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Everyone who has a passion for wood is certainly going to think about getting the best wood lathe sooner or later, but before you rush with making that purchase, you need to be a little more aware of what makes a lathe a good choice for your needs.
In a Rush? Here is Our Top Choice
Delta Industrial 46-460
Top 5 Wood Lathes on the Market 
The 5 Best Wood Lathe - Reviews
1. JET JWL-1221VS Wood Lathe
Weighing around one hundred and thirty seven pounds and measuring twelve by twenty one inches, you could say that this little bad boy is a big guy that offers smooth transitions of moving forward and reversed.
The belt tension system is a very innovative ratchet style and it also features a speed control ability. And if you’re worried that the machine may fail on you, then stop worrying about it, because the 1221VS comes with a 5 years warranty.
The speed options are also great and they range from sixty and up to thirty six hundred rotations per minute which is basically one of the hottest features of this model. In short, you’ll find that the 1221VS is currently one of the top wood lathes you can get and it’s definitely going to help you complete various projects with stellar results.
Well, it seems that no one has reported anything negative about this model, but if you’ll need to return it, then the 137 lbs weight may qualify as a con.
2. Jet 708376 JWL-1220 Wood Lathe
Measuring twelve by twenty inches, the 708376 JWL 1220 features a 34 horse power motor, a cast iron lathe bed that improves its stability and it’s backed up by a 5 years warranty which offers most people enough peace of mind when wanting to consider this purchase.
Getting down to its weight, the 708376 JWL 1220 weighs around ninety eight pounds and it features a 6 inch and a ten inch tool rest.
If this is the wood lathe you want to get, then the good news is that you won’t have to worry about purchasing safety goggles, since this model include as pair already.
Also, for maneuvering the stock easily, this machine features a tool free adjustment making it much easier to use it. And for those who want to meddle with it from time to time, they’ll be happy to know that there is a 3mm and a 5mm hex wrench, while the 708376 JWL 1220’s indexing capabilities easily allow for fluting.
Lastly, for improved carving, this model features a convenient spindle lock, but there is also a support stock of twenty inches in length and twelve inches in diameter.
If you take a close look at the lower gear door, you’ll find that it doesn’t have a normal hinge. Its handle is designed strangely and it may fail on you in a short time.
3. Delta Industrial 46-460 Wood Lathe
Anyone who wants to consider larger projects, such as medium sized sculptures small pieces of furniture or even bowls, will find that this midi lathe is everything they need to use. Its engine has 1HP and it speed can be adjusted up to 1725 rotations per minute. The swing capacity is twelve point five inches and on top of that, the 46-460 is in a class of its own thanks to the fact that it features the largest swing capacity in its class.
Full reverse using this model is very simple and it can be done at the flip of a switch, meaning that getting a smooth finish is possible without having to adjust what you’re turning manually. But there is a special feature about the Delta 46-460 which makes it stand out of the crowd. It has a patented belt tensioning system that allows the user to modify the turning speeds on-the-fly without having to meddle with the belt position.
As for the base, it’s made from cast iron, it has a variable speed (both reverse and forward) and has wide swing adjustments, too. If you have a lot of turning projects, then the Delta 46-460 is going to be the perfect lathe for you. Don’t worry about it breaking anytime soon (which is less likely), but even if it does, the 5 years warranty makes it simple to get it repaired or replaced with a new model.
If there is something you may be upset about, it doesn’t have to do with the functionality of this lathe, but actually the poor customer service Delta is known for.
4. RIKON 70-100 Wood Lathe
Those who are looking for the biggest mini lathe on the market will find that the Rikon 70-100 is the one that’s going to fit the bill. While this may be a small device, rest assured though that it doesn’t make any compromise when it comes to quality and functionality.
Capacity wise, it’s twelve by sixteen inches and because of that it allows you to create a wide range of carvings ranging from small to medium sizes. Getting down that motor, it is a 6 speed model that can easily accommodate itself to the difficult of the task, meaning you can switch between four hundred and thirty and thirty nine hundred rotations per minute. Changing gears is very simple though and you can do it by lifting up the access cover and adjusting the drive belt manually.
Everyone knows that delicate tasks require a great level of attention to detail, but the good news is that since you have the twelve position indexing head, the work piece can be locked in a variety of positions that allow you to get the extra accuracy you need for completing your projects. No matter if we’re talking about layout, drilling, grooving or fluting, you can count on the Rikon 70-100 to get it all done with impressive results.
Those that have been using the Rikon 70-100 for a while have expressed their dissatisfaction with the tailstock which they said it’s a bit weak. However, the good news is that after a few minor adjustments, you’ll have it working exactly the way you want it.
5. SHOP FOX W1704 Wood Lathe
Featuring an eight inch swing, being very well built and having an attractive price to boot, there are little negative things you can say about the Shop Fox W1704. Its engine is a variable speed 13 HP model which gives you unlimited control over the variability of speed and that is because it has an analog interface.
Weight wise, it weighs forty five pounds, so it’s quite light and can therefore be transported from one place to another without too much effort.
You’ll love the fact that the Shop Fox W1704 features a face plate and two tool rests, but also the fact that it’s pretty affordable. If you want to get a wood lathe for pen turning, then this is for certain one of the best you can get.
Some adjustments may be required to be made before using the Shop Fox W1704 and that is because according to some people, the head stocks and tail don’t always line up.
Our Top Pick
Delta Industrial 46-460
It wasn’t hard for me after reviewing all of these models to choose one that I would personally use and that is why I went with the Delta Industrial 46-460. This bad boy is built like a tank and since it’s made for larger projects (which I generally deal with) it was a no-brainer for me to go get it right away. I love the fact that I can easily adjust the rotation speed of the 1 HP engine, while the large swing capacity is just an added bonus.
And if you’re like me and always worry that the tools you buy may break down after the warranty expires, then worry no more, since this model comes with a 5 years warranty. This gives you the peace of mind that whatever happens to it, you’re covered for a very long time.
Choosing The Right One
Therefore, it’s only natural that you first of all consider the types of projects you are going to use it for; Check out other top tools for your project type. For example, if you love making small items, like wooden toys or pens, then a tabletop lathe is going to be a good choice for you. People who love undertaking larger projects though, including lamps or tables, may find that sturdier models made from cast iron or steel are a better choice.
Another consideration is the size of your workspace and it’s very important that you measure it before you buy a wood lathe. Since they are very large, they can take up a lot of space and you’ll be surprised how small your workspace will look after installing a lathe in it.
Also, when it comes to wood lathes, the bigger the machine is, the better, since it can be more versatile and therefore useful for a larger variety of projects.
What is your method of speed though? I’m asking this because lathes turn wood in 1 of 2 ways: using an electronic speed drive or using manual adjustments. If you want more accuracy, then you should get a model that allows you to adjust the pulleys manually, but if you’re a beginner, then you’ll have it easier by going with an electronic speed adjuster. Lastly, don’t forget to check the available accessories for the model of your choice and check the lathe’s height as well.