Last updated on May 2nd, 2021
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If you go to craft shows and love the stunning wooden bowls for sale there, or have the urge to make your own dining chairs, a wood turning lathe could be your next large DIY tool purchase. Depending on which lathe you choose (and this review helps you with that decision), you can make anything from furniture for your grandkid’s doll house to elaborate Queen Anne table legs for your new DIY 10-seater dining table. Create original wood pieces from readily available patterns or from your own designs and add to the beauty of turned wood in the world.
Even though we review only a few models here, whatever your level of expertise and enthusiasm, we have a wood lathe for you in this review. And all of them are picks for the Best Wood Lathe. We list the pros and cons of each model and discuss the features that make that particular lathe suitable for the user that we recommend it for. Our Buyer’s Guide is directed towards the newcomer to wood turning lathes and explains briefly the general features.
Our Best Pick for Professionals and Serious Enthusiasts is the Axminster Craft AC370WL Variable Speed Woodturning Lathe. This lathe has a powerful 750W motor and 10 choices of speed that easily cope with large wood projects.
Our Best Pick for Hobbyists or Model Makers is the Proxxon Micromot DB 250 MICRO Woodturning Lathe. This is a small, lightweight wood lathe (sometimes called a micro lathe) that is suited to make wood models, doll house furniture and miniature ships.
The Best Pick for Beginners is the Lumberjack SWL350 375W 230V Variable Speed Wood Lathe Starter Kit. This is a budget-friendly wood turning lathe kit that includes everything the newcomer needs to start up in the craft.
Best Wood Turning Lathe for Professionals and Serious Enthusiasts
If you’re seriously into wood turning and are ready to upgrade your lathe, this is the one for you.
Best Wood Turning Lathe for Hobbyists and Model Makers
If you work precisely to a small scale, this is the specialist wood turning lathe that lets your creativity and artisanship loose.
Best Wood Turning Lathe for Hobbyists and Model Makers
If you want to enter the world of wood turning, this Starter Set lathe has all the features that you need to get going but you will need to invest in some new tools to start turning bowls. Overall, a great starter set though.
Top 3 Wood Turning Lathes Reviews
1. Axminster Craft AC370WL Variable Speed Woodturning Lathe
Best for Professionals and Serious Enthusiasts
The Axminster Craft AC370WL Variable Speed Woodturning Lathe has the size, power and all the features that professionals and serious wood-crafting amateurs dream of. This is a free-standing lathe so you don’t need to worry about clearing space on your workbench for it.
The 750W (1hp) motor provides plenty of power for turning large pieces of wood. This is good news as the centre distance is 1,100mm. You can use spindles over 1m long for table legs if you have the ambition to make your own elaborate dining table to impress all your guests.
The variable speed control gives you the ability to precisely control the speed you need to carve delicate features into the spindles or bowls you make. Increase the speed in 10 pre-defined steps from a relatively slow 500rpm to 2,000rpm to suit your project’s features and the hardness of wood you use. The speed control is a single lever that’s easily accessible. The top speed of 2,000rpm isn’t the fastest speed of the lathes in our review but it’s probably the safest top speed for 1m+ lengths of wood.
If you plan on making bowls or other rounded objects, this Axmnister Craft wood lathe gives you a generous 370mm turning diameter. A bowl of this maximum size could be used for salad or fruit, while the smaller ones that you make could be used to complete the set. These make the perfect and elegant gift showing your artisan woodworking skills.
Your control over the lathe is enhanced by swivelling the headstock and sliding it along the entire bed of the machine. Even if your project is an awkward shape, you can turn the wood with the utmost control.
- Floor standing cast iron lathe with a 750W motor that gives plenty of power for turning large wood pieces.
- Variable speed control increases in ten steps from 500rpm to 2,000rpm for delicate control of the lathe.
- Centre height is 185mm that gives a 370mm turning diameter over the bed of the lathe.
- Distance between centres is up to 1,100mm so you can create long spindles and other projects of length.
- Headstock swivels and you can slide it along the entire length of the bed to set it in the best position for your project.
- Some assembly required to put this together.
The Axminster Craft AC370WL Variable Speed Woodturning Lathe is a free-standing lathe with a powerful 750W motor that supports the (up to) 1.1m lengths of wood that it can turn. With a choice of 10 pre-defined speeds and a swivel headstock, you have a great deal of control over the success of your turned wood projects.
The Axminster Craft AC370WL Variable Speed Woodturning Lathe is our Best Pick for professionals and serious enthusiasts.
