Every woodworker has a reliable and efficient wood lathe. A wood lathe can shape a piece of wood to any cylindrical profile. Lathes are used to make intricately designed posts, furniture legs, decorative wooden fixtures, bowls, bats, and many more.
Of the best wood lathes of 2021, the WEN 3421 benchtop wood lathe is at the top of the list with its powerful motor, variable speed, soft start, and interchangeable tool rests. This wood lathe fits wooden workpieces that are up to a foot long. Let’s look at the WEN 3421 and the other 7 best wood lathes and see which one works for you in this review.
Star Rating: 4.4 out of 5
Best Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe from WEN
- This wood lathe can fit workpieces up to 12 x 8 inches.
- This comes with a powerful motor which provides more power compared to other wood lathes.
- Comes with a variable speed motor from 750 to 3200 RPM.
Simple, easy to use, and ready to turn, these are the words to describe the WEN benchtop wood lathe 3421. This is a variable speed mini lathe with a 3.2-amp motor. It can turn different items from chess pieces, bowls, cups, decorative items, and many more.
You can use this wood lathe to turn pieces up to 12 x 8 inches. The durable motor offers twice the power of most wood lathes which means, you can use this to turn different objects for your carpentry, woodworking, or construction needs.
The 3.2-amp motor is the heart of the WEN wood lathe. It is a variable speed motor which you can adjust from 750 to 3200 RPM. Your purchase comes with a large 2.3-inch faceplate, a reliable MT1 spindle, and taper plus tool rests. This lathe is made from heavy-duty steel but it remains portable with 44.3 pounds weight.
- Dimensions – 28 x 13 x 4 inches, 44.3 pounds
- Motor/Power – 3.2-Amp, 750 to 3200 RPM
- Cutting Capabilities – for workpieces 12 x 8 inches
- Special Features – soft start, variable speeds, MT1 spindle, interchangeable tool rests, tailstock taper.
- Accessories – face plate 2.3 inches, MT1 spindle, tailstock taper, tool rests
- This wood lathe is best for turning smaller wooden pieces.
- You can adjust the speed to match your project.
- The soft-start motor prevents abrupt tool movements.
- You’ll get more value as it comes with all the accessories you need.
- This is a portable wood lathe for home and job site use.
- This wood lathe is only for turning smaller objects.
- The tightening components are made of plastic.
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Best Variable Speed Woodworking Lathe from Jet
- This wood lathe comes with easy controls and a convenient digital display.
- With three speeds to choose from.
- With directional controls, forward and reverse.
The JET JWL-1221VS is a variable speed wood lathe that comes with easy-to-use controls plus a convenient digital readout to check the status of your machine. You can select from three speeds from 60 to 900, 110 to 1800, or 220 to 3600 RPM to match the project you’re working on. With three speeds, you can prevent tool breakage and wasting stock material.
This wood lathe comes with a ratchet-style tension belt system which makes it more efficient especially when turning at different speeds. You can easily stop the lathe if you encounter any problems with its safety key. And with its directional control system, you can move from forward going to reverse with just one click.
You can keep your tools handy inside a convenient tool storage carrier from each end of the lathe. It may be harder to take anywhere considering it’s more than 120 pounds. So, it could be used as a home workshop lathe or a job site lathe.
- Dimensions – 33.6 x 11 x 35.8 inches, 121 pounds
- Power /Motor – variable speed motor, 3600 RPM
- Special Features – optimal speed, ratchet-style tool belt tension, storage caddy, safety key, directional controls.
- Accessories – tool supports, tool caddy, knockout rod, hardware
- Comes with a powerful, multi-speed motor.
- With improved design belt tensioning system.
- Comes with a handy storage system on each side of the tool.
- With easy-to-use controls, digital display, and safety switch.
- This lathe is very heavy.
- Complaints with the lathe bearings.
- Does not come with a stand.
