There’s a reason why you’re searching for the best wood lathe. With an efficient tool that can rotate a piece of wood on its axis effectively, you can do the following work easily:
- Fine tune
A wood lathe is like a magical machine – that when combined with the skill of the woodworker (the magician), an ordinary piece of wood can turn into a masterpiece.
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Here are just some of the things that you can create with the help of a wood lathe:
Furniture parts (like table legs)
Sports accessories (like bats)
Toys (like tops)
Dinnerware pieces (like bowls)
Impressed yet? Well, lathe machines are actually used for the following purposes:
- Metal spinning
- Thermal spraying
For this particular post, however, I will only be covering the wood-turning capabilities of a lathe machine. I will also give you a Top 7 list of some of the best wood lathes today – in the hopes of helping you out in choosing the right model for your needs.
2 Major Types of Wood Lathes
If you’re looking out to buy a wood lathe, there are 2 options to choose from:
- Wood Lathe Machine for Home Use – Hobbyists and DIYers typically have to choose from 2 types of wood lathe:
- Benchtop Wood Lathe – This model of wood lathe doesn’t come with a set of stand or legs. It is therefore placed on top of a bench or on a working table.
- Stand-Alone Wood Lathe – A stand-alone wood lathe is equipped with a stand framework or legs to hold it up. Since it’s already on a working level, you don’t need to place it on top of a table anymore.
Note that wood lathes for home use are basically small and compact in design. The bigger ones may be a bit heavier and bulkier, but they’re still manageable and movable.
- Wood Lathe Machine for Commercial or Industrial Use – Factories that make wooden furniture and other types of wood projects employ the use of a commercial grade wood lathe. This type of lathe machine is powerful and big and models under this category can weigh hundreds of pounds.
Things to Consider When Looking for the Best Wood Lathe
Different models of lathe machines carry different features and designs. Listed below are some of the things that you should consider when choosing a wood lathe for your workshop.
- Bed Length – The bed length refers to the total distance between the 2 edges of a wood lathe. This will let you know the maximum length of wood that can be positioned on the machine.
- Swing Diameter – The swing diameter will tell you the maximum width or thickness of wood that you can use in the lathe. You see, there should be some clearance on the device in order for a block of wood to be able to turn while being worked on.
- Horsepower – A unit’s horsepower refers to the motor strength of the lathe. A powerful machine will be able to accommodate heavy blocks of wood and turn these at great speed without exerting much energy.
- Build – For this type of machine, choose a unit that emits minimal vibration (as this will affect the overall quality of the finished product). Heavy machines that are made of steel or those that come with iron frames are very stable, but they’re very difficult to transfer from one place to another. So, if portability is one of your main concerns, choose a model that’s not so heavy.
- RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) – Most wood lathes come with variable speeds and speed controls.
RPM literally refers to the revolution per minute – meaning, the number of times a wood is turned on the lathe every 60 seconds. In general, there are 2 basic speeds used in wood lathes:
- Low Speed – A woodworker usually starts at a low speed when first forming and chopping off pieces from a stock. At this point, having rough edges is just normal.
- High Speed – High-speed setting is used during the finishing and smoothing processes. At this point, the woodworker will sand and flatten the surfaces of the project at hand.
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Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed Midi Lathe Review
- Power – This model is equipped with 1HP motor.
- Bed Length – The bed length on this unit measures 16.5 inches.
- Swing Diameter – Its total swing diameter is 12.5 inches.
- Speed – It comes with variable speed settings with 3 pulley ranges.
- RPM – Maximum RPM is 1,725.
- Reverse Motor System – It comes with a reverse function control.
- Construction – The unit is made of cast iron materials.
This is a professional midi wood lathe and you can use it for commercial purposes. Both big and small projects are easy to make with this device. In fact, it’s always top-rated in many benchtop wood lathe reviews.
SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe Review
- Power – This model uses 1/3HP (or .33HP) motor.
- Bed Length – Its bed length has a total measurement of 12 inches.
- Swing Diameter – It comes with 8 inches of swing diameter.
- Speed – This unit has variable speed control.
- RPM – The RPM can be set anywhere from 700 to 3,200.
- Construction – The main body is made of cast iron materials.
- Package – This model includes 2 pieces of tool rests.
This model of midi lathe will work well for doing small projects. It’s also small enough to be positioned in the garage or work station.
JET JWL-1221VS 12-Inch by 21-Inch Variable Speed Wood Lathe Review
- Power – It comes with 1HP motor power.
- Speed – It uses variable speed settings with low, medium, and high points in a rotating knob.
- RPM – The RPM can be set from 60 to 3,600.
- Reverse Motor System – This model is capable of spinning forward and in reverse.
- Indexing Points – It has a 24-position indexing.
If you’re looking for a powerful wood lathe, you can consider this model as one of your options. With its power and features, you can create different types of wood projects easily.
RIKON 70-100 12-by-16-Inch Mini Lathe Review
- Power – It has a .5HP motor.
- Bed Length – It comes with a bed length of 16 inches, but you can get a bed extension that measures 24 inches if you want a longer bed length for your projects.
