Best Mini Lathe [2020 Review]

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Wood lathes are essential power tools for woodworkers because they help them produce accurate products. However, a mini lathe is a suitable alternative for turning wood around the home. It delivers the same performance and packs identical features as full-size lathes. They are reasonably priced and perfect for accomplishing a variety of home projects.

Considering that there are many options out there, we have reviewed the best mini lathes on the market. We have also highlighted the features that distinguish each model from the others to help you make the right choice while shopping.

Our Top Mini Lathe Reviews

Brand
Best Overall
Jet JWL-1221VS
Best for the Money
Delta Industrial 46-460
Best Cheap Pick
Shop Fox W1704
Product
JET JWL-1221VS 12-Inch by 21-Inch Variable Speed...
Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed...
SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe
Speed
60 to 3600 rpm
1720 rpm
700 to 3200 rpm
Power Source
corded-electric
corded-electric
corded-electric
Rating
-
-
-
Best Overall
Brand
Jet JWL-1221VS
Product
JET JWL-1221VS 12-Inch by 21-Inch Variable Speed...
Speed
60 to 3600 rpm
Power Source
corded-electric
Rating
-
Best for the Money
Brand
Delta Industrial 46-460
Product
Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed...
Speed
1720 rpm
Power Source
corded-electric
Rating
-
Best Cheap Pick
Brand
Shop Fox W1704
Product
SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe
Speed
700 to 3200 rpm
Power Source
corded-electric
Rating
-

Best Overall Mini Lathe: Jet JWL-1221VS

JET JWL-1221VS 12-Inch by 21-Inch Variable Speed...

Woodworking can be tedious without the right tool. That is why you must find the most powerful, versatile, and easy to use mini lathe. The Jet JWL 1221VS gives you all these benefits and more. This tool boasts of a wide swing over bed that measures 12×21-inches. Its headstock and tailstock are built from steel.

Its other parts and components are made of cast iron, a durable material that is capable of extending the shelf life of this product. High-quality spindle bearings are incorporated into the table to enable this mini lathe to withstand heavier loads.

The Jet 1221VS mini lathe features a robust 1-horsepower motor that delivers impressive performance consistently.  It provides a variable speed that ranges between 60 RPM and 3600 RPM. Despite its lightweight and compact design, the machine can process large stocks of softwood or hardwood.

If you want to achieve more flexibility and versatility, use the optional extension to enable you to double the bed length. The 3-speed setting makes it easy for you to turn woods of different densities and types.

One unique feature of this tool is the option of setting the minimum speed you prefer. This is a rare feature that you may not find in other mini lathes of its category. It will enable you to turn breakable workpieces effortlessly. 

The Jet mini lathe is also equipped with a ratchet system. This allows you to shift quickly from reverse to forward gear with minimal vibration. The system also allows for the effortless straining and loosening of the V-belt within a short period.

What We Like

  • Hassle-free changing between reverse and forward gear
  • 3-speed settings for maximum versatility
  • Ratchet belt tension system
  • Variable speed range
  • Sturdy construction

What We Don’t Like

  • No safety equipment
  • Loose headstock
  • Expensive
Sale
JET JWL-1221VS 12-Inch by 21-Inch Variable Speed...
  • Unrivaled speed control
  • 60 to 3600 RPM variable speed
  • Optimally designed speed ranges
  • Forward to reverse is a smooth transition

Best Mini Lathe for the Money: Delta Industrial 46-460  

Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed...

Anyone looking for a mini lathe that is perfect for projects involving large pieces of wood should consider checking out the Delta Industrial 46-460.  The tool comes with the specs and features to allow you to complete your projects professionally and quickly. Its powerful 1-horsepower motor can adjust to a maximum speed of 1720 RPM.  

This mini lathe also has a large swing capacity at 12½-inches, which propels it to a different class. The tool has a full reverse capability that you can activate quickly by flipping a button. This will enable you to achieve smooth finishes without the need to adjust your workpiece manually or having to change your position regularly to make a complex turn.

