6 Best Wood Lathe For Beginners

Choosing the best wood lathe for beginners can be quite overwhelming. In this article, I am going to show you the top machines on the market at the moment.

If you have a wood lathe, you can make functional and artistic objects that are sure to attract shoppers. Anyone who wishes to try their hands at woodworking needs to give the lathe a chance.

This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something we may earn a commission. Thanks.

Top Wood Lathe For Beginners

Image Product Details  
backpac WEN 3420 8″ by 12″ Variable Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe 3.2-Amp Lathe
Variable speed from 750 to 3200
MT1 spindle and tailstock taper
Check Price
backpac Delta Industrial 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed Midi Lathe Powerful 1 HP Motor
Forward and Reversing function
250 to 1750 RPMs
Check Price
SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe 1/3 HP Motor
700 – 3,200 RPM spindle speed
Ideal for pen turning and small projects
Check Price
JET JWL-1440VSK 14″x40″ Wood Lathe Infinitely variable speeds from 400 to 3,000 RPM
On/Off switch with safety key
Sliding and pivoting headstock
Check Price
Nova 71118 Comet II DR – Midi Lathe Speed Range: 250 – 4,000 RPM
Digital Readout
Forward and reverse switch
12” Swing over bed and 16.5” between centers
Check Price
JET JWL-1221VS 12″x21″ Wood Lathe Easy-to-reach controls
Digital readout
Three-speed ranges (60-900/110-1,800/220-3,600)
Forward to reverse function
Check Price

Whether you are a hobbyist or thinking about becoming a professional woodworker, these are some of the best wood lathes you might want to consider.

WEN 3420 8″ by 12″ Variable Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe – Best Entry Level Lathe

WEN 3421 3.2-Amp 8" by 12" Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe

If you are looking for a mini-lathe to help you work on small projects, the WEN 3420 is a perfect choice. From DIY cups to precise bowls, you can make anything that falls within the 8″ wide and 12″ long dimensions.

This wood lathe features a 2a motor with a speed range between 750 RMP – 3200 RMP. The mini-lathe is available at a reasonable price. You can use it on a bench-top due to its compact design.

Moving onto the construction part, the lathe has a cast iron body, which makes it durable. When you buy this lathe, you also get useful accessories such as two tool rests, a flat wrench, faceplate, knockout rod, tailstock cup, and a headstock spur center. The WEN 3420 is a winner as you get more than you pay more.

Pros

  • It is affordable and perfect for small start-up projects
  • The WEN 3420 is durable, compact, and light-weight
  • The machine has a powerful output and is precise for woodturning
  • It includes a wide range of handy accessories in the package
  • The iron cast body makes it very sturdy and excellent durability
  • This wood lathe features variable speed

Cons

  • The WEN 3420 is not suitable for heavy and big projects

Delta Industrial 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed Midi Lathe

Delta Industrial 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed Midi Lathe


Delta Machinery is a known name in the power tools trade. The company has been in the equipment trade for over nine decades. They are revolutionaries in the market and have developed several innovative designs in a wide range of products. They offer drills, saws, grinders, and many more tools. All the products from Delta Machinery have excellent quality and are available at affordable prices.

The Delta lathe is a heavy machinery piece that allows you to work on different kinds of woodwork projects. This variable-speed lathe lets you rotate the wood around the machine’s axis, meaning you can use it to cut, sand, or drill the piece. So you can design a well-proportioned wooden object around the axis. With this midi-lathe, you can create small wooden items such as table legs, pens, bowls, and more.

Pros

  • The Delta Midi Lathe can hold pieces up to 12 inches. This lathe is extremely powerful and robust.
  • You get an incredible warranty of five years. This extended warranty reveals the manufacturer’s trust in their product.
  • The machine features a patented belt-tensioning. With this feature, you can switch speeds with ease.
  • The forward and reverse engine is an impressive trait as it allows you to give a professional and more delicate finish to the end product.
  • And the most fabulous thing about this lathe is that you get all the features mentioned above at an affordable price.

Cons

  • The customer service of the company is also disappointing
  • The Delta midi-lathe is a bulky piece of equipment

SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe

SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe


Like all other mini-lathe models, the SHOP FOX W1704 meets all the needs of mini wood projects. We love DIYs, and if you have a spark to learn wood-crafts, you can invest in this affordable wood lathe. It is basic and easy to operate. The most notable feature of the W1704 is the variable spindle speed and its versatility. It works on both rigid materials and soft ones.

