The Best Wood Lathes For Beginners 

The Best Wood Lathes For Beginners 

It can be quite overwhelming when you start looking at wood lathes, there are so many on the market. From full sized to benchtop lathes, from entry level and affordable to very high-end and expensive. It is advised when you are starting out and still learning all the tricks of the trade to begin with an entry level to mid-range lathe.

In this article we are going to be looking at six lathes that range from entry level to mid range that will be good choices if you are just starting out. They range from benchtop to full size lathes, you will find one that perfectly suits your needs. Keep in mind your available space and your budget.

So let’s get started on your journey to seasoned carpenter.

1. The JET JWL- 1221VS

This is a great purchase for a beginner and even an experienced carpenter. It is a bit more on the expensive side but is a great investment in the long run. You have complete control with regards to the speed, and you can transition comfortably between the settings.

You are able to choose between two types of speed control settings: the continuous speed control and the discrete speed control. With the discrete control you are able to set the spindle at a fixed RPM rate. The continuous option you set the spindle speed at the RPMs that you require that is in the machine’s range.

You are also able to see the speed of the machine on the digital readout, so you will have perfect control over the RPM’s.

Specifications

  • Weight – 136.4 pounds
  • Motor – 1 HP
  • Variable Speed – Yes
  • Spindle Speed Range – 60 RPM to 3600 RPM
  • Warranty – 5 Year warranty
  • Swing Capacity – 12-½’’
  • Center-to-center – 21’’

Pros

  • Have total control on speed
  • RPM reading available
  • Transition is smooth from forward to reverse

Cons

  • Center-to-center only 21 inches, longer objects you will need to bed extension
  • Very heavy, will not be able to move by yourself

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2. The Nova 71118 Comet II DR

The first thing that comes to mind is that this lathe is small, compact, and portable. Perfect if you are traveling and maybe doing some demonstrations. It is a perfect buy if you are experienced and need a secondary lathe or just starting out.

The cast iron construction helps absorb vibrations, providing you with a smooth turning experience and less time spent on finishing your piece. The forward and reverse switch is easy to operate and the switching is smooth giving you a top quality finish to your product.

Specifications

  • Weight – 82 pounds
  • Motor – 3/4 HP
  • Variable Speed – Yes
  • Spindle Speed Range – 250 RPM to 4000 RPM
  • Warranty – 1 Year Motor and Controller and 2 Year Mechanical and Parts warranty
  • Swing Capacity – 12”
  • Center-to-center – 16.5’’

Pros

  • Cast iron body absorbs vibration
  • Digital screen to monitor RPMS
  • Easy switch between forward and reverse

Cons

  • Center points 16.5” needs to purchase extension extra for longer projects
  • Only 1 to 2 year warranty

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3. The Delta Industrial 46-460 

This is a great benchtop lathe. It is lightweight compared to most, so you are able to move it around. A great choice if you are starting out as you will have full control over the RPMs. The only downside is that it doesn’t have a digital readout for you to look at. It will take practise to get the right cut.

The belt tensioning system makes for quick and easy speed changes. This will also always make sure that you have the correct tension for the maximum power output from the motor. In the long run this will also ensure that your tools will stay sharp longer.

Specifications

  • Weight – 97 pounds
  • Motor – 1 HP
  • Variable Speed – Yes
  • Spindle Speed Range – 250 RPM to 4000 RPM
  • Warranty – 5 Year warranty
  • Swing Capacity – 12.5”
  • Center-to-center – 16.5’’

Pros

  • Belt tensioning system allows for maximum power transfer
  • Easy speed control
  • Smooth switch from forward to reverse

Cons

  • Center-to-center only 16.5 inches will need a bed extension for longer pieces
  • No digital speed readout

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4. The WEN 3420T

This must be one of the smallest lathes on the market. It is super lightweight so you can move it around with ease. The design is also very user friendly and so easy to operate, so even if it is your first time you should find it easy to manage. For example adjusting the speed, just a simple turn of a knob and you can change the speed from 750 to 3200 RPM. The motor also starts up gradually which not only makes it more safe but also prevents damage to the motor.

