If you are into art or DIY projects, you must be aware of how important it is to have the right tool. It makes such a big difference. For woodworking, one of the most important tools you can have is a wood lathe. There are many wood lathes in the market, each offering a variety of features at different prices. Here we will break down some of the more popular options, hopefully making your search all the more easy.
Best Wood Lathe for the Money
In this product buying guide, we are going to compare the six best wood lathes for the money looking at both functionality and that you are getting good value for the money. Let’s begin.
1. WEN 3421 Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe
The WEN 3421 is a lathe designed explicitly for small workpieces such as bowls, pens, cups, and any other small pieces. It works particularly well with workpieces that are a maximum of 12 inches long and 8 inches wide.
It has a motor that is 3.2 amp, which is as much as 50% more powerful than many other 8 inch wood lathes. The variable-speed motor can be adjusted from 750 to 3200 RPMs.
The WEN 3421 has a faceplate that is 2.3 inches wide, two interchangeable tool rests, an MTI spindle, as well as a tailstock paper.
Its lever clamping system is simple to use and makes it easy to adjust both the tailstock and tool rest Finally, the WEN 3421 Wood Lathe comes with a two year warranty.
- Package Dimensions: 28 x 13.3 x 7.6 inches
- Product weight: 44.9 pounds
- Easy to use
- Powerful motor
- Variable speed motor
- Comes with a 2-year warranty
- The motor may have longevity concerns
2. Nova 71118 Comet II DR – Midi Lathe
The Nova Midi Lathe is robust with a variable speed range of 250-4000 RPMs. For added convenience, the lathe has a digital readout that helps you to quickly key in the speed that you require, the material, and conditions. Plus, it offers five fixed-speed options.
The Nova Lathe also features a forward and reverse switch that gives you more flexibility in operating the lathe for an excellent finish and smooth surfaces. While this lathe starts with a 12 inch capacity, it can be expanded to 42 inches.
It has a faceplate of 3 inches, 6 inch tool rest, spur-drive center, knockout bar, tailstock center, and lathe handwheel unit. This unit uses a 3-step pulley system. The second step of the system allows for woodturning.
The product comes with a one year warranty on the motor and controller, and a two year warranty on the mechanical and parts.
- Product dimensions: 8.9 x 17.8 x 32.9 inches
- Product weight: 82 pounds
- Maximum speed of 4000 RPM
- Digital readout system
- Forward and reverse switch for more flexibility
- Uses a 3-step pulley system
- Easy to assemble
- Relatively quiet
- May not be durable for the price
- Customer service may be lacking
3. WEN 3420T Mini Wood Lathe
The WEN Mini Wood Lathe is the perfect lathe for small workpieces, such as pens and chess pieces, or anything under a maximum length of 12 inches and width of 8 inches.
The WEN Mini Wood Lathe has a variable speed motor that ranges from 750 to 3200 RPMs. The lathe has a 5 inch faceplate that is great for turning non-spindle workpieces. Plus, it features a 2-amp motor, a tailstock taper, an MTI spindle, and two interchangeable tool rests.
- Product dimensions: 26 x 10 x 12 inches
- Product weight: 43 pounds
- Variable speed between 750-3200 RPM
- Powerful 2-amp motor that’s perfect for small pieces
- Relatively quiet
- Small size ensures it’s not too bulky
- Easy to use and beginner friendly
- Some users had issues with the tailstock design
- Motor may be prone to suddenly shutting down
- Doesn’t have mounting holes that allow it to be secured to a bench
4. SHOP FOX W1752 Mini Wood Lathe
The SHOP FOX Mini Wood Lathe is characterized by an all-cast iron construction with a ½HP motor that gives you enough power and stability to turn bowls up to 10 inches wide or spindle projects that are up to 15 inches long. Plus, it can accommodate pieces up to 38 inches with an optional extended bed.
This lathe has six variable speeds that range from 480 to 4023 RPMs, giving you the flexibility needed for projects of all sizes.
This mini lathe features a live center, 3 inch faceplate, spur center, and tool rest. The tool rest gives you enough support for the turning tool, ensuring stability. The lathe also features locking handles that are easy to use.
Unlike many lathes, this one has a paddle switch, which offers additional safety with its high visibility paddle and removable lock-out key. There is no “off button,” rather, you simply need to slap the paddle down if you want to switch off the power.
This lathe also has a rubber foot that is adjustable for added stability and less vibration. When you purchase it, you get a 2 year warranty.
