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If you are a woodworker specializing in producing smaller, more detailed items, a full sized lathe may be too unwieldy for your work, or perhaps you work in smaller, cramped spaces and need to make the most of every inch.
A mini lathe is a perfect solution, in either case, allowing you to focus on producing your best work.
However, with so many options available, how do you know which is the best mini wood lathe?
The first step is to understand what’s available and likewise what to look for. Below, we’ve got you covered on both fronts.
Here's 3 products we picked out that thought you would be interested in depending on your budget...
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The Best Mini Wood Lathe with Reviews 2020
Here’s a list of the best mini wood lathes we found on the market:
1. JET JWL-1221VS Mini Wood Lathe
- Includes eight holes to ensure the wood is super secure
- Quiet during use
- Easy to set up and use immediately
- Simple belt changes
- Well built and heavy duty
- Requires extra accessories to maximize use
Offering total control, the JET JWL-1221VS is our top pick for a reason. Quiet, easy to use, and with a variety of speed controls, this machine puts you firmly in charge and offers incredible results. The well built, heavy duty finish ensures durability, and it is easy to set up, allowing you to get started with your project even sooner!
The JET JWL-1221VS is ideal professionals and hobbyists alike—anyone serious about their woodwork.
2. Delta Industrial 46-460 Mini Wood Lathe
- Offers an excellent finish on sanding
- Easy belt adjustment
- No digital screen
- Fixed headstock reduces the size which can be worked with
- The forward and reverse controls are incorrectly labeled on some options
Offering power and speed at a bargain price, the Delta 46-460 is ideal machine for crafters and woodworkers at all levels from casual hobbyists to serious professionals. The ease of use and variable speed system offer total control making even larger projects easy and accessible. Sanding is a breeze with a smooth, clean finish, and easy belt adjustment allows for variable speeds depending on your needs.
However, it’s important to be aware that many users complain the forward and reverse controls are labeled incorrectly on some products. While this would not affect functionality, it could be confusing to always remember the two are switched.
The Delta 46-460 is ideal for those looking for a powerful option that can tackle a range of tasks.
3. WEN 3420 Mini Wood Lathe
- Easy to use even for beginners
- Smooth running
- Unlikely to be robust enough for professionals
- Low power can make it tricky for larger projects
Ideal for beginners and more inexperienced woodworkers, the WEN 3429 is a solid, durable tool which produces excellent results. It is lightweight and easy to maneuver making it perfect for smaller spaces and workbenches. In addition, it is able to build up speed slowly, ensuring safety at all times, and is a great lathe to learn and grow with. It may prove unsuitable for larger, more complex projects as it lacks the power and range of more robust lathes.
All the above, make the WEN 3429 perfect for beginners and those testing out the craft.
4. NOVA 46300 Comet II Variable Speed Mini Lathe
- Small, portable size makes it totally flexible and space saving
- Belt change is easy
- No vibration allowing greater usability
- Some users have reported issues with the tailstock
- May not be suitable for larger or more intensive projects
The small, portable nature of the NOVA 46300 Comet II makes it a perfect machine for those looking to fit a lathe into an existing, limited workspace.
Despite its size, it is able to offer powerful results and a great finish. It would be especially suitable for anyone looking to make furniture or other personal objects. Whether you are a professional pen-turner or simply looking to practice your skills, this could prove a good pick.
The Comet II is a versatile option for a range of experiences and projects.
5. SHOP FOX W1704 Mini Wood Lathe
- Slightly lower power makes it a good choice for beginners
- Easy to maneuver and adjust
- Too small for larger projects
- Replacement parts can be hard to source
The Shop Fox W1704 is excellent for pen turning or similar smaller cutting and shaping projects. It is best for smaller, more simple projects, and for beginners or those finding their feet within woodworking.
However, the less powerful motor will make it frustrating for larger projects or those used to greater power within their lathes, such as professional woodworkers.
The Shop Fox is ideal for smaller projects and those still learning and growing in confidence.