Star Rating: 4.3 out of 5
Best Benchtop Lathe from SHOP FOX
- This wood lathe comes with an 8-inch swing-over bed.
- With a cast iron body making it very durable for all types of woodturning tasks.
- Comes with variable speed controls; best for different types of projects.
The Shop Fox W1704 is a 1/3 – HP benchtop wood lathe capable of precision turning with 2 tool rests. It is a very durable lathe with a cast iron body. This makes it very heavy to take anywhere but ensures that the workpiece stays balanced, with the best results for every project.
The motor comes with unlimited variable speeds and thus works great for turning different types of materials. You can turn larger workpieces thanks to its 12-inch distance in between centers. Meanwhile, the 8-inch swing bed lets you create different kinds of cuts and turn different projects with ease.
- Dimensions – 7.1 x 27.9 x 13.7 inches, 48.4 pounds
- Power/Motor -1/3- HP 2-Amp variable speed motor, 3200 RPM
- Cutting Capabilities –12-inch between centers, 8-inch swing-over bed
- Special Features – cast iron body, variable speeds, tool rests
- Accessories – faceplate, 2 tool rests
- This is a heavy but balanced wood lathe.
- Can accept wider and longer workpieces.
- The variable-speed motor lets you make different cuts and work on different types of materials.
- With a reliable motor, ready to work on all kinds of projects.
- Does not come with a stand.
- Complaints about the position of the tightening knob.
- Complaints that the motor is too weak.
Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Best Variable Speed Mini Lathe from NOVA
- This wood lathe comes with variable speeds from 250 to 4000 RPM.
- Comes with a 3-step pulley system for low, medium, or high speeds.
- This wood lathe is easy to take anywhere you want to work at home or the worksite.
The NOVA 46300 Comet II is a mini wood lathe perfect for working on smaller objects. It comes with a variable speed motor capable of 250 to 4000 RPM at ¾ HP. This is an updated motor from NOVA which means it’s more efficient, will provide the best turning results for different kinds of wood.
This lathe has a 12-inch swing over bed capacity and a 16.5-inch distance between centers. You can turn different wood pieces to make small decorative items, chess pieces, pens, bowls, and wooden vases.
This wood lathe works using a 3-step pulley system to allow you to change speeds quickly but in a more efficient manner. Simply move from low to medium to high speed by turning the convenient dial. You can work on different projects with ease even if you’re new to woodworking or woodturning.
- Dimensions – 33 x 9 x 18 inches, 82.4 pounds
- Power/Motor – ¾ HP motor, variable speeds 250 to 4000 RPM
- Cutting Capabilities – 16.5 inches between centers, 12-inch swing-over bed
- Special Features – with a pulley system, variable-speed motor
- Accessories – none
- This wood lathe comes with a variable speed motor.
- You can quickly change from three different speeds using a simple pulley system.
- This works with smaller turning tasks.
- It is made from very strong material that resists movement to keep the piece balanced.
- This lathe is easy to control.
- This wood lathe is compact but remains heavy at more than 80 pounds.
- The working area is too small, only for small turning tasks.
- No display.
- No stand.
Star Rating: 4.6 out of 5
Best Mini Lathe from RIKON Power Tools
- This wood lathe is a mini lathe with a ½ HP motor.
- This is a cast-iron mini wood lathe with minimal vibration and other unnecessary movements.
- This comes with a 5-speed range to help you with finishing, shaping, and turning tasks.
The Rikon Power Tools mini wood lathe may look small but it is equipped with a ½ HP motor which provides enough power to turn all kinds of projects. This lathe has a 10-inch swing capacity and an 18-inch distance between centers and so, you can turn objects like bowls, cups, chess pieces, decorative items, vases, and pens.
This wood lathe is easy to use with self-ejecting tailstock. You can easily control it without worries about tool breakage with its easy-access control system. It has five speeds to tackle different turning projects from shaping to finishing.
This lathe has a cast iron body so there’s very little vibration. You also get all the accessories you need with your purchase like a knock-out bar, tool rest, live center, and wrenches to make adjustments.
