No matter how hard they try, no other woodworking tool can dream of being more enchanting than the wood lathe. If you don’t believe me, check out the incredible wood-turning videos embedded at the end of this guide.

Heck, you were probably turned on to wood lathes by one of those videos. Well, if you’re ready to start creating stunning masterpieces, you’re going to need the best wood lathe for beginners.

We’ve compiled a list of the absolute best beginner lathe and a buyer’s guide to help make your decision easier.

Our Top Picks

Best Wood Lathe for Beginners

  1. Rikon 70-105 Mini LatheBest Mini Lathe for Pen Makers
  2. Delta Industrial Midi LatheMost Powerful Midi Lathe
  3. PSI Woodworking Turncrafter Commander Midi LatheBest Midi Lathe
  4. Shop Fox W1758 Wood LatheBest for Outboard Turning
  5. Jet JWL-1015VS Variable-Speed Wood LatheMost Powerful Mini Lathe
  6. Grizzly Industrial Wood Lathe with DROBest for Large Projects
  7. Shop Fox W1704 Benchtop LatheBest for Small Projects
  8. WEN 3420T Benchtop Mini Wood LatheBest budget lathe
  9. Jet JWL-1221VSBest Starter Midi Lathe

Best Beginner Wood Lathe Reviews (Updated List)

When finding the best lathe for beginners, we considered all the important criteria, from motor size to shop size, variable speed to add-ons, warranty to budget, and even application. We also researched real customer reviews to make sure the products we recommend are well-loved.

1. Best Beginner Lathe for Pen Makers – Rikon 70-105 Mini Lathe

Sale
RIKON Power Tools 70-105 10' x 18' 1/2 hp Mini Lathe
185 Reviews
RIKON Power Tools 70-105 10" x 18" 1/2 hp Mini Lathe
  • Rikon mini lathe: This Rikon mini lathe features a ½ motor that provides ample power for all turning needs. With a 10” swing and 18” between centers, this mini lathe also has a self ejecting tail stock and has easy access to speed change.
  • Sturdy and Dedicated: Designed specifically at the request of pen turners who wanted a sturdy, dedicated machine for their craft. This scaled-down, basic mini lathe is made from cast iron, so vibration is not a factor, unlike other lathes made of aluminum.
  • 5 speed ranger: This mini lathe has a 5 speed range that covers the bases for boring barrel holes, roughing out pen billets, turning to shape and finishing.
  • Includes: This lathe includes a live center, tool rest, knock-out bar, and wrenches.

The first tool on our list is a mini lathe built specifically for beginners and pen makers. However, don’t let that fool you into thinking this is a flimsy wood lathe.

On the contrary, the Rikon 70-105 Mini Lathe packs a powerful ½ HP motor under the hood running on 375 watts. It has five speeds, ranging from 450 RPM to 2,600 RPM, which is the required speed for pen making and is faster than some midi lathes.

One thing that sets this apart from other mini lathes is its dimensions. It has a 10-inch swing and the distance between centers is 18 inches, making it long enough to accommodate many projects, including some chair and table legs.

In all of its features, Rikon has made an effort to go beyond any typical mini wood lathe, and this extends to the build material.

This wood lathe machine is made from cast iron, making it sturdier and more reliable than aluminum. The sturdy cast iron construction also means it won’t vibrate much, so your projects will be smoother.

Included in the box are a live center, 6” tool rest, a knock-out bar, and a few wrenches. The wrenches come in handy when changing the variable speed, which sadly, is not digital.

There are other great features to comment on, but perhaps the most outstanding of them is this comes with a five-year warranty.

What We Liked Most

  • Cast iron body
  • 5-year warranty
  • 5-speeds up to 2,600 RPM
  • Can handle longer projects

What Could Be Improved

  • It has a manual speed change
  • Customer service responses are slow



2. Most Powerful Midi Lathe – Delta Industrial Midi Lathe

Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed Midi Lathe
314 Reviews
Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed Midi Lathe
  • Powerful 1 hp max, 1,725 rpm motor
  • 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
  • Forward and Reversing function allows the turner to achieve a superior finish. Sanding a turned piece with the grain causes the wood fibers to lay down and remain rough.
  • Patented belt tensioning system for easy and quick speed changes and sets the belt at the correct tension every time for maximum power transfer and longer tool life

Next, we have another beginner wood lathe that swings above its weight class. The Delta Industrial Midi Lathe has a powerful 1 HP motor, capable of handling even the most challenging beginner and semi-pro projects.

