Lathes are used primarily in woodworking, though they can be used with other materials.
It is important to ensure a high level of horsepower and performance when hoping to turn something like metal or stone. Lathes can be used to create nearly anything that requires a spinning axis to be formed.
Common examples of items hand forged using the assistance of a lathe include table legs, pens, woodwind instruments, blown glass objects, cue sticks, baseball bats, and gun barrels.
There are also three different styles of design, including bench-top, stationary, or mini lathe.
The least expensive of all lathes, mini – lathes meet the needs of most novice crafters. They are ultra-portable, typically weighing between 30 and 100 pounds. These smaller devices are the least powerful, operating at 0.5 horsepower or less, so they may not be ideal for heavy-duty professional use.
Stationary lathes are the largest and most versatile of all lathes. Weighing in at more than 200 pounds, they are expensive but extremely powerful. The stationary lathe is not one that can be moved from one location to another with ease, so it is best for an artisan that plans to perform all tasks in a given workshop. With a horsepower capability of up to three, these are definitely the most able to stand up to tough, long-term use and difficult projects.
Bench-top lathes generally weigh between 100 and 200 pounds. They sit on a bench, as the name suggests, and operate at 0.5 to 1.5 horsepower. These models of lathe are powerful, but transportable. This makes them a perfect fit for construction sites. They are less expensive than stationary models, but offer enough power for most tasks.
Lathe purchases are largely dictated by the crafter’s style of projects. There are two dimensions that must be considered: the swing and the distance between centers. The swing measures the diameter of the material that can be turned by the lathe, while the measurement between the two centers determines the maximum length of material that can be placed in the lathe.
Though the range for most lathes is extensive, the maximum capacity for these two critical measurements should be taken into consideration. In the end, it is better to have a larger capacity than necessary, so that the range or projects that can be created on the lathe remains high.
Lathes generally have a horsepower ranging from 0.5 to 3 horsepower. Horsepower is a method of measuring electrical power. The higher the horsepower, the more heavy duty the device. For individuals who are interested in working on difficult or large pieces, higher horsepower improves efficiency when working for long periods of time on large pieces, and also ensures that the motor does not wear out beneath the strain.
Some types of lathe-oriented craft work do not require as much horsepower. Glass working lathes tend to be lower in horsepower, since the delicate nature of working with glass generally calls for a slower, smoother spin.
Check out the 8 Best Wood Lathes on the market right now:
#1. Powermatic 1352001 Model 3520B 20×35-Inch Wood Lathe with RPM Digital Readout
- The Powermatic 3520B Woodworking Lathe retains all the features of classic Powermatic lathes–including a sliding headstock, electronic variable-speed control, and a spindle lock–plus some great innovations
- To name just a few, a digital RPM readout makes it a snap to keep track of your speed, a redesigned tailstock offers internal storage, and a laser etched quill conveniently self ejects
- With the 3520B, you’ll get classic reliability and advanced technology–the best of both worlds to help you handle your most important jobs
- With wide-ranging capabilities, the Powermatic 3520B is ideal for both novice users and seasoned veterans
- Incredibly adaptable, the Powermatic 3520B features a 20-inch swing and 34-1/2 inches between the centers to accommodate a huge range of project sizes
- For additional versatility, the included pin can be screwed into the spindle housing to provide up to 24 indexing positions for drilling hole patterns or routing flutes and other equally spaced decorative finishes
- Driven by a two-horsepower, 220-volt, 6.2-amp, TEFC (totally enclosed fan-cooled) motor, the Powermatic 3520B offers plenty of muscle to get the job done
- Built with precisely machined, thick-walled iron castings, this 682-pound lathe is rigid and stable
- A sliding headstock with electronic variable speed and digital RPM readout provides accurate speed adjustment
- To support large workpieces, the tailstock is made from heavy iron casting. For convenience, a compartment–complete with hinged access door–is built into the tailstock casting to store small often-used tools and equipment
