Best Wood Lathe

Whether you are looking for laser-straight cuts or quickly carving a simple woodblock into a work of art, a quality wood lathe is critical. These tools are handy for:

  • Cutting
  • Sanding
  • Turning
  • Forming and sculpting 

If you are looking for the best wood lathes, check out my recommendations below. I have personally reviewed each one of these to ensure that they meet my very high standards. These are the most powerful, well-built, and ergonomic lathes available.

Best Wood Lathes Reviewed

Now that you know what a wood lathe does and its use, it is crucial to choose one that is built tough and will get the job done. I have tried and tested dozens of these lathes and narrowed it down to five of the best.

After copious amounts of research on dozens of different wood lathes, I can confidently say that these five listed below are the best. These are guaranteed to be some of the best lathes on the market and will make any woodworking task enjoyable. Some of the best wood lathes are ergonomic, powerful, and user-friendly to both the novice and the professional alike. 

So, if you are a carpenter or want to try your hand at woodworking, these are the five best wood lathes available.

Specs:

  • 250-4,000 RPM
  • Digital readout
  • Forward and reverse switch
  • 12” swing
  • 3” faceplate

Pros:

  • Variable speed
  • Plenty of power
  • Well built
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Quality control issues
  • Narrow footprint
  • Lacks ergonomics
  • Belt issues

The Nova 71118 Comet II DR is an excellent value for the price. It is extremely portable and is ideal for both the professional and beginner alike. It includes everything you would expect in a lathe and consists of a durable cast iron construction. Although affordable, this lathe will tackle any task with ease and is also viable for precision machining.

This wood lathe packs a ton of power, with a four hp motor, impeccable speed control, and a digital readout for easy use. This machine is extremely versatile, as it includes a 3-step pulley that allows you to spin almost any type of wood needed for any project. 

However, it is essential to note that this particular lathe has some downfalls. There are a variety of quality control issues, such as a jerky tailstock, and that the banjo screw has issues remaining in place.

In all, this is an excellent machine for both the beginner and professional. It is versatile, small, and lightweight, allowing for easy use and portability. This is, by far, one of the best wood lathes for the price.

Specs:

  • 750-3200 RPM
  • 3.2 AMP motor
  • 2.3-inch faceplate
  • 44.0 pounds
  • 28 x 13.3 x 7.6 inches

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Versatile
  • Lightweight
  • 3.2 Amp motor
  • 750-3200 RPM

Cons:

  • Flimsy locking mechanisms
  • High tool rest
  • Weak tailstock
  • Underpowered
  • Wood stops spinning under pressure

The WEN 3421 wood lathe is a great tool for the price. It is lightweight, versatile, and has the capacity for most small projects. The lathe provides woodworkers with a 12-inch frame in a compact package. This lathe is ideal for novice woodworkers or even for the enthusiast with a small shop.

Speed control is incredibly easy with this machine, as it has a soft start motor, making it easy to control the speed between 750-3200 RPM. This machine’s versatility makes it great for crafting bowls and cups that require great care and optimum precision. The WEN stands out due to its comparable versatility and precision to higher-end machines. 

Like many wood lathes, the surface area is one of the most critical aspects. This machine’s surface area is 12 inches, which is very similar to most of its competitors. Quality is evident with this model, as it employs strong cast iron, which is typical with many higher-end machines.

However, this machine does have its pitfalls. Perhaps the most evident is the high tool rest that many users find it difficult to adjust correctly. Furthermore, you may find issues with the lock, as it sometimes fails to lock the piece of wood in place. I also believe that the machine is a tad underpowered compared to other comparable machines that provide speed up to 4,000 RPM.

This machine is lightweight, versatile, and handy for various small projects that require the utmost precision and accuracy. Also, you cannot beat it for the price.

Specs:

  • 1 hp, 1,725 RPM motor
  • 12-inch swing
  • Electronic variable speed control
  • Forward and reverse capability
  • 36 x 11 x 17.75 inches

Pros:

  • Low-speed capability
  • Great for sanding
  • Various angles 
  • Lightweight
  • Versatile

Cons:

  • Quality control issues
  • Low part availability
  • Expensive

The Delta 46-460 is a versatile tool for woodworkers of all skillsets. You will have the ability to create woodwork with precision. This tool has a 12.5-inch swing, which is one of the best swing sizes in its class. This type of lathe is considered a “midi lathe, ” which is more compact and extremely portable. 

This machine is mighty; with its 1hp motor, you can be confident that the machine will not stall. The Delta also stands out from the competition with its great variable speed control, varying between 250-4,000 RPM. The slow speed setting allows you to craft anything with complete confidence and precision.  

I have found the variable speed control to be the best part of this machine. The speed dial gives you complete control over the speed of the lathe. Additionally, there is a manual belt adjustment feature, allowing you to adjust the speed between three settings: 250-750 RPM, 600-1,800 RPM, or 1,350-4,000 RPM. 

The Delta lathe includes various other versatile features, such as a forward and reverse option, a quality tailstock hard wheel crafted from a metal alloy, and a well-built tailstock lock. The tool rest on this model is at the perfect height and can be easily adjusted by you. 

For what you receive with this machine, I believe it’s a bargain. It is a great lathe with an enormous amount of power and unmatched speed control as opposed to comparable machines in the range. If you’re looking for a solid, versatile wood lathe that can tackle any project thrown at it, you should consider adding this machine to your arsenal.