6. RIKON 70-100 12-by-16-Inch
- Smooth, quiet operation for greater convenience
- Quick and easy set up for fast working
- Good speed even on the lowest gear
- There have been some issues with parts breaking easily
Able to tackle both smaller, detailed projects and slightly more intensive projects with ease, the Rikon 70-100 is a unique product suited for both beginners and professionals. It has great ease of use and smooth operation, designed not to scare off newbies, but also packs the power needed for those looking to take their woodworking more seriously, making it an excellent choice for tougher projects.
The 70-100 is ideal as a starter lathe for those looking to expand and advance their skills taking their projects to the next level.
7. Grizzly H8259 Bench-Top Wood Lathe
- Quiet with no vibration for easy working
- Solid construction to ensure longevity
- The motor can get very hot after extended use
- Tailstock can become loose over time
The Grizzly H8259 is best for hobbyists and those interested in pen turning, bowl turning, and other smaller projects. This is a well-made and durable lathe that will serve you well for years to come. Variable speeds add flexibility and put you in control of the project, and a quiet, low vibration system makes it enjoyable and easy to work with—a solid choice.
The H8259 is perfect for smaller beginner projects, and those just starting out of working on a casual basis.
8. PSI Woodworking KWL-1018VS Turncrafter Commander 10" Variable Speed Midi Lathe
- Smooth, efficient running for maximum productivity
- Extension available to lengthen spindle and increase flexibility
- Readout on variable screen easily accessible
- Lack of reverse switch can be frustrating
- Little torque compensation for slower speeds
This is a tool designed to handle projects of all sizes, from smaller pen turning pieces to larger, more in-depth furniture designs. The Turncraft Commander’s powerful motor allows it to tackle a variety of projects with ease, while the smooth running and variable speed options make this great for workers at a range of levels. However, while this is a versatile tool, the lack of reverse feature may be frustrating to more experienced workers or for more complex tasks.
A powerful motor gives the PSI a kick which makes it suitable for both hobbyists and more experienced workers alike.
9. WEN 3427 Variable Speed Mini Wood Lathe
- Good power for the size and price
- Quick release and locking features create greater ease of use
- May require clamping or bolting when using for more stability
- Less powerful motor can result in stalling
- Some issues have been reported with the tool locking clamp
The WEN 3427 is an option best for beginners in terms of both budget and design. The less powerful motor increases the safety aspect, while the easy-to-use setup and additional features make it easy to assemble and get started for newbies to the trade. Additionally, the digital speed display makes it easy to keep track of speed offering you greater control over your work.
The wen 3427 is a perfect choice for beginners.
10. Jet JWL-1015 Wood Working Lathe
- Very smooth running
- Easy to set up and use, even for beginners
- Quiet during operation
- Very experienced craftsmen or professionals may find the features limiting
Yet another solid choice for beginners, the JET JWL-1015 is a lathe that offers the features of a full-sized equivalent in a pocket-sized design. With smooth operation, quiet running, a variety of available accessories, and a motor which packs a punch, this is a top-notch pick for beginners, but would also suit more advanced enthusiasts tackling more complex projects.
Perhaps not powerful enough for professionals, the JET JWL-1015 is still a good buy for newcomers and beginners just starting out and experimenting.
A mini wood lathe is a must for every woodworker and craftsman— no matter your level of expertise. It is one of the three essentials for the introduction to woodturning.
A good lathe, along with skew chisels, sharp gouges and parting tools are all you need to get started on this fascinating craft. There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a wood lathe to ensure you make the right choice for your needs.
Begin at the bottom
As with anything, when choosing your mini lathe, it is best to start with the base. To work effectively, a lathe needs a good, solid foundation, or bed (the main horizontal beam which lays across the base.) This is usually made of cast iron and needs to be sturdy and heavy to prevent the lathe from vibrating when there is wood spinning on the motor. These vibrations can make it difficult to work, not to mention unsafe. The heavier and more solid the base, the easier the lathe will be to use.
