Best Wood Lathe For Beginners

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As a versatile tool that’s used in carpentry and woodworking, a wood lathe is an essential tool for shaping and cutting wood. It rotates the workpiece across a horizontal axis, so you can cut and shape it until it reaches the desired shape.

Not all woodworking tools are meant for beginners’ use. This is why we searched the market to help you find the best wood lathe for beginners.

This way, you can embark on your woodworking and carpentry journey with a reliable yet easy-to-use tool that won’t confuse you. Read our comprehensive reviews and our buying guide to find the best wood lathe for your specific needs.

Beginner Wood Lathe Reviews

Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or are just starting your woodturning business, you need a reliable tool that allows you to sand and finish your wooden creation. A wood lathe is a must-have in every woodworking enthusiast’s gear because you can cut, drill, sand, and make holes in your wooden furniture and decorative wooden figurines.

And as a beginner, you need a tool that’s easy to use and reliable to finish all your woodworking projects. Check out our top picks. 

Best Wood Lathe for Beginners: JET JWL-1221VS 12″x21″ Woodworking Lathe

Thinking about embarking on your journey of woodturning? The Jet JWL Lathe gets our vote for the top beignner option. Thanks to its 6 Amp 1 HP motor, you can rely on this wood lathe because the motor is powerful and doesn’t heat up.

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It’s an excellent addition to your woodworking gear, as you can operate it at a very low speed of 60 RPM or a high speed of 3600 RPM, depending on your needs. These speed variations allow you to work on different projects like pencils, bowls of various sizes, and table legs.

The three-speed ranges allow you to work on various woodturning projects with utmost precision and control. In addition, the ratchet-style belt tension system allows for adequate power transmission and reduces the load on your motor.

This wood lathe comes with an ACME thread, which acts better than the standard threads in power transmissions. The tailstock applies the needed support to keep your workpiece in place for more accurate results.

Highlights

  • Motor: Single-phase 1 HP
  • Spindle speed between 60 and 3600 RPM
  • Dimensions: 33.6 x 11 x 35.8 inches
  • Weight: 121 pounds
  • Warranty: 5 years

Thanks to the smooth transition from forward to reverse, you can finish various tasks with excellent precision. It comes with easy controls to give you much versatility as you’re working on honing your woodworking skills.

With 24 integrated indexing positions, mounting various workpieces will be easier, and you’ll be able to work on multiple workpieces with much precision and accuracy. This wood lathe also comes with a tool rest on each end of the machine to facilitate working on your woodturning projects and stabilizing your workpieces.

For more safety, this wood lathe comes with a removable safety key. All the controls are conveniently located, and the operation data appear on the LED display for more control. The 5-year warranty is exceptional and guarantees that you can use your wood lathe for as much as you want to.

Some users weren’t satisfied with the noise of the headstock. But most people who used this wood lathe loved how easy to control it was.

What We Like

  • Powerful 1 HP operation
  • Three-speed ranges for all woodturning tasks
  • Smooth transition from forward to reverse operation
  • Integrated indexing position for more precision
  • Tool storage caddy

What We Don’t Like

  • Noise of the headstock

Best Cheap Wood Lathe for Beginners: WEN 3421 Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe

Being on a tight budget doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pursue your woodturning passion. If you’re working on your first woodturning project, buying the WEN Benchtop Lathe is a perfect option for getting started.

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It fits workpieces up to 12 inches long and 8 inches wide, so it’s a good choice for a DIY lover and a beginner user. It features a 3.2-Amp 1/3 HP motor that delivers 50% more power than other 8-inch wood lathes of the same capacity. It’s also lightweight and easy to move around, so you can use it in your home workshop or take it to your woodworking classes.

We love using this wood lathe for accurate cuts on miniature pieces. It can be used to perfect chess pieces, vases, bangles, cups, and other smaller objects, so you can quickly and accurately customize them.

Highlights

  • Motor: Single-phase 1/3 HP
  • Spindle speed between 750 and 3200 RPM
  • Dimensions: ‎28.11 x 13.39 x 7.64 inches
  • Weight: 44 pounds
  • Warranty: 2 years

The 1/3 HP motor is easy to operate and offers variable speed options between 750 and 3200 RPM. The wood lathe is made of cast iron for improved stability and features a 2.3-inch faceplate and a tailstock taper to stabilize your workpieces for more accuracy. It also comes with two interchangeable tool rests to increase your accuracy.

Despite its price, this wood lathe comes with a 2-year warranty. Although it’s compact and affordable, this incredible wood lathe is the perfect choice for small projects.

But it’s not as versatile as other models, and soon enough, you’ll have to replace it. Moreover, it lacks slow-speed operation, so it doesn’t work well for bowls.

What We Like

  • Affordable wood lathe
  • Lightweight and easy to move around
  • Cast iron sturdy construction
  • Adjustable speeds for several projects

What We Don’t Like

  • You’ll have to replace once you want to work on more complicated projects
  • Slightly faster than other wood lathes

Most Powerful Beginner Lathe: Delta Industrial 46-460 12-1/2-Inch Variable-Speed Midi Lathe

Whether you’re a DIY lover or a professional, this Delta lathe won’t disappoint you, thanks to the robust 1 HP motor and large swing capacity. It’s made of durable cast iron and is quite easy to set up, even for a first-timer.

