Every woodworker needs a wood lathe in his or her shop. This machine comes in handy when you need to turn wood or other materials into attractive items. You can use the wood lathe to make goblets, rings, pots, furniture legs, bangles, etc.
Wood lathes come in different sizes. We have the large and the mini ones. But the smaller size lathes are better when you're handling smaller items. Moreover, the big wood lathes can leave a huge dent in your budget.
That's why we recommend investing in a mini lathe that is both affordable, portable, and efficient. It can sit on any workspace, no matter how small. Also, mini wood lathes perform very well on whatsoever project you're handling.
But, how do you in the best mini wood lathe from the thousands in the market? This article will guide you to it. We've taken our time to select the 7 best wood lathes for newbie woodworkers, professionals, and even DIY enthusiasts.
Check them out!
Need a quick choice? Check our top 3 recommendations!
If you're looking for a model with innovative and user-friendly features, this particular wood lathe is for you. Even the manufacturer stated that this product is better than the previous models from them.
It is versatile for every kind of woodturning you have in mind. The machine offers 24 indexing positions to ensure that you can complete all types of projects.
Another thing we applaud is the variable speed. It offers 60-3.600 RPM. The lower speed levels help you to turn rougher woods without experiencing motor stalling. Then when you need to handle harder woods, you can use the higher speed levels.
These high-speed levels are handy during final detailing, fast shaping, finishing, sanding. So a machine with variable speed levels gives you the power to produce finer items with perfect finishing.
We also love that the controls are in positions where a user can easily reach them. You don't need to stretch or turn around before controlling the wood lathe as you need. Moreover, the on-board storage is another high point. You can keep all your smaller tools in the storage for easy access while working.
- Variable speed gives you the best finishing
- On-board storage ensures speed and efficiency
- 24 indexing positions makes the machine suitable for many projects
- Easy-to-reach controls & DRO facilitate speedy turning
- It offers a ratchet-style belt tension mechanism
This is a good machine for pen turners because it's sturdy and works wonders. This machine eliminates the possibility of vibration because of the materials. With a cast iron construction, it sits solidly on any workspace for the best user experience. You don't have to stop and adjust all the time during woodturning.
RIKON mini lathe offers five-speed ranges that give a user all he/she needs to produce a perfect item. You'll get a speed for creating barrel holes, roughen the pen billets, and turning your item to shape. There's also a speed range to achieve the finest and smoothest finishing on all your items.
There's also a knock-out bar, a live center, wrenches, and even a tool rest to expand its applications. You’ll find it interesting that this lathe has a 10 inches swing & 18 inches between centers to help you turn longer wood blanks. If you also have a longer item in mind, you can even buy the base extender and achieve your goals.
- Variable speed setting ranges from 500 to 3200 RPM.
- Cast iron construction ensures sturdiness.
- It comes with extra tools like tool rest, wrenches, etc., to facilitate the user's work.
- Noiseless, efficient, and versatile for multiple projects
Here’s a good machine to handle small woodturning projects. Even though it handles small projects better, this wood lathe is sturdy. It is made with cast iron and fits solidly on any workbench.
The motor offers a variable speed control to enable you to handle your projects correctly. The speed ranges between 700 & 3200 RPM. You can use the lower speed levels for softwood but upgrade to the higher levels for hardwoods or achieve a fine-looking finishing. Moreover, you can control the speed as you work with a simple dial system.
This machine has many features that'll ensure a smooth experience during woodturning. With one live center, safety paddle switch, faceplate, and even a TPI RH spindle, you'll have a great time with it.
It also comes with 2 tool rests to allow for anything you want to do with your mini wood lathe. As for the distance between its centers, you get to use a 13" distance for a better user experience.
If you are not looking for those large guys and need a mini lathe for smaller items, use this guy from SHOP Fox.
- Offers 8” by 12” swing for a sizeable wood length
- Features 2 tool rests, faceplate, spindle, paddle switch, etc.
- Provides 700 to 3200 RPM variable speed for versatile applications
- It comes in a cast iron material construction.
4. WEN 3421 3.2-Amp 8 inches by 12 inches Mini Wood Lathe
Here is another mini lathe that can handle your small projects. For instance, if you want to turn cups, pens, chess pieces, or smaller items, this WEN lathe will do well for them. It allows users to fit those workpieces that are 12" long and 8" wide.
This machine's motor provides 750-3200 RPM for both hard & softwood materials. It also offers a variable speed control to help in handling different materials. The lever clamping mechanism enables a user to make a precise adjustment to the tailstock, and the tool rest as their project requires.
