When it comes to woodturning, the possibilities are practically endless. You can make anything ranging from pens, bowls, boxes – your imaginations only limit you. And it is a fulfilling hobby to have as well.
So, you have decided to treat yourself with a wood lathe to get started with woodturning, now what? Well, now, we only need to find the best wood lathes for beginners. Sounds quite simple, eh?
A tad bit harder than it might sound like, unfortunately. But to find you the best lathe for your projects, we have compiled the most well-suited products, which fit into various niches and needs.
Table of Contents
- 5 Best Wood Lathes for Beginners
- Things to Consider Before Buying
5 Best Wood Lathes for Beginners
Choosing a wood lathe for yourself requires an understanding of your requirements and budget capabilities. Let’s see what we have got in store for you.
1. Teknatool Bench Lathe
Our first pick is a benchtop lathe – the Teknatool T30590. If you are wondering what that means – it is essentially a lathe built onto a table. Generally, the top uses of metal, which is also the case in this product.
If you want to opt for a lathe that is suitable for smaller projects and does not take a lot of space, this lathe is the right option. For instance, tasks such as pen turning or small bowls would work well with it. Thus, this is a pretty decent wood lathe for bowl turning.
The swing over the bed measures 12 inches, and the distance between the centers is around 16-1/2 inches, showing why it is well-suited for smaller workloads. Now, the pricing is also a crucial bit.
We feel that while this product provides you with a fair bit of options and features, the pricing is a bit on the premium side. Nevertheless, a bonus is that it comes with some necessary accessories.
As you know, your projects will require chisels for wood. To our pleasure, this lathe comes with five mini chisels and a chuck. In terms of the motor, it uses a 120V motor that provides enough power.
Moreover, you get all the necessary accessories with it, including the faceplate, a tool rest, and a knock-out bar. All in all, it is a remarkable product for things that require a stable base with the ability to provide intricate details. Thus, it can be regarded as one of the best wood lathes.
2. Grizzly Benchtop Wood Lathe
Regardless of whether you are in the woodworking or metalworking industry, you probably know Grizzly by now. We have had the pleasure of looking at some of the best products at budget-friendly price tags from them.
The T25926 is a wood lathe that can get through professional and beginner workloads alike. Firstly, it is a variable-speed product. That means you can control the rotation of the motor depending on what you need for the project.
The range starts from 650 and goes up to 3800 RPM, which is rather remarkable. This feature allows you to achieve the precise finish that you want. Moreover, it has a digital speed indicator for accurate reading.
You also get a tool rest that allows for easier access to tools whenever you need them. The turning radius is 10” and spindles up to 16-3/4”, which is remarkable.
Something that we need to praise is the price tag that it comes with. For a lathe that has this many features, it is a steal in every aspect. You will be hard-pressed to find many products that offer such fantastic value for the price.
In terms of raw power, the motor can supply ½ horsepower, which is decent. And the spindle’s size is 1” x 8 TPI RH – a standard size; hence, we like it. Lastly, the distance between the centers stands at a decent 18 inches.
3. Jet Wood Lathe
Now, we have another variable-speed product – the JWL-1015VS. The best thing about having this feature is that you can change the amount of Revolutions Per Minute (AKA RPM) depending on your project and the wood.
For instance, a larger object needs fewer rotations, and the same goes for out-of-balance wood. On the other hand, smaller workpieces can handle a higher RPM. Therefore, it is convenient to have the ability to choose according to your needs.
This lathe has three ranges of speed – 200-1050, 300-1750, and 600-3600, which is terrific. And when it comes to the distance between two centers, you get 15-1/2 inches – this means you can work on moderately chunky workpieces with it.
Another necessary thing is having the right tension on your workpiece. Otherwise, the result won't be as accurate as you want. It has easy access to the belts, which allows for an improved tensioning system.
Something unique about this product is its integrated 24-position indexing. This feature can play a significant role in the result of your project. And yes, the build quality of a lathe is just as crucial for a superb experience.
