Best Lathe For Bowl Turning in 2022 (Reviews and Comparison)

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As your love for woodworking deepens you will want to get your shop more fit for working on a range of projects by adding the right tools. Bowls are a fun project to add to your list and having a quality lathe will help you complete your bowl seamlessly. 

Lathes can be used for a variety of purposes and one of them is turning. Bowls will be made much easier by employing the use of an easy-to-use lathe. Not all lathes are made the same and certain options are more suited to other purposes. We have found the best lathes for bowl turning that are made with turning projects in mind. 

Ideal lathes for this purpose include heavier designs that have added stability to minimize vibration when turning your bowl. Variable speed options that change from slow to fast with easy transitions. Easy to set up and use will be helpful for beginner woodworkers. Quiet operation and helpful accessories will make your lathe your best friend for turning. See our top options and find your best fit for bowl turning. 

COMPARISON CHART

IMAGE PRODUCT
Grizzly G0462 Wood Lathe with Digital Readout Grizzly Industrial G0462-16″ x 46″ Wood Lathe
  • Rotating head for easy access
  • Variable speed is seamless
  • Great customer service
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PSI Woodworking KWL-1218VS Turn Crafter Commander 12" Variable Speed Midi Lathe PSI Woodworking KWL-1218VS Variable Speed Midi Lathe
  • Quiet operation
  • Headstock turns freely
  • Great variable speed readout
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Powermatic 3520C, 20" x 36" Lathe, 2HP, 220V 1PH (1353001) Powermatic 3520C 35″x20″ Lathe
  • Stout leg levelers
  • Excellent fit and finish
  • Functional handwheel
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JET JWL-1221VS, 12" x 21" Variable-Speed Woodworking Lathe, 1Ph 115V (719200) JET JWL-1221VS, 12″x21″ Variable-Speed Woodworking Lathe
  • Solidly built
  • Easy to move drive belt
  • Tailstock and tool rest move, lock and stay in place
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SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe
  • Great speed control
  • Well weighted to keep stability
  • Tail stock and tool rest clamp down
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1. Grizzly Industrial G0462-16″ x 46″ Wood Lathe

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Grizzly G0462 Wood Lathe with Digital Readout

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Grizzly G0462 Wood Lathe with Digital Readout

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Grizzly G0462 Wood Lathe with Digital Readout

Features

  • 1-Inch x 8 TPI RH headstock spindle
  • 10 speeds: 600 – 2400 RPM
  • Distance between centers: 43-Inch
  • Heavy-duty precision ground cast iron bed and cast iron legs ensure stability and minimal vibration

This incredible machine can swing 16″ over the bed, comes with a 2 HP motor, and sports a spindle tachometer with a digital readout. Changing speeds is easy with the shift-on-the-fly handle so there are no belts to mess with. 

Outboard turning is a snap too, just loosen the headstock and swivel it up to 360-Degree for unmatched flexibility. Solid cast iron construction throughout ensures smooth operation. If you want to add more mass, the legs feature shelf supports for your own custom-built shelf. Truly, a deluxe turning machine at a very competitive price.

WHAT WE LIKE

The ability to rotate the head for easier access to the workpiece is just awesome. Machines operation from slow to fast RPM is a seamless, very smooth transition and operates flawlessly. Customer service and tech service is amazing. Overall this is a great running and easy-to-use machine, it is highly recommended to anyone that is in the market for a lathe that will do up to 16″ diameter pieces. It has plenty of power for the bigger turnings and is smooth running, not loud or obnoxious.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE

The tailstock gets in its own way if you want to turn anything over 12″ and even worse it gets in the way of the banjo, so it’s useless when you need it on larger bowls. Belts wear out too fast and speed is too high. Its top is heavy so anything slightly off center/out of balance makes it vibrate badly and walk across the shop floor.

PROS

  • Rotating head for easy access
  • Variable speed is seamless
  • Great customer service 
  • Ideal lathe for items up to 16” diameter
  • Plenty of power with smooth running

CONS

  • Tailstock tends to get in the way
  • Belts wear out quickly
  • Top heavy

2. PSI Woodworking KWL-1218VS Variable Speed Midi LatheBest Value

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PSI Woodworking KWL-1218VS Turn Crafter Commander 12" Variable Speed Midi Lathe

Features

  • KWL-1218VS replaces TCLC12VS. ETL Listed and certified by Intertek.
  • Powered by 1hp Variable Speed high performance induction motor(120V-60HZ) & an SBC microprocessor. Two belt positions: 500-1800 RPM & 1950-3800 RPM.
  • Headstock Thread 1″ x 8tpi. Headstock/Tailstock Taper #2MT. Distance between Centers 18″. Swing over Bed 12″. Cast iron base.
  • Tailstock & Spindle Bore 3/8″. Quill Travel 1-5/8″. (24) indexing positions with spindle 
  • locking. Convenient built-in handles.

