10 Best Wood Lathes For Turning Bowls 2023 – Top Picks & Reviews
For woodworkers, the lathe is the true “MVP” when it comes to your projects. You might have already completed a few projects without a lathe, but trust us: this is a real game-changer for your work.
As an example, let’s say you are making a bowl on a lathe. The right lathe can help take your work to the next level, but a bad lathe will keep you from achieving true greatness.
How can you tell a good wood lathe from a bad one? We’ve assembled reviews of some of the best lathes on the market. Keep reading to discover the best lathe for your next woodworking project!
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
|Best Overall||Delta Industrial 46-460 Variable-Speed Midi Lathe||
|Best Value||WEN 3421 Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe||
|Premium Choice||Grizzly Industrial G0462 Wood Lathe||
|Nova 71118 Comet II DR Midi Lathe||
|RIKON Power Tools 70-105 Mini Lathe||
The 10 Best Wood Lathes for Turning Bowls – Reviews 2023
1. Delta Industrial Variable-Speed Midi Lathe – Best Overall
If you’re reading this, you probably have a project you’d like to get started. In that case, let’s cut to the chase: what is the best wood lathe for turning bowls? We’re going to go with theDelta Industrial 46-460 Variable-Speed Midi Lathe for our best overall pick.
It goes up to 1,725 RPM, allowing you to find the best speed for most projects. And the swing capacity of 12.5 inches is downright impressive, giving you even more versatility.
We also liked the little touches, including the belt tensioning system and the ability to switch directions by flipping a switch. Really, aside from the higher price, our only criticism of this machine is that you must pay out-of-pocket shipping anytime you have it repaired. All in all, this is the best wood lathe for turning bowls
2. WEN Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe – Best Value
Some handymen are on a tighter budget. If that sounds like you, then another question may be important: what are the best wood lathes for turning bowls for the money? For the value pick, we have to go with the WEN 3421 Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe.
You get an impressive RPM range from 750-3,200. And it can accommodate projects as big as 12 inches long and 8 inches wide. And with the 3.2-amp motor, you get a surprising amount of power for a budget piece.
So, what keeps this value pick from being our best overall pick? The locking mechanisms act up, and the tailstock sometimes moves off-center while you’re working on it.
3. Grizzly Industrial G0462 Wood Lathe – Premium Choice
What if you’ve got money to burn and you’d like a few more extra features with your wood lathe? If you’re licking for the best “premium” choice, we’re going to go with the Grizzly Industrial G0462 Wood Lathe.
Despite the fierce name, this lathe features a sleek and sexy design. It has 10 speeds that range from 600 RPM to 2,400 RPM. And we love the cast iron bed and legs that provide extra stability for more difficult projects.
But the lack of a reverse setting is a bit of a disappointment in terms of premium products. And the top-heavy design can affect your work, especially if you are new to all of this.
4. Nova 71118 Comet II DR Midi Lathe
Want a lathe where you can really take things up a notch? In that case, the Nova 71118 Comet II DR Midi Lathe may be the best choice.
The RPM is great, offering speeds between 250 and 4,000. You also get a convenient digital readout with this lathe as well as a convenient reverse switch. And if you want to take on bigger projects later, you can buy additional accessories such as the bed extension accessory.
However, there are a few potential issues you should be aware of. The tailstock is sometimes a bit too rough during use, and the banjo doesn’t stay on straight. These are things you can fix easily if you have the experience, but this is a bad choice for beginners.
5. RIKON Power Tools 70-105 Mini Lathe
Extra bells and whistles are always good, but what if you want a plain mini lathe that works really well? In that case, you should check out the RIKON Power Tools 70-105 Mini Lathe.
The top RPM is 3,200, but that is sufficient for smaller projects. The sturdy design means it should last a long time, and the 5-year warranty will help replace it if anything goes wrong. It’s solid for beginners wanting to learn to lathe.
The only real drawback is something that we already mentioned: this mini lathe is basic and “no-frills.” It’s perfect for the actual act of lathing small projects, but if you want extra features, you’ll need another model.
6. Mophorn 10 x 18 Inch Wood Lathe
The Mophorn 10 x 18 Inch Wood Lathe is another tool designed with smaller projects in mind. But how well does it measure up to the other mini lathes on this list?
