The 5 Best Wood Lathes in 2021 (Unbiased Review)

Woodturning is one of the most creative and self-rewarding options of woodworking available, with many designs being limited to only the imagination of the turner. If you’re enthusiastic about woodturning, there’s one tool that’s going to assist you: a lathe.

If you don’t have too much time on your hands, don’t worry – we have you covered. Below, we’ve made a quick overview of what is the best wood lathe money can buy.

From personalized and specially-designed pens, to furniture legs and baseball bats, there’s many creations that a wood lathe will assist in making. The trouble with this, is that there are so many options to choose from – so where is the best place to start?

Well, we’ve made it easier for you, with our guide on the best wood lathes available on the market today. We’ve outlined their overall features and specifications, as well as the unique additions which enhance your woodturning skills.

My Recommendations

I’ve put the best models that you can possibly find when you’re browsing either online or at your local hardware store.

Best Wood Lathe

To make this list easier for you, I’ve narrowed this down into the best features and specs of each model, as well as a favorite feature of each. Let me know what you think of these in the comment section at the bottom of this article.

JET JWL-1221VS Wood Lathe

JET have designed this model with a primary goal – to increase the control you have over your lathe, creating a perfect turning experience. This model is sized at 12” by 21”, allowing for swift forward to reverse transition when turning.

A notable feature of the JWL-1221VS is the build of the model itself. It features a solidly built, cast-iron bed, weighing it at over 129 lbs in total size.

The sheer size of this lathe means vibrating during your work will be heavily reduced, a feature included within an overall design that has won many woodworkers over since its inception.

Below, we’ll look into the additional features to understand why this is one of the best five wood lathes currently available.

  • 24 integrated indexing positions for additional versatility
  • Ratchet style belt tension system, that is unique to this model (patent pending)
  • Spring loaded lock is also integrated into spindle
  • Cast iron bed reduced vibration throughout turning
  • Transitions made moving from forward to reverse are incredibly smooth

What’s In The Box?

My Favorite Feature: Three Variable Speed With Digital Control

  • Maintain the three option variable speed with constant digital control

JET aim to provide the woodturner with total control over the lathe, something that is promoted through the addition of   speed feature.

This allows for speeds of 60 to 3600 RPM to be attained, which JET state are ‘optimally designed speed ranges’ for their users.

Changing of speeds using this variable speed function are made through a rotating knob, which will adjust the RPM to your will.

If you’re looking to use lower speeds for smaller pieces, you’ll be pleased to know that plenty of torque is still offered at lower speed settings.

Everyone wants some additional convenience when they’re working, don’t they? Luckily, JET have this covered with the digital control system. When adjusting speed, you’ll be able to constantly monitor the RPM thanks to this feature.

This will show the speed as you’re turning, without the need for you to stop inconveniently during your session, which is an extra bonus for those who like to maintain complete focus when working.

WEN 3424T Wood Lathe

The WEN 3424T wood lathe is perfect for those who are looking to start a career in turning. WEN have long built power tools which are budget-friendly, and the 3424T is no different in this regard.

One of the first lathes in the WEN 342 series, it’s still quite powerful – with an impressive list of variable speeds, backed by a 4.5 amp motor for power.

It’s affordable, yet WEN have added the features you’d expect to find on a lathe, constructed in their own unique design. Let’s begin with a quick overview of the WEN 3424T wood lathe.

  • Dimensions of bed are 18” x 12”, giving you more space for medium-sized pieces
  • 4.5 Amp motor for greater control over five speeds
  • 7-⅞” tool rest for chisel and additional support during operation
  • Easy to use lever clamping system, which can make adjustments on both the tool rest and tailstock
  • 3-⅛” faceplate is perfect for turning cups, bowls, and pieces that don’t require spindles

What’s In The Box?

You won’t only be treated to the lathe once you’ve unboxed the 3424T – you’ll also be introduced to many nifty inclusions which would be quite beneficial for your woodturning career.

  • 1 x WEN 3424T Wood Lathe
  • 1 x Headstock spur center
  • 1 x Tailstock cup center
  • 1 x Flat wrench
  • 1 x Knockout rod
  • 2 x Hex wrenches (3 mm and 5mm)
  • 1 x Accessory holder
  • 1 x 3-1/8 inch faceplate

My Favorite Feature: 5 Speed Variable Operating Speed

  • Variable operating speed allows workpieces to be turned with up to five separate speeds

I know what you’re probably thinking, my favorite features on all lathes must be variable speed options, right?

