The Best Wood Lathe for Beginners in 2023

In this review of the best wood lathe for beginners we’ll show you various options to choose from that allow you to create beautiful and intricate shapes and designs out of wood. Lathes work by spinning a piece of wood at high speeds while you use various tools to shape and smooth it.

One of the best things about wood lathes is that they allow you to be really creative and turn your ideas into reality. You can make everything from bowls and vases to candle holders and even baseball bats!

To use a wood lathe, you’ll need to attach your piece of wood to the lathe using a chuck or a faceplate. Then, you can use tools like chisels, gouges, and sandpaper to shape and finish your piece. The speed of the lathe can be adjusted to suit the type of wood you’re working with and the tools you’re using.

Pro tip: Always make sure that your cutting tools are sharp, use a tool sharpening system to keep them in tip top condition.

Wood lathes can be a lot of fun to use, and they’re a great way to relax and get creative. So if you’re interested in woodworking, or just want to try something new, give a wood lathe a try!

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Get Your Woodturning Groove On: A Beginner’s Guide

Woodturning can be a fun and rewarding so finding the right wood lathe is an important first step. Here’s a few tips on what to look out for, and to help you choose the best wood lathe for beginners starting out on their new found hobby:

Start small, as a beginner, you may not need a large, industrial-sized lathe. Look for a smaller lathe that is easy to handle and store, and has a reasonable capacity for the types of projects you plan to work on.

Look for a lathe with a solid build, a sturdy, well-constructed lathe will be more durable and provide better support for your workpieces. It may also be easier to maintain and last longer.

Consider the features, some wood lathes come with additional features such as a digital display which is extremely useful because many wood lathes now have variable speed control, and a digital display can help the user to accurately set and maintain the desired speed.

Top Pick

JET JWL-1221VS, 12″ x 21″ Wood Lathe, Variable Speed, 1Ph 115V (719200

The JET JWL-1221VS, 12″ x 21″ variable speed wood lathe is a top-of-the-line machine that offers a wide range of features and capabilities. This lathe is built with innovative design, optimal speed, convenient controls, handy storage, added safety, and directional control.

One of the standout features of this lathe is its ratchet-style belt tension system, which makes it easy to access the belts for more precise adjustments. This feature also provides improved stability for your workpiece and helps to reduce vibration, making the overall process smoother and more efficient.

Another great feature of this lathe is its ability to choose from three speed ranges (60-900/110-1,800/220-3,600). This allows you to choose the right speed for your project, whether you’re working with softer woods or more dense materials, which helps to improve precision, achieving better results.

The easy-to-reach controls and digital readout make the JET JWL-1221VS easy to use. The controls are intuitive and easy to understand, and the digital readout provides real-time information about the lathe’s speed, helping you to achieve consistent results.

In addition, this lathe includes a tool storage caddy on each end of the machine, which provides a convenient way to keep all of your tools organized and within easy reach. The removable yellow On/Off safety key also provides added safety and peace of mind. The lathe also has smooth transitions when changing from forward to reverse, which makes it easy to change the direction of rotation when needed.

What We Like:

  • Innovative Design – The ratchet-style belt tension system is a unique and innovative feature that makes it easy to access the belts for more precise adjustments, which helps to improve the lathe’s overall performance and efficiency.
  • Optimal Speed – The ability to choose from three speed ranges (60-900/110-1,800/220-3,600) allows you to choose the right speed for your project, whether you’re working with softer woods or more dense materials, which helps to improve precision and results.
  • Convenient Controls – The easy-to-reach controls and digital readout make the JET JWL-1221VS easy to use. The controls are intuitive and easy to understand, and the digital readout provides real-time information about the lathe’s speed, helping you to achieve consistent results.

Things to Consider:

  • This Wood Lathe Is Heavy – With an overall net weight of121.25 lbs. the lathe is relatively heavy so it may be difficult to move around for some users.
  • Not The Cheapest – This lathe has a relatively high price point, which may be a concern for some budget-conscious buyers.
  • Handy Tool Storage – If storage space is tight then the tool storage caddy on each end of the machine provides a convenient place to keep your tools organized and within easy reach.