The one incredible feature that sets apart the Delta Industrial mini lathe from its rivals is the patented belt tensioning system. The system will allow you to adjust the speed at which you turn different materials without interfering with the belt position.

Additionally, the system eliminates the need to decrease or increase the tension manually on the belt when setting a preferred speed. This saves you time and effort. This feature is useful for users that like hassle-free operation.

The tool also has a switch that will allow you to spin your stock in a counterclockwise or clockwise direction. This gives added convenience when working on complex designs. 

The base of this mini lathe is made of cast iron. It is lightweight and durable while remaining robust enough to handle more challenging projects with ease. The materials also minimize vibration to ensure you enjoy a quiet and smooth operation.

What We Like

  • Powerful motor that delivers 1720 RPM
  • Full reverse capability
  • Quiet and smooth operation
  • Large swing capacity
  • Robust construction
  • Smooth finishes

What We Don’t Like

  • A bit expensive
Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed...
  • Powerful 1 hp max, 1,725 rpm motor
  • Large 12-1/2-inch swing capacity provides the largest capacity in its class. Drive spindle: 1 inch...
  • Electronic variable Speed with three-pulley speed ranges provide the required speeds needed to turn...
  • Forward and Reversing function allows the turner to achieve a superior finish. Sanding a turned...

Best Cheap Mini Lathe: Shop Fox W1704

SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe

The SHOP Fox W1704 boasts of a superior and professional construction, making it a premium choice for people with a keen eye on quality. The mini lathe has an impressive 1/3-horsepower motor. This gives you enough power to process any material efficiently and effortlessly, whether soft or hardwood.

The combination of its powerful motor and durable construction means you will be enjoying exceptional performance whenever you will be using this tool to turn wood. It also means you won’t experience even the slightest indication of breakdown.

The swing over bed measures 10-inches to ensure you have enough space to work on a range of woodturning projects. The Shop Fox mini lathe has a single speed setting ranging between 700 RPM and 3200 RPM. The setting enables this tool to adjust its speed quickly, depending on the softness or hardness and the type of wood you are turning.

The mini lathe has an incredible capacity of turning raw and thick wood effortlessly within a short time due to its low-speed settings of 700 RPM. Adjusting the speed on this tool is a stress-free and easy exercise. Beginner woodworkers will like because you only need to adjust the belt to your preferred speed.

The inclusion of a large bed ensures you have plenty of room to maneuver the W1704 mini lathe easily when you are handling bulk stock. Additionally, you can match the size of your material quickly by adjusting the tailstock. There is also less vibration to allow you to achieve increased precision when cutting.

What We Like

  • Perfect combination of weight and power for added stability
  • Long-lasting and sturdy construction
  • Variable speed
  • Large headstock
  • Reasonably priced
  • Ease of use

What We Don’t Like

  • Belt wears out quickly
  • Speed control isn’t very helpful
Sale
SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower Benchtop Lathe
  • Motor: 1/3 HP, 2 Amp, 110V, Single-phase, 60 Hz
  • 12-inch distance between centers
  • 8-inch swing over bed
  • Cast iron construction and infinitely variable speed control

Best Mini Metal Lathe: Nova 46300

NOVA 46300 Comet II Variable Speed Mini Lathe...

The Nova 46300 mini lathe packs useful and convenient features that deliver unmatched performance in the power tool industry. Finding a model with a reversible motor and a variable speed system is rare. Those that have this dual functionality compromise durability.

However, this model tucks the reversible motor underneath to ensure the design frees up enough room that increases maneuverability and safety. The Nova mini lathe features a powerful ¾-horsepower motor that delivers enough power to work on multiple woodturning projects such as turning tool and door handles.

The 12 inches swing over bed will allow you to work on complex and delicate woodturning projects like turning platters and bowls. The model comes with a 12-index position to help you increase accuracy. It makes turning a less tedious and time-consuming procedure.    

