Best Wood Lathe For Beginners in 2022 (Reviews and Comparison)

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Wood lathes are usually used to turn wood into a cylindrical profile for projects that require this. Wooden items you could typically use a lathe for include furniture legs, baseball bats, bowls, and other round ornamental objects. Learn what is the best wood lathe for beginners.

When looking at wood lathes for beginners you want to find options that are simple and easy to use. Controls that have easy access and are user-friendly for a novice are a plus. Other considerations include the size, construction, motor, swing capacity, spindle thread size, spindle bore, and drive and speed system. 

We have found the best wood lathes for beginners so that you can learn all about them in one place to see which one will have you turning projects into success in no time.

COMPARISON CHART

IMAGE PRODUCT

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

JET JWL-1221VS Mini Wood Lathe
  • Solidly built
  • Spur and live center
  • Easy to change rotational speed
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SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe

SHOP FOX W1704 Benchtop Lathe
  • Variable speed control is precise
  • Accessories are functional
  • Very quiet
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Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed Midi Lathe

Delta Industrial 46-460 Midi Lathe
  • 12.5” swing works well
  • Reverse switch is a great feature
  • Great for sanding and turning
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WEN 3420 8" by 12" Variable Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe

WEN 3420 Benchtop Wood Lathe
  • Affordable option
  • Heavy and stable for its size
  • Power wise it is adequate
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RIKON 70-100 12-by-16-Inch Mini Lathe

RIKON 70-100 Mini Lathe
  • Great price
  • Bigger lathe option
  • Good range of speed
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JET JWL-1221VS, 12"x21" Variable-Speed Woodworking Lathe (719200)

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

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

Features

  • Easy-to-reach controls and digital readout. Recommended Circuit Size (Amps)- 10
  • Choose from three-speed ranges (60-900/110-1,800/220-3,600)
  • Ratchet-style belt tension system (patent pending)
  • Smooth transitions when changing from forward to reverse

The JET 1221VS lathe is different from anything we’ve made before. In truth, it’s different from anything that anybody has ever made before. The design is better. The features are better.

The entire turning experience is better. And it all focuses on one concept, control. Optimally designed speed ranges and integrated spindle lock.

You will also find conveniently located controls and DRO. Included is a handy tool storage caddy on each end of the machine as well as added safety with a removable yellow on/off safety key.

WHAT WE LIKE

This lathe is solidly built from hefty cast iron. The spur and live center line up dead on. It is easy to move the drive belt to change rotational speed ranges for whatever your project requires.

It is so quiet when in operation protecting your ears. The tailstock and tool rest base move easily, lock in place easily, and stay put with no slipping.

It comes with an excellent user manual which is packed full of good information.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE

Unfortunately, there is poor quality control with this lathe. The unit is heavy so you will need assistance to move it. The plastic on/off switch housing is weak and tends to crack, this is the same case for smaller plastic parts elsewhere.

PROS

  • Solidly built 
  • Spur and live center 
  • Easy to change the rotational speed
  • Tailstock and tool rest base moves easily
  • Excellent user manual

CONS

  • Poor quality control 
  • Heavy unit
  • Weak plastic parts crack easily

2. SHOP FOX W1704 Benchtop LatheBest for Small Projects

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SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe

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SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe

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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).

It also features a safety paddle switch, an MT No. 1 spur center, an MT No. 1 live center, 4-1/4-inch, and 7-inch tool rests, a 5-3/4-inch faceplate, and a 3/4-by-16-inch TPI RH spindle.

The W1704 includes both a 4-1/2 and 7-inch tool rest for various turning applications and with a 13-inch distance between centers and an 8-inch swing over the bed this lathe is ideal for a variety of turning projects.

The infinitely variable speed from 700-3200 RPM comes in handy when turning hard or soft species of wood. This benchtop lathe includes a 5-3/4-inch faceplate that threads onto the headstock spindle for non-spindle turning.

WHAT WE LIKE

Speeding up or slowing down the lathe by just turning a knob is a big improvement. All 3/4 x 16tpi accessories go right on as expected.

It’s also really quiet. It has just the right amount of weight to it for very unbalanced projects. Having 2 sizes of tool rest is handy. Variable speed control is precise. Great for small projects and easy setup.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE

The bed had some issues out of the box – a thin layer of corrosion on the bare metal – easily fixed with some scotch brite and WD-40. The tailstock does not move smoothly along the bed at first, so it is necessary to sand down a few rough spots.

The tailstock handwheel, when you try to turn it, binds both tightening and loosening. The quality of the two tools rests is not great.

PROS

  • Variable speed control is precise
  • Accessories are functional 
  • Very quiet
  • Well weighted
  • Easy setup

CONS

  • Some corrosion on the bed
  • Tailstock does not move smoothly
  • The quality of two tool rest is not great

3. Delta Industrial 46-460 Midi LatheBest Midi Lathe

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

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

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

Features

  • Powerful 1 HP max, 1,725 rpm motor
  • The large 12-1/2-inch swing capacity provides the largest capacity in its class. Drive spindle: 1 inch -8 RH TPI thread
  • Electronic variable speed with three-pulley speed ranges provide the required speeds needed to turn a project without changing belt position
  • The forward and reversing function allows the turner to achieve a superior finish.

The Delta 46-460 provides exactly what you need to achieve your turning masterpiece. This powerful 1 horsepower workhorse produces 1,750 rpm for enough torque and speed to handle even highly figured woods and you can slow it down to 250 rpm for your large creations.

The reversible electronic variable speed with a pulley system minimizes vibration and chatter. The patented belt tensioning system allows easy and quick speed changes and sets the belt at the correct tension for maximum power transfer and longer tool life for fluting and other decorative applications, the indexing pin locks the headstock spindle in 24 different locations.