Runner Up

Grizzly Industrial T25926-10″ x 18″ Variable-Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe


The Grizzly Industrial T25926 10″ x 18″ variable-speed benchtop wood lathe is a versatile and powerful machine that is perfect for both beginner and experienced wood turners. Whether you’re just starting out and learning the basics, or you’re an experienced wood turner looking to take your craft to the next level, this lathe has everything you need to create beautiful and unique handcrafted pieces.

One of the standout features of this lathe is its variable speed range of 650-3800 RPM. This allows you to select the perfect speed for any wood turning project, whether you’re working with hardwoods or softwoods. And with the digital spindle speed indicator, you can easily keep track of your speed and ensure consistent results every time. This is especially helpful for those new to wood turning, as it allows for easy control and precision.

Another great feature of the T25926 is the tool rest and live center. These features help to support and stabilize your workpiece while it’s being turned, which is essential for achieving smooth and precise results. Additionally, the 1″ x 8 TPI spindle and MT#2 taper on the spindle and tailstock provide a secure and precise fit for your workpiece, making it easy to get professional-grade results.

But what really sets this 74 lb. wood lathe apart is its heavy-duty cast iron construction. This machine is built to last, and with a 1/2 HP motor, it has plenty of power to tackle even the toughest turning jobs. Plus, with 18″ between centers, the 10″ swing over bed, and 7-1/4″ swing over the tool rest base, you’ll have plenty of room to work with and can take on bigger projects.

The variable speed feature is a game changer, allowing you to adjust the speed according to the type of wood and project you are working on, resulting in a smooth and polished finish. The tool rest and live center are also a lifesaver, making it easy to get the perfect angle and finish on your workpiece. And the heavy-duty cast iron construction is reassuring, knowing that this machine will last for years to come.

The Grizzly Industrial T25926 10″ x 18″ variable-speed benchtop wood lathe is a top-notch machine that delivers excellent performance and versatility. Whether you’re a beginner just starting out or an experienced wood turner, this lathe has everything you need to create beautiful, handcrafted pieces, It’s durable, powerful, and easy to use, making it a great investment for any woodturner.

What We Like:

  • A Very Versatile Wood Lathe – With a variable speed range of 650-3800 RPM, you can select the perfect speed for any of your wood turning projects. The digital spindle speed indicator also makes it super easy to keep track of the speed and ensure consistent results.
  • Strong Build Quality – The heavy-duty cast iron construction is the key feature here, the 74 lb weight of the machine and 1/2 HP motor gives it plenty of power to tackle even the toughest turning jobs.
  • Great Working Distance – The 18″ distance between centers, 10″ swing over bed and 7-1/4″ swing over the tool rest base provides ample space for working on larger projects.

Things to Consider:

  • Size and Weight – One thing to consider is the size and weight of the wood lathe. The Grizzly Industrial T25926 10″ x 18″ Variable-Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe is 74 lbs, which may be too heavy or bulky for some users to move around or store. Make sure to measure your space and consider if the size and weight of this lathe will be a good fit for your needs.
  • Power and Speed – Another thing to consider is the power and speed of the lathe. The lathe has a 1/2 HP motor and a variable speed range of 650-3800 RPM. It’s important to make sure that the power and speed options of this lathe will be sufficient for the types of projects you plan to work on.
  • Variety of Accessories – You get a tool rest, live center, and face plate included so that you can start woodturning right away, without the need of having to buy these items separately.

Also Great

1. Shop Fox W1836 Bench Top Wood Lathe, 12″ x 15″

The Shop Fox W1836 Bench Top Wood Lathe is an excellent choice for woodturners of all skill levels. The powerful 3/4 HP motor, electronic variable-speed spindle control, and digital RPM readout make this lathe a top choice for achieving precise and consistent results.

One of the standout features of this lathe is the 24 index positions, which allow for evenly spaced marking or cutting while the headstock stays in a locked position. This opens up new possibilities not available on many benchtop lathes, making it an ideal choice for more advanced projects.

