Do you ever look at wooden bowls, vases, baseball bats, domestic utensils, and other similar wood-made ornaments used as part of an interior design and wonder how this one substance, wood, is used to make so many beneficial and beautiful objects? All of these resourceful and exquisite wooden pieces are the result of fine woodwork. And while we talk about woodwork, one of the core functions involved in this process is woodturning.
As the name suggests, woodturning is an artistic practice to turn a wooden block into bowls, vases, and similar vessels using the best wood lathes and other woodturning tools. For decades and perhaps centuries, woodturning has been the bread and butter for a vast majority of people, while for some, it’s an expression of their love for art and conventional craft. Many people to date practice woodturning to carry out various DIY projects at home for decorative and functional purposes. Some of the most common and beloved products achieved from woodturning are wooden bowls.
Apart from technical know-how/skills, one thing that can make or break a woodturning job is the wood lathe. Along with other side woodturning tools, choosing the right wood lathe is crucial to achieving desired results while turning a wooden bowl.
What A Wood Lathe Exactly Is?
Wood lathes are simply machines used to make wooden objects in rounded and curved shapes. A wood lathe is the core tool used to create all the round and curved objects like bowls, baseball bats, vases, and other similar utensils. Unlike pottery, you cannot give the desired curves and rounded shapes with finesse to your wooden pieces manually by using your hands, and the desired looks can only be achieved using the best wood lathes. The machine saves time, is efficient, and ensures perfection in any woodturning project.
The finesse and neat curves that you achieve using a wood lathe are matchless. The ideal wood lathe model is the one that comes with a speed-control feature that allows high speed for aggressive woodturning jobs and a moderate, adjustable speed to achieve refined looks to your bowls and other wooden utensils.
In the current times, wood lathes are available in an incredibly large variety based on technical configurations and price points to meet individual small and large-scale woodturning needs.
If you’re a beginner or a not-so-habitual kind of a woodturner, you might be feeling overwhelmed at the moment. But don’t be, because, in this article, we’ll be covering all you need to choose the best wood lathe for turning bowls and other woodturning projects.
How To Choose The Best Wood Lathe For Your Project- A Buyer’s Guide:
If you’re new to woodturning and buying wood lathes, here’s a list of factors you need to consider while making a purchase decision:
Size – Scope Of Project
The first question you need to ask yourself before buying a wood lathe is what purpose you need it for? Wood lathes come in three sizes: mini or benchtops, midi lathes, and full-size lathes. If your scope of project is limited to small woodturning jobs, then a mini or benchtop will be enough for you. If you want a small-size lathe that does a considerable job of a full-size lathe, you must get a midi for your projects. And lastly, if your woodturning projects are large-scale on a commercial level, in that case, a full-size wood lathe will be your best bet.
Determining the need for speed variability may be tricky if you’re a novice. However, the rule of thumb to decide a wood lathe based on speed is to multiply your stock’s thickness/width with the RPM. If your answer lies between 6000 and 9000, you can buy the lathe you’re considering.
The budget is totally dependent on the scope of work, your needs, and how much you can pay. If you’re a beginner or do small-scale projects, then a mini will be the best option for you which costs around 200 to 500 bucks.
If you’re someone who has a better budget and need an advanced level of service, then a midi-lathe will suit you and should cost you something between 500-900 dollar.
In the case of large-scale commercial projects and for professional use, a full-size lathe is what you need. Experts whose work demand this machine are willing to invest thousands of dollars in it.
Now that you have this quick guide, it will be easier for you to decide the most suitable lathe for your woodturning projects.
The 9 Best Wood Lathes You Must Consider For Turning Bowls
Based on various features, specifications, and functional excellence, here is a list of the nine best wood lathe you can use to turn wooden bowls:
1. PSI Woodworking KWL-1218VS – Turn Crafter
Talking about the best wood lathes, the PSI Woodworking Turn Crafter is one of the most user-friendly and powerful lathes of its kind. This model, the KWL-1218VS, is an excellent machine with outstanding features that will ease and optimize all your woodturning ventures.
