Updated Nov, 2017
If you are looking for the best wood lathe, along with the detailed reviews, then you have reached the right place. Market is flooded with a variety of wood lathes, but selecting one for your needs can be an uphill task. In order to buy one, you should consider points such as ease of use, construction, speed and power.
But what is a wood lathe? A wood lathe is a simple device that lets one create beautifully carved woodwork. It comprises an electric motor, two points known as the headstock and the tailstock, and a gouge or chisel. A piece of wood is placed between the headstock and tailstock and the motor then turns this wood piece so that the chisel carves it.
Woodworkers always have a wood lathe in their tool kit so that they can create a wide variety of wooden items such as pens, table legs, salad bowls and banisters. Lathes may be simplistic tools, yet you may find it difficult to find the right one.
|Shop Fox W1836 Bench Top Wood Lathe||15" Between Centers||12" Swing Over Bed||(5 / 5) 10+ Reviews|
|Jet JWL-1015 Wood Working Lathe||15-1/2" Between Centers||10" Swing Over Bed||(5 / 5) 10+ Reviews|
|Shop Fox W1704 Benchtop Lathe||13" Between Centers||8" Swing Over Bed||(4 / 5) 90+ Reviews|
|RIKON 70-100 12-by-16-Inch Mini Lathe||16" Between Centers||12" Swing||(4.3 / 5) 40+ Reviews|
|Rockler Excelsior 5-Speed Mini Lathe||17-3/4" Between Centers||10" Swing||(4.5 / 5) 43+ Reviews|
5 Best Wood Lathe Reviews
Shop Fox W1836 Bench Top Wood Lathe
If you are looking for the best wood lathe in the mini wood lathe category, then you can consider the Shop Fox W1836 Bench Top Wood Lathe. Compared to the Rockler Excelsior, this one weighs about 4 pounds more at 85.4 pounds. It is packed with features that will suit a beginner woodworker. Equipped with a powerful ¾ HP motor with variable speed spindle control, this one has a digital RPM readout, which makes it easy to know your exact speed. The two spindle speeds are: 500-1800 RPM and 1000-3800 RPM. This means you can turn practically any decorative item on it. Don’t forget, it has a 12” swing over bed.
The cast iron construction of the Shop Fox W1836 makes sure that there are fewer vibrations while operating it. As compared to most other wood lathes where you have to change speeds manually, here you can change speeds with the turn of a knob (without changing the belts).
What’s more – you can increase the length of the Shop Fox W1836 by adding an additional bed extension. Being the best wood lathe for this price, it does a lot for a midi lathe. Read our detailed review about the Shop Fox W1836.
Jet JWL-1015 Wood Working Lathe Review
The Jet JWL-1015 is the perfect solution when turning bowls, pens, table legs, and an array of other wood items. It is powered by a 375W, ½ HP motor, and comes in 6 belt speeds. This mini wood lathe also has a variable speed option of 500-3900 RPM, which makes changing the speed easier. In order to change the speed you need to open the door to access the belt and pulleys. This can be an ordeal for a beginner woodworker, but once you get used to it, it can be done within moments. In fact you may actually like this over the wood lathes where you can change speeds with a knob.
Once again the Jet JWL-1015 is made from cast iron, which ensures low vibrations. It comes with a hollow tailstock and headstock in case you are planning on hollow boring. What actually makes it stand out from the competition is that it has the best alignment of centers.
Overall, this wood lathe will run for years backed by two years warranty. With a 10” swing over bed and a 15” between centers, it weighs only 70 pounds. Read our full review of the Jet JWL-1015.
Shop Fox W1704 Benchtop Lathe
Woodstock International’s Shop Fox W1704 is a sturdy bench top lathe made from cast iron. It is designed to fit almost any workbench. Even though it is not the most powerful option on the market, it is very stable and easy to set up. Equipped with 1/3 HP motor, it comes with a variable speed motor with speeds ranging from 700-3200 RPM.
Aimed towards beginner woodworkers, the Shop Fox W1704 has the option to change speeds from 700-3200 RPM by twisting a knob. This option is superb when you are turning soft or hard woods. Most other expensive mini wood lathes on the market don’t have this option.
With an 8” swing over bed and a 12” between centers, you can turn a wide array of wood pieces. A 5-3/4” faceplate is included with the product that threads onto the headstock spindle, in case of non-spindle turning. Read our detailed review on the Shop Fox W1704 over here.
RIKON 70-100 12-by-16-Inch Mini Lathe
The largest mini-lathe in the industry today, the RIKON 70-100 is a powerful machine, despite its diminutive size. By performing with superb capabilities in its niche area, it has skyrocketed the level of mini lathes to a much higher level. Not only does it turn pens, but it also creates platters, bowls, bottle stoppers, hollow vessels, drawer pulls and chair spindles.
With this mini lathe, you can change the speed of your device while working on a project. You can do this by accessing the cover to set the belt drive and alter the speed from 430 to 810, 1230, 1810, 2670 and 3900 RPM.
When buying a wood lathe, one important factor is the availability of accessories. With the RIKON 70-100 mini lathe, this is possible. In fact, you can find a range of accessories to customize your mini lathe such as lathe bed extensions, tool rests and face plates in different sizes, apart from lathe stands and their extensions, apart from other valuable accessories.