The electronic variable speed with three pulley-speed ranges allows you to turn any piece without changing the belt position, reducing the time and effort needed to finish your woodwork project. It operates quietly at lower speeds and includes 6 and 10-inch tool rests and a 3-inch faceplate for a variety of turning applications.

Despite being a large wood lathe, this one is easy to use even if you don’t have much experience. The belt tensioning system allows for straightforward and fast speed changes and ensures that the belt will be set at the adequate tension every time. This also guarantees maximum power transfer and lengthens the life of your tool.

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Highlights

  • Motor: Single-phase 1 HP
  • Spindle speed up to 1725 RPM
  • Dimensions: ‎ 36 x 11 x 17.75 inches
  • Weight: 97
  • Warranty: 5 years

Moreover, you can extend your work surface by expanding your bed up to 42 inches. This way, you won’t have to worry about replacing your wood lathe as you improve your woodturning skills and work on more challenging projects.

Sanding a turned piece with the grain results in a rough finish, which isn’t what you’d expect from a professional-looking piece. But not with this wood lathe, as achieving a superior finish will be easy thanks to the forward and reverse functions, which will be a great plus as you’re honing your woodturning skills.

You don’t have to worry about the time and effort needed to remount your workpiece as it doesn’t take much time. All you have to do is to flip a switch, and you’ll be ready.

In addition, the 5-year warranty ensures that your wood lathe will be able to handle more complicated projects as you become better at woodturning. However, this tool is slightly more expensive and doesn’t offer a digital readout. This can make getting the right speed a little challenging, especially when you’re using the lathe for the first time.

What We Like

  • Durable cast iron construction and easy setup
  • Three-pulley speed ranges with fast speed changes
  • Work bed can be extended
  • Forward and reverse motion for a smooth finish

What We Don’t Like

  • More expensive than other models
  • No digital readout, which can be a little confusing

Best Beginner Benchtop Lathe: SHOP FOX W1704 1/3-Horsepower

Made of cast iron, this Shop Fox wood lathe is made to fit on your workbench. The variable-speed 2 Amp motor allows for more versatility delivering between 700 and 3200 RPM to suit working with hard and softwood, giving you a lot of options as a first-timer. It comes with a 2-year warranty.

Because it’s made for beginners, the safety paddle switch protects you while you’re finishing your woodworking projects. It’s easy to operate and maneuver, unlike the bigger tools that are meant for more experienced users. Nevertheless, an experienced user might still use this tool for pens and other small-scale projects.

It features an 8-inch swing over bed and a 12-inch distance between centers, so it’s suitable for most turning projects, so you can finish wooden accessories, chess pieces, and other small wooden creations. Moreover, the 4 ¼-inch and 7-inch tool rests will keep your necessary tools aligned.

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Highlights

  • Motor: Single-phase 1/3 HP
  • Spindle speed between 700 and 3200 RPM
  • Dimensions: ‎7.1 x 27.9 x 13.7 inches
  • Weight: 48 pounds
  • Warranty: 2 years

You’ll be able to achieve better results with more accuracy as you practice and improve your woodturning skills. However, the tool rests have some texture that might prevent your tools from gliding smoothly. Filing off the edge will improve the way these tool rests work.

Adjusting and aligning bigger wood pieces would be a problem because this wood lathe works for small-sized projects.

We love using this wood lathe for cups and pens. For turning bowls and similar objects, you can use the included 5 ¾-inch faceplate. Unfortunately, it lacks a handwheel, eventually, you’ll have to buy a new one to expand your woodworking business.

What We Like

  • Cast iron construction
  • Variable speed motor
  • Two tool rests
  • A faceplate for turning bowls

What We Don’t Like

  • Doesn’t suit bigger tasks
  • Doesn’t come with a handwheel

Most Versatile Beginner Lathe: RIKON 70-105 1/2 HP Mini Lathe

The RIKON 70-105 versatile and budget-friendly wood lathe comes with handy accessories to cover the needs of a beginner. With a ½ HP motor, this tool performs better than its rivals of the same price range and offers 5 speed ranges from 500 to 3200 RPM for various woodturning projects. The motor’s cooling function protects your lathe from overheating and lengthens its life.

The 10-inch machine swing is suitable for the needs of a DIY lover, and the wood lathe comes with wrenches and a 6-inch tool rest with a knockout bar. This allows you to lubricate your machine easily for smooth performance as you work on different woodturning projects.

As a beginner, handling any project won’t be a problem, thanks to the self-eject function. The lathe also provides easy and fast access to speed changes, so you can finish all your woodturning projects in the desired quality.

