For woodworkers, a lathe is a gem, but only if the right one is chosen.
Lathes will serve you well in making your woodwork projects a success. For both beginners and experts, a benchtop lathe is a great mini lathe that you can use for smaller projects. Since there are many on the market, it can be pretty hard to decide which is the best option for you.
Best Benchtop Lathe
In this buying guide, we will review the six benchtop lathes available on the market. Each has been maximized for functionality to make sure that you get value for money. Here is our quick guide to finding the best benchtop lathe.
It has a large capacity swing of 12.5 inches, which is relatively large for a benchtop lathe. The drive spindle has a 1-inch 8RH TPI thread.
The Delta Industrial is characterized by an electronic variable speed motor and has three-pulley speed options to give you the specific RPM level that you are looking for.
The turner has a forward and reverse function that helps you smooth out surfaces. Plus, the system has a patented belt tensioning system for easy and efficient speed changes. The lathe also has a cast iron construction that gives it more durability. Finally, Delta Industrial backs up their product with a 5 year warranty.
- Product dimensions: 36 x 11 x 17.75 inches
- Product weight: 97 pounds
- Powerful variable speed motor
- Large capacity swing
- Forward and reverse function
- Patented belt tensioning system
- Durable and comes with a 5 year warranty
- Variable speed control does not work well according to some users
- Customer service quality may be questionable
The Nova Comet Lathe has a wide RPM range of 250 to 4000. It also uses a digital readout that lets you set your precise speeds easily. It also has a 3 step pulley system to give you different speed ranges.
The Nova Comet Lathe has a forward and reverse switch with a 12 inch swing over bed and 16.5 inches of space between centers. Plus, it’s expandable up to 42-inches if you use an optional bed expansion.
This lathe comes with a 3 inch faceplate, 6 inch tool rest, spur-drive center, tailstock, knockout bar, and the handwheel unit.
It is built with solid cast iron for enhanced strength and rigidity.
- Product dimensions: 8.9 x 17.8 x 32.9 inches
- Product weight: 82 pounds
- Variable speed motor of 250-4000rpm
- Three-step pulley system for different speeds
- Solid cast iron construction for durability
- Forward and reverse switch
- Rough tailstock
- Some users have claimed that the product did not last long
The WEN has a variable speed motor that runs between 750 and 3200 RPM. It comes with a 5 inch faceplate, 2 amp motor, MTI spindle, tailstock, and two tool rests. It also features an easy-to-use lever clamping system that can help you make adjustments and achieve precision.
Lastly, it comes with a 2 year warranty.
- Product dimensions: 26 x 10 x 12 inches
- Product weight: 43 pounds
- Variable speed of 750-3200 rpm
- Easy to use
- Comes with a 2 year warranty
- Great for small pieces
- Switch may not be durable
- Not ideal for larger projects
- Complicated tailstock design
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The RIKON is a great mini benchtop lathe. It has enough room for little projects and allows you to change speeds easily. Its tailstock is easy to use and self-ejecting. You don’t have to use the knockout bar to remove the center and it features a laser engraved ram with 2.5 inch travel.
The RIKON also gives you the option to add several extensions. It has a ½ HP motor that gives you variable speed options from 430 to 3900 RPMs. It has a 12 position index head that helps the spindle to lock in place when you need to remove any faceplates or accessories.
It has a flip-up handle to make it efficient for mobility and comes with a 2 year manufacturer warranty.
- Product dimensions: 33.75 x 18 x 11.5 inches
- Product weight: 88.5 pounds
- Gives you ample room to change speeds
- Tailstock is easy to use and self-ejecting
- Variable speeds from 430-3900 rpm
- Has a 12 position index head to help the spindle lock at different levels
- Efficient flip-up handle
- Assembly defects may be common
- Some buyers found the tailstock to be too weak
The Jet Variable Speed Wood Lathe has a high-speed control of between 60 to 3600 RPMS. It has been optimally designed to give you a high-speed range. The speed can be controlled by simply using the control knob, and you don’t have to use the belt. There is also a three-step pulley that helps you to control the speed.