If you want to invest in a good quality and tested mini lathe, the Rikon is the best one to go with. Its top and dependable performance and good reputation has earned it the admiration and confidence of many customers. Read our RIKON 70-100 review.
Rockler Excelsior 5-Speed Mini Lathe
The Rockler Excelsior Mini Lathe stands out in several ways. This is because it has a 10” swing over bed, and can create spindles that are 17-3/4” in length. It can turn a wide array of wood pieces for various purposes, such as for small table legs, small chairs, and large bowls. Its cast iron body ensures that the machine’s vibrations are dampened when it is on. Known as the best small wood lathe in the industry, the Rockler Excelsior comes with five speed options: 760, 1100, 1600, 2200, and 3200 RPM.
By adding the Mini Bed Extension you can increase the overall length to 38-1/2”. You need to manually change the speed. The headstock and tailstock of this wood lathe have MT#2 Morse tapers. This means they can accept a large number of accessories. If that’s not all, the tailstock is self-extracting (when you retract the quill, the tailstock will come out easily).
Weighing about 81lbs, the Rockler Excelsior comes with a 6” tool rest that can be fitted on a cast iron banjo. It has cam-locking adjustment levers, ½ HP motor, spindle mounted on dual ball bearings, a chrome hardwheel, a four blade drive spur, and a 3” diameter faceplate. The Rockler Excelsior is definitely a sturdy mini lathe. Read our review on the Rockler Excelsior here.
Different Types of Wood Lathes
Floor mounted: These lathes are larger in size. They come with a stand that’s part of the tool. They are among the sturdier kinds of lathes. If you’re going to be working on a large project, this is the kind of lathe you should use.
Bench top: Most lathes fall under this category. These vary dramatically in size, so you would need to think hard about the size of bench top lathe you’d be comfortable using for your projects. Whereas larger lathes can be used for smaller projects, yet lathes in general have a cap on the size of project they can handle. A bench top lathe or a mini lathe is a perfect small wood lathe that can create small wooden object like boxes or lids.
Mini lathes: These form a separate category of bench top lathes, and are meant just for those working on smaller projects. These are best used for making wood pens and certain kinds of doll furniture.
Function: A piece of wood is placed between the spindle and tailstock where the wood required to be fashioned is attached. With the help of a series of bladed tools and a tool rest to cut the external part of the wood, shaving off the bark and fashioning it into the desired form, you can make just what you want, such as boxes, lids, bowls, utensil handles, trays, wall clocks, rolling pins, chopsticks and trivets, among other decorative objects.
Benefits: By using wood lathes, you can reduce the time taken to make carved wooden objects. These items will also be more evenly carved and finished than anything made by hand.
Precautions: When using a wooden lathe, do not wear loose clothing or it might be caught in the teeth of the machine. Wear precautionary gear such as safety goggles and visors, dust mask, gloves and steel-toed boots.
If you’re in the market for the best wood lathe, remember to read as many wood lathe reviews before deciding on any one lathe.
Here’s a video for the beginners who want to know how to use a wood lathe:
How To Choose The Best Wood Lathe
Wood lathes are simple devices that can help you make beautiful and symmetrical wood objects. They comprise an electric motor, two points, better known as the “headstock” and the “tailstock,” and a chisel. The piece of wood to be fashioned into an object is placed between the headstock and tailstock and the motor is turned on.
Whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional woodworker, it would help vastly for you to own a wood lathe as you will be able to make several wooden items, such as table legs, trays, vases, pens, salad bowls and banisters. The market is flooded with lathes of different capacities, so find the right one after reading several wood lathe reviews.
Choosing a wood lathe: In order to choose the right kind of wood lathe for your projects, please follow the tips listed here:
#1 Are you going to turn small objects on your lathe or big? For fashioning small objects like toys or pens, it would suffice to have a tabletop lathe. For larger objects, use either a floor-mounted or a bench-top lathe.
#2 What size of lathe will you need? Wood lathes are long and bulky devices that require a lot of space to turn. Once you measure your workspace, you’ll know the size of lathe your room can accommodate. A lathe’s dimensions are usually calculated as diameter by length of the largest piece of wood it can turn.
#3 A large piece of wood means greater versatility: For wood lathes, the larger the piece of wood a lathe can fashion, the more versatile the machine should be. Whereas a big lathe can be used for big and small projects, the same is not the case with a small wood lathe. The latter can only turn small projects.
#4 Manual or electronic? You decide: Lathes fashion wood either with an electronic speed drive or by making manual adjustments. If you’re a beginner, you’d do well to use electronic speed controls.
#5 Add the right accessories to your lathe: Initially, you may choose not to add any accessories to your lathe, but as you gain proficiency in using the device, you might want to. When you’re ready to add accessories to your lathe, ensure that you buy the right ones for it.
Lastly, there’s nothing like the best wood lathe. The one that you choose for your woodworking project is the best for you. As you progress in your field, you might want to get a more sophisticated wood lathe, more suited to your needs, which then becomes your best wood lathe.