The extra power comes in handy for heavier furniture. The 12 ½ inch swing is one of the widest for a midi lathe. You can also use the extension to stretch the bed length to 42”, giving you room to work on larger projects like chairs, banisters, tables, and a host of other products.

Given its exceptional size, this midi lathe is great for beginners ready to develop their skills quickly. To help you along is a variable speed range with three pulley positions, going up to 1,725 RPM. You also get two tool rests, one 6” and the other 10”.

One of the more spectacular features is that the Delta Industrial has forward and reverse spinning, from a simple switch. This makes it easier to get a smoother finish without having to dismount the piece and turn it over.

This small device needs to be bolted down to a workbench, but not to worry; the cast-iron build absorbs the vibrations. If anything doesn’t go according to plan, you have a five-year warranty to help you set it right.

What We Liked Most

  • Strong motor
  • Wider swing than average midi lathes
  • Bed length can stretch to 42 inches
  • 5-year warranty

What Could Be Improved

  • Top speed is limited to 1,725 RPM
  • Variable speed is manual



3. Best Midi Lathe – PSI Woodworking Turncrafter Commander Midi Lathe

PSI Woodworking KWL-1018VS Turncrafter Commander 10' Variable Speed Midi Lathe
81 Reviews
PSI Woodworking KWL-1018VS Turncrafter Commander 10" Variable Speed Midi Lathe
  • KWL-1018VS replaces TCLC10VS. ETL Listed and certified by Intertek
  • Powered by 3/4 hp Variable Speed high performance motor(110V) & an SBC microprocessor. Two belt positions: 500-2000 RPM & 1500-3600 RPM
  • Headstock Thread 1" x 8tpi. Headstock/Tailstock Taper #2MT. Distance between Centers 18". Swing over Bed 10". Cast iron base
  • Tailstock & Spindle Bore 3/8". Quill Travel 1-5/8". (24) indexing positions with spindle locking. Convenient built-in handles
  • See Description below for all of the included parts

Midi lathes usually don’t come with a lot of features and accessories. Why not? Whatever the reason is, PSI doesn’t agree, because they’ve done something special.

The Turncrafter Commander is the type of turn-key midi lathe you need when you work with tight delivery windows.

For starters, it has a 1 horsepower motor as you would expect, but then PSI combines it with an SBC microprocessor to deliver one of the most advanced setups for a midi lathe.

Next, this midi lathe has two belt positions. The first one alternates between 500-1800 RPM, while the second goes from 1950-3800 RPM.

Even though the range of speeds is unheard of for a product this size, what takes it to another level is the digital readout, which allows you to select the precise speed.

The swing over bed is 12”, while the distance between centers is 18”. However, the cast iron bed accepts extensions up to 42”. It also has rubber feet, so it won’t move around or cause unnecessary vibrations.

One other feature that makes this beginner lathe stand out is the work light with an 18” flex cable. However, this light has garnered a few complaints about it either not staying in place or not coming on. But when you get it to work fine, it’s a real game-changer.

What We Liked Most

  • It has a DRO
  • Wide speed range
  • It has a work light
  • It comes with decent accessories

What Could Be Improved

  • The work light cable can be flimsy
  • Only offers a 3-year warranty



4. Best for Outboard Turning – Shop Fox W1758 Wood Lathe

Sale
Shop Fox W1758 Wood Lathe With Cast Iron Legs And Digital Readout
69 Reviews
Shop Fox W1758 Wood Lathe With Cast Iron Legs And Digital Readout
  • Motor: 2 HP, 110V, single-phase
  • Heavy-duty, precision ground cast iron bed and cast iron legs ensure stability and minimal vibration
  • Lever speed adjustment, 10 speeds: 600 - 2400 RPM
  • Quick lock/release levers for tailstock and headstock; 0 Degree, 60 Degree, 90 Degree, 120 Degree and 180 Degree headstock rotation
  • Includes: 6-Inch faceplate, MT#2 spur center, MT#2 live center and tool rest w/ swivel arm base

Next, we have the first full-size lathe on our list, and it is worth the wait. Like everything Shop Fox does, the W1758 wood lathe machine is absolutely fantastic. This is a large machine weighing 338 pounds, so you know it can handle any residential project.

It has a variable speed, which allows you to choose any of the ten speeds between 600-2400 RPM. The DROt ensures you find the exact speed you want.