When it comes to ease of use, both experienced and novices will not experience any problems locking and adjusting the head into place. This is because this is the easiest feature on the 46300 mini lathe. This model can achieve comfortably 250 RPM and 4000-speed range without stalling.

Additionally, it boasts of an all-cast iron design. This increases its ruggedness while making it bulky at 77 pounds to soak up vibrations and give you a quiet and smooth operation. The good thing about this product is that it comes assembled which allows you to dive straight into turning wood.

However, you will have to do some fine-tuning and attach the rubber feet and hand wheel for added stability. You will also have to attach the tool rest for storing the tools you will not be using while turning. The only issue with the tool rest is that its only 6 inches.

What We Like

  • Perfect for light and medium projects
  • High-quality and smooth finishes
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Wide speed range
  • Quick assembly
  • Powerful motor

What We Don’t Like

  • Inadequate tool rest
NOVA 46300 Comet II Variable Speed Mini Lathe...
  • Speed range from 250 to 4000rpm - best in the market
  • 12" swing over bed and 16.5" between centers
  • 3 Step Pulley Systemto dial in low, medium and high speed ranges
  • 3/4HP Electronic Variable Speed Motor - Improved

Best Mini Wood Lathe: Rikon 70-100

RIKON 70-100 12-by-16-Inch Mini Lathe

The modest looks of the Rikon 70-100 mini lathe can easily deceive you. However, its ½-horsepower is adequate for most woodturning applications while giving you impressive performance. The tool has a laser tailstock that measures 2½ inches. It enables the mini lathe to adjust to the size of the wood pieces you want to turn with ease.

Apart from the tailstock allowing the tool to adjust to different sizes of material, it also allows for easy and quick removal of the center without requiring a knockout bar. This is because the tailstock uses a self-injecting device.

The process increases your productivity, especially when you are working on large projects that involve removing and adjusting the tailstock repeatedly. The self-injecting mechanism is energy and time saver. It will ensure you complete your project within the shortest period and conveniently.

Additionally, the Rikon mini lathe has a variable speed system that enables the indexing pin to turn from a minimum speed of 430 RPM to a maximum speed of 3900 RPM. It also has a 6-speed setting making it flexible as you can work with a wide range of materials and undertake many tasks with ease.

This feature also increases the professionalism and efficiency of the entire process. The 12 indexing positions is another feature worth mentioning. It will allow you to select the pre-programmed position to lock your material to achieve greater speed and efficiency.

The 70-100 mini lathe is an excellent product suitable for DIYers enthusiasts and professionals looking for a versatile tool that delivers high-performance. It features a long-lasting and robust construction that can last you for a long time with proper maintenance and use.

What We Like

  • High-quality finishing and construction
  • Perfect alignment of parts and components
  • Vibration-less and smooth turning
  • Powerful motor for flawless operation
  • Self-injecting tailstock

What We Don’t Like

  • Difficulties when changing speeds using the belt
RIKON 70-100 12-by-16-Inch Mini Lathe
  • Easy Access Speed Change: Provides ample room to change speeds quickly
  • Self Ejecting Tail Stock: No need to use the knock-out bar to remove the center
  • Laser engraved ram with 2-1/2-Inch travel
  • Ability to Add Multiple Extensions

Best User-Friendly Mini Lathe: Rockler Excelsior

Excelsior Mini Lathe

People looking for a product that processes spindles flawlessly will appreciate the Rockler Excelsior. The 5-speed mini lathe is capable of processing bowls measuring 10 inches in diameter and spindles with 18 inches in length. This means the tool can handle a wide range of delicate woodworking projects comfortably.

You can also add the optional extension to increase the flexibility and versatility of the mini lathe. The model boasts of durable components that are housed in a sturdily constructed cast iron frame.It has a powerful ½-horsepower motor.