Well, that’s not always the case – yet it’s too difficult to ignore the impressive figure that the 3424T casts with this feature.

We discussed that the JWL-1221VS had three speeds, now imagine an additional two speeds. The five speeds give the freedom to choose between 520, 900, 1400, 2150 and 3400 RPMs. This can be done by a turn of the variable speed knob.

This allows you to work at lower speeds for those intricate and smaller projects, without any damage to both your cutting materials and wood. The five-speed system is powered by the 4.5 amp motor, which provides full torque during higher levels of speed when in operation.

RIKON 70-100 Wood Lathe

Next up under our microscope today is the RIKON 70-100. Rikon are another brand which is well-respected within the tool community, which is no surprise once you consider the popularity of this wood lathe.

This model may look small, however it definitely boasts some decent power underneath. It’s well-built, and features a sturdy design which increases the quality of your turning thanks to the reduced vibration throughout the machine.

One of the checkpoints in which RIKON reaches far ahead of the others in the class, is the option to add multiple extensions onto the machine, which is also one of its main draw cards.

At 12” x 16”, RIKON have added a decent amount of space onto their lathe when compared to its overall design.

Let’s look into some further specs, in the quick overview we’ve put together below.

  • Power specs include ½ HP motor with 6.6 amps
  • Laser engraved ram that included a 1-½” distance of travel
  • Self-ejecting tailstock eliminates the need to use the knock-out bar to remove the center
  • Control speeds easily and efficiently through belt, with an additional chart for determining spindle speeds
  • User-friendly features, such as nylon faceplate washer, tool holder, and flip-up handle for easy mobility.

What’s In The Box?

Like WEN, RIKON are also quite generous when bundling additional inclusions to their wood lathe. After your purchase of the 70-100, you’ll be opening the following:

  • 1 x RIKON 70-100 Wood Lathe
  • 1 x Knockout Bar
  • 1 x Adjustment Wrench
  • 1 x 8” tool-rest
  • 1 x Live center
  • 1 x Spur center
  • 1 x Spindle Lock Assembly
  • 1 x Knockout bar for live center pointer
  • 1 x Tool holder
  • 1 x Panhead screw

My Favorite Feature: 12 Position Indexing Head

  • Indexing head allows for 12 positions provides pieces to be locked in, with multiple positions

Versatility and adjustability are incredibly important for woodturners, so it’s great to see RIKON have welcomed this party with open arms, including a 12 position indexing head onto this model.

This serves to give you more patterns to work with when creating projects, and also making these designs easier to create. Thanks for the 12 position indexing head, the spindle can be locked into place.

With the addition of the nylon faceplate washer, you won’t have to worry about your accessories sticking to the spindle.

This is an added perk, which would give you the ability to easily remove any accessories that you design to implement within your work, such as chucks and faceplates.

Examples of projects that you would be able to undertake on this lathe thanks to the 12 position indexing head include layout, drilling, straight fluting and grooving, to name some examples.

Delta Industrial 46-460 Wood Lathe

The 46-400 lathe from Delta Industrial is another powerful and adjustable model within the wood lathe class.

Unlike some lathes That are directed towards a specific skill set, this model is recommended for almost everyone, thanks to a raft of user-friendly features.

Delta are quite welcoming to those who purchase the 46-400, providing a healthy set of additional accessories in order to either replenish and add additional stock to your inventory, or start your woodturning journey.

Due to its size, this lathe will fit within your workshop without taking any noticeable amount of space. With its painless and straight-forward design, users of all experience levels will find this simple to understand and use.

These features and specifications are described in detail below.

  • 1 HP motor with variable speed option, the maximum speed is 1,725 RPM
  • 12-½” swing capacity is the largest within the wood lathe class
  • Convenient, three-pulley variable speed eliminates the need to change belt position
  • 46-460 is built with durability and stability as the focus, featuring a complete cast-iron construction
  • User-friendly, quick switch aids lathe in accuracy, thanks to the forward and reverse functions

What’s In The Box?

