No matter how advanced the other woodworking tools are, the wood lathes offer something that those other tools fail to deliver. Being able to properly turn wood is as essential as planning planks, sawing, and drilling holes. That is why you should not skimp one bit in this regard.
And one of the main difficulties that most of the woodturners face before starting their woodturning journey is in the case of choosing the wood lathe. However, you need not have to worry about that factor anymore because we are going to introduce you to the best wood lathe for beginners.
Hopefully, by the end of this article, the choosing procedure will feel like a piece of cake for you.
Our 10 Best Wood Lathes for Beginners Picks:
The market is saturated with options. And not all of them will be suitable for beginners. To make sure that you do not end up getting one that has intricate mechanics, we have selected the ones that we believe are designed by keeping beginners in mind. Take a look at the ones that we have selected exclusively for you:
1. Laguna Tools Revo MLAREVO 1836 Wood Lathe
In the case of wood lathes, having an emergency button can lower the chances of accidents occurring. And this full-sized wood lathe from Laguna Tools has one of those buttons on the body.
First of all, the front panel of the unit is pretty huge. It houses plenty of buttons. You will find the start and the stop button, which will enable you to start and stop the motor and the spindle.
Also, there are forward and reverse switch that allows you to change the direction of the spindle. Lastly, there is an emergency stop button that will lock in the OFF button when fully depressed.
Aside from that, the full sized lathe sports a variable speed knob. That will enable you to adjust the speed of the spindle. Depending on the wood piece you are working with, you will be able to set the rpm from 135 to 3500 RPM. Also, it has a spindle lock that is spring-loaded. The max outboard swing that you will be able to set it at is 32 inches.
Other than that, the motor that it boasts is quite powerful. It has a power rating of 2 HP. Because of that, you will be able to carry out most of the heavy-duty woodturning tasks without any issues at all.
The front bearing that it sports is pretty durable as well. You will also be able to choose from two different sizes. One of them is 18/36, while the other one is 24/36 inches.
Alongside that, it comes with a three-phase output poly-groove. That is compatible with drive belts that will provide you easy access to the breaker. There is a floor to spindle center mechanism that is self-ejection as well. The distance between the centers is 36 inches.
2. JET JWL-1221VS 12-Inch by 21-Inch Wood Lathe
Even though most of the units that you will stumble upon will come with some sort of variable speed mechanism, there will hardly be a few that will provide full control over the speed. And this one from JET is one of those few.
To start with, you are going to enjoy unrivaled control over speed. The variable speed control mechanism that it comes with will allow you to set the speed to as low as 60 RPM.
And the highest speed that you can set is 3600 RPM. For that reason, no matter what sort of woodturning job you are planning to carry, you will be able to do that with full precision.
Aside from that, the design that it features is optimal for all speed ranges. That means even if you set the speed to the highest number, it will perform optimally. You would not have to worry about the machine malfunctioning while you operate it at a heavy load.
This also has a ratchet belt that has an innovative tension system. It is also reasonably durable.
Just like the other lathes out there, this one also has a forward and reverse switch. That will enable you to gain operate the machine according to your preference. And no matter in which direction you decide to make the roller rotate, it will spin smoothly.
The transition is pretty smooth too. It will not throttle when you suddenly change the direction.
Lastly, the body has 24 different indexing position. Because of that, it will be pretty easy for you to turn your wood precisely. You would not have to play the guessing game anymore. There is an acme thread in the tailstock as well.
3. Nova 71118 Comet II 3/4 HP Wood Lathe
Being able to change the speed of the spindle is all great and all, but if you do not really know what speed you are at, it would be tough for you to precisely carry out your woodturning job. Well, Nova is here to mitigate that.
Unlike some of the units, this one features a digital readout. That will display the speed that the spindle is rotating at. Because of that, it will be easy for you to precisely carry out different types of woodturning jobs. It will also lower the chances of the wood getting damaged.
On that note, the speed variable knob of the unit is also digital. You can set it up without seconds because you will not have to turn any dials or anything of that sort. The speed range you will be able to set it at is from 250 RPM to 4000 RPM, in which the max speed is higher than most of the available units.
Other than that, there is a dedicated switch for spinning the spindle forward and backward. It will offer you the flexibility that you would require to get a superior finish on your wood. Also, the transition that it makes when you activate the switch is pretty smooth. That will enhance the overall lifespan of the motor.
Talking about the motor, it packs a beefy one. It is rated at ¾ HP, which is you will not notice any throttle in performance when you are pushing it to its max. Also, there is a 16.5 inches gap between the centers, which is expandable to 42 inches.