This mini lathe is also sturdy and doesn’t vibrate no matter the workspace or bench you place during your work. With the cast iron construction material, you can trust it to perform as you like. The extra features include a faceplate, MTI spindle, 2 tool rets that you can interchange for versatility, and even a tailstock taper.
- Offers 750-3.2RPM motor speed.
- Variable speed control ensures better turning results.
- Faceplate, tool rest spindle, and tailstock taper ensure efficiency.
- Handles small workpieces correctly.
- Cast iron material ensures sturdiness.
- It fits 8” by 12” workpieces.
5. Mophorn Wood Lathe 8” by 12” Mini Lathe
If you're looking for a mini wood lathe to use for multiple applications, this is the one for you. It works for those in the labs, those who need it for education, engineering, and their workshops. There's no limit to what you can use this particular wood lathe for once you get it.
Mophorn wood lathe also comes with variable speed ranging from 500 to 3200RPM. The motor is powerful and ensures a smooth woodturning experience. The 2 tool rests are interchangeable for every kind of item you aim to produce. With the cast iron construction, the machine offers a stable platform for you to work.
This mini wood lathe comes with all the other features that make woodturning a breeze. It also comes with its set of complete accessories and a manual that contains an informative guide on using the machine. We also love the way the motor operates. You'll barely hear any noise when it wants to start like other machines do.
- Come with a speed-control knob
- Offers variable speed of 500 to 3200 RPM
- It comes with a noiseless motor
- 2 Interchangeable tool rests
- Cast Iron material ensures stability
- Versatile for wide application
- Works on 8” by 12” wood
6. PSI Woodworking PENPAL Portable Mini Lathe
Here is the best mini wood lathe for woodworkers who’re addicted to pen turning. PENPAL gives you the best experience when creating those beautiful and multi-design pens at home or workshop. This particular lathe is strictly for pen making and if that’s your interest, grab it now.
This machine is very compact and efficient. You can take it to different locations or even travel with it. If you have a mini lathe that's not giving you the best results in sanding or finishing, use this product to support it in those areas. It'll give you amazing finishing for your pens.
One thing we love about this product is that the setup is easy, and anyone can use it. Also, it comes with a variable speed of 0 to 4300RPM to ensures a smooth user experience. You can use any speed level you need for different applications.
With the two dust-collection hoods, this machine keeps your workspace neat and unpolluted. You can breathe clean air all through your pen turning project. The machine also comes with mounting holes & flange to enable you to mount it on any available surface.
The tool rest is one of the commendable features as well. It's fitted in such a way that you don't have to adjust it all the time, thereby distracting yourself.
- Produces variable speed of 0-4300RPM
- It comes with a dust-collection hood.
- Easy to mount on multiple surfaces
- Light, portable and efficient
- Professional tool rests reduce frequent adjustment.
If you’re searching for a woodturning lathe that is both durable and powerful, this product is right for you. The capability of this machine is what people love about it. The best part is that it doesn't break down no matter the long hours of woodturning it handles.
The variable speed level is also from 750 to 3200 like other machines out there, but it handles a broader application. For instance, you can use it to make bowls, Christmas trees &ornaments, pens, bowls, honey clippers, candlesticks, pepper grinders, vases, candy dishes, etc. It is versatile and works for many items you can think of making at home.
You’ll be surprised to know that this small but capable lathe features an iron base and a 7-inch tool rest. That's why it withstands all kinds of applications without malfunctioning. The base makes it sit comfortably and steady on any workbench you place it. The tool rest makes sure you get all the support you need while turning your wood.
Other essential features are present such as the faceplate, swing-over bed, tailstock center, etc.
- It handles multiple applications
- Offers variable speed of 750-3200RPM
- Compact size for any available workbench
- The cast-iron base ensures sturdiness
- 7-inch tool rest for all-day turning
Wood lathe tips and tricks for you!
- Always protect yourself
No matter how enthusiastic you are about woodturning, don't forget your safety. Your eyes are your number one asset when it comes to woodturning. Therefore, wear your goggles to shield it away from flying wood chips. Apart from the goggles, if you have a face shield, we'll choose it any day because it'll protect your entire face.
Still on that, we recommend that you wear tight-fitting clothes, not baggy wears. You don't want the extra material of your clothes to enter the lathe during a spinning operation. If that happens, you'll be injured.
- Use bright light while working
If you want to get the best results from your woodturning, always work with bright lights. You can't gauge the results of your efforts if the workspace is dim. It's only a bright light that can accentuate every detail of your product.
So, if possible, invest in a moveable light that you can take to any spot you want while working. With such a light, you can quickly identify imperfections no matter where they're hiding.