The W1836 also features variable speed control for on-the-fly adjustments, with two overlapping speed ranges to ensure maximum spindle torque within each range. This gives the user greater flexibility in their work.

The heavy-duty cast iron construction and rubber feet for vibration dampening and increased stability ensure that this lathe is built to last and provides smooth turning operations.

The lathe also includes an MT#2 live center, and a convenient tool holder for storing your chisels, extra centers, and other tools when not in use, making it easy to keep your workspace organized.

However, it should be noted that the lathe has a limited swing of 12″ and 15″ between centers, which may not be suitable for larger projects or those who need more room to work. Additionally, the lathe is limited to 110V, single-phase, and has a weight of 85 pounds which may be difficult for some people to move around or store.

What We Like:

  • Power and Precision -The 3/4 HP motor and electronic variable-speed spindle control with digital RPM readout make this lathe a top choice for woodturners looking for both power and precision in their work.
  • 24 Index Positions – The 24 index points in increments of 15 degrees allow for evenly spaced marking or cutting, opening new possibilities not available on many benchtop lathes.
  • Two Overlapping Speed Ranges – The two overlapping speed ranges ensure maximum spindle torque within each range, giving the user greater flexibility in their work.
  • Heavy-Duty Cast Iron Construction – The heavy-duty cast iron construction ensures durability and stability for smooth turning operations.
  • Convenient Tool Holder – The lathe features a convenient tool holder for storing your chisels, extra centers, and other tools when not in use, making it easy to keep your workspace organized.

Things to Consider:

  • Limited Swing – With a 12″ swing and 15″ between centers, it may not be suitable for larger projects or those who need more room to work.
  • Limited to 110V – This lathe is limited to 110V, which may be a concern for some users.
  • Limited to Single-Phase – This lathe is limited to single-phase, which may be a concern for some users.

2. JET JWL-1015, 10″ x 15″ Wood Lathe

If you’re a woodturning beginner looking for an affordable and user-friendly lathe, the JET JWL-1015 is a great choice to go for. This 15″ ( 35 x 18.1 x 14.56 inches) mini-lathe has the power, precision, and versatility to handle a wide range of projects, and it’s sturdy 77 lb weight makes for smooth-running.

One of the standout features of this lathe is its six spindle speeds, which range from 500, 840, 1240, 1800, 2630, and 3975. This allows you to choose the right speed for your project, whether you’re working with softer woods or more dense materials. The 24-position indexing feature is also a great asset, as it allows you to turn your object to just the right orientation for precise shaping and detailing.

In addition to its impressive performance, it also has a number of design features that make it easier to use. The enhanced tensioning system makes it easier to access the belts for more precise adjustments, while the increased width of the bed ways provides improved stability. The tailstock also features a live center, which improves gripping and helps to hold your workpiece in place.

It also comes with a spur center, knockout rod, 6″ tool support, and a 3″ face plate, so you have everything you need to get started right out of the box.

And for your peace of mind this lathe is backed by JET’s industry-leading five-year warranty against manufacturing defects, so you can feel confident in your purchase. Whether you’re just starting out in woodturning or you’re an advanced enthusiast looking for a reliable and versatile lathe, then this lathe really is an excellent choice.

The JET JWL-1015 is just perfect for any woodturner looking for an affordable and user-friendly lathe that can handle a wide range of projects.

But this isn’t just for beginners. It’s also a great choice for professionals who want to add a full-featured mini-lathe to their shop. With its powerful 0.5 horsepower motor and smooth operation, it can handle even the most demanding projects with ease.

What We Like:

  • Six Spindle Speeds – This feature allows you to choose the right speed for your project, whether you’re working with softer woods or more dense materials, which helps to improve precision and results.
  • 24 Position Indexing – Allowing you to turn your object to just the right orientation for precise shaping and detailing, which gives you the opportunity to create intricate designs and precise cuts.
  • Great Accessories Include – You get a spur center, knockout rod, 6″ tool support, and a 3″ face plate for added functionality: These accessories provide additional functionality and versatility to the lathe, allowing you to tackle a wider range of wood turning projects and make the process smoother and more efficient.

