Best Wood Lathes 2024 (Reviewed By Experts)

Whether you are a woodworker by passion or by profession, this article is the right content for you. For woodworking, you need more tools, and a wood lathe machine is one of them.

With the help of this tool, you can make various types of things, such as pens, drawer pulls, door handle, wooden bowels, and so much more. Not only make them for your family or relative, but you also can make them for selling in the market.

A wood lathe is a machine that is used for cutting a piece of wood into the desired shape, for example, bowl, spindle, and vase. Moreover, it is also used for various types of useful and especially for decorative wood items. Normally, A piece of wood is attached to a spinning arm, and various tools are used to shape the piece of wood as it spins. For better shape, they used several types of lathes, which finally produced household furniture, office furniture, etc.

There are many brands of wood lathes and have more options in the market today. You can take any one of them to start your craft. But buying a wood lathe is a very hard job. So, we will help you to pick the best lathe from the various options.

To pick the best wood lathe, we bring here a list of the best ones. Not only do we pick the best one for you, but we try to give you a better buying guideline. Plus, we present some common questions with the answer which maybe come to your mind while choosing anyone from the list.

Be ready and read the article to get better information about the wood lathe, plus compare the pros and cons of each product. Before giving a jump on the specific product, take a glance at our best-recommended wood lathe reviews.

How to Choose a Wood Lathe?

A lathe, of course, is the first and most basic tool a woodturner will require. It's the oldest ‘power tool' in the world. There are a plethora of models to choose from, each with its own unique features and price points, so it's easy to get lost in the shuffle when determining exactly what you need.

Wood Turning Today

There has been a great advancement in the craft of woodturning in recent years, and it is now reaching the status of an art form. Woodworking machinery manufacturers have rushed to add lathes to their product lines in order to take advantage of this tremendous growth in demand and popularity, but a decent machine requires a number of critical attributes that are often missed in the race to get new equipment on the market.

Inexpensive and Convenient

Most lathes under $500 look the same and seem to offer a lot of value for the price. You can get started with these machines, but if your needs go beyond the basics, you'll quickly realize that they're not up to the task. Some even have a stand and have variable speed, but the quality you get for the money you spend is clearly correlated.

Heavy Is Good

The better the machine, in general, the heavier and more substantial it is. The woodturner's deadliest enemy is vibration, which is exacerbated if the workpiece is long or unbalanced, and the only way to reduce vibration is with a heavy workpiece.

Therefore, purchasing a cast lathe is preferable to purchasing a machined lathe, although this will almost always be more expensive. It's important to keep in mind that, unlike many other machines, you'll spend a lot of time at the lathe. Therefore, it must run as quietly and smoothly as possible; therefore, you should always buy the best you can afford.

Bed and Swing

It is important to examine the capacity of the lathe while purchasing one. The maximum length of a workpiece that may be turned depends on the distance between the centers. At a minimum, you'll need at least 30 inches, and ideally 36 inches. 760 and 915mm are the metric equivalents of lathe dimensions, which are still usually given in imperial measurements. If you don't have a specific need for the extra space, it's best to avoid purchasing a bed that's too long simply because it can exacerbate vibration issues unless properly braced.

The ‘swing' of the lathe can also be used to estimate the size. The maximum diameter of work that may be turned without the head rotating round is determined by the height of the main spindle above the bed. A swing of at least 9 inches (230 millimeters) is required for serious work, but in fact, the larger the swing, the better.

Wood Turning Lathe Base

Wood lathe vibrations can cause gouges and cuts on your projects, as well as a potential safety hazard, even at the tiniest of levels. The base of a wood lathe should be checked to see whether or not it can absorb vibrations. A cast iron wood lathe is the best choice for working with wood because it keeps the wood steady and reduces vibrations. Because iron is a heavy metal, the vibrations from the lathe will not harm your project.

Bench or Floor Mounted?

