Best Midi Lathe

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Whether you’re a professional woodturner, a hobbyist, or still a beginner, investing in a midi lathe can be one of the best decisions to make. Not only does this machine give you decent power to work on numerous projects, but it’s also compact enough to fit in a small workshop.

Now, we know that trying to find the best midi lathe on the market can take a lot of time and research, which is why we want to make things easier for you. In this article, we’ll review five wood lathes that have tons of fans everywhere.

We’ll also discuss everything you need to think about before buying a midi lathe and we’ll answer a few questions that may be on your mind.

Top 5 Midi Lathes to Consider Buying

The greatest thing about midi lathes is that they’re available with a wide range of features and prices to suit various budgets. So, whether you’re a beginner with limited funds or a skilled woodworker with some serious money to spend, you should find the right machine below.

Best Midi Lathe: Jet JWL 1221VS

Let’s kickstart our reviews with one of the best midi lathes on the market, namely the Jet JWL 1221VS. While it’s a bit pricey, it’s packed with plenty of awesome features that should be of much help as you begin your woodturning journey.

It all starts with the immense control that this lathe can give you. For example, the speed comes in three ranges that you can choose from to match the type of project at hand. You get 60 to 900, 110 to 1,800, and 220 to 3,600 RPM.

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When compared to other market options, such as the Rikon 70-220vsr, you’ll see that the Jet JWL 1221VS offers you slower speeds. That can be a huge plus for when it’s time for sanding, drilling, and roughing out-of-balance pieces for wood.

The next thing a lot of people appreciated about this Jet midi lathe is that the transitions from forward to reverse happen smoothly. Better yet, the machine comes with a digital readout to allow you to control the speed seamlessly.

Yet, what seemed to be everybody’s favorite feature is that the JWL 1221VS has all the controls to the right. Of course, that’s one much-needed safety measure to have in a wood lathe.

No one likes to move over to the control knob if something occurs and you need to stop the lathe at once, right?

The 1 HP wood lathe also gives you 24 integrated indexing positions, a ratchet-style belt tension system, and a five-year warranty.

Pros

  • Weighs 121 pounds to give you a steady and smooth workflow
  • Offers users variable speed for an extra touch of control
  • Right-sided control panel and a removable on/off key for more safety
  • 5-year warranty
  • Seamless forward to backward transitions
  • Equipped with a ratchet-style belt tensions system

Cons

  • On the expensive end
  • Some people don’t like that it gains speed slowly

Best Midi Lathe for the Money: WEN 3424T 5-Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe

We realize that most beginners may not have big budgets to allow them to invest in a premium lathe such as the previous one. If that’s the case with you, you might want to take a look at the WEN 3424T Wood Lathe as it’s affordable in comparison.

Naturally, because of the reduced price, this buddy will lack some aspects that the Jet midi lathe has. For example, the WEN 3424T comes with five fixed speeds that don’t go anywhere below 520 RPM. But you can climb higher to 900, 1,400, 2,150, and 3,400 RPM.

This wood lathe is designed with light work in mind since its power doesn’t reach 1 HP. But again, that may not be exactly a downside if you’ll use it to learn the basics of woodturning, don’t you agree?

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To make the picture clearer, this wood lathe should be capable of turning softwood bowls, vases, jewelry boxes, and the like. Yet, it won’t be able to handle a 12-inch piece of wood. It should probably work fine with a maximum of 9 inches in width.

Better still, a lot of users thought that this lathe was a much better alternative to a mini lathe. So, instead of spending some hard-earned cash on a pricey mini lathe, you can always buy this affordable midi lathe.

Another cool thing about this beginner-friendly midi lathe is that it’s equipped with MT2 tailstock and headstock tapers. These give you some freedom to attach some helpful lathe accessories to widen your horizons.

Despite its decent 4.5A motor and sturdy build, some turners had a few things to complain about regarding this wood lathe. But that’s expected at such a price point, right?

The first thing you should know before ordering the WEN 3424T is that its motor tends to heat up faster than other lathes of the same size.

Still, a few users claimed that it worked just fine for up to 12 hours per day when they used it a couple of times every week. They just placed a tiny fan near the motor!

The second thing to keep in mind is that this midi lathe is pretty noisy once you put it to work. But again, that’s not exactly a deal-breaker, especially if you have plans to upgrade to a premium lathe in the future.

Pros

  • Weighs 70 pounds, which is heavy enough to be stable while in operation
  • Perfect for use with wood pieces up to 9 inches in width
  • A great choice for turning bowls and cups
  • Offers you five speeds ranging from 520 to 3,400 RPM
  • Affordable price

Cons

  • Heats up pretty quickly
  • No variable speed
  • Less powerful than most midi lathes on the market

Best Mid-Range Option: Grizzly Industrial T25920-12″ x 18″ Variable-Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe

The Grizzly Industrial T25920 midi lathe is another fantastic machine you can buy if you’re still honing your woodworking skills. It’s simply the middle ground you might be looking for since it’s fit for a medium-sized budget and comes with applaudable features.