- Always use a suitable lathe
Lathes come in different capacities, sizes, and features. Before you start your woodturning adventure, you need to sit down and decide on the best or appropriate lathe for your project line.
If you're targeting small items, a mini lathe from a reliable brand will be okay. Mini lathes are best for small items because you can use them to work on your small items' important detail. But when you want to make the larger items like furniture or a bowl, larger lathes are the best.
So, if you must get the best result out of your woodturning, use the right lathe.
- Get all the right tools for your work
If you're serious about working with wood lathes for woodturning, make sure you get the right tools that'll support the machine. You'll need to get tools such as skew chisels, gouges, parting tools, scrapers, etc. Don't start woodturning without getting these tools and others handy. They'll ensure a better experience.
- Learn how to use the tools
Putting your toolkit together without knowing how to use the tools is a waste of time. Each of the tools you have works well on something. It's when you learn how to use them that you'll get the best results.
For instance, every woodturner must own a roughing gouge. This tool is what they use to create a shape on the wood they want to use. So, once you gather your tools, find out what they do specifically to avoid mistakes.
- Always sharpen your chisels
Your chisels must be sharp to avoid murmuring and frustration while working. Please keep them in good condition so they can serve you well. If you work with a blunt chisel, it'll catch in your piece of wood and expose you unnecessarily to injuries. But if you ensure that they're always sharp, you've avoided such accidents because they'll always cut your wood smoothly.
- Master the basic techniques first
Woodturning, like other crafts, has unique techniques that seasoned woodworkers use. If you're joining the team, please start from the basic ones and gradually graduate to the complex techniques.
You can start with simple designs, and afterward, you can easily tackle the challenging and more complex patterns. It's always best to start learning a craft from the basics to avoid problems.
- Use softwood first
This is for beginners. Don’t jumpstart your woodturning journey with the hardwood. If you don’t get the pattern or design you have in mind, that'll likely discourage you. It is better to learn with the softwoods so that you can master the simple techniques of woodturning.
If you start with split woods or woods with loose knots, you may injure yourself while using the wood lathe. Experts can use any wood but a beginner wood turner should start with softwoods.
- Make smaller items first
It's good to be ambitious, but not this time. Don't start your woodturning journey with large projects. There're many small items you can start with and master the craft. You can at least practice the basic techniques you've mastered on those small projects and then ask for more.
If you're a beginner, small items such as a bowl, hammer handle, etc., can be your starting point. Produce those items that don't require complicated designs or techniques first, then grow from there.
- Always remove the bark with your screwdriver
If the wood bark is unnecessary in the item you're making, always use your cordless screwdriver to remove it before turning. The reason to do this first is to avoid injuries. Many people usually try removing the bark with their roughing gouge. If you do this when shaping the stock, a flying chunk of the wood bark may injure you in the process.
- Apply your weight for cleaner cuts
If you want to make clean cuts, always use your whole body weight when cutting the wood. Some people use their hands & arm only. The strength in those body parts can't compare to making cuts when you use your elbow to add your body weight to the cut. This trick will also reduce your stress by half.
What should I buy first, lathe or mill?
The question of buying a lathe or mill first depends on the project you want to start with initially. Both the milling machine and the lathe are very important, especially for a serious woodworker.
When it comes to versatility, the milling machine may seem like the best shot. A milling machine can cut many complex pieces, which a lathe may not handle easily. So, you can use a milling machine for more things than the lathe machine.
However, lathes are better than mills when you need to make cylindrical parts. Before a milling machine can make the same cuts as a lathe, you’ll need many setups for it.
So, if you want to produce more cylindrical parts, you'll have to get a lathe first because it'll outperform the mill. Also, if you're going to do barrel work, a lathe is almost compulsory. According to some woodworkers, if you get some accessories and add them to your wood lathe, you can use them to do some milling work.
But if you have a larger budget, the ideal thing is to buy both machines to make your work easy and perfect. Although, it depends on your workspace.
If you're serious about woodturning, you'll need a wood lathe. Wood lathes come in different sizes, but your choice should depend on the items you want to make and the available space you have. If you're going to make smaller items, we recommend a mini wood lathe.
These mini lathes help you to handle all the little details of your small items. It'll be wrong to use a larger lathe for a small item such as a pen. You may complete your work but miss the smallest details. So, always use the right size for your projects.
We have reviewed seven of the best mini wood lathes in the market for your perusal. We even have a particular brand made for pen turning. Each of these lathes is commendable in variable speed, motor power, accessible controls, etc. They're affordable too.
So, it's now your turn to choose the best one that meets your requirements. While using the mini-lathe you choose, don't forget the tips and tricks we shared in the article. Following them will keep you safe and help you to produce masterpieces.