A heavy-duty floor-standing lathe is definitely required for a professional turner, but a bench-mounted model should be adequate for the home woodturning hobbyist. Work surfaces must be rock-solid before these can be bolted down. It is much easier to adjust the center height if you mount it on your own workbench. If you anticipate doing a lot of turning, this is an important consideration.

Stands and Storage

If you don't want to build a bench, some manufacturers offer leg-stands as an option. These stands can be as simple as a folding steel or tube structure or as complex as a stiff structure with a tool shelf. Only purchase a leg stand if it appears to be sturdy enough for the job if you want to get the best possible performance from your lathe.

Even the most basic metal stand or homemade wooden bench can have an enormous impact on the functioning of the lathe by absorbing vibrations. It is possible to build in a lot of storage space for tools or raw materials under the lathe if you have a limited amount of room in your workplace.

The Lathe Bed

Some machines have a flat cast bed, whereas others have a bed formed of strong metal bars or tubes. This could be a slapdash job on a low-end machine or a work of art on a high-end one.

Any design must be sturdy enough to support both the tailstock and the tool rest without flexing and allow both to be moved freely. You'll also want to make sure that it's set far enough back from the bench so that you can pass sharpened tools under it without worrying about knocking them off course.

The Headstock

This is the heart of the machine, and it needs to be cast or at least solid. When turning huge or unbalanced work, fabricated headstocks are rarely heavy enough. The spindle's stiffness depends in part on the headstock's spread between the bearings.

While some imported versions appear to have a massive headstock, the two spindle bearings are actually very close together when the belt cover is removed. When working with large diameters, the rigidity of a machine will be compromised by a narrow bearing spread thus always opt for a machine with a wide bearing spread.

The bearings should be heavy-duty sealed ball races of high quality. This type of bearing provides more support than ball races, but it does necessitate occasional re-adjustment. The spindle is supported across a significantly longer distance and is completely vibration-free when this setup is set up appropriately.

Drive Center or Spur

Located at the headstock spindle, the drive center is a detachable tapered steel shaft with a tip and teeth that push into the wood blank and secures it to the headstock spindle. The drive center, on the other hand, wedges into the headstock spindle using a “Morse Taper” on the other end.

Most older lathes were equipped with a “Spur Center,” which is a four-prong driving center for the spindle. The prongs are pounded into the end grain of the wood blank to create a secure hold on the blank. While many individuals continue to employ this method, a safer drive center is, known as a “Steb Drive” or “Steb Center” (or even “Stebcentre” in the United Kingdom), has evolved. Steb Centers are characterized by the presence of little teeth around the circumference of the spring-loaded point in the middle.

A Swinging Head

For bowl turning, the spindle can be positioned at a right angle to the bed using a swinging headstock rather than a fixed one.

The swinging head on a lathe is a must-have feature, not only for bowl turning but for any type of turning in which you must operate over the bed. You may operate with the tool handles out of the way by angling your head just a few degrees off-center. In order to get the most out of the regular tool-rest, you'll need to swing the head slightly to work with larger diameter bowls.

Many swinging head machines allow you to physically move the headstock along the bed if space is at a premium, which is especially useful if the machine's end must be up against a wall.

Spindle Is Essential

A variety of screw-on accessories, such as chucks, attach to the headstock spindle, so you'll need one that has a standard thread if you want to expand your accessory options. Thread size of ¾ in x 16 TPI is the industry standard on many smaller lathes therefore updating your machine is less expensive.

This implies that when you upgrade your lathe, you won't have to buy new threaded attachments because you can reuse them. When it comes to chucks and other gear, you'll likely have a significant investment at stake.

Morse Tapers

Morse tapers in the headstock and tailstock are a must-have for your lathe. You don't have to stick to the original manufacturer's fittings when using this universal method of adding centers and other tools.

While there are many options for Morse taper kits on the market, they are limited if you buy a lathe with only screw-on fittings. On smaller lathes, Morse tapers are typically No 1 or No 2; the larger the number, the thicker the taper. The tapers are simply inserted into the headstock and then removed with a bar that passes through the main spindle.