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This lathe gives you the chance to select from three speed ranges, with the minimum speed being 650 RPM and the max 3,800 RPM. As you’ve probably noticed, this lathe allows you to reach higher turning speeds than the previous two picks.

Unfortunately, it won’t go slower than 650 RPM. For that reason, using it may be frustrating for a few intermediate and professional turners who wish to use the lower speeds to finalize their work.

Another thing you should know about this midi lathe is that it comes with ¾ HP. So, it can give you more power and capabilities than the WEN 3424T but won’t be as strong as the JWL 1221VS.

Still, this power should be just enough for turning small bowls, snowmen, Christmas trees, and any other small to medium-sized projects.

Despite its many plus points, a few complaints were made by users regarding the Grizzly Industrial T25920. For starters, some people noticed that there was a plastic cover inside the housing that protects the wires. Of course, using the machine with that piece intact may be risky, so you should remove it.

Others had trouble with failing switches and bent screws, but those instances were rare and were easy to fix.

All in all, the majority of people who tried the Grizzly lathe thought it was suitable as a starting point or an upgrade from a mini lathe.

Pros

  • Weighs 80 pounds
  • Large speed range to suit various projects
  • A good choice for turning small bowls and medium-sized objects thanks to its ¾ HP motor
  • Easy to use and assemble, which should be perfect for a beginner
  • Mid-tier price

Cons

  • A few users ended up with defective screws or switches
  • The plastic piece in the housing may be a potential safety hazard

Best Value for the Price: Shop Fox W1836 Benchtop Wood Lathe

The Shop Fox W1836 is another reliable midi lathe that falls into the midrange category. Yet, the best thing about this buddy is its great value for the price, which many users were happy to point out.

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The cool features of this beauty start with its ¾ HP motor, which can suit the needs of both beginners and experienced turners. This power can be pretty convenient in turning small to mid-sized projects such as bowls, pens, and cups.

Another thing that made this Shop Fox lathe stand out is its digital RPM readout. As you’ve probably noticed, this feature is rare to find in affordable and moderately priced midi lathes, so it’s a relief to find it here!

Even though this buddy is available with only two speed ranges to pick from, each range is big enough to allow you more liberty as you change the speed. With the Shop Fox W1836, you’ll get the chance to go from 500 to 1,800 RPM or 1,000 to 3,800 RPM.

Wondering about the overall weight of the machine? Well, it’s around 82 pounds, which should be heavy enough to keep the lathe in place. Its parts are pretty sturdy as well, especially the cast-iron tailstock.

Besides being solidly built, the tailstock is fixed in position with a cam-action clamping system for a secure grip.

Now, if you’re thinking about upgrading to a full-blown wood lathe in the future, this midi lathe may be just what you need. See, you can add a bed extension to your order, which will allow your machine to handle longer wood pieces, say about 38 inches in length.

The last but not least thing to admire about this wood lathe is that it comes with a two-year warranty. While that doesn’t seem like much, a lot of people thought it perfectly matched the cost of the machine.

As for the downsides of this beauty, we were thrilled to discover that there weren’t many. You might only need to replace the belt with another one of higher quality.

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Pros

  • The ¾ HP rating can be suitable for small and medium-size projects
  • Weighs about 82 pounds
  • Offers you two spindle speed ranges
  • Comes with a digital RPM readout
  • Moderately priced

Cons

  • You may need to install a better belt

Best Premium Wood Lathe: Delta Industrial 46-460 Variable-Speed Midi Lathe

If you’re looking for an alternative to the Jet JWL 1221VS for whatever reason, the Delta Industrial 46-460 can fit into that role. These two guys have similar features, but the Delta is slightly pricier. Without further ado, let’s address everything that people love about it!

First off, the midi lathe comes with a powerful 1 HP motor. Of course, this can open many doors for you in the world of woodturning. So, if you’re ready to make bigger bowls or lamp bases, it should be the right one for you.

What’s even better is that the Delta Industrial 46-460 can reach one of the lowest speeds that you can find at such a price range, which is 250 RPM. Sure, the Jet JWL 1221VS is still able to go slower, but most professional turners were satisfied with what the Delta had to offer.

Another feature that we liked about this machine is the ability to go seamlessly from forward to backward. This should give you the chance to sand the piece from all angles until you get that perfect finish.