Cast iron is preferred over steel because of its effectiveness and compactness at dampening vibrations. This ensures you enjoy a stable and smooth operation while turning wood. The Rockler mini lathe also has a belt drive system. The system will enable you to set a speed that is compatible with the softness or hardness of the wood pieces you plan to turn.

The model’s 5-speed feature will give you a choice to choose between five variable speeds. Bear in mind that higher speeds are ideal for achieving polished and smooth cuts while lower speeds are perfect for hardwoods.

Additionally, the design increases your chances of accessing the belt drive through the access door, enabling you to quickly and easily adjust the belt. Unlike other tools on the market that are difficult to use, the Excelsior model is easy to use. There are also written instructions on the user manual that are easy to understand.

The tool also comes with a removable key and a useful power button. The feet feature slip-resistant rubber to increase stability. Overall, this is a rugged model that soaks up the vibrations to give you a quiet and smooth operation.

What We Like

  • Perfect for light and heavy-duty woodturning tasks
  • Reliable and powerful motor
  • Consistent performance
  • Sturdy construction
  • Convenient power switch

What We Don’t Like

  • Poor balancing

Mini Lathe Features and Considerations

Considering mini lathes are complex and there are many models on sale, it is important you pay attention to some factors before making the purchase. Here are the things you need to take into account to help you choose the best mini lathe on the market:

Type of Lathe and Project

Before getting into further specifics, you need to evaluate the type of woodturning tasks you will be working on. This will help you to determine the type of mini lathe that will be ideal for those tasks. For instance, a mini lathe will be perfect for smaller projects.

There is no need to buy a machine that offers the capacity and functionality you will never use. If you also know you will be working with bigger pieces of wood and dealing with large projects, a full-sized lathe will be an ideal option. This is true especially if you have demanding projects or a commercial enterprise.

If you intend to work with smaller wood pieces, and still need to work on a more substantial project occasionally, go for a smaller mini lathe that accepts extensions. Before making the final decision, take your time to analyze the intended use. This will help you buy a model that suits your needs.

Person working on a mini lathe

Motor Speed

A higher horsepower is ideal if you want to get tasks done powerfully and quickly. The average horsepower for most mini lathes is one. However, some expensive models can have as many as three. That said, too much horsepower can be uncomfortable, especially if you are a beginner woodworker.

You will also find it difficult to produce accurate work because your gears will be moving very quickly. This will make your body find it hard to adjust. Less horsepower may be ideal if you do a lot of small, delicate tasks. On the other hand, more horsepower may work if you need to produce a lot of wood pieces within a short period.  

Performance

Though there are many important factors to consider while shopping for your mini lathe, performance should top your list. So, you should pay attention to the motor size and the range of the spindly of the model you are considering buying.

Most mini lathes come with motor power that ranges from 1/8-horsepower to 2-horsepower. If you plan to work with a wide range of materials with different hardness and thickness, consider a lathe that has a variable speed feature. This will handle the demands of your material.

Weight

Lighter is not always better, especially when you are working with metal. So, you should opt for a stable mini lathe with a good base to avoid ruining your work, injuring yourself, or bumping the model. Most of these models are made of heavy aluminum or cast iron, which adds to the weight.

The lightest model on this list weighs 49 pounds while the heaviest weighs 130 pounds. You should be comfortable working with any of the models. Additionally, consider the type of work you plan to do and available space. This is because heavy-duty tasks will require bulkier machines that may occupy large spaces.

Capacity

A useful and functional tool should perform to your expectations and meet your needs. If the capacity of the mini lathe is great, it will be able to process comfortably bigger pieces of wood.

The aspects you should pay attention to include the distance between centers, swing over bed, tool rest, among other things.

Since capacity is a major factor, you should ensure you get the most out of your mini lathe. Therefore, choose the one that suits best pieces of wood and stocks you plan to turn.

Chucks

Some mini lathes are equipped with chucks. However, you should ensure that the lathe threads from the outside. These types of lathes can accept a variety of quality chucks with up to three or four jaws in different sizes. Priority should also be given to tools with readily available parts.

