Woodworkers rely on the lathe for a variety of projects in the workshop. From ornately designed table legs to decorative wooden fruit bowls, these handy machines turn pieces of wood so that you can achieve a uniform design around its entire circumference.
While the best wood lathe can cost you thousands of dollars, there are plenty of more affordable options that the weekend do-it-yourselfer or entry-level craftsman can add to the shop.
Wondering what models will perform well without breaking the bank?
Before you spend your money, refer to our useful buying guide where you can easily compare the top ten lathes and learn more about what to look for as you shop for one.
When it comes to deciding whether to purchase a freestanding lathe or a bench top lathe, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind.
How Much Space You Have. Since bench top models are much smaller, it is easier to incorporate them into a workshop no matter how much space you have.
Freestanding lathes take up more floor space, so make sure you have enough room in your shop before purchasing one.
Mini lathes are great if you want a portable unit, which would be handy at a fair or a craft show when you want to give live demonstrations to the crowd.
The Size of Your Projects. Small lathes can handle spindles that you would use on a chair back, rolling pins, candleholders or any other small craft projects, but they aren’t going to be long enough for pieces such as table legs and stair spindles.
Those of you interested in turning wide pieces of wood to make bowls should check to see what the maximum bowl diameter is (also known as the swing capacity) for the particular lathe that you like.
Does It Come with a Warranty?
When you are spending this much money on a power tool, you should expect some kind of warranty from the manufacturer.
Regardless of what they offer, you should always do some research to see how good a brand’s customer service is; even those who offer a good warranty might be incredibly slow to respond should you encounter any problems.
Top 3 Best Wood Lathe Reviews
The best wood lathe varies from user to user, but these three models are well-known for their performance, quality, and warranty.
If you’re looking for something smaller, be sure to check out the other bench top lathes we included in our list and compare them to see which will meet your project needs.
Nova’s 1624 II freestanding lathe is an update from the 1624-44 model. It features a 1.5 horsepower motor and offers you eight different speed settings from as low as 215 RPM up to a speedy 3,600 RPM.
The swing capacity is 16 inches, but you can expand that to 29 inches if you purchase the outrigger accessory separately.
Assembly is quick and easy and we found it to be an excellent entry-level unit for those who have serious woodworking intentions.
Nova offers a full replacement 2-year warranty on all parts of the lathe. After two-years, the lathe will be covered for another 3-year limited warranty an all parts except the motor. They are known for providing good customer service, so we wouldn’t expect you to encounter any problems should you need to contact them.
It is one of the most expensive lathes on the list simply because it is a freestanding model, but if you prefer to spend a bit less or need a smaller lathe, check out the next two options.
This model from Jet is also freestanding and offers users more precise speed control than the Nova, turning as low as 60 RPM and as fast as 3600 RPM. The motor is slightly less powerful on this model at just 1 horsepower, but the features and capabilities are much more than you would expect for a lathe in this price range.
The indexing head can be set to 24 different positions and it has the reverse option just like the Nova.
The level of quality is superb, as is the level of control on this machine. It feels very natural to use and everything is distanced perfectly to make it comfortable as you shape your wood.
The 5-year warranty is quite impressive, and they have service centers across the U.S. Contact them Monday-Friday for assistance or questions. Great company and great product!
Delta is probably one of the most popular products on our list, and while it doesn’t quite perform at the same level as the Nova or the Jet, it is still an excellent product.
It features a 1 horsepower motor with a variable speed range and a 12 ½-inch swing capacity. It is quite balanced since they added extra weight on the bed and base to help prevent it from vibrating on the higher speed settings. The belt discs feature six grooves instead of three or four, which helps prevent the belt from slipping as it turns and therefore results in fewer stalls as you work on thicker, denser material.
As-is, this lathe is a bench top model, but you can purchase the stand separately, which will increase the price a bit.
Here you can see a Delta’s demo of the product so you can see how it works and a highlight of the features.