Read next: Best wood chisels
2. Proxxon Micromot DB 250 MICRO Woodturning Lathe
Best For Hobbyists or Model Makers
The Proxxon Micromot DB 250 MICRO Woodturning Lathe is at the other end of the scale from our previous pick. This is a precision wood lathe, also known as a micro lathe, that needs a space on your wood working bench.
The motor has just 100W of power but it only needs to turn up to a maximum of 250mm lengths of wood. This relatively short centre distance is best suited for those woodworkers who make models or doll house furniture or just small items. The items you turn can have up to a diameter of 40mm over the bed of the lathe but only 25mm over the tool rest. These measurements are constraints for many woodworking enthusiasts who work large. However, most of the online reviewers who give this lathe a five-star review are model makers and hobbyists.
This Proxxon Micromot lathe has a variable speed control. The speed range is from 1,000rpm to 5,000rpm. This is a wide range but there’s no gradual start-up facility. This means that, once you press the start button, the lathe starts at 1,000rpm. So be careful. However, the good news is the lathe has an electronic speed control so it keeps a constant speed while you’re turning the wood, even with a heavy load.
- Precision wood lathe sits on your work bench and supplies electronic speed control with its 100W motor.
- Bed of lathe is constructed from thick-walled aluminium for stability and durability.
- Centre distance is 250mm that best suits your smaller projects.
- Turning capacity is a maximum of 40mm for hollow and rounded items.
- Variable speed control lets you work between 1,000rpm and 5,000rpm for powerful turning.
- The spindle has a bore of 10mm to allow you to produce small parts efficiently and accurately.
- Tool rest is too short.
- Goes immediately to 1,000rpm on start.
- Might need to be clamped down as light aluminium bed moves around.
The Proxxon Micromot DB 250 MICRO Woodturning Lathe is designed for the small scale turned wood work of model makers and hobbyists. With its smaller dimensions it won’t take up much space on your workbench and its variable speed (to a fast 5,000rpm) means that you can always find the right speed for the cut and type of wood you’re making.
The Proxxon Micromot DB 250 MICRO Woodturning Lathe is our selection of Best Wood Lathe for model makers and hobbyists.
Read next: Best scroll saws for woodworking
3. Lumberjack SWL350 375W 230V Variable Speed Wood Lathe Starter Kit
Best For Beginner
The Lumberjack SWL350 375W 230V Variable Speed Wood Lathe Starter Kit is, as its name indicates, a good choice to set up your wood-turning hobby. Its motor provides a respectable 375W of power which sees you through most beginner and intermediate projects. This set comes with all the accessories you need to set up the lathe and start your projects unless you want to start turning bowls you may need to invest in a few more tools.
The advantage of this Lumberjack starter set is that you have just enough to begin and not too much to overwhelm you with choices and decisions to make. You have a choice of four speeds from 850rpm to 2,510rpm. To change the speed, though, you have to adjust the belt drive and this is a bit more fiddly than turning a dial or lever of other models.
Even though this is a starter kit, the centre distance is 1,000mm so you can turn pieces of wood up to 1m long which is an advantage. Along with this comes a 350mm diameter capacity for salad-serving-size bowls and other such objects.
This is a beginner’s lathe that lets you make full-size objects. However, some online reviewers remark that this Lumberjack lathe isn’t of the highest quality but we have reviewed previous Lumbjack tools and they’re designed to offer affordable tools. In particular, there are reports that the on/off button is prone to breaking or arrives broken. Just be careful with the button if you buy this set. Remember that this lathe is designed for beginners and, if you do take to the hobby, you may want to upgrade later.
- Stand-alone (bright red) lathe with 375W motor for smooth, heavy-duty wood turning.
- Choice of four speeds, from 850rpm to 2,510rpm, to suit all your wood turning jobs.
- Distance between centres is 1,000mm so you can make spindles for chair and table legs.
- Turning capacity is 350mm for respectably large hollow, rounded projects.
- Comes with all the accessories you need to set up your wood turning workshop from scratch.
- On/off button breaks easily so be careful.
- Not of high-quality material or build.
- Need to adjust belt to change speed.
The Lumberjack SWL350 375W 230V Variable Speed Wood Lathe Starter Kit has everything you need to set up and explore wood-turning as a hobby. As a starter set, it has everything you need but perhaps not in the most convenient or highest quality ways. This is a full-size home lathe so, if you’re adventurous, you can start with human-size furniture or, alternatively, start with a set of bowls and work your way up.
The Lumberjack SWL350 375W 230V Variable Speed Wood Lathe Starter Kit wins us over as the Best Wood Lathe for beginners.