This model is a midi lathe- the one which offers the robust performance of a full-sized lathe having the convenient size dimension of a mini lathe. The model’s unique, dual quality that combines convenience and functionality makes it the top choice of a large consumer base. When it comes to functionality and excellent performance, very few machines in the midi-lathe category come parallel to the KWL-1218VS from PSI Woodworking. The model comes with a heavy-duty 1hp motor offering a variable speed of 120V to 60 Hz. Another feature that would want you to choose it over its competing wood lathes is its two-belt positions: 500 – 1800 RPM and 1950 – 3800 RPM.
One more feature of this machine that won our hearts is its digital readout, enabling users to work at accurate speeds and monitor them.
- You can use this lathe for a variety of woodturning projects, thanks to its 12-inch swing capacity.
- It comes with built-in handles that offer incredible convenience to the user.
- The digital readout allows you to adjust and monitor precise speed levels by
- You can turn up to 42 inches in your project by extending the cast-iron base.
- It would be best if the work light had a more durable flex shaft, which it doesn’t have.
2. Nova Comet II
The Comet II is a variable-speed, mini lathe from Nova. It’s versatile and an advanced-grade appliance. The majority of mini-lathes come with 0.5 hp motors, but the Comet II offers more power with its 0.75 hp motor. Further, the machine comes with a three-step pulley system that allows various speed levels with no compromise on convenience and flexibility.
The Comet II from Nova comes with unique features that can stand next to larger alternative lathes in terms of power and stability, making it a must-have woodturning staple. The lathe offers an outstanding speed range of 252 RPM – 4000 RPM. With that, a win-feature of a 12-point index function becomes icing on the cake.
This machine also ensures excellent time efficiency through quick absorption of standard vibrations – thanks to its robust cast-iron construction and the self-ejecting tailstock that helps save time. The configuration of the lathe further includes a 12-inch swing capacity and a spindle capacity of 16.5 inches which can be extended up to 41 inches by a bed extension.
- This lathe is backed by a 1-year warranty.
- It offers forward and reverse turning options.
- Nova Comet II offers a 0.75 hp motor, unlike none in its category.
- The lathe comes with controls that allow quick actions.
- The unique, three-step pulley system offers multiple ranges of speed.
- The tool rest has a lot of room for improvement and does not offer the best built.
3. Delta Industrial 46-460
The 46-460 by Delta Industrial is one of the best midi lathes out there and definitely worth the praise that it gets. As far as the configuration is concerned, the lathe comes with a live center, tool rest base, a 3-inch chrome faceplate, wrenches, a knockout bar, a manual, and a tool rest of 10 and 6 inches.
The Variable Speed Midi Lathe from Delta is one of the best picks for professional woodturners who own a commercial woodwork setup. This machine is super powerful, which you must not think of as a limited-performance lathe because of its midi tag, as it gets some of the heaviest and most demanding wood projects completed efficiently powered by a 1-hp motor. The appliance further offers a swing capacity of 12.5 inches, the highest in its league and thereby enjoys a competitive edge.
Another stellar feature that comes with this lathe is its three pulley-speed ranges that allow you to select the desired speed without altering the belt position. Also, inaccuracy will never be a worry for you if you own this machine as it offers both forward and reverse functions.
- The appliance comes with a strong, cast-iron built.
- The turned pieces can be rotated in both forward and backward directions.
- A 5-year warranty backs up the lathe.
- The patented system for belt tension enables users to change speeds quickly.
- If you have larger projects in store, you will have to buy an extension because the centers have a distance of 16.5 inches in between.
4. Jet JWL 1221VS
JWL 1221VS is one of Jet’s best benchtop mini-lathes that proves to be the best for people who want something exceptional for small projects within an above-average, decent budget. As far as the experience with this lathe is concerned, the machine weighs 120 pounds which is the heaviest amongst other benchtop lathes. If your bench is sturdy enough to bear the weight of this lathe, then well and good. But otherwise, you might have to sort these logistics first if you want to get the 1221VS from Jet.