Plus, it has a cast iron bed and cast iron legs to handle the weight of your project and the speed without vibrations. The swing over bed is 16 inches, while the distance between centers is 42 inches.

Even though these dimensions are standard, you can still execute a wider range of projects, thanks to the swivel head. You can set the headstock to 0°, 60°, 90°, 120°, and 180° for outboard turning, which is made easier by the tool rest extension.

While this product is great for beginners, experts will also enjoy using this. What you may not enjoy is the instruction manual, which is a bit confusing to figure out.

What We Liked Most

  • Cast iron bed and legs
  • It has a swivel head
  • It has a DRO
  • 10-speed operation

What Could Be Improved

  • The instruction manual isn’t reliable



5. Most Powerful Mini Lathe – Jet JWL-1015VS Variable-Speed Wood Lathe

Sale
JET JWL-1015VS, 10' x 15' EVS Woodworking Lathe, 1Ph 115V (719110)
58 Reviews
JET JWL-1015VS, 10" x 15" EVS Woodworking Lathe, 1Ph 115V (719110)
  • COMPACT TURNING: 15-1/2" between centers
  • IDEAL SPEED: Choose from three speed ranges (200-1,050/300-1,750/600-3,600)
  • IMPROVED TENSIONING SYSTEM: Easier access to belts
  • INCREASED RIGIDITY: Wider bed ways
  • OPTIONAL ACCESSORIES: Expand your turning capability with a 21" Bed Extension (719101), Stand (719102A), and Stand Extension (719103A)

When you find machines marketed at novices, you typically expect them to be substandard. However, when the product is made by one of the best wood lathe brands, you know it will be special.

Running on a ½ HP motor, this wood lathe has all the power and precision you need for beginner projects and small-scale professional woodturning too.

You can work on projects with a diameter of up to 10 inches, while the distance between centers is 15 inches. However, you can expand it to 21” with the bed extension and stand (sold separately).

Speaking of the bed, the manufacturer has improved on the previous model by making it a bit wider. This gives you more room to maneuver, and it also makes the machine sturdier, which you’ll need for the superb speed.

The Jet Mini Lathe has three-speed ranges: 200-1050 RPM, 300-1750 RPM, and 600-3600 RPM. So, if you’re a beginner in need of gentle practice or even blistering speed, you’ll find both here. To top it off, you also get Jet’s 5-year warranty.

What We Liked Most

  • Has the widest RPM range on a mini wood lathe
  • 5-year warranty
  • Wide bed for better control
  • It works with a bed extension

What Could Be Improved

  • The speed fluctuates on some devices



6. Best for Large Projects – Grizzly Industrial Wood Lathe with DRO

Grizzly G0462 Wood Lathe with Digital Readout
64 Reviews
Grizzly G0462 Wood Lathe with Digital Readout
  • 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 ensures stability and minimal vibration
  • MT -2 spindle and tailstock tapers

Next, we have another full-size wood lathe machine that is strong, dependable, and from a reliable company. The Grizzly wood lathe runs on a 2 HP motor, as you would expect from this size.

It also has a spindle tachometer with a digital readout, which allows you to maximize the 10-speed options. What makes changing speeds even better is the shift-on-the-fly handle, making going from 600 to 2400 RPM easy.

This wood lathe is also built with cast iron throughout, including the legs, making it more stable. Another bonus factor is the swivel headstock that supports outboard turning.

When used normally, the swing over bed is 16”, and the distance between centers is 46”, but you can extend this much further. One common complaint with this wood lathe is the tool rest.

It can snap without a ton of pressure and some of the screws are a bit wobbly. However, it is very easy to contact their tech support team, and if your lathe is still under warranty, they will send it right over.

To ensure you enjoy the machine the way it should be, be careful to assemble it as said in the manual, even if you have assembled other lathes before.

What We Liked Most

  • It has 10-speeds
  • Easy to change speeds
  • It supports outboard turning
  • Good customer support

What Could Be Improved

  • The tool rest is a bit flimsy
  • Some tools are not solidly built



7. Best for Small Projects – Shop Fox W1704 Benchtop Lathe

Sale
SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe
552 Reviews
SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe
  • 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
  • Includes two tool rests

Here is a handy device perfect for beginners who aren’t looking to scale up anytime soon, or are content turning pens. The Shop Fox benchtop lathe runs on a small ⅓ HP motor, which gives you an idea of the size of projects you can work on.

The 8-inch swing over bed is tied smallest on our list, or on any list for that matter. The distance between centers of 13 inches is also quite short.

