The 5 Best Mini Wood Lathes for Starting Your Projects

Last Updated on August 28, 2022 by Barry Gray

I’ve always felt that a mini wood lathe is quite a cool tool to use. Granted, I won’t use it for a vast number of projects, but it’s still one of those things that can prove helpful at various times.

In fact, any wood-turning enthusiast would be strongly advised to own a mini wood lathe. After all, it’s the ideal tool for those small finer details, and who wouldn’t want to add those delicate touches just to round off the perfect project?

But as with any tool, there’s a problem. If you venture online and start checking out mini wood lathes, you are inundated with different options.

So, where do you begin?

Well, you begin by checking out my research as I’ve sought to do the hard work on your behalf. I’ve spent time going through the different mini wood lathes on the market, and I’ve come up with a list of five tools that I love.

At the end of the reviews, I will give you some valuable tips and a guide on selecting the best mini wood lathe for your needs. I promise the information will prove invaluable to you.

woodturning projects

How I Made My Decision

I never just go by price alone when trying to decide on a tool. Sure it plays a part, but we all know that there’s so much more to tools than simply how much money they take out of your pocket.

In the case of a mini wood lathe, I had a few important points I wanted to include when checking out the different options.

I wanted to include lathes that were easy to use and not too tricky to set up. There is something I find very annoying when setting up any tool, and it feels like it’s taking forever.

So, the five lathes below are easy to set up, reliable, perform well, and provide you with everything you could want from a wood lathe.

With that in mind, let’s check out the first of the five mini wood lathes that I feel stand out from the crowd.

Best Mini Wood Lathe for the Money – Nova 46300 Comet II Variable Speed 12” X 16.5”

  • Power: ¾ HP
  • Speed: Variable from 250 – 4000 RPM
  • Swing Capacity: 16” over the center

If you want a mini wood lathe representing real value for money, I suggest checking out the Nova 46300. This mini wood lathe may appear to be a basic model, but it has some features that you do not always see elsewhere.

First, I prefer this model over others because of the variable speed. You get such a wide range that it’s basically impossible not to get the right speed for your project. Also, changing the speed is easy to do, and you won’t find yourself constantly having to interrupt what you are doing.

But if you worry that higher speeds equal more vibration, then don’t stress. This machine is heavier than most, and that does dampen down the vibrations. As a result, you do not feel as if you will lose control.

If I can also mention the swing capacity. It measures 12” over the bed and 16.5” over the center. That does open up the possibility of you using this mini wood lathe for a broader range of projects.

Finally, this model also comes with a spin reverse mode, which is a bit of a rare thing. It means you will find sanding down against the grain using this feature will lead to a far superior finish.

Pros

  • The variable speed is brilliant
  • The spin reverse will prove more valuable than you expect
  • The swing capacity is more than enough for most small projects
  • The reduced vibration makes it easier to keep control

Cons

  • Some people may not enjoy changing the speed manually

Best Mini Wood Lathe for Beginners – WEN 3420T 8” X 12”

  • Power: 2 Amp motor
  • Speed: Variable speed from 750 – 3200 RPM

This WEN model is another example of why this brand has such a good name in the tool world. Yes, I know it’s not the most powerful model in the world, but for people starting out with this hobby, I think it’s the best mini wood lathe around.

What I love is the simplicity of the machine. First, you get a machine offering variable speeds ranging from 750 RPM up to 3200 RPM. Add in two different tool rests, and you will see a machine that attempts to provide you with as much control as possible when in use.

I also love the fact it’s lightweight at under 20lbs. That makes it very portable, and it also takes up little in the way of space. So, if you are limited with space in your workshop, then don’t worry.

But another reason why I see this option as brilliant for beginners is with the accessories. This machine provides you with those two tool rests, a knockout rod, a headstock spur center, a tailstock cup center, a faceplate, and a flat wrench. Basically, everything you need to get started.

Don’t expect this machine to do anything spectacular. However, it covers the basics and allows you to begin to master your wood-turning skills.

Pros

  • It is lightweight and portable
  • The variable speed gives you so much control
  • The accessories are fantastic
  • It is also budget-friendly
  • It is perfect for the beginner

Cons

  • It’s not suitable for anybody other than beginners

Best Budget Mini Wood Lathe – Excelsior Mini Wood Lathe

  • Power: ½ HP
  • Speed: Variable speed 760 – 3200 RPM

This Excelsior mini wood lathe appeals to me because it does cover the basics, and it does so without costing a fortune. Sure, it may lack certain functions, but if you want a simple mini wood lathe for simple projects, this model could be perfect.

It comes with five different speed settings ranging from as low as 760 RPM to a maximum of 3200 RPM. That should mean you can find the perfect speed for your needs, and it’s certainly easy to move between the speeds.

I also like that the machine is cast iron, so it’s durable and ultra-tough. At the same time, it does not take up too much space, so a beginner with restricted space in a workshop will have no problem setting this up.

Overall, for a budget machine, this is perfect. However, keep your expectations low as to what it can achieve to avoid disappointment.

Pros

  • The speed settings are easy to use
  • It doesn’t try to complicate matters by using it
  • The machine is tough and durable
  • You can do all the basics with this low-cost model

Cons

  • This is only suitable for people starting out with wood-turning

Best Overall Mini Wood Lathe – PSI Turncrafter Commander KWL-1018VS

  • Power: ¾ HP
  • Speed: 500 – 3600 RPM
  • Swing Capacity: 18 inches from center

Upon checking out this mini wood lathe, I instantly fell in love with it for a good reason. 