Specs:

  • Sliding headstock pivots 360 degrees
  • 400-3000 RPM
  • 88 x 58 x 39 inches
  • 400lbs
  • 1hp

Pros:

  • Solid construction
  • Powerful
  • Slow speed control
  • Quiet operation
  • Smooth 

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Expensive
  • Speed control only goes as low as 250 RPM

The Jet JWL 1440VSK is a heavy-duty, versatile, high horsepower machine. This can be purchased as a worktop model or a standalone machine with cast iron legs. This lathe can tackle any woodturning task with ease and precision. For a large machine, it has great slow speed control, down to 400 RPM. The horsepower that this machine provides ensures that the machine will not stall, even under immense pressure. 

Although a little pricey, this machine is not lacking. The Jet JWL 1440 VSK is well balanced and will not vibrate or rock when operating at full speed. Because of its size, this machine is great for large bowl turning and any other large projects.   

Although this is a great, well-built machine, it has a few flaws that are worth noting. For one, this is a large machine, weighing in at a staggering 400 pounds. Furthermore, it is much larger than the other lathes I have reviewed, and for the price, it should include lower speed control, at least to 250 RPM for optimal precision. However, this is a great machine capable of completing any task, large or small, and is worth considering. 

Specs:

  • Two hp motor
  • Spring-loaded spindle lock
  • 135-3500 RPM
  • 441 pounds
  • 220 volts

Pros:

  • Quiet
  • Well-built
  • Smooth power delivery
  • Stout tailstock
  • Low profile banjo

Cons:

  • No safety brake

The Laguna Tools Revo Lathe 1836 is a great tool and overperforms for the price range. This tool is versatile, ergonomic, and is created with quality in mind. This machine is one of the best on the market for a full-sized lathe and has ample power with its two hp motor that delivers power smoothly and is extremely quiet, even at full speed. This is made possible by its intuitive 3-phase power system, which allows for smooth and accurate performance. 

Speed control is made easy with this lathe as it has two speed ranges. Because this machine is user-friendly, changing the belts is an easy process. This allows you to receive a wide variety of speeds ranging from 50-1300 RPM on the low range belt and 135-3500 RPM on the high range. This allows you to complete any project with precision and ease. 

This unit is also very user friendly and easy to operate. There are a large digital RPM readout and a large, responsive dial for easy speed adjustment. Furthermore, the control panel is at an ergonomic height, and all the dials and readouts are easy to reach. This lathe is also great for sanding as it includes a handy reverse setting. The banjo and tailstock on this machine are easy to adjust as well. 

The 1836 includes a durable, heavy-duty frame that is built to last. Unlike the other lathes I have reviewed, this particular one is constructed out of high strength steel instead of cast iron. However, its legs are cast iron and absorb any energy and vibrations quite well. 

One of the most important aspects of a lathe is the tool rest, as it needs to be at the appropriate height. The 1836 delivers on this feature, as it includes a 6mm spring that allows you to control your tools throughout the entire process. The tool rest is of exceptionally high quality and is built to last.

This is a very high-quality machine that performs. Furthermore, the ergonomic and user-friendly operation ensures that even the novice can use it with ease. Although it may seem a little pricey compared to the other lathes I have reviewed, this one is far superior. I came across the only downside is the lack of a safety brake that will bring the machine to a safe stop if the resistance gets too high. However, I would recommend this machine as it outperforms all the rest. 

Wood Lathe Buyer's Guide

Not sure what to look for when shopping for the best wood lathe? Some of the most important features to look at are the base, measures, motor specifications, headstock and tailstock, and tool rest. 

Wood Lathe Base

The base is one of the most critical elements of the lathe, as it is part of the machine’s foundation. Often, the base on wood lathes are crafted from a sturdy cast iron construction; however, other materials may sometimes be used. 

A solid base is so important to overall operation because it has the capability to eliminate much of the motion caused by turning at high speeds. 

Measures

The measures at either end of the machine determine what size or shape of wood can be turned. Oftentimes, there are two measures, one on the swing, and the other one is the length of the two ends of the lathe. Lathes that are capable of a variety of different shapes and sizes make it easy to craft almost anything from a pen to a flower pot. 

Motor

The motor specifications is another key element to look for in a lathe. It is ideal to purchase a lathe that has a soft start option and allows you to turn at both very low and high RPMs. Most lathes on the market today are powerful and have motors capable of 1-3hp. Variable speed control is very popular in the industry as well, as many lathes have a speed range of 250-4000 RPM.

Head and Tailstocks

The head and tailstocks are what hold the wood in place; therefore, it is important that they are high quality and will not cause any type of excessive vibration when turning. This is critical to any woodworker who values precision and ease of use when turning. Therefore, the tail and headstocks should lock into place and remain secure.

Tool Rest

The tool rest is also an important part of the lathe, as it must be fitted in a comfortable position and have ergonomics in check. A tool rest should be sturdy, as if it is loose, could cause injury. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the tool rest included in your lathe can withstand the rigors of the job.  

FAQs

Have questions about wood lathes? Here’s what most beginner woodworkers want to know.

What is carved on a wood lathe?

A wood lathe is used for carving, cutting, sanding, and drilling wood. Experienced woodworkers can use a lathe to create furniture legs, pots, and other everyday items. They have variable speeds, which allow you to control how fast or slow the wood turns—the woodworker then uses a special tool to carve the wood into the desired shape carefully.

What is the easiest wood to turn?

The easiest wood to turn is usually soft maple or poplar. However, you still need the right tools for the job. You also need to maintain them properly for the best results.

Final Thoughts

Depending on your budget and what type of project you would be using your lathe for, all of these are great options and worthy of recognition. These are some of the best wood lathes on the market today and include all the modern features you need to complete your next project.

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