A woodworking shop cannot be without a wood lathe – every carpenter knows this. Turning wood is as important an operation as planing or sawing. Without a wood lathe, your ability to create beautiful woodwork becomes severely limited.
So, if you’re interested in bypassing a ton of brain strain, jump right to our wood lathe reviews. In case you don’t understand a term in the review, read the buying guide that follows the reviews. The guide explains everything you need to know and do before buying a wood lathe.
But, buying a wood lathe is no easy task. There are many products in the market and they all compete for your attention. If you’re ready to spend a lot of time and effort to study the merits and demerits of each product, you will eventually get the product you’re looking for. But, we can help you find what is the best wood lathe on the market.
|JET JWL-1221VS 12-Inch|
(Best for the Money)
|RIKON 70-100||$$||91 lbs||4.4/5|
|Delta Industrial 46-460 ||$$$||97 lbs||4.3/5|
|Powermatic 1352001||$$$$||680 lbs||4.1/5
The Jet JWL-1221VS is the best woodturning lathe on the market. This model is extremely popular among intermediate to expert wood turners. However, the price does put this model out of reach for most beginners. But, if you’re willing to reach deep into your pocket and shell out $800 to $1000, then this is the product for you.
The reason this model stands head and shoulders apart from other products on the market is the speed control. Speed control comes in two types: continuous control and discrete control. Discrete control lets you set the spindle speed at fixed RPMs, such as 430, 810, 1230, 1810, 2670, and 3900. Continuous control lets you set the spindle speed at any RPM within the machine’s range. For example, you can set any speed between 60 RPM and 3600 RPM on the 1221VS. The 1221VS has a digital readout that tells you the speed at which the machine is running.
However, the machine has two downsides. First, the center-to-center distance for the 1221VS is 21 inches. If you want to turn anything longer than 21 inches, you will need a bed extension. Second, the machine is heavy. At 120 pounds, you must have a strong bench to mount the machine.
All in all, we think this is one of the best benchtop wood lathes on the market right now.
Although the 1221VS is a phenomenal machine, not everyone can afford it. For those searching for a low-cost solution, the ideal wood lathe is the Grizzly H8259. This is the best wood lathe for the money. Costing around $300, the H8259 is one of the cheapest wood lathes you can buy without compromising quality. But, at this price point, the H8259’s features aren’t as fleshed out as they are in the 1221VS.
Unlike the 1221VS, which offers continuous speed control, the Grizzly’s 1/2 hp motor offers 5 discrete speed settings: 826, 1205, 1713, 2422, and 3337 RPM. But, the 1221’s speed control system is unparalleled in the market. So, we can’t hold this against the H8259.
Now, let’s compare the cost to capacity characteristics of our top pick and our budget pick. The H8259’s swing over bed is 20 percent less than the 1221’s. The H8259’s swing over tool rest is 23 percent less than the 1221’s. The H8259’s center-to-center distance is 12 percent less than the 1221’s. But, the H8259 costs 60 percent less than the 1221. So, Grizzly hasn’t stepped down the capacity as much as it has stepped down the price. This is why the Grizzly H8259 is a top-notch budget wood lathe.
But, the Grizzly H8259 comes with only a one-year warranty. In summary, this is a great model for people getting into woodturning. For experienced woodworkers, they can use this as a standby machine or a portable lathe.
The RIKON 70-100 is mid-range wood lathe. The 70-100 matches our top pick in terms of swing over bed and swing over tool rest. So, if you’re into turning thick and short stocks, as opposed to thin and long stocks, then this machine is for you. It’s priced between $350 and $400. So, it’s quite affordable too.
Although the H259 is a fantastic budget-buy, it does not have a low-RPM setting. The lowest it can go is 826 RPM. However, the RIKON 70-100 can go as low as 430 RPM. So, the 70-100 provides a better speed profile. In addition to 430 RPM, you can set this machine to 810, 1230, 1810, 2670, and 3900 RPM.
However, the center-to-center distance for this machine is only 16 inches. However, you can overcome this problem by adding an extension bed. You can overcome limitations on the length of the bed. But, you can’t add extensions to increase a machine’s swing.
The best part about this product is its warranty. Products at this price range don’t usually come with a 5-year warranty. This shows the amount of care that RIKON puts into its products. So, if you’re looking for a mini lathe, this is the best one you can buy.
If there’s a wood lathe that can compete toe-to-toe with our top pick, it’s this one. Like the 1221VS, the 46-460 also comes with continuous speed control. You can set the speed at any value between three ranges: 250 to 750 RPM, 600 to 1800 RPM, and 1350 to 4000 RPM. While the 1221VS provides more range at low RPM, the 46-460 provides more range at high RPMs. So, the 46-460 is ideal for finishing large pieces of stock wood.
