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The Best Wood Lathe

Wood Lathe Reviews

Our Top Pick is the Jet JWL-1221VS

A wood lathe is a high end power tool that that rotates a work piece (mainly wood) on its axis, to perform various tasks such as carving, cutting, sanding, knurling, drilling or deformation of your work piece. A wood lathe includes components such as a head stock, motor, and face plate on one side of the machine. The motor is attached to a spindle via a series of pullies that allows your face plate to rotate thus allowing your machine to work. The pulleys can be adjusted to determine the speed your work materials rotate. These items are all connected to the bed (bottom) of your wood lathe which keeps materials mounted, sturdy, and in place.

On the opposite end of the bed, and across from the head stock you will find the tail stock. Located inside of the tail stock is the live center which provides support for your work by giving the other end of the work a point to spin on. This will also line up exactly with the face plate to give your material a perfect center. The tail stock is adjustable and is able to move up and down the machine so you can accommodate various sizes of work materials.

Another component most wood lathes come with is a tool rest, this is a metal piece that can be placed in the center of your wood lathe to rest your tools on while working. This piece will increase control, minimalize workers fatigue, and direct loose material from flying towards you. Quality wood lathes are durable and very versatile allowing you to complete a wide range of projects. A wood lathe can create bowls, pens, table legs, candle holders, home décor, and kitchen ware.

After extensive research the Jet JWL-1221VS Variable speed wood lathe is our pick. It stands out from its competitors and is considered the best lathe in its class. This mid-size lathe is able to accommodate larger sizes and works with a 1 HP motor. It has exceptional speed control and features 24 positions on the indexing head and variable speeds ranging from 60 to 3600 RPMs.

Who Should Buy This

Wood lathes are for professionals and serious hobbyists who work with wood and want to extend the number of designs and products you are able to produce. The wood lathe offers unique features like the ability to turn bowls, that cannot be done efficiently with other tools. Anyone who performs wood working or building projects on a regular basis, builds furniture, wood working DIY projects, and so forth can expand the number of things you can produce at a professional quality with a wood lathe.

What Makes a Good Wood Lathe?

When buying a wood lathe speed control is one of the most important features. The top machines offer multiple speed options which is invaluable when you are working with different types of wood and different sizes of material. The better control you have the more detailed work you will be able to do. Faster speeds are better for carving and detailing work, and slower speeds are best for shaving, creating rounded corners and shaping your wood.

Wood LatheIn addition to the control you want a powerful motor that can work through both hard and soft woods. A ½ HP is enough for small projects but a 1 HP motor will greatly increase the projects you can complete with a lathe. HP is also a key factor in price. The bigger the motor the higher the price will be.

The next feature you will want your wood lathe is the key lock feature. This small piece of plastic can be inserted over the power button when your machine is not in use to ensure that there are no accidental startups.

The ability to add an extension is also a helpful feature to have with a lathe. While they are sold separately, this will increase the size of wood you are able to work with. The extension will attach to the bed of your machine creating a longer bed enabling you to work with larger materials. So if you are someone who intends on making furniture, table legs, wooden rods, or anything that extends beyond the normal range of a traditional wood lathe, the extension is a key feature to have.

In addition to these, look for is sturdy basis. You want the base to be constructed of very sturdy material that can handle high speeds. Machines crafted from heavy metals such as cast iron will be more durable. This will also reduce vibrations which can affect the end product and give you maximum precision and control of your materials.

How We Tested

We began our research process by first conducting a general search for wood lathes. In doing this we were able to identify which features and qualities made up the best wood lathes and then reduced our search considerably. With our reduced list we began researching and testing how the products worked in real life applications. We referred to expert advice, tool blogs, forums, and wood working experts to determine top brands and models in each class. Lastly we consulted Amazon costumer reviews to make our final pick.

Our Pick



Belt Tension System Ratchet Style
Spindle Thread Size 1 X 8 TPI
Indexing Head 24 positions
Item Weight 137 Pounds
Dimensions 32.8 X 14.6 X 21.2
Horse Power 1
Cord Length 4 feet
Number of handles 6
Variable Speeds 60 to 3600 RPM
Extension Available Yes, 42-inch extension available on Amazon
Warranty 5 Years

This Jet JWL-1221VS Variable Speed Wood Lathe offered unrivaled speed control with its patent pending belt tension system. The unit offers three different speeds ranging from 60-3600 RPMS which is ideal for a wide variety of work. These slow and fast speeds will allow you to shape, carve, and detail your work with the most efficiency possible. With an innovative ratchet style belt tension system, you are able to maintain consistent speeds and complete control of the work piece. The forward and reverse feature has a very smooth transition in one fluid motion so there is no need to turn off your machine to change settings.