WHAT WE LIKE

The 12.5” swing is more than you will ever need for most projects. The reverse switch is a fantastic addition to any lathe. Great for sanding and even turning if the piece calls for a different angle of attack.

The quality of the machine is wonderful, changing the belt to various spindles is easy and the variable speed is smooth, set up is simple.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE

The short working length is not ideal and it may require the purchase of the bed extension with the lathe to give a much larger working area. The switch location involves reaching across the unit which slows down any emergency response. Delta parts are often unavailable or very expensive if they are available.

PROS

  • 12.5” swing works well
  • The reverse switch is a great feature
  • Great for sanding and turning
  • The quality of the machine is good
  • Set up is simple

CONS

  • Short working length
  • Poor switch location
  • Delta parts are often unavailable

4. WEN 3420 Benchtop Wood LatheBest Budget Lathe

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WEN 3420 8" by 12" Variable Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe

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WEN 3420 8" by 12" Variable Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe

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WEN 3420 8" by 12" Variable Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe

Features

  • Adjust the variable speed anywhere from 750 to 3200 rotations per minute
  • Includes a 5-inch faceplate for turning bowls, cups, and other non-spindle workpieces
  • Attack workpieces up to 12 inches long and 8 inches wide
  • Features a 2A motor, an MT1 spindle, and tailstock taper, two interchangeable work rests, and a two-year warranty

The WEN 8-Inch by 12-Inch Variable Speed Wood Lathe allows you to adjust the variable speed anywhere from 750 to 3200 rotations per minute.

The WEN 8-Inch by 12-Inch Variable Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe features an MT1 spindle and tailstock taper to tightly grip workpieces, and two tool rests (4-1/2 inch and 7 inches) to provide needed support for chisels and tools during an operation, and a 2A motor to keep things turning.

A powerful two-amp motor starts gradually to prevent motor damage and maximize safety. An easy-to-use lever clamping system makes adjustments to both the tool rest and the tailstock simple and precise.

The WEN Wood Lathe also includes a flat wrench, a headstock spur center, a tailstock cup center, a knockout rod, and a 5-inch faceplate for turning bowls, cups, and other non-spindle workpieces.

WHAT WE LIKE

For the price, this lathe is super hard to beat. It does exactly what it is meant to do. For its size, it is heavy which adds to its stability. The paint/powder coat job is very nice. Power-wise it is adequate.

Using the specs provided translates to ~1/2 horsepower. Pretty respectable for its size. Speed control is nice and smooth going from low to high and back again.

The motor is nice and quiet. There is no vibration when running without stock in the lathe.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE

The metal work could have been debased better. The edges of the machined surfaces are still quite sharp. The tool rest binds quite a bit. The tail stock has a lot of flex when you tighten it into a workpiece.

Also, the plastic handwheel seems a little chintzy but is sturdy and thick. With a little lube, the screw mechanism for the quill smoothed right out.

PROS

  • Affordable option
  • Heavy and stable for its size
  • Power-wise it is adequate 
  • Speed control works well
  • The motor is quiet with no vibration

CONS

  • Metalwork could be debased better
  • Tool rest binds
  • Tailstock has a lot of flex

5. RIKON 70-100 Mini LatheLargest Mini Lathe

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RIKON 70-100 12-by-16-Inch Mini Lathe

Features

  • Easy access speed change: Provides ample room to change speeds quickly
  • Self ejecting tail stock: No need to use the knock-out bar to remove the center
  • Laser engraved ram with 2-1/2-Inch travel
  • 1/2HP motor

With its increased capacity, the RIKON 70-100 12-by-16-Inch Mini Lathe gives you the opportunity to do more with less space.

This powerful, smooth-running lathe offers unique features like a 12-position index head for accurate pattern work, easy access for quick speed changes, a convenient tool holder, and the ability to add multiple extensions.

The RIKON Mini Lathe features the largest capacity in the industry, and with options for multiple extensions, it allows you to work with larger pieces. With 12 inches over the bed and 16 inches between centers, the RIKON Mini Lathe gives you space to do your work while maintaining a low profile on your workbench. 

Several convenient features make the RIKON Mini Lathe easy to use, such as a flip-up handle for mobility, a nylon face plate washer that prevents accessories from sticking to the spindle, and a tool holder near the back of the machine that gives you easy access to your centers and knockout bars.

With several accessories available to customize the RIKON Mini Lathe, you can tailor this machine to fit your needs.

You can add multiple extensions, use differently sized tool rests and face plates, and mount the RIKON to a stand that adjusts to your working height.

WHAT WE LIKE

The lathe is bigger than expected. The price was great. The range of speed is good, and the power was pretty awesome too. Setup was quick and easy. Centers right on as well. Runs quiet with no vibration. Changing speeds by adjusting the belt is a piece of cake.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE

The protective cover that covers the headstock and belts doesn’t seem to close securely. There are some weird assembly defects. The tailstock tends to be a bit weak.

PROS

  • Great price 
  • Bigger lathe option
  • Good range of speed
  • Setup is quick and easy
  • Centers right on

CONS

  • The protective cover does not close securely 
  • Weird assembly defects
  • Tailstock is weak

FINAL VERDICT 

Choosing the right tools as a beginner can be overwhelming but these wood lathes are all ideal as starter choices the best option has to be the JET JWL-1221VS Mini Wood Lathe. Easy-to-reach controls with digital readouts mean that operating this lathe is simple.

It is solidly built and the heft adds to its stability. It is easy to change rotational speeds to suit whatever project you are busy with. The quiet operation is helpful for beginners’ ears. The tailstock and tool rest base work and move easily.

The user manual is genuinely useful and will be a huge help for a novice woodworker. You will be turning away your favorite wood projects with ease with this wood lathe which is perfect for the beginner.

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