This will enable you to change things like chucks easily. You will avoid getting stuck with something that causes you to replace the entire tool or even a difficult one to find.

Convenience

It won’t make sense to have a powerful mini lathe that is also unusable at the same time. That is why your consideration should not be based on capacity and performance only. Ensure the height is appropriate. Your elbows should be at the same height as the center of the lathe.

If the height is taller or shorter, you will find it difficult to maneuver. You should also go for models with the perfect balance between performance and weight.

Although you can carry lightweight mini lathes with ease, a little extra weight is needed for absorbing the vibrations to ensure you have a smooth and quiet operation. The weight is also required for purposes of balance.

Head Stock

This is the non-moving section of the lathe. It supports the spinning parts of the tool like the spindle. So, when shopping for mini lathes, check whether the headstock is robust. We recommend going for one that is constructed with cast iron due to their sturdiness.

It should also have generous spreads between the bearings to lower friction and stress between the rotating parts of the lathe. With the right bearings, you can rotate the model easily around a fixed axis.

During intense woodworking operations, the spindle won’t break or bend as long as the headstock delivers enough bearing spread.

A person preparing a mini lathe for use
Photo credit: Solarbotics on Flickr / CC BY

Lathe Bed

The lathe bed is the base of the headstock and enables the mini lathe to level when you are assembling the tool. As such, the bed can’t be distorted or bent down. Lathe beds differ when it comes to material such as cast iron and aluminum.

The lathe bed should be durable, just like the headstock. A poor quality bed will affect how the tailstock and carriage will move depending on the axis of the spindle. 

The bed should also have sufficient space for all the tiny pieces that result from machining operations to pass through. Adequate space makes disposing of the tiny pieces easy.

Stand

There are two things you should pay attention to when it comes to the stand. These are inclusion and durability. A mini lathe requires a robust stand that doesn’t move even when the tool starts rotating at higher speeds.

Flimsy stands should be avoided as they ruin the accuracy and symmetry necessary in woodworking.

Some sturdy stands are constructed from steel, and others use plywood. The most important thing is that they are large enough to accommodate the mini lathe on top and bulky enough to stay put.

On the other hand, inclusion means that some mini lathes may come with a stand while others may not. You can buy one for those lathes that don’t have a stand. However, this will mean spending extra money. So, before making a purchase, find out the items that are included in the package.

Tool Rest

This is one of the essential components of a mini lathe. When you are not turning, rest your material at all times against it. Ensure the tool rest locks securely into position and is fully adjustable.

Depending on the amount of work you have, you may need to look for more than one tool rest with different sizes. If you are cutting bowls or spindles, this will give you more flexibility.

Bed Length

Generally, the bed length of mini lathes range from 760 millimeters to 920 millimeters. If you rarely work with bigger pieces of metal or wood, you should avoid choosing lathes with longer beds.

They can create more vibrations. For this reason, the perfect distance between the mini late centers should be between 30 to 36 inches.

Budget

Before heading out to the store, you should think about the amount of money you are willing to spend on your mini lathe. Having a price range to work with will enable you to stick to those models within the price you can afford. It will also narrow down your choices quickly.

You can find different prices like low-cost lathes, mid-cost lathes, and high-cost lathes.  A good place to start for beginners is at the entry-level due to affordability and ease of use. There is no need to buy an expensive machine that you may find difficult to use.

Low-cost lathes are also ideal for home users, while the mid-cost lathes can be used to handle commercial and home projects. Mini lathes on the higher end are only perfect for commercial uses.

Wrap Up

Choosing a mini lathe that suits your needs will ensure you achieve great success while working on your woodturning projects. You should also understand that since a model has a compact design, it doesn’t mean its performance is compromised.

Additionally, you should prioritize features and performance over size. We hope this review will help you choose the right product, especially when shopping for the best mini lathe.

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!