The 4 Best Lathe for Pen Turning – Buying Guide

Best lathe for pen turning

If you are looking for the best lathe for pen turning, then this is the guide for you! I will tell you what to look out for when buying a wood lathe and give recommendations for some of my favorite models.

We’ll go over how much space your workbench has available, whether or not you want a benchtop model or floor model, and also which features are most important. If all that sounds good, read on!

Usually, benchtop models are used to turn pens because of their high upper-speed range. You can have a smaller wood lathe dedicated just to turning pens and similar objects and another wood lathe just for big projects.

A wide range of lathes is available for pen turning, ranging from inexpensive to considerably expensive. For a beginner’s setup, start with either an inexpensive or medium-end lathe. And most importantly: buy quality tools!

You need a pen-turning lathe, a small drill press, and pen-turning wood. You also need carbide-turning tools and a pen-turning kit.

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Best Lathe for Pen Turning

Image Product Details   Price
backpac Jet JWL-1221VS Best wood lathe for pen turning Check Price
backpac Jet JWL-1015VS Runner Up Check Price
cordlessblower Delta 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Midi Lathe Best value for the Money Check Price
cordlessblower WEN 3421 3.2-Amp 8″ by 12″ Best budget wood lathe for pen turning Check Price

Here are some of the best lathes for pen turning available right now on the market.

Jet JWL-1221VS – Best Overall

The Jet JWL-1221VS is a very popular benchtop lathe. It’s bigger than most of the pen-turning lathes you find, but that’s good because it means you can use it for other things besides turning pens.

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

This lathe has a 12-inch swing and can turn pieces with a length of 21 inches between centers. The model is capable of turning small bowls, rolling pins, wands, and other similar objects.

You can choose from 60 up to 3,600 RPM and both the headstock and tailstock are MT2.

If you are looking for a stable workbench to turn your pens, this lathe is the best choice. It has a heavier weight which means less vibration and smoother woodturning in general.

Jet JWL-1015VS

One of the best lathes for pen turning is the Jet JWL-1015VS. This great starter lathe is perfect for beginners and those on a budget.

This lathe has 10″ of swing and 15″ between centers. The variable-speed versions come with a great advantage because they have more speed options. The JWL-1015 uses a set pulley system that locks in the speed settings at 500/840/1,240/1,800/2,630/3,975 RPM.

JET JWL-1015VS 10"x15" Variable-Speed Wood Lathe

A lower speed than 500 RPM would have been great especially for finishing pens but overall this wood lathe is a solid choice for pen turning.

The Jet JWL-1015VS is small enough to fit in most garages and workspaces. It also offers MT2 tapers on the headstock and tailstock so it’s compatible with every pen turning kit out there.

Delta 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Midi Lathe – Best for the Money

Delta’s industrial products may cost more than your average hobbyist wood lathe, but they are designed for performance and durability.

Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed Midi Lathe

This mid-sized lathe comes with a powerful 1 HP motor that can produce up to 4,000 RPM and offers a 12.5-inch swing capacity. For finishing jobs this wood lathe can slow down to 250 RPM.

Ideal for turning pens this power tool is equipped with pulleys for adjusting the torque-speed.

The lathe can easily go forward and backward, with only a single switch needed to change the orientation.

The steel construction is sturdy and durable, with faceplates of 3 inches as well as one of 6 inches. The 10-inch tool rest ensures compatibility with a variety of tools.

When you are just starting out, you would want a high-quality lathe for turning pens that meets all your needs and is affordable. Delta delivers both at a reasonable price.

WEN 3421 3.2-Amp 8″ by 12″ – Best Budget Lathe

The WEN 3421 is the cheapest found on the market, and while it might not be suited to all hobbyists looking for a lathe to use with other materials, it’s an affordable option for a pen-turning beginner. You could recoup your investment in only a few pens you were able to sell!

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

This particular lathe falls short of expectations in a number of areas. For instance, its low-end speed is 750rpm. Another disadvantage is the MT1 tapers in headstock and tailstock.

If you are just looking for a lathe to jump-start your business and buy more as you learn then this can be the right choice.

How to Choose The Best Lathe for Pen Turning

Finding the perfect wood lathe for pen turning can be daunting, but if you know what factors are important, it becomes much easier.

Speed

Lower-quality pen turning lathes will have only a few different speeds; higher quality lathes offer 5 to 6-speed options for shaping wood.

While these are just fine when you’re turning the pen, which is a set it and forget it process, they make other parts of the pen-turning process more difficult.