However, its small size makes it perfect for beginners or professionals who focus solely on pen turning, door handles, chess pieces, and other small wood carving projects.

Despite its petite features, the Shop Fox W1704 has infinitely variable speed from 700 to an impressive 3200 RPM. There is a safety paddle switch just in case the speed gets away from you, as is common with beginners.

Another pleasant feature is that this comes with two tool rests – a 4 ½ inch and a 7-inch tool rest. The body is made of cast iron, which also helps to manage vibrations at high speeds. If we had one wish, it would be that this came with more than a 2-year warranty.

What We Liked Most

  • It has infinitely variable speed control
  • Top speed of 3200 RPM
  • Fits easily on a workbench
  • Easy to move about

What Could Be Improved

  • Short warranty
  • Very small space to work on



8. Best Budget Wood Lathe – Wen 3420T Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe

WEN 3420T 2-Amp 8 in. x 12 in. Variable Speed Benchtop Mini Wood Lathe
335 Reviews
WEN 3420T 2-Amp 8 in. x 12 in. Variable Speed Benchtop Mini Wood Lathe
  • Perfect for pens, chess pieces, and other small workpieces
  • Soft start variable speed motor adjusts anywhere from 750 to 3200 RPM
  • Includes a 5-inch face plate for turning non-spindle workpieces
  • Fits workpieces up to 12 inches long and 8 inches wide (max recommended working diameter: 5 inches)
  • Features a 2-amp motor, an MT1 spindle and tailstock taper, and two interchangeable tool rests

Now, we come to the smallest mini wood lathe machine on our list, which is saying something. With a swing over bed of just 8” and a distance between centers of 12”, the Wen Benchtop narrowly takes the crown from the Shop Fox W1704.

What further highlights its petite stature is the 3.2 amp motor and the 2.3-inch faceplate, which is over 3 inches shorter than the previous mini wood lathe machine we reviewed.

However, Wen was still able to pack in a variable speed motor ranging from 750 – 3200 RPM. Understandably, this benchtop lathe is marketed as the solution for pen-turning professionals.

You can also use this inexpensive wood lathe to make bowls, cups, and other small projects. If you have never turned wood before and you just want some practice for a few months, this is the best cheap lathe for you.

Wen has included a 4 ½ inch and a 7-inch tool rest, a tailstock cup center, a headstock spur center, and a few other handy accessories. Perhaps the best thing about this cheap bowl turning wood lathe, besides the price, is their friendly customer service.

What We Liked Most This Affordable lathe

  • Fits easily on a workbench
  • Friendly customer service
  • Has a stronger motor than typical 8” lathes
  • The best cheap wood lathe
  • It has a solid build

What Could Be Improved

  • Only suitable for very small projects
  • It turns off if you try to take off too much material



9. Best Starter Midi Lathe – Jet JWL-1221VS

JET JWL-1221VS, 12' x 21' Variable-Speed Woodworking Lathe, 1Ph 115V (719200)
547 Reviews
JET JWL-1221VS, 12" x 21" Variable-Speed Woodworking Lathe, 1Ph 115V (719200)
  • 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
  • ADDED SAFETY: Removable yellow On/Off safety key

Completing our list is another great product from a trusted brand. This one comes with a 12” swing over bed and 21” between centers, thus putting it firmly in the midi wood lathe category.

This variable speed wood lathe has a 1 HP motor and a variable speed range of 600-3600 RPM. To make finding the right speed easier, it has a digital readout. Jet also developed a ratchet-style belt tension system to make adjusting speeds faster.

To ensure the enhanced speed doesn’t get away from you, this lathe has a removable safety key. You also get directional control, as switching between forward and reverse only takes a flick of the switch.

One feature that is simple yet highly appreciated is the tool storage caddies, one on either side of the lathe. You also get two wood rests – a 6” and a 10” option. For all of its positive attributes, there have been a few complaints about quality control.

Luckily, there is a five-year warranty and a reachable customer service team to correct any errors.

What We Liked Most

  • Variable speed with DRO
  • It works in two directions
  • 5-year warranty
  • It has two tool caddies

What Could Be Improved

  • Some quality control issues with deliveries
  • Quite heavy for a midi lathe



Best Starter Lathe Comparison Table

Education: What You Need to Know Before Buying Wood Lathe for Beginners

As someone looking for the best beginner wood lathe, you might not be familiar with the different types of lathes available. So let’s take a deep dive into the world of woodworking lathes.