Selecting the required range is easy because of the Delta’s patented belt-tension system. You will not have any trouble shifting the range. However, the 46-460 does not have a digital readout. You will have to eyeball the speed. Although the 46-460 offers the best in class swing, this machine falls short in the center-to-center length. At 16.5 inches, you’ll need a bed extension to turn stocks longer than 16 inches.
But, not everyone requires a long tail bed. If you’re the kind of person who turns mostly bowls, then the 46-460’s 12.5 swing over bed will let you work on pieces that most other lathes can’t fit. Depending on your work, this machines shortcoming may not bother you at all.
In conclusion, I would say that this machine is a great alternative for people who want a high-end wood lathe but don’t have the budget for the 1221VS. The 46-460 compares favorably with the 1221VS in most matters. Even in the case of warranty, the two products match each other because the 46-460 also comes with a 5-year warranty.
If a significant part of your income comes from turning wood, then you need a commercial wood lathe. As far as commercial wood lathes go, the Powermatic 1352001 is the product of choice for many professional wood turners. With a 2 hp motor, this beast lets you turn wood within two ranges: 125 to 3500 RPM and 50 to 1500 RPM. Unlike other models we discussed, the 1352001 is a full-sized wood lathe, not a bench top lathe.
You can change the speed using the variable-speed controls. The digital readout will tell you exactly what speed you’re working at. While the speed range may not blow your mind, after all the 1221 and 46-460 also offer variable-speed control, the Powermatic 1352001 shines when it comes to capacity.
This model’s swing over bed is 20 inches and swing over tool rest is 17 inches. The center-to-center distance for this model is 36 inches. So, if you want to work on massive projects, you should buy this model.
Powermatic has also modified the headstock and tailstock to suit professional requirements. For example, the headstock has a spring-loaded locking button to remove and install accessories quickly and easily. Also, the tailstock has a built-in storage unit where you can keep frequently used tools.
However, this machine is not designed for portability, and it is quite large and heavy. So, make sure you have enough room in your workshop to accommodate this machine. Like all quality products in this space, this machine comes with a 5-year warranty. But, for a $4000 price tag, this is not a product for non-commercial wood turners.
The list of woodturning lathes is long and so is the list of questions pertaining to them. You can find the answer most of the questions yourself. But, you must know where to look and understand what you’re looking at. A product’s technical specifications sheet is the first place to hunt for answers.
To the untrained eye, the data will not make much sense. Consequently, you fail to grasp a clear picture of the product’s capabilities and limitations. Fortunately, this buying guide will help you sort through the sea of information and find the product that’s ideal for you. However, before you dive into spec sheets, you must make a few critical decisions.
Yes, I get that you’re eager to shop for lathes. But, let’s take a few moments to look at a few important parameters that influence buying decisions.
After finalizing these parameters, look for products that match your criteria. You will find information related to these parameters in the technical specification sheet.
Visit the manufacturer’s official web page. Most official web pages have a search function, usually at the top right. Enter the product name in the search window. From the results, choose the product you want. On the product page, you will see a link to the technical data sheet or user manual. The links mostly lead to a pdf document. Download the document and open it. If you’ve downloaded the manual, look at the table of contents to find the page that lists the specifications for the product.
There sure is. No matter how the manufacturer structures or formats the datasheet, you can group the information you need into the following clusters:
You can scan the sheet from group to group until you are sure the machine matches your requirements. Understanding your needs and the spec sheet thoroughly will allow you to intelligently adjust your initial assumptions.
The product review section of the article is a great place to start. The section covers premium quality entry-level lathes, mid-range lathes, and high-end lathes. Since it caters to such a diverse array of customers, you’re likely to find what you’re looking for in one of the five products. However, if you want to scout the prospects on the market, you can scope products from Jet, Nova, and RIKON Power Tools.
The lathe is the mother of machine tools. It was a tool used to make other tools. The earliest lathes date back to Ancient Egypt. Such lathes took two people to operate with one to turn the lathe and the other to cut the wood. That was about 3,300 years ago.
In three millennia, the principle behind the wood lathe hasn’t changed. But, the machine has come a long way in terms of performance, features, and capacity. Thanks to many technological advances, the wood lathes of the 21st century are of high quality compared to wood lathes form the industrial revolution era.
Now, here’s a quick recap of our review. The Jet 1221VS is our top pick. If you have the budget for it, get this lathe. However, if you’re short of the target by a couple of hundred dollars, you can buy the Delta 46-460. But, if you’re looking for a budget model, consider buying the Grizzly H8259. And remember, the RIKON 70-100 is less than a hundred dollars away from the Grizzly. If you can stretch your budget a little more, you can get a great mid-range wood lathe.
At every price point, you will find many products. However, the quality within the price range varies a lot. The market has high-quality budget lathe, as well as low-quality high-end lathes. Without the right knowledge and guidance, you may go down the wrong road. Hopefully, I have made it easier for you to make a sound decision.
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