My Favorite Feature: Patented Belt-tensioning System

  • Fast speed changes and tool longevity are the focus with this patented belt-tensioning system

If you’ve ever faced the issue of a tricky belt when adjusting speeds, you’re most probably aware of how inconvenient and also damaging to your lathe this routine is. This is a target area of Delta Industrial’s model, and they’ve definitely hit it with good aim.

The belt is set with the correct tension each time, which makes for the incredibly quick speed changes.

Due to the correct tension being reached every time, the overall tool life of the lathe is increased.

And, to make this unique, exclusively designed lathe by Delta Industrial even more considerable with its’ belt tensioning system, quick-speed adjustments will result in power transfer throughout the lathe to be maximized.

Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Let me know what you think of this feature in the comments below.

Powermatic 1352001 Wood Lathe

Lastly, we look at the Powermatic 1352001 wood lathe.

There is one thing you’ll notice when your eyes upon this beast – it’s absolutely massive.

Weighing 682 lbs, this lathe is the heaviest on our list. Yet, this is for good reason – and that’s the motor.

Powermatic have built a lathe which nearly-eliminates vibration, thanks to the rigid build of the model. It may be big – but this model is not bound by its size and is able to assist in different situations, such as the storing of small tools in the tailstock compartment, to an optional dust assembly.

Additionally, there are a number of other useful features to discuss, all of which are listed below.

  • Thick-walled iron castings with 2 HP and 6.2 amp
  • Incredibly stable and rigid, built with durability in mind through thick-clad iron castings and a total weight of 682 lbs
  • Digital RPM readout for convenient and swift speed-tracking located on sliding headstock
  • Includes a 20” swing, with 34-½” between center
  • Up to 24 indexing positions with included pin, perfect for decorative features such as drilling hole patterns

What’s In The Box?

  • 1 x Powermatic 1352001 Wood Lathe
  • 1 x Headstock, tailstock, tool support base and  guard
  • 2 x Leg assemblies
  • 1 x 14” tool support, 13” faceplate
  • 1 x 1” spur center, live center, index pin, live center pin
  • 1 x knockout rod, face plate wrench, tool caddy
  • 4 x levelers
  • 12 x Socket hd.cap screws, lock washers
  • 10 x Flat washers
  • 2 x Comparator centers
  • 1x Comparator rear bracket with lock handle

My Favorite Feature: Powerful Motor

  • The powerful 2 HP, 6.2 amp motor is powerfully built, also enhancing safety by preventing surges from occurring

The 1352001 is able to tackle a number of tasks thanks to its versatile wide swing, which is sized at 20” and features a centre space of 34-½”. What does this mean? Well, it means you can tackle larger tasks – some of which may require additional power.

Usefully, the 1352001 provides this power through its’ 2 HP, 6.2 amp motor. The motor is able to handle this amount of power safely, thanks to a handy feature designed to eliminate surging.

This feature sees the power channelled through a pair of multi-groove pulleys. These pulleys are connected by an incredibly strong poly V-belt, and it’s by doing this that RIKON are able to prevent surging from occurring.

What do you think of this incredibly safe feature?

Final Thoughts

Now that we’re at the end of this article, you should hopefully have a little more clarity to your decision when weighing up the wood lathe models available. We’ve looked at all ends of the price point, and two models on either side stand out.

JET’s JWL-1221VS is capable of 24 separate indexing positions. As well as this, it includes a three-speed variable function, which is perfect for smaller designs.

On the other hand, the Powermatic 1352001 lathe includes more working space and covers all the necessary features.  however is on the other end of the price point.

Whatever your exact use for a wood lathe might be – I hope that I was able to assist in matching your needs with one of the models within listed within our review. If not, there are many lathes out there, and there is definitely one perfect for your needs.

I’ve had a lot of fun putting this information together for you – and I hope I’ve made it easier for you to decide upon what model to buy next. Let me know of your thoughts on this article below, as well as anything you believe we’ve missed.

James Thomas

James Thomas

Tool Enthusiast

6 thoughts on “The 5 Best Wood Lathes in 2021 (Unbiased Review)”

  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

    1. 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

  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.

    1. Hi Larry,

      I was contemplating the Oneway Lathes, but didn’t get around to them. I will have to one day update the article to include more brands though 🙂

      Cheers,
      James

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