8 Best Wood Lathes (For Beginners and Professionals)

Last Updated on August 29, 2022 by James Thomas

I find there to be something so appealing about wood lathes, and if you work with wood regularly, then there’s no way you should not own one. 

I just enjoy how a good lathe can transform something before your eyes. It can turn a piece of wood into something of beauty, and there’s something absolutely remarkable about that.

I’ve had my wood lathe sitting in the corner of my workshop for some time now, and I admit that it remains a well-used tool. But I know not everyone interested in working with wood has a wood lathe at their disposal, which bothers me.

I sometimes wonder if it’s connected to the sheer number of wood lathes on the market that puts people off getting one. So, if that is indeed the case, then don’t stress. I’m here to help.

I will put all of my 20+ years of experience working with wood and power tools to good use to help you out. My aim is not only to point you in the direction of some excellent tools but also to explain what you should be looking for when buying one in the first place.

So, stick around after checking out the eight different wood lathes that I’ve selected, or you will miss out on some pretty good tips designed to make your life easier.

using wood lathe

How I Made My List

To make my list, I used all my experience and also committed myself to spending some time sorting through the extensive list of potential wood lathes on the market. I admit it wasn’t easy, but I had specific criteria in mind when making my decision.

I wanted to ensure the tool was meeting certain expectations. It had to be easy to use but also robust enough to put up with you placing it under some pressure. 

I also wanted it to be safe and reliable. The last thing I want is to recommend a tool to you only for it to then break down a week later.

So, to help, I also spent some time checking out what other owners had to say regarding their experience with a tool. In the end, I created this list, and I’m very happy with the eight wood lathes I have included.

Best Wood Lathe Overall – JET JWL-1221VS

  • Power: 1 HP
  • Speed: 60 – 3,600 RPM
  • DBC: 21”
  • SOB: 12 ½”
  • Weight: 121 lbs

I see this wood lathe as being the best overall, and it’s because of its capabilities. It has a massive 1 HP of power, so it should have no issues dealing with any type of wood. Also, it has a variable speed option allowing you to change between 60 to 3,600 RPM.

I do love it has a variable speed option. It allows you to slow things down when it comes to the more delicate parts of a project, and this model is straightforward to adjust.

But the other significant aspect to consider is both the distance between center and the swing over bed measurements. I find this model to be pretty impressive in both those areas, thanks to a DBC of 21” and an SOB of 12 ½”. For me, that should allow you to actually use this wood lathe for so many projects.

However, the one thing that really stands out for me with this model is the way it’s exceptionally smooth in its operation. It comes with 24 integrated indexing positions, which makes for easy adjustment. It also means you can create some even gaps in the wood, and the precision here is incredible.

In addition, you will also find it easy to lock things into place, so you can stick to those measurements and get exact results. This is further enhanced by the fact that this model is very quiet and produces little vibrations, allowing you to maintain absolute control throughout your project.

Overall, this is an exceptional wood lathe.

Pros

  • It’s extremely powerful at 1 HP
  • It has a variable speed option
  • Things lock into place for stability
  • It produces little in the way of vibration
  • It’s straightforward to adjust

Cons

  • You do need some space to house this in your workshop

Best Wood Lathe for Beginners – WEN 3424T

  • Power: 4.5 Amp
  • Speed: 520 – 3,400 RPM
  • DBC: 18”
  • SOB: 12”
  • Weight: 78.9lbs

If you are new to using a wood lathe, then this WEN model will be the ideal introduction to these tools. It has a slightly smaller motor resulting in 4.5 Amps, but don’t let that stop you from checking out what this model offers.

This lathe still allows you to change speed as it has five different speed options starting off at 520 RPM and increasing through various levels to a maximum of 3,400 RPM. I find these jumps in speed to be more than sufficient for most projects, and it’s certainly an easier way to change the speed in set increments for people new to using a lathe.