Different Types of Wood Lathes

When searching for the best wood lathes, it is important to first understand the different types. Wood lathes come in three sizes – mini, midi, and full-size.

Mini lathes usually have an 8-10 inch swing over the bed, and a distance between centers of roughly 15”. However, some like the Rikon go up to 18 inches.

On average, mini lathes are the cheapest of the bunch and retail for between $100 – $600. Despite being a good size for beginners, they are best-suited for pen turners. The speed ranges for mini lathes are often more than larger models.

Midi lathes have a 12 – 14 inch swing and have extensions with a distance between centers of 43 inches. These are particularly good for beginners who aren’t sure what type of projects they will focus on.

They can cost anywhere up to $1,500, not including the wood lathe tools. Full-size lathes are the cream of the crop, with a 22” swing and an extension up to 10 feet.

A lot of beginners buy full-size wood lathes because that is what they used to learn in a workshop.  However, with a price reaching upwards of $10,000, it might be more beneficial to buy a Desktop CNC Machine instead.

These can cover a wider range of projects and make for a decent side hustle renting them out.

How to Choose Woodturning Lathes for Beginners

Here are the seven factors to consider before buying any beginners wood turning lathe;

Applications

There are so many things you can do with a wood lathe, which is why it is crucial to prioritize this. As a beginner, you may or may not know this yet. If you do, this will help you narrow your options.

If you are just looking to experiment, then it is best to not limit yourself to a mini lathe, and it will be safer to stick with a midi wood lathe. If you want to do massive pieces with tree stumps, then get a full-size wood lathe.

Size of your shop

From a pragmatic point of view, you need to consider if your woodshop can actually handle the space. As long as you have space on your workbench, a mini and midi lathe can fit. The only option that might be a problem is a full-size wood lathe.

Variable speed Control

Different projects require different speeds, so ensure the wood lathe you want to get covers what is required for your projects. If you want to be precise, you might prefer a wood lathe with a digital readout.

Motor size

A strong motor will deliver more consistent results and will handle larger projects easier. It is also less likely to stall and should last longer.

In some instances, the motor determines the RPM. If you find two products with identical RPMs but one has a better motor, you know which to pick.

Add-ons

Not every wood lathe has add-ons, so this is an easy way to distinguish between some options. For example, the Jet JWL 1221VS has a tool caddy, while the PSI has a work light. You will need to determine which add-ons are more important to you and go for them.

Warranty

Many types of woodworking machines are not perfect. They will break down, they will wear out, and some might not even start in the first place. For any of these contingencies, you need a decent warranty. We like products with a five-year warranty and great customer service.

Budget

You could choose to rank this after motor-size, but we just tend to put this as the last thing to consider. As a beginner, you may be tempted to put this first, but you could then end up with an inexpensive lathe that you have to return and you would have wasted your money. That is why we always recommend putting it last.

Lathe Machine FAQs

What is a good wood lathe for beginners?

The best wood lathes for beginners are midi wood lathes. These have the right dimensions to handle small projects like pen making and bowls, and larger ones like chair and table legs. Midi lathes also have extensions for when you are ready to move on to larger, more ambitious projects.

Are wood lathes dangerous?

Yes, wood lathes are dangerous. Given how fast they spin, wood chunks fly in every direction. That is why you are supposed to wear a full face shield when operating a wood lathe. You should also wear gloves as you will be using sharp tools.

Is it hard to use a lathe?

No, it is not hard to use a lathe. While it will require some practice, wood lathes are some of the most intuitive products. Plus, there are loads of tutorials available online. Wood lathes also make many tasks easier, such as carving and sanding.

Also Read: Easy Wood Projects for Kids

How much does a lathe cost?

Wood lathes have a wide range in price, depending on the size you buy. Mini lathes range between $200 – $600. Midi lathes range between $600 – $1,500. Full-size wood lathes range between $1,500 – $9,500.

Woodturning video

YouTube player

Nothing But the Best Beginner Lathe

Wood lathes are a lot of fun to play with and create stunning artworks and wood carvings. However, they are not the cheapest tools to invest in, which is why finding the right one is so important.

That said, it is time to reveal the best wood lathe for beginners. And the winner is the Jet JWL-1221VS. It has a powerful motor, forward and reverse movement, a safety key, a digital readout, and a tool storage caddy on each side.

To top it off, it comes with a five-year warranty. Once you start woodturning, we guarantee you’ll never want to stop.

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