well this wood lathe performed during our evaluations with its impressive variable speeds ranging from 750 to 3200 rotations per minute. 

Both the tool rest attachments are interchangeable, measuring between 4-1/2 inches and 7 inches. Aside from that, this wood lathe is fully geared with a flat wrench, headstock center, tailstock, and a knock-out bar. 

Pros

Cons

6. JET Wood Lathe JWL-1440VSK

Just when we thought we’re done checking out JET lathe tools, the JET JWL-1440VSK eventually came to the surface and impressed our resident woodworkers during the initial tests. This premium-grade wood lathe assures its users with safety features like a securely locked tool rest and an On/Off switch despite its price tag. 

Featuring seven locking positions thanks to its headstock slider, we can assure you that your new wood lathe tool can flexibly pivot at a 360-degree angle. On top of that, this tool operates between 400 to 3000 RPM, giving users the advantage of speed during woodworking production. 

Pros

Cons

7. Powermatic PM2014 Lathe

Coming from a trusted brand, Powermatic PM2014 Wood Lathe proved its place in this product roundup with its height-adjustable design and glides perfect for adjusting the leveling of the tool during the woodworking process.

This premium wood lathe option also features optional accessories such as an LED work light, a bed extension for a more expansive workspace, and a tool rest extension. There’s also no need to worry about motor vibration that often interrupts and damages the quality of woodwork because this tool has a cast iron bed that dispels noise and adds protection. 

(For more great brands, you can also check our review of Grizzly G0766 here

Pros

Cons

Wood Lathes Buyer’s Guide

Size and Capacity

It’s no secret that wood lathe tools come in different sizes depending on the brand and type you’ll choose to purchase. However, what really matters when choosing this equipment is the available space in your woodworking shop. Full-sized lathes usually range 4 feet in size; that’s why it’s crucial to ensure that you have enough floor space before proceeding to buy. 

On the other hand, the capacity of your wood lathe can be categorized into two features. First, you must consider the distance between the headstock and the tailstock (DBC). This type of measurement determines the total length capacity of the wood material that your lathe can handle. You should also consider the type of projects you’ll be doing to avoid inconvenience. 

The second one is the SOB which indicates the maximum diameter of the material suitable for your wood lathe to work on. Smaller lathes meant for minor wood projects are usually sized around six inches, while regular ones are 15 inches or higher. 

Weight

Some wood lathe designs can be heavy and will require a sturdy surface when being used to avoid undesirable accidents along the way. The weight of your purchased lathe also helps in damping the vibration of the motor and results in better woodwork. 

Stability

The feature that determines the stability of your wood lathe is its base. For detailed woodworks like drilling hole patterns can cause interruptive vibration from rotating wood mass, motor, belts, and the drive system itself. 

Oftentimes, these interruptions lead to safety hazards or end up ruining your entire woodwork project. Having a wood lathe with a stable base will help prevent this situation from happening. Having a solid foundation like a cast-iron structure will keep your material steady even while you’re drilling. 

Cast-iron materials are usually dense and heavy, so vibrations are naturally dispelled and decreased in this kind of metal. Most mini wood lathes available in the market nowadays features this kind of construction to make sure that their mobility doesn’t hinder the quality of your woodworking experience and output. 

Speed

Another critical feature you need to look at when shopping for wood lathes for your workshop is the speed of the machine measured in rotations per minute or RPM [1]. You may not know it, but the speed rate of your wood lathe is directly aligned with the power output. It can range from 250 to 4000 RPM, depending on the product you’ll choose. 

Always keep in mind that the ideal speed for your chosen wood lathe equipment highly depends on the size of the wood stock you’ll be using in your project. For smaller wood pieces that need intricate cuts, your wood lathe must rotate faster compared to more extensive materials that require a more controlled set of movements. 

Tool Rest

As you may already know, a wood lathe is meant to support different woodworking procedures. With its critical role in the process, it has to be safer and convenient to use, and that’s where tool rest attachments come into play. 

These horizontal bars integrated into your wood lathe equipment provides the users enough space to place the tools so that it may remain stable while crafting on the rotating material. 

Most regular-sized lathes are already designed with tool rests, but the bigger ones especially tend to include extending tool rests to accommodate better positions as some complex projects deal with larger blocks of materials and intricate wood patterns.

