In woodworking, the lathe is one of the most valuable tools. Sure, you can finish a lot of projects without ever having to use one, but getting the same level of even, smooth results would take a lot of time and effort.
And, when it comes to projects like bowls, if you want a professional finish a lathe is essential. So, we know that the next step is to buy one, but figuring out what the best lathe for bowl turning is, is a lot harder than you might think.
Do you know where to start looking? What to look for? Well, we do, and that is why we decided to make this quick guide of the best options on the market at the moment.
|Model||Price||Speed range||Editor Rating|
|Delta Industrial 46-460|
|Jet JWL-1015||6 speeds||4.7/5|
|RIKON Power Tools 70-105|
Best for the Money
|Shop Fox W1758||10 speeds||4.2/5|
|Grizzly G0462||10 speeds||3.9/5|
Whether you want to try your hand at a bigger project, such as a sculpture, or a smaller one, like a bowl, our top pick should be yours as well. This is a midi lathe and extremely versatile. With an adjustable speed setting that tops out at 1725 RPM, this gives you all the power you want.
But what really makes this special is the swing capacity of 12.5 inches – there isn’t another machine in the same class that can even come close.
Another fantastic feature is that you can throw it into reverse by just flipping the switch. That means never having to adjust the project so that you can a smooth finish.
Also unique to this model is the belt tensioning system that makes it possible for you to change speed without having to reset the belt first.
It has a cast iron base, making it extremely durable and is backed by a 5-year warranty.
The runner-up, the Jet 1015 is a good starting lathe. It comes in at a very reasonable price and performs well. Unfortunately, because this is a mini-lathe, it is best suited to small or medium sized projects.
It offers six different speeds with the maximum being 3975 RPM so it can spin faster than our top model. Unfortunately, they use a standard tension belt meaning that you will need to readjust it when you change speeds.
They also don’t have the reverse feature that our top pick does. For these reasons, it would be better to save and get the more expensive version if you will be doing a lot of work with it.
However, if you are just starting out and getting used to how a lathe works, this is a really good model, to begin with.
The company does offer a five-year guarantee, and the construction is solid.
If you want a great lathe, and a good price, this is quite a steal of a deal. It is a no-frills option that does not quite measure up to our first two models, but it comes in at a great price.
It is a mini-lathe that will handle smaller projects, and that is perfect for creating bowls. The highest speed obtainable is 3200 RPM so, in that respect at least, it does one-up our first choice. However, it does not have a tension belt that automatically adjusts or the reverse option.
It comes in at a much better price than number 2 and is similar in terms of features but is just not as fast.
So, we could not award it first place. However, for someone who is just starting out, or using it for smaller projects it is perfect. The bed, tailstock, and headstock are all cast iron in order to minimize vibrations, so this is no lightweight alternative.
Also check out: Best wood lathes – Our recommendations
This comes in fourth on our list. It is not a bad alternative, and it is a midi lathe so should be able to handle larger projects, but you are paying as much as you would for the Delta and ending up with far fewer features.
We also did not like the fact that the warranty on this was only two years. It does seem to be well-made and solid but it has no reverse feature, and the belt must be adjusted when the speed is.
It does have a powerful motor and is capable of a maximum speed of 2400 RPM, which is faster than the Delta. However, when using a lathe, speed is not the only important specification.
It is not quite as versatile when it comes to smaller projects because of the larger plate size. Replacing the plate is possible but difficult because of the non-standard post size.
There is only one suitable place for this option – out in the trash. While it kind of works, it is not built to last.
For starters, this has one of the weirdest speed changing devices that we have ever seen. Instead of setting it to a preset speed, you exert pressure on the lever. First off, we don’t like this because you can never really be sure that the speed is consistent.
Second, the design is terrible for the belt, meaning that the belt will need to be changed more often than normal. And, with this machine, that is about as easy as winning a fight with a grizzly bear.
The headstock rotates in order to increase the swing feature, which is awesome until you realize that that the tool rest gets in the way at extreme settings. It also becomes as jittery as a June bug in June because of the spacing of the legs.
How do you choose which features are most important to you? Here is our quick guide about what to think about in this regard.
Are you going to be making small items like pens, or perhaps glasses? Then you don’t need a full-sized option; a bench model will do. If you want to do larger projects, you need a full-size or midi-lathe.
Floor models take up a fair amount of space. They are heavy and not easy to move. You need to think about this ahead of time. Make sure it will fit in your workshop.
The bigger the lathe, the more versatile it is. If you want to do a lot of projects with it, consider giving up space for a bigger one.
An option that offers variable speed adjustments is the most useful because you do not have to ensure that the piece if completely round to start off with. You can simply start to project off at a slower speed so that you can chip away the excess wood, and then increase the speed for finer results.
You are spending a fair amount of money, so it makes sense to get the best quality you can afford. A cast iron bed will provide stability when in use and will last a long time.
Check the warranty and warranty conditions when you buy. What happens if you need to return it? Do you have to take care of shipping? What is covered and what is not?
A good company will offer a five-year warranty. Be wary of those that will not.
For our money, the Delta Industrial 46-460 is the best all-rounder. It can be used to turn bowls but also applied to bigger projects as well. It costs a little more than the others but includes a reverse feature and allows you to change speeds without resetting the belt.
If you plan to be using the machine a lot, these are very useful features.
If you need something that is more budget-friendly, the RIKON Power Tools 70-105 is the best bet. It is a simpler machine but a solidly built one that gets the job done.
Well, that’s all of it then. We hope that you had as much fun reading these reviews of bowl turning lathes as we did during the research phase and that you will find the information useful.
More buying guides like this:
Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!