A wood lathe is a hand held tool that is used in the craft of wood turning, hence the name wood turning lathe. Using this tool you can create a number of impressive projects varying in sizes and shapes.
A wood turning lathe is essentially a machine that can transorm a piece of wood into any desired shape. The tools on this machine shape the wood as it spins.
There are a few different wood turning lathe machines on the market so we have gathered our top picks and also provided a little buyers guide below, with some tips and advice on purchasing the best machine.
If you’re in a hurry and don’t have the time to continue reading, then we have selected our top pick for you below.
We have selected the Proxxon Mircomot woodturning lathe as our top pick for you. This machine comes with a 220-240V motor, and the motor generator turns 50 to 60 cycles per second.
It has a centre distance of 250mm and a 40mm spin. It’s electronic variable speed control covers 1,000-5,000 revolutions per minute.
The headstock on this machine has a spindle bore of 10mm which is created for series production of smaller projects and a tailstock travel of 20mm.Iit also includes six different sized colletes and these come in 2-4-6-8-10mm.
Impressively the stable tool rest can be adjusted in many different directions and the bed is made from stable thick walled alluminium profile, which gives it strength with handling larger pieces of wood. Therefore you know that you are going to get a durable product that is going towork well on many projects.
With this machine you will find that there is a faceplate so that you can turn larger items with ease.
It is a mini lathe so ideal for those who are just starting out.
It is an affordable price for those who do not want to spend a lot.
It is easy to set up and easy to adjust the speed too.
It doesn’t make lots of noise when it is being used.
It runs smoothly and is great for creating a variety of different projects.
As it is a mini lathe it may not be suitable for everyone, especially those who are looking for a larger machine.
Some customers found that it began to come slightly loose, so it may need to be bolted down to a sturdy surface like a workbench to keep it in place.
Our next pick is the MonsterShop Wood Lathe woodturning lathe. This 230 Volt machine is designed with control in mind. This machine is made out of cast iron and has a wide bed to support the tool rest holder. Even with heavy loads this remains clamped into place.
The quality is visible through the design of this machine, heavy-duty bearings support the spindle which makes it a lot stronger and durable. The powerful 400W electrical motor makes working with wood effortless.
The controls on this lathe are conveniently located near one another to make your job a lot easier. You don’t have to go reaching to find them as they are in one place. This includes the speed control, spindle speed digital readout well as the forward/reverse selector.
On the tailstock and tool rest holder, you will find camlocks allowing for easy positioning.
Impressively you will also find tool fittings on this machine so that you can keep them tidy out of the way of the dust and shavings but they are always near to hand too. You will also find an additional built-in storage tray.
On this machine, you will find that it has wide feet attached. This is ideal for keeping the machine stable whilst you work and especially useful for those professional woodturners who require added stability to produce high quality finished items.
It doesn’t vibrate when it is being used; a common issue with many woodturning lathes.
It is nice and sturdy and the legs are an added bonus in providing you with more stability.
It comes with variable speed.
The bed is larger than what you would typically find on a machine of this size which gives you extra room to work with.
It has a compact design so doesn’t take up lots of room.
It is slightly pricier than the others available.
It is smaller in size so some people may not like this if they are looking for a bigger machine.
Next up we have chosen the Draper Mini woodlathe. This 230V machine comes with variable speeds which is great for allowing you to create many different projects with your wood.
An impressive feature on this machine is the no-volt overload safety switch. It is also fitted with a 200mm swing over bed and the heavy duty cast iron bed allows you to work without the vibrations from a machine constantly moving around.
It is ideal for use on a workbench thanks to its smaller, more compact sized, it doesn’t take up loads of room either.
This machine comes with 50mm and 150mm face plates and 175mm tool rests as well as a 3/4″ drive spur.
It is an ideal machine for those who are just starting out at wood turning.
It is a good price.
Due to it’s smaller size it is ideal for use on a workbench and doesn’t take up lots of space.
The bed is made from heavy duty cast iron so it is not likely to vibrate when it is being used.
Some customers experienced issues with the motor of the machine after a few uses.
Keeping the tools locked into place can sometimes seem difficult.
Our next pick is the wood turning mini lathe from dirty pro tools. This mini lathe is ideal for any carpenter or anyone who is enthusiastic about being creative with wood. You can create a multitude of projects using this machine.
It comes with four different speed settings so you can choose the one that works best for the particular projects that you are making. It also has a 400W electrical motor so it is sure to be powerful in whatever it is that you are going to be creating.
It has a maximum cutting diameter of 350mm and a max cutting length of 100mm so there is plenty of give in what you can create.
It is one meter long so ideal for creating a variety of different woodwork projects.
The four different speed modes are an ideal feature in allowing you to choose what speed is best for your project.
It is a good price, particularly for those who are beginners or not wanting to spend a lot.
It is quiet and doesn’t vibrate very much.
It doesn’t come with chisels or the extra tools so these would need to be purchased separately.
This 230 volt wood turning machine is our final pick. The big space around the bed makes it easier to create projects using larger pieces of wood. This machine comes with variable speed so that you can work at different paces for different projects, this also makes it very user friendly too.