The compact size makes it compatible with most of the workbenches. Since working on wood takes some practice and precision, you can use this model before moving on to the advanced ones. If you are new or need to polish your skills, we feel this would be the best option. Durability is also guaranteed since the body is made out of cast iron. If you perform timely maintenance and care, this machine will work just fine for a long time.

Pros

  • The machine has variable speed and works equally well on wood and metal
  • One of the top lathes available in the market for small-scale projects.
  • The lathe is durable and affordable. It’s a great piece of machinery for beginners
  • Features a sturdy body
  • It is light-weight and portable
  • Features a safety paddle switch
  • The product includes a two-year warranty

Cons

  • The motor is not suitable for operating on heavy-duty objects. This makes it less appealing to professional crafters

JET JWL-1440VSK 14″x40″ Wood Lathe with Legs

JET JWL-1440VSK 14"x40" Wood Lathe with Legs (719400K)


Are you a creative genius who wants a machine that is as versatile as your crafting? Then don’t look any further because your search ends with the JET JWL – 1440VSK. This bad boy allows you to work on wood without any hassles, even if you are a beginner.

The Jet 1140 VSK includes a powerful motor that will surprise you. The machine is fitted with cast iron legs and can operate at variable speeds between 400 RPM and 3000 RPM. Everything is put together in the most professional way to meet all your woodturning needs, from the machine’s construction to its excellent speed control.

Pros

  • The unit features a cast-iron body, and it runs without creating any strong vibrations
  • The user has full customization options due to the machine’s variable speed motor
  • You can enlarge the 40 – inch inboard working bed to a greater size
  • Although the lathe features a 1 Hp motor, it performs better than most 2 Hp motors
  • You have the option to control the speed with a knob easily

Cons

  • It is quite heavy. The machine weighs around 353 pounds
  • Portability is an issue due to its weight
  • The lowest speed is 400rpm
  • When working at higher speeds, the knob shows some resistance

Nova 71118 Comet II DR – Midi Lathe Flexible Woodworking System

Nova 71118 Comet II DR - Midi Lathe Flexible Woodworking System, 12”, Powerful Electronic 3/4 HP variable speed


The Nova 7118 is powerful and can run between 250-4000 RPM. The motor power is ¾ HP. It includes a forward and reverse switch, which allows you to create a less rough product. Once it starts to operate, the vibration absorption and stability will gradually increase.

The machine features a digital readout that allows you to make speed adjustments for different materials. So you get to have better control over your woodturning work.

While we researched this product, we saw a 4.4 out of 5 ratings on Amazon.com. The Nova 71118 Comet II DR – Midi Lathe seems to have impressed the crowd. Buyers were delighted with the product and its hassle-free functioning. Since the complaints are significantly less, this particular model is our favorite.

Pros

  • The machine has strong-built and is durable
  • Features a wide range of speed options
  • Accessories can be fitted to this midi lathe
  • Requires significantly less maintenance and light cleaning. It lasts more many years
  • If you use the manual, it can be set up in less than 20 minutes. It is also effortless to use
  • Features a user-friendly interface with easy controls

Cons

  • You will need a high voltage input to operate this lathe
  • It needs a reversible faceplate for the reverse function. But since the unit comes with one faceplate, you might not see this as a drawback

JET JWL-1221VS 12″x21″ Variable-Speed Wood Lathe

JET JWL-1221VS 12"x21" Variable-Speed Wood Lathe (719200)


The JET 1221VS has versatile features compared to any other wood lathes for beginners. The most outstanding part of this model is its controlling power. Beginners get the best support while working with this piece of wood-turning machinery. The speed ranges between 60 and 3600 RPM. This speed range is hard to come by in other models.

Other notable features include – reverse for sanding purposes, digital readouts, and wide bed rails that are best for making small to medium-sized objects less than 12 inches in diameter.

The other unique feature of this wood lathe is the ratchet-style tension system. The innovative spring-loaded pin allows you to lock the object in 24 positions. Thus the piece stays in place while you work on it. The forward and reverse functions are also comfortable to use.

Pros

  • This is a high-performance machine. It has a sturdy head and tailstock, which allows you to work on wood comfortably
  • The lathe is safe and easy to use. The maintenance is also significantly less
  • The digital controls are out of the world. It adds to the comfort of operating this machine
  • The unit is durable
  • The large capacity allows users to work with objects of varying shapes and sizes

CONS

  • The unit does not include a stand

Tips on choosing the right wood lathe machine for beginners

You can make a wide range of cool objects using a lathe, and who knows, you could even end up making a living out of it. Below you will find some practical tips on choosing a wood lathe for beginners.