This is a great lathe if you are making small pieces as the center points are 12” apart. This is not the perfect choice if you are planning on doing larger pieces. You will also receive two tool rests, a tailstock, a faceplate and a cup center, only to name a few.

 Specifications

  • Weight – 43 pounds
  • Motor – 2AMP
  • Variable Speed – Yes
  • Spindle Speed Range –750 RPM to 3200 RPM
  • Warranty – 5 Year warranty
  • Swing Capacity – 8”
  • Center-to-center – 12’’

Pros

  • Speed knob easy to operate
  • Perfect for turning small pieces not longer than 12”s
  • Motor starts up slow, making it more safe

Cons

  • Center-to-center only 12 inches
  • No extension can be added

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5. The SHOP Fox W1752 Mini 

Made from cast iron, this lathe is on the heavier side which is good as this helps minimize vibrations and provides you with a smoother finish. The rubber feet can also adjust in height so you can use them as well for leveling your machine and also help reduce the vibrations. A great safety feature about this lathe is the safety key, without this key the lathe can not be operated.

It also is a great buy whether you are a beginner or an experienced carpenter, you are able to set the speed to your preferences. The tool rest that is built onto the lathe is adjustable providing you with the perfect angle to work at and it locks into place using the looking handles.

Specifications

  • Weight – 99 pounds
  • Motor – 1/2HP
  • Variable Speed – Yes
  • Spindle Speed Range – 480 RPM to 4800 RPM
  • Warranty – 2 Year warranty
  • Swing Capacity – 10”
  • Center-to-center – 15’’

Pros

  • Adjustable speed
  • Heavy cast iron construction & rubber feet to dampen vibration
  • Safety key protects against unauthorized use

Cons

  • Center-to-center 15” need to purchase extension to make longer pieces
  • No digital readout of RPMs

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6. The Grizzly Industrial G0462

If you are just starting out but are very serious about it, this would be a great buy for you. The center points are 46” appart, with that much length you can work on large pieces. The 16” swing capacity also makes that possible.

It is large and heavy so you will need to make sure that you have enough space to accommodate this lathe. You are able to choose between 10 speed settings, which is great if you are starting out and still need to get comfortable with high speeds. The whole design of the lathe is designed for sturdiness. You are even able to add a weighted shelf that can absorb more vibrations.

Specifications

  • Weight – 354 pounds
  • Motor – 2HP
  • Variable Speed – Yes
  • Spindle Speed Range – 600 RPM to 2500 RPM
  • Warranty – 1 Year warranty
  • Swing Capacity – 16”
  • Center-to-center – 46’’

Pros

  • Centre-to-centre 46”
  • Digital readout on RPMs
  • Heavy duty built ensures the minimal vibrations and great stability

Cons

  • 1 year warranty
  • Very heavy won’t move easily by yourself

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Buyer’s Guide

These are all great options if you are starting out and looking to do some woodwork as a hobby. Some are even great if you are planning on doing it full time. Let’s have a look at a few factors to be keep in mind when you make your purchase.

The type of wood work

You need to know what you want to make. Do you want to make large pieces like furniture? Or would you like to make finer, smaller things, such as chess pieces? You need to keep in mind the length and the diameter of the pieces that you will be working with. Some of the lathes you are also able to purchase an extension to make longer projects.

The type of lanthe & space

Lathes take up a lot of space, so you need to make sure that you have it. Should you purchase a full size lathe you will need enough space to move around it safely. A benchtop lathe is perfect for smaller spaces.

The speed requirements

Speed is also a great factor when it comes to working on a lathe. Slower speeds are great if you are just starting out and getting used to the machine. Many lathes have a speed control switch that can be easily managed, allowing you to set the perfect speed for you. The size of the stock that you would be turning also has a factor on the lathe size that you want to use.

Available budget

Lathes can be a bit expensive so it’s important to do proper research before purchasing anything. All of these above mentioned factors should play a role in your final decision. If you are just starting out, invest in an entry level lathe and as you gain more experience work your way up.

We hope that you have an idea in mind and are ready to make your final decision. As you can see, there are a lot of factors that play a part in your choice. Carpentry is a real art. You take something solid and turn it into something beautiful. So get started! And most of all, be safe.

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