Before you place the taper into a solid spindle, you'll need a center ejector that screws onto the spindle nose. Inaccuracies can occur when using fittings such as drill chucks if you don't keep these tapers clean and undamaged or they will start rotating inside each other.

Motor and Drive

At the very least, you'll need a 1⁄3hp motor for your tiny lathe, especially if you plan on making bowls. A three or four-step pulley on the motor and a matching one on the spindle provide a speed range of 400 to 2000 revolutions per minute (rpm). This is done by moving a belt around on the pulleys, which can be used to determine the desired speed. Due to its smoother, vibration-free drive and lack of lumpy joints, the more efficient flat poly V type has nearly completely replaced the old V belt.

Other lathes have different techniques of achieving speed variations. This might be done mechanically, where a lever operates two cone pulleys, which in turn affects the diameter and thus the speed. The belts wear down quickly, and the noise level is high, but the system works. While the lathe is running, you can vary the speed of the spindle. This means that in order to mount the work, you must first turn on the lathe and reduce the rotational speed. This is cumbersome and time-intensive.

Electronic Controls

In terms of modifying speed, nothing beats an electrical speed control, which allows for an almost limitless range of options with a single knob turn. In the past, electronic speed variation has suffered from torque loss at low speeds hence it is normally only found on the most expensive lathes. As a matter of fact, contemporary electronic technology has largely solved this difficulty by driving a three-phase motor through an inverter off a single-phase supply.

It's possible to save a list of your favorite speeds in electronic speed controls. A dig-in can be detected, and the power is immediately switched off.

Reachable Switchgear

Switchgear should be conveniently accessible and not obscured by huge workpieces, regardless of the type of motor you use. The switch (or at least a separate “off” button) should be located at knee height in case you have both hands full and need to turn it off quickly. Magnetic switch-boxes on some machines let you move them around according to where you're working.

Reverse Gear

When sanding between centers, motors with a reverse function are a great option. In order to prevent the faceplate from coming undone when using reverse with a piece of work, lathes having this function should have a locking device for the faceplate.

The Tailstock

Between-center work necessitates a solid foundation therefore, this part of the lathe should be no less strong in construction. It should be able to move easily and securely on the bed. Drilling requires a lot of travel in the tailstock barrel, which is moved back and forth by the handwheel. Morse taper should be used to match the headstock bore, and a hole through should be made for simple removal of the tailstock centers and long-hole drilling.

Tool-rest and Slide

Another critical component of the lathe is the tool-rest assembly, which must be rapidly and easily adjustable. A simple clamp and lever under the lathe bed are used by some machines, while others employ a cam-type of lock, which is easier to use because it can be accessible from the front of the machine. Before making a purchase, be sure to verify this detail.

The tool rest must be able to be raised and lowered vertically, and it must lock into the holder securely using a handle that is easy to use. As a general rule, the rest should be at least 10in (300mm) long and heavy cast so that it doesn't vibrate when you're using it for everyday use.

You can choose from a variety of different rest lengths. At some point, you'll need a shorter one. There is a tool rest with two stems, although this necessitates the use of a second tool-rest holder for long-term work.

Making a Decision Is the Last Step

In light of this, how can you select a suitable lathe for your needs?

To begin, think about the kind of projects you'll be making. While a swinging head model may not be necessary if you'll largely be spinning spindles, the bed's stiffness and strong between-centers capacity are vital considerations.

For bowl turning, however, the swiveling head is essential, but the between-centers capability is less critical. You'll also need a lot of force for bowls with a diameter of more than a few inches.

Consider how frequently you intend to use the equipment. If you're only going to use it once in a while to build a few pieces, then a simple model will do. But if you expect to spend a lot of time at the lathe in the future, you'll need a machine with more power and weight.

You'll be able to turn with more speed and assurance as you progress farther up the range because of the added power and solidity. Features like electronic variable speed control let you execute even more daring cuts while making the process of turning more fun.