The most advanced, powerful, and easy-to-use lathe in its class. ETL Listed and certified by Intertek. Powered by a 1 hp high-performance induction motor and an SBC microprocessor, developed for automotive applications, delivering precision control and lasting reliability. 1hp Variable Speed Motor (120V-60HZ). Two belt positions: Position A 500-1800 RPM & Position B 1950-3800 RPM. Digital readout allows you to work at precise speeds. Headstock Thread is 1″ x 8tpi. 

WHAT WE LIKE

This lathe runs whisper quiet. There is zero runouts in the headstock, and it turns freely. The readout on the variable speed is great, right color, and only about two inches from your work. 

It comes with a lot of goodies, like two tool rests, a tool holder, live tailstock, spur center and chrome steel faceplate for the headstock, and knockout bar. It has an indexing system, and there is a bit of play when it is locked into any of the 24 positions. It also has a nice handwheel.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE

Instructions are just not there. Not only does it leave you hanging halfway through the assembly, it is wrong since some of the lathes have changed since originally written. 

The chrome handles on each end are essentially useless, as are the cord wrap mounts on the back that you wander over for a while when you pull them out of the parts bag and finally look at the drawing to see where they go. 

It does not have a reversing switch. This is a simple two-wire DC motor with a ground wire. A simple reversing switch would allow for reverse sanding and a lot of other applications with no loss in torque.

PROS

  • Quiet operation 
  • Headstock turns freely
  • Great variable speed readout
  • Useful accessories
  • Indexing system for 24 positions

CONS

  • Instructions are not helpful 
  • Chrome handles are not functional
  • No reversing switch

3. Powermatic 3520C 35″x20″ LatheBest Full-Sized Lathe

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Powermatic 3520C, 20" x 36" Lathe, 2HP, 220V 1PH (1353001)

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Powermatic 3520C, 20" x 36" Lathe, 2HP, 220V 1PH (1353001)

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Powermatic 3520C, 20" x 36" Lathe, 2HP, 220V 1PH (1353001)

Features

  • Simple, precise indexing: Headstock contains a digital readout.
  • Customizable versatility and safety: Position the magnetic-backed moveable control box where it is most ideal.
  • Maximum comfort when turning: Riser blocks allow for four inches of height adjustment.
  • Self-ejecting, laser-etched quill

The Powermatic 3520C is the fourth evolution of the time-honored lathe with many new and improved features. The 3520C has retained all the features of the prior models such as the sliding headstock, electronic variable speed with low and high-speed ranges, the spindle lock, digital RPM readout, and a laser etched quill that is self-ejecting. The enhanced features include a movable control box for maximum versatility, adjustable riser blocks for 6 inches or more of height adjustment, and an increased weight of 726 lbs (814 lbs with the bed extension).

WHAT WE LIKE

The leg levelers are really stout, well-made parts that attach directly to threaded holes in either the legs or risers. The fit and finish are excellent. The various locking levers and tailstock wheels are beautifully contoured and chromed. 

The spindle handwheel is completely smooth and functional. Pulleys are aluminum and appear to be of excellent quality as is the belt. Belt changes (2 ranges) are easy. The movable control box is really nice to have. Operation is smooth and vibration almost undetectable.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE

The tool rests are less than ideal. The material the rest that came with seems to be very soft and easily mars which requires constant sanding to keep it smooth. The second tool rest for bowls has the same problem but is worse and even has pits in it before even using it. This is a heavy lathe and you will likely need some assistance with assembly as a result. The lathe comes with a power cord but you need to attach it yourself. 