- Dimensions – 35.5 x 10.5 x 14.75 inches, 74 pounds
- Power/Motor – ½ HP motor, 5 speeds
- Cutting Capabilities – 10-inch swing, 18-inch in between centers
- Special Features – self-ejecting tailstock, cast iron body
- Accessories – live center, knock-out bar, tool rest, wrenches
- This wood lathe is very sturdy with a cast iron body.
- It is a mini lathe with a lot of power.
- With five speeds to match different woodturning activities.
- Comes with all the materials you need for every project.
- Still a small lathe.
- No legs or table.
- Not a variable speed lathe.
Star Rating: 4.6 out of 5
Best Variable Speed Midi Lathe from PSI Woodworking
- This lathe comes with a high-performance 1HP motor with an efficient microprocessor.
- With convenient handles and LED lamp.
- This is a very sturdy wood lathe, prevents vibrations.
The PSI Woodworking midi wood lathe is a variable speed lathe with a reliable induction motor with a microprocessor. You’ll get 2 belt positions at 500 to 1800 RPM and 1950 to 3800 RPM making it great for intricate turning projects.
This wood lathe has easy controls readily accessible from the front with a speed display setting at the front as well. The distance between centers is 18-inches while the swing over the bed is 12 inches. The tailstock and spindle bore is 3/8 inch with a variety of indexing positions thanks to the convenient spindle locking system. Meanwhile, a small LED lamp shines on your workpiece.
This wood lathe is made from heavy-duty cast iron making it very sturdy with no vibrations whatsoever.
- Dimensions – 32 x 11 x 10 inches, 106 pounds
- Power/Motor – 1HP motor, 500 to 1800 RPM and 1950 to 3800 RPM ( it comes with two belt positions)
- Cutting Capabilities – 18 inches in between centers, 12-inch swing over bed
- Special Features – variable speed motor, with a variety of indexing positions, built-in handles, LED lamp
- Accessories – tool storage racking system, LED work light with flex cable, tool rests, faceplate, spur drive center, hex wrenches, tailstock live center, knockout rod, screwdriver, handle and bolt for the tailstock and safety goggles.
- Comes with a powerful 2-speed motor.
- With a reliable cast iron body, no vibrations.
- With easy-to-use controls and digital speed readout.
- Comes with complete accessories.
- This lathe is only for turning small wooden objects.
- The LED lamp is too dim.
- There is no reverse switch.
Star Rating: 4.9 out of 5
Best 2HP Wood Lathe from Powermatic
- This wood lathe has simple yet very precise indexing.
- This offers great versatility with its magnetic-backed control box.
- Offers maximum comfort, self-ejecting features and comes with a laser-etched marker.
The Powermatic 3520C is a wood lathe with a 2HP motor. It is a wood lathe with legs to help you work with ease. It has simple and very precise indexing with a digital readout to make instant checks. This is a customizable wood lathe with a movable magnetic control box. Because of its height, you’ll get maximum control over your workpiece and comfort as you work.
This is a heavy-duty wood lathe weighing in at 736 pounds and at 814 pounds when fitted with the extensions. This is a balanced, vibration-free workshop lathe but is very hard to transport because of its weight.
Other features include an updated spindle lock system and an anti-rotation key for seamless operation. You’ll get everything you need with your purchase including a sliding knockout rod, sliding hammer, and the optional extension.
- Dimensions – 69.5 x 36.5 x 47 inches, 736 pounds
- Power/Motor – available in 1 and 2 HP motors
- Cutting Capabilities – precise indexing, comes with a digital display
- Special Features – digital readout, self-ejecting, laser guide, safety shield
- Accessories – risers
- This lathe has a powerful motor.
- With a larger capacity.
- With improved features compared to other Powermatic lathes.
- Works smoothly and easily.
- Allows you to work easily on your workpiece with the added height.
- A very heavy wood lathe.