Things to Consider:

  • Weighing In At 77 lb – The weight of the lathe may make it difficult for some users to move around the workshop, which could be a problem if you need to move the lathe frequently.
  • Is It Powerful Enough for Your Needs? – The motor of the lathe is not as powerful as some other models on the market, which may limit the types of projects the lathe can handle.
  • 15 Inch Between Centers – Provides 15″ of working space, which may be limiting for some users who need more space to work with larger or more complex projects.

3. RIKON Power Tools 70-105 10″ x 18″ 1/2 hp Mini Lathe

The Rikon mini lathe is a dedicated and sturdy machine that is perfect for pen turners looking for a reliable and powerful mini lathe. The ½ horsepower motor provides ample power for all turning needs, and the 10” swing and 18” between centers offer plenty of room to work on your projects. The self ejecting tail stock and easy access to speed change make this lathe easy to use, and it’s designed specifically at the request of pen turners who wanted a sturdy, dedicated machine for their craft.

One of the great features of this mini lathe is its cast iron construction. Unlike other lathes made of aluminum, the cast iron design eliminates vibration, making it easy to achieve a smooth and precise finish on your projects. The 5 speed range also covers the bases for boring barrel holes, roughing out pen billets, turning to shape and finishing. This gives the user flexibility and control over the speed and precision of the workpiece.

This mini lathe also includes a live center, tool rest, knock-out bar, and wrenches, making it a complete package for any pen turner. The 74-pound weight and 35.5 x 10.5 x 14.75 inches dimensions make it portable and easy to store. Additionally, the voltage of 120 Volts and 375 watts ensures a powerful performance.

What We Like:

  • Powerful Motor – The ½ horsepower motor provides ample power for your turning needs, making it easy to work on a variety of projects.
  • Cast Iron Construction – The cast iron construction eliminates vibration, making it easy to achieve a smooth and precise finish on your projects.
  • 5 Speed Range – The 5 speed range covers the bases for boring barrel holes, roughing out pen billets, turning to shape and finishing, giving the user flexibility and control over the speed and precision of the workpiece.
  • Complete Package – The lathe includes a live center, tool rest, knock-out bar, and wrenches, making it a complete package for any pen turner.
  • Compact Design – Its weight and dimensions make it easy to store and transport, making it a perfect for those with limited space.

Things to Consider:

  • Limited Swing – With a 10” swing and 18” between centers, it may not be suitable for larger projects or those who need more room to work.
  • Only for Pen Turning – The machine is designed specifically for pen turning, so it may not be as versatile as other lathes.
  • No Digital Readout – This lathe does not have a digital readout for speed, so the user will have to rely on the manual speed selector.
  • Not Suitable for Heavy-Duty Use – The machine is designed for hobbyist and home use, it may not be suitable for heavy-duty or commercial use.

Best Budget Options

1. WEN LA3424 4.5-Amp 12-Inch by 18-Inch 5-Speed Benchtop Wood Lathe

The WEN 12-Inch by 18-Inch 5-Speed Wood Lathe is our best budget option choice for the best wood lathe for beginners, it really does give real value for money for those not wanting to spend too much money and yet, still get an impressive array of features so that you’ll be able to tackle a wide range of projects with ease.

One of the standout features of this lathe is its 5 adjustable speeds, which allow you to find the perfect rotations per minute (RPM) for any type of wood. Whether you’re turning soft pine or hard oak, you’ll be able to set the lathe to the optimal speed for a smooth and precise cut.

The 4.5A motor provides plenty of power, making it easy to turn even the toughest woods. And with its sturdy 70+ pound build, you can be confident that the lathe will stay put during operation, eliminating any unwanted walking or wobbling about.

The MT2 spindle and tailstock taper work together to tightly hold your workpieces in place, ensuring that they don’t slip or move during the turning process. And the 7-7/8-inch tool rest provides a stable platform for your chisels and other tools, making it easier to achieve precise cuts.