The feature that makes this lathe stand out and rise above its competition is its variable speed range, which is phenomenal, to say the least. With the Jet JWL 1221VS, you get to choose a speed level up to 3600 RPM and go as low as 60 RMP. So far, no other lathe offers this kind of flexibility in terms of speed variation.
- The Jet JWL 1221VS is backed by a 5-year warranty.
- This lathe comes with a unique and modern belt tension system in a ratchet style.
- The machine has an integration of 24 indexing positions.
- With this lathe, you can alter from forward to reverse turning mode smoothly.
- It further comes with a spring-loaded spindle lock which is integrated pretty well.
- The price might be a dealbreaker for many users as it goes beyond the price point of a mainstream benchtop lathe.
5. Jet JWL 1440VSK
For woodturners searching for versatility in lathes that can prove to be a great option for achieving various woodturning objectives, the Jet 1440VSK is their best bet. This lathe is a full-size and premium product with a higher price point and offers several distinct features that competitors’ do not match.
The sliding headstock pivots 360 degrees completely and locks in 0, 30, 60, 90, 120, 180, and 270 degrees. The variable speed settings from 400-3000 RPM, with so many headstock positions, offer applaudable convenience to the users.
Further, more applause goes to the optional extension bed that can be connected in three distinct positions and used to increase the distance between the centers up to almost 60 inches.
- It comes with a 5-year warranty.
- The clamping system of the tool rest guarantees secure locking.
- It’s CSA certified.
- The lathe has a user-friendly RMP display that helps woodturners observe and adjust speed.
- It’s is one of the most expensive wood lathes out there.
- These lathes are suitable for expert users only.
6. RIKON 70-10 Mini Lathe
This lathe belongs to the mini-lathe category and is an excellent machine from the most trusted brand RIKON. This lathe has the largest swing capacity amongst other mini lathes. So, that makes it one of the most desired woodturning lathes as it enables you to do more work without taking up too much space.
Since speed is one of the most crucial and sensitive conditions of woodturning, every kind of project is different from the other and requires a different speed. With this mini lathe from RIKON, users can swiftly and conveniently adjust the speed, choosing from six different speed options that include 430 RPM, 810. 1230, 1810, 2670, and 3900 RPM.
Moreover, for detail-oriented work like drilling, layouts, straight fluting, and grooving, etc., the unique indexing head with 12 positions enables the user to lock the workpiece in multiple positions for precision.
- The large, 12-inch swing capacity is a total win.
- It comes with a 2-year warranty.
- The tailstock is self-ejecting that helps you save time.
- A good degree of accuracy is achieved – thanks to the indexing head having 12 positions.
- You may have to purchase an extension bed for massive projects as its spindle capacity is no more than 16 inches.
7. Powermatic Wood Lathe
Powermatic is one of the best lathes in the full-size lathe category and is used for commercial purposes. As far as such big lathe groups are concerned, those who pursue woodturning professionally are willing to pay extra money for these lathes, but they’re never flexible and forgiving about the quality. Powermatic gives skeptics no chance to complain about the quality and is simply the best lathe for professionals. This machine is no less than a beast, featuring a two-hp motor. The user gets to choose from two sets of speed ranges: 50-1500 RPM or 125-3500 RPM. Furthermore, this lathe offers excellent capacity if not speed variation settings.
This lathe is another one to come with a digital readout which is always the best thing in lathes allowing you to know and adjust speed precisely. Moreover, the wing capacity in this lathe is pretty good, having 20 inches near the bed and 17 inches near tool rest. This lathe is best for commercial use because it works perfectly with massive woodturning projects – thanks to a distance of 36-inches between centers.
- The digital readout feature is always a win.
- The tailstock comes with a considerable built-in storage chamber to store tools.
- A 5-year warranty covers the machine.