Hence, this product uses high-quality material that ensures stability and longevity. Furthermore, it has a safety key on the product so that you can turn it off in case of an emergency.
4. Rikon Power Tools Mini Lathe
Continuing with the trend of affordable, compact lathes that work for moderately sized projects, we have the 70-105 from Rikon. As expected, it is reasonably inexpensive, along with a decent a ½ horsepower motor.
This motor can work for various range of workloads as long as they are not too large. And it does not just stay on a single RPM either. You get five ranges of speed that cover various needs, although you need to move the belt for that.
It works well for boring barrel holes or roughing out a pen’s bullet to giving it a proper finish. And this versatility is something that makes this product an enticing choice for most use cases. Moreover, the design of this mini Rikon lathe deserves praise too.
And if you are a pen turner, it will especially come in handy for you. That’s because its design is ideal for those types of woodworking patterns. For instance, it uses cast iron instead of aluminum, unlike many of the products.
This property ensures that the vibration dampening mechanism works exceptionally well. And the smaller form factor also plays a role in making this ideal for lighter tasks, as it is more manageable and sturdy.
When it comes to the swing over the bed, it measures at a decent 10 inches, and the distance between centers is 18 inches. It also has a self-ejecting tailstock and includes a live center, tool rest, and a knock-out bar.
5. Jet Benchtop Wood Lathe
It does not mean that you will keep working on smaller projects or will not be going for professional workloads simply because you are a beginner. Therefore, buying a bigger lathe could be better.
For people who are getting their tools with this intention in mind, we have the JWL-1440VS from Jet. This product allows for higher versatility for even moderately extensive tasks. Unsurprisingly, the swing over the bed is 14”.
Moreover, going for the big leagues means that you would need a wider distance between the two centers. This product has a whopping distance of 40 inches between two centers, which is nothing short of amazing.
This distance would allow you to fit in large woodblocks to the spindle, meaning even large furniture legs are not out of the question. You also get a variable speed motor with this product, allowing for lower RPMs for bigger workpieces.
It ranges from 400 to 3000 RPM, which is impressive. And of course, having a display that will show you the number of Revolutions Per Minute is handy. This lathe also features that. Another significant bit about it is the pivoting headstock.
The headstock can pivot 360 degrees with seven positive locking positions. And the positive locking tool rest comes with an impressive clamping design. Lastly, it is also CSA certified, which is the cherry on top.
Things to Consider Before Buying
Buying yourself a quality lathe is not enough by any means. A lathe that is remarkable in terms of quality is not necessarily going to be ideal for you since you probably don't even know how to use a lathe for wood as a beginner. Therefore, you need to consider both the quality and the applications, just like you would do while choosing the best beginner table saw.
To assist you with that process, we have a brief guide for you below. Following that should help you figure out your needs while staying within the budget limits.
First and foremost, you'll have to decide on the size of the lathe you are going to buy. To make things easier to digest, we will talk about the three main categories.
These lathes are as big as you can go with the size. As you can guess, these are very common if you are working in professional areas. But of course, professional-grade products do not come with a cheap price tag either.Well, welcome to the limitless world of woodturning. The products mentioned above are some of the most worthy choices as the . Enjoy your time, and do not forget to wear your safety equipment.
Moreover, it is improbable that you would need a full-sized lathe right from the start. Hence, while these products are some of the best you can find, they will probably be overkill by miles.
Well, it’s easy to guess what these are for. Generally, these compact lathes are well-suited for beginners if you do not intend to work on larger projects. As per their size, their cost is much more affordable than the premium products.
Usually, these have around eight inches of swing over the bed and 12 to 14 inches between the centers. Therefore, you can make things like pens, small pots, and so on. But of course, anything more significant, and you have to upgrade.
If you wondered if there is a middle ground between the large and the tiny products, here it is. These products do not go all the way to the humongous lathes but can handle far bigger projects than a mini lathe.