- The Powermatic 3520B is backed by a five-year warranty
Pros: free shipping, great support, extremely high quality, super good lathe, great design, not difficult to assemble, it is a heavy machine so it does not move around when turning large chunks of wood, it very versatile, the 200v variable speed motor is smooth, reliable, strong, silent, sturdy, lots of torque for the big stuff, the continuously variable speed is invaluable, it work as advertised this machine is more than expected, this is indeed your dream lathe, it is truly worth the price …
Cons: it is very top heavy …
#2. JET 708360 JWL-1642EVS-2 Electronic Variable Speed Woodworking Lathe, 16-Inch Swing 42-Inch
- JET’s JWL-1642EVS-2 Variable-Speed Woodworking Lathe provides accuracy, capability, durability, and value
- With the versatility of its sliding headstock, electronic variable speed, and capacity for large spindle or bowl projects, this lathe is ideal for serious wood turners and novices alike
- Designed to take on projects both large and small with its 16-inch swing and 42-inch capacity, the JWL-1642EVS-2 has a heavy-duty, cast-iron bed to ensure long-term accuracy and smooth operation
- The leg sets are also made of sturdy cast iron and feature widely spaced feet with adjustable pads to maintain a solid, secure stance, even on uneven surfaces
- The legs make the JWL-1642EVS-2’s spindle (center) height a comfortable 44.5 inches above the floor
- For added ease of operation, a handy swing-out basket is mounted below the bed for tool and supply storage
- A cast-iron tool rest maintains rigidity and is easy to position with its long handle
- The JWL-1642EVS-2’s cast-iron headstock provides rigid support for the motor and high-strength spindle
- JWL-1642EVS-2 is equipped with a two-horsepower, three-phase, 230-volt motor that’s fan cooled to resist dust contamination
- This lathe also uses a precision-made stepped pulley system that creates distinct low (zero to 1,200 RPM) and high (up to 3,200 RPM) speed ranges
- The pulleys are driven by a serpentine-style belt that is designed for smooth power transmission, low slippage, and dramatically reduced heat generation when compared to a V-belt
- The large tailstock has the mass and wide base needed for stability, and it slides to the end of the bedway for easy outboard turning
- The JWL-1642EVS-2 comes with a five-year warranty
Pros: great customer experience, great delivery, it is rock solid, fit and finish is good, set-up is pretty easy, the tale and head are perfectly aligned, the motor is extremely quite, no vibration at any rpm, high torque at slower rpm’s is amazing, the ram lines up exactly with the headstock spindle, the variable speed with digital readout is smooth and effortless, sanding at 3000 rpm’s was very nice, you will like the variable speed and constant speed under load …
Cons: i do not have one complaint about this lathe …
#3. NOVA 55175 DVR XP 16-Inch by 24-Inch Electronic Variable Speed Wood Lathe
- NOVA 55175 DVR XP Wood Lathe is an excellent all round lathe
- It has an intelligent 1.75HP DVR motor with features such as chisel dig in safety sensing, favorite speed settings and out of balance work adjustment
- With a very low speed of 100rpm up to 3500rpm, its the perfect solution for a wide variety of projects, from small pens to large bowls and platters
- The NOVA DVR XP offers 16-Inch swing capacity (expandable to 29-Inch capacity outboard with optional outrigger accessory) and 24-Inch between centers, expandable in 20-Inch increments with the optional bed extension accessory
- Full swivel head functionality and solid cast iron components complete the package
- Designed by Teknatool International, innovating since 1955
- Backed by a full replacement 2-year warranty on all parts, and a further 3-Year limited warranty on all parts excluding motor, electronics, consumables, for a total of 5-Years limited warranty
Pros: it is an outstanding lathe, does not take up too much space, describes a quiet, no vibration, direct drive-no belts, variable speed control to make larger bowls, wide range of speeds, high torque, the learning curve is fast , the headstock can be rotated for a larger capacity than the 16 inches, top of the line construction, do not needed to add a sandbag or bolt down this machine, well worth an investment …
Cons: nope …
#4. Shop Fox W1758 Wood Lathe With Cast Iron Legs And Digital Readout
- The fully featured and powerful wood lathe at a competitive price!
- Featuring a hefty 2 HP motor, ten speeds, a swivel-head for outboard turning
- A digital tachometer for exact spindle speed, precision ground cast iron bed
- Headstock and tailstock quick locks, and heavy cast iron legs for stability, this beauty will handle it all!