This is a surprisingly versatile wood lathe for the price. With up to 3,200 RPM, you get a lot of speed. The cast iron construction makes the whole thing sturdy, and the digital speed display is very easy to read.
The only “drawback?” As a mini lathe, this is relatively underpowered and basic compared to other options. If you’re working on smaller projects or just want a lathe that can do a bit more, you should look elsewhere.
7. Jet JWL-1015 Wood Working Lathe
The Jet JWL-1015 Wood Working Lathe is a great choice for a beginner lathe. Compared to others on our list, though, there are a few issues to be aware of.
Let’s start with the good stuff. The max 3,975 RPM is very impressive, especially at this great price point. And it has a quality design and solid construction to go with its 5-year warranty.
What are the issues, then? There is no way to reverse it, and you’ll have to manually adjust the tension belt. And like other beginner lathes, there are limits to how much you can get done with this tool.
8. PSI Woodworking Turncrafter Commander Midi Lathe
The PSI Woodworking KWL-1018VS Turncrafter Commander Midi Lathe comes in towards the bottom of our list. But how does it perform when it comes to your projects? The honest answer is that there are better tools out there.
We liked the two belt positions: one maxes out at 2,000 RPM and one maxes out at 3,600 RPM. And the cast iron base provides a lot of stability needed while you work.
But having to manually switch between only 2 speeds is annoying. And the flex shaft for the light is pretty useless. Finally, some users reported issues with the worklight not working and the machine shipping in an incomplete state.
9. Proxxon 37020 MICRO Woodturning Lathe
The Proxxon 37020 MICRO Woodturning Lathe is another tool that bills itself as a simple, no-frills design. But this is the case where it might be a little too simple.
We enjoyed the lightweight design, and it was relatively quiet during use. Unfortunately, the drawbacks of this model outnumber the benefits.
First, you need to mount or bolt this lathe down to use it. The tool rest is overly tiny. And the tailstock moves around way too easily. It’s not the worst lathe you can buy, but it’s definitely worth your time to pick something better before your next project.
10. Shop Fox W1758 Wood Lathe
The Shop Fox W1758 Wood Lathe is a very expensive tool relative to many others on this list. But do you get your money’s worth from it? In a word, “no.”
The construction seems nice and solid, making this seem like a product that will last. But the warranty (which only covers 2 years) worries us.
The motor helps it hit 2,400 RPM, which is decent. But the plate size is too large for smaller projects, and the non-standard size of the post makes it difficult to change out the plate.
Buyer’s Guide – Choosing the Best Wood Lathe for Turning Large Bowls
Hopefully, our reviews have helped you learn more about the different wood lathes for turning bowls available on the market. But you may still have some questions about these tools that need answers before you make a purchase.
That’s why we put together this comprehensive buyer’s guide. It will help you learn more about these wood lathes and their key features. And between the reviews and the guide, you’ll be able to discover exactly what you want from this kind of tool.
Ready to learn everything you need to know about wood lathes for turning bowls? Keep reading to discover all of the answers!
Know Your Projects
When a handyman is trying to pick out a new tool, we usually offer some simple advice: it’s important to work backward from your specific needs. In this case, that means identifying what you need this wood lathe for in order to make the best possible choice.
For example, you might be thinking about doing smaller projects around the house such as pens and glasses. With these projects, a bench model wood lathe is enough to get the job done.
However, you may have more ambitious plans. Alternatively, you may want to keep your options open. In that case, you’re better off buying a midi-lathe or full-sized lathe so that you can handle the really big projects.
Check Your Space
Plenty of handymen struggle with the same thing: finding a place to store all of their tools. The bigger the tool, the bigger the struggle. And wood lathes can be pretty big!
As a floor model tool, the average wood lathe takes up a large amount of room. On top of that, it is very heavy and will be difficult to move.
With that being said, some wood lathes are larger and heavier than others. It’s important to consider the relative size and weight of your new tool before you make a purchase. And before it arrives, you might need to clear up some additional space in your garage or toolshed!
Frequency of Use
Is bigger better when it comes to your new wood lathe? Not exactly. However, bigger lathes tend to be more versatile, and that means they can take on a larger variety of tasks.