The body is pretty compact as well. For that reason, you would have no trouble in the case of accommodating it on top of your workbench.
4. Powermatic 4224B 1794224K Wood Lathe
Are you looking for something simple to use but will offer you the ability to carry out woodturning tasks with maximum precision? Then Powermatic might have the right thing for you.
To start with, the headstock that it comes with has a sliding mechanism. That will allow you to obtain an optimal amount of accuracy when carrying out any woodturning task.
Also, there is an RPM readout on the front that is fully digital. That will enable you to precisely know at which speed the spindle is rotating, enhancing the accuracy even further.
Other than that, there is a built-in spindle lock. Because of that, you would not have to worry about the spindle moving from its place while you are handling your wood piece.
As a result, the chances of accidental damages occurring will be pretty slim. The headstock is also indexed. That will make it easier for you to drill holes on top of your wood piece.
Aside from that, you will have to work in a dimly lit workspace anymore because it comes with two 100 watts task lamps. Those will provide you the adequate amount of light that is required for carrying out woodturning jobs in those environments.
Alongside that, there are four 15-amp receptacles that will make it easier for you to attach power tools with it.
Also, all the mechanisms that machine sports are pretty easy to use. Even if you are just starting your woodturning journey, you will not struggle that much in understanding what each of the mechanism is there for.
It also boasts a vacuum system that will make it easier for you to chuck bowl blanks. You will not have to go through any intricate processes for that.
5. WEN 3421 3.2-Amp 8″ by 12″ Mini Wood Lathe
Do not have that large of a workbench to accommodate the large-sized lathes? Want something that small yet powerful? Then you should definitely look into what WEN is offering here.
To start with, the overall form factor of the benchtop wood lathe is pretty compact. This mini lathe features a body that is only 12 inches in length and 8 inches in width. That means you will be able to easily accommodate this on the small-sized workbenches.
The installation process is pretty straightforward too. It does not require any mounts, nor will you have to drill holes to set it up either.
Even though the size is pretty small, the power that the benchtop wood lathe can provide is quite higher than most of the large-sized lathes. The motor that it packs is 3.2 ampere, which can provide 50 percent more power than some of the 8 inches units available in the market.
Alongside that, the faceplate is pretty large as well. It is 2.3 inches in size, and there is an MT1 spindle. It also houses a tailstock taper, and two individual interchangeable tool rests.
You will have the option to interchange the tool rests with each other if you prefer. Besides, the build quality is pretty solid. It is made of high-quality material, which means you can expect it to have high durability.
This benchtop lathe offers full control over the rotating of the spindle. Thanks to the powerful motor being of variable speed, you will be able to set the RPM from anywhere between 750 RPM and 3200 RPM. There is a soft start option too.
That will enable you to start the motor safely, which will eventually enhance the lifespan. Also, the minimalistic design that it has makes it pretty easy to use.
6. Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Variable Speed Wood Lathe
Were you wondering if we would include any industrial lathes in our list specifically made for beginners? Well, We could not resist not including this one, considering how easy it is to operate.
As it is industrial design, the motor inside is pretty beefy. It is rated at 1 HP, which is higher than most of the other available lathes. Because of that powerful motor, it can spin the spindle at a max of 1725 RPM.
Also, adjusting the speed is pretty easy, thanks to the three-pulley system that it comes with. You will be able to carry out most of the woodturning tasks easily for that reason.
Aside from that, the swing capacity of the unit is pretty extensive. It is 12-1/2 inches, which is considerably high. Also, the size of the spindle is 1 inch, and it has 8 RH TPI threading, which is pretty smooth. So handling the unit will feel like handling butter for you. The parts are made of high-quality material as well.
Other than that, there is a forward and backward button as well. That will enable you to turn the spindle in the direction that you prefer. And as a result, it will pretty easy for you to get a smooth surface that will be free of rough edges. Alongside that, the transition that it makes while switching the direction is pretty smooth too.
Also, there is a belt tensioning mechanism that is patented. Because of that, it will be pretty hassle-free for you to change the speeds. It also has an automatic adjustment system, which will position the belt accordingly. You will not have to worry about the belt moving from its place when setting the speed to the max.
For its easy access speed change, reverse function, enough power with minimal vibration, this is perfect for pen turning and other smaller projects.
7. Jet JWL-1440VSK Benchtop Wood Lathe
The lathes that come with a variable locking position for the headstock are the easiest to work with. And a perfect example of a unit such as that would be this one.
