What is the Best Wood Lathe This 2024? — For Bowl Turning and Other Projects

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When I’m scouting for top-notch tools to enhance my shop, I always prioritize getting the best wood lathes for my woodworking endeavors. From turning to cutting, these machines offer the power and speed I need for projects both big and small.

However, I’ve learned from experience that not all lathes are created equal in terms of efficiency and durability. With that knowledge, I’d like to share my personal top picks for wood lathes.

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 Top Wood Lathes

1. JET JWL-101 Wood Lathe

Among all JET wood lathe models tested by me, 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 stands out with its adaptable range, providing a choice of six spindle speeds ranging from 500 to 3975 RPM. What impresses me is its 24 indexing positions and wide bed ways, a configuration that, in my opinion, makes it an excellent selection for those new to woodturning. I’ve found that even DIY enthusiasts, who are just starting their journey in this craft, can handle this tool with ease and confidence.

What I Like

What I Don’t Like

2. Laguna Tools MLAREVO 1836-110

They said looks could be deceiving, but Laguna Tools MLAREVO 1836-110 definitely lived up to my 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. 

What I Like

What I Don’t Like

3. PSI Woodworking KWL-1218VS

If an affordable midi lathe is what you seek, then I 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. 

I’m 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 I mention that its base is highly compatible with an extension bed? Through this, your wood lathe can handle 42-inch wood turning projects

What I Like

What I Don’t Like

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 I conducted. 

From my hands-on experience with various lathes, this particular one stands out. Its three-pulley speed ranges, spanning from 60 to 3600 RPM, allow me to achieve the best performance and finely tuned speed control. Moreover, the smooth forward and reverse function simplifies the entire woodworking process for me. It’s these details that make a significant difference in my work.

What I Like

What I Don’t Like

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 my 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. 

What I Like

What I Don’t Like

6. JET Wood Lathe JWL-1440VSK

Just when I thought I’m done checking out JET lathe tools, the JET JWL-1440VSK eventually came to the surface and impressed me 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, I 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. 

What I Like

What I Don’t Like

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 my review of Grizzly G0766 here

What I Like

What I Don’t Like

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. 

When considering the capacity of a wood lathe, there are two crucial features to focus on. First off, I always take into account the distance between the headstock and the tailstock (DBC). This measurement is essential as it dictates the total length of wood material that the lathe can accommodate. Based on the projects I undertake, considering this aspect is imperative to avoid any operational inconveniences.

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 stability of your wood lathe is primarily determined by its base. When performing detailed woodwork, such as drilling hole patterns, it’s important to consider potential vibrations caused by the rotating wood mass, motor, belts, and drive system. A solid and sturdy base is crucial to minimize disruptive vibrations during operation.

Oftentimes, these interruptions lead to safety hazards or end up ruining your entire woodwork project. As an alternative to ideal small-sized metal lathes, 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

I understand that a wood lathe is designed to facilitate various woodworking techniques. Given its pivotal role in the process, it’s essential for it to be both safe and convenient to use. That’s precisely why I value tool rest attachments so highly in my workflow.

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 I 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. 

I’ve seen models where the distance between centers can reach up to 45 inches, and their Swing Over Bed (SOB) boasts a diameter capacity of 15 inches. Naturally, with such a hefty size comes increased weight and power, making them a bit more of an investment compared to some other models. From my experience, it’s essential to ensure you have ample workspace and a solid foundation to house such a substantial piece of equipment.

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 hardwood 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.

My 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, I decided to hail JET JWL-101 as our top pick in this product roundup. Despite not being massive, excellent wood lathes must have affordable pricing and feature multiple speed control options, which this product definitely has. 

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

robert headshot

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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