A midi one, like the Nova Comet II, is especially an ideal choice if you require the extra swing capacity that comes with a full-size lathe. These also have higher horsepower and more torque but at a slightly higher price. Something like a 14” bowl is quite realistic with these.
No matter what the product is, build quality is always one of the most important things. When it comes to woodturning, subpar materials will result in lower accuracy as well as more vibration. Your lathe needs to stay firm.
Otherwise, even if you put a slightly unbalanced log on it to turn, it will lose balance, and you will lose your accuracy. That is the last thing we want. Along with the build quality, the used materials play a part here too.
You will find a large chunk of the products use materials such as cast iron. The reason behind that is that it is surprisingly good at absorbing vibrations, therefore keeping the tool steady.
Moreover, you can also find products with stainless steel beds along with cast iron legs. These lathes are especially suitable for heavier ventures, as they provide superb stability.
Next up, we need to talk about the component that breathes life into your lathe – the motor. You need to check how much horsepower the motor can supply, which has a massive effect on how powerful your product will be.
For instance, a compact lathe could supply around half a horsepower. That is not bad if it is reasonable for the price and does its job well, but is it enough for you? The answer to that depends on you.
If that is not what you want, you need to go higher in power. But horsepower is not the only term your motor’s ability relies on. There is another thing – torque.
The horsepower will give you the RPM value, and that is important. However, the torque gives you the amount of force the motor rotates with, meaning it also plays a role in your motor’s ability. Generally, those two are somewhat linked, although different.
You will find two categories in this sector – the belt-driven ones and the variable speed ones. The former will usually come with an AC motor, and you would need to change its belt to various pulleys for various speeds.
On the other hand, a variable (Electronic Variable Speed or EVS) speed lathe generally has a DC motor that provides easier access to control its speed. All you need to do is press a knob, and it will run at the specified RPM.
EVS products are much more convenient and save a lot of time. However, you will probably need to dish out a significant amount of cash for it, too.
The most crucial property of your tool’s spindle thread is the size of its headstock. As a rule of thumb, a larger headstock would mean you can attach larger wood blocks to it, as it will be more capable.
This measurement is also essential for when you need to buy accessories like faceplates separately. The size of this thread comes like this – diameter x Threads Per Inch (TPI). For instance, a standard measurement is 1” x 8 TPI.
We would recommend you to opt for at least a one-inch spindle, as it will give you satisfactory results in the long run.
A reverse switch is a bonus feature that is nice to have, especially while working with things like bowls. If you have this feature, you could make the workpiece turn in both ways, which could come in handy.
The tailstock will allow you to work with longer workpieces. It will hold on to the piece and spin it while ensuring a tight fit to prevent it from flying around and provide smooth rotations.
Moreover, you can slide it towards or away from the headstock. Another essential part is the quill. This component moves in and out and supports the lathe when you are drilling.
Hopefully, we have provided enough information on what will be the best wood lathe for you as a beginner.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is the most comfortable wood to turn?
Ans: There is a range of wood that you can find for that. Softer wood generally allows for effortless turning. For instance, you could opt for soft maple or poplar, which are quite delicate and therefore simpler to turn.
2. Do I need a chuck as well?
Ans: The answer to that depends. Some people prefer turning with chucks, while some do not. Moreover, specific tasks are more comfortable to perform if you have a chuck (for instance, hollowing out boxes). But it still is up to you.
3. Can I turn any sort of wood?
And: Technically, if you have a strong enough lathe, sure. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to steer clear from pressure-treated wood, as those are much difficult to turn. Softer ones do much better, as you can guess.
4. Should I turn wet or dry wood?
Ans: These have their own applications. For example, you would want to opt for dry wood for something like a lid, as it would not shrink afterward. On the other hand, wet wood is somewhat common for bowls, which are then left to dry.
5. Is pine a suitable wood to turn for beginners?
Ans: Yes, it is. First of all, pine is a softer wood, and therefore much simpler to bring into shape. This property is nice to have, especially if you are only getting started.
Final Wordsbest wood lathes for beginners