You know that you are a passionate craftsman when you realize what you exactly want in a power craft tool. It should be powerful, efficient, versatile and will allow you to make almost everything that your heart desires. It should be a tool that you just can’t live without.
If your specialty is woodworking in particular, you are likely to look at a vast array of woodworking tools. If you have not used or operated a lathe before… well, you know you should! Turning wood is just as important as sawing, cutting or planing – but otherwise a bit more fun!
A lathe is a machine used in shaping a particular material, such as wood or metal. It works by turning the material while a sharp rotating tool is pressed against it. A lathe for woodworking is going to be an indispensable part of your DIY home crafting avocation.
Lathes for woodworking used to be really heavy, because most of them were utilized for commercial manufacturing. Nowadays, though, there are lathes specifically designed for personal or home use. Compared to their bulky ancestors, woodworking lathes are now smaller, more compact and more lightweight, not to mention a lot cheaper.
So if you’re interested in getting one, you can see many wood lathes on the market. Some of them have all these bells and whistles to get your attention. But if you’re going to spend a lot of time and effort in studying the advantages and disadvantages of each product, eventually you will get the product you are looking for.
Things to consider before buying a wood lathe:
- Price – You get what you pay for, and the same also goes true with wood lathes. While a low-priced lathe is good for the wallet, it otherwise lacks certain features that high-end lathes have (such as digital speed readouts). Cheaper options are adequate if you are new to woodworking. But if you are already making woodworking for a living, then it might be worth investing in more expensive and high-end lathes.
- Types of projects – The first thing that you’re most likely to consider is the thickness of the wood that you intend to work with. The most reliable determinants will be the lathe’s swing over bed and swing over tool, as well as the maximum measurement of the wood that you want to work with.
- Speed – Lathes have several speed ranges (for example, 60 to 3900 RPM in some lathes). The best rule for choosing a lathe with speed ranges you desire – to multiply the size of your wood’s stock to the lathe’s RPM. As an example, if you intend to work on a four-inch trunk, the speed must play between 1500 and 2300 (4 x 1500 = 6000, 4 x 9200).
- Size – There are a few factors that determine your choice of a lathe size, but it depends mostly on how big or small your worksite is. A benchtop lathe is the best choice for limited workspaces, as they are smaller, lighter, and more portable. But if you have a worksite with a dedicated area for lathing, a stand-up bench is more appropriate.
- Brand – Do brands still matter? For a lot of people, they do. But for some, they don’t. However, branding is still a reliable determinant because the most renowned names usually produce better-quality lathes and offer better support if anything goes wrong with the product.
Here are the top lathes suitable for the home workshop:
The JET JWL- 1221VS has been consistent on the several lists of the best wood lathes on the market, and a lot of product reviews consider this machine as the benchmark for all other lathes.
One of the reasons why JET JWL- 1221VS is the best is its speed control. It comes in two types: continuous and discrete. Continuous control allows you to set the machine’s spindle speed at any RPM within its range, while discrete control allows you to set the spindle’s speed at fixed RPM’s (such as 430, 810, 1230, 1810, 2670 and 3900). The JET JWL- 1221VS has speeds ranging from 60 to 3900. It also comes with a speed digital readout. Plus, it has an innovative and unique ratchet-style belt tension system. It is great especially for intermediate to expert crafters, but it may set you back by its cost. But this machine’s superior performance is worth the high price tag.
The Rikon is a mid-range lathe, which is the ideal size, especially for those who are working in a limited space, like a lot of other lathes listed in this article. This is one of the best lathes on the market when it comes to swing over bed and swing over tool rest – it measures 12 inches over the bed 16 inches from center to center. If you are working with larger pieces such as a short and thick trunk, the RIKON 70-100 is the best for you.
The RIKON 70-100 has an RPM setting as low as 430, which means it can provide a better speed profile. Aside from 430 RPM, you can also adjust this equipment to 810, 1230, 1810, and 3900 RPM.
While most woodworking lathes for personal and home use are benchtop models, the Grizzly G042 is one of the few models that come with its own stand. Its iron legs make this lathe quite sturdy and stable to work on (and it really is). It has a decent speed range of 100 to 2300, and comes with its own digital readout.
A lot of customers who have used this product rave about how dependable this machine is. Its motor and spindles function very well (and work as if they are virtually brand new), even after many years of use, making Grizzly G042 the best value for your money.
If you are a beginner in woodworking and are on a budget, the Delta Industrial 46-460 is a perfect option. It is low-priced compared to other brands here on this list, but otherwise, it doesn’t compromise on quality. It has the innovative belt tensioning system for quick and fuss-free speed adjustments and is built with an iron construction for durability. Its speed ranges from 250 to 4000.
Although it has an excellent swing over bed, its center-to-center length falls a bit short. Plus, it has no speed readout, too. But for its incredibly low price point, who will complain about it? And did we say it has a five-year warranty, to boot?
If you have turned your woodworking hobby into a part-time or a full-time business, then you’re going to need a commercial wood lathe. For this reason, the Powermatic 1352001 can be an excellent buy, as it is also the choice of a lot of professional woodworkers.
It features a 2-HP motor and has a couple of speed ranges: 125 to 3000 RPM and 50 to 1500 RPM. It also comes with a digital readout which tells you what speed you’re exactly working at. Its swing over bed is 20 inches, swing over tool rest is 17 inches, and 16 inches from center to center. Plus, this is a full-sized wood lathe which comes complete with actual iron stands for stability.