- Still limited to small turning projects.
Star Rating: 4.1 out of 5
Best Industrial Variable Speeds Wood Lathe
- This wood lathe comes with a powerful 3 HP 3-phase motor.
- With a large swing over the resting base and swing over the bed.
- This is very stable with a cast iron body and legs.
The Grizzly Industrial wood lathe is a powerful 3HP 3-phase lathe. This wood lathe is perfect for turning larger items including table legs, chair legs and components, large bowls, and other objects with a larger diameter. It comes with a 22-inch swing capacity to give you more room to work on.
You’ll get a larger clearance and higher toque to cut out large projects at minimal speeds. The cast iron bed and legs make this lathe very sturdy, perfect for shop use and worksite use.
- Dimensions – 24.25 x 69 x 24 inches, 584 pounds
- Power/Motor – 3 HP 3-phase motor, variable speeds 100 to 3200 RPM
- Cutting Capabilities –22 inches swing over bed, 18 inches swing over tool rest base, 42 inches in between centers.
- Special Features – Digital readout, spindle and tailstock lathe taper, cast-iron bed, and legs.
- Accessories – spur center, 6-inch faceplate, indexing pin, cupped live center, tool rest, and a knockout tool
- This wood lathe comes with a stronger, more efficient motor.
- This will help you work on larger projects.
- This is a stable lathe with a cast iron body and legs.
- Complaints that the legs are too tall.
- Complaints that the legs cannot be adjusted.
How to purchase the best wood lathe?
Choose a wood lathe that will work with the size of your workpiece.
Wood lathes come in varying sizes; some can work with small to medium-sized wooden pieces while some can take larger wood stock. It depends on the size of your woodturning project. If you’re turning a small wooden tool like a chess piece then a smaller wood lathe would do. For turning table legs, stair banisters, and other similar projects, a bigger or more expansive wood lathe is best.
The lathe’s motor power, speed, and variable controls matter.
The wood lathe motor speed determines its efficiency. You need a strong motor for a wood lathe. You can’t work on any project without a strong motor. Also, a motor with variable speeds will allow you to work on different types of wood and to make all kinds of projects.
The lathe must come with complete accessories
The wood lathe you selected should have complete accessories. A complete wood lathe kit should come with a spur center, faceplate, indexing pin, live center, tool rest, and other accessories to make your woodturning tasks easier and safer.
Choose one with a strong and stable base.
A cast-iron lathe is best and this should come with a sturdy base. This lathe may be heavier compared to mini-lathes but can perform woodturning tasks better for all types of material. It’s also more efficient, will vibrate less, and will keep the stock material in place for good results.
Here are the most frequently asked questions and answers when buying and using a wood lathe.
Are wood lathes different from metal lathes?
Wood lathes are designed for turning wooden pieces while metal lathes can work on wood and metal pieces. Wood lathes are also simpler compared to metal lathes.
What type of wood is best for a wood lathe?
The best kind of wood to use on a wood lathe is beech. This is a strong and very durable hardwood with a lovely distinct pattern and hence, will look great as turning projects. Runners up are ebony, yew, hickory, and rosewood.
What is the easiest wood to turn?
Again, beech ranks as the easiest wood to use on a lathe. It has a fine grain, great texture, and appearance. It’s easier to turn beech wood than other kinds of wood.
What are great wood lathe projects?
Just some of the best wood lathe projects you can make are spoons, chair and table legs, pens, pencils, spheres, baseball bat, chess pieces, and pool cues.
From our 8 top wood lathes of 2021, we recommend the WEN 3421 benchtop wood lathe. This is a variable-speed mini lathe with a reliable 3.2-amp motor. It is an efficient lathe, despite its size. It can be used to turn smaller items for woodworking and basic carpentry projects. And unlike other wood lathes, the WEN 3421 comes with all the accessories you need to start your project. This heavy-duty WEN wood lathe could be the home shop or job site lathe you’ve been looking for.