PROS

  • Stout leg levelers  
  • Excellent fit and finish 
  • Functional handwheel
  • Pulleys are high quality aluminum 
  • Operation is smooth with barely any vibration

CONS

  • Less than ideal tool rests 
  • Heavy lathe hard to assemble without help
  • Power cord needs to be attached

4.  JET JWL-1221VS, 12″x21″ Variable-Speed Woodworking LatheBest Midi Lathe

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JET JWL-1221VS, 12" x 21" Variable-Speed Woodworking Lathe, 1Ph 115V (719200)

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JET JWL-1221VS, 12" x 21" Variable-Speed Woodworking Lathe, 1Ph 115V (719200)

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JET JWL-1221VS, 12" x 21" Variable-Speed Woodworking Lathe, 1Ph 115V (719200)

Features

  • Convenient controls: Easy-to-reach controls and digital readout. Recommended Circuit Size (Amps)- 10
  • Optimal speed: Choose from three-speed ranges (60-900/110-1,800/220-3,600)
  • Innovative design: Ratchet-style belt tension system (patent pending)
  • Handy storage: Includes a tool storage caddy on each end of the machine

Great value. A very well-built product that comes with the basic accessories needed to get started. It’s well engineered and easy to operate and maintain. The variable speed and the reversible direction are great features and the controls are easy to access and use. 

The digital display is nice to have, smooth, and comes with everything I need. It comes with added safety in the form of a removable yellow on/off safety key. Directional control is a breeze with smooth transitions when changing from forward to reverse.

WHAT WE LIKE

Solidly built, hefty cast iron lathe. The spur and live center line up dead on. It is easy to move the drive belt to change rotational speed ranges. It is very quiet when in operation. Tailstock and tool rest base move easily, lock in place easily, and stay put with no slipping. Excellent user’s manual packed full of good information and even has a few bits of subtle dry wit. 

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE

Too heavy to move alone without help, the lathe can’t be shifted. Costly lathe option which is quite an investment. The lathe lack of quality control and certain parts lack consistency between lathes. This lathe seems to be lacking torque at low speeds but is still workable. The electronic speed control seems to be a little quirky and sometimes speeds up suddenly.

PROS

  • Solidly built
  • Easy to move drive belt 
  • Tailstock and tool rest move, lock and stay in place
  • Excellent users manual
  • Quiet operation

CONS

  • Heavy and not easy to move
  • Costly option with a lack of quality control
  • Lacks torque at low speeds

5. SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop LatheBest for Small Projects

CHECK PRICE

SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe

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SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe

CHECK PRICE

SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe

Features

  • Motor: 1/3 HP, 2 Amp, 110V, Single-phase, 60 Hz
  • 12-inch distance between centers
  • 8-inch swing over bed
  • Cast iron construction and infinitely variable speed control

Tackle pen turning or other small cutting or shaping projects using the Shop Fox W1704 bench-top lathe from Woodstock International. Made of cast iron, and designed to fit neatly on a workbench, this lathe features a 1/3-horsepower, variable-speed motor and delivers spindle speeds between 700 and 3,200 revolutions per minute (RPM). 

WHAT WE LIKE

If you’re just starting woodturning this is a perfect little lathe. Having the ability to control your speed range is a great feature. It has just the right amount of weight to it for very unbalanced projects. It’s quiet and the tail stock and tool rest slide on the deck on the tighter side but rather have that than loose. Both clamp down snugly. Having 2 sizes of tool rest is handy. Variable speed control is precise. This lathe is highly recommended for any small work like pens, rings, etc.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE

The non-standard tool rest post, as well as the very tall tool rest height is not ideal. The tool comes loose sometimes which is not something you want in a lathe. It doesn’t do too great turning bowls. It does not have enough power to turn a small bowl without the motor catching and stopping.

PROS

  • Great speed control 
  • Well weighted to keep stability
  • Tail stock and tool rest clamp down
  • Ideal for small projects 
  • Quiet operation

CONS

  • Tool rest not ideal
  • Tool can come loose at times
  • Not enough power to turn bowls

Conclusion

One thing is certain if your woodworking project requires you to do turning, for example, bowls then our top choices are ideal for this purpose. The Grizzly Industrial G0462-16″ x 46″ Wood Lathe has to be the best choice and is an all-rounder for the best lathe for bowl turning. The ability to rotate the head to get easier access to the workpiece is a huge help while working. 

Ramping up from slow to fast RPM is seamless with smooth transitions and it operates flawlessly. The customer and tech service is top-notch. This machine is easy to use and great for turning projects like bowls up to 16” in diameter. It has plenty of power for this purpose and you will not be disappointed if you add this lathe to your shop, you will be turning out bowls with ease in no time. 

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