- There is a tailored spring-loaded button with the headstock for unlocking and locking accessories efficiently.
- Its price is towards the higher-end, which may be a dealbreaker for users with budget constraints.
- The machine is pretty heavy and large.
8. Laguna Tools MLAREVO 1836
The MLAREVO 1836 by Laguna Tool is the most powerful and also the most expensive, full-sized lathe on the list. This lathe is a premium, high-end product preferred as the top-notch choice by professionals and expert woodturners who have a fancy, handsome budget.
Investing a lavish amount like three thousand bucks on this lathe is a high-involvement affair and no game. But if you’re up for spending that big money on a lathe, we assure you that you won’t regret and it’s 10/10 worth it. The machine does not merely come with a fancy price tag and actually delivers up to the figure and meets expectations.
Talk about the configuration, this super lathe from Laguna Tools comes with a robust 2-hp, 220-volt electric motor. Further, the generous swing capacity of 32 inches with a distance of 41.5 inches between the centers will leave you with no need for extensions for large-scale projects, relieving you from all worries. Moreover, the variable speed range is dual and pretty good as well, offering from 50 RPM to 1300 RMP and 135 RPM to 3500 RPM.
- This lathe has that much-preferred digital readout feature, enabling the user to get precise RPM readings.
- To maximize convenience and an undisturbed work session, the lock handles for the tailstock and headstock are located at the back.
- The machine has an angled, ergonomic design on the control panel.
- The cast-iron headstock moves smoothly – thanks to the steel bed.
- Because of a high-end price point of $2800 to $3000, this wood lathe may only be a privilege in the hands of a tiny niche of woodworkers.
9. Grizzly H8259
We want to close our recommendations for the best woodturning lathes with the H8259 from Grizzly, a phenomenal benchtop lathe and excellent for beginners and woodturning enthusiasts and those having a growing likeness towards DIY wood projects. This machine will be a great choice if you’re looking for a lathe that won’t cost much and will also not deliver compromise-on-quality results.
This lathe is ideal for novices and those with a newly developed interest in woodturning. This is a benchtop mini-lathe suitable only for small-scale woodturning projects. For experts and professional woodturners, this may only serve as a spare option and not a staple for hardcore, big projects. Users who are mostly into simple DIY jobs will love this lathe whatsoever.
As far as the specifications go, the five different speed settings are worth all the appreciation. These include 8256 RPM, 1205, 1713, 2422, and 3337 RPM. Given the price, the lathe comes with an outstanding capacity in terms of swing and spindle. Moreover, the 0.5 hp motor allows users to execute small projects efficiently.
However, what might be a worrisome concern is that the motor heats up intensely upon extended use. Another thing that may bother some users who prefer tailstocks that lock tightly since, the one with this lathe doesn’t lock that tight. But, these are just nitty-gritty things that may not bother everyone and be an issue for those with strict preferences. In any case, these minor things don’t disturb the functionality and efficiency of this appliance at large.
- This lathe comes with a 1-year warranty.
- The vibration and noise emitted by this machine are negligible and bothers no one. It’s quite user-friendly.
- The appliance offers excellent value for money.
- Thanks to the solid built of this lathe- the machine will last longer than most mini benchtop lathes in the market.
- The motor heats up severely after using for an extended period.
- This lathe won’t be as helpful if a small-scale woodturner ever wants to switch to a large project.
The Bottom Line
An excellent woodturning project, be it a small-scale DIY or a large commercial project, depends on fine skills, the know-how of the craft, and essentially, the wood lathe along with other woodturning tools. The nine wood lathes listed above are the top picks of industry experts and woodwork lovers who pursue woodturning as a hobby and express their love for art. Every lathe comes with a distinct combination of features in terms of speed variation, size, and swing, spindle capacity built to fulfill woodturning projects of various scopes. Furthermore, budget, convenience, and other factors also come into play as users sit down to decide the most suitable lathe for them. To make the bowl of your choice, you can decide the best lathe for yourself that fits your bowl’s woodturning needs best.