The versatility of the tool ties pretty directly into how frequently you plan to use it. Simply put, if you plan to use your lathe quite often, it is worth the money to go ahead and invest in a larger and more versatile tool.
As we noted before, though, a larger lathe is going to have a correspondingly larger footprint. If you really do plan to use your new lathe on a regular basis, you need to go ahead and make some room for it. This will be far easier and more convenient than trying to take a heavy lathe out of storage several times per week.
Some of the wood lathes for turning bowls offer variable speed and some do not. But is this feature really that important?
The answer depends on how much experience you have with lathes and how much time you have to devote to your projects. For example, variable speed ensures that you don’t have to have a perfectly rounded piece in the beginning. Instead, you can remove excess wood with a slower speed first and then crank the speed up to make precision adjustments.
This is very convenient for novices or for those who like to take their time for each project. For experienced handymen or those who need to move quickly, though, it’s fine to simply master the use of a single-speed lathe.
One of the things we focus on at Healthy Handyman is treating your tools as an investment. You want your new purchase to stand the test of time, but what can you do if something goes wrong?
That’s why you should consider wood lathes with a robust warranty (for example, 5 years). This gives you peace of mind of knowing that if anything happens to your wood lathe during this time period, the company will take care of it.
Does this mean that you should skip any lathes that don’t have that kind of warranty? Not necessarily: only you can decide which models meet your expectations for price and performance. But you should go into this understanding that offering a solid warranty is a good sign that you can trust the company involved.
Slow Start Motor
You may have noticed that some wood lathes have a “slow start motor” feature and some do not. But what is this feature, and why should it be important to you?
As the name implies, this feature simply means that the motor is slower to start. This is basically a safety feature that helps protect you in case the motor is not attached very securely to the lathe.
If the connection is not secure and you immediately activate a high-speed motor, it may send pieces of wood flying at you right away. With a slow start motor, you can mitigate this risk and create a much safer working environment.
Cast Iron Bed
Earlier, we talked about the importance of your wood lathes lasting a good, long time. And one of the best ways you can do this is by picking a wood lathe with a cast iron bed.
This provides the security and durability that you need for daily use with the lathe. Furthermore, cast-iron construction is one of the best ways to protect your lathe from assorted dings and scratches.
We also love cast iron because it provides stability while you are using the lathe. Not only does this make for a smoother performance while you use the lathe, but that added stability helps protect the lathe from damage over many years of use.
Many wood lathes for turning bowls advertise the size of their swing. But why is the swing so important when it comes to your work with turning bowls?
The short answer is that the size of the swing determines the size of what you can work with. So if you want to make really big bowls, you need a wood lathe with a correspondingly large swing.
Some lathes may allow you to move the beds. This is important because it effectively increases the swing distance, allowing you to create even bigger bowls.
Once again, we circle back to the idea that a bigger lathe is a more versatile tool. You may not want to make large bowls all of the time. But with a large swing, you effectively increase how the variety of bowls that you can eventually produce with this tool.
Wood Lathe Maintenance
We talked about the importance of making space for your new wood lathe. But it’s also important to know how to clean and maintain your new tool.
After using the lathe, be sure to sweep up all of the shavings and trash. If you don’t do this on a regular basis, it can really pile up!
Before and during the use of the lathe, make sure the latch on the chuck and tailstock is secured. Should you notice the latch is loose during operation, turn off the lathe and step away from it until everything comes to a full and complete stop.
Finally, examine the spindle and tailstock after every use of the lathe. This will help you detect problems with this tool before they turn into major incidents.
Between our reviews and our buyer’s guide, you should have a pretty solid idea of what you want out of a wood lathe for turning bowls. But we still need to answer the burning question: who were the biggest winners in our review of different wooden lathes?
For the best overall lathe, we have to go with the Delta Industrial 46-460 Variable-Speed Midi Lathe. It’s big enough for most tasks, solidly built, and backed by a powerful warranty.
For the best value pick, we have to go with the WEN 3421 Variable Speed Mini Benchtop Wood Lathe. It provides a good motor and is great for beginners, and you won’t feel as if you made too many sacrifices with this purchase.
Ultimately, though, the only one who can pick the best wood lathe for your projects is you. And thanks to our comprehensive reviews and buyer’s guide, making a purchasing decision has never been easier!
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