The JET lathe has been made such that the forward to reverse action is a smooth transition and it uses an innovative belt tension system that uses a ratchet system. Plus, it comes with a 5 year warranty.
- Product dimensions: 32.82 x 14.56 x 21.25 inches
- Product weight: 136.4 pounds
- Variable speed control between 60-3600 RPM
- Easy to use as you can use the control knob to make adjustments
- Forward to reverse transition is very smooth
- Innovative belt tension system
- Comes with a 5 year warranty
- Some users have accused JET of offering poor customer service
The SHOP FOX is a robust lathe with an all-cast iron construction. It has a ½HP motor for quality power and stability. It can turn bowls quickly with a diameter capacity of 10 inches and spindles up to 15.5 inches long, or 38 inches long with the optional extended bed.
The lathe gives you an option of six variable speeds from 480 to 4023 RPMS, giving you plenty of flexibility for different types of projects.
- Package Dimensions: 37.3 x 18 x 12.3 inches
- Product weight: 99 pounds
- Solid, durable all-cast iron construction
- ½HP motor for more power
- Six variable speeds ranging from 480-4023 RPMs
- Easy to use, and changing the belt speeds is fast
- Hard to find spare parts
- Tool rest may not be fully secured
All the above are excellent picks if you are looking for the best benchtop lathe. We won’t blame you if you have a hard time settling down on just one choice. In this part of the guide, we focus on specific features to help make your decision making easier. Here’s our quick guide.
Highest Variable Speed
If you are looking for a lathe that will give you as much flexibility as possible, then you need to look for one that has a high range of RPMs and/or speed settings. In this case, the Nova 71118 Comet II DR Lathe would be a great choice as it has the largest range (250 to 4000 RPMs).
Most Budget Friendly Lathe
When we compare the prices, the cheapest lathe comparatively is the WEN 3420T Mini Wood Lathe, which retails at only $163.44.
Our Overall Recommendation
Despite our specific recommendation, your needs are always the most important consideration. If you are inclined to find the best budget option, then we recommend the WEN 3420T mini wood lathe since it’s cheap. Otherwise, we recommend the Nova 71118 Comet II DR Lathe since it will give you a lot of flexibility, which is very important when you are woodworking.
Although you may already have an idea of what you are choosing, it’s good to know the factors to consider when looking for a benchtop lathe. Some of the factors to consider include:
The Type of Projects You Are Planning
Different people have different needs, and hence what is best for one person may not necessarily be the best for you. Benchtop lathes are best used for small objects such as pens and small bowls, unless you go for an option that offers an expandable bed. If you use a small lathe for a big chunk of wood there’s a decent chance your project may not turn out as well as you had hoped for.
Size of the Wood Lathe:
If you are planning to use a lathe for a lot of different projects it’s better to go for a big lathe, or you will be obliged to upgrade to a bigger size with time as you encounter larger projects.
Your Available Space
Most wood lathes are big and bulky and will take up a lot of your space. For safety as well as productivity, it’s better to go for a lathe that will comfortably fit your space without making the space feel crowded. Otherwise, we recommend you follow the recommendations of the previous section.
It’s important to know that some lathes are not necessarily safer than others and you should always use protective gear, including a mask. Inhaling wood dust is not the best, even if you don’t have allergies. Additionally, you should go for a wood lathe that has a power switch that is easy to access. This will give you better control.
Speed Variation and Power
Speed options are essential when you are woodworking. The more options you have, the more projects you will be able to work on.
Just as well, the motor of the lathe determines how strong it is. The higher the HP value, the stronger the motor is. Most of the time, the motor will range from ⅛HP to 4HP.
Most lathes are priced based on the features they have. If you want a lathe that can work on many different types of projects you may have to spend more.
One Final Question: Does a Lathe Need Any Accessories?
The short answer is yes, but ultimately this depends on what you are working on. The kind of accessories you will need will depend on the project that you are working on. In some cases, you may need pen turning accessories or specific tools to create more intricate designs.
We hope this buyer’s guide has helped you narrow down your choices for the best benchtop lathe.