Adjustments to both the tool rest and tailstock are a breeze thanks to the easy-to-use lever clamping system. And with the included headstock spur center, tailstock cup center, flat wrench, knockout rod, hex wrenches, accessory holder, and faceplate, you’ll have everything you need to get started on your woodturning projects straight away.

And, as with all WEN products, the WEN Wood Lathe comes backed by an impressive two-year warranty, giving you peace of mind that you’re getting a high-quality tool that will last for years to come, Happy woodturning.

What We Like:

  • 5 Speeds to Choose from – Allowing you to choose the perfect rotations per minute (RPM) for any type of wood. that you are working with.
  • Plenty of Power – The powerful 4.5A motor provides plenty of umph, making it easy to turn even the toughest woods.
  • Included Accessories – You get a headstock spur center, tailstock cup center, flat wrench, knockout rod, hex wrenches, accessory holder, and also a faceplate included with this wood lathe.

Things to Consider:

  • Heavy Wood Lathe – Weighing in at over 70 lbs. this is a heavy wood lathe, so that’s great if it’s got its own workbench or dedicated work area, you just don’t want to be moving this wood lathe about.
  • It’s A Budget Option – Remember, this is a budget option choice and as such is a great option to go for if this is in your budget range, just don’t expect it to be able to do everything that the more expensive models can do.
  • Good Warranty Cover – If you are looking for peace of mind and a good warranty is a must for you, then you get an impressive 2 year warranty included with this wood lathe.

2. CXRCY 8″ x 12″ Wood Lathe

The CXRCY 8″ x 12″ Wood Lathe is a versatile and powerful tool for any woodturner. With its variable speed control, 750-3200 RPM, 12″ distance between centers, and 8″ swing over bed, it can handle a variety of projects, from small items like pens and bowls to larger wooden plates and vases.

A really great feature of this lathe is its infinitely variable speed control, allowing you to control the speed to any value within the 750-3200 RPM range, providing the flexibility to tackle any project. The package also includes essential accessories such as 3 chisels, a knockout rod, open-end wrench, Allen key, tool rests, a 6 inch faceplate, 1 “-8TPI spur center and MT1 live center, which makes it easy to start turning right away.

The body of the lathe is made of cast iron, which is sturdy and durable and has a long service life. The 110V 60HZ 1/3HP motor is made of pure copper wire, providing stable speed with high precision and low noise. Additionally, the speed knob is marked with numbers, making it easy to control the speed at a certain value.

The movable tailstock allows the user to accommodate workpieces up to 12 inches long and 8 inches wide, providing greater flexibility in the types of projects that can be tackled. Additionally, the lathe includes two interchangeable tool rests, one 4.5 inches long and the other 7 inches long, making it easy to find the perfect height for any project.

What We Like:

  • Infinitely Variable Speed Control – The ability to control the speed to any value within the 750-3200 RPM range provides great flexibility for tackling a variety of projects.
  • Included Accessories – The package includes essential accessories such as chisels, a knockout rod, open-end wrench, Allen key, tool rests, faceplate, spur center, and live center, making it easy to start turning right away.
  • Sturdy and Durable Construction – The body of the lathe is made of cast iron, which is known for its durability and long service life.
  • Pure Copper Wire Motor – The 110V 60HZ 1/3HP motor is made of pure copper wire, providing stable speed with high precision and low noise.
  • Movable Tailstock – The movable tailstock allows the user to accommodate workpieces up to 12 inches long and 8 inches wide, providing greater flexibility in the types of projects that can be tackled.

Things to Consider:

  • Size Limitations – With a 12″ distance between centers and 8″ swing over bed, this lathe may not be suitable for larger projects.
  • Power Requirements – The lathe requires 110V 60HZ power, which may not be suitable for some locations.
  • Motor Power – The 1/3HP motor may not be suitable for heavy-duty projects.
  • Learning curve: As with any woodturning tool, there may be a learning curve for those new to using a lathe.
  • Additional Accessories – While the package includes some essential accessories, users may need to purchase additional accessories for more advanced projects.


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