To begin with, the headstock that it comes with is fully adjustable. You will be able to set it at seven different positions. It can be set at 0, 30, 60, 90, 120, 180, and 270 degrees. That will make it easier for you to maneuver your wood piece around. You will not have to struggle that much.
Apart from being easy to use, the headstock pivots to a full 360 degrees. That means you will not have to worry about not being able to shave a specific part of your wood piece.
You are going to get a maximum amount of flexibility in regards to using it. Also, the bed is extendable. You will be able to extend it and set it to three different positions. The distance between the centers can be set at 60 inches.
It also implements an innovative design for the tool rest. Because of that, the task of clamping your wood piece on will not be something that you would have to be worried about.
Also, the motor that it sports features a variable speed mechanism. You will be able to set the speed from 400 RPM and 3000 RPM. It also features a digital display on the front that will show you at what rate the spindle is spinning.
Besides that, JET did not skimp one bit in regards to the overall construction. They have utilized high-quality materials that are available. As a result, the durability that it achieves is comparatively high. All the parts have a respective lifespan that will offer you service for years.
8. Shop Fox W1758 Full-Size Wood Lathe
Stability is one of the important factors for wood lathes. Without that, it would be quite difficult for you to carry out woodturning projects with a proper amount of accuracy. Thankfully, Shop Fox kept that in mind when they were producing this unit.
To start with, it has solid cast iron legs. Because of being made of cast iron, both the durability and stability get a substantial boost. For that reason, you will not feel like the unit is not that stable when you are handling wood around with it. The arm has a swivel base as well.
Aside from being durable and stable, the motor that it packs is 2 HP, which is quite high in power. It also has ten different lever adjustments. You will have the full freedom of setting the speed at anywhere between 600 RPM and 2400 RPM.
And as the heavy duty cast iron base has a unique design, the unit will not vibrate that much even when you set the speed to the maximum RPM.
Another thing that it comes with is the adjustable headstock. You can adjust it in five different positions. The positions that you will be able to set it at are 0, 60, 90, 120, and 180.
It is also relatively easy to lock the positions in place, thanks to the quick-lock mechanism that it has. You will be able to set the position within a matter of seconds.
The faceplate that the unit boast is quite large. There is a dedicated space for the tool rest as well. You will be able to keep other tools on it without any issues at all. Also, there is a digital RPM readout on the front, which will show you the exact speed the lever is spinning at.
9. Rockler Woodworking and HardwareExcelsior Mini Wood Lathe
Even though the large-sized lathes are quite popular, not all of us does need one of them. And it is even quite hard to accommodate on top of workbenches sometimes. In those scenarios, getting something small, like this one from Rockler, would be a wise pick.
Just like the label states, the overall size of the unit is relatively compact. The housing is small in size, and the overall weight of the tool is minimal as well.
For that reason, it would not be that difficult for you to accommodate this on top of your small-sized workbench. The setup process is relatively straightforward too. You would need to handle intricated mounting brackets for this.
Apart from being just compact, the overall build quality is quite praiseworthy too. It features sturdy cast iron construction, which means you can expect it to have a long lifespan.
The body is also coated with a rust-resistant coating, making sure that it does not catch rust nor gets corroded over time. It also has non-slip feet on the bottom, which will lower down the operational vibration significantly.
Just like the other large-sized lathes, this one also has a variable speed mechanism. That will enable you to set the lever speed according to your preference. Because of that, the task of handling softwood pieces will be a piece of cake for you. You would not have to worry about those getting damaged that easily. The mechanism that it features for the ratcheting adjustment is quite innovative. You will also have quick access to the belt door. For that reason, it will be pretty easy for you to change the belt or adjust the position of the belt. It also comes with an emergency switch, which will make lower the chances of accidents.
10. RIKON 70-100 12-by-16-Inch Wood Lathe Machine
Having to use a knock-out bar just to remove the center of the lathes can sometimes become a tedious process. That is why Rikon implemented a unique design for the tailstock.
To begin with, it is exceptionally versatile. Rikon provides a large number of wood lathe accessories for this tool. For that reason, you will be able to install multiple extensions to it.
You can install different faceplates and tool rests with it too. Those will make it easier for you to carry out various woodturning tasks using it. You can also set it up on different stands as well.
Other than being versatile, the unit packs a lot of user-friendly features. It comes with a flip-up handle that will increase the overall mobility. Also, it has a built-in face plate washer that is made of nylon.
That will prevent the extensions from sticking to the spindle of the unit. It also has a built-in tool holder on the backside, which will make it easier for you to work with other tools.