Pros: great customer service, it’s a great buy, it’s hard to find a better bargain on a mid range lathe, this mid-range lathe has the power and weight needed for most jobs, mostly solid construction, can turn enough diameter for decent sized bowls, headstock was large and was not complicated to install …
Cons: it eats the belt up pretty fast, not a very good design for speed control, no way to lock the spindle in the headstock …
#5. NOVA 46300 Comet II Variable Speed Mini Lathe
- NOVA 46300 Comet II 12 Inch x 16 1/2-Inch Variable Speed Midi Lathe 2013 edition is the update to the most versatile & innovative smaller lathe on the market today
- Portable and space saving, yet delivers the capacity and rugged stability of larger machines
- Its powerful 3/4HP electronic variable speed motor offers a wide speed range from 250-4000rpm
- The forward and reversing switch offers additional flexibility for a superior finish
- With its 12″ swing capacity over bed and 16.5″ between center capacity, expandable to 41″ with the optional bed extension accessory, you can turn a wide variety of projects
- Improvements to previous models include: strengthened reinforced composite guard, the guard now has a rapid access latch for even faster and easier access, the on/off switch has been improved to make it faster and more positive to switch on and off and is fitted with a no-vault release for additional safety
- Finally, the motor housing has been changed to a robust die cast housing
- This updated version of the NOVA Comet II Midi Lathe delivers an exceptional turning experience
- By adding the optional accessories you can transform your lathe into a total wood working station
- This patented world first approach to versatile Midi Lathe design delivers maximum flexibility for the lathe owner, allowing the user to consolidate key wood working and wood turning functions into the single machine, saving space, time and money
Pros: perfect for small shop, good lathe for a beginner at a great price, very little required for setup, the revering function works great for sanding, the variable speed is really handy and works flawlessly, the belt is easy to change from one speed range to another, there is plenty of power there to actually turn a big chunk of wood, does not require a lot of room …
Cons: the short throw on the tail stock screw, came with the lathe is only a 6″ tool rest…
#6. RIKON 70-100 12-by-16-Inch Mini Lathe
- Model 70-100 Rikon has taken the standard mini lathe to the next level with increased capacity – this mini lathe does more in less space
- Featuring a 12″ swing and 16″ between centers with the ability to add one or more bed extensions
- 12 position indexing head, self-ejecting tailstock with 2-1/2″ ram travel, 8″ tool rest
- Convenient lifting handle, tool holder, easy access to the top and bottom pulleys for quick speed changes
- Six speed (430, 810, 1,230, 1,810, 2,670, 3,900), #2 MT head stock, powered by a 1/2 HP TEFC motor
- Overall dimensions: 32″ long x 10-1/2″ wide x 19″ high
- Includes: 8 tool rest, live center, 3 faceplate, spur center, tooling knockout
- Shipping weight 89 lbs
Pros: customer service is very good, replaced immediately, great beginner’s lathe, well made machine for the money, mini variable speed lathe, the lathe is safe, ready to run right out of the box, machining is excellent and alignments right on, it is smooth and no vibration, no lugging down while roughing a turning, easy to change belt speeds, has convenient smooth turning controls …
Cons: speed changes using the belt are a tad difficult …
#7. PSI Woodworking TCLC10VS Commander 10-Inch Variable Speed Midi Lathe
- The best 10-Inch lathe for your money
- The variable speed motor provides instantaneous speed control as you turn
- The relentless 3/4HP motor delivers the power, control and versatility that’s essential for the most demanding turning projects
- Top notch cast iron construction and design ensures you years of trouble-free turning and excellent performance
- This sturdy lathe will prove the workhorse you need for all of your turning needs from pen turning through 10-Inch bowls
- Horsepower: 3/4HP
- Material Type: Cast Iron
- Speed (RPM): 500-3800RPM
- Headstock: Thread: 1″ x 8tpi
Pros: shipped in a very timely manner, centers lined up perfectly out of the box, very good lathe for small projects, great lathe for pen making, already made 10″ serving plates, it is heavy enough to stay put on the table without having to be held down, the belt is very easy to change, very quiet motor, very little vibration, runs smoothly, the speed control works well, the light is really a nice touch, this is well worth the money …
Cons: torque is very low at slow speeds …
#8. Rockler Excelsior 5-Speed Mini Lathe
- The Excelsior 5-Speed Mini Lathe can turn bowls of almost 10″ in diameter and spindles up to 17-3/4″ in length, making it perfect for chair legs, small table legs and an endless array of decorative turnings
- A convenient door provides easy access to the belt, along with 5 different speeds: 760, 1100, 1600, 2200 and 3200 RPM
- Cast-iron body provides mass for minimal vibration, stable turning and maximum durability
- To increase your spindle capacity to 38-1/2″, just use the optional Mini Lathe Bed Extension (32307) (Sold Separately)
- Powerful 1/2 HP motor; Solid cast iron base; Spur center on headstock; Ball-bearing live center on tailstock
- Heavy-duty knockout bar for spur center 6″ tool rest 3″ face plate
- 5 different speeds: 760, 1100, 1600, 2200 and 3200 RPM
- Convenient belt access door; Cam-locking ratcheting adjustment levers; Chrome-plated hardware
- Removable safety switch; Non-slip feet; Spindle Taper MT2 1″ x 8 TPI spindle
Pros: the lathe arrived in a prompt time, it it right out of the box, ready to start up, great for the price, a reasonable hobby lathe, excellent machine for getting into wood turning, the entire headstock is rock solid, this is a well made lathe, easy to use, the motor is mounted below for saving space, this lathe has no slope in any of the moving parts …
Cons: the instruction manual is very vague, it is missing is an indexing chuck, changing speeds is a little slow …