- Swing Diameter – It has a swing diameter of 12 inches.
- Speed – This model has variable speed settings.
You can create various types of small projects with this wood lathe. The RIKON 70-100 mini lathe is suitable for use in small workshops and garages.
JET 708359 JWL-1642EVS Woodworking Lathe Review
- Power – This model has a 1.5HP motor.
- Bed Length – It has a 42-inch bed length.
- Swing Diameter – Its swing diameter is 16 inches wide.
- Speed – It has variable speed settings.
- RPM – The RPM can be set from 0 to 3,200.
- Reverse Motor System – It allows for an automatic transition from one direction to another with just the push of a button.
- Construction – The bed frame and legs are made from cast iron materials.
This is a powerful wood lathe that can be used for industrial purposes. It can definitely handle large jobs and can make different types of wood projects easily. If you’re looking for the best wood lathe for turning bowls, know that this unit can do more than that.
Jet JWL-1015 Wood Working Lathe Review
- Power – This unit is powered by .5HP motor.
- Bed Length – This model has a total bed length of 15.5 inches.
- Speed – It comes with 6 speeds.
- RPM – Depending on the speed, the RPM can be 500, 840, 1240, 1800, 2630, or 3975.
- Indexing Points – This unit has 24-position indexing.
In general, this is a user-friendly wood lathe and beginner woodworkers will find it easy to use. If you are a professional carpenter or crafts person, you can also use this model for small projects. Because of its versatility, it can be considered as the best midi wood lathe for 2020.
Grizzly H8259 Bench-Top Wood Lathe Review
- Power – This model has a .5HP motor.
- Bed Length – The bed length on this unit totals 18 inches.
- Swing Diameter – Its swing diameter is 10 inches.
- Speed – It has variable speed settings.
- RPM – The RPM can be set to 826, 1205, 1713, 2422, or 3337.
This model can be one of your options when looking out to buy a wood lathe for doing small wooden projects.
Tools Used in Wood Lathe Machines
- Chisels – Chisels come in different lengths and they carry different blade widths as well. Their handles provide for a solid grip as these tools are made to go against the force of a turning wood on a lathe machine.
- Parting Tools – These tools have thin V-shaped tips to cut in between crevices when working on a piece of wood.
- Gouges – Gouging tools have special edges to perform certain types of cuts. Here are the 2 most common types of gouges: Bowl Gouges – These gouges come with deep concave cutting tips to produce smooth, hollow surfaces (such as in a bowl). Knurling Gouges – These gouges are especially made to cut grooves on a piece of wood (they’re used in making wooden spindles).
- Scrapers – These tools are similar to chisels, but they have wider blades. These can come in flat and slightly curved models and is often used at the beginning stages of a wood project (for roughing out a shape in a shapeless block of wood).
Tips to Using a Wood Lathe Correctly and Safely
Before proceeding to the last section of this post where I will review 7 of the best wood lathes today, let me give you some tips on using a wood lathe machine.If you are a beginner woodworker, choose to work on soft types of woods at first (e.g. yellow pine, balsam fir, basswood, butternut, etc.) as these are easier to manage and control.
Never use blocks and pieces of wood that have loose knots or are broken. When a piece of wood splits while turning in a lathe machine, this can fly at high speed and cause injuries.
Before turning a piece of wood in a lathe machine, make sure that it’s already at the right length.When positioning a block or piece of wood on the lathe, mark the center of both ends first. This technique makes the task of placing the wood on the lathe more balanced (for accurate work).
The right way to position the tool rest is to place it as close as possible to the wood (or work in progress). However, make sure that the wood won’t hit the tool rest when it spins and rotates – so, test it out by turning the wood with your hand and allowing it to free-spin.
What is the Best Wood Lathe?
You’ve reached the end of this article – so, you should be able to make the right choice on a wood lathe by now. I suggest choosing from the products included in the Top 7 list above.
If you’re just a hobbyist and you only have simple needs in a wood lathe machine, you can go for the Jet JWL-1015 Wood Working Lathe .This is not a very powerful model (with only .5HP motor), but it’s user-friendly and simple to use. Beginners and professional workers will surely appreciate it.
Now, if you’re specifically looking for a commercial grade model of the wood lathe, I suggest choosing from the JET 708359 JWL-1642EVS stand-alone wood lathe and Delta Industrial 46-460 midi lathe models. If you choose the JET 708359 JWL-1642EVS, it comes with 1.5HP motor power – it’s the most powerful unit in the Top 7 list. It also comes with a 42-inch long bed length, which can handle very large projects.
And don’t forget that this model has a reverse function – so its rotation can run both ways.I also want you to consider Delta Industrial 46-460 midi lathe because it’s almost as powerful as the JET model (it has 1HP motor power). And although it only comes with a 16.5-inch bed length, you can get a compatible bed extension up to 42 inches.
Well, do let me know if this post has been helpful to you in choosing the best wood lathe for your needs. And if it’s really that helpful to you, you might want to share it with your friends who are also looking for this type of product.