Aside from that, it has a self-ejecting tailstock. You would need any knock-out bar, nor will you need any fasteners to remove the center. As a result, removing the tailstock will be a pretty hassle-free process for you.
You can also change the position of the tailstock and set it at your preferred place. Also, the ram has the ability to travel up to 2-1/2 inches.
Lastly, you will also be able to change the speed pretty quickly. It boasts an easy-access speed changing mechanism, which will enable you to set the rate to six different RPMs. There is an access cover that will allow you to adjust the drive belt as well. Also, the head has indexing on it, which will improve the overall accuracy.
What Makes a Perfect Wood Lathe?
Even if you are just looking for something catered towards beginners, you need to consider plenty of factors. Without keeping them in your mind, you might just end up with something that is for the advanced skill group. Wondering what factors are we actually talking about? They are as stated:
First and foremost, you will have to consider the build quality of the unit. There are plenty of lathes that are going to be of low-quality materials. Those are the ones that you should stay clear of.
Instead, we would recommend you to opt for the ones that have the construction of cast iron metal or heavy-duty steel. Those will be exceptionally durable, and you will be able to enjoy years of service out of them.
One of the important factors for these lathes is stability. No matter how good the build quality is, if the unit is not that stable, you will have trouble carrying out woodturning tasks with it.
For that reason, we would recommend going for the ones that have sturdy legs. Those will be the most stable, and you will have no hassles while handling large wood pieces with it.
Power of the Motor
Another crucial thing that you will have to consider is the power of the motor. It is generally stated as HP.
And the higher the HP, the more powerful it will be. By getting one of the powerful ones, you will be able to carry out heavy-duty woodturning tasks pretty quickly. You would not have to spend that much time trying to get the right contouring on your woods.
One of the main problems that most of the mighty lathes suffer from is vibration. And if the unit vibrates too much while you are operating it, you will not only lose stability but also will lose precision, which is not that ideal.
For that reason, we would suggest going for the ones that have non-slip feet. Those can lower the overall operating vibration, which can enhance the overall stability substantially.
The Efficiency of the Motor
Apart from the motor’s power, you would also need to factor in the efficiency. The efficient ones will consume less amount of energy. Alongside that, they will also output a considerably less amount of heat during operation.
As a result, they will be less prone to overheating, resulting in less performance throttle. Even if you do push them to their limit, you will get the same amount of performance out of them.
Variable Speed Mechanism
Variable speed is something that most of the units have. However, how the number of rates you will be able to adjust the speed at is something that is not going to stay the same for each of them.
The higher the number of adjustments you can make, the more flexibility you are going to get. Keeping that in mind, we would recommend opting for the ones that have a broad variable speed.
Even though the variable speed knobs work great, having a display that shows the RPM of the spindle is always convenient. Those will show you the exact rate that the spindle is spinning at.
As a result, you will be able to handle softwoods and hardwoods efficiently. You would not have to worry about accidental damages that much with them.
Size of the Wood Lathe
Though getting large-sized lathes might seem a great idea in the first, if you do not have the space to accommodate one of those, it would be quite difficult for you to operate them.
Keeping that in mind, you should consider the size of the unit that you are shooting for. If you do not have a large-sized workbench, it will be better if you stick with the compact and small-sized ones.
The clamping mechanism is the thing that is going to hold your wood piece. And if you skimp on this factor, you might just end up with something that you would not be able to operate properly. For that reason, you should go for the ones that have an adjustable clamping mechanism. You will get the flexibility that you would require to carry out woodturning tasks with different sized woods with those.
Most of the lathes will have a dedicated spot where you will be able to rest the tools. That tool resting spot will make it easier for you to work with a different set of tools. You would not have to clutter your workspace with those tools. Keeping that in mind, we would recommend not to opt for the ones that do not include a positive locking tool rest.
Wondering what size of the wood you can mount on the lathe? Well, that is going to depend on the capacity of the swing entirely. The higher the swing’s capacity, the larger the wood you would be able to work with.
For that reason, if you mainly plan to work with large-sized woods, you should go for the units with a large swing capacity.
Spindle Thread Size
Aside from the capacity of the swing, you will also have to consider the threading of the spindle. In this factor, the larger the diameter of the spindle, the more rigid and more stable it will be.
With the units that have a larger thread size, you will not have to worry about the machine not being stable even if you clamp a large-sized wood piece on it.
If you want a superior finish on the wood piece, you will have to ensure that the lathe that you are shooting for comes with a reverse function switch. That switch will allow you to change the direction of the spindle. Alongside that, make sure that the unit can make the transition smoothly, or else the the motor’s lifespan will be at risk.