I also appreciate how this model keeps the DBC and SOB to a decent size without being too large. Measuring 18” for the DBC and 12” for the SOB, it still allows you to work on various projects without needing to work with huge pieces of wood.

This model also comes with a 3 ⅛” faceplate and a 7 ⅞” tool rest. I feel this model keeps things nice and simple regarding adjustments, yet it still delivers impressive results with as little fuss as possible.

Pros

  • The knob to change the speed is easy to use
  • The base is stable and doesn’t move around when in use
  • It gives you everything you need to get started with a wood lathe
  • The DBC and SOB are sufficient for small and medium-sized projects
  • It’s relatively quiet

Cons

  • It’s not the biggest of lathes, but for beginners, it’s still ideal

Best Wood Lathe for the Money – Shop Fox W1704

  • Power: ⅓ HP
  • Speed: 700 – 3,200 RPM
  • DBC: 13”
  • SOB: 8”
  • Weight: 48.4lbs

If you want to know the wood lathe that I feel offers the best value for money, then it’s this model by Shop Fox. Yes, I know it may be a benchtop model, but there’s no doubt that this small model is still capable of helping you out with a number of projects.

It has ⅓ HP, which is perfect for a benchtop version. It still comes with a variable speed limit ranging from 700 to 3,200 RPM, and that’s quite a lot for a benchtop wood lathe.

I also love that this inexpensive wood lathe is made from iron, so it’s sturdy and robust. It also comes with two tool rests, and if you are working on a non-spindle project, it also has a 5 ¾” faceplate.

Overall, this small wood lathe manages to perform above its weight. This could be the perfect option if you want to save money and are also struggling for space.

Pros

  • It’s compact but still powerful
  • It doesn’t make a lot of noise
  • It’s very robust
  • You can use it daily without any problems
  • It provides you with all the required accessories

Cons

  • It clearly has limitations in both size and power for more extensive projects

Best Mini Wood Lathe – RIKON Power Tools 70-105

  • Power: ½ HP
  • Speed: 500 – 3,200 RPM
  • DBC: 18”
  • SOB: 10”
  • Weight: 75 lbs

As mini wood lathes go, I think you would be hard-pressed to find a better model than this one by RIKON Power Tools. It comes with ½ HP and delivers varying speeds up to a maximum of 3,200 RPM, so while it’s small in size, it packs a lot into the tool.

Considering this is a mini lathe, I’m impressed by the DBC and SOB measurements. At 18” and 10”, you can still use this lathe for more projects than you would generally imagine possible with a mini version. Those measurements, along with the power and speed options, does mean this is a great wood lathe that overperforms in line with its size.

But those are not the only reasons I included this model in my list. I also love that it’s significantly quieter than you would expect. It also runs smoothly, and I only want a lathe that does that. Trying to work with a tool that jumps and stops is not a nice feeling, and this one won’t let you down in any way.

I also love how it comes with a tool rest and a self-ejecting tailstock. With an MT2 taper, it’s also the perfect tool for those smaller projects, with you maintaining absolute control from beginning to end.

Pros

  • It’s small in size but packs a punch in power
  • It’s very quiet to use
  • It’s ideal for small projects
  • It runs very smoothly
  • You have a variable speed dial

Cons

  • Clearly, the size brings some limitations to projects

Best Benchtop Wood Lathe – Mophorn 12” x 18”

  • Power: 550W
  • Speed: 500 – 3,800 RPM
  • DBC: 18”
  • SOB: 12”
  • Weight: 88lbs

I love this Mophorn benchtop lathe simply because it offers you many options without too much space. With 550W of power, you will find it easy to tackle so many different projects, and with that variable speed dial at hand, you can also remain in complete control at all times.

I like how this benchtop lathe still provides you with a perfectly reasonable DBC and SOB measurement. I find 18” and 12” respectively to be more than adequate, which means you can work on some reasonably sized projects with this model.

In addition, this model does have a digital display, so you know the exact speed at any given time, and I think this is an excellent thing to include.