Our Buyer’s Guide for the Best Wood Turning Lathes is unusually brief and serves as a reminder of the essential features to consider when making your buying decision. Buying a lathe requires some existing knowledge of wood working as it’s not generally the first wood craft tool that a hobbyist purchases.
The lathe bed is the main horizontal beam across the base. The best lathes have beds of cast iron that minimize the vibrations made when you’re turning the wood and stop the lathe from moving across your work bench. Vibrations make turning the wood difficult and the whole process unsafe. However, cast iron is heavy and if you’re planning on buying a micro lathe and transporting it from site to site, look for one with an aluminium bed as found in the Proxxon Micromot DB 250 MICRO Woodturning Lathe in this review.
Only one of the lathes we discuss is free-standing, the other two need space in your workbench. Make sure that you have room around them to move and work safely. The lathe we recommend for hobbyists has an aluminium bed so it needs to be firmly clamped down as the spinning wood may make it shuffle across the surface beneath it.
The headstock is where you put on accessories such as the chuck to hold tools that you want to use on the wood. Look for a headstock that has a standard thread and not the manufacturer’s own configuration. In this way, you can reuse all your tools if you upgrade your lathe later.
The tailstock is at the other end of the lathe bed. It is a rolling pin and works to keep the wood spindle centred. It also ensures that everything rotates smoothly. The tailstock can move along the lathe bed to suit the length of the spindle and locks into place when it’s in the right position.
The tool rest lets you rest any hand tools you’re using on the wood (such as a bowl scaper) to keep your hand steady and the tool in just the right place. The tool rest locks into place and should be about 25cm long. Cast iron tool rests and heavy and study and best to reduce vibrations.
The power switch needs to needs to be easily accessible so you can turn it off in quickly emergencies.
These are the numbers you should know about a lathe:
This is the longest piece of wood you can turn in the lathe; fits between the headstock and the tailstock.
This is the widest diameter of wood you can turn.
The swing distance is used when you’re doing faceplate or chuck work and the centre distance when you’re turning spindles.
The variable speed is usually between 400rpm and 5,000rpm. Look for lathes on which you change the speed with an external dial or lever. With the Lumberjack Lathe Starter Set we look at you need to adjust the drive belt to one of four positions to change the speed. If you work with a particular species of wood or size of the project, make sure that you intended lathe has the right speed to handle it.
We’re always concerned about safety, but now you have a possibly large piece of wood in front of you turning noisily at thousands of revolutions per minute. And you’re using a sharp, pointed hand tool on it at the same time.
Please take all the usual precautions for operating woodworking machines and other power tools. Here are some reminders:
- Wear safety glasses, preferably with side shields, or a face mask.
- Wear ear protectors as it could get noisy.
- Wear a mask if you’re sanding and generating wood dust.
- Don’t forget about protective footwear as wood is heavy when dropped on your toes.
- Make sure you have enough light so you can clearly see what you’re doing.
- Don’t use wood that is split, has knots in it or has nails or other metal bits embedded; you just don’t know what will happen to it on the lathe.
- Adjust the tool rest so that it’s as close to the wood as possible and remember to lock it in place.
- Don’t wear anything that dangles and could get caught by the turning spindle.
- Use quality tools that are sharp; don’t use homemade ones even if they do exactly what you’re looking for.
A wood turning lathe opens up many possibilities for those interested in woodcraft. Use it to create ornaments, utensils, bowls, home and garden accessories, children’s furniture, full-scale furniture and so on. Rebel against flat-pack furniture and bring back artisanship, especially if you use local (or at least national) woods. Not only is wood turning creative but time spent at the lathe can also be meditative, as long as you still focus mindfully on the task at hand.
We have three Best Picks, differentiated by the types of wood craft they’re suited for:
The Axminster Craft AC370WL Variable Speed Woodturning Lathe is the one for professionals and serious enthusiasts. This has the most powerful motor, the longest lathe bed and the most controllable speed selection of the three lathes in our review.
Those who produce models or other hobby pieces will like the Proxxon Micromot DB 250 MICRO Woodturning Lathe. This smaller lathe lets you create miniature replicas of full-scale furniture, ships and other real-world items. Or design and create your own figures and habitats.
The Lumberjack SWL350 375W 230V Variable Speed Wood Lathe Starter Kit is the best buy for newcomers to the craft. The kit contains everything that they need, and it’s budget-friendly as well. It won’t break the bank if you decide after a while that you really do need to upgrade to a larger and more powerful lathe.
Last update on 2022-01-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API