Strength and length
The length of the bed is also important. The headstock remains firmly attached to one end of the bed, whilst the tailstock will slide along in order to accommodate the length of the spindle you desire. A mini lathe doesn’t have to be restrictive, however; as we have seen, many offer the option to extend the bed for greater reach.
The height of the lathe must also be considered. The spindle of the lathe should be at the same height as your elbows when you stand. Choose a lathe that is too low for you, and you will feel the consequences in a sore back. Choose one that sits too high, and you will encounter difficulties keeping the tools in proper alignment with the tool rest.
How much power?
The headstock and the motor also need to be considered. There are a variety of motors and speed controls available depending on your own needs and preferences. Larger motors will offer more power and the ability to turn larger pieces of wood.
Top to tail
A rotating pin on the opposite end of the headstock, the tailstock needs to lock securely in place anywhere along the length of the bed to allow maximum versatility.
Rest is crucial
The tool rest is the most vital element of your lathe and should be a key priority in you making your decision. When turning, the tool should always rest against the tool rest for safety. This means that it is essential for the tool rest to lock safely and securely in position.
What can I expect to pay for a mini wood lathe?
Mini wood lathes come in a variety of budgets depending on individual needs. Whether you are a beginner hobbyist just testing the waters of woodturning, or an experienced worker looking to expand or upgrade your tools, there is a range of options on offer to suit both large and small budgets from around $400 anywhere up to $600 for more complex and powerful lathes.
What are the benefits?
Perhaps you have previously only encountered their full-sized counterparts and are curious as to what a mini wood lathe can offer you. Mini lathes are an ideal option if you are working in an area which is short on space or requires a smaller surface area for you to work on.
Many mini-lathes are now equipped with the technology and power of their larger cousins with the added advantage of portability and smaller price tags. They are also a great choice for beginners, and those new to woodturning, who perhaps lack the advantage of a full-sized workshop, or who would prefer a lower-powered option while they grow in confidence and ability.
What can I create with a mini wood lathe?
If you are concerned that your creative aspirations will be scuppered by a smaller lathe, then have no fear. These smaller options are excellent for creating more intimate and complex creations, such as turning pens, bowls, goblets and even smaller pieces of furniture. The smaller scale can also allow for more detail. They are great for more delicate projects.
Do I need a variable speed or belt drive?
There are three main types of speed variation on both mini and full-sized lathes: variable, belt drive, and gearhead machines.
Variable: Variable speed machines are the easiest option for changing speed. They will offer speed ranges from low to high with the intention of maximizing torque within a given range. It is easy to switch speeds; the user simply changes the belt. Once the speed range is set, it is easy to adjust and control with a dial, making it super simple for the user.
Belt drive: Belt drive speed machines require the user to change the belt to change the speed. They can’t do it electronically. This requires a little more technical expertise but is easy to achieve with practice.
Gearhead: Not commonly found on mini lathes, gearheads are more familiar for industrial and large-scale options. They involve moving a lever to change speed, and will usually offer the largest capacities.
The type of variable speed option you select will depend on your individual needs and preferences. Consider your experience – are you a casual hobbyist, who will not need to change speeds regularly as part of your project? A belt drive may be the best choice in this case, as they are often less expensive, and so a good budget choice for beginners. More experienced woodworkers, however, might appreciate the ease and flexibility offered by an electronic version. It is important to consider what you will be using your lathe for, and how easy you would like it to be.
Wrapping It Up
Whether you are a woodturning pro, or just starting out, there are a variety of options available when it comes to selecting your mini wood lathe. Choose from a range of features, including powerful motors or half-the-strength safer options. Take the option to extend the bed of your lathe, offering you greater versatility, or add your own accessories to achieve the perfect finish.
Still confused? Our best pick, the JET JWL-1221VS, offers an ideal all-in-one solution for all levels—
achieve a professional finish, no matter your experience, and remain assured of amazing value for money.