Highlights

  • Motor: Single-phase ½ HP
  • Spindle speed between 500 and 3200 RPM
  • Dimensions: ‎ ‎35.5 x 10.5 x 14.75 inches
  • Weight: 74 pounds
  • Warranty: 5 years

Because you’re a beginner, you need a tool that minimizes errors and gives you more control. The cast iron wood lathe doesn’t vibrate and stays stable, which provides more accuracy and eliminates the risk of mistakes that ruin the look of your workpiece. It also offers a 5-year warranty for your peace of mind.

But as you become better at woodturning, you might not be satisfied with the finish because this wood lathe lacks a reverse function. Due to the size of the lathe, there’s a limit to the nature of woodturning projects it can handle. Nevertheless, for a novice turner, this will be an excellent beginner-friendly lathe.

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What We Like

  • Sturdy construction to reduce vibrations
  • 5-speed ranges
  • 5-year warranty

What We Don’t Like

  • Limited applications
  • No reverse function

Factors to Consider While Shopping for the Best Wood Lathe For Beginners

As a beginner, finding the right tools to include in your wood crafting gear can be challenging. Nevertheless, our experts were able to highlight a few features that would help you pick the right wood lathe.

Applications

Wood lathes can either be mini, midi, or full-sized. Although full-sized wood lathes are more versatile, they offer more than what a beginner enthusiast would look for.

As a beginner, picking a mini or midi wood lathe would be a better option. These models are usually less expensive than the tools meant for professional use. At the same time, they’re pretty versatile to help you work on different woodturning projects.

Moreover, these beginner-level tools are easier to operate and are usually lighter than full-sized tools that are meant for professional users. As a result, you’ll be able to move your wood lathe if you want to change your workshop setup. You can also take your wood lathe to your woodworking classes to improve your skills.

However, you need to consider the limitations of a small-sized wood lathe. It doesn’t support big workpieces and lacks the versatility of a more professional model. This means that as you work on improving your skills, you’ll eventually have to consider buying a new wood lathe with more options.

Size of Wood Lathe and Available Space

Before picking a model, you need to consider the size and weight of your wood lathe. At the same time, you should study the space available in your workspace.

A compact wood lathe is suitable for a home workshop and a small workbench. A large wood lathe with more options might seem tempting, but you shouldn’t buy a wood lathe that your workshop won’t accommodate. You should also make sure that the wood lathe’s height suits yours, so you can work comfortably without having to hunch over.

You should also think about the wood lathe’s weight. A lightweight wood lathe can be easily used as benchtop equipment. In addition, you can easily transport it from one location to another, so you can use it at your workshop or in your woodworking classes.

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Motor

The motor is the heart of your wood lathe, so you need to pay attention to its features. A small horsepower of 1/3, ¼ or even 1/8 HP can work for small-sized projects. However, for larger projects, you need a motor that has horsepower between 1 and 3 HP.

Our first choice, the JET JWL-1221VS, 12″x21″ Woodworking Lathe has 1 HP motor, so it’s more versatile than other options on our list. It can be used for small, medium, and large-sized projects for more versatility.

Beginner-level wood lathes with higher horsepower are more versatile and can be used for more applications. However, you should consider the higher price that you’ll have to pay for a stronger motor.

You should also consider the Amp rating of the motor. This refers to how it can cool itself so the motor doesn’t get damaged with extended use. With a higher Amp rating, the motor can function for long periods without being damaged.

Construction

Most wood lathes are made of cast iron. This material is durable and also minimizes vibrations, so you can hone your skills and minimize your mistakes. You should also look for a model with stabilizing legs to keep the wood lathe in place.

The weight of the wood lathe can also affect its stability. Although lightweight wood lathes are easier to carry and move around, heavier models are more stable and won’t move while you’re working.

Budget

Wood lathes aren’t the most expensive woodworking tools, and those who are designed for beginners are usually more affordable. So, if you’re looking for an affordable model, there’s a big chance that you can find a wood lathe that fits your budget.

Beginner-level wood lathes come at different price ranges from $200 to more than $1000. Buying an expensive model guarantees that you’ll have a wood lathe with more options.

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If you’re looking for a budget-friendly model that you can use on your first woodturning project, you should probably opt for the WEN 3421 .

Although the JET JWL-1221VS is more expensive than other models on the list, you won’t have to replace it after a while as you improve your skills.

Warranty

Buying a woodworking tool with a reliable warranty is a must. This way, you can guarantee that you’re buying a well-made product with reliable parts.

It also guarantees that your woodworking tool will work without showing any defects.

If you face any issues with your woodworking tool, the company will stand behind its product and provide you with the needed maintenance or replacement.

Most wood lathes offer a warranty that’s between 1 and 3 years. On our list, the JET JWL-1221VS offers an excellent warranty of 5 years.

Wrap Up

Investing in the right wood lathe for beginners will help you hone your skills as you pursue your woodturning passion. Make amazing wood figurines, bowls, vases, and accessories and improve your skills with a safe tool that won’t disappoint you.

We chose the JET JWL-1221VS as our top choice because it ticks all the right boxes. It comes with a strong 1 HP motor and a 5- year guarantee, so you can use it for small and large-sized projects. However, if you’re on a tight budget, we recommend that you take a look at the WEN 3421 Wood Lathe.

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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!