Size matters

Wood lathes are available in different sizes such as small, medium, and large. If you are just starting out, we feel a mini-lathe will work just fine. It is affordable, portable, and best for small-scale projects like making bowls, pens, table legs, etc. The only downside to the mini-lathe is that it is not suitable for making bigger objects.

If you believe that you will be making a profession out of woodturning someday, then consider getting a medium or full-size lathe. Full-size lathes come with their stand and need a significant amount of space to be set up. The bigger lathes can be used for all kinds of projects.

Cost

How much are you willing to spend on a lathe? The price of a wood lathe runs from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. If you are new, we would advise against investing in a high-end model. But this doesn’t mean you settle for a cheap model either because you get what you pay for. Find a decent machine that has a good rating and is also medium-priced.

Weight

One of the most common problems that woodworkers face is the vibration created during the woodturning process. If the lathe has the right weight, it will stay in place while operating. If the weight is not proper, the machine won’t be able to handle unbalanced logs. Some of the cheap lathes start vibrating without even mounting a piece of log on it. So the heavier your wood lathe, the better it can work with unbalanced wood.

Construction

Cast iron is the most common type of material used for making wood lathes. The reason is, cast iron is best at dampening vibrations. The high-end models of the wood lathe are made from materials such as steel and stainless steel. These materials are better than cast iron in absorbing vibrations. So if you want to enjoy hassle-free woodwork, you need to consider a wood lathe made from any of the materials mentioned above.

Motor

The motor is the heart of a wood lathe machine. Look at how much horsepower the engine can supply. The greater the horsepower, the better your machine can work with heavier and harder wood. So make sure that the motor power suits your project needs.

Accessories

While working your wood lathe, you will need several accessories, depending on your project. Some of the safety accessories include safety glasses, face shields, and dust masks. Some other essential accessories include turning tools and a sharpening system. These basic accessories are needed for all kinds of projects. Other accessories worth considering are –

  • Pen mandrel — for pen turning
  • Four jaw chuck – used for turning bowls
  • Jacobs chuck – great for holding and drilling
  • 60-degree live center – to turn between centers
  • Bottle stopper mandrel – to make wine bottle stoppers
  • Collet chuck – to keep small pieces of tenons in place

More tips for choosing the best wood lathe for beginners

Always read reviews online or ask around. Invest in a lathe sold by a reputable manufacturer. Check for warranties and look at what all it covers—the more extended the warranty, the better.
Visit woodwork shops and clubs. We are sure you will be able to find a professional who can give you a better perspective on these machines.
Join a woodturning class. A lot of stores offer such courses. This will give you a better opportunity to know more about wood lathes and their functioning. You can then decide on the kind of features that you would want in your lathe.

Some wood lathes are belt-driven, whereas some models use variable speed controls. You will have to turn off the lathe for the belt-driven models every time you need to change speed. The ones with variable speed control are more convenient, but these are costlier than the belt-driven models.
Before making a purchase, you need to test it. Visit the storeroom and ask them to turn it on to check the machines’ vibration and alignment. Visit multiple stores to compare prices and quality. Also, look for a brand with excellent customer service because if something goes wrong, you don’t want to stay there hanging.

Care and Maintenance for your lathe

Every piece of machinery needs maintenance, but the wood lathe does not require too much upkeep. But here are a few things you need to do to make sure that your lathe stays up and running for a longer period –
Periodically check the drive belts for wear and tear. If needed, change them.
Prevent the build-up of grit and grim by regularly vacuuming your lathe. Your lathe comes with a manual that includes the cleaning instructions. In most cases, it requires a mild solvent and a damp cloth.
Lubricate from time to time or as mentioned in the user manual. You can spray a little amount of lubricant on the lathe bed to allow the tailstock to glide smoothly.

Cover up the lathe bed before applying CA glue finish or any other finishes to your turning project. This protects the motor. If anything drips into the motor, the machine will get broken. And repair costs are not cheap.
Check on the accessories and lathe parts that have bearings. These may require replacement after some time.

Conclusion of the best wood lathe for beginners

Working with a wood lathe is fun. This can be a very engaging hobby if you love creating and designing aesthetically pleasing objects. Choosing the right tools and accessories can turn your hobby into a very lucrative business. This means you get to enjoy success and happiness. Although it might seem tempting to invest in a cheap model, let us assure you that it will lead to more frustration and unnecessary costs down the road. The models mentioned in this post are great for beginners and are affordably priced. Let us know which wood lathe you liked the best.

Thank you for reading the best wood lathe for beginners of 2021.