On this machine you will find a tool rest, a handy feature which makes using this machine a lot easier and convenient. There is also a quick adjustment tool aswell so you can work faster in creating your projects.
This machine has a spindle with variable speeds but also a normal spindle too. The tail spindle travels with 50mm motor power.
Unlike some other machines that we have mentioned this is slightly larger in size so it is ideal for working on bigger projects but can also be used for smaller ones too.
This machine works accurately to create impressive finished products.
It doesn’t make a lot of noise when it is in use which is ideal for those who find loud machines off-putting.
The automatic speed adjustment is ideal for making work with this machine a lot easier.
It gives you all the power that you need in a wood turning lathe.
It is an ideal size and will fit well into most work spaces.
It is sturdy and even works well with the larger pieces of wood without having to be screwed into place to keep it still whilst it works.
It is a more expensive option than many on the market.
Before purchasing a wood turning lathe you want to ensure that you buy the right one for you. Understanding the machine and how it works can sometimes seem daunting and difficult to understand, particularly for those who are new to this. It’s important to choose the machine that you feel is going to be better suited to your needs.
This is the first thing that we would recommend you to consider. Bigger machines are a lot more versatile, giving you greater variety in what you can create. As well as creating larger wooden projects you can also create smaller ones too. However, this does not apply to small machines; whilst they are great for creating more minimal crafts they aren’t as capable of creating larger pieces.
You will want to choose a lathe that comes with all of the essentials in regards to quality. You will need to ensure that your machine has a good quality head stock, a smooth surface bed, generous screw heads to lock the tool rest and tail stock ram. Also good paintwork and unsharpened edges.
Ideally your lathe should sound quiet, of course when it is on and in use it will make slightly more noise. On your machine, there should be a motor located below the spindle that comes with a lock. This should prevent the weight of the motor from bouncing and vibrating helping to keep the noise levels to a minimum.
A good lathe should have a decent amount of different speeds. The lower speeds tend to be the most important but high speeds can also be good for wood that isn’t too big. However, once you have familiarized yourself with your machine you are likely to find that you will become a lot more accustomed to the speeds and will be able to find the best ones to work with. Many machines come with variable speed settings too.
The heavier the lathe machine the more effective it is likely to be. This is because when working with unbalanced pieces of work a heavier machine is likely to be more powerful in keeping it in place and stopping the machine from spinning a lot. The surface that you keep the machine on will also need to be sturdy too as this provides it with extra stability.
Bench or Floor mounted
There are different varieties of wood turning lathes available. You can choose between a bench mounted lathe which is an ideal option for those who do this as a hobby as you can easily select the height that you want your lathe to be at, saving you from having to bend and move lots. Ideal for those larger jobs. However for professional wood-turners it would be advisable to invest in a floor mounted lathe as this makes it more stable and heavy duty. Some will also come with legs with storage underneath whilst others do not so you may need to build the legs additionally.
The Bed of the Machine
The bed is technically where all parts of the machine come together. Typically the bed is made from materials such as aluminium, wood, steel or cast iron. This can differ between machines. The greater the mass of the bed, the lower the amount of vibrations when it is being used.
The projects you intend to make may also determine the size of the bed that you need. On one end of the bed you will find the headlock that stays firmly in its place and on the other end there is the tail-stock which slides along the bed to accommodate the length of the project you are making. Larger pieces of wood will require larger beds.
Don’t be fooled by those high price tags as there are cheaper machines available that are just as effective in how they perform. Of course, how much you spend on your machine is completely up to personal choice. If this is a professional occupation then you may choose to invest in a more expensive machine. However, if you are pursuing a hobby and don’t want to spend lots on a machine then do not be put off by price tags because there are plenty of budget friendly machines available too.
There are many other factors to consider too, we have just gone into detail in some of the main ones.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it easy to get started using a wood turning lathe if you are a beginner?
Yes, it isn’t difficult to get into wood turning and using a lathe machine. If this is something that you are trying for the first time, it is recommended that you start off small and simple. You don’t need a heavy duty lathe machine when you are first getting into wood turning. You can simply start off small and work your way up. Ensure that you are confident with how your machine works before you get started.
Are there many parts to a wood turning lathe?
The answer is yes, there are many parts to a wood turning lathe and we would advise that you check the quality and functions of these parts before making your purchase. On this machine you will find a headstock, spindle, tool rest, tail-stock, a bed and a motor and there are many other smaller parts within these parts too.
Can you get different sized wood turning lathes?
Yes there are different sized wood turning lathes available, we have included some mini ones above, which are ideal and compact for keeping in places with limited amounts of room. You can also get full sized lathes which of course take up a little more room but are great for projects on a larger scale. The size of the bed may also differ depending on the one that you purchase as some may be bigger than others and better at holding those larger pieces of wood in place.
What can you make using a wood turning lathe?
There’s an impressive list of the great things that you can make with this machine. Some may be for a hobby and others may be for more professional products. Here are some of the exciting things that you can make using your lathe. Bangles, bowls, goblets, wooden spoons, bottle stoppers. The list goes on but these are great projects to start with if you are attempting wood turning for the first time.
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