The most important thing to watch out for is the distance between the tool rest and the rotating mass because this will determine the level of appropriate tool support that the user will be getting. Typically, you’d want these tool support to maintain close distance (but not too close) to maintain utmost stability.

Safety Features

Woodworking isn’t a simple activity, and even casual DIY enthusiasts will agree on this matter, which is why we highly recommend wood lathes with specific safety features like rubber feet, tool rest locks, and other accessories. 

It also helps if you wear protective gear such as gloves that fit well to prevent unintentional cuts on flesh and face shields to protect yourself from flying chips. Wearing loose clothes, watches, or any accessories is also not advisable when dealing with tools like wood lathes.

Type of Wood Lathe

There are three types of wood lathe you can choose from if you find yourself needing one for your woodworking shop. First on the list is the mini or benchtop lathes. This type of woodturning equipment has less than 20 inches DBC. 

It can be an ideal option if you have a small working area and you’re crafting intricate projects that need delicate cuts. And because it’s sold cheaper than other lathes in the market, it can be an excellent option for budding woodworkers or DIY hobbyists.

On the other hand, midi wood lathes have the same DBC measurement as benchtops but cater no less than 12 inches of swing over the bed. Although it can take a slightly larger project than the prior mentioned, this also means that the pricing for this type of wood lathe can be higher but still relatively affordable than the next one.

Last but not least is the full-sized lathe. If you have a spacious woodworking shop and you’re working on different types of projects along the way, then this option is the right choice for you. Generally, lathes of this size stand at least 4 feet and give users better access. 

The distance between centers of these lathes ranged up to 45 inches, and the Swing Over Bed (SOB) features a diameter capacity of 15 inches. The massive size of this tool also means more weight and power, so they tend to be pricier than the other two. You also have to ensure that you have enough workspace and sturdy ground to accommodate its construction.    

Accessories

Aside from integrated features, wood lathes also come with different kinds of accessories. These added tools help woodworkers like us achieve better results. Take chisels as an example. This flat-edged tool will quickly give your wood piece a smooth surface if used appropriately during the woodworking process. 

Then, there are also gauges, which are often used for broader cuts. Several lathes also include spring calipers that help measure the wood’s diameter conveniently and hones that clean the edges of your wood lathes. Some manufacturers include these accessories when you purchase their products. 

Price and Warranty

The wood lathes sold in the market nowadays range between $100 to $3000, depending on the brand, components, accessories, type, and size. Although you may be tempted to buy the affordable ones more than the slightly expensive options, always remember to consider the kind of project you’re taking on and the materials that your wood lathe will handle. 

As for the warranty policies, it highly varies per product or brand. Some offer a one to three years warranty and a 30 to 60 days return policy, but you cannot take advantage of these offers if you didn’t buy the wood lathe from an authorized seller. 

FAQ

What's the best wood lathe for beginners?

The best wood lathe for beginners is JET’s JWL-101. Aside from its affordable pricing compared to other wood lathes, this benchtop wood lathe has multiple speed range options and 24 indexing positions, suitable for any wood turning activities. This mini wood lathe is also portable and won’t take a lot of space in your workshop.

What is the best wood for turning?

The best wood for turning is walnut for lathes with an average speed of 800 to 1000 RPM that requires sharper tools. Some other popular options are hardwoods like maple, cherry, ash, and birch, as they turn really well during the procedure. For an easier woodturning experience, you can also give poplar wood a try. 

Are wood lathes dangerous?

No, wood lathes are not dangerous if used in a proper manner. As long as you’re wearing the correct personal protective equipment like face shields, working gloves that fit well, and sturdy shoes, you can avoid being hit by debris from the rotating mass. It also speeds up to 4000 RPM, so it’s best to avoid loose clothing.

Our Top Pick For a Wood Lathe:
JET JWL-101 Wood Lathe

Considering its user-friendliness and versatility in different projects like turning bowls, cups, and other workpieces, our workshop experts decided to hail JET JWL-101 as our top pick in this product roundup. Despite not being massive, the best wood lathes must feature affordable pricing and multiple speed control options, which this product definitely has. 

For related pages, you can also check our list below: 

Best beginner wood lathe

Robert