This model comes with a variable speed option and is exceptionally easy to use. I feel that it means you can carry out those more delicate touches without stressing about losing control.

For woodturners that are all about those intricate details, you will know how invaluable this variable speed will be.

Also, the swing capacity is another impressive aspect. It just means you have the ability to do way more things with this mini wood lathe than you do with other models. In addition, I do like the light they have included in this model. Once again, it lets you see those intricate details without too many problems.

Overall, I enjoy the simplicity of this machine, but it packs a lot of power to make quick work of your project.

Pros

  • The variable speed makes such a difference
  • The swing capacity increases its usability
  • Controlling this wood lathe is easy even for beginners
  • The light being included is a helpful addition

Cons

  • It is a slightly heavy machine and larger than others, so it requires more space
  • It only comes with a forward motion

Best Mini Wood Lathe for Power – Delta Industrial 46-460

  • Power: 1 HP
  • Speed: 1725 RPM
  • Swing Capacity: 12 ½ inches

If you are in the market for a mini wood lathe with some power behind it, I suggest the Delta Industrial 46-460. 

The thing I love about this wood lathe is the fact it’s suitable for people of all skill levels. Some mini wood lathes almost eliminate the beginner by complicating things, but that’s not the case here.

This lathe is powered by a 1 HP motor, which is a lot for a small machine. It also comes with a speed of 1725 RPM, which means this machine packs a punch. However, it’s not over the top with the power and speed, so you still feel in control.

I also love the cast iron nature of the casing for the lathe. It screams durability, and you just know this mini wood lathe will last for years.

But an essential part of any wood lathe, no matter the size, is the ability to switch between forward and reverse. Thankfully, I found this model to be exceptionally easy to use with this, so you don’t feel as if you need to continually stop and start your project.

Finally, this model does come with its own patented belt tensioning system, and it’s excellent. It just adds to the sense of control you have over the lathe when in use, and you get more precise results as well.

Overall, this is an excellent mini wood lathe that will completely transform your projects.

Pros

  • This model is very easy to use
  • You feel in absolute control at all times
  • Switching from forward to reverse is easy
  • Their belt tensioning system improves the longevity of the tool
  • You get a 6” and 10” tool rest as standard

Cons

  • It is heavier than other models out there

How to Choose the Right Mini Wood Lathe

mini wood lathe

The five different options I have listed above are all excellent mini wood lathes in their own right. However, you might struggle to work out how to select the right one for you.

Fear not because I have you covered when it comes to making your selection.

You see, when it comes to purchasing a new tool, I always look at different components to help me with my decision. So, I’m going to guide you through the key points that I feel stand out regarding purchasing a mini wood lathe.

By the end, I hope you will feel better positioned to go out and make your own purchase.

The Power

Power is crucial with any machine, and what you will find with a mini wood lathe is that it can vary from as little as ¼ HP to around 1 HP. However, most are either ½ HP or ¾ HP. 

More power will mean it can tackle tougher wood more easily than expected. However, these mini wood lathes lack the power you see in larger lathes, so remember that these machines are more for small projects than anything else.

Speed

I prefer a mini wood lathe with a variable speed setting. Now it doesn’t matter if it’s something you set manually or different speeds set into the machine. The key is the ability to change how fast the wood lathe is turning.

This is important because you do need the option of controlling what you are doing with more delicate, smaller details. A slower speed can lead to better results, so if you see a mini wood lathe that doesn’t have this option, I would certainly urge you to think about a different option.

Swing Capacity

The swing capacity refers to the maximum diameter of the stock that can turn without hitting the bed of the machine. However, you will see machines talking about two distances on most occasions. 

This then relates to where the stock effectively pivots when working on it. Remember, these numbers reflect the upper limits of what is possible. If you feel concerned about the size of the stock you will work with, then look at pushing this measurement as high as possible.

However, a mini wood lathe will generally have a swing capacity over the center of around 16”, with some going up to 18”.

The Base

I also urge you to pay close attention to the base. You want this to feel as sturdy as possible. Also, consider going for one made of iron if durability is something you want. 

But I also suggest thinking about how often you plan on moving your mini wood lathe around. You can find lightweight models at about 20lbs in weight, but others are significantly heavier on the market.

Most of that weight comes in the base, so think about positioning and use before buying.

Additional Features

Look out for a tool rest being included. The tool rest gives you so much control when working your stock that you simply cannot cope without it.

Also, both a headstock and tailstock will be included. Know the measurement between the two to let you know the size of wood you can work with. 

Overall, there is not too much to think about when it comes to purchasing a mini wood lathe. The main features are speed, power, and swing capacity. 

Overall Conclusion

I hope you find something of interest in this list of mini wood lathes and also that my tips and advice on how to choose one will make life easier. 

Any individual who is even remotely interested in carrying out wood-turning projects really must consider investing in a mini wood lathe. The way it will change your entire approach to your projects will blow your mind.

Oh, and that doesn’t then include the difference it will make to the finished article. 

The finesse you can achieve thanks to a wood lathe is amazing. If you want to take your wood-turning projects up to the next level, then I would never look past a mini wood lathe. I know I see my own model as being one of the best investments I have ever made, and I’m sure you will feel the same too.

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Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.

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