With a five-year warranty, solid cast-iron construction, and a patented belt tensioning system, it’s easy to see why this midi lathe is so popular. Still, more than one user has faced issues with the variable speed controller. Yet, after they contacted the manufacturer, they got sent a new lathe.

Pros

  • One of the strongest motors at this price range (1 HP)
  • Weighs around 97 pounds
  • Comes with an electronic variable speed for maximum control
  • Equipped with the forward and reverse function to handle projects from all angles

Cons

  • The most expensive on this list
  • Some people found out that the variable speed knob wouldn’t work properly

What to Think About Before Purchasing a Midi Lathe

With many options on the market, it may seem tricky to make up your mind about a product, and that’ll leave you with a lot of questions.

“Is the motor power enough or will I need more?” and “Will this wood lathe fit inside my workshop?” are two examples of what you might end up thinking. To keep you from going back and forth, we’ve put together the following features to consider before buying a midi lathe.

Once you think about all these points and compare them to your requirements, things should be a piece of cake moving forward!

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Power

The first thing you should keep in mind is the power that you need for the projects you’ll be working on. Midi wood lathes come with ½, ¾, and 1 HP motors, so which one should you go for?

The answer is related to what you’ll be making with this wood lathe.

For example, if you’ll be turning pens, small cups, or other rather tiny objects, your best bet is to stick to a ½ HP midi lathe. While this can be a convenient machine for this purpose, a lot of turners would prefer to buy a stronger midi lathe to allow them to work on a large variety of projects.

Still, if you’re a beginner or on a tight budget, this small-power lathe should be good for now.

A ¾ or 1 HP midi lathe should be powerful enough to turn large bowls, plates, lamp bases, and the like. So, if the majority of your woodturning projects are medium-sized, these two horsepower ratings should work out great for you.

Size

The size of the wood lathe you’ll be buying shouldn’t only be proportional to the dimensions of your workshop, but it should also match the size of your future projects.

Some people will be looking for lathes to only turn pens, which is why their best bet is to buy mini lathes that have 7” of swing. Larger projects, like turning cups and bowls, will require a 12” swing, which is what you’ll mostly get with a midi lathe.

If you want more room to handle bigger pieces of wood, say up to 14” of swing, you should consider investing in a full-size lathe.

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Variable Speed

Of course, as you’re bent over your project, you’ll want maximum control of the spindle speed to give you the freedom to make adjustments here and there. For that reason, it’s always a good idea to buy a midi lathe that has the variable speed function.

For a seamless experience, look for a lathe that comes with big speed ranges that you can change with easy-to-reach dials. Note that lathes with this feature tend to be on the pricey end.

If your budget is small, you can always go for a lathe with fixed speed points instead. Sure, it can be a bit frustrating to work with, but it should give you a push and help you learn all the basics of woodturning if you’re a beginner.

What Makes Midi Lathes Great for Beginners?

Many beginners choose to invest in midi lathes instead of full-sized ones for a handful of reasons.

First off, they’re much more affordable than their bigger siblings, which allows beginners to test them out without having to spend a huge chunk of money. Plus, most premium midi lathes are pretty durable and can handle larger projects than average midi lathes could.

Second off, if you’re just trying your luck with woodturning, you probably don’t have much space for a full-blown lathe yet. This is where a midi lathe can fit with its compact size!

Finally, beginners will likely start their woodturning journey with smaller projects, which are what midi lathes are essentially made for.

As you can see, midi and mini lathes are both wonderful options for a woodturning novice.

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What Projects Can You Turn With a Midi Lathe?

Woodturners who own midi lathes have discovered that these useful machines can be just perfect for turning:

  • Bowls
  • Platters
  • Cups
  • A wide variety of hollow vessels
  • Chair spindles
  • Bottle stoppers
  • Table legs
  • Drawer pulls

Conclusion

The best midi lathe for your needs is out there, it’s just waiting for you to read our guide and determine which features are worth the price you’ll have to pay!

As for us, we certainly know our favorite pick, which is the Jet JWL 1221VS. It’s a great choice for beginners thanks to its simple-to-use controls, smooth forward-to-backward transitions, and huge speed ranges.

However, if you don’t want to stretch your budget too thin, you can always go for the WEN 3424T Wood Lathe instead. This midi lathe can give you decent features at a reasonable price. Plus, it’s a nice candidate for turning softwood bowls and other small projects.

Now that you’ve taken a look at our list and are ready to buy a midi wood lathe, it’s time to determine your first woodturning project, don’t you agree?

Raised with a fix-it and improvement mindset, my wife and I completely restored our Craftsman-style home. Learning how to DIY a variety of home improvement projects, I started SawsHub with my father. He's the fine woodworker, I'm the DIYer!