But I love this model for more reasons than just those few options. 

Adjusting the lathe is straightforward and certainly not complicated. It’s an ideal solution even for beginners, as the sense of control you get is exceptional. Furthermore, it’s made from cast iron, while the base also has rubber feet for added stability. This benchtop wood lathe is not going anywhere when in use.

For features, you can expect a 6” tool rest, a 3” faceplate, MT2 headstock, and tailstock tapers. Basically, everything you will need to get started with a wood lathe is included in this model.

Pros

  • This model is straightforward to set up and use
  • It offers a fantastic variable speed dial
  • It’s extremely stable
  • You get everything you need to start with a wood lathe
  • The DBC and SOB measurements are brilliant for a benchtop version

Cons

  • The size does mean you are restricted to smaller projects

Best Professional Wood Lathe – JET JWL-1440VSK

  • Power: 1 HP
  • Speed: 400 – 3,000 RPM
  • DBC: 40”
  • SOB: 14 ½”
  • Weight: 400 lbs

If you are in the market for a professional wood lathe, then this is the model I would suggest you check out. I know it’s a huge machine, but it packs so much power into it that this will blow your mind when it comes to larger projects.

It does have 1HP along with a variable speed dial, offering you the chance to change between 400 and 3,000 RPM. I find that speed slightly lower than expected, but it’s still more than enough when accompanied by all that power. Also, you get a digital display, so you always know the speed.

Of course, the DBC and SOB measurements are larger than most, but you would expect that with a professional wood lathe. Measuring 40” for the DBC and 14 ½” for the SOB means this lathe can allow you to work on large projects without any difficulties.

It does also come with all of the sorts of accessories you expect. A sliding and pivoting headstock. An anti-rotation key on the tailstock and tool rests are standard, while the entire lathe is surprisingly easy to set up and use.

Overall, this tool’s sheer size and power stand out, making it perfect for professionals.

Pros

  • It has a vast amount of power
  • Controlling the speed is easy, and the digital display helps
  • The measurements of this machine are massive, allowing for bigger projects
  • The base is cast iron and exceptionally stable
  • You get an anti-rotation key on the tailstock

Cons

  • The model is large, so you do need a lot of space

Best Wood Lathe Under $1000 – RIKON 70-150VSR

  • Power: 1 HP
  • Speed: 250 – 3,850 RPM
  • DBC: 20”
  • SOB: 12 ½”
  • Weight: 115lbs

If you want to spend less than $1000 on a wood lathe, then you have a number of options available to you. However, I would suggest checking out the RIKON 70-150VSR.

First, you get a huge 1 HP power and the ability to move between 250 RPM and 3,850 RPM. I love the ability to change the speed so efficiently, and this model will allow you to do just that.

But this model does also come with a reasonable DBC and SOB measurement. It’s larger than the average small size lathe at 20” and 12 ½”, respectively, which opens up the possibility of working on more projects.

But I love this model because it comes with an LED screen, and that’s where you get to see the speed displayed. It makes it easier to know the speed since it’s directly related to your control over the project, and this tool makes your life so much better.

It also comes with an impressive 24 index positions, and when you add in the usual tool rests, wrenches, and all of the other accessories, you quickly see why this tool is one of the best out there.

Pros

  • It has a vast amount of power
  • You can change speed with real ease
  • The DBC and SOB measurements are impressive
  • I love how clear the display is to show the speed
  • It has several index positions, making lining everything up so easy

Cons

  • It’s not a small wood lathe, so if space is an issue, then this may be too big

Best Wood Lathe Under $500 – PSI Woodworking KWL-1018VS Turn Crafter

  • Power: ¾ HP
  • Speed: 500 – 3,600 RPM
  • DBC: 18”
  • SOB: 10”
  • Weight: 82 lbs

If you want to spend under $500 on a wood lathe, then I suggest this model by PSI Woodworking. For less than $500, you get a fantastic wood lathe that is packed with power and offers you different rotational speeds depending on what you are doing in your project.