- Product dimensions: 37 x 8 x 15 inches
- Product weight: 99 pounds
- Variable speeds from 480 to 4023 RPM
- Locking handles offer flexibility
- Paddle switch offers safety and convience
- Rubber feet increase stability and reduce vibration
- Sound suppression materials may wear down after only a month
- Steel parts may be of poor quality
5. JET JWL-1221VS Wood Lathe
The JET JWL-1221VS is a wood lathe with unrivaled speed control that can vary from 60 to 3600 rotations per minute. It has been specially designed to give you an optimal speed range.
Whether you are spinning the lather forward or in reverse, you will always have a smooth transition. It has a unique belt tension system that is ratchet-style and features an integrated, spindle lock that is loaded with a spring.
The product 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 from 60-3600 RPM
- Innovative belt tension
- Made from solid cast iron
- Easy to use
- Comes with a 5 year warranty
- Some users complained that it was noisy, indicating a defective bearing
- Very heavy
6. Delta Industrial 46-460 Midi Lathe
The Delta Industrial Midi Lathe has a decently powerful motor that maxes out at 1725 RPMs. It offers an electronic variable speed motor and has three pulley speed ranges to provide you with the speed you need without necessarily changing the belt position.
A forward and reversing function helps the turner give the wood a premium finish and a patented belt tension system for smooth speed transitions achieve the right tension for maximum power transfer and establish long tool life.
The Delta Midi Lathe has a reliable and durable construction as it is made with cast-iron. You also get a 3 inch faceplate, and both 6 inch and 10 inch rest tools. Plus, this lathe comes with a 5 year warranty.
- Product dimensions: 36 x 11 x 17.75 inches
- Product weight: 97 pounds
- Forward and reverses function for a superior finish
- Robust motor that maxes out at 1725 RPM
- Patented belt transitioning system for efficient speed changes
- Durable with a cast-iron construction
- Comes with a 5 year warranty
- Variable speed knob may not work as well as intended
- Questionable customer service
All the above could be the best wood lath for the money, depending on your preferences. However, it may still be hard to decide which one to choose. In this section of the guide, we focus on specifics to help you make an informed decision. Here’s our quick guide.
Most Powerful Motor
When we compare all the lathes, the most powerful motor is the SHOP FOX W1752 Mini Wood Lathe as it can go up to 4023 rpm, which gives you so much flexibility in terms of projects.
Most Stable with Less Vibration
All the lathes on this are fairly stable, but the SHOP FOX W1752 Mini Wood Lathe’s rubber base also limits vibrations.
Lathe with Digital Readout System
If you want a lathe that gives you the convenience of clearly viewing your RPM settings, then the Nova 71118 lathe will serve you perfectly as it has an easy-to-use digital readout system.
Most Budget Friendly
When we look at the prices, the cheapest lathe is the WEN 3420T mini lathe as it retails for about $163. This is ideal for those who want to try out woodworking without too much of an upfront investment.
Our Overall Recommendation
All the above are quality products, so your final choice will depend on what you are looking for. If you are budget-oriented, then we recommend the WEN 3420T lathe. If you are into precision, then we recommend the Nova lathe.
Otherwise, we recommend the SHOP FOX W1752 lathe. It’s a perfect size, will do most jobs well, and offers a great value.
Despite our recommendations, it’s also good to know what factors to consider when you are choosing a wood lathe. Some of the factors to consider include:
The lathe needs to have a solid foundation so that it can produce quality work. Heavy and sturdy lathes will reduce vibration while the motor is spinning. And too much vibration can damage your outcome.
Size of the Lathe
Lathes come in different sizes, depending on their ultimate purpose. You need to look at the maximum length between the two ends as well as the swing. This will determine the size of objects that you can use on the lathe.
For a small lathe, you should look for one that is easy to mount on a workbench.
Most medium lathes are equipped with extendable beds. This is very useful when you have to turn several spindles.
Those who want no limits for their projects should always choose a full-sized lathe though. The spindle of this style of lathe should be the same height as your elbows for maximum productivity and comfort. If it’s the wrong height, your arms are more likely to feel fatigued early.
The motor is like the heart of the lathe. Most lathes will have a motor that ranges from ⅛HP to 3HP. A bigger motor simply means that you can cut a larger piece. Most motors come with variable speed controls, which can range between 400 and 400rpm.
The power switch of the lathe should be easy to access for both convenience and safety. It should be easy to turn it on and off.
Wood lathes come at different prices depending on the features they offer and the types of projects they are intended for. Big lathes, most of the time, are more expensive. Before you settle on a certain lathe because of its price, it’s first essential to confirm the set of features that it has as well as what you need.