The last thing that you should consider is the indexing. By getting one of the lathes that have indexing on the spindle, you will be able to lock it in various positions, which will allow you to create patterns on the wood. Also, do make sure that the locking mechanism is easy to activate.
How to Use a Wood Lathe?
Considering that you are fairly new to woodturning, you might not actually know how to operate a wood lathe. Keeping that in mind, we have constructed a step-by-step guide for you. Have a look:
Step 1: Factor in the Type of Operation That You Are Planning to Carry Out
The first step would be to determine what you are planning to do with the wood turning lathe. One of the most common tasks is to turn an irregular or square-shaped wood into a cylindrical shape.
You might also need to form patterns on your wood piece. No matter what task you are planning to carry out, plan it out accordingly, and get yourself a proper wood piece first.
Step 2: Get Adequate Tools
Now that you have got yourself a proper wood for carrying out the task that you were planning, you need to get yourself the required tools. Most people refer to these tools as chisels.
They are usually long in size and have round edges. These also have round handles, which offer a solid grip. The different types of tools that you might need are:
These are mostly flat. Some of them have curved edges. These are used to remove wood from cylindrical-shaped wood pieces. You can also use these for roughing the wood out of the shape
Gouges are special-shaped tools that are for cutting the rough edges from the wood. You will be able to make particular cuts using these. Also, if you want to make concave cuts on your wood, you would require these. These are also used for making grooves and knurls on the surface.
- Parting Tools
The thin tools that are used for cutting straight lines on the surface are called parting tools. As the label states, you can also create a partition on your wood piece using these.
- Spoon Cutters
If you want to give a specific shape on the edges, you would require spoon cutters. These are also called shaping bowls because you can also use them for shaping purposes.
- Other Tools
Depending on the task that you are planning to carry out, you might also need other tools such as skew chisels, spindle gouges, fluted gouges, and nose chisels.
Step 3: Get Accustomed to the Components of the Machine
The basic components of these machines are headstock, tailstock, tool rest, and the bed. If you did not know what each of these components is, they are as follows:
The headstock generally houses a drive train, pulleys, belts, motor, and the spindle. These will be located on the left side of the machine.
On the other end of the headstock, you will find the tailstock. It will contain the spur center and the spindle. There might be other flat components too.
- Tool Rest
You might already have a general idea about mechanical arms. Well, tool rests are the exact same thing as mechanical arms. These are the extra guides that will help you support the chisel and hold the other tools when you turn the wood.
The bed that most of the machine is going to boast will be adjustable. It is the sliding piece of the unit. This component has three swivel joints that will hold the tool rest bar. It will also provide an adequate amount of support to the other parts.
Step 4: Read the Instruction Manual
Before you decide to power on the device, we would recommend reading the instruction manual first. Go through the safety instructions thoroughly and make sure that the power outlet matches the voltage rating.
Ensure that you have all the wood lathe accessories that you are going to require for operating the machine. Once you have done that, move to the next step.
Step 5: Set the Machine Up Properly
Before you power the device on, you need to ensure you have set it up correctly. Most people use a workbench for this. However, you can set it up on any flat surface.
Just make sure that the surface is flat and stable. In case you are setting it up on top of a workbench, do ensure that it is appropriately sized. If you set it up on a comparatively small workbench, you will not be able to operate it properly.
Step 6: Carry out Different Test Runs
After setting it up properly, you need to go through some test trials. Take some pieces of 2×4 lumber and get used to the way that the machine operates. Practice the process of rounding the corners and shaping them.
If you go through this trial session, the chances of accidents occurring on the wood piece you mainly plan to work with will be minimal.
Step 7: Shape the Actual Wood Piece
Now that you know how to operate the machine that you have after the test runs, you should be ready to handle the actual piece. Clamp it down using the clampers of the machine, set the adequate amount of speed, and start working on your wood piece.
We are fully aware that none of the lathes that we have included in our review section is fancy, nor do they have any advanced feature. But the ones that we did include have all the things that the best wood lathe for beginners should have. So you can pick any of the ones that you like without thinking too much.
As you are interested in woodworking, you should get a perfect beginners table saw to shape wood perfectly. A Woodworking vacuum cleaner is also necessary for dust management so that you don’t catch illness. On top of that, we have reviewed glues to use with wood as well to let you choose the perfect product in every possible department.
And who want to spend money on a crap sharpening jig? That’s why you should follow our review on the best chisel sharpening jig as well!