I also like the size of both the DBC and SOB. I feel they offer more than enough for those small projects, and the entire lathe comes across as being very easy to use and set up even right out of the box.

I like the way they give you so many accessories, so you won’t ever have to purchase any other wood accessories. You get two rests, a storage rack, light, faceplate, the list goes on and on, but I love that.

You also get two different belt positions with this model, and you can move between 500 and 2,000 RPM on one belt and 1,500 to 3,600 RPM on the other. That does mean there’s no way you can go ahead and use too much speed if you are on the lower belt.

Overall, this model packs so much into it and for less than $500.

Pros

  • The two-belt system works well
  • Both the DBC and SOB are reasonable dimensions
  • You get so many accessories
  • It has an iron base, so it is very robust
  • It even has a light and a digital display

Cons

  • This lathe is not really suited for professionals

How to Choose a Wood Lathe

old wood lathe

Choosing a wood lathe is not easy, but I hope to change that a bit. What I have here are several tips on what to look out for when selecting the wood lathe that you will then end up purchasing.

Power

Only go below ½ HP if you are purchasing a mini wood lathe. A benchtop wood lathe should have at least ½ HP, but I suggest you go for closer to 1 HP if your budget allows.

The power allows the wood lathe to work on harder woods and more materials, so don’t short-change yourself on power, or you may feel the tool comes up short.

Speed Variation

The ability to vary the speed is another thing I would stress when selecting a wood lathe. Here, you have a couple of options. 

Some wood lathes have pre-set speed changes that you can turn through via a knob on the lathe. They will go up in set increments, which is a great way to know the exact speed you should expect from the lathe.

The other option is a variable speed dial, where you control the speed more accurately. However, I would suggest going for the set stages if new to a wood lathe. It saves you the hassle of too much playing around with the speed dial.

DBC and SOB

Standing for Distance Between Center and Swing Over Bed, these measurements define the project size you can work on with a wood lathe. A benchtop or small lathe should have a DBC of around 15” to 20” and an SOB of about 10” to 12”, but some may be slightly above or below those readings.

Larger lathes with bigger measurements are usually more for professional lathes, where those measurements need to be bigger to accommodate larger stock.

However, those smaller measurements should suffice for most people in a home workshop for their woodworking hobby.

I could also include things such as accessories as things to look out for, but I would state that the three components above are undoubtedly the most crucial. 

Overall Conclusion

I’m confident that one of the eight wood lathes I’ve listed above will prove to be perfect for your own needs. However, I suggest you take the time to review the tips I’ve included to help you with your decision.

A wood lathe has the ability to transform your woodworking projects, and that’s what I love about this tool. It makes me feel I can be way more creative with my projects, and even though it may take you some time to get used to everything it can do, I do implore anybody interested in woodworking as a hobby to look at owning a lathe.

I promise you will end up the same as me, fall in love with the tool, and wonder how on earth you have ever survived without one.

Photo of author

James Thomas

Hi, I’m James. I created The Tool Square to help as many understand and know how to use Table Saws, and many other tool-related products.

6 thoughts on “8 Best Wood Lathes (For Beginners and Professionals)”

  1. I WANT TO BUY MY FIRST LATHE TO MAKE TURKEY POT CALLS WITH A O.D. OF 3 1/4 AND A I.D OF 3.00 == WOULD A WEN MODEL # 3424T WORK FOR THIS. OR DO I NEED TO BUY EXTRA ITEMS TO ADD TO THE LATHE

    Reply
    • Hi Donna,

      Thanks for stopping by. Just so I get your question exactly, are you asking if you require a different chuck in order to make that item based on those diameters?

      Cheers,
      James

      Reply
  2. Why did you not include Oneway Lathes? They are much more expensive, but by far the best lathes available online. They at least deserve to be mentioned.

    Reply

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