This wood lathe has an indexing head with 24 positions so you can customize every piece. The wide feet at the base give it greater stability and less vibrations during operations. The belts are easy to adjust and change based on your needs and the digital read outs give you exact speeds that you are working with. The tailstock has a live center for producing high quality work. You are also able to get a table extension of 42 inches if needed, for working with larger materials beyond the tradition range of the lathe. You will also find a spindle speed indicator so you will always have your speeds exactly where you want them. The unit comes with a storage basket at the bottom for keeping supplemental tools and features a 5 year warranty.


Who Else Likes It

Wood Lathes reviews writes “The JET JWL-1221VS wood lathe provides a perfect blend of adequate power with shake less operation…Such smooth operation becomes a boon for someone who is interested in intricate and detailed jobs with the lathe.”

The guys at write “The main claim to fame the JET JWL-1221VS, includes a smooth transition from forward to reverse, optimally designed speed ranges, 60 RPMS to 3,600 RPM variable speed, and unrivaled speed control. It also has a unique, patent-pending propriety feature called the ratchet-style belt tension system. This woodworking lathe is worth every penny because it provides a wonderful and amazing turning experience. It’s particularly dependable when it comes to turning bowls, which is something a half horsepower mini couldn’t handle.” writes “The JET JWL-1221VS Wood Lathe offers its users tons of control…this new model has better features, better turning experience and better design. The JWL-1221VS features an indexing head with 24 stops/positions making this lathe a great option…This machine also has an extension that you can buy. It is very sturdy and well-built with lathe and mounting holes aligning correctly. Moreover, it features a digital readout, coming in quite handy at all times. You can also change speeds by using the simple rotating knob that can be found in the variable speed controller.”

Amazon reviewers gave the JET JWL-1221VS 4.6 out of 5 from 71 reviewers. One five star reviews saysd this about the Jet Lathe, “Quite simply, this lathe rocks. Yes, it’s a little more expensive than the other midi lathes that are out there – but they don’t hold a candle to the power, functionality, and ease of use that the 1221VS has…it was tempting to start off with a cheaper or slightly smaller lathe that would have less horse power and fewer ‘perks’. In the end, however, I went with the wisdom of the expression, “Buy as much quality as you can”. I’m glad that I made that choice.”

The Step Up

If you’re looking for a floor standing wood lathe with even more horse power the step up is the SHOP FOX W1758 wood lathe. This lathe features cast iron legs and a digital read out, that allow you to work on your feet with maximum efficiency. This machine also includes a 2 HP motor and a lever adjustment that allows you to control its 10 speed options. The Shop Fox W1758 is equipped with 180-degree head stock rotation and comes with a 6-inch face plate add on and spur center.

Top Wood Lathe Comparison

Length (Inches)
Warranty (Years)
1Jet12.00 x 21.00
2Nova12.00 x 16.50
3Grizzly10.00 x 15.50
4Rikon12.00 x 16.00
5PSI10.00 x 15.50
6Shop Fox10.00 x 15.50
7HF tools8.00 x 12.00
Limited Lifetime
8Generic14.00 x 40.00
9Proxxon12.20 x 13.70

Care Use & Maintenance

Below we have complied a short list of safety and maintenance tips to keep yourself and those around you safe while using your wood lathe, as well as keeping it in tip top shape as long as possible.

Safety First

  • Keep all loose articles away from your machine. This includes loose clothing, accessories, and long hair.
  • When performing a cut parallel to the work, move both your hands and the tool together, using the index finger of your left hand as a depth gauge.
  • Always be sure to feed a woodturning tool slowly and steadily.
  • Never jam the tool’s blade or otherwise force it into the work.
  • Wear ear plugs or ear muffs for hearing protection.
  • Always wear a face shield or other kind of face and eye protectant. Wood Lathes can shed wood particles so it important to protect our face and eyes
  • Before turning on the power to the lathe, rotate the stock by hand to be sure that it clears the tool rest.
  • Never adjust the position of the tool rest while the lathe is running.
  • Always remove the toolsets from the lathe’s bed when sanding.

Maintenance Tips

  • Always clean your machine of wood shavings and debris after every use.
  • Before every use carefully inspect all parts of the lathe for defects.
  • Strictly adhere to the rules for correct handling of woodturning tools and hand position on the lathe’s tool rest.
  • Make sure to follow the guidelines on turning speeds, especially when roughing.

Wrapping It Up

Wood lathes are durable and versatile machines, capable of creating a variety of wooden projects. These machines are able to complete unique tasks that other tools fail to do efficiently. If you work with wood, you will find a wood lathe a valuable tool to have in your collection. Wood lathes are used mostly by professionals or experienced wood workers.