When looking for a wood lathe, check the speed of the spindle. You want wood lathes to have a low speed of around 200rpm. If the lowest speed is 600 – 700rpm it can cause uneven finishes when applying CA glue.

Size

Most lathes can be used to make pens. But the headstock and tailstock need to be aligned.

Pen turning kits come in a variety of sizes and are designed to be compatible with various lathes, but the MT2 system leaves plenty of room for any smaller lathe. To comfortably turn a pen you will need at least 15 inches between centers so you have enough space for the pen turning kits.

Pen turners don’t need as much swing over the bed, so any lathe with 8 inches or more will work.

Headstock and Tailstock Size

Headstock and tailstock taper comes in two sizes; MT1 and MT2. The more prevalent size choice is the MT2, which will make it easier to find accessories that fit these.

The MT1 size tapers are typically not found on many lathes, but there are some. This is something to keep in mind if you ever plan on upgrading to a large or more advanced benchtop lathe at any point in the future. If this is the case, then make sure to go with MT2 because you don’t want to buy all the accessories again.

Essential Pen Turning Tools

Pen turning projects require a number of tools and accessories to complete. Here we will discuss some essential pen-turning tools and how you can get started today with the pen starter kit.

Pen Turning Lathe

The best lathe for making wood pens will enable you to make different designs of attractive pens more efficiently. See our reviews above.

Pen Blanks

A pen blank is a block of unfinished wood or acrylic that’s made for turning pens; the most common size is 3 ¾ by 3 ¾ by 5 inches. It’s important to choose carefully since it can have an effect on the final product you create.

There are many kinds of pen blanks available on the market, each providing something slightly different. A wood pen blank offers a natural grain and feel to your finished piece while the acrylic and Alumilite offer simpler turning due to being solid colors.

Read: Top 7 Best Pen Blanks for Unique Pens

Pen Mandrel

In the woodturning field, you can’t attach blanks for making pens to the lathe. The mandrel holding the pen is located between centers on the lathe and supports it while the work is being turned.

The pen mandrels come with either an MT1 or an MT2 headstock, depending on the size of your lathe’s tapered fit.

Pen Kits

Pen kits come with the requisite brass tubing and pen hardware. There are many pen-turning hardware kits available for the would-be hobbyist, from the high-end Rollerball kit to a no-frills Slimline kit.

Read: Best Pen Turning Kits

CA Glue

After adding the CA glue to your pen brass tube, it will have a better grip with a pen blank.

Pen Bushings

Bushings or spacers are simple rings used to determine the diameter of pen blanks. Each bushing indicates a particular size and you will need to place it between pen blanks that are turning on a lathe in order for them to fit around the mandrel.

Bushings must match the size of your pen mandrel and pen type to ensure a good fit. For example, 7mm bushings are the most common, but there is no universal bushing size for pens.

Pen Turning Lathe Tools

These are the three tools you’ll need to finish wood from pen blanks. You’ll need a spindle roughing gouge, a skew chisel, and a parting tool.

Pen Barrel Trimmer

Pen mill barrel trimmer is a drill attachment that makes accurately squaring the end of pen blanks with the brass tube inside easy.

When working with a brass tube lathe turning the pen blank, it is necessary to ensure there’s no gap between the round metal rod and the end of the blank.

Drill Press 

Drill presses are perfect for drilling the pen blanks.  If you’re looking for a drill press, you can consider these models.

As an alternative to using a drill press for drilling the blanks, you have a pen lathe chuck that will permit the turning and drilling of the blanks.

Band Saw 

To cut the wood to the appropriate dimensions, you’ll need a saw. A band saw will be the quickest and most convenient option for cutting it down to size. If you don’t have access to one, though, you can also use a table saw instead.

Sandpaper

You can use sandpaper with different grits from 180 through 400. This process achieves smoother pen blank surfaces.

Pen Finish

Once your pen blanks are sanded, you will need to add a coat of finish to the surfaces so that they appear glossy.  

You may choose any type of finish or use a pre-made/custom-made clear or colored coating. The CA pen finish is probably the most popular choice.

Pen Press 

Once you turn the pen blanks into their final shapes using the lathe, you can assemble them using a pen press.

However, bench vises or quick-grip clamps are alternative options to using instead of a pen pressing tool.

Read: Top 3 Best Pen Assembly Press

Conclusion

So, what are you waiting for? Get started on your search and find the best lathe for pen turning! We hope this guide has helped to answer any questions you had about wood lathes.

If you’re still undecided about what is the best lathe for pen turning then we suggest you choose the Jet JWL